Crew: Bob Cousins (S), Trevor Nicholls (M), Allan Wright, Tony Riley, Moira Barber, Brad Eaton
After a rather variable week 1 we had hopes for some more consistent winds for week 2. Trevor and I swapped roles and Alan Wright remained on board as we were joined by Tony Riley, Brad Eaton and Moira Barber.
First port of call was to be the Scillies and to catch the most favourable tide required an 0530 departure. As we slipped south along the Lizard peninsula the breeze freshened and hopes were high for a good sail. Alas our hopes were not fulfilled and by mid afternoon the iron tops’l was pressed into action.
Original plan was to make for St Mary’s but a call to the harbourmaster revealed that even in June the harbour was very busy and there were no vacant moorings. Plan B was to go to the north of the Scillies and moor in New Grimsby Sound. where we found just one mooring remaining free. It seems the Scillies have found a new popularity even before the start of the holiday season. New Grimsby is a lovely spot, protected from all but northerly winds and even boasts its own historic castle. As soon as we were made fast Moira announced that she was going for a swim and promptly lowered the bathing ladder and set off for the shore as 5 men sheepishly watched on. The water here is freezing. There was only one thing for it. We inflated the dinghy and made for Tresco’s welcoming pub.
With the prospect of bad weather later in the week we decided to press on north and again catching the favourable tide made an early start for Kinsale. The wind was in the north but Relax can comfortably sail at a wind angle of 35 degrees so we had a little leeway on our course of 320 degrees. Of course north means cold and as we progressed the layers went on, the wind built, the reefs went in. We spent an uncomfortable night bashing into a big swell though still managing to average about 7 knots.
The gas production platforms were a welcome sight as we neared the coast of Southern Ireland and with one big tack to get us past the Old Man of Kinsale Head we moored alongside in Kinsale Marina and all took a well earned nap.
Kinsale is a favourite destination. A friendly little coastal town with colourful houses and ready supply of bars and eateries many of which feature live music in the evening. The yacht club is very modern and equipped with good showers, a large comfortable bar and wifi that actually works.
With Storm Hector about to descend on us we declared Wednesday a free day so three of us took the bus to Cork whilst Trevor and Allan (locally known as the Chuckle Brothers) and Tony continued their quest to clear the faults list. By evening we once more installed ourselves in Rosie O’Shea’s bar where the music lived up to their reputation as the best in town. Some regard fine Irish Whisky as the elixir from the fountain of youth, which probably accounts for the childish antics later that night. Photos not available!
Thursday morning was decision time so we assembled in the yacht club bar, fired up the mass of computers we seemed to have with us and studied all the angles. For sure Storm Hector had scurried North but would have left the legacy of a lumpy sea. The forecasts repeatedly predicted a westerly maybe a little north-westerly 4-5 occasionally 6, sea state a swell of up to 2 metres but with a course of due East it would be a following sea. Possibly we could hug the coast up to Dungannon before turning east or use it as a refuge if it blew up again. Finally we each voted on our preferred option and unanimously agreed to depart at 1300, and follow the coast while we tested the sea state.
Lunch from the excellent sandwich bar next to the yacht club and a few groceries to collect and we were away. We hoisted the main with 3 reefs in the estuary and let the fresh westerly push us up the coast.
Conditions seemed benign so we furled the main, turned East and let the Genoa tug us towards Wales. For the first few hours we made good progress keeping a steady 8 knots but as we approached the mid point of our crossing we noticed that the wind was increasing and so was the swell. Even so Relax was well behaved, lifting her stern as the rollers slid under her, the helm’s job principally making sure that she did not sheer off in the troughs. It required unremitting concentration. At one point Tony recorded a burst at 10.4 knots as we raced down the face of a swell.
By now we could pick up both Irish and English weather forecast and noted that whilst the Irish ones continued to predict F5 occasionally 6 the English stations were starting to up the numbers to 7 and 8. Fortunately the UK predictions were not fulfilled and though the night was rolly and testing, dawn brought flatter seas and a moderation in the westerly wind to the extent that as we approached Skokholm Island the wind died completely and we were forced to motor the final few miles to the entrance to Milford Haven. As if to welcome us hundreds of Puffins were diving into the waters around us. After a challenging night it was a pleasing sight.
The passage through Milford Haven is a sad sight of economic decline with one refinery reduced to a storage facility and the other clearly not functioning. The chart warnings of tanker manoeuvrings somewhat unnecessary. The haven itself, once the home of a major fishing fleet sadly now reduced to a few battered trawlers. Even the entrance lock is on third of its original capacity.
Week 2 has been an educational time. We have learned a lot about our new boat, discovered the virtue of an early reef, how sensitive her helm is and how much fun she is to sail. And we never used the electric winch.
Bob Cousins, Skipper