Thursday, 29 August 2013

Like The Swallows…

As the weekend approaches a heatwave is being forecast for Ireland. The Azores High is putting in another appearance and tho’ it might mean BBQs and picnics for the residents of Cork, for Temptress and her crew it means welcome north westerly winds. The time has come to head south with the swallows to find warmer climes. Another of Clarionet’s former crew Julian (Joe) is joining us for the passage to Baiona (bay-own-a) the most southerly port in N Spain, just north of the Portuguese border, a distance of some 560 miles or about four days sailing. 

Since Monday afternoon we’ve been busy cleaning the boat, fixing things like the starboard navigation light (again, this time it was the bulb), doing the laundry and shopping for provisions. There are some canvas repairs to complete especially the bimini which needs some re-stitching and things to stow away that won’t be required on passage. The spinnaker gear needs to go on as we are expecting a downwind passage and with three of us on board to manage sail changes we may as well sail as fast as we can. Joe will arrive on Thursday and we plan to depart on Saturday morning.

Baiona is almost but not quite due south from Cork Harbour entrance, just a few degrees further west are required so a north westerly wind should see Temptress sailing free and fast. The only obstacles to progress are a huge width of shipping lane off Finisterre and the possibility of strong winds on Monday and Tuesday close to the Spanish coast. The latter are forecast to be around 30 knots still from a northerly direction but the area they cover should be shrinking and north of our hoped for landfall by the time we reach the Spanish coast. The former is four lanes wide, some 19 nautical miles off the coast so we have to get the approach right to ensure Temptress ends up entering the ITZ (inshore traffic zone for small craft) from the north and not in or crossing the shipping lanes themselves which occupy a band 17 nautical miles wide to the west of the ITZ. They are busy lanes, every commercial ship that has come from the Far East via the Suez heading for Europe or vice versa passes this way. Why four lanes? Dangerous cargos are kept separate from other commercial shipping to avoid a repeat of a previous disaster when an oil tanker sank polluting much of this beautiful, rock strewn coast.

Finisterre – the end of the earth – known locally as Costa de Morte, Coast of Death; a wild place that conjures up terrible images of stormy weather in the mind of every sailor. Until relatively recently it was also name given to the adjacent sea area in the shipping forecast, now known as Fitzroy after the father of the forecasts but a change of name does not remove a deserved reputation for stormy weather and treacherous rocky shores. This is where sailing ships ended up having run before Atlantic gales if they couldn’t reach the safe haven of La Coruna at the southern tip of Biscay or turn south down the Portuguese coast.

On passage we intend to put our new technology to the test. Hopefully as well as our AIS transmissions which will be trackable until we are out of range of the base stations that feed the web site, we should be able to update our position map and possibly even post the odd short blog entry enroute.

Baiona, 2001 - Kevin & Susie
with Angie & Pat of Autumn Breeze
As for our destination, it is a port Temptress has visited before and we are looking forward to exploring old haunts like the Monte Real Club de Yates with its beautifully appointed clubhouse (memories of roaring winter fires and cosy sofas). Or perhaps we’ll climb again to the boat cradled in the arms of the statue of the Virgen de la Roca high above the cliffs or walk the medieval walls of the Parador Conde do Gondomar (now a rather luxurious hotel). Whatever we do we will at least have made good progress south towards the trade winds that will hopefully wing us across the Atlantic later in the year.

The Virgen de Roca, Baiona

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Tides – For or Against You

We - Kevin, Greg and Susie - left Ardglass Marina around 06:00 on Thurs 22 Aug and twenty minutes later the ships log recorded that we were aground in a channel that the chart and other sources said was dredged to 3.2 metres. It was not quite low water, so much for the 24/7 all weather harbour proclaimed in Reeds Almanac. A German yacht ahead of us touched the bottom but made it through, whilst a red Oyster 34 despite seeing us on the putty at the second of the port hand markers in the entrance channel came out and promptly ran aground beside Temptress. The owner was a local who should have known better but his timetable for a passage to Peel on the Isle of Man meant he had to leave Ardglass now, the tide had other ideas!
Just room to glide through
Mooring up against the wall, Wicklow Harbour
Sometimes you just have to examine your eyelids

Two other yachts then glided carefully through the gap and out to sea, the first owned up to drawing just 1.3m metres, the amount of water now under Temptress and the second was a bilge keeler. Meantime we simply had to sit it out until the water started to come back in. An hour and forty minutes later Temptress was finally afloat and we could leave Ardglass.

