The trip to the Azores was a highlight of the summer but that doesn't mean that the sailing was over after it. After a quick trip to Spain and some work at home, it was back to the water. I headed to the Isle of Man with the Donegal connection, John Joe, Brendan and Kevin. We headed overnight on a sunday evening to get in ahead of a front forecast to be bringing 25 to 35knots. This meant motoring until we neared the island at dawn when the winds started to appear. During the night we had a moment when a bilge pump started to go off. On opening the engine hatch we found diesel in the engine bilge as a crack had appeared in the hose supplying fuel to the injector pump. Luckily, I had fuel hose onboard so we shut off the engine and replaced the hose and were back on the move in 30 minutes. In hindsight, we were lucky that I had fitted the automatic pump so many years ago which made us aware of the problem before we ran out of fuel. I reckon it cost us about 50 litres instead.
After a rest and a big fry, we could already feel the winds rising. By midday they were gusting force 6 to 8 and waves were crashing on the rocks outside Port St Mary harbour. We set off for a stroll along the coastal promenade before meandering back to the pub for a long deserved rest....... The next day the front had gone through and we headed with the tide north to Peel in little wind. We had two nights in Peel waiting for another front to go through. We used our time doing engine checks and painting onboard as well as hopping on the bus to Douglas, the capital. From Peel it was again a long windless motor north to Glenarm, north of Belfast, arriving in the dark. Being near the end of the July 12th fortnight we kept our flag hidden as you never know when tensions might arise during festival season. Indeed, on coming into the marina someone got out of one motorboat but ignored our salutations and gave us a distinctly cold shoulder. In the morning we found out that it was festival week there and, and though the marina staff were friendly, we were glad to be moving on.
Next stop was Rathlin, again with little wind. But after a night on the island, we had a pleasant breeze from astern and the cruising chute was out as we ghosted slowly past the Giants Causeway. We sailed for 3 hours, most of the way to Portrush, arriving to find it was festival week here as well. The drizzly rain did nothing to put off the marching bands who paraded for 2 hours down the hill near the harbour. We weren't intimidated by it but expected to hear something musical, which we didn't. Each band seemed put out of their rythmn by the pounding of the Lambeg drum. Anyway, we were in the pub so safe from the cacophony. God help those who live there.
The next day we headed off with, you guessed it, little wind. We were heading only as far as Greencastle fishing harbour, where we had been squeezed in last time. This time there was a pontoon just outside the harbour where we tied up safely, though without water or electric. After a grand stroll we ate out to celebrate the end of the trip to Donegal. Margaret (the patient wife of John Joe!!) arrived to join us for a feed before whisking her husband away. Brendan and I had lots of heat and zero wind forecast for two days so we decided to sand down the last of the gelcoat repairs I had done over the last two months. We then anchored off Moville, 2 miles away, where I could get out the aerosol paints I had bought before leaving. We masked up the cockpit well and gave it a good spraying. The results were really fantastic. I had bought new type of aerosol, a two pack paint with a hardener built in. It went off really hard. The paint I got on my fingernails took two weeks to get off !!!!! Brendan, who has a far better attention to detail than I, was really impressed at the change it made to the appearance of Suckin' Diesel.
After the relaxing days in Donegal, we headed under motor again up to Derry where I stayed for 3 days. Brendan left so he wouldn't forget his anniversary (again !!!). I had to take out the hot water tank again as it was starting to leak a little. That took a while but gave me something to occupy my time in Derry which was resplendent in the sun and well deserving of the tourists visiting its sights.
From there I headed back to Greencastle and Portrush where Claire and Brendan joined up for the spin to Port Ellen on Islay. We visited Bushmills Distillery before leaving for comparison purposes....... A damp day on Islay meant we HAD to visit Lagavullin Distillery and finish the day with Haggis and Venison for dinner..... The following morning there was a bit of a blow which eased a little by midday. But we still had 15-20 knots just forward of the beam as we romped our way on to Rathlin. Suckin' Diesel was really in her element slicing through the swell. On rounding the west end of the island things eased and we cruised in to the harbour looking for a farmer called John who Claire had to meet up with. That was a long story...... but it provided up with plenty giggles and a reason to head to the pub in search of who knows what.......
The next day we managed to sail half the trip south to Glenarm on light airs. The marina was much quieter this time. From there it was on to Belfast where we were told they had put in a pontoon in the centre of the Titanic quarter, near the city centre. Claire was nervous as she steered us past the ships in the commercial port but she got us safely moored up. We stayed 4 nights there for £12 with water, electric and laundry all included..... the cheapest I have ever paid for such facilities. We also got great welcome from Jim Shields who rafted up his boat alongside with Dolores, his ever patient wife. We had great days chatting about everything in the world again and getting to know this welcoming city. What a great transformation has Belfast seen and was now well deserving of the large number of tourists visiting. The Titanic Museum was a highlight and well worth a visit. I won't tell you about it, save to say you should go.....
Sinead and Irene from work joined for a few days. We had a relaxing familiarisation sail from the city centre to Bangor. We got to sail in gusty winds and both got the chance to steer and make the most of the changeable conditions. Nearing Bangor, the rain became torrential but we still got in ok. Claire joined us that evening for the following days sail to Portaferry in Strangford Lough, near her home. The weather was for light winds from the west so we hoped to be able to sail but found little breeze. We did get the sails up a couple of times but then it dried up. Passing South rock we ran over a lobster pot. Skippers fault for not being vigilant.... Anyway, all seemed ok so we continued on. Nearing the entrance to the Lough the wind got up from the south which made getting the main sail down tricky. But soon we were in the calm waters of the channel. When we entered the marina we had to reverse into our berth and found out then that we had indeed picked up something on the propeller. So I had to get the diving gear out and go under the boat to remove a float from the lobster pot with a lump of rope attached. It came off easily so all was good.
After a good night ashore, it was time for the crew to leave and for me and SD to head back south. The winds for the next days were forecast to be close to the nose so I knew there would be lots of motoring. It was lumpy enough leaving Strangford, so I went into Carlingford Lough and anchored off the marina. The following morning I left at high tide so that I would not have a strong tide pushing me out against the forecast southeasterly winds. This can lead to 4 metre swells in the channel. We still had some swell but it was manageable though lumpy. After 3 hours the seas started to ease a little as the winds eased off. Passing Skerries at low water I knew I would arrive too early to Malahide so I anchored off Lambay Island for an hour and a half to rest and wait. I got in at 8.30pm after a long 11 hour day glad to be home and looking forward to seeing my ever patient wife............ So ends another summer sailing trip on board Suckin' Diesel.