#1 2017-09-11 22:12:12

From: Dublin Bay
Registered: 2011-02-24
Posts: 396

Tui to Ireland 2017

by Colin Reid.

I left Dartmouth on a fine sunny, breezy June afternoon for a brisk beat round to Salcombe and anchored near the Salt Stone, a quiet anchorage away from the bustle of the town. Pulled up a huge clump of weed with the anchor the next morning, then an uneventful day of motor-sailing to Helford River, and another beautiful quiet anchorage off the north shore.

On the way, I was getting grumpy with fishing boats not showing on my AIS and speculated as to whether they keep it turned off so as not to give away their favourite fishing locations, until I realised that it had lost all targets, in fact it had packed up. This was worrying at the very start of a solo cruise and meant I would be both invisible and blind in poor visibility, apart from radar. AIS has become so common, that not having one offshore is a serious drawback.

Unwelcome AIS message

I set off from Helford in time for a fair tide off the Lizard, and picked up a good breeze for a while but this gradually died and I ended up motor-sailing again to The Cove, St Agnes, in the Isles of Scilly. On the way, I was on the phone to the AIS distributer trying to sort something out. I was also disconcerted to find diesel in the tray under the engine, traced to a leak in the pre-filter.
I spent a lovely day in St Agnes, walking, having lunch at the pub and generally chilling after a couple of days at sea. Until that is, I saw the forecast which had been for fresh NW winds had changed to F5-7, increasing gale 8 gusting 40 knots. Not good, all the advice in the pilots is that the Scillies is not the place to be in a gale and to clear out if one is forecast. What to do? I had planned to wait in Scilly for a fair wind for Ireland. I was in an anchorage that is sheltered from the north, but I wouldn’t be able to go into St Marys to sort the diesel leak, fill up with fuel etc as it is open to the NW and untenable in a gale from that direction. When I woke early next morning most of the remaining yachts had left and I decided to get back to Newlyn before it really blew up. The sea looked rough outside the anchorage and it was hard getting the anchor up in the strong wind. I had to motor forwards, then nip to the bow and take in the slack on the chain, meanwhile Tui would fall off and make it a struggle. 

Once I got out to sea I really felt the wind, force 6-7. With two reefs in the main and a scrap of genoa the boat was over canvassed so I put in the third reef. Tui is snug with this setup in a strong wind, well balanced and sails well. It was close reach back to Cornwall, a fast wet and rough ride. I didn’t get sick but the possibility was certainly there if I spent too long at the chart table. The visibility came and went, in rain it dropped right down and I cursed the lack of AIS and used the radar a lot. I eventually made it into Newlyn and a snug berth.

Anchorage in The Cove, St Agnes

Next morning, I bumped into Sue Doyle. Her lovely V30 Que Sera was moored practically opposite Tui. It’s amazing how often Sue and I meet when we are cruising, it seems to happen nearly every season. We had a cup of tea and discussed weather etc. Really nice to see her.

Newlyn was definitely the right place to be. The next day it blew a gale and the Scillonian sailing was cancelled due to the weather. I was able to sort out the diesel leak, get fuel etc and even unexpectedly get invited out for dinner by some friends who live in Penzance. Altogether a sociable and enjoyable day.

I set off for the Scillies again the next morning and had an uncomfortable, slow motor-sail back to New Grimsby Harbour, now that the NW wind had backed and died. I like the Scillies and spent a lovely day on Tresco.

Next morning, I set sail for Baltimore in SW Ireland, about 150 nm. The wind was forecast to be light to moderate SW and I was worried that I would end up motoring again, very boring on a trip of that length. However, as I got offshore the sloppy sea improved and the wind picked up. I sailed most of the way on a pleasant reach, Tui jogging along and clocking up the miles, the windvane steering. There was patchy fog as forecast but this cleared. The only drama came in the hours of darkness. I had seen no other vessels once I got away from the Iles of Scilly. This was bliss after Channel crossings with so much shipping to look out for. But in the middle of the Celtic Sea suddenly there were fishing boats everywhere. When I looked at the chart I realised that there are banks there which must be where the fish are. Several them were on constant bearings and I had to alter course. Then one off the starboard bow stayed on a steady bearing and was getting closer and closer. It had so many deck lights that I couldn’t see its nav lights and work out which way to turn. I started the engine to have more speed and manoeuvrability.  As it got close I realised too late that I was passing close ahead of him. I good burst of speed got me past but it was an anxious moment.

