Captains log June 19th Menai Bridge, North Wales to Dunmore East, Eire: 157 miles 36 hrs 48 mins
I love slipping the mooring – as someone once remarked you untie more than the lines when you slip your moorings. We passed through the rock strewn Swellies at high water slack and so down to Port Dinorwic. Here we moored alongside my friends Don’s yacht and transferred our stores and personal gear across. This was easier than ferrying it all out in the dark the previous eve to Dansa on her swinging mooring. Once done we ran down the Straits. Close to Aber Menai the passage out to the bar looked rough so it was washboards in and harnesses and safety lines on. It was a quite exciting time getting out over Caernarfon Bar, windy with quite a sea running and we took a few waves that swept right over the deck. I was thinking mmm! and this adventure is only just beginning. My friend Don, my sailing mentor, followed us out in his boat to give us a send off. Once over the bar things were calmer and we hove-to for a good old fashioned gam with Don, then off, crossing the Irish Sea. Still a bit bouncy but with a Northwest wind F4-5 we were promised a fast close reach. Lovely to watch the land slowly fade away and there ahead the boundless sea. As evening drew on our the first dolphins came to play, sounding alongside and effortlessly zigzagging across the bows as they rose and fell with the rhythm of the waves.
All night we sailed with just the loom of the Strumble Head light far to the south and the loom of the Tuskar Rock light off Ireland. More dolphins came for a visit not long after the dawn, grey, cloudy and moody this time. Later to celebrate our 100 mile run in under 24 hours, the magic milestone in a small sailing boat, dolphins again. Neptune was smiling on us at the time, my mistake was not to offer him a tribute, a biscuit cast to the waves would have done, and thereafter it was hard going. Weather nice, sunny and the waves no more than friendly ripples, but the wind had gone westerly and fallen light and it was hard to make westward progress. Late that evening found us lolloping in a glassy sea going nowhere. Time for a decision and so into a little fishing village for the night. No shore leave though, tired heads pillow bound.
June 20th Dunmore East to Crosshaven: 74.81 miles 19 hrs
We resumed westward progress in the morning with some nice sailing along the coast but with mostly light westerly winds so we were beating which just about doubles the distance. One longish board gradually closing the coast and then when close in the next tack taking us out to sea. And so it went on all day. As the sun set so the wind fell away completely so on with that beast that lives under the cockpit, the single cylinder diesel, which throbs and thuds and vibrates but does drive you slowly along. And so it was that in the wee wee hours as the rain started, the natural wonder of Cork harbour opened out. The skipper with a mind numbed after 18 hours, was faced with a pretty, but bewildering array of all sorts of lights, green flashing, red flashing, white flashing, lights on the shore, sectored showing white which as you moved changed to red or green and leading lights which were not lit. Ah but I came through the test and entering the Owenboy river, moored alongside a pontoon by the Royal Cork Yacht Club, 3 am. 231 miles done, just another 800 left!
Sitting here in the boat in Crosshaven as the rain pours down and the wind howls (F8), and I am playing “Time out of Mind”. Here we are snug and safe.
Gales F9 forecast for today so we stay another day.
Thurs 24th Crosshaven to Glendore: 50.57 miles, 10.5 hrs
The wind still felt strong and gusty even in the shelter of the marina but the forecast spoke of 5-6 gradually easing. We took the precaution of donning waterproofs and wellies with safety lines close to hand should conditions be a little boisterous outside. Once out of the Owenboy river we hoisted the main with 2 reefs and the no 3 genoa. Out past the Daunt Rock buoy conditions were reasonable with a NW wind there was no fetch to speak of and we could set a course on a beam reach for The Old Head of Kinsale. Gradually the winds eased and backed so we now close-hauled. Before the Head we shook out one reef and the second shortly after passing the headland. Of course shortly after this along came a squall which had the water foaming over the gunwales but it was relatively short lived. We were not now able to set a course parallel to the coast so were having to beat, one good long tack along the coast and gradually closing, the other out to sea to gain some offing. Seven Heads came and went and time to close Glandore, our chosen anchorage for the night. By now the wind had fallen right off and the no 3 had been replaced by the no 2 and it seemed to take ages to reach the entrance to Glandore. Looking into a low and golden sun, the entrance was hard to make out with the islands merging into the coastline but as the light faded from the evening sky we avoided Adam and hugged Eve as advised in the Pilot and were in, picking up a vacant visitors mooring for the night.
