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



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