It was a grey morning with little wind and lots of fishing boats, the Ardglass fleet is still very active catching herring, cod and Dublin Bay prawns (langoustine). Sometime after lunch we’d enough breeze to sail and had covered some 40 nm thanks to the tide carrying us down the Irish Sea most of the way. The incoming tide floods south through the North Channel between N Ireland and Scotland (north of us), then there is an area of mostly slack water around Dublin Bay below which the outgoing tide then flows hard south through St Georges Channel which is the narrowing of the Irish Sea between Wales and Ireland.

The Skerries and Lambley Island north of Dublin added to the interest on the shore side, then there was all the marine traffic in and out of Dublin’s Port, ferries, tankers and small cargo ships and after that thick fog. Thank goodness for radar and AIS tools to help us keep a look out but in fact we saw very little not even the red buoy that was our waypoint north of Wicklow. The wind went south and Temptress eager to get in to port became a motor boat rather than tack against the incoming tide. We were soon moored alongside the harbour wall. Seventy eight miles through the water and eighty odd over the ground, meant a good fast passage with lots of tide sweeping us south.

What happened next was the exact opposite of the previous day. We left Wicklow at low water again but here the incoming tide flows north and it is Springs (the highest tides) so 3 knots plus of tide pushing Temptress north whilst we attempted to motor south through the grey drizzly rain in light winds. The boat was making at most four knots over the ground and the coast line below Wicklow Head passed as in slow motion. At midday the wind sprang up to Force 5 blowing directly from the south and it began to rain hard. Time for an alternative plan as bashing our way south to Tuskar Rock and round the corner to Kilmore Quay was not going to be pleasant.

The entrance to Arklow's mini-marina
Sunny day in Arklow
Tuskar Rock Lighthouse
Arklow was conveniently directly abeam of us and within ninety minutes we were tied up to a rather odd single pontoon along the river bank with no actual path along the shore just grass, the miniature marina just next door being far too small for Temptress to find a berth. Thirty Euros for few facilities, ah well at least we had a lovely late afternoon with aboard Lady Menai with Fred, his wife, son Robin and his wife Pam plus another Kevin who was part of Wicklow’s lifeboat crew (we’d met them in Ardglass and provided Pam with painkillers for a bad back). There was an Aldi nearby for bread and milk, Kilmore Quay could wait for another day.

Saturday dawned sunny and dry. The tide would turn south early afternoon so after a morning pottering around and a homemade veggie soup lunch Temptress motored out of Arklow shortly after the local sailing club’s race fleet. Our intention was an overnight passage to Crosshaven in Cork Harbour on Ireland’s south coast. Susie’s back is much improved but the nerve has yet to make much progress- the leg is still numb and sore making walking, sitting, lying in bed and even standing uncomfortable whilst the press of clothing is at times painful. Even so we thought we’d give a longer passage a try and with Greg as crew it would relieve Susie of much of the heavier duties. Kevin’s cousin Tish agreed to drive down from the north to collect her husband from whatever port we reached.

A couple of hours motoring charged the batteries, made some water and eventually found us some wind. With the first reef in and a few furls in the genoa it was a cracking sail if a somewhat grey and occasionally damp afternoon and evening. Tuskar Rock and the adjacent shipping lanes proved a bit tricky with too much tide to go inside the rock through the overfalls (places where the water is whipped up to a crashing frenzy as it flows over a rocky change in depth at the seabed) and the wrong direction of the wind to make our course past the Rock without encroaching bits of the shipping lane. We cut the top west corner a bit but eventually it became obvious that Temptress wasn’t going to make it round the “bend” of the shipping lanes keeping to the Inshore Traffic Zone (ITZ) as obliged to do under the regulations so we gave in and motored from just after 18:00. We were making good time with help from a friendly tide - twenty six miles of our total one hundred and twenty odd under our belt.