Fri 25th Glendore to Lawrence Cove Bere Island: 48.23 miles, 10 hrs
Today we rounded Mizzen Head. That hadn’t been the intention when we set out from Glandore. The weather forecast spoke of a gale arriving in the eve and first thoughts were how far along the coast could we get before we sought shelter. Certainly as far as Baltimore and then maybe round Cape Clear and across to Crookhaven if it looked like holding thus far. By Cape Clear the wind was still a steady 12 knots and whilst the sky had clouded it still did not look threatening yet. With a fair southerly wind and the tides right it was tempting to go that for that extra bit, and round Mizzen Head. It was about neaps and we would have wind with tide so the tide race shouldn’t be a problem. Once round, Sheeps Head was not too far and from there shelter in the form of Berehaven was fairly close and to leeward. So went my reasoning. So we set course for the Mizzen, if when nearing it conditions looked to deteriorate we could always bear away for Crookhaven.
Rounding Mizzen is certainly a dramatic headland with stunning cliff scenery. We still carried full main and no 1 genoa, the wind still seemed steady and the seas not too bad. The barometer had dropped 3 points since 10 am so a blow was clearly on the way. However we were not to be let off lightly and after passing Three Castles Head, the wind picked up quite suddenly, gusting to 25 knots and we were running before building seas, fast, exhilarating, but with the danger of a broach, time to reduce sail. We already had harnesses and lifelines on so could be safely clipped on whilst on the foredeck and I took the advantage of a slight lull to hand the genoa and then round up to set 2 reefs in the main – that felt better and I hoisted the small jib. Things were much more in control now. Giving Sheeps Head a good offing to clear the possible breaking waves over an off lying bank, I decided on making for the eastern entrance of Berehaven, a bit further but a wider entrance and once in closer to the shelter of Lawrence’s Cove. Because of the waves which had now built, the rocks flanking the entrance were easy to spot by the breakers upon them. Once in the shelter of Berehaven things were quieter and we were soon in to the tranquillity of Lawrence’s cove where it has hard to believe how hard it was blowing outside unless you had just experienced it.
Bere Island Bantry Bay
After rain all night the worst of the gales had seemed to have passed through. Above the sky was clear and blue although all around cloud clung to the mountains. I walked to the eastern point of the island where there was an old English gun battery with 6″ guns still in place. But they obviously hadn’t wanted anyone to get near as there was a deep trench or moat around the place crossed only by one bridge in a perilous state of repair and guarded by gates and masses of barbed wire. From here I could clearly see the eastern entrance to Berehaven which we had entered yesterday. With the winds still high Bantry Bay was still a mass of white horses. The road back to Lawrence’s cove lead past a number of abandoned cottages. The lanes were lined with wild fuchsias and the occasional rose. It was good to be able to smell the countryside, rich, fecund and earthy, in contrast to the sterile salty smell of the sea whilst sailing.
Sun 27th Bere Island to Sneem: 42.68 miles, 11 hrs
Out to face the Atlantic swell – after the gales there was now a considerable swell relentlessly and remorselessly rolling in from the Atlantic. Leaving the sheltered waters of Berehaven we were subject to its full force. I must say it was a little daunting and seeing waves as tall as houses bearing down made me thought off turning back into shelter. But there was a certain savage beauty about it giving one a sense of awe and after a while a sense of acceptance grew. Big waves yes but the boat just rises to them, climbs to the crest, the horizon is limitless.
