Revised: 10 November 2013

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"Spearhead" News - Part VII

A Coruña to A Coruña - Monday and Tuesday, 28-29th May 2012 - Data
Time was reset to BST at the outset and, after the usual last-minute shopping and little jobs duly completed, we cast off at 3 minutes past noon on a sunny but pleasantly clouded morning. There had been a small delay in firing-up the Yanmar, when nothing happened when the key was turned, but I switched it to Battery #2 and all was normal, so thought something must have been changed in the wiring in my absence as the voltage was good on #1, and took no further notice. There was a modest breeze coming over the breakwater, so set all plain sail before we had reached the end of it and took a tack across the ria and back, which led nicely to going out the western entrance channel (there is a shoal in the middle of the road although well down, so it only becomes apparent in stormy weather). lighthouse overtopped by crane This went past the Torre de Hercules (updated Roman lighthouse and the oldest working in the world) which was receiving some TLC from a super mobile crane, rather an incongruous sight, and then I held on for a bit in hopes of finding a windshift. Nothing useful transpired, however, so after 14.6 miles on the log, I tacked back to reach the rhumb line, which was 359° True for Kinsale (and 495 n miles). Just as we were reaching it, the direction of the waves became confused, but I held on until we were exactly on the line (and it chanced to be 1900 hrs) then tacked back to starboard. This turned out to be one of those miracle tacks that happen all too rarely, because when I paused in sheeting-in the genoa to size up the situation before the final few turns, it was to find that we were heading exactly due North and accelerating to some 5½ knots. Hey-ho for a rapid passage home!
Half an hour later, with things freshening and to keep the boat a bit more level, I took a reef in the main. We bucketed on. Sunset was about 6 minutes past 9, but spoilt by a little cloudbank lying on the horizon. Presently I put the masthead light on, then at 2200 noticed that the battery tell-tale light had changed from its usual green or yellow to an angry cherry red. That was with both batteries stupidly still linked for charging from the engine earlier. I quickly separated them and checked Battery #1 with the voltmeter - it was down to 9.06 volts, which is pretty disastrous for a lead/acid battery. #2 was somwhat down too, unsurprisingly, at 12.38V but would do for a while yet. So, what to do? I needed at least one battery in fair condition to start the engine for charging purposes later, and that could be very difficult to ensure. I had yet to reach, let alone cross the Biscay shipping lanes, where good lights and a working radar reflector or responder are more than just advisable and was only at the outset of what could turn out to be quite a long voyage. The only place where a competent diagnosis and replacements might be made was where we had just come from so, reluctantly, I decided to return.
We had now reduced the distance to go to The Old Head of Kinsale to 462 nm so it was 33 miles back to the start again. I sailed for 3 hours then, the wind falling away and the remaining battery not improving either, put the engine on again, while I still could, with the electric autopilot instead of the windvane and full lights, now that the alternator could take the strain. Then I lurked mostly inside, as it was remarkably chilly in the cockpit, but had to do without sleep due to the number of fishing boats out plying their trade. So we arrived back at 8 a.m. without further incident. Went to the office and booked in again and asked for the yard's electrician. It now transpires that he is too busy to come until tomorrow... but I would like to get full value from the present easterly winds. I think it is just a battery-replacement job, so shouldn't take long - but then, this is Spain.
Latest news is that I'm to get a new (even more expensive) battery at 1300 Wednesday, and will, subject to any late change in the forecast, probably leave ASAP thereafter.