Along the south coast of Ireland the winds were much lighter so the motoring continued. A warming Thai chicken curry for supper satisfied the crew before we settled into a two hours on four hours off watch pattern for the night. Now we had real ocean swell, nothing between us and the Americas but the local wind driven waves were light over the top. The tide that had swept us down the last of Irish Sea was now against us and progress was reduced to some four or five knots over the ground. Off the Saltees as we headed for our waypoint of Conningbeg Buoy there were two large trawlers heading in various directions slowly, Temptress had to alter course a couple of times to avoid their erratic paths. The trawlers’ navigation lights were quite typically obscured by their eye searingly bright deck lights so the AIS proved a useful tool for working out which heading they were actually on. From Conningbeg to Pullock Rock just off the entrance to Cork was the longest leg of the voyage, almost sixty nautical miles.

Around 3:00am Susie came up to relieve Greg but before he could retire to his bunk she made him help set some of the genoa so Temptress could sail once more in 10 to 15 knots of quite variable breeze. We were still making good progress and the tide had turned westward shortly after midnight, though along this coast it was only adding half to one knot to our overall progress west.  A cargo ship and a cruise liner heading for Cork but seemingly not wanting to arrive before daybreak, pirouetted gently off to the south of our course, entertaining whoever was on watch.

It was an uneventful night and by 09:00 Temptress was safely tied up in Royal Cork Yacht Club’s Marina off the village of Crosshaven. The RCYC is the oldest yacht club in the world having been founded in 1720 but they are very much up to date with a lovely clubhouse and large marina. The last day of Irish Laser Nationals was about to commence as we checked in so it was busy with people, bacon sarnies and lasers everywhere. Sunday lunch commences at two pm, we are very tempted once Tish joins us.

Log: Ardglass – Wicklow – Arklow – Crosshaven 228nm
Laundry day, Crosshaven

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Just how do you provision for a long passage? This post is more about food than engine spares or fuel but either way you first need to know how long you are going to be sailing for; Cork to Bayona is 600 nautical miles which at our passage planning speed of 6.5 knots (we may sail faster but you need to account for contrary winds and currents) that is approximately four days sailing. Add in a contingency of 100% for no wind, emergencies or whatever and you need to cater for eight days at sea. Cork to the Azores, our original plan, is double the distance and would have needed three weeks stores.

Next it’s easier to have some sort of structure to build a shopping list around so plan a day by day rough menu. List the days and the meals breakfast, lunch and supper then add in the ideas. That way you’ll be able to calculate some idea of the quantities required – and you’ll be surprised how quickly they add up, use an onion in every supper and that is eight, milk for cereals and hot drinks rapidly becomes litres per week even for a crew of only two or three. Storage space and product life has to be balanced against crew preferences – powdered milk is not our preferred option but fresh milk only keeps for a few days even in the fridge and storing sufficient UHT packs is not always easy.

This draft menu may not exactly match what we actually eat but at least if we fancy a chicken risotto we’ll have the ingredients or if we catch a fish we know what we can combine it with.  The Boat Galley has some handy spreadsheets but without a printer on board we find it easier to use a notepad you can take shopping with you. The list can also act later as a rough guide to the stores on board though on Temptress we have handwritten lists of tins and dry stores stuck inside a galley locker door for handy reference. At sea you are time rich so rather than complete meals take the ingredients – making bread or cake is an extremely satisfying way to pass some time and growing your own beansprouts or cress means unexpected fresh veg too. Ensure you have plenty of spices and condiments to vary the options.

With a fridge, coolbox and a small freezer compartment it is relatively easy to have fresh food for eight days. Salad like lettuce may start to wilt but pick a Chinese cabbage and it’ll last a lot longer than that. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes last for ever in the basket under the galley sink and make a good risotto or a nice addition to a chicken stew. Still there will be days when cooking anything is almost impossible due to stormy seas so plan a few tin meals – stewed meat, canned veg and potatoes can all be thrown into a single saucepan with a bit of fried onion and some dried herbs to make a warming, satisfying supper for hungry crew. Likewise corned beef hash with baked beans. 

Tinned meat is a boon on longer passages where even our tiny one/two star freezer can’t keep it long enough nor does it have sufficient space. However tins are heavy to carry from the shops so we prepared a menu several weeks ago and waited until we found a supermarket conveniently close to the boat (in Carrickfergus). Decent canned meat, as we’ve found in the past and so web sites for cruisers still highlight, is less readily available outside of the UK and Northern Europe. Temptress’ bilge stores contain more than even a single long passage needs with an eye to a future that will include an Atlantic Crossing from the Cape Verdes.

