Homecoming

Saturday 14th September – Weymouth to Dartmouth

We need to go round Portland Bill to reach Dartmouth. This is the last significant headland for us to round and has one of the roughest patches of water in the country in the form of the Portland Race running past it. We have concluded from Yvonne’s investigations and calculation yesterday that we can go round Portland Bill any time that the tide is flowing west. We plan to round it at 0700 once there is enough light to see the lobster pots off the headland so set the alarm for 0530. It rains again over night and the morning dawns grey and overcast.

Yesterday a couple of boats arrived late in the evening (in the pouring rain) and sought to raft up outside of us but we managed to persuade them both to go elsewhere due to our early start. (Rafting up is necessary when the space is too small to accommodate all boats against the quay or pontoon. It requires an element of tolerance by all concerned as the outside boats crew have to walk over the foredeck of the inside boat to access land so minimising such trips and the inevitable noise is needed. It is normal to help incoming boats to moor up against one’s boat. Sooner or later boaters have to expect to be the inside or outside boat so courtesy and help is the order of the day).

Sunrise over the Dorset coast en route to Portland Bill

Sunrise over the Dorset coast en route to Portland Bill

We are not the only boats on the move. The weather forecast shows that there is a window of opportunity to move today before several days of strong winds and bad weather. This has scuppered our plans for a leisurely few days travelling along this coast but we don’t have the flexibility now to arrive at Dartmouth later than Tuesday.

Part of the huge breakwater that forms Portland Harbour. The harbour is still used by the Navy (witness the Royal Fleet Auxilliary in harbour) as well as commercial shipping, the UK Sailing Academy (constructed for the 2012 Olympics) and as a leisure boating marina. Commenced in 1848, it took convicts 23 years to construct using Portland stone hewn from the Tout Quarry. This quarry is now closed but has been taken over by artists who have created sculptures and carvings in the rock face.

Part of the huge breakwater that forms Portland Harbour. The harbour is still used by the Navy (witness the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in harbour) as well as commercial shipping, the UK Sailing Academy (constructed for the 2012 Olympics) and as a leisure boating marina. Commenced in 1848, it took convicts 23 years to construct using Portland stone hewn from the Tout Quarry. This quarry is now closed but has been taken over by artists who have created sculptures and carvings in the rock faces.

We motor out as the sun rises and set the main sail in the almost windless morning. The clouds gradually clear as we motor up the east of Portland Harbour with its massive breakwater and then on past the headland where we can see the quarries used to provide the stone for the Harbour. We can see a few old wooden gantries that must have been used to load the stone onto barges when the harbour was built by convicts. It must have been hard work!

The advice from Reed’s Almanac and the Coast watch people is to keep within 1 cable of the shore to avoid the Portland Race where there is a strong tidal rip and overfalls. (A cable is 1/10th of a sea mile – about 200 yards).

The lighthouse at the southern end of Portland is the true Portland Bill - not the headland!

The lighthouse at the southern end of Portland is the true Portland Bill – not the headland!

As the headland approaches we can see the breaking waves of the Race off shore but we keep almost within touching distance of the shore and travel through relatively smooth water. We round the headland, passing Portland Bill. There are a total of three light houses – the working one with its red and white striped tower and two old disused ones known as the High and Low Lighthouses. To our surprise there is a crowd of photographers at the headland. The sky has cleared and there is a lovely light for photography – or perhaps they were waiting to photograph any boat that misjudged the right track and went through the race. In any event, we come through this notorious stretch of water without difficulty.

We had a fine final sail form Weymouth to Dartmouth, reaching across Lyme Bay in a north westerly wind achieving over 8 knots over the ground for long periods of time.

We had a fine final sail from Weymouth to Dartmouth, reaching across Lyme Bay in a north westerly wind and achieving over 8 knots over the ground for long periods of time.

As we round the head we catch the north-westerly wind so set ¾ of the genoa and full mainsail, switch off the engine and sail away. It turns into a lovely, if lively, sail across Lyme Bay. In the distance we can see the Jurassic Coast with its various cliffs.

