Trip on Kalel starting 2015-07-12 in BSAJuly15

The ‘Black Stuff’ Tour – report by Jeff Birkin

East of Ireland Trip 5th - 12th July 2015. Crew of Becky Goddard, Jeff Woolmer, Rich Trim, Chris Baxendale and Rob Reynolds and skipper Jeff Birkin. Boat, Jeanneau SO 36i ‘Kalel’.

We all arrived at Neyland MarinaMap reasonably early on Sunday afternoon to see our boat, Kalel stuck in the putty that plagues the shallow entrance to the marina. However, a few hours later we were aboard, all stowed and quickly ready to leave and cross the Irish Sea to Dublin.

Worsening weather predicted to arrive between late Monday and early Tuesday forced the decision to make as much of the settled south west wind as possible. Combining this with the two strong north going tidal flows v one counter flow, I figured if we met the counter flow at its weakest point on the crossing, we were on for a fast passage that would have us in Dublin well before the bad weather hit.

At 18:55 we slipped and made our way along Milford Haven motor sailing against a fresh westerly headwind determined not to miss our tidal advantage. As we rounded Saint Ann’s Head we were sailing at a rapid and controlled 6.5 knots. Once round Skomer we began following the strongest tides and making the most of the wind to achieve a comfortable 8.5 - 9knots over the ground. Unfortunately, by 3am the forecasted continuous wind had died and the motor went on to keep us on schedule.

By 8:00 am we were against the Irish shore in the strong north flowing tidal current around the banks that now play host to majestic winds farms. The turbines were making the most of the wind building from the south and we began goose winging. This didn’t last and by 11:15 we had 3 reefs on the main and no jib but were still making around 6 knots with an extra knot or two being added by the tide. Just as we entered Dublin Bay the gusts were being sustained at 40 knots with average wind speed in the high 20’s to mid 30’s. Despite achieving 4 knots in the marina without a stitch of canvass or spray hood, we were safely moored in the vast Dun Loughaire MarinaMap at 13:00. An overall passage time of just 20 hours to cover 120nm.

Note - this marina is so big that we were about 1/2 kilometre from the marina office and there were many other moorings still further away than us. It also has a fingerprint recognition entry system - bit like big brother but what can you do!

After a rest during the afternoon we stayed in the town on Monday night and had a very reasonable meal at Hardy’s Bar. Needless to say, this was helped down with a few pints of the black stuff - and other things.

Tuesday saw us all riding the train into Dublin for some sightseeing, museum visiting, general touristy things and black stuff and we all met up again in the Merchants Arch pub near the Ha’penny Bridge. Again, more of the black stuff was administered to the foot sore and further soothing thanks to the excellent live solo musician. We decided to order food and this was reasonable pub grub. the only things that spoiled it was the staff asking you repeatedly if you had finished whilst we were still eating, and the change of musician for one who was not quite as talented.

Our Wednesday morning departure was delayed as the overnight winds were not abating as promised and there was no way of knowing if the gusting 30 knots we were seeing in the marina were going to be worse once out of the shelter. Judging by the absence of other vessels venturing out, it seemed a reasonable call and the rain made the decision that much simpler.

By 3:30 the north westerly wind had dropped sufficiently and the tide had again turned in our favour so we slipped at 15:45 and had a sunny fast sail of the 23 nm down to Wicklow in the lightening breeze averaging 7 knots and entering the harbour at 19:10. At 19:20, having sampled the delights of Wicklow, we raised the main and left the harbour heading for Arklow a further 13nm south arriving just 2 hours later on what was a lovely bright evening.

At ArklowMap we couldn’t raise the marina on the radio so we nosed into the narrow entrance avoiding a large lump of steel overhanging the entrance and squeezing us close to a moored boat. Once in we realised the tiny 48 boat marina had no available space, watched by the concerned owners, we managed to turn round and head back out into the river to raft against another boat on the visitors mooring as advised by the marina residents. The boat we had to tie against insisted they were leaving very early and when that failed to dissuade us they pulled out the ‘harbour master told us no rafting’ card - in other words, a lie. Why do people do that? At 21:45 we moored in the lonely commercial fishing harbour just as the light finally began to fade. We had no means of getting back in if we left the boat so we had another excellent meal on board washed down with our own stocks but no black stuff.

Thursday morning we were up late and saw there was now space on the visitors’ pontoon. However, taking precedence over everything else we had to sort out a problem with our heads - the tank was blocked and overflowing. We left the harbour and made our way to the bay so as not to offend, but it still took a lot of work with a broom handle to get things moving again - enough said.

We spent a pleasant day in Arklow and took advantage of the new Bridgewater Centre shopping development that includes a Lidl and cafe within a mall. We then went over the river to the Bridge Hotel for some black stuff and a spot of lunch followed by a wander around the town. That evening we had a really excellent meal at Christy’s washed down with a selection of libations, some of which were black.

At 05:30 on Friday morning, after a comfortable night, we headed for Kilmore Quay. Unfortunately, the strong southerly winds meant we couldn’t take the best advantage of the tides and we had to motor sail. After a lunch stop in the shelter of the bay close to Rosslare Harbour Mapwe headed out and were accompanied by a large bottle nosed dolphin who clearly wanted to say hello. After playing around the boat for a few minutes it gave a dramatic tail flip and disappeared. We then motor sailed against the strong tides for the rest of the passage crossing the infamous St. Patricks Bridge and turning onto the transit to arrive in Kilmore QuayMap at 18:45.

Kilmore Quay was having a festival that included a disco on the beach with live music just a few yards from the marina. After a few drinks on the boat we made our way to The Wooden House pub, just a short walk up the hill from the marina. More black stuff was needed and taken with another excellent meal. Strangely, although the party was in full swing as we went to bed it didn’t disturb any of the crew.

As was the case throughout this trip, with one eye on the weather to come, it was clear staying any longer would give us a harder passage back to the UK. Therefore we slipped at 06:00 on Saturday and made our way out along the transit and through St. Patricks Bridge heading back to Milford. It was a fast but slightly lumpy trip due to the now, well settled, Atlantic swell. It began to rain near Skomer where we were greeted by a family pod of 12-15 Common dolphin who spent several minutes playing near the boat. Soon after there was clear skies and sunshine as we entered Milford Haven. By 17:45 we were safely moored at NeylandMap, a passage of 75nm in 13hrs 45 mins.

The last evening was spent at Neyland Yacht Club where we had another excellent meal. The staff were very very friendly and it made for a really nice final meal into a very enjoyable evening. I would urge others to visit and support this local club.

Kalel is a quick boat that always seems to be doing at least 6knots almost regardless of the conditions. We frequently saw 7.5 with odd times over 8knots which is not common with other boats we tend to charter. Her deep keel is limiting but not so as to make you want to sacrifice her clear speed advantage. We logged 256nm, most of it entirely under sail. It was some of the easiest distance I have ever done on a yacht.

Neyland Marina  51.709,-4.9418
Dun Loughaire Marina  53.2984,-6.1382
Arklow  52.796,-6.1474
Rosslare Harbour  52.2561,-6.3404
Kilmore Quay  52.1717,-6.5879
Neyland  51.7096,-4.9422