Beating out along the coast in long boards, mostly the weather was fine but there were several squalls with lashing rain and high winds. I was a little unsure of what conditions would be like going through Dursey Sound with the swell rolling in so in the entrance we dropped a third reef in the main before turning to run down into the sound. As the pilot says it looks like you are running into a cul de sac, which is slightly disconcerting, but we were soon through and could set a course down the Kenmare River. I thought that Derryname would be un-enterable and untenable in these conditions so decided to make for Sneem.
So hours later as the eve sky was turning pink we ran into Sneem. Perhaps the most beautiful spot in the world, it certainly felt it at the time. Forested islands, peace and calm, still waters with scarcely a ripple a wonderful backdrop of mountains, seals lying in gay abandon on the rocks and a heron stalking along the shore. Just sat in the cockpit as the light dimmed drinking it all in.
Mon 28th Sneem to Dingle: 54.09 miles, 13 hours
The morning was grey and drear with rain in the air and the wind seemed to have risen again. Nonetheless we set out with 3 reefs in the main and the no 3 genoa set for another day of high seas and big winds, lashings of salty spray and the glorious Irish coastline slipping by. Beating back out the Kenmare river we had one good tack and one poor so things were not to bad and so we reached Lambs Head and then on to clear Scariff Island. Rounding this we could bear away to a broad reach and a fast roller coaster of a ride along the coast. Visibility was fairly poor but we could just make out to sea the dramatic rocks of the Skelligs rising like jagged teeth. On our starboard side passed in fairly rapid succession first Bollus head then Puffin Island and finally Bray Head. Here the seas were horribly confused and the northern shores of Valentia Island distinctly unappealing as we set course across Dingle bay. With the wind now behind, I rigged a gybe preventer on account of the heavy rolling. With a decreasing wind we changed to a larger Genoa and shook out the reefs from the main, but eventually we had to resort to the engine for the last miles. And so to Dingle, home of the famous Fungi the dolphin who showed himself briefly.
Winds S-SW increasing strong to gale force & gusty & heavy rain.
Winds W-SW 6 occasionally 7, squally showers. Small craft warning in operation.
Low 400 miles northwest of Ireland, Gale & small craft warnings – strong and increasing sw airflow. Winds SW 5-7 veering W and increasing 7 – 8, showers heavy at times – heavy swell.
Fri 2nd July
Low 999 to W of Scotland. Gale & small craft warnings Winds SW-W 6-7 occasionally 8, blustery showers.
So we got stuck in Dingle, but you could get stuck in worse places. We had a succession of high winds with gales just about every day since we got here.
So Dansa didn’t leave the security of an alongside berth tied up to a pontoon in the marina for several days. It left us plenty of time to wander the streets. Dingle is a bit of a tourist spot with lots of loud Americans but an interesting town nonetheless. I reckon there are quite a few ex hippy types settled here, craft shops and art shops and music shops and I find it a town of contrasts. There are old fashioned stores selling bicycles or hardware or shoes, that double up as bars, unmodernised, cluttered and lovely. Next door there might be an art or jewellery shop, the minimalist kind with only a few items on display and no prices – you know it would cost you an arm and a leg to buy anything. There is music in lots of the pubs, a little commercialised in some but in others just bunches of musicians playing and singing. We shop, reprovision the boat, drink lots of Guinness, and listen to the music.
Sat 3rd Dingle to Kilronan Harbour, Inishmore: 94.19 miles 20 hrs 39 mins
At last we got a break in the weather. The forecast at 05.05 was for W to NW F6-7 continuing for a time then decreasing to 4-6 later in the morning then 3-5 by early afternoon. For the past 2 days I had been in two minds as to whether to carry on or return. Was there now time to get round and be back in time for work when I am supposed to be. Did I care, yes but I thought I would be sort of cross with myself if I did not at least try to make it all the way around. So let us go for it I thought.