We sail on as Portland gradually disappears over the horizon behind us. We see other boats as we cross Lyme Bay. After a couple of hours we see land ahead. Lyme Bay curves in such a way that the orientation of the land is not quite as one would expect. In the distance we can see Torbay, Paignton and Torquay. A large container ship which appears to have been anchored in Torbay comes towards us so we alter course slightly to keep our distance. (Torbay is east facing and has been a favourite anchorage for centuries for ships as they are sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds). Berry Head just south of Brixham becomes clear. We try calling Nigel Thorpe to confirm we will arrive at Dartmouth today but without success.

Th Dartmouth Daymark has been a welcome sight to sailors since the 1860's. This and other daymarks were set up as navigational aids in the days when coastal navigation consisted of a compass, telescope, basic chart and mark 1 eyeball. Much of the coastline looks the same from the sea with inlets to safe havens such as the River Dart merging into the grey rocks of the coast. each day mark is unique - the Dartmouth one is like a stone quadrapod. Dart Harbour Commissioners continue to maintain this structure, even though  modern navigation makes it obsolete for many (but not all ) boats.

The Dartmouth Day Mark has been a welcome sight to sailors since the 1860’s. This and other day marks were set up as navigational aids in the days when coastal navigation consisted of a compass, telescope, lead line, chart and Mk 1 eyeball. Much of the coastline looks the same from the sea with inlets to safe havens such as the River Dart merging into the grey rocks of the coast. Each day mark is unique – the Dartmouth one is like a stone quadruped. Dart Harbour Commissioners continue to maintain this structure, even though modern navigation makes it obsolete for many (but not all ) boats.

The entrance to the River Dart. The Tudor castles on each side once had a chain which could be drawn across the entrance to guard this fine port.

The entrance to the River Dart. The Tudor castles on each side once had a chain which could be drawn across the entrance to guard this fine port.

The Dartmouth Day Mark becomes clear and gives us a definite point to aim for in the otherwise grey cliffs along this stretch of coast. By 1400 we are off the entrance to the River Dart.

A naval frigate departs and the Torbay lifeboat speeds past on a “shout” as we take our sails in for the last time and motor into the river.

The Torbay lifeboat on a "shout" to tow a motor cruiser with failed engines and electrics off Slapton Sands and into Dartmouth. This is a Severn Class lifeboat, the same type as we "drove" in the simulator at the RNLI College in Poole.

The Torbay lifeboat on a “shout” to tow a motor cruiser with failed engines and electrics off Slapton Sands and into Dartmouth. This is a Severn Class lifeboat, the same type as we “drove” in the simulator at the RNLI College in Poole.

Dartmouth is a wonderful home port: it can be entered at any time and state of weather or tide. Once inside, the river provides excellent protection from the weather. The river itself is of outstanding natural beauty and boasts over 1000 years of maritime heritage. Dartmouth on the west side is a lovely and lively old town whilst Kingswear on the east is a proudly independent large village. It is possible to navigate at the appropriate state of tide all the way up to Totnes, about fourteen miles from Dartmouth.

Dartmouth is one of the best natural harbours in the country with a fine town and a beautiful river behind the entrance.

Dartmouth is one of the best natural harbours in the country with a fine town and a beautiful river behind the entrance.

Nigel’s new motor launch, Freia, is on the mooring usually used by Sundart (although it is actually Nigel’s mooring) so we decide to go up river to Dittisham for a quiet cuppa and to wind down from the end of our trip. The river is as lovely as ever in the afternoon sun with boats of all sorts coming and going.

Nigel T greeting us on our safe arrival back at our home port with a bottle of bubbly

Nigel Thorpe greeting us on our safe arrival back at our home port with a bottle of bubbly

As we moor up Nigel calls us over the VHF and we arrange to meet at Dittisham. Nigel has had a busy day already, ferrying his cousin’s daughter and her friends for a morning out to Salcombe. He brings a bottle of champagne to celebrate our return and we sit drinking it in the sun, catching up on the latest news. It is lovely to be welcomed back to our home port. He kindly invites us to supper with some old family friends.

