Trip on Otter starting 2013-07-14 in BSAAug13
MILFORD HAVEN TO CORK AND WATERFORD, July 14 – 21 – report by Chris Baxendale
On the ‘ottest sunny Sunday afternoon for a few years, the crew of Peter Ashdown, Jeff Woolmer, Becky Goddard, Rob Reynolds and me Chris Baxendale and skipper Jeff Birkin climbed aboard the Jeanneau SO 379 named “Otter”. Otter is a tidy, well kept boat with a few unfortunate niggles. Both helm compasses showed different readings (the deviation card was up to 7deg so could not be ignored) and the auto helm was prone to mutiny – an annoying tendency given the amount of motoring we had to do. Also, the main sheet track jammers didn’t always jam although, with what little wind we had always on the nose, it wasn’t a major issue.
At 18:00, having completed the handover and loaded the boat, we slipped bound for Cork on a 25 hr 141NM passage across the Irish Sea. Our course would take us just south of the TSS and avoid the need for any compliance determined course corrections but, with Jock’s assurance as to the lack of shipping, we expected few sightings. The crew then split into three watches with Becky and me (Chris) on the 8 to midnight as we approached the northbound lane of the TSS.
Despite being of sober disposition, around 2230 we both spotted a bright red light on the horizon which started to dart up in the air and then flit from side to side. After some 10mins the colour changed to green and was then accompanied by a white below. These phenomena had remained steady on the starboard beam, however suddenly it began to track right going astern of us and disappeared. Later during the change over, two poorly lit small ships became a massive ship as a smaller one disappeared behind it!
These were the visual anomalies that often accompany the onset of fog and, so it was as Jeff and Rob took the watch, visibility deteriorated dramatically. The coast guard was contacted for information as to the other vessels and we continued in the knowledge there were no collision concerns. A short while later the skipper realised we did, in fact, have an early form of AIS displaying information on the radio in a 10p sized circle. Not too reassuring but, better than nothing. Soon after clearing the TSS the fog lifted and the clear, flat passage resumed.
The following day dawned in more glorious sunshine and later, our incredible chef Rob produced a magnificent curry, one of many wonderful delights he provided throughout the trip. Finally, as we closed the Irish coast, the wind (not curry related) started to blow and we sailed into the estuary arriving at Crosshaven Marina just after 7pm. Booking in was followed by a few drinks and one of Becky’s excellent fish pies before we all headed for bed looking forward to a visit to Cork in the morning.
The previous evening, Jeff W had put his crab pot over the side but sadly, the catch was no bigger than the medical condition. After that, in yet even more glorious sunshine, we assembled at 10am to discover the bus departed at 0950 with the next at 1230. A taxi was organised and turned out a better deal than the bus. Once in Cork some went on foot others by sight-seeing bus but all enjoyed this lovely city. It was noted by the walking party that the city pontoons are now secured behind heavy gates but require hotel facilities for an extra 5 euros each.
At the advice of our taxi driver, we returned to Crosshaven and called for the “Bunny Connellans” free bus to take us to their delightful restaurant. The food was great although a tad expensive however, this was softened by the views of sea, cliffs, estuary and lighthouse.
We slipped at 0915 in, you’ve guessed it, glorious sunshine, for Waterford, some 60nm up the Irish coast with light wind in the same place – on the nose. Sudden excitement at two baby dolphins ahead was followed by a series of massive bangs causing the boat to lurch sideways. I immediately looked at the depth gauge and saw 14mtrs! Phew, then another bang saw mummy dolphin (Becky named her Eric?) playing alongside us. Fantastic until she dived and the impacts resumed! Skipper thought it best to scoot before one of us did the other some damage. Throughout the trip, Peter and the skipper had lines over the stern. As we entered the Waterford estuary and headed for the small anchorage at Dunmore East Pete had some success catching a lovely pollock. A German cruise ship was anchored just outside – they get everywhere. Our first attempt to anchor amongst the moorings and restricted depth in the tight little bay found the anchor would not hold. On raising the hook, a large rock perfectly designed to fill the flukes, had to be shaken out before we could try again, successfully, for a firm hold. Pollock supper on board then bed, some earlier than others!
With the sun still blowing force 10, we began the 12 mile motor up the winding river Suir. Pete bested the skipper in their mackerel hunt causing the skipper to vent his frustration clubbing the poor specimen to death – with blood all over the place it looked more like a crime scene (capital offence I believe). We tied up to the city pontoon around noon, to be greeted by the berthing manager who informed us that the facilities were in the public car park and the key was literally under the mat. However, to access the pontoon you had to register your mobile phone then dial an Irish number to be released (real high and low tech). Splitting into different factions for sightseeing, our group ended up in a pub with a singing crowd of rowdy Manchester United supporters drinking strawberry cider! (Just like influenza, they get every where).
More blasted glorious sunshine as we slipped at 1300 and motored down the Suir on the last of a flood tide while both of our fishermen went back to work. Sadly, after the additional 12nm motor sail from Hook Head to Kilmore Quay they had both drawn a blank. By now the skipper was getting decidedly touchy on the subject of mackerel, especially when we pointed out the money he spent on lines and hooks could have bought half a dozen at Tescos! Arriving in a packed marina, we rafted onto a group of Irish boats bound for Dublin. Opposite sat the Irish Whale and Dolphin Conservancy boat. After another great meal on board, some visited a nearby pub to catch a morsel of local folk music and the odd beer as others hit the bunks.
We departed Kilmore Quay at 0500 and once again were destined to motor sail most of the way across the Irish Sea with sun blasted decks. We anchored just off the beach in Little Haven bay at 7pm with the intention of a meal ashore. Becky mentioned she had little experience of rubber boats, so, doing her practical test on a pub run with three men in a boat seemed to fit the bill. Enough said we all got ashore (eventually) safe and dry. The more exclusive Swan pub was fully booked but our favourite from a previous visit, the Castle, saved the day with a very nice but inexpensive meal.
At 0815 in heavy snow with ice piled on the deck (too much sun will cause hallucinations) we left Little Haven and, finally, there was wind! We sailed, yes sailed, round Skomar Point and met a fantastic 3 to 4 wind and lumpy sea giving us the opportunity to beat all the way up to Milford Haven tacking across the channel and finally dropping the sails just outside the marina.
Our refuelling was not as painful as feared having only used 74ltrs throughout the week – frugal by any standards.
Otter was immediately taken over by a sailing class doing comp crew and skipper tests, so we hightailed it out at about 4pm.
I am happy to report that the extra member of the crew, a seaman Hairy Cake survived the trip and was only slightly green on arrival at Neyland marina. I would just like to give my thanks to all the crew and skipper for a “grand day out”.
Note from the skipper: I know I shouldn’t moan but, seven days with so little sailing time was not in the script for this trip.