A Coruña to Kinsale - Wednesday to Sunday, 30th May to 3rd June 2012 - Data
On Wednesday most of the day seemed to be taken up with chasing around in the wake of the electrician (Raoul), but he was aboard at noon and, after a short spell of battery testing, pronounced battery #1 dead, probably due to lack of water which, it being a sealed unit, cannot be topped up. We then discussed alternative replacements and I fixed upon a Glass Mat one, for longer life in my type of usage. Raoul said he could be back with it at 1300. Meantime I went off to update the website over a coffee, and when I returned at 1300 could see Raoul ahead of me on this very long pontoon trailing the battery. By the time I got to the boat, he was just emerging having installed it - and it wasn't the AGM battery after all, but a conventional one, albeit of slightly increased capacity compared with the failed Vetus. Nothing to be done in the circumstances, except pay up, of course. At least the marina gave me my night's berth for free... It now being siesta time, I put both the batteries on to top up and had lunch myself. Then off to the supermarket for a few extras or replenishments, stow them, top up the main diesel tank from the spare can and take that ashore to be refilled (and pay the bills), stow away the mains cable, then we were at last free to continue!
Started the Yanmar at 1844 (BST) and cast off on a pleasant evening, with the wind coming over the breakwater again. By the time we were round the end of it, the wind seemed to have settled for a point or two further North than last time but at much the same strength, so it was all plain sail for the first part again. This time, however, we made a slightly better course. At 2040 I again took a precautionary reef in the main and was soon quite glad of it - 4 rolls in the genoa followed for sunset (2106). I thought I could detect a tendency for the wind to veer, so stuck with this tack. At 2140 I went below to switch on the lights and found that the fridge was still running - on our valuable battery power! Soon rectified but an unnecessary depletion of the new battery's reserves.
At 0230 on Thursday morning there was some unusual banging around from the spinnaker pole which, for the sake of quietness, is usually suspended at either end from small loops of rope. The aft one of these had become untied, letting the end of the pole trail in the water, and the unknotted length of rope could still be seen trailing either side of the jaws of the pole. Rather than lose it, I quickly got onto the side-deck, which was being swilled down by the Atlantic every few seconds as the boat heeled, pulled the pole in and grabbed one end of the loose line. It was rather an hairy moment, as I had to use both hands and rely entirely on the stanchion for support while the boat tried to pitch me off. Having secured my wee bit of rope, I retreated to the safety of the cockpit and left the pole, still held at its forward end, resting on the deck. It then remained to work out how to put it all back together safely, charging along at nearly 7 knots. I chickened out, rolled away the genoa entirely, which reduced the speed to more like 1½ knots, and tied a good knot in the cockpit to remake the loop before threading that through itself and around the lifeline and clipping on the pole again: job done. After that, there was rather less genoa set, to keep us more upright and, as is often the case, we still charged along at maximum hull speed. As the wind continued to veer, I was able to ease sheets a little until the apparent wind was abeam, which made things a little more comfortable (although still subject to occasional splashes) whilst keeping the speed up. I didn't worry that we weren't laying the course because firstly, the greater speed more than made up for it, secondly the wind was forecast to veer further and that would bring us back naturally, and finally, this course kept us moving in parallel with, rather than across, the occasional fishing boats. There was a particular aggregation of these about 0530 (dawn becoming apparent) with many strobe lights to puzzle me, but we rounded them at about 2 miles' range and then they went away anyway. After 12 hours we had reduced the Miles to go (Mtg) to 444, meaning we had covered at least 51 miles, and by noon we had taken off a further 32. During the morning I had several "20 winks" but wasn't inclined to eat much, although (I'm glad to say) I was never actually sick on this passage. About 1800 it appeared that we were crossing the Ushant-Finisterre shipping lanes but no ships were anywhere close, just above the horizon. After 24 hours we had reduced the Mtg to 374, so that was just over 5 knots average, and we were now some 25 miles to the West of the rhumb line. I stuck to the strategy and continued on the beam reach. Sunset was at 2118 and I pumped the bilge because it was becoming clear that we had gained a few leaks in totally new locations during the winter's refit. Fortunately only a minor amount needed to be removed. Then, feeling somewhat better, I tucked into a tin of albondigas (Spanish meat balls), etc. for dinner. There was now rarely any evidence of radars about on the Sea-Me, so I hid inside for most of the night.
Friday dawned cloudy again and Mtg was down to 307 after 36 hours - but we were 51.9 miles west of the rhumb line, which was slightly concerning. However I stuck to my guns and held on notwithstanding. The speed showed - at noon we had taken off a further 33 miles and gone another 3½ to the West - and I'd found another leak but it wasn't going to sink us either. The battery voltage had actually risen, even though there was no decent sun, so that was a good sign. No events of note, other than consistent, remarkable speed. Occasional splashes were finding their way in onto the galley, so I had to put in the top hatchboard too. At 1845 (after 48 hours) we had reduced Mtg to 230, making it 144 miles in the last day, or an average of exactly 6 knots. Captain Vane was enjoying himself and even the skipper cheered up. Eat lots of fresh veg and chorizo. The wind eased a notch and sunset couldn't be distinguished due to thickness of overall cloud, but I decided to run the engine, out of gear, for 2 hours to keep up the volts. Stupidly overlooked to switch on the fridge while we were at it, but temperatures then and subsequently were not at all in the blue water league, so I doubt that anything was lost - rather the cheese gained mould! Anyway by now we were crossing the continental shelf into chillier waters.
By 0500 on Saturday morning, things were obviously changing - light rain and shifty winds, with which I struggled ineffectually for a time, until sanity prevailed at 0800 with yet heavier rain. Hid below, turned on the gas stove for hand-drying warmth, and awaited a clearance from the West. Not enough wind for Capn Vane, so set the TP10 to work instead while we trickled along at about 2 knots, and at 1024 had the interesting experience of tacking from inside the cabin as it was still drizzling. Now I bet Chris Butler never thought of that use for his big genoa winch in the hatchway while he was designing the boat. But it saved about 15 minutes' worth of dressing up in the Full Party Gear in order to go out and do it on deck. Even now slowed down, at noon we had 160 Mtg - 114 miles off in the last 24 hours, which is still a very respectable speed for a 9 metre boat. It didn't stop raining until 1520, when I saw a ship going West ahead, sun not quite able to get through, and perishing cold - and this having just passed the latitudes of Jersey! At least we were back to 5 knots, with the wind now SW3. At 1815 things were getting a bit heavy for the TP10, so a rather-overdue change was made back to Capn Vane. And at 1845 we had 125 Mtg (105 in last 24 hours) and we had reduced our westward deviation to 32.2 miles. Later I took in a bit more of a reef in the genoa and we continued on our new port-beam reach into a very chilly night, with no moon nor stars but 6.8 knots showing on the GPS.
Sunday started at 0300 with the appearance of some sort of fishing boat ahead - I dressed up, went out and stood by the helm until I could see what she was up to, but was still little the wiser when we missed by several hundred metres. 0450 another one, but this time just observed from the hatch - it was now early dawn. 0540 put the tricolour off as we were getting a bit low on volts (12.18V); 60 Mtg and I'm looking forward to arriving... 0645 and it's 54 Mtg, so we're still going well and should definitely make it today. Long session in the cockpit during late morning:- pump bilge, several course and sail adjustments, and generally still try to acclimatise (the British Isles seem colder than I remember them!). At noon there are only 22.8 Mtg, so that's 137 miles off in the last day. Begin to look for land ahead, but not sure when it actually appeared - it just sort of distinguished itself in stages from the mists and clouds ahead. The wind went wonky.... At 1607, with Old Head now clearly distinguishable and our position to the East of the rhumb line, I put the engine on and let TP10 take the honours for the last miles. Furl genoa, switch on the fridge, take a look around and lo! we are heading into a collision situation with a tanker a bit more than a mile away to the right. How the heck did he get there? Reverse engine, swing the boat about a bit to make it obvious I'm giving way, and the "Alfa Germania" passes ahead with a good margin. Resume course at modest revs and at 1844 pass our long-term goal, the waypoint East of Old Head. Straight into the river mouth and round to the left until the town appears. There's a good ebb running and only one empty spot big enough for us on the outside, visitors' pontoon. There are large old gaffers (with bowsprits) rafted out on either side of it.... Put out warps ready for someone to grab and lots of fenders to starboard, then head in doing about 4 knots (the tide must be doing at least 3) and swing around into it as we shoot the gap between bowsprits and counter sterns... Fortunately it all works and we end up compressing the fenders nicely against the pontoon as good people instantly do the necessary with the ropes. 2030 and we have arrived - 4 days and less than 2 hours from La Coruña. I could just do with a glass of stout and some sweet-and-sour chicken!
See Kinsale on Google Maps

