Into Strangford Lough

Tuesday 9 May

My crew was up at 0630 to set off for Strangford Lough, needing to be entering the Narrows at 0800. They struggled to spring my stern off the pontoon against the wind on my bow, and the incoming tide, and eventually I swung my bow out on my own and Skipper steered my stern into the corner. Outside the harbour the seas were a bit lumpy, but the scenery was a pleasant distraction, and the water calmed as we came abreast of St Patrick’s Rock, effectively a marker of the beginning of the entrance to the Lough. Even at the beginning of the flood tide, and with no wind, I could feel eddies, mini whirlpools, swirls and calms around my hull, but Mate took it in her stride, remembering similar waters in her nursery sailing days on the Menai Straits in North Wales. Apparently pilotage is easy: just follow the pink line on the chart plotter. The haze lifted to reveal very attractive scenery below a beautiful blue sky, while two harbour porpoises and a few seals were spotted.
Skipper dropped my anchor into Kircubbin Bay, in the Northeast corner, for breakfast and an opportunity for Mate to catch up with her journal. After lunch and a brief siesta, the wind began to freshen from the West, putting me on a lee shore in more bouncy conditions, even though the water was now reflecting the blue skies. My crew decided to brave the “interesting” pilotage to Ballydorn, on the Northwest shore – the final approach to a pool deep enough to anchor is narrow and shallow at low water…but at least they could see where the rocks were. It was a pretty. sheltered spot, near Down Cruising Club’s red ex-lighthouse clubhouse, an old lady from 1917, known as Petrel. Once the gardeners had finished mowing the lawns of a modern house on the shore, we enjoyed a peaceful evening, observing cyclists, walkers, a friendly seal and local bird life, under a nearly full moon in a clear sky. It was warm enough for supper at the cockpit table, and dessert inside the porch.