Sugar 'n' Spice – Weblog 5

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On the Sunday (30th) after some chores we took the bikes past Conwy castle where the harbour/beach was busy with Sunday crowds, & across the river to Llandudno Junction.  Later we went west along the coast past the sand dunes & mudflats we had sailed past yesterday.

Then on Monday (1st July) we caught a train home for some appointments we had to keep.  We had a very pleasant week at home & caught up with friends & neighbours, as well as the ‘must do’ chores.  The following Monday we reversed the train route & returned to Conwy & the boat.  Part of the plan to go round Conwy castle that afternoon was sabotaged by a late running train, but we returned by bike early evening, & walked the ramparts around the medieval Town instead.  These gave lovely views over the castle & surrounding countryside, & we rounded off with a pub supper.



Tues 9th July.  A mid morning start, as although we planned a fairly long trip, we had to wait for the tide to rise & cover the flap gate before we could leave the marina & wend our way back out along the narrow channel over the shallows.  Initially there was a sailing breeze, but that died early afternoon, so with distance to cover the motor went on & off as bursts of wind came & went. There were a plenty of seabirds around, a few fishing boats & in the shipping lane round Anglesey a few ships.  Late afternoon a westerly wind picked up, with nice sailing conditions.  Around 6pm it even picked up such that we had to put a reef in the main & genny (ironic after the fitful conditions earlier), but within an hour we were letting them out again, & soon after 8pm we dropped anchor (all the visitors moorings were taken) in Port St Mary, Isle of Man.  55.3 nm.

We were unhappy as the holding is unreliable here so after supper we moved to a mooring that another boat told us was available for the night.  A much better option than a sleepless night.

Wed 10th July.  A relaxed start along the coast timed to catch the tide right to pass through Calf Sound between the I.O.M. & the little island (the Calf) off its SW corner.  Another ‘bird’ haven & a porpoise glimpsed at the entrance.  Then N up the coast past Port Erin & on to Peel where the flapgate & bridge opened to allow us in to the Marina (new since our last visit).  16 nm.



Having enjoyed the I.O.M on our previous visit in 2006 we decided to get a 3 day transport pass again.  So thursday we bused to Ramsey, took the electric tram S to Dhoone Glen, for a walk down the lovely wooded valley to the coast, before continuing to Laxey & taking the rack railway up Snaefell.



The mountain was warm, sunny & clear of cloud, but there was a haze over the sea so one could not see the foreign lands further afield.  Back in Laxey we continued to Douglas (where we had berthed the boat previously) & took the horse drawn tram along the Prom & finally a bus back to Peel.  Friday it was bus to Castleford & on to Port St Mary (looking over the moorings we had occupied on tues night) where we continued on foot along the coast path to the Chasms.  These are weird rock formations where the cliff is split by gaping clefts.   You certainly wouldn’t want to slip into one!  Then another bus to Port Erin to catch the steam train to Douglas & again a bus to Peel & boat.



Saturday bus to Douglas, another ride along the Prom in the horse tram (very relaxing – clip clop) & on to Laxey to visit the Great Wheel (used to pump the mines) & mine trail.  The waterwheel is the largest in the world & very impressive.



Then more buses, first to Ramsey for a walk round its drying harbour, then on to Kirk Michael where we walked a route on disused rail track to the lovely Glen Mooar & finally back along a length of sandy beach with sand cliff behind it, to the bus back to Peel.

Sun 14th July.  Some chores & a provisioning run prior to departure then with an hour to spare Doug chose to walk up the hill opposite the marina for its excellent views, while I chose to briefly revisit the Castle.

At 2 pm a large number of boats (including us) were waiting for the tide to make & cover the flap gate.  It was late, but finally the gate opened, the bridge lifted & we let the scrum go before following the queue out, & through the outer harbour.  Initially we could only motor sail, there were rafts of birds, jellyfish & one could see Ireland & a more distant Scotland.  Late afternoon the wind picked up to a sailing breeze & mid evening we anchored in Knockinelder bay in N. Ireland.  27.7 nm.

It was light til late & the evening cabaret was the locals paddle boarding around the bay.  A very peaceful place.

