Trip on Le Trek starting 2013-06-02 in BSAJuly13
Portishead to S. Ireland, June 2 – 14 2013 – report by Jock Playle
Tony Hall and I sailed on a friend’s Moody 36 DS from Portishead, leaving at 1300 on Sunday June 2nd for Penarth. The forecast for the next few days was for light N – NE winds, so we expected to be able to reach Ireland, having failed to get past Milford Haven in the past. Needless to say, the wind was actually WSW to SW all day, rising to 17K as we tacked motor-sailing to Penarth marina at 1745. We had decided to do the next 86 miles to Milford Haven directly, missing out Swansea. As well as saving 15 miles, this involves two fair and one foul tide, whereas two passages with a stop at Swansea would involve two of each – an important consideration when sailing in the Bristol Channel with up to 4K of tide.
We left Penarth at 1300 on Monday, 2 hours before HW (at this time the adverse tide around Lavernock Point is not too strong), and had 19 hours of light winds between NE and NW, with a bit of SE thrown in for good measure, reaching Neylands Yacht Haven at 0750 on Tuesday. This is an excellent marina in a picturesque setting, with good facilities including a very good restaurant and a combined café and chandler – it’s not often you can buy a full English breakfast and an Irish courtesy flag at the same time. We spent a day at Neylands, moving down to a pontoon in Dale Bay near the mouth of the estuary overnight on the Wednesday, ready for an early start to the 60 mile passage across St George’s Channel to Ireland next day. During the 10 mile trip down river the wind backed from E to NW then dropped. We slipped the pontoon at 5 am on Thursday, motor-sailing in 10 K of E to N wind. We went north of the Smalls reef to stay down-tide and had a delightful crossing, with flocks of puffins, terns, kittiwakes and gannets. The tide and sea state allowed a short cut through St Patrick’s Bridge before heading north to berth in the marina at Kilmore Quay at 4.15.
Now for the Irish elements of this report. First, everyone we met was extremely friendly and helpful – marina staff, shop staff, other boat owners in the marina. Next, the marina has a strange security system – to open either the door to the facilities, or the gate to the pontoons you have to dial a mobile phone number – this works only if you have pre-registered your own mobile number with the harbourmaster, preferably before leaving the UK. With some mobile networks you just dial the Irish number, but with others (including O2 pay as you go which is mine) it behaves as if you are still in the UK and you have to use the international code for Ireland. I was therefore in the bizarre situation of dialling an international number (costing 28p a go) to open a door or gate I was standing next to. The harbourmaster took pity and lent me one of the two dongles he had.
We spent Friday and Saturday at Kilmore Quay, with a steady NE gale blowing through the harbour but strangely affecting only the immediate coastal area – apparently due to winds from the NE being accelerated round the SE corner of Ireland. On the Friday afternoon the boat next to us left for Waterford. The owner, B***n M****y, succeeded well in reversing his high freeboard yacht into 20+ K of wind and turning round. All he had to do then was to give it some forward wellie and he would have sailed clear, but instead he played with his bow AND STERN (!) thrusters yawing wildly while the wind caught him and swept him broadside towards us. He then gunned the engine, his stern swung round and hit ours, pulling one of our davits out of the transom, cracking both cast aluminium davits and severely bending a 1” diameter solid steel bar. He then hit the next boat, a brand new Jeanneau SO36i, converting its boarding ladder into a piece of conceptual sculpture. By some miracle he missed the end of the next pontoon and set off down the harbour with his own dinghy hanging by the bow from the wreckage of his stern gear, giving us a cheery shout of “are y’all right?” We were speechless.
By the time I reached the HM’s office to report this Mr M****y had already phoned him to assure us he would pay for any damage - and would we make sure he got back the fender torn off when he hit us! The HM, and all others who spoke to us, assured us he was a real gentleman, very rich, - and always paid for the damage he caused! The owner of the boat next to Mr M’s berth, who saw what happened, turned out to be a marine insurance assessor; he had a quick look and said “£5000”, adding “I’ve said that if he hits my boat again I’ll have him banned from the marina, but he’s a nice chap”. The HM came to see the damage and ended his comments with “he’s an awfully nice chap but he’s got f***ing bow thrusters and f***ing stern thrusters and six f***ing buttons for them and all he does is play with the f***ing buttons instead of driving the boat – he couldn’t drive an f***ing nail!”
We had expected prices for everything to be high in Ireland and we were pleased to find a 1½ lb sirloin steak in the local butcher for €12.20 – about £10 - which we cooked on board; it was an excellent antidote to the afternoon’s excitement. We then went to Kehoe’s pub, advertising music by a group called Finnegan’s Wake – surely local folk music. No sign of anything happening by 9pm, or 9.30, then at 10.00 two lads with guitars appeared and set up an amplifier – not very folksy. After half an hour of tuning noises from a bass guitar, and silence from the other, they disappeared outside frantically tapping into an i-pad. We gave up and left at 10.40. If they were Finnegan’s Wake, poor Finnegan would have been buried long before his wake got going.
That was Ireland. (We had hoped to go on to Waterford, but the wind and tides would have made it easy to get there but very difficult to get back.) We had had 8 days of uninterrupted sunshine, but with chilly winds, and with a forecast for deteriorating weather we decided to leave on Sunday and head directly to Swansea, a 120 nM passage. We left at 0850, had a good crossing in light SE to NE winds, rising to 26K SE as we reached Swansea at 0930 next morning. For the overnight passages with just three of us on board we each did two watches on our own of 1½ hours with 3 hours off, with the engine running so we could use the autopilot, and radar and AIS on the chartplotter as a lookout backup. Then we had a day relaxing in Swansea (the Swansea Yacht and Sub-Aqua Club is very welcoming and provides good beer and food) followed by a wet trip to Penarth on the Wednesday. The tide in Swansea Bay is anti-clockwise for 9½ hours, not too helpful if you’re heading east. We locked out at 11.00, against the last weaker two hours of adverse tide, which ensured that the tide was in our favour from Nash Point to Penarth. After a day in Penarth with a southerly gale blowing, we made the final short trip from Penarth to Portishead on Friday morning in a rising wind, forecast to be S to SW but actually E of S – but still good enough to cover the 18 miles in 3 hours under genoa only. Given the very strong winds later that day and the next day we certainly picked the right slot.
So, at the third attempt since 2010 we finally reached Ireland – 13 days, two night passages, 346 nM, and a skipper and two crew with a combined age of 215.