We finally left Dingle at 10.30 and Fungi the dolphin came to see us off, escorting us so it seemed, out of the harbour. Out in Dingle bay we beat out towards Blasket Sound, trying to time our arrival for the start of the north flowing tide. Blasket Sound has a fearsome reputation but by our timing and careful pilotage to avoid the worst of the breakers and standing waves I found it quite reasonable. A shame though that it was far too rough to consider a visit to Great Blasket Island, so we sailed past the Blasket Islands and up past Sybil point. I had planned just to nip around the corner to Smerwick Bay for the night but by now the wind and tides were so favourable that I decided to push on, all the way up past the mouth of the Shannon to the Arran Islands. Described in the Pilot as a long stretch of coast with no shelter. I reckoned we would arrive off the Aran Islands with the dawn and so have light for the passage of Gregory Sound. Accordingly we set a course to pass clear of Loop head, but now on a beam reach and with big seas running holding a steady compass course was a little tricky due to the rolling. The only ship we saw all day was a 3 masted tall ship passing southwards out to sea, a magnificent sight.
Much later there I was alone in the cockpit, half past one in the morning (The mate being off watch and asleep below) distant lights twinkling on the shore and up pops a dolphin or two to say hello, to play around the boat awhile and then the moon all big and full and golden comes to light my way – truly magic.
Later at 03.30 I hove to off Inishsheer, navigating by dead reckoning I did not want to close the islands in the dark and then by 04.00 there was enough light to confirm my positron and I could let draw again. Into Gregory Sound and the wind that had served so well finally died completely away leaving us to motor the last 2 miles into Kilronan Harbour on Inishmore. Time to seek out a bunk for sleep.
Sun 4th Inishmore to Roundstone: 35.33 miles 7 hrs 51 mins
I would have dearly loved to have spent some time in the Aran Islands but I was feeling the time pressure quite acutely. We could make it around Ireland just but having already lost 7 days to bad weather, there was no allowance for further time loss in case of further bad weather, something I reckoned that would be likely to happen. So a little after midday we slipped out of Kilronan and started to beat out towards Gilan Head and Golan Tower marking the entrance to the Inner Passage. The wind had returned and we had 2 reefs in the main and the no 3 genoa set. Of course we had to tack all the way through the Inner Passage with its unmarked rocks and many Islands posing tricky pilotage problems. I had to keep asking myself “Now is that Inishmakfeen or Duck Island or perhaps part of the mainland?” Still it was absorbing stuff and before long we sailed up to Roundstone and set the anchor. This was a beautiful setting underneath the Connemara mountains which that evening were for our benefit clear of clouds, standing stark and bare before us, and the sun had shone all day and the evening light was wonderful and so all at peace.
Mon 5th Roundstone to Inishboffin: 33.40 miles 8 hrs 42 mins
By morning the mountains had gone all coy, robe-ing themselves in cloud. Weighing anchor we hoisted the main with no reefs for a change and the no 3 and resumed our beating out along the inner passage. Later with the wind dropping we changed to the no 2 and then the no1 and a bit later handed the sails and on with the engine. Of Sylne Head the wind returned, we re-hoisted the no 1, rounded Syle Head and set course for High Island Sound. At this point, the mate, who had been feeling peaky retired to his bunk for the rest of the day. Effectively single handed, once through the sound I made for Inishboffin and entering the harbour anchored off the pier at 17.30, a comparatively early finish. I blew up the dinghy and took the 2 plastic jerry cans across to the pier to replenish our water supplies and then as a sort of reward visited the pub. The pub was lively with lots of young kids running about and babes in arms, quite a community thing really. I enjoyed the atmosphere helped by the Irish smoking ban. I managed to stay sober enough to get back to the boat before dark and without falling in – a serious hazard after visiting the pub and the most dangerous part of the whole enterprise I assure you.
Tues 6th Inishboffin to Blacksod Bay: 37.50 miles 12 hrs 14 mins
No stirring from the mate in his bunk in the morning when I arose ‘a bon heure’ so I weighed anchor and after motoring out from the harbour, set sail to pass south and eastwards of the Lecky rocks. Soon the wind dropped and the motor was resorted to and I ended up motoring for over 6 hours, now with our little donkey that is no fun at all.
