July 08, 2009
On Wednesday the wind had abated slightly and we decided to set off to Donegal. Fraser’s sister and her family were staying in a holiday cottage not far from Greencastle in lough Foyle, so we decided to pay them a visit.
The sea was still pretty rough when we set off, so we decided to give all 3 children sea-sick pills. Big mistake. Although all 3 had shown themselves to pretty good sailors, this looked to be worse than anything else we had taken them out in, so it seemed a good idea at the time.
We gave the girls half doses, but they still had trouble staying awake in the cockpit and their heads were nodding the whole way across. I was worried in case they’d be too sleepy to hold on in the rough water, but they coped OK. Digger the Border Terrier didn’t enjoy it much, but just cuddled up to the warmest person and kept his head down…
Patrick (age 11) conked out very shortly after taking his Stugeron and slept soundly inside his lee cloth for the whole journey. Maybe Stugeron wasn’t such a bad idea after all…
When we arrived at Lough Foyle we had got the tide right (it can be 3.5 knots in the narrows) and had a trouble free passage. The pilot said that since the fishing industry in Donegal has declined, yachts are now welcome in Greencastle, but the Almanac said the opposite. We found the almanac to be closer.
When we got into the harbour it was thick with fishing boats. There were quite a few local yachts rafted up 6-deep but they were all much smaller that our girl and we didn’t think it was appropriate to add her beamy bulk to the mix. We found two other yachts tied up alongside a huge trawler , so we tied up to the outside one with a gentle bump. Not gentle enough. We woke up the poor man!
Luckily the two men on the yacht were extremely friendly and helpful and it turned out that they and the other yacht had both run foul of salmon nets across the Foyle. The other boat, a gorgeos najad, had tried to reverse off and ended up partially unscrewing her cutlass bearing, so she had to be towed in and was due to be lifted out and repaired. Mark, in the yacht next to us, had fortunately gone straight to neutral and avoided damage, waiting to be given permission by the fishermen to cut the nets. He dived overboard and did the work himself. A very enterprising bloke with a quiet manner and oodles of sang froid.
The family in the Najad had her lifted out and repaired and the locals were very helpful and supportive throughout, except for the fisherman whose unmarked nets they fouled on, who turned up in the middle of all theis demanding 200 euros for replacement nets. The locals advised the family to ignore him!
We met up with Fraser’s sister Kirsty and her family and were treated to a couple of amazing barbeques at their luxurious holiday cottage.
The whole time in Greencastle we looked for and failed to find the Harbour Master to pay him. Didn’t feel too guilty as there were no facilities at all.
We didn’t leave Greencastle, except for taking Kirsty’s husband and 2 of the children for a fishing trip for a couple of hours, until Friday (Fraser’s birthday).
We had a good opportunity to admire a large cruise ship on our way out…
July 06, 2009
Monday morning Ricky appeared with a couple of helpers and the stressful process of mast-raising began. Coleraine Marina has a good travel hoist, but for mast raising they have to use a pulley system which is operated by man-power. Now our main mast has the mainsail rolled inside it and weighs quite a lot, so it wasn’t at all easy. We had to wait for the very bottom of the tide before Ricky could get enough clearance to step the main mast and even then it was touch and go…
Anyway, huge admiration for Ricky, who stayed calm throughout and calmed us too. Nonetheless it was a while before my pulse rate returned to normal!
By mid-afternoon both masts were up and we were free to go. the weather was fair and the forecast was for a deterioration so we decided to make a run for Portrush before the weather set in.
Luckily for us, there was very little swell in the barmouth and we gave a spontaneous cheer as Flying Colours lifted her bow into the salt water waves through the mouth of the Bann. We all felt pretty drained after the mast raising so we stayed under engine all the way to portrush, where we tied up to the floating pontoon. Three times…
The first time it turned out we were in the area reserved for fishing trips, the second time it turned out the yacht we’d rafted up to was setting off at 4 am for a run to Scotland, so we reshuffled to put him on the outside and us against the pontoon. Third time lucky!
We spent the next couple of nights in portrush because the weather did turn very dirty and there was loads there for the children to enjoy. They swam on the beach and went to Barry’s fairground where they proceeded to turn their father into a green jelly with the big Dipper… I stayed with the boat and dog-sat. Besides,my arthritis was playing me up badly and I didn’t feel like moving much.