The South Devon Steam Railway Company was founded to prreserve the railway between Piagnton and Kingswear (opposite Dartmouth). It runs a regular steam hauled service during the tourist season and has expanded its services to include the river ferries and tourist boats. The Kingswear Castle, a steam powered ferry,  is the latest addition to their fleet

The South Devon Steam Railway Company was founded to preserve the railway between Paignton and Kingswear (opposite Dartmouth). It runs a regular steam hauled service during the tourist season and has expanded its services to include the river ferries and tourist boats. The Kingswear Castle, a steam-powered ferry, is the latest addition to their fleet

We motor back down the Dart and moor at one of the Dart Harbour Authority deep water pontoons. Nigel brings his tender Arwen over for us to use to get to shore and after John has run him back to shore we pack the boat up for the last time and complete and sign off the log that we have been keeping for the last 121 days. We have covered around 2600 nautical miles (equivalent to about 3000 land or statute miles), stopped at 88 ports, harbours, marinas and anchorages and achieved our aim of visiting all 4 countries of the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, we have ended up back at Dartmouth on the exact day that we scheduled when we were planning the trip all those months ago.

For full details of our trip click here: Sundart round UK trip 2013 – The final tally

The boat tidied up, we set off around 1800 for Nigel’s and walk up Clarence Hill to his lovely house and an interesting evening learning about wine from Nigel’s family friends Peter and Pippa, who are both Masters of Wine and who select wines for Asda.

Ship’s log

Day’s run:                                        48.4 nm

Total miles for the trip:                     2598.6 nm

Engine hours:                                 2.5 hours

Total engine hours for the trip:         314.0 hours

Hours sailed:                                   7.0 Hours

Total hours sailed for the trip           573.6 hours

Sunday 15th September – A wet day in Dartmouth

True to forecast, the weather is wet and windy for most of the day. John makes a quick trip to shore in Arwen for the Sunday paper and milk. We are rather tired so we enjoy the paper in the morning before setting to to pack our bags. We need to clear space so we can also strip the boat of the loose items that will not be sold with it.

Monday 16th September – Packing up and a brief trip up river.

Our personal stuff packed, we take Sundart up river to the Noss Marina where we have arranged to meet co-owners Phil and Nigel to visit a prospective broker to sell the boat. As part of the deal Sundart will be lifted out at Noss later this week to be polished up and antifouled and a few tidying up jobs done pending storage on the hard whilst she is sold. This will avoid paying for extra moorings.

We off-load our bags into Nigel’s car and return to the deep water pontoon opposite Dartmouth to start clearing out all the lockers of 29 years of accumulated “stuff”. It is just like moving house but in a smaller space!

We receive a message from our friends Errol and Joy DeBono to say that they and another couple Len and Eileen Darling will come to Dartmouth tomorrow to welcome us home. They are part of a wider group of John’s ex-university friends (who we have been going on an annual holiday with for the past 34 years!). They had been expecting us on Tuesday due to our last blog so it will be a delayed welcome.

Tuesday 16th September – Clearing Sundart and a delayed welcome home.

Tea at the Sloping Deck Restaurant in Dartmouth with the "welcome home" party: Joy, Len, JR, Nigel, Di, YV, Eileen and Errol. The Sloping Deck is a fine old institution at Dartmouth. Situated in the Butterwalk - a restored timbered Jacobean row of shops - it provides a wonderful array of bread, pasties and patisserie onthe ground floor and lunches and teas on the first floor with a true "sloping deck" of a floor without a single level area on it!

Tea at the Sloping Deck Restaurant in Dartmouth with the “welcome home” party: Joy, Len, JR, Nigel, Di, YV, Eileen and Errol. The Sloping Deck is a fine old institution at Dartmouth. Situated in the Butterwalk – a restored timbered Jacobean row of shops – it provides a wonderful array of bread, pasties and  patisserie on the ground floor and lunches and teas on the first floor with a true “sloping deck” of a floor without a single level area on it!

With Sundart cleared up, we meet co-owners Nigel and Phil at the quayside to off-load all the removable items, the sails and life raft before returning to the deep water pontoon.

Joy and Errol, Eileen and Len and also Nigel and Di Pepperdine (who are kindly ferrying us home) all arrive mid-afternoon so we go to a favourite old haunt at the Sloping deck to enjoy tea and their excellent cakes to catch up. Errol presents us with a bottle of bubbly and a welcome home card from the whole gang. It is a lovely gesture.