Tomatoes and milk in tetra packs, canned fish like tuna and “car crash” (sardines in tomato sauce), tins of veg like sweet corn, peas and carrots or new potatoes all add to the mix. Everything is stowed beneath the cabin sole in boxes with lids to keep water and dust off. Writing whats in the tin on its top with a marker pen helps speedily identify the tins you need later. Down there we also have bottles of squash (Susie has a predilection for hi-juice pink grapefruit), ginger beer, tonic water etc. Elsewhere a large dry store under the saloon seating contains pulses, dried beans and cereals, tea bags (hundreds of them) and coffee (several small jars of our preferred brand), kilos of bread flour, suet, rice and pasta. For treats we have oxo cubes (a mugful of hot oxo is delicious on watch in the middle of the night), hot chocolate powder and a basket of snack sized choccie bars plus packs of crisps and dried fruit. To save space most items have been stripped of any cardboard outers and packed carefully in labelled plastic containers to prevent contamination by insects or salt air.

Fresh provisions like fruit, veg, eggs and meat will be purchased as close to departure as possible. This list looks huge but we don’t intend to starve or live on basic rations for the entire passage, good food is good for crew moral! Risottos, curries, stews and more are planned, Kevin has been collecting recipe ideas from Susie’s magazines to try. The thermal cooker will be in almost daily use saving us gas; prepare and get the meal thoroughly hot by simmering for up to fifteen minutes then place in the large insulated container and leave until needed. It’ll keep food hot for up to seven hours and works like a slow cooker so stews are beautifully tender and chicken falls off the bone. We even intend to get around to baking bread in it. And, if speed is of the essence though I don’t know why it should be on a long passage, then there is always the pressure cooker.

Water is a bit of an odd one for us, one we are still struggling with. For years we’ve sailed round with more than the regulation cat 2 (offshore racing regs that is) emergency supply of bottles in the bilge, bottles which come up on deck to remind the crew to stay hydrated and are usually all drunk during the course of a passage whether racing or not. With a water maker and three tanks do we still need to carry bottled water? Our current preference is for two reusable water bottles (like these) filled from the filtered water in the galley. Presumably if the watermaker fails our tanks will be pretty close to full anyway as away from land we run it at least every other day to keep things topped up.

Five hundred and eighty litres dedicated to drinking and cooking only (we can use seawater for washing) so at 5 litres per person per day that is over 100 man days of water in the tanks – three crew could last a month. The only real need for bottled water would be the unlikely nightmare scenario of all three tanks contaminated and no water maker. On the other hand if we need to abandon the boat at sea for any reason the one thing we will need is fresh water so having some bottles in the grab bag makes sense. The question therefore is how many bottles do we really need for a genuine emergency? This is what we are still pondering and the answer will probably be governed by what space we have got left to fit it into.

Finally there are the non-edible but essential provisions like washing up liquid, cleaning products (do we really need kitchen and bathroom cleaners or is there one product that’ll do?), soap, showergel, shampoo, toothpaste, suntan lotion and deodorant. We usually have a one in use and one spare policy on board Temptress so eight days should prove no problem. The only thing to consider is will your favourite brand be available at your destination, washing up liquid should be no problem but moisturiser, toothpaste? We’ll add in an extra tube or bottle of those we can’t live without but there is only so much room on the boat.

So there you have it Temptress’ guide to provisioning – hopefully we’ll not starve or get scurvy and we’ll arrive at our destination sweet smelling and clean!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Decisions Decisions

The crew - Kevin, Colum, Greg and Aine
Sometimes you have to make a decision and stick to it. After almost five days the attractions of Carrickfergus had been exhausted, we’d even managed to provision Temptress’ tin store for a long (eg Atlantic) passage as the supermarket was conveniently across the road from the marina. Time to leave. The new crew were from Clan Harris – Greg, daughter Aine and her cousin Colum and our intended destination was Ardglass some 40 miles south of Belfast Lough. Saturday was rainy and windy from the South West but after a full Ulster breakfast and saying farewell to Kevin’s cousin’s Trish (Greg’s wife) and Colin (Colum’s Dad) who’d delivered the crew we headed out for Donaghadee Sound on the south eastern corner of Belfast Lough.