Kinsale to Baltimore - Saturday, 9th June 2012 - Data
The longer term forecasts are not terribly encouraging, but I've decided to persist in the intention to get home via the West coast of Ireland. So this is the first step... The first problem with Kinsale is getting away from it, not helped by the fact that I didn't have the Sailing Directions for other places. However, that was satisfactorily resolved on Saturday morning and the weather was pleasant, if not exactly warm, for making the 40-odd mile trip to Baltimore. So, having got the Directions shortly after 10 a.m. and had a quick look at them, I paid the not-insubstantial mooring fees and was able to cast off shortly after noon. There proved to be a breeze about Force 4 blowing, straight into the entrance from the Old Head, so Old Head of Kinsale from E ended up motoring right out to there, in view of the time factors involved, then set all plain sail and headed off at a good angle in a WSW direction. Had an expansive lunch as we crossed Courtmacsherry Bay in very pleasant conditions and mostly doing 6 knots, but the next bay (Clonakilty) wasn't so kind and by the end of it, at Galley Head, we were down to less than 2 knots according to the GPS, it was cloudy, and the wind direction was becoming uncertain too. There was probably something of an adverse tide as well. So at 1807, on went the Yanmar again, at brisk revs, the genoa was furled for the rest of the day, and the TillerPilot took over from Capn Vane. The next leg was still in the same direction, but to pass outside the Stags rocks, where I hoped to see something of the wrecked Kowloon Bridge, but there was only a buoy floating, presumably, somewhere near her stern and well off the rocks. Since it was now after 2100, I upped the revs a bit more as I altered course, and this had a remarkable effect - the ship's log suddenly came to life, having never registered a thing all the way from La Coruña! True, it was only saying 2.4 knots when the GPS made it 4 (and with the tide against), and later 2.6 against 5, but at least it proved that the circuits were still there and functional..... Baltimore was still hidden around a corner to the right, but the entrance is plainly marked and we duly made our way in, dodging the occasional rock, and found our way to the town piers and a pontoon, still with a vacant space on it, rather surprisingly for a weekend. Here I circled around and prepared ropes and fenders and still made a complete hash of it coming in to an unencumbered space across the end of the pontoon, despite waiting assistance from a friend from another yacht already met in Kinsale. At least we didn't hit anyone else.
Today, Sunday, there's little wind, so the plan to sail around the Fastnet Rock on the way to wherever-else we go next, has been postponed in favour of a day in port. Hopes of seeing the Canadian GP on television have been dashed by the revelation that there are some international football matches going on too, and Ireland are involved!
See Baltimore on Google Maps (hope they get a better picture soon!)