The welcome party moved on to the Windjammer in Dartmouth where we enjoyed a good meal.

The welcome party moved on to the Windjammer in Dartmouth where we enjoyed a good meal.

After loading Nigel’s car with about half our clobber (there not being room for it all!) we rejoin the others and enjoy a good meal and plenty of chat at the Windjammer – a traditional pub in Dartmouth that serves decent beer and food.

Nigel and Di return with us to Sundart for a final night on the boat before she is taken up to Noss tomorrow for lift out. The boat looks rather bare now that everything has been packed up and taken off.

Wednesday 17th September – Home

Farewell to Sundart on Wednesday 15th September. Later that day she was taken to Noss Marina and lifted out in readiness for sale. Our friends Di and Nigel Pepperdine kindly transported us and much of our clobber back to Melbourne.

Farewell to Sundart on Wednesday 15th September. Later that day she was taken to Noss Marina and lifted out in readiness for sale. Our friends Di and Nigel Pepperdine kindly transported us and much of our clobber back to Melbourne.

We leave the boat by mid-morning as Nigel T and Phil will take her up to Noss at midday. We make a final effort to maximise what we can fit in the car then set off. We are very grateful to Nigel and Di Pepperdine for coming to fetch us as we avoid having to leave most of our stuff in Dartmouth and travelling home by train.

After an uneventful journey we arrive home by mid-afternoon. The adventure is over and it is time to tackle a mountain of post and adjust to “normal” life – whatever that is!

We have had a wonderful trip with 4 months of adventure and interest and the odd scary bit! We have been touched by the support we have received, the family, friends and people we have met round our coasts, those who have sailed with us and the messages of support and interest we have received. (Messages have come from as far afield as Australia!). The support and interest has been wonderful.

Above all, we have been hugely grateful to all those who have supported our charity. We have so far raised over £3000 for SUDEP Action which has surpassed our wildest expectations and allowed us to sponsor their Epilepsy Deaths Register, which we will write about further in our final blog once the money is all gathered in. In the meantime, if you want to learn about this then click here: Epilepsy Register. If you want to contribute to our charity then click here: The Crusoes Virgin Money Giving Page.

Finally, if anyone is dreaming of an adventure such as this then our advice is: JUST DO IT!

A following wind and fair weather to you all.

Yvonne and John

To the western edge of the United Kingdom

Sunday 9th June – To Northern Ireland!

Sunday dawns bright and sunny with a pleasant easterly breeze and a flat, blue sea – just right for going to Northern Ireland. We consult the tidal atlas for the area and Reid’s Almanac and decide to leave at around 1130 to avoid the worst of the adverse tides coming down that part of the Irish Sea. (Reids is the yachtsman’s bible, listing every major and most minor ports for Atlantic Europe from the tip of Denmark to Gibraltar plus a whole host of other information. It is a tremendous publication). Our plan is to go to Strangford Lough, one of the largest inland sea loughs in the UK and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty renowned for its wildlife. There are very strong tides in and out of the Strangford Narrows connecting the Lough to the sea so we plan to take the evening tide into the Loch and anchor up in a nearby bay if we arrive early before taking the flood tide up the Narrows. John rows ashore for the Sunday paper and we have a lazy morning enjoying the sun and breakfasting in the cockpit.

Goosewinging to Ulster

Just before midday we sail off the mooring and set full working sails so we can goose wing, running before the wind. We set the auto helm and settle back for a lovely sail. After a while the wind reduces so the spinnaker is set and we continue with only the occasional ferry to see. The weather is fine but a bit misty and after about three hours the wind dies down so we decide to motor. However, the engine does not want to play, coughing and spluttering and dying. Eventually we coax it into action and after about half an hour it settles down. There is no obvious cause but our suspicions are a blockage in the fuel system. We are within mobile phone range so we have a telephone conflab with co-owner Dave Jones as he has had more experience than John on fuel matters on Sundart. (It is surprising how we can pick up the mobile phone signal off-shore but not when on land!).

Dave’s brains duly picked, we decide to make for Ardglass, a small port just south of Strangford with all tides entry, a small marina, quite a few facilities and (most importantly) no strong tides to contend with. Our decision is re-enforced when we hear a Mayday call from a yacht that has been swept by the tide into the water turbine in the middle of the Strangford Narrows.