I roasted all out there on the flat and glassy sea, even hot enough to take of the shirt for a while. I had a short interlude ghosting along under full sail, and I saw a tall ship go sailing by looking pretty as a picture.
Still the seas were quiet around Achill Head so that was one blessing. As evening approached I turned into and anchored in the delightfully named Black Sod Bay.
Weds 7th Blacksod bay to Broadhaven : 37.62 miles 9 hrs
Such a contrast from yesterday. Had a bit of a wild ride today through the white foamy waves from Black Sod Bay and around Erris Head. There has been a hell of a blow, a cold northerly. It was fine to start with 1 reef in the main and the no 3. Sailed through Duvillan Sound and started beating up towards Eagle Island. Thought I might put into Port French but found the description of the entrance in the Pilot off-putting. I didn’t sound healthy with the winds as they were and increasing. By the time I had done there were three reefs in the main and the small storm jib on and Dansa tramping along close-hauled at more than 5 Knots and more breaking waves than I’ve seen in a month of Sundays. Still what do you expect when it is force 7 forecast. So it was with some relief to arrive here in Broadhaven and anchor tucked away behind Rinroe point in Broadhaven. The best shelter I could get from this NE blow, even though it is still blowing a bit of a howlee in here it is sheltered from the waves. I dropped the hook off a pleasant sandy beach – and there was even people swimming in the sea -the fools. The mate is still confined to his bunk – some sort of stomach bug.
Thurs 8th Broadhaven
Near disaster, a setback and all’s well that ends well.
So we set out to cross Donegal Bay and just got out of Broadhaven Bay, wind still fairly strong when there was this loud crack. I looked around and there was the U-bolt that the backstay is fastened to with one of its legs sheared off and the rest looking none too secure, was a bit afeared that the mast might come down, as you would be. Quickly downed all the sails and effected a temp lashing of backstay followed by backing it up with the mainsail halyard fastened to a bridle between the 2 mooring cleats and tensioned up hard. Motored back in to Ballyglass and tied up alongside a fishing boat by the pier there. Now there is nothing there apart from the pier and a lifeboat station and the nearest town 8 miles away so I envisaged having problems getting it fixed. However took out the old u-bolt and walked to the lifeboat station to see if they knew where I could get a replacement. Anyway the man there took me to an engineering shop past the town, and it just happened that he had some stainless rod of the right size , so he made me one and 3 hours later it was all fixed. Everyone was so friendly and helpful – that is Ireland for you. Had a relaxing afternoon and a walk, saw peat cuttings, chatted to locals, watched Dolphins leap in the Bay, thought it a lovely place, considered writing my resignation from work.
Fri 9th July Broadhaven to Teelin: 57.41 miles 15 hrs 9 mins
Crossed Donegal Bay to Teelin, quite amazing weather. A bit of a slow start with no wind so motored to the Stags, a dramatic group of rocks of the coast. Gradually the wind filled in to a gentle breeze and the sun shone. With the seas having gone right down and the wind behind us for once we could set the big multi-coloured Spinnaker, looking a lovely sight. The only thing to disturb our reverie was a call on the VHF from a fishing boat to warn us of his drift sets, a course alteration soon took us around the front of him and we exchanged cheery waves and I thanked him for the warning.
As the south coast of Donegal bay disappeared behind us there gradually appeared the cliffs of Slieve League. Dropping almost sheer from the summit of Slieve League 593 metres high they were an impressive sight. Closer too we turned along the coast past Carrigen Head and found the well hidden entrance to Teelin Harbour were we dropped anchor. Later a dinghy ride then a walk took us to the local pub, here to slack our thirst with that rich dark brew. Some of the locals were in full voice, fine unaccompanied singing, so it was much much later under a sky full of stars that I returned to the slip to find the dinghy mooring rope tied to a ring now under water, a hazard of being away longer than anticipated. Never mind, slip off the shoes, the water only up to my knees as I untie the knot and so back to the boat.