Baltimore to Crookhaven via the Fastnet Rock - Tuesday, 12th June 2012 - Data
Fastnet Rock from E Actually, I did get to see the first 30 laps of the Canadian GP, at which point the Croatia versus Ireland match started and I then reverted to the boat and followed the rest online, so it didn't work out too badly at all. The plan then was to get more diesel on Monday and move on, but in the event the diesel didn't become available until about 1600, since the tanker was away delivering elsewhere, so it was then too late to make a start for anywhere and we stayed yet another night. On Tuesday I finally cast off just before noon, on a quite pleasant day with NW2 in harbour promising rather more outside, and soon had the sails up outside the entrance but keeping a few rolls in for comfort and visibility. We passed along the southern shores of Sherkin Island and Cape Clear and just kept going on the same tack to arrive at the Fastnet Rock, some 5 miles beyond. A very impressive place - and it was apparently inhabited too, because there were 3 men at work up on the lantern gallery. No evidence of a helicopter to take them home at night, so probably they "lived-in" for the duration. Having got a good clearance from the Rock, I tacked the Hydrovane but we failed to get round on the first attempt and I had to assist with the main rudder and some verbal exhortations before we finally got off on the port tack towards the next peninsula up, where Crookhaven is located. Fastnet Rock & Cape Clear This was another case where the wind obliged with a swing when otherwise we were unable to lay the course initially, because we finally ended up only about 100 yds away from the waypoint at the entrance. However it was asking too much to get up the haven on the other tack and, having squeezed in for about a quarter of the way, I had to put on the Yanmar before we hit any rocks, furl the genoa, drop the main, and finish under engine alone. There proved to be no pontoon for yachts here, just a little one for dinghies, but there are about 7 yellow Hippo buoys marked "Visitors only" and I went for the furthest one in. Got it at the first attempt, but the pull on the pick-up line surprised me with its force and I dropped it in case the engine was still in reverse gear. It wasn't, but we had to go round again and got it OK. This time it transpired that the pick-up line was too short to reach a cleat, being trapped at the buoy end in or under the shackle. After fiddling awhile, I thought it best to go to the next mooring down, which wasn't so easy to get hold of, but eventually secured my own lines to it, and that was us for the night. There didn't seem to be much, if anything, going on ashore, even at O'Sullivan's pub immediately opposite, so I spared the dinghy (which has yet to be blown up since its purchase in Barbate) and drank a San Miguel aboard instead.
See Crookhaven on Google Maps