Ardglass marina - with its own ruined castle

Ardglass marina – with its own ruined castle

We chug along, the Mountains of Mourne gradually appear over the haze and we duly make it to Ardglass, mooring up by 6:30. We celebrate by cooking a good lamb curry and have a glass of wine. We could have limped in under sail if the engine completely failed but it would have taken ages and negotiating the relatively small entrance into the Ardglass marina would have been tricky.

Ship’s log

Distance sailed today:             32.5 nautical miles

Total distance sailed to date:  693.9 nm

Engine hours today:                            3.1

Total engine hours to date:                 87.0

Hours sailed today:                             6.5

Total hours sailed to date:                   153.1

Monday 10th June – Fix that engine then try to find why Ardglass featured in a van Morrison song!

After breakfast John rolls his sleeves up to fix the engine. We soon find that the primary fuel filter is almost completely blocked with black sediment. We only did full engine checks two days ago but the lesson we learn is to use a torch to inspect the clear bowl below the filter for crud, not rely on the light coming down the companionway. We are thankful to our fellow co-owners for Sundart being packed with spares and a new filter is soon fitted. Priming the fuel system is more of a challenge: one of the tricks that John had to glean from David.

Budget boating ulster style - fenders courtesy of Coca-Cola

Budget boating Ulster style – fenders courtesy of Coca-Cola

The “dinghy pump” theory did not work on our part full tank of fuel so we decide to buy some more diesel. In Ardglass there is no convenient pump by the marina or harbour as the fuelling arrangements are set up to deliver tankerfulls of diesel to the fishing fleet; rather its is a matter of getting plastic cans filled from the local red diesel merchant, borrowing the marina trolley and manhandling it to the boat and into the tank. We suspect that as we venture further north this method of refuelling will become more commonplace. However, all is done. We have the bright idea of reading the engine manual (!) and discover that priming the fuel system is simply achieved if we have a couple of cup-full’s of diesel to pre-fill the filler and bowl so a measuring jug is sacrificed, the filler is filled and screwed back in place, the lift pump primed and voila! The engine purrs back into life and continues to do so under various tests so problem solved. The local fisherman’s chandlery does not stock our type of filter – they are fine for hawsers, huge shackles and garden compost (!) but not our size of stuff. We do replace the 20 liter water container for Sundart in case we cannot get water in more remote parts (the old one having sprung a leak) and buy some heavy-duty hand cleaner. After a further telephone conflab with co-owner Phil new filters are ordered for delivery via the next person to crew for us. (We still have some further spares on board).

The fishing fleet in Ardglass

The fishing fleet in Ardglass

All this has taken the morning and we have missed the tidal gate to get to Strangford today so we decide to make the best of Ardglass. Once upon a time the musician van Morrison wrote a song about travelling through this part of Northern Ireland, including stopping at Ardglass for pickled herrings “and the craic was good”. Ardglass is a fishing port. In the past 400 – 500 fishing vessels were based here, fishing the (then) abundant herring shoals. In the season scores of girls, mainly Scots, would pack the herrings into salt tubs for export. These days, all that is gone and there is a much more modest (but active) fishing fleet left here. We go in search of herring for supper and find some in a shop on the quay, where we also lunch out on filled baked potato. The prices around here are good.

Not every golf club can boast its own fortifications complete with canon on the front lawn.

Not every golf club can boast its own fortifications complete with cannon on the front lawn.

The spare room is in the castle.....

The spare room is in the castle…..

After a brief foray to stock up supplies at the local supermarket we take a walk round Ardglass. In common with much of the rest of Ireland, things were pretty lawless around here four to five hundred years ago and as Ardglass was the busiest port in Ulster the local merchants fortified their houses and establishments. The legacy is at least seven fortified houses in this little town, one of which is now the local golf club house and others are in various stages of ruin or are incorporated into houses.

Black guillemots - indiginous to ireland

Black guillemots – indigenous to Ireland

Back at the marina, we are surprised to find different birds from those we have seen elsewhere. Quite a few birds are indigenous to Ireland and rare in England including black guillemots and hooded crows that are foraging around the shore line. A heron, common terns, various gulls and cormorants are working the water and shore line as well.