Sat 10th Teelin to Aran Roads, Aranmore: 44.63 miles 10 hrs
A beat to windward for 3 hours took us out to the island of Rathlin O’Birne but once through the sound and round Malin More Head we could free off and it was a fast reach up the coast to Aranmore. The wind had freshened once more and was gusty too, varying between 7 to 20 knots, the skies were overcast giving us occasional showers. The coast was shrouded in mist at times and we mostly kept a good offing both on account of the poor visibility and for the many rocks and dangers inshore. We did pass closer to the west coast of Aran Island with its fine rock scenery. Rounding Torneady Point , the swell which had been on our beam most of the day was now behind us and horribly confused by its diffraction around the point. We dropped the main, no easy matter with the heavy rolling and ran into Aran Roads on the no 3 alone. Here we rounded up and dropped anchor in the lee of Calf Island, beautifully sheltered.
Sun 11th Aranmore to Portsalon. Lough Swilly; 45.32 miles 10 hrs 19 mins
A grey misty and drizzly morning for our departure with 1 reef in the main and the no 3 set. Leaving the Ballagh Rocks beacon to starboard we sailed to the north end of Owey Island and then to Gola Island. Out to sea breaking waves and white water marked the position of Bullogconnell Bank, given a wide berth. Given the usual swell most of the unmarked banks and rocks that the coast abound with are fairly easy to spot and avoid. They announce their presence with breaking waves, it might be more difficult in flat calm conditions.
As the wind eased we shook out the reef and changed to the no 2 genoa. Past Bloody Foreland, named on account of the spectacular sunsets to be seen, the sea were quiet and so to Horn Head. Now sitting on a mooring at Portsalon in Lough Swilly, so we have turned the corner so to speak, rounded Bloody Foreland, said goodbye to the West and are scooting along the North Coast.
Mon 12th Portsalon to Church Bay, Rathlin Island: 56.93 miles 12hrs 55 mins
Thought that we might have to beat out of Lough Swilly, but once clear of Ballymastoker Bay we were able to lay a course close hauled which would clear Dunaff Head. Once this was rounded we could free off and set our course for Malin Head. To round this notable headland I aimed to arrive at slack water so we could pick up the first of the flood around, before the stream had built up too much. The pilot warns of 4 knot tidal streams which can raise a dangerous sea with no warning. At least today with the wind behind we would be spared wind against tide conditions. With not having to beat earlier we arrived a little early just as the last of the west bound yachts passed through Inishtrahull sound. It was the first time in 2 weeks that we have seen any other yachts on passage, a sign that we are getting back to more popular sailing areas. Even though conditions were favourable for our passage past Malin Head and through the Inishtrahull sound, it was an impressive place and I would hate to be near here in bad weather.
Later as the winds eased we could shake out the reef we had carried thus far and we were once more able to set the spinnaker for the run down to Rathlin Island. It was a bit of a race against time. Could we get to Church Bay in time before the tide turned against us in Rathlin Sound. Another of those places where timing is everything, with tidal streams of 6 knots and races and dangerous overfalls. If we didn’t get there in time we might find ourselves going backwards. All went well though and we made the small harbour of Church bay before the tide turned. Here 5 other boats were already lying alongside the harbour wall so we rafted up alongside one of them.
Tues 13th Church Bay to Glenarm: 23.18 miles 5 hrs 20 mins
A mid afternoon start to time the tides through Rathlin Sound, even so off Rue Point there was nasty chop as the race was just starting, perhaps we were 30 mins late. The morning had been so warm and sunny but now it was clouding over fast and before long the heavens opened and down came the rain and with it the mist. So we had a very wet and wearisome beat down the coast. Closing Glenarm with a dying wind we did the sensible thing and fired up the engine so we could head straight rather than tacking. It was 2 wet and miserable mariners who that night tied up in Glenarm marina. However can’t complain because whilst we have been sailing we have had very little rain really.