Is it a ship, is it a rig - anchored in Belfast Lough?
The weather brightened and the wind bent by the lough shore was almost behind us. It was pleasant sailing with lovely views of the low lying coast – green fields, cottages and small towns. Aine and Colum got used to helming and picking out the red and green buoys that marked our passage through the sound. Once round the corner however the wind picked up and with it the chop, Temptress was making slow headway against the tide and wind.  With Colum starting to become a bit quiet and a little grey we discussed our options; plough on regardless to Ardglass or turn back to the Lough and sample the delights of Bangor Marina. The latter was voted for and we had a pleasant afternoon ashore (99’s and beers at either end of a long walk) before meeting up with yet another Harris cousin, Tania plus her partner Ian for drinks and nibbles in the cockpit. We can also recommend the Bokhara Indian Restaurant in King Street, Bangor where the crew had a great supper.

Sleeping Beauty

Just examining the inside of his eyelids
Sunday’s forecast was much improved and by ten o’clock we were on our way once more, a much brighter day with a westerly wind off the land so flat seas and sunshine meant we sailed most of the way only motoring when the wind died. Temptress has now done over a 1000 nautical miles since leaving Southsea! Late afternoon at Ardglass the Harris welcome committee was out in force (Colin with his wife Liz as well as Trish) complete with a chilli con carne supper for all (plus a veggie version for Aine). We were a merry bunch round the saloon table catching up on news and retelling tales of years gone by. Colin was happy snapping the harbour wildlife; oyster catchers, herons and grey seals from the cockpit. Ardglass is a very tiny, well sheltered and attractive little haven with rocks dividing the area into several little harbours and a friendly welcome at the marina. The village has not one but seven castles although most are not castles in the accepted sense of the word but are fortified tower houses. The golf course clubhouse is actually a series of fortified warehouses. All these “castles” are testament to the number of invaders who’ve ransacked this coast over the centuries – Vikings, Normans, English, Scots and even the American privateer John Paul Jones.

A Turnstone? On the rocks at Bangor
More decisions need to be made - where next down the Irish coast? Carlingford, Wicklow or even the new marina at Greystones? Wicklow is about 80 nautical miles south of Ardglass, a good days sail skirting the sandbanks that are a feature of the part of the coast. Carlingford and Greystones lie in between. From Wicklow we’ll make some westing by heading along the southern Irish coast another 140 nautical miles to Crosshaven.

And where after Ireland? Our original sketchy plan was to head out to the Azores but re-reading the pilot books the skipper realised we’d missed the boat (excuse the pun) as the Azores sailing season is June to Mid August. So Portugal and Madeira seems a more sensible route weatherwise meaning that currently the plan is from the South of Ireland to take the first forecast of northerly winds to head south past Biscay and Finnisterre to Bayona or beyond and aim to be in the Canaries in October.

Log: Carrickfergus – Bangor – Ardglass 67nm total 1006nm

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Smelly Fridge...

Castle Green, Carrickfergus
For some days each of us has mentioned that the fridge is a bit pongy when fetching milk for teas and coffees or getting out food to prepare for a meal. We realised rather guiltily that it had not had any tlc since our departure from Southsea so having arrived in Carrickfergus with depleted supplies and with a Sainsbury’s store across the marina carpark it was time to bite the bullet and sort out the pong.

Temptress was originally fitted with a cavernous top loading freezer and an alongside fridge but we have always shirked at the power consumption of the freezer part so use that as a fridge (set the dial down below 2 else the milk freezes!) with an efficient icebox at the top and the next door compartment as a useful coolbox for beers and veggies. Both are so deep that we have to stand on tiptoes, then bend over to reach the bottom whilst the top back edge is almost out of arms reach. The outboard side (ie the side away from you, the galley slave) curves away from the relatively small footprint of the bottom following the line of the hull so the top area of our fridge is close to a metre front to back, the cool box slightly smaller.

Cavernous top loading fridge
Over the years we have developed a defrosting/cleaning strategy; ensure the drain is shut off, there is a stop cock is under cabin sole nearby, then pour in hot water, add bicarb and rinse everywhere. A saucepan of hot water usually persuades the last bits of ice to drop off from locations behind the icebox that the human arm cannot contort itself into. Water poured in either fridge or coolbox will fill both. Once defrosted and cleaned the water can be simply drained away into the bilge to be pumped automatically away over the side.