Crookhaven to Berehaven (Lawrence Cove) - Wednesday, 13th June 2012 - Data
Mizen Head The main object of this sail was to find a safe place in which to ride out the gale which had been forecast for several days now, and my research in the Sailing Directions the last few evenings had shown this place to be the best bet in quite a distance. It was at a comfortable distance, so no great hurry, and it was a calm, sunny day. Dropped the mooring at 1012 (much easier than clearing up on the way out of a marina!) in light airs and motored the mile or so down to the haven entrance. Catching my first glimpse of the day of the Fastnet Rock, the light house was flashing! By the time we were round the offlying Alderman Rocks, it had gone out for the rest of the day, so I presume the workparty was still checking things out. Our course lay along the south side of this peninsula to Brow Head and, just beyond, Mizen Head (pronounced mizzen), and the southwestmost corner of Ireland. There wasn't much wind for any of this, so we motored at easy revs with the main up and took some pictures. It didn't seem like the prelude to a gale at all. Having rounded this corner of Ireland, a slightly steadier wind from NNW made itself felt, so the full genoa was unfurled and the Yanmar turned off and we continued at 2.5 to 3 knots on past Three Castle Head, rather close, then later Sheep's Head, at more than a mile. That left us with Bantry Bay to cross, with our target being rather difficult to pick out in haze or the shadow of clouds. However, the GPS knew where it was and we trickled across until about a mile from the entrance, where the wind failed. So we motored into Berehaven by the western entrance (Ardnakinnna Point) and in mid-stream so round past Dunboy Bay and Castletownbere on the left - nice sectored leading light here, bright even in sunshine - and round to the right down the haven itself, which is some 6 miles long, lying inside Bere Island, which is notably hilly. After passing the wreck of the Bandini Reefer to the right, we came to Lawrence Cove itself and duly made (very) secure on the pontoon at 1723. No prizes for speed then, but a pleasant sail nonetheless. The only problems with this place seem to be telephonic - the line is bad, so no WiFi, and no mobile telephone signals either. So this update (written to help pass the gale) will have to await another location before it can be posted...
See Lawrence Cove on Google Maps

Berehaven to Dingle - Sunday, 17th June 2012 - Data
A shopping trip by ferry to Castletownbere on Saturday found the necessary WiFi and gave me a good walk on a pleasant day. But we had to be moving on, if my target of getting home by the end of the month is to be met so, although the forecast was for little or no wind on Sunday, we had to go. The next "decent" port was Valentia, some 45 miles away as the sea goes, to be followed by Dingle, but when I worked it out on the plotter, the difference in total mileage was much less if we just went to Dingle direct. So Valentia (interesting though it undoubtedly may be) was demoted to diversion port and we went for the mightiest leap. The tides through Dursey Sound dictated an early start and no dilly-dallying on the way, so we were about to cast off at 0615 after a fiery dawn, when it started to rain! Having put on the Full Gear to take care of that, we finally left at 0630, shortly behind a bigger boat going the same way. The rain fell straight down, but soon eased as we motored westward down the haven and I increased the revs to give us just short of 5 knots. Having got outside to see the Atlantic, there wasn't much difference except a bit of rocking and we headed along at that same speed. Arriving at the entrance to Dursey Sound at 0936, we turned sharp right and after a couple of miles left again, to pass under the lines of a cable car, which serves the island and gives tourists a thrill. I was lucky enough to see the gondola actually in islandwards action as we approached. It reduces the headroom by 3 metres, but this didn't concern me because our air draft is 12.4m while the minimum height of the cables is 24m (plus however much is lacking in the height of the tide). For what it is worth, the gondola went painfully slowly, and despite several knots of tidal assistance we were unable to go fast enough to catch and pass directly beneath it, and it escaped onto its arrival buttress with a good margin in hand (1001 a.m.). Spewed out the northern entrance, as if from Cuan Sound, I looked around, and there, 17 miles away was the prime interest of the day, the Skelligs, Great and Little. I put the TillerPilot in charge again and aimed for them. The apparent wind had been slightly off the port bow on the run to Dursey - now we were through it was still in very much the same place. Although I kept a sharp lookout for any swings, it was only for less than an hour that I could get any assistance from the sails, using the genoa, which added about half a knot to our speed over the ground. That was shortly after I had to deviate from our course to pass astern of a trawler towing steadily westwards.
It was quite a warm day (for a while) when we got to the Skelligs and there were a number of small craft lying off the Great one, plus a naval vessel and a helicopter. We didn't go very close and landing was out of the question timewise, so just took a few pics, turned sharp right again and aimed for the entrance to Dingle, another 23 miles or so. All rather boring, straight line stuff. At the entrance we were suddenly met by Fungie, the harbour dolphin, who has been resident there (and checking every boat apparently) since 1983. He is obviously getting a bit old for jumping out of the water and similar aquabatics, but still swam at us, surfaced alongside and dived again, twice, before going off to play with a little red outboard runabout with a family in, who kept chasing him in circles and figures of eight while he just made them look silly. We just went on in, negotiated the dredged entrance channel and were met by Peter, the Marina superintendent, on the end of a pontoon where we were secured at 1845. You get great welcomes here. The WiFi comes in Murphy's pub, where I must now go urgently to post this! Am having two nights here to recover from all that motoring - the next bit is (probably) to the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, which is even more of a mighty leap and too far to motor....
See Dingle on Google Maps