Weds 14th Glenarm to Ardglass: 54.32 miles 11 hrs 55 mins
This eve we are in Ardglass, having had a long run down the East Coast from Glenarm. Left at 5 this morning to catch the tide and it was worth it because it gave us a healthy push down the coast. With a full main and the no 2 set it was mostly a beam reach, although the winds were variable at times. Navigation was no problem as it was mostly simply a case of following the coast and maintaining enough of a clearance from inshore dangers. Although the sky was overcast and it looked to threaten rain, it remained dry all day which was very welcome. The marina here is very welcoming with good facilities and after a shower we strolled into town for a fish and chip dinner. Then thirst awakened, to a bar – very different from those in Eire – smoke filled and seemingly the sole preserve of men perched on bar stools with the television blaring in the corner. We didn’t stay long.
Thurs 15th Ardglass to Menai Bridge: 96.78 miles 25 hrs 31 mins
We had a leisurely start this morning and slipped away from the marina shortly after 10 for the last leg to home. Although the forecast was for westerly winds backing south west later we found that the wind was a very light south easterly. Our desired course was 145 degrees but close-hauled we could set no more than 130. This was bit of a blow as it would mean long tacks, more distance and a long passage. The other bad thing was the rain and drizzle and the poor visibility. In the early afternoon the wind died away, but not the drizzle, so on with the engine, at least we could steer a course for home. Later the wind returned still from the south east so we re-hoisted the sails, full main and the no 1. Visibility was still bad when a couple of hours later I sighted dead ahead The Calf of Man and Chicken Rock at the southern end of the Isle of Man. It was good to get a confirmation of our dead reckoning position after 7 hours of passage. About 2 miles off I tacked to clear Chicken Rock, rather than pass through the sound between it and the Calf where the seas can be nasty, we needed to get in some southing anyway.
When the mate had taken over the helm I briefed him to keep a close and careful watch out for other boats. I had seen 3 passing and warned him that they appeared suddenly in these conditions. Later, off watch I was below cooking dinner when a shout from the mate had me running on deck. He had at the last minute spotted a trawler on collision course about 50 feet away, its presence masked until then by the genoa. The mate seemed frozen into inaction. I quickly put the helm up to bear away and the trawler passed by 20 feet off. I was shaken and rattled, that was far too close for comfort.
2 hours later we tacked again – it looked like being a long night. Sometime just before midnight the wind veered to the south, we could hold a course of 145 which would take us to Point Lynas, marvellous. 3 am off watch dozing in my bunk but something has changed, we are heeling more, things rattling and jiggling down below, more waves crashing against the side of the boat. I go on deck to find the wind has increased and visibility shrunk. The mate thinks it cant be foggy with this wind, in answer I point to the tricolour on top the mast which we can barely see. We are carrying way too much sail so I clip on my safety line and crawl onto the foredeck to hand the foresail, replace it with the no 3 and put 2 reefs in the main. No easy task in the dark, but I manage, the motion of the boat is easier, I feel happier. The mate wants to retire below but we are close to the main shipping route to Liverpool and in this fog, still shaken by the earlier close call I want an extra pair of eyes on deck. I sense that he resents it, but that is just tough.
With the dawn the wind eased and visibility had improved, we had sailed out of the fog bank and could see far away on our starboard bow the Skerries light. A little later Point Lynas was in view and we were back in home waters, what is more we were picking up the first of the flood so should have favourable tide with us. 10 am and we passed through Puffin sound to enter the Menai Straits. We had the tide with us plus we could lay a course down the channel without tacking- marvellous. We slipped quietly past Beaumaris and Bangor Pier and were soon picking up our mooring. No welcoming committee, no crowds waving flags to celebrate our achievement. Just the dinghy to inflate, pack the gear, clean up the boat and depart, back to home and back to work. But we had done it – sailed right round Ireland, been away just a month, 19 sailing days, logged mileage 1055 nm in a 24 foot sailing boat.