Yvonne fries the herrings in a little olive oil and garlic and they taste delicious with new potatoes and green beans helped down with a glass of rose.

We catch up on the weather forecast – it is going to be breezy with wind from the south-east tomorrow but not too strong so we plan to finally get to Strangford Loch on the morning tide before the rain comes in later.The only issue is that we don’t have a detailed chart for the Loch (although the Samsung does have it on the  Navionics package) so as Ardglass is a chart free zone we phone the marina at Portaferry (at the top of the Strangford Narrows) to see if we can buy one. They don’t have one in stock but John Murray at the marina offers to lend us his up-to-date chart! We have been delighted by the friendly welcome we have had at so many places but this has to take the prize so far.

Tuesday 12th June – Strangford Lough at last

We awake early to a fresh south-easterly breeze and drizzle but as Strangford Lough is only 5 miles away we decide to go as the weather forecast is not good for the rest of the week and we don’t want to get stuck at Ardglass. We head out of harbour to a grey and choppy sea, setting just part of the foresail to motor sail round to the Strangford Narrows.

The water turbine in Strangford Narrows (with the turbines raised out of the water). The swirl patterns on the water surface are indicative of the strong tidal flow.

The water turbine in Strangford Narrows (with the turbines raised out of the water). The swirl patterns on the water surface are indicative of the strong tidal flow.

The journey is not very comfortable but we soon reach the entrance to the narrows and use the Samsung tablet to navigate up to Portaferry where we are to collect the chart.There is a very strong flood tide up the narrows and en route we pass the water turbine for generating electricity set right in the middle of the water. Two days ago we heard a mayday call and rescue of a yacht that got swept by the tide into the turbine; we subsequently learn that the rescuers cut away the mast and rigging of the yacht to free it. We give it a wide berth!

Portaferry and its neighbour Strangford across the Narrows are attractive small towns. In common with man y other Ulster coastal towns the houses are smart and painted in a wide array of colours. A ferry links the two; this needs powerful engines and side thrusters to deal with the strong tides inthe Narrows

Portaferry and its neighbour Strangford across the Narrows are attractive small towns. In common with many other Ulster coastal towns the houses are smart and painted in a wide array of colours. A ferry links the two; this needs powerful engines and side thrusters to deal with the strong tides in the Narrows

We soon reach Portaferry and true to his word John Murray comes down with his chart and some print outs giving us details of navigation and anchorages. We consult the chart and pilot book: Strangford Lough is so big that there are many choices on where to go but as the wind has died we decide to go to the Quoile River in the south-east as being the nearest.

Strangford Loch is huge. Set in the rather flat County Down countryside, the Mountains or Mourne form a distant backdrop

Strangford Loch is huge and it is difficult ot capture it in a photo. Set in the rather flat County Down countryside, the Mountains of Mourne form a distant backdrop

We soon reach the Quoile and pick up a mooring. The weather by now is wet and grey so we shut the hatches and settle down to read, catch up on this blog and cook a lasagna for supper.

Ship’s log

Distance today: 12.0 nautical miles

Total distance to date: 705.9 nm

Wednesday 12th June

We decide to carefully motor from the mooring round a bend in the

Quoile Yacht Club

Quoile Yacht Club

Loch towards the Quoile Yacht Club as we are not sure of the depth. However, all goes well and we come within hailing distance of a fine traditional ketch – the Young Larry – whose owner Andrew kindly sounds the depth by the pontoon to ensure we can safely moor there. Andrew and his wife Moira are sailing round Ireland, climbing the highest hill or mountain in each of the seaboard counties they pass.

The bird sanctuary at Quoile. Mountains of Mourne in the background

The bird sanctuary at Quoile. Mountains of Mourne in the distance

Quoile Yacht Club turns out to be well run, with very friendly staff. The Club is well organised for visitors with a welcome pack, amenities and general assistance. We decide to visit the adjacent nature reserve, formed by a dam across the Quoile where the local conservation group have installed a hide. Although we are not bird experts we manage to spot quite a few birds, consulting our ancient pocket book, including widgeon, tufted and eider ducks, black guillemots, pied wagtails, heron, swans, common terns and mallard.