Mon 15th July.  Departed the anchorage initially motorsailing, mid morning nice sailing, around midday wind fitful so on off motoring as we crossed the seaward end of Belfast loch.  Early afternoon sailing again, several sightings of pairs of porpoise then motoring again & early evening we anchored in Red Bay N.I.   54.1 nm.

Overnight the wind increased, a katabatic effect we thought, so unusually we kept the anchor drag alarum on all night.  Not needed!

Tues 16th July.  A prompt start to catch a helpful tide up the coast.  Mid morning arrived at Rathlin Island to find dredging work in the harbour.  The only free space was at the shoreward end of the pontoon & too shallow for us.  As we backed out 2 friendly Irishmen offered to pull their boats forward freeing the outer end of the pontoon for us.  Thanks folks.  14.9 nm.



That afternoon we caught a bus to the bird observatory at the West Lighthouse end of the island.  We were able to look across & down (& hear & smell) at hundreds of nesting birds – mostly guillemots, razorbills & lesser numbers of puffins.



We walked back & explored the little hamlet at the harbour.

Wed 17th July.  Departed Rathlin about 9am – more timely than we knew as the dredger man wanted to move the bit of pontoon we were tied to that day!  Round the headland we had stood on, this time surrounded by rafts of swimming birds (the Auks as before but also Manx Shearwaters) & a brief sighting of a Bonxie (Great Skua) – the pirate of the seas.  Then a pleasant sail until we were across the shipping lane & close to Islay.  In Port Ellen there was a shortage of deep enough berths, but again a helpful Irishman came to our aid.  He was driving a RIB taxi & was due to return to Ballycastle when his clients returned.  So with assistance from all sides we were jammed almost in to the berth next to his, until the clients returned & we took full possession of the berth.  24.2 nm.

A ‘reminder’ recce of the town.

Next morning (thur 18th) we awoke to find a wet mist enveloping the island, with non existent visibility.  Our plan to cycle to the Oa – a chunk of moor & headland to the west of Port Ellen - went on hold (we know from our last visit here that we would see nothing).  Finally mid afternoon the sun drove the mist away & we did cycle to the Oa – as steep as we remembered!  We walked a circuit of the headland, the views were good but we failed to see the golden eagles for which it is famous.



Fri 19th July.  A prompt departure for what turned out to be a nice light airs beat with very little motoring.  Doug did try fishing occasionally, but with the usual result!  Mid afternoon we entered Loch Tarbert on Jura & went on up through the narrows to the inner loch to anchor.  34.0 nm.  There was only one other boat at anchor here – about 1 mile away, so it was very quiet, peaceful, & scenic with views across to the Paps of Jura.

On sat (20th Jul) we took the kayaks through Cumhann Beag (an even narrower narrows) followed by various doglegs interspersed by wider pools, all between rock cliffs to the Hole or Top Pool, about 1½ miles each way.  As it very narrow the tides can be significant – we went in on the last of the ebb & had to sprint between pools.  We then returned before the flood could get going.




N.B.  Anyone thinking of entering should study the Pilot book exceedingly carefully.


We also had our first sea swim of the year that afternoon, & a third boat came in & anchored.

Sun 21st July.  A relaxed start retracing our route across the inner loch & through the narrows to outer Loch Tarbet, & watched by a seal, to the sea.  Then started another very nice sail with very little motoring all day.  At around 1.30 pm we were off the gap between Jura & Scarba that leads to the notorious Gulf of Corryvreckan. No, we were not going that way, but even here the currents made weird swirls, overfalls & whirlpools & the instruments had some confusion, especially depth ( reading 1.6 M when there was more like 160 M below us) .  There were plenty of birds obviously finding fish & also some fins joining the action.  Safely past the Great Race we looked at the inner anchorage at Puilladobhrain & as it was very crowded anchored in the outer area.  29.3 nm.

This is N of Seil island & close to Clachan Bridge (the bridge over the Atlantic) that joins the island to mainland.  We took the kayaks for a short paddle down the Sound, but turned round just short of the bridge as the tide was turning against us.  Paddling back was rather more energetic!



Mon 22nd July.  Our start was somewhat delayed by huge masses of weed wrapped round the anchor.  It took Doug between 10 & 15 mins to clear while I motored the boat backwards so the 4 M long tendrils did not foul the prop.  Then we motored to Oban Marina, on Kerrera Island off Oban & fuelled before finding a berth.  6.4 nm.




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