Matthew bought a boat ( a Maxi 1100). It’s a lovely boat called Skerryvore. The only downside is that it was moored in Ardfern in Scotland so Matthew asked if I would help him get it back to the South coast with him. so this blog covers the 4 days it took us to get to Holyhead, more for myself than anyone else. Ardfern is at the top of Loch Craignish.- just 50 km south of Oban .We sailed in glorious sunshine (despite the snow on the hills) down to Port Ellen at the south of Islay, a total of 46 nM in just over 5 .5 hrs.
so along the Sound of Jura (9 distilleries in Islay, so I am told- Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Bowmore, and many others). We had a nice meal in the nearest hotel to the marina and had had a fantastic sail down the Sound of Jura. The West Coat of Scotland, as usual, was exceptional. Skerryvore is not a new boat, she’s about 9 years old but is in beautiful condition and needs nothing, apart from parallel rules and a hand bearing compass, but the chart plotter worked perfectly all day.
Initially I met Matthew at Euston
and we took the train to Carlyle where we by Mike (Matthew’s step father). Mike and Jill, Matthew’s mum, put us up for the night in Carlisle (which is in England for those of you whose geography is as bad as my son’s). We drove the next day to Ardfern, stopping at Luss for a pee and a coffee, it was freezing.
Ardfern was beautuful but we didn’t hang around and set off almost immediately down the Sound of Jura tacking once only to miss the headland on the mainland about half way down Jura and get a stronger tidal stream nearer Jura; to Islay and the first stop in Port Ellen. We went to the nearest hotel (The Islay Hotal) for a drink and a meal and had a shower in the morning. The wind was generally 9 – 12 knots but the weather closed in towards the end and the wind picked up to 14 knots, then gusting 17 knts and then became flukey and died, leaving us with the engine on, getting to Port Ellen as dusk was settling in.
Here is a poor set of maps so you can follow the route (I printed out three Google maps and then took a picture, although there must be a more sophisticated way to do this).
Sound of Jura with Skurvuile lighthouse
A bit too much whiskey before bed meant a little hangover for the sail on the 1st of May, however we did get the heater working after a couple of hours fannying about.
Sunday took us from Port Ellen to Northern Island and Glanarm, just next to Carnlough, there were no taxis to be found so we settled on buying a toothbrush in the local shop and eating on board. We had thought of going to Carnlough for a meal, there were no meals to be had in Glenarm. The HM had gone home but he had left the keys for us and we had showers that evening. Thre is not much in Glenarm but it is nice, it used to be a big limestone exporting area for the burgeoning Scottish irom ore industry. There were a couple of lovely limestone chairs just above the harbour. notices told you it was the oldest village in ulster, but that didn’t make it any livlier. No phone signal at all around here. It was a short crossing, originally we were going to go to Bally castle on the mainland behind Rathlin island but we needed to push on. Also when we did the planning we really didn’t have the port info available and thought that there was much less choice for a big boat than there is. Going a bit further meant a shorter next day.
Initially we were sailing into big seas with a nice wind (F4) on the beam, with the tide helping us, which it did all day. The wind died about 12:30 and the seas flattened so it was a nice motor ( although overcast often) down the coast to Glenarm, arriving about 17:00. This was again just under 50 nM done in about 10 hrs.
Rathlin Island with The NI Mainland Behind
Monday meant we had to push South and get to Ardglass, just South of Strangford Lough. We left Glenarm about 10:00 although the tide didn’t really turn in our favour until 13:00. Out past Park Head and the fish farm. The coastline was great.
Here’s an aside. My brother Mark has lived in Shetland for a number of years and asked me if I knew the difference between a skerry and an island. I didn’t – do you? Well an island is big enough to graze sheep on, a skerry is too small. so a skerry is a rock then!
Glenarn to Ardglass.
Ardglass was a late addition to out schedule as it looked a better bet than going into Strangford Lough tp Portaferry. Giving us an easier last day. This was a leg of 62 nM and took about 8 .5 hours. Initially we put the engine on to get past the fish farm and Park Head. The wind filled in a little so the engine went off after half and hour and we close reached under furling genoa alone in 20 knots of wind.. eventually stregnthening to gust at over 30 knots. Lovely sunshine and a great sail down the NI coast but a little overpressed in the gusts. The chimneys of Larne were visible for miles. Past Muck Island with Guillimots and Razor bills with the wind easing to about 25 knots.
Island of Muck
Found the auto pilot instructions and reduced it’s reposonse so it was less fidgity (and quieter). The wind was very calm past Muck but picked up across Belfast Lough around midday. The wind was easier after Belfast Lough and we sailed inland of Copeland Island. We couldn’t find the second green buoy ubtil we saw it on the back of the Eire equivalent of a Trinity maintenance vessel. The rain set in opposite Skullmartin rock. and we had a hairy moment trying to reef down just south of South Rock – we had to go much firther out to sea than we initially thought to miss all the rocks and the wind was very strong.
No Pictures of the Lovely Copeland Island but here is one of Burial Island (South of SkullMartin but North of South Rock etc.
We then had to motor past the entrance to Strangford Lough then under sail as the wind eased again, into Ardglass. We had eventually got hold of the HM who said tht water depth was not an issue, even for a draft of 2m, so in we went. Very sheltered and a lovely harbour.
Had a lovely meal in Aldos Restuarant under the castle, and even managed to buy a loaf of bred in the village shop. Our next door neighbours were ion a 36ft Halberg and had come from Denmark, via the Shetlands and the Caledonian Canal.
Ardglass to Holyhead
This was the longest leg and the hardest across the Irish Sea to Wales. It was cold and windy especially in the morning but when the sun came out it warmed up a little in the afternoon. The wind picked up and we reefed then shook one out to sail with one main reef, eventually shaking that one out before having to put both back in. We were doing about 7.5 kts SOG. Total distance was about 65 nM. We were pushed North by the tide at the end and struggled to keep sailing being very close hauled and eventually motor sailing, before dropping the sails and motoring into Holyhead at about 17:00 (9 hrs- which was very quick). We just went to the nearest restaurant as we were too knackered to do anything else.
Next day the ferry from Ireland had been cancelled due to high winds (thank god we weren’t saling, altough Matthwe seemed to think tht he would have gone if we were a day later to cross the Irish Sea) and we got the first of three trains home. This one being empty. Luckily the train was a little late as the taxi didn’t come initiallty then we ere stuck behind a tractor going about the same speed as the boat. Good job it wasn’t far to the rail station.
A total of 240 Nm perhaps in 4 days. Skerryvore sailed very nicely.