Malahide, 8th July 2012

Back Home

Largs was overcast on the sunday morning but the wind, though light, had changed to the northwest, a more favorable direction. We were aiming to use that wind to do a long sail of 60 miles along the south coast of the Firth of Clyde and back into the Irish Sea. Initially the wind was too light but on exiting from behind the islands off Largs, We were off and sailing at 5 knots. The winds eased enough for the cruising chute until it died away for an hour before coming back stronger from the west. We ended up sailing most of the trip with 2 reefs in the main and doing 7-8 knots, hoping we would slow down as we didn't want to get to Portpatrick at low tide. We passed close by Ailsa Craig an impressive lump of granite coming straight up from the depths to over 300 metres height.

After this, the winds eased a little and the bouncy seas with it. We motored the last 5 miles into Portpatrick and the crew were a bit nervous of the entrance 35 metres wide through the rocks an hour after low water. We made it through with 0.4 metres under the keel. Our tiiming was doubly important as we had arrived in plenty of time to have dinner before the Euro 2012 football final. Spain again treated us to a majestic display of sublime passsing and won 4 - 0 against Italy. The next morning we had a forecast of east or southeast for the 35 miles sail to Strangford Lough. On going out, we found the wind too light to sail so we motorsailed the whole way across. Things became tricky 8 miles from the entrance to the lough as thick fog set in. All hands were on deck at this stage with the skipper down below on the radar reassuring us as to our position reliative to the marker buoys and other vessels. Luckily it lifted a bit 2 miles out enough for us to see the markers and the lighthouse on Angus Rock. We were very close to the tide turning but we managed to get most of the way in before it turned against us, making us hug the bank to keep out of the flow for the last mile. Claire Hughes and Luken were there waiting for us as we came in. After a lunch with them the fog was back in thick as ever. We were really lucky to have got in when we did.

The weather and headwinds dictated that we stay in Strangford for the next couple of nights. Sadly, visibility remained poor so we relaxed on board and got our walking boots on to go explore. We even got the opportunity to watch some of the Wimbledon tennis on the TV. We had a forecast of winds coming favorable ahead so that helped us relax and go with the flow. On the third day the winds eased and we headed the 5 miles to Ardglass for the night before the planned sail to Carlingford where we hoped Anne would join us. Despite the gentle breeze, there were some big waves on exiting Strangford Lough, but it only lasted 500 metres. Ardglass was nice in the glorious evening sunshine, the first we had seen in ages it seemed. The forecast was good for the following morning and the following day with winds expected light from dead astern. The skipper came up with a plan to set up the twizzle rig. This is a setup used for downwind sailing offshore, where 2 headsails are flown with 2 poles disconnected from the mast. First we had to remove the existing headsail and replace it with a double headsail, 2 old yankee sails sewn together. This we did in Ardglass and now all we had to do was wait for the suitable winds.

Leaving at 7.30am we had light winds but suddenly the winds altered by 180 degrees and increased from 8 to 26 knots as a thundery shower hit us. For the next hour the winds changed direction and strength as squalls went through. Eventually we were able to sail on gentle breezes until even that died as we approached the entrance to Carlingford. Visibility improved and we were finally able to see the Mournes as the day began to dry up. We tied up in the marina which was suffering from a lack of care in recent years. Despite the beautiful location, the marina was not a place we would want to return to. In hindsight, anchoring off would have been a better idea. Anyway, we dried off our sodden gear and awaited the arrival of the exaulted one..... We had a pint to celebrate her arrival before some grub on board.

After a long walk the next morning, we set off in light breezes down the lough to the open sea. After passing Greenore,, the wind came in from the Northeast, the right direction for settling the twizzle rig. We had 15-18 knots of wind from astern as we set the twin sails. We had a triple reefed mainsail sheeted amidships to try to dampen down the rolling which is endemic in downwind sailing. We messed about with increasing and reducing sail, sheeting in and out. Ronnie and Glenis were not sold on it, but I saw the potential for its use with some tweeking. The only concern which arose was the fact that the spinnaker halyard got caught in the top of the roller reefing mechanism which made us concerned that someone might have to go up the mast to sort it out. Luckily, we managed to get the sail in ok as we approached Port Oriel, near Clogher Head. This is a fishing harbour we hadn't visited before. It had been unusable but had been extended a few years ago. We found the fishermen friendly and helpful as we tied up. They found us a corner where trawlers wouldn't bother us. It was especially important to be protected that night as a northerly blow was forecast. We dined as the rain came in and headed to bed as the wind rose. We were disturbed at 1.30am by the gentle tap of a trawler. A small trawler on the end of a row beside us had become untied and swung around to touch us. In 25 knots we couldn't reattach it. So we would have to move the boat. Quickly we untied and on the third attempt, we moored up to another trawler. All very dramatic, but part of the challenge of being on Suckin' Diesel.....

Anyway an unsettled sleep followed but the morning brought sunshine and easier winds. We set off under cruising chute for a couple of hours until winds died and we motored the last 12 miles to Malahide. There we found the natives friendly as Joe and Sindy were preparing to leave the following morning in company with Joe's Dad who had bee in town for a while. Suffice to say, a night's celebration followed and so ends another voyage of the good yacht "Suckin' Diesel" .............