I’m sure he thought I was a complete idiot and I think fishing boats should make sure their nav lights are visible in their blaze of working lights. I really missed my AIS then.

The rest of the night and next day passed uneventfully until the wind died as I was approaching the Irish coast in lovely sunny weather and I motored the last few hours.

I had a splendid welcome from a several pods of dolphins that came and played round the boat. It’s always so cheering when dolphins turn up. From then on, I saw dolphins just about every day I was sailing, sometimes pods would come and play in the bow wave, sometimes just check me out and go about their business.

Welcome to West Cork!

I motored into the lovely big natural harbour of Baltimore and anchored off the village, ready for a meal and good night’s sleep.
In the morning, I went ashore to the pretty village and sorted out fuel, water, rubbish, all the usual domestic things when cruising. And had my first pint of Guinness and a bowl of moules. Heaven!

Lots Wife Beacon at the entrance to Baltimore

The convenience store in Baltimore is limited so next day I set off to Schull which I know has a decent supermarket. I went through the tricky, narrow, rock infested passage north of Sherkin Island. You need to concentrate on various transits to miss unmarked rocks. ‘The centre of Two Women’s Rock in line with the SE tip of Heir Island’. That sort of thing. Right at the narrowest bit I encountered a fleet of 20 odd dinghies with children tacking in all directions. It was a bit stressful trying to get through them while staying in safe water but I made it and dropped anchor in the big natural harbour in Schull.

It’s a typical Irish country town, pretty with colourfully painted shops and houses and a pleasant bustling air. I did my shop and then sailed for Crookhaven. I had a lovely sail on flat sea in beautiful surroundings and eventually anchored for the night. Crookhaven is the last harbour before Mizen Head, the SW corner of Ireland. It’s a nice spot but I didn’t go ashore as I had an early start the next day.
Baltimore to Crookhaven is a fascinating cruising area, many islands, anchorages, harbours and intricate pilotage. From Mizen Head north on the west coast there are a series of huge bays, fjords almost. Bantry Bay, Kenmare River, Dingle Bay to name a few. They are up to 35 miles deep, have breath-taking scenery and many fine natural harbours. You could spend a summer on this stretch of coast. My plan was to get as far north as I wanted to go, Dingle, and then work my way back.

Next morning was grey and overcast with little wind and I spent all day motorsailing round Mizen Head and up the west coast past atmospheric Skellig Michael, site of an early Christian monastery on an inhospitable outlying rock, ending up at Portmagee, just south of Valentia Island. The sea was sloppy as I approached the fearsome rocks that guard the entrance, but once inside tranquillity reigned. I anchored on a bend in the river, in a lovely pastoral setting with the pretty village further up the river. The only sound was sheep in the fields. It was nice to get away from the sea for a night!

Skellig Michael

Next day was beautiful and sunny as I headed across Dingle Bay to Dingle. The scenery was lovely, mountains surrounding the large bay stretching into the distance. As I was entering the channel that leads into the landlocked natural harbour I was confused by a tourist boat zig-zagging randomly in front of me. Then I found out why. Fergie the resident bottlenose dolphin popped up next to me to welcome me to Dingle. He’s lived there for over 30 years and is extremely friendly, putting on a performance for all passing boats. A whole tourist industry had grown up around him.

The inner harbour and small marina in Dingle is completely sheltered and very welcoming. I tied up and decided to stay for a couple of nights in this pretty, lively bustling town. Its renowned for seafood and I had possibly the best plate of scallops I’ve ever eaten, delicious.

Dingle Marina

Tui in Dingle

I got chatting to the man on the boat next door and asked if he could suggest any good walks. He said that if I wanted to do a proper walk, the local hillwalking group would meet the following morning in town and set off on a trek. Visitors welcome. So, I turned up next morning with my walking boots and waterproofs. It was a good crowd, about 20 in all and we piled into cars and set off for the start of a trek. I joined the small group going up Mt Brandon, the second highest mountain in Ireland. At 950m not that high but still a good climb. The views were magnificent as we gained altitude, until we climbed into the hill fog. Then we slogged up to the summit and cowered behind a rock from the wind and driving rain to eat our sandwiches. I asked my friendly hosts to describe the view that I couldn’t see. Sounded lovely, I must go back sometime on a day I can see it.