Dingle to Kilronan via Smerwick Harbour - Tuesday & Wednesday, 19th & 20th June 2012 - Data
Having topped up the stores from the town and the diesel from Peter, when he appeared, we departed at 1501, with a bit of a rush on to catch the tide at Blasket Sound. At the harbour entrance Fungie was giving the full show, including leaps out of the water, to no less that three substantial tripper boats and possibly about 60 people. His contribution to the local economy over the years must be vast and that it is not unappreciated is shown by the life-size bronze statue of him in the town. He was so busy, I think we got through unobserved. Outside it was blowing SW4, so we motor-sailed out a little way until we had reached the point where we could tack for the headland, Slea Head, about 9 miles away. Then Yanmar had a rest for the rest of the day while we sailed on full main and reefed genoa. We passed the Head at 1720 and I was slightly concerned to see a little white sail appear from the north, as this suggested that we might have missed the tide. However it turned out that the tide was very slack and we got through nae bother at a'. Then we had a goose-winged run up the end of the peninsula, which might be likened to Scotland's Ardnamurchan Point, in that it is the furthest West point of the mainland, but of course it is nothing like that, having the Blasket Islands lying off it and something of a tide race too. Then we rounded the spectacular Sybil Point, making the only gybe of the day, along past the Three Sisters, going through the silly winds in the lee of the eastern one to get into Smerwick, This could make a good harbour for big ships, except that there seems to be no demand for one there, being about 2 miles deep and more than a mile wide, and we beat up to the far end and dropped anchor, still under sail, off a beach at the far end at 2003. There were villages to be seen on either side, but just where we were it seemed to be a village of camper vans. The anchor held well and we had a quiet night.
See Smerwick Harbour on Google Maps

Set off under sail, having plenty of room for the manoeuvre, at 0842 - anchoring is very convenient if you don't need to make connections ashore. Goosewinged down the harbour, then turned right again, on course for Gregory Sound, Aran, at 0915. The wind proved to be much less than forecast, and since we had some 60 miles to go, it was "On with the Yanmar" yet again. TP did the donkey work, the day was not unpleasant, although with occasional darker clouds and light showers, and we made a steady 4.8 knots all the way. No wildlife action of note. Arrived just as the sun was setting, although the clouds prevented me from actually seeing it to check the time, it was about 2207. Took a turn into the new harbour, in case there was a pontoon in it but, finding none, picked up a visitors' mooring just outside instead at 2243. There were 4 other yachts already on them, but still 3 or 4 spare.
See Kilronan on Google Maps

fort cliffs view cheval
Kilronan to Inishbofin - Saturday, 23rd June 2012 - Data
Things did not bode well for this passage, especially weatherwise, and when I saw the day, I really didn't want to go. But there wasn't a lot more to be done on the island, after looking at the ancient fortifications of Dun Aengus, and the wind was in pretty-much the right direction, so the fact that the clouds were right down and it frequently rained just had to be ignored! No scenery today, then, and I just hoped it wouldn't last too long. So we left at 1414 and turned off the engine as soon as I had tidied up and set some genoa. With this alone we rushed along the relatively sheltered north coast of Inishmore at a good speed, then reached the open Atlantic, which was in a very disorganised state. We went round the outside of everything, to simplify the navigation, and after rounding the Skerd Rocks I was momentarily sick for the first (and hopefully the last) time this year. Then we headed to round Slyne Head, which we did at 2030, and thereafter, with the wind even more behind, it wasn't pushing enough to steady the boat. So on went the iron topsail, through High Island Sound, and we arrived at Bofin Harbour at 2332 in relatively pleasant conditions. In proper summer weather, with views of the Connemara hills as a background, this would have been a fascinating sail, but as it was, I was glad just to have got it out of the way!
See Bofin Harbour on Google Maps