To oganise such large spaces for use at sea (there are no convenient glass shelves like your home front opening fridge) we use stackable plastic crates. These allow the air to circulate, can be cheaply replaced when the plastic succumbs to the chill as it does every six or seven years and are easily accessed. Unfortunately being baskets stuff spilt in the top one rapidly finds its way downwards (beetroot juice covered most things in the fridge’s top two baskets when we were coming down the Caledonian Canal). So even if we regularly wash up the most used baskets you get a pong eventually. With the stacking baskets too we can have some hygienic order to our food – raw meat at the bottom, cream, cheese, cooked meats & yoghurt at the top, though the bottom of the three fridge baskets tends to be full of beer if the skipper has been doing the stocking up. Along the back of both compartments runs a metal fronted shelf useful for bottle storage (two of the litre cans of milk fit neatly one in front of the other standing up with another lying behind them where the hull curves away).

Fridge baskets washed up
The coolbox for years was a bit of a mess as stacking boxes don’t really fit as well until we realised that by having one small at the very bottom, one larger one at right angles and then another smaller one across the top of that we had ourselves a three story fruit and veg basket. The gaps around the side and back can be filled with bottles of wine/squash/lemonade/tonic to stop the whole sliding around at sea and there is still room for a couple of carrier bags of bread rolls or similar stores on top before the heavy lid goes on!

On the fridge side the ice box is efficient and can quickly freeze meal sized portions of fresh meat enabling us to take advantage of the Co-op’s two for N pounds bargains over recent weeks without having to eat sausages or mince every night for a week. It is also usually well stocked with ice and frozen peas. I’d guess it would be classified as a one star freezer as it certainly doesn’t get down to -12 deg (two star rating with frozen food storage for one month) so it’s good for keeping stuff frozen for a week or so, even ice cream seems to remain hard. So if we freeze our fresh meat purchases as soon as we make them then I’m happy to cook them a couple of weeks or so later.

Veggie Baskets
The final touch is a basic fridge/freezer thermometer which usually is perched on top of the controls inside the fridge so gives us a good view of how cold the top of the compartment is (we assume that basic physics still work in this particular cave so that the lower parts are chillier).  Physics also ensures that the whenever you want to check the thermometer it has actually fallen to the bottom under everything whilst Temptress was beating to windward.

The one big investment we have made in our fridge a few years ago was to replace the fan with a silent running server fan, the original was so loud it probably woke up people asleep on boats alongside us when it started up. Now the compressor running is hardly noticeable and the new fan proved more efficient as the compressor runs for shorter periods though it still probably is on for twenty minutes or so each hour. A small cost for fresh food on a long passage.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

And Now for the Weather Forecast...

Team Tarbert tying up Temptress after Ardrishaig Sealock
Angus, Kevin and Scott sailing down Loch Fyne
Having decided to stay in Tarbert…Yes we finally reached to the HQ of Team Tarbert thanks to yet more of their wonderful assistance on Saturday. As I was saying, having decided to stay in Tarbert until at least Tuesday we discover that north westerly winds are predicted for Monday and Monday only. There after being west or even south west. North westerlies are ideal for the sail south along the east coast of the Mull of Kintyre and across the North Channel to the ancient town of Carrickfergus. Ah well plans were made to be changed!

Precipitation in sight, alternatively known as Scottish Sunshine, is very common in these parts; there has to be a reason why everywhere is so amazingly green and the trees are covered in lichen and moss. The wind too is usually contrary being on the nose wherever you are trying to go. Come what may the Coast Guard (CG) delivering the Met Office summaries every four hours is probably the only predictable thing about the UK’s weather forecast and even that occasionally doesn’t happen when they are “emergency working” (ie responding to a Mayday)! Our trip south included lots of bands of rain but little reached us though we were privileged to see some amazing rainbows.

We’ve also been practising with wider weather pictures for some time too in preparation for ocean passages out of range of the comfortable voices of Stornaway and Belfast CG.  On Sunday morning the skipper tried his hand at requesting a MailaSail weather grib – it’s a bit techie to set up the initial email format but once done and the resulting download content interpreted by our navigation software it is useful. We are now confident that we’ll be able to acquire ocean weather patterns and predictions when Temptress is many miles from land via our (sheepishly blushing) satellite phone.

