Ireland To Scotland, Spring, 2002

After several months of working on Orbit and learning just how much rain there can be in an Irish winter, we finally left Crosshaven (Cork Harbor), Ireland. Toby Shepheard, a 25yr old Englishman is crew.


After a few days of waiting for winds, we made a practice sail back to Kinsale, in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go, but downwind in a pleasant Force 6. Spent a few days in Kinsale, at one point anchored too close to the mud shore of the river, so found ourselves heeling over about midnight as a wind shift had put us on the mud at low tide. Went aground again on the low tide of the following morning, as we were preparing to leave. Raised the main to heel us over, then motored free (would have just sailed off, but the diesel stove was on, and it does not like having the foresail raised on port tack--backwinds the stove and fills the interior with smoke).


Had a pleasant daysail, dead to windward in a Force 4 the whole way. Made good about five miles. Sailed onto anchor in a lovely bay, Oysterhaven, and a man with a wooden gaff cutter came by, pleased to see another boat with deadeyes & lanyards , and gave us a fresh cod. Heavy, shallow draft, gaff rigged schooners may not go to windward well, but they get given a lot of fresh fish!


Motored along the coast the next day in calm, cool, misty conditions. Irish Customs boarded, wrote down our names, chatted a bit, and warned me about the UK & France being particularly strict with VAT, which Ireland doesn't bother charging VAT to visiting yachts (one reason so many foreign cruisers go to Ireland). VAT is a tax of about 20% of a foreign-owned yacht's assessed value if it stays in any EU waters for 18 months (an effective way of reducing tourism).

The forecast was for N winds (our course is now NE) developing overnight, so we prepared to sail all night in the hopes of finally making some real headway towards England. Just after we had passed the entrance to Youghal (pronounced yawl) harbor, the evening forecast changed to N-NE winds. NE sounded like we would beat all nite only to make a few miles, so we reversed course and crossed the bar into Youghal harbor, on the ebb, just after sunset. Not the best time to enter, but it wasn't difficult (motoring). Currents run to 3 knots in the harbor, so it was slow getting in. An advantage of early-season cruising is that there are fewer moored boats about, so finding an anchorage is easier. There are tidal overfalls in the harbor, so rowing ashore is often wet.


After a couple of days in pleasant Youghal harbor, motored out on the ebb, waiting for the promised tailwind. Winds were generally light and variable for the 3.5 days it took to sail and motor thru St. Georges Channel & the Irish Sea.

Passed thru the Morecambe (pronounced morecam) gas field at night (sorry, no pictures), which was interesting enough (you just need to figure the current right, because you do not want to be swept down onto a gas rig...the rigs are exceptionally well lit, both with electric lights and with gas burning off).

Sailed around at the entrance to the river Lune (Morecambe Bay, north of Liverpool) for a few hours, waiting for high water before entering the river. There is a 30 foot (9m) tidal range here, which is more than I am used to. Since we were arriving just past springs (the highest tides), expected strong currents, but had no information about them. When the time was right (as per the excellent Reeds Almanac), dropped sails and motored in. Reduced speed by turning around and motoring in the opposite direction, while the flood current continued to take us in. Currents were 4-5 knots. Got out of the winding channel a couple of times accidentally (sometimes difficult to pick out the unusual buoys in this river), but fortunately did not go aground (which would be bad to do at high water just after springs).


The lock into the marina at Glasson Dock is opened only once a day, from 45 minutes before daytime high water until high water, so arriving late means you have to anchor in the river (which dries out) for a day. Fortunately, we arrived in time, and the locktender let us in (manually operated locks).


After the lock, there is a swing bridge (also manually operated by the locktender) to go thru, which cuts across the main road of the village of Glasson Dock. Am not sure whether it was Orbit's foreign flag, the fact that the swing bridge stopped all traffic, or that there was just not much else to do on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, but quite a few people gathered round to watch. Several people later told me Orbit was the first American boat to ever come up to this marina. I was expecting a marina of mostly smaller boats (figuring it is easier to handle a smaller boat in an area where the tidal range means you take the ground often), it was actually full of mostly larger boats.

Leaving the marina involves tying up to the lock wall two hours before high water, locking through about an hour & a half later, then heading downriver two miles then a few miles down the channel in Morecambe Bay to open water. So no one goes daysailing! A typical boat here seems to go sailing once a year...for a month or so.

After a couple of days in Glasson Dock, with a five day forecast for moderate tailwinds, we locked out and motored away in a flat calm.

After midnight, the wind arrived, and we had a great sail thru the night. The favorable wind gradually increased to Force 7 over the next couple of days. Ripped a seam on the jib in a squall, and spent a few hours repairing it with needle & thread, contact cement & duct tape.

Suddenly the forecast was calling for an "imminent" gale (Force 8). We were in the North Channel (between Ireland & Scotland), having rounded the Mull of Galloway (Scotland). This area gets rough when the wind is against the 3.5 knot tidal current. We hoped to get into Loch Ryan (Scotland) to wait out the forecast gale and catch up on sleep.

Under staysail, foresail & double-reefed main, we motored as well, to get the last few miles to windward faster. Lots of ferry traffic around, but easy enough to see on radar.

All of a sudden the engine stopped. Figuring the fuel filter had clogged due to all the bouncing around stirring up sediment in the bottom of the tank, planned to change the fuel filter (about a one-hour job, including bleeding the fuel system afterwards).

Set the jib to help beat to windward. We had only about three miles to go to windward, but also against the current, so under sail alone, it would be slow.

Started working on the fuel filter. The jib halyard broke and the jib went into the water. Reset the jib on the spare halyard. Went back to working on the fuel filter.

Spare jib halyard broke and the jib went back in the water! Without the jib, our windward ability was really poor, and we had a lot of weather helm. Dropped the double-reefed main & set the storm trysail, which is smaller, in its place. In the process of either dousing the main or setting the trysail, the antenna for the belowdecks GPS was lost. Began using a handheld GPS.

Finished replacing the fuel filter, and started the engine. After several seconds, it stopped again, as the decompression lever (used to start or stop the engine) had vibrated into the decompress position. After restarting, found that the decompression lever just kept vibrating over to the decompress position and stopping the engine. This had never happened before on this engine, so I was quite surprised. Worked around the problem by duct-taping the decompression lever in position.

By now, both the headwind and the adverse current had increased, so we were not going to get into Loch Ryan before the gale. Wondered what else might break today, since this was definitely not a good day so far.

Stopped the engine, sailed downwind a bit, then hove to under reefed foresail in the Firth of Clyde. Orbit's motion was now much more comfortable. Still had to stand watches, since there was a fair amount of shipping and submarines around, but this was mostly done from the relative comfort of the doghouse.

During the night, the wind moderated, and we sailed for a sheltered anchorage in Lamlash, on the Island of Arran. A few hours of dramatic scenery after daybreak and lots of rain, and we were finally at anchor on the second try (the first time the 20kg Bruce seemed to just grab kelp), after four days at sea. Cooked breakfast, got the heat going, enjoyed the wonderful feeling of being warm and dry, and slept for hours.


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