Inishbofin to Westport - Sunday, 24th June 2012 - Data
hills To make up for yesterday, today was idyllic! The sun shone nearly all the time between picturesque puffy clouds, it felt 10 degrees warmer, the wind was a balmy Force 3 from SSW and waterproofs were definitely not needed. We left at 1306, with only a relatively short sail in prospect, and passed through by several islands or rocks to the south corner of Clew Bay. Here, sadly, the wind felt away pretty much altogether, so the Yanmar had to take us the last couple of miles into the channels around all the islands for which Clew Bay is famous. But they are well marked and charted, so there was no great problem in finding the way into Collanmore anchorage, which is the base of Mayo Sailing Club. There I found some Visitors' moorings and picked one up at 1922, and reported our arrival to cousin Jennifer by mobile 'phone. Then I had to work out how to pump up the new dinghy and go ashore in it. There is a stone quay in front of the club, but it dries at low tide, so I couldn't risk using it for the run ashore.
See Collanmore Harbour on Google Maps

Westport to Blacksod Quay - Tuesday, 26th June 2012 - Data
Today's sail was back to low clouds and intermittent rain, so useless for scenery, which was a pity as we were to go round Achill Head, which has the highest cliffs in the British Isles on the north side. I made an early start in hopes that we would be able to get around to Broadhaven, casting off at 0852 when the weather had brightened. Once out from the inshore islands there was little to be seen and at one stage I thought we would get out of Clew Bay without ever seeing Clare Island, which lies across its mouth. However, I can assure you that it is indeed still there and reaches unto the clouds... As we reached along in SW4, I heard a metallic clang and saw that the shackle on the boom end of the topping lift had come undone and was enjoying a bit of free flying, so I caught it but, the boom end being out of reach over the side of the boat, just made it fast temporarily to the kicking strap. Off Achill Head, since conditions were moderate, we went through inside an offlying rock and eased off onto a run, heading towards a channel continuing up the coast inside further small islands and rocks. Then the wind went to Force 5+ and a few rolls in the genoa seemed advisable... The furling line jammed, leaving us with too much sail. The main couldn't be reefed because there was nothing to hold the far end of the boom up either. To add to the problem, when I tried a gybe, the outhaul's cam cleat let go, with the result that the foot of the sail concertina-ed its way forwards, making a totally un-rollable bag. This resulted in a hectic few minutes getting the main down on deck, while the boat kept trying to luff herself into the cliffs that extended far up into the clouds somewhere. In the stramash I must have hit a wrong button on the TillerPilot, because when I wanted it to steady the boat downwind, it went on strike too! In the end, with the main down and the boom lying on top of it, I took the pliers up to the foredeck and forcibly undid the jam under the furler drum, when all became much simpler, and we ran on under proper control again. Blacksod Bay had been my optional destination in case of no wind, or too much, so we carried on in there so that we could get head to wind as the easiest way of sorting out the mainsail. The original intention had been to go further up the bay but, as we passed the Quay, I saw that it had been extended and there were some yachts already in behind it at anchor or moored. So we went in there, found that there were Visitors' moorings and picked one up at 1704. In 10 minutes all had been restored to normal with nothing damaged or lost, but I felt that sufficient unto today... was enough, and we stayed for the night.
See Blacksod Quay on Google Maps

Blacksod Quay to Killybegs - Wednesday & Thursday, 27-28th June 2012 - Data
The previous day's evolution had left us short on the programme to get to Killybegs - needed because I was getting short in the stores department and was lacking the more recent weather updates from the internet, not to mention updating these pages for you, dear reader. So I was keen to get a move on. Unfortunately, while I was breakfasting, the still-low clouds came right down to sea level, leaving a visible range of about 100 metres. Since I needed to be able to see transits from islands and other landmarks, such as the Ears of Achill (presumably way up in the clouds), for the next section, this was a facer. So I thought about "What If" situations, not wanting to be totally dependent on the wee Geonav GPS plotter. At 1111 I observed that the horizon could be seen in a cross-wind direction, so we left with minimal further delay. The clearance, of course, didn't last long, and the Geonav probably had the last laugh, but we left under sail, found the first pass OK in the mist and so proceeded on our way - briskly. There were quite a few prominent headlands, mostly with cliffs and islets offlying. Visibility came and went, and so did the rain. However, crossing the mouth of Broadhaven, things suddenly improved and I had good views of the Stags and even a yacht going the other way closehauled. Then, while I was having (late) afternoon tea, of course, the wind fell away. On went the Yanmar, and it proved to be a long stint, right through the night and into Killybegs, where we entered the harbour about 0400. Use of the VHF to call the Harbourmaster produced no result and in the end we anchored near a pier at 0445.
See Killybegs on Google Maps trawlers