Welcoming Committee, Tarbert
Yes we know that we said we wouldn’t have one, didn’t need the expense etc etc BUT we found a cheap lightly used older model on eBay and so for the peace of mind it will give those we leave behind (as long as we remember to provide them with the phone number) we decided it was probably worth it. In addition for five hundred or so pound a year we’ll be able to download weather forecasts at sea as well as provide family and friends with brief updates on where we are so benefits all round and far cheaper than an SSB (single sideband radio, Susie’s long wished for but extremely out of our price bracket, boat toy).

Our neighbour in Tarbert arriving, watch that bowsprit!

Norman Keep, Carrickfergus

Harbour view
Anyone for chess?
Temptress in Carrickfergus Harbour
So now we have changed country and really have headed south too - the historic town of Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland and are temporarily moored across from the most perfect Norman Castle waiting for the tide so we can move next door to the more convenient marina.

Tarbert to Carrickfergus - 85nm,  939nm total

Friday, 9 August 2013

With A Little Help From Our Friends

Finally Leaving Oban...
The back didn’t seem to be improving with home remedies (painkillers, rest and a hot water bottle) so Temptress made for Kerrara, Oban earlier than planned arriving at lunchtime on Monday 22 July. The crew immediately heading off on the ferry to the town and A&E.  Along with several other “walking wounded” Susie’s process through form filling, triage and doctor’s consultation was interrupted by cases brought in by ambulance, it was a busy and long afternoon but finally armed with a large supply of prescription drugs Susie was able to repair to bed, drowsy with muscle relaxant and mostly pain free. The rest of the week was taken easily with the recommended short walks and no lifting whatsoever, meaning Kevin single handedly unloaded the cruising gear and prepped the boat for the regatta.
Kevin & Millicent

Friday evening the crew started to gather; first Scott on a borrowed motorcycle then Jenny arrived with Jane who’d collected them from Glasgow airport (triggering the complex trail of cars, boats and motorcycles) in good time for the feeder race to Coabh which started early on Saturday.  Jane raced down with us so she could join Malindi’s crew for the next few days. There was little breeze but we had a fair tide down past Insh and Luing. After some three and a half hours of racing the committee announced a welcome course shortening to ensure everyone would finish before the tide turned against the fleet so soon after two o’clock Temptress crossed the line.  Once in Croabh we caught up with Dubai Offshore Sailing Club’s other entry into WHYW, “Caol Beg” chartered by Ruth and friends, as well as boats and crew who were local friends of the Petrie’s who Susie had met two years ago. Fortunately the next morning’s start was later as it gave the crew time to recover from champagne heads.
Approaching Crinan
Sunshine on Loch Crinan
Sardines in sealock
Crinan Basin
Sunday’s race one to Oban started with a “follow me” signal in flat calm so the entire fleet and hangers on motored gently north up the course until somewhere off Easedale there was judged to be sufficient wind to get a start after lunch and we finished another somewhat shortened course south of Kerrara just after18:00. The four of us were heartily glad it had not been too windy as Susie’s back was not up to much permitting her to do little more than making hot drinks and navigating. We definitely needed more crew.

Monday Temptress cried off the round the cans racing off Oban in favour of a visit to the local health centre for Susie. Stronger painkillers and anti-inflammatories were the order of the day. The NHS system works amazingly well; despite the fact that having been out of the country for the past four years or so we’ve no current GP. Simply sign on as a temporary patient, provide your NHS number then empathy and good advice follows, everyone has been so friendly and helpful. We wandered round to the pharmacy wondering what price a NHS prescription would be nowadays only to find that in Scotland there is no charge. Light exercise such as short walks, swimming with a diet of codeine and paracetemol was again recommended.

Tuesday was Round Lismore day – a low long and very pretty island this is one of the races that makes the WHYW so special. Rocks aplenty, tides and few marks. We’d found ourselves some extra crew, the pirates aka Angus and Matthew aged 12 and 9 respectively with plenty of sailing experience already. Temptress was first over the start line in her non-spinnaker class and was soon overtaking earlier starting boats as we headed for the maze of islands and rocks to the north of Lismore. Local knowledge helps and as we began the long beat back to the finish we managed to keep ahead of many of our own class to finish fourth. Well done Pirates, Petries and Temptress!