Gaff rigged topsail ketch Young Larry. Owners Andrew and Moira give us a useful tip about when to leave Strangford to get the best of the tide up the coast to Bangor

Gaff rigged topsail ketch Young Larry. Owners Andrew and Moira give us a useful tip about when to leave Strangford to get the best of the tide up the coast to Bangor

On returning to the Yacht Club we debate whether to stay at Strangford (which we would like to do) or go onto Bangor which is in Belfast Lough. The weather forecast for today is good but the rest of the week is poor due to “complex lows moving eastward” according to the inshore weather forecast and a very messy looking weather map so we reluctantly conclude that we should move on today. Andrew and Moira have reached the same decision and pass on the knowledge that we should go down the Narrows against the last of the flood tide to get the best tide up the coast. There is virtually no wind so we leave at 1300, motor sailing back to Portaferry to drop off the chart. Bucking the tide is  hard work, so we chug down the edge of the narrows whilst Andrew and Moira motor down the middle in Happy Larry. At the end of the narrows we head up the coast, Young Larry passing us (being larger than Sundart their boat sails quicker).

The wind remains light, so we motor sial up the coast but the tide gives us a push and we make a steady 7 knots over the ground. By 1800 we are passing inside the islands at Donaghadee into Belfast Lough and by 2015 we are moored at Bangor Marina.

Ships Log

Miles today: 37.6 nautical miles

Total miles to date: 743.5

Thursday 13th June – Bangor and beyond

The attractive waterfront at Bangor in front of the marina. Everything is scrupulously clean and tidy

The attractive waterfront at Bangor in front of the marina. Everything is scrupulously clean and tidy

We need a “pit stop” and find that Bangor Marina is well set up and run so we can catch up on showers, fill up with water and fuel (from a pump this time) and connect to the mains and charge everything up before heading into Bangor to raid the local Asda.

Bangor has long had a sense of civic pride: the clock tower was donated by a rates collector nearly 100 years ago.

Bangor has long had a sense of civic pride: the clock tower was donated by a rates collector nearly 100 years ago.

Corporate pride: These are actually boarded up shops awaiting a planning decision on how to develop this part of Bangor. It takes a second look to see they are not real. There is not a trace of graffitti top be seen.

Corporate pride: These are actually boarded up shops awaiting a planning decision on how to develop this part of Bangor. It takes a second look to see they are not real. There is not a trace of graffiti to be seen.

Bangor itself is extremely tidy and very clean. (The streets are apparently cleaned daily at 7 am). The water front round the bay is set with attractive Victorian buildings, all painted in typical Ulster fashion in an array of colours. There is clearly a long history of civic pride here. We learn that the local council have listed all the old buildings along the front to ensure preservation of the well built B & B’s. One terrace of buildings by the shopping centre have been boarded up pending a decision on how to develop and improve this area but the hoardings have been well fitted to the buildings and very cleverly painted to represent shops fronts, cafes etc that to begin with we are taken in and only on closer inspection realise what they really are. We see no graffiti, no litter and no empty bottles or cans. It is an object lesson on how to keep up standards in a town.

We treat ourselves to lunch in a cafe and plan our next part of the oddessy. We would like to visit Belfast but have heard mixed reports on whether we can stop there. Some leaflets at the marina describe a new marina in the middle of the city that was set up for the Tall Ships race last year and which has basic amenities so  we decide to go for it rather than take the train from Bangor.

We fuel up on the way out and find that the fuel gauge is not functioning correctly but we now have a full tank and can estimate our fuel usage from the engine hours until we fix the gauge. We pick up more useful information from the very friendly marina attendant and head out to Belfast Lough.

The entry to Belfast from Belfast Lough is dominated by the shipbuilding skyline on the left (County Down) side and the hills of County Antrim on the right (partly shrouded by storm clouds)

The entry to Belfast from Belfast Lough is dominated by the shipbuilding skyline on the left (County Down) side and the hills of County Antrim on the right (partly shrouded by storm clouds)

Belfast Lough has a great setting with the Antrim Hills along the north side and some fine buildings (including Holyrood) on the south. Belfast stands at the western end of the Lough and is the main port for Northern Ireland with several large ferries each day plus quite a lot of commercial traffic. The port only really became prominent from around 1840 when the Victoria deep water channel was cut to provide access through the western end of the Lough and into the River Lagan. This development allowed the port to develop its trade and ship building into the significant commercial centre that it is today. A small sailing boat such as us has to keep out of the way of the shipping, which is generally constrained by its draft on where it can go (as well as being bigger than us!).