Killybegs to Oban - Monday and Tuesday, 2-3rd July 2012 - Data
We dropped the mooring at 0936 on a mirror-calm and dull morning, still uncertain where we might be going to. Briefly the choice lay between going non-stop to Oban, or stopping at intermediate places such as Burtonport and perhaps Colonsay. The tanks had been very fully replenished, so I chose engine revs to give us a reasonable speed (4.8 knots) combined with economy and entrusted the course-holding to the TillerPilot. Approaching the entrance to the harbour, after a couple of miles, I found that the GPS's log count had already gone astray, showing several thousand miles, so had to reset it. Before we had got much further it started raining slightly but this proved to be the only rain until late evening and the rest of the day grew to be quite pleasant and sunny. We passed Teelin harbour, then the imposing cliffs of Slieve League (tops still in the clouds), then I succumbed to curiosity and took a turn into Malinbeg harbour about 1 p.m, because the Sailing Directions make special mention of some natural rock pillars there.
rock departing In fact there is only one pillar actually in the water - the other two are well up the beach and too 'stout' to belay around anyway. There are underwater pillars also, off the quay, and I succeeded in tapping one once with the keel while doing a three-point turn, so be warned. This is, in any case, not an anchorage that can be used in any other than calm and settled conditions, such as we had just then, so it was just taking advantage of a rare opportunity. From there we motored on past and fairly close to Rathlin O'Birne island and lighthouse and headed north. Conditions were so pleasant that the decision was soon taken to give Burtonport a miss this time and just motor round the outside of everything, including Aranmore Island. Presently a light NW'ly air began to make itself felt and up went the mainsail at last, although it only added about quarter of a knot at first. However by 1730 it was enough to stop the engine and set the genoa, still in thin sunshine. Capn Vane was set to work an hour later off Aranmore Light, so for a while we were entirely back to wind power, but the outlook ahead was rather threatening up by Tory Island and for a time I was quite tempted to put into the other Inishbofin island, just around the corner of the Bloody Foreland. However the threat dissipated before we had reached the point of altering course, and the wind instead ceased, so I restarted the engine, put on the dinner, and just kept right on, on course for a point north of Colonsay.
Now we were crossing the North Channel approaches and I expected that we would be encountering some shipping, but found that the Sea-Me could find hardly any radars to reply to. The most that we got was one at a time and not for long either, so it was a very peaceful crossing all night and, of course, it never got properly dark. Speed varied a little with changes in tide and wind, and the latter came back from the ESE, so that we were back to all plain sail under Capn Vane at 8 a.m. I was just finishing off some porridge at 0930 when I found we were in fog with visibility down to 1 cable! That kept me in the cockpit for most of the morning. The wind improved and I took in reefs on both sails at 1010, finding as I did so that the tack eye at the gooseneck, which forms one axis of the unversal joint, had pulled right up (but not quite out) and would not be knocked back in. I just wound it in under 5 turns of sailcloth and prayed that it would stay put to the end of the voyage. It didn't improve the set of the sail either. There was some slight alarm about noon when, with visibility around half a mile, a deep base foghorn was heard. After a little, it became apparent that it was sounding every minute, rather than two minutes, and must therefore be the Rhinns of Islay lighthouse. Colonsay was identified from the mists at 1305, well to starboard, so we were well clear of the rocks, but it became a very long island and it wasn't until 1710 that we finally reached the waypoint, 146 miles from Killybegs. Altered course to approach the Sound of Kerrera from this unaccustomed angle in rainy conditions but found presently that the wind stopped, restarted from a backed position and tried to force us into Loch Buie. Screwed up close and could just hold our distance off the Mull shore for a while, then it did it again. This time the strength dropped too, and prospects of arriving in time for a drink at the Club disappeared. Put on the engine at 1950, changed to the TP, furled sails, put the spare can of diesel into the tank when the rain stopped and amused myself by making up a hoist of national courtesy flags to show where we had been. Then ate on the way in from Insh Island. Arrived at the Cutter Rock to find that the GPS trip mileage had gone haywire again.... The route back to my mooring had not changed much in the last 6 years, although the boats along it were mostly strangers, and we were secured safely at 2342. I spent the night aboard.
And that, dear reader, concludes the story of the delivery trip from Hamble to Oban, with a few intermediate stops! Now, what to do next?

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