Unfortunately the back didn’t withstand the beating and once over the finish line Susie retired to her bunk, her spine refusing to play and causing concern to all. Late in the evening after a long phone call via NHS Direct the duty doctor was called out. He then rang to say he didn’t know how to reach Kerrara Island from Oban so late in the evening, however Kevin found the marina ferry staff were more than helpful despite it being at the end of their long shift and willing to make a special priority trip to fetch then later return the doctor to the mainland. One injection and more horsepills followed with a diagnosis of a slipped disc that was causing the numbness and cramp in the left leg, it would take some time to recover. Our regatta was over before the final crew member Erica who’d arrived that evening had had a chance to sail.

The pirates spent Wednesday proving just how fast Temptress’ tender could plane (13 knots apparently), setting and retrieving the lobster pot and generally having good fun on the water but stuck in Oban rather than racing to Tobermory. Then the crew slipped away leaving the First Mate recuperating mostly in bed with occasional walks along the pontoon or even along some of the island tracks.

A plan was hatched, we’d stay in Kerrara until Susie was able to sit and move around the boat comfortably enough and then we’d take the gentle route south via the Crinan Canal, Tarbert and Cambell Town with Team Tarbert offering what assistance they could. So the first Wednesday of August saw Millicent Reid (Jenny’s Mum) and Kevin take Temptress with her passenger (Susie) on the early morning tide to Crinan. It was raining hard as we passed down Kerrara Sound but approaching Insh it started to dry and shhhh, don’t say it too loudly but the sun was putting in an appearance out to the west of us. By the time we reached the sealock at Crinan it was beginning to look like a fine afternoon. Once through the lock and after a lunch of scotch pies and beans, Millicent was collected by Ian’s taxi service and driven home whilst we settled down to a walk along the towpath to find the spot where the phone signal was usable (thanks Millicent for yet another good tip). Our mooring alongside in the basin had its up and its downside – we could watch all the comings and goings but we soon lost the evening sunshine and it was a little chilly, almost autumnal.

Pirate at the helm!

Angus seeing if he would get wet!

Woman-powered lock gates

Fancy sliding bridge

Pirate-powered gates
By the time the pirates plus Mum Emma arrived at ten the following morning the mist had cleared and once we had approval from the lock keeper we could be on our way. The Peden family have done this before many times with their own converted fishing boat, much heavier than Temptress; the boys handled bow and sternlines like experts whilst Emma walked or drove between locks to catch lines, wind up sluice paddles and open gates. The Crinan is much more DIY than the Caledonian. As the morning progressed Moira and her five year old grandson David arrived to bolster the crew yet further then a few locks further on Millicent, free of her B&B guests also appeared - a three car, two dog, one boat convoy. Lunch was taken at the top lock at Dunardry until the lock keeper arrived to say that by sitting with the upper gates open we were effectively draining the top pound as the lower gate wasn’t very water tight! We quickly moved to a nearby pontoon, sorry!

The Crinan is narrow rocky and very very pretty as it winds it’s way through the wooded Argyll countryside. Angus and Matt quickly worked out how to use Temptress’ extra loud fog horn at blind bends and to pre-announce our arrival at bridges so the lock keeper could get them prepared for us. They pointed out who lived where including a tiny tin roofed houseboat tucked into the reeds and the roses-around-the-door chocolate-box pretty cottage where a local artist lives.

Ten locks and four bridges later Temptress and her convoy & crew arrived in Cairnbaan. A convenient gap on the pontoon below the last lock confirmed this was the right place to call it a day. It had been a fun, proving team work really is the key to transiting this canal. Young David was as pleased as punch that he’d eventually worked out how to throw lines over Temptress guard rail which was almost shoulder height to him even if Granny didn’t always catch them!  The pirates had loved sharing their encyclopaedic knowledge of the canal with us. And everyone had enjoyed being out in the fresh air having a little exercise!

A last cup of tea and a photocall before the crew departed for Tarbert and we settled down for a quiet evening at home, too tired even for a trip to the hotel bar before bedtime.  A big thank-you to everyone who has been on board over the last couple of weeks.

Moira closing a gate

Temptress leaving a lock

Cairnbaan flower-man taking a rest

Ian and Moira chatting

Angus tending lines

Matt teaching David how to throw a line ashore