Into the fog on Mt Brandon

That evening I went to one of the many harbourfront pubs and sat at the bar having a pint and fish and chips. I realised that the young man next to me couldn’t speak a word of English and was struggling. He was Spanish and as I speak some Spanish, to his relief I got into conversation with him. He was a sailor from one the of the Spanish fishing boats in the harbour; he had fallen out with his skipper and jumped ship. I helped him figure out how to get to Dublin airport for a flight home.

From Dingle I headed back south, spending a night in Knights Town, Valentia Island. This is a big sheltered area of water with lovely scenery and sheltered anchorages. Knights Town is the main settlement and has the outer pontoons to what was planned as a big marina that never got finished. Mooring is free alongside the pontoons so I tied up and took a walk ashore. It’s a pretty little place with a keen sense of civic pride. All the historic features have been restored by the ‘Tidy Towns Society’. Despite that it has a bit of a bleak and desolate air.

Next day dawned grey and blustery but with a fair wind for sailing south. I had a brisk sail down the coast, navigating between islands and rocks and into Kenmare River. This is a huge bay, 35 miles deep and surrounded by mountains. The wind was funnelling straight down it and my destination was a long windward slog into a choppy sea. Tui isn’t the most close-winded boat and I made little progress so in the end I motor-sailed. Even so the short chop was stopping the boat until I got deeper into the bay the sea flattened off, the sun came out and I had a wonderful cruise to Sneem Harbour. This is a most beautiful natural harbour composed of many islands which offer sheltered anchorages. It was a joy to arrive and drop anchor, and I sat out late savouring the beauty of the scene.

Anchored in lovely Sneem Harbour

A perfect evening in Sneem

Next morning the dawn was magical and the day was warm and sunny. I decided to have a swim, the first time I had been tempted. I dived under the boat with my snorkel and found the prop fouled with barnacles. I got a wire brush and did my best to remove them. The hull was badly fouled as well but not much I could do about that.

I use a thick layer of anhydrous lanolin on the prop which usually keeps it clean, but not this year. The hull was Coppercoated a couple of years ago and I am disappointed with it. This year it looks like they put fertiliser in rather than copper and I could take a strimmer to the hull and a scraper to the big patch of barnacles. Tui feels sluggish and now I know why.

From the Kenmare River, I was going around Dursey Island into Bantry Bay. Dursey is the westernmost point in Europe and it’s a long slog from Sneem. There is a shortcut; Dursey Sound between the island and the mainland which saves about 10 miles. I studied it on the chart and in the pilot. At its narrowest it is a cable wide but there are hidden rocks in the middle leaving a narrow channel that the tide whistles through. I calculated the time of slack water and timed my arrival precisely. In the approach, there was scum and foam on the water that spoke of rapids, but it looked placid inside so I went for it. My timing was good and I hugged the island shore close, avoiding unseen rocks, trusting to the pilot and my chartplotter and in a few minutes, I was through, in time to meet the other yacht that was miles ahead of me in the approach but had taken the long way round.

Kenmare River

I pottered into Castletownbere for a night at anchor. This is a major fishing harbour with no facilities for yachts but you are welcome to anchor out of the way. I like working ports and this is a pretty one, like a rural version of Newlyn. After quiet night  I set off in a fresh westerly to round Mizen Head back onto the south coast and another night in Crookhaven. As I motorsailed down the channel, I thought I would put a reef in the main as I was sure there was plenty of wind at sea. I was sitting by the mast doing the reef, when suddenly the starboard channel buoy slipped past a couple of meters away. I hadn’t spotted it. That was a close shave!

Back in Baltimore I was fogbound for a day but was taken out for Guinness and moules by Frank McCarthy, owner of a lovely Francis 26 which he keeps there. He spotted Tui anchored and came to say hello. Next day I set off for the passage back to the Scillies, a quiet passage with a beautiful clear starry night sky on the way.

Frank McCarthy’s ‘Francis’

Evening in the Celtic Sea

The wind picked up next day and I had an exhilarating sail into New Grimsby where my daughter was waiting to join me. From there we sailed to Falmouth where I was weather-bound for a day, and thence back to Dartmouth.


Board footer

Powered by FluxBB