Loading the bases for off-shore wind turbines made at the modern day Harland and Woolf yard onto a jack up rig for installation in the Irish Sea. The scale of the engineering even today is enormous. The River Lagan was originally a winding river between mud banks. Over the course of a century the river was dredged and straightened, Belfast became a usable port for large ships once a new channel was dredged in the approaches in the 1840's, the spoil being used to form the "Queens Island" on which the shipyards on the left of this photo were subsequently sited.

Loading the bases for off-shore wind turbines made at the modern day Harland and Woolf yard onto a jack up rig for installation in the Irish Sea. The scale of the engineering even today is enormous. The River Lagan was originally a winding river between mud banks. Over the course of a century the river was dredged and straightened, Belfast became a usable port for large ships once a new channel was dredged in the approaches in the 1840’s, the spoil being used to form the “Queens Island” on which the shipyards on the left of this photo were subsequently sited.

The weather swaps between bright sun and rain squalls coming off the hills but we have a beat up the Lough and enjoy the surroundings, picking out landmarks as we go. As the Lough narrows we join the channel, keeping well to one side. Being a constricted area, all vessels of any size have to get permission from Port Control to enter and travel up the river. No sailing is allowed in the port. We duly drop our sails and report in, just as the harbour launch is racing out to check us out. We are not sure if this is standard practice here or due to the pending G8 summit but we pass muster and continue into the port, just passing the Ro-Ro terminal at the entrance before two huge Stena Line ferries steam up to off-load there.

Sundart moored in the Abercorn Basin - created by the Belfast Harbour Board to help promote the shipbuilding industry and used for ship construction and repair. Public/private partnerships are nothing new!

Sundart moored in the Abercorn Basin whihch was originally created by the Belfast Harbour Board to help promote the shipbuilding industry and used for ship construction and repair. Public/private partnerships are nothing new!

Coming into a major port such as Belfast by sea is a great entry to a city. As we travel up the river to where we are to moor at the Abercorn basin we pass many landmarks including the famous Harland & Woolf shipyard and the new Titanic Centre. We report again to Port Control when we reach our destination and moor up behind a classic boat belonging to the Prince’s Trust.

The (temporary) marina in the middle of Belfast was built a couple of years ago for the Tall Ships Race. Classic boats are still attracted here, including The Spirit of Fairbridge, a Prince's Trust Vessel

The (temporary) marina in the middle of Belfast built in 2012 for the Tall Ships Race. Classic boats are still attracted here, including The Spirit of Fairbridge, a Prince’s Trust Vessel.

The basin was converted to a temporary marina for the Tall Ships Race in 2012 and is due to be developed and expanded in the future. This is in a great location, next to the new Titanic Centre. It is administered by the local council and currently has sparse facilities – just loos and showers in a portacabin. There is no attendant here: the council has elected to extend its automatic car park system to book boats in and issue the access code for the gate. If the system works then at least we won’t have to remember which level we left the boat in the car park.

Perhaps car park ticket machines are not suited to life by the sea but we cannot get the machine to work and we decline its demand for £72 for about 12 hours stay! The intercom only connects to the port police for 10 seconds at a time! Chaos! We consult a fellow boat owner who we met at Port Erin who gives us some phone numbers to call but as council workers only work to 4:59 so they are not there. They also give us a gate code. Whilst trying the code at the gate some youths off another boat get the gate to open – they have a universal code (as only youths can have!) so they give us the number and presto, all is solved.

After a brief visit to the rudimentary facilities we decide to visit the city centre over the river and get to know Belfast – but that is for the next blog….

Ship’s log

Distance today:  13.9 nauticall miles

total distance to date: 757.4 nm

Engine hours: 1.4

Total engine hours to date: 99.1

Total hours sailed to date: 165.8 hours

Fair winds to you all

Yvonne & John

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