With Luck and a Following Wind- Again

With last years sailing confined to three short trips within the Channel , both Lynda and I felt that it was more than time to get back to some wild places. But where ? A very busy Spring  had left  us little time to plan, and so by default we decided NOT to plan , but to go literally where the wind blew us . As ever the time for departure came , and went (!), which at least gave some impetus to our preparations,  but  finally on the 5th of June we cast off . The wind was from the SW so we  hoisted a kite and headed East.

Off Shoreham the seas began to build and the inevitable rolling emphasised the significant slop in the gooseneck fittings, too much slop for wild places ! Feeling somewhat foolish we hauled our wind and beat back to Hamble to fix it. The saying goes that ‘cruising is little more than fixing the boat in exotic places “ but in Hamble I stood a better chance of doing a decent repair in a decent timescale than somewhere more exotic ( Lowestoft?!)- the advantage of knowing everyone far outweighing the embarrassment of returning so soon. 

In the three days it took to make the repair the weather had done a complete about turn. A vicious little storm had sunk a lifeboat in Brittany  and caused much damage in the North sea and now heading West looked the best option. It also looked wet and so we added another rider to our plans; we would go where the wind blew and endeavour to stay in bed if it rained! Thanks to the extraordinary availability of 4G data this is indeed  now possible, which explains a pit stop in Dartmouth , a hurried passage to Scilly to avoid the rain in mid channel  and a couple of days vascillation in the Scillies heavily interogating the internet as to where the best weather would be over the next fortnight. 

It gradually became clear that SW Ireland was going to get hammered , Britain and France would probably need a latter day Noah , but the West Coast of Scotland , might …… just might…….., be the best bet. More to the point we had 4 days of SW winds to get there. So we went.

The Western approaches to the Irish sea are always rough. The last time we passed this way it was a bit like being in a washing machine , and despite very moderate winds  from astern it was still very rolly and a relief to get in to the lee of Ireland . The wind however backed to Southerly and started to blow and we reaped the reward of being too smug when we encounted 25- 30 knots dead downwind against a stiff Spring tide off Wicklow head , and despite enjoying the long surfs ( max sustained burst 13.5 knots – a record for the two of us ) we took shelter in Dun Laoghaire for 24 hours til it calmed down a bit. The next leg took us past Belfast loch but our tide ran out on us a couple of hours later so we slipped into Glenarm.

And this is where the magic of the “go where the wind blows” system took hold. We have often anchored on this coast to get the tide in the North Channel going the right way, but the Southerly wind made for a significant swell , and there was this little protected harbour right where the tide ran out. It was a charming place which  time has passed by . The old harbour used to have staging for ships to lay alongside the stone walls , but with a new breakwater and demise of the granite trade , the holes in the masonry had been taken over by a large population of black guillemots who were busty getting on with raising their families in front of our very eyes. The little village has fallen on hard times , but with the proximity of  an ancient castle , attractive architecture , the newly protected deepwater harbour,  and a group of residents determined to drag it up by it’s bootlaces , I think it will do well  and we would certainly visit again if the winds allow.

With a decent wind its a mere skip and a hop from here to Islay and our favourite little town of Port Ellen. The wind was far from decent , but the tide more than made up for it , catapulting us North as we gently beat into 5 knots . The winds had delivered us to a fine cruising ground with no more than the odd shower , whilst the rest of the UK shivered under biblical downpours. 

Was it luck or judgement? I like to think it might have been a bit of both !

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