We met a lovely couple, David and Doreen in a gorgeous shiny Beneteau, Arthur’s pride which they had brought around Malin Head and they rafted up to us for one night, inviting us aboard for a glass of wine. Wow – one lovely boat!
The next day David and Doreen set off to Rathlin on their way over to Scotland. Wes tood and watched them go from the harbour wall and I’ll swear half their hull was out of the water at the tops of the waves.
July 05, 2009
We set off up the lough on Saturday as planned and were waved off by a couple of friends. She behaved herself quite well considering the two masts strapped down on top of her, but luckily therewasn’t much swell.
We phoned ahead at Toome and the Lock-Keeper (Finton) had the lock ready for us. Hard to remember to tell the lock-keepers that we are travelling down river as it’s up on the charts! Finton phoned on to the next lock-keeper with an ETA for us so that lock would be ready too. All the way, both up and down, we were delighted at how helpful and friendly the lock keepers were. “Scottish Dave” let our 11-year-old son help him with the gates and went out of his way to explain the history and structure of the lock, shoing us the eel slides built in to allow the Lough Neagh eels to get up and down the system.
The river adventure was not something we had particularly looked forward to – it was just a route out to sea – but we thoroughly enjoyed it and saw endless wildlife, including otters and countless kingfishers.
We overnighted at Portneal and went on to Coleraine the next day.
Derek (The Cutts’ Lock-Keeper) was very helpful. He had to judge the timing just right so we had enough tide at the other side to make it over the concrete sill, but not too much that we wouldn’t make it under the Town Bridge in Coleraine. He phoned a mate of his who has a boat with similar air draft for advice about the bridge and ended up judging it perfectly, although it was pretty hairy going through the navigation arch at 4 knots with Fraser standing on the aft deck saying “I think we’re going to make it” right up to the point of no return! All I can say is that the bridge looked very close to our heads as we passed through and our heads are quite a long way below the masts as they tilt up aft…
Anyway, we made it and tied up at Coleraine Marina, having spoken to the manager, Ricky, by phone. He’s the man who is going to re-step the masts.
July 02, 2009
Last night we took the boat round to have the masts lowered and were surprised and delighted when everyone turned out to help.
Fraser nudged our beamy lady in to the cut between the other boats to put her under the crane and the lads all mucked in to help, removing seizing wire, loosening bottle screws, taking off the booms (lots of muffled curses about split pins at this point!) and manhandled the mizzen down.
Then the eldely crane cranked into life with a cough and a splutter and Mick climbed the mast to place the strops below the spreaders (mast steps can be a mixed blessing: if they weren’t there he wouldn’t have needed to go up the mast…). He told me later he doesn’t much like heights.
At last both masts were down and stowed on the boat andwe even got the mizzen on too. Happy days.
With the dinghy slung in her davits, there isn’t too much overhang at the back, we’ll just have to watch the VHF aerial sticking out the front in the locks…
Mick lent us a load of extra charts and pilots with his own comments about places where a Southerly can get to with her flexible draft (he has one too) and an up to date almanac. He also gave us loads of good advice. Still can’t believe how lucky we are to have such great folks just around the corner from us. Could never have done it without them all.
Feels like the holiday has really started now. Only 2 days to go…
July 01, 2009
We are getting our masts down this evening in preparation for our river/canal trip down the Bann to escape to sea.
I have been off with ‘flu (oink oink – only joking) so have had lots of time whilst recovering to plan our trip and there are charts and pilot books scttered all over my desk. Sadly this means that I can’t get at any of the “real work” (i.e. work that pays money) underneath, but what the heck…
We’re getting a friend with a crane to lower the masts at a private marina and he chose today because the weather is not meant to be quite so good tomorrow. It’s bucketing down outside as I type, so heavens knows what tomorrow will be like!
Plan is to set off on Saturday, crossing the Lough with one, or if it can be managed both, masts on the boat. I am keen to bring the mizzen as it has the radar on it, but if the Lough is rough we might have to leave it behind. Apparently 105 ketches sail just as well without the mizzen. Watch this space…
We’ll travel down the Lower Bann, through 5 locks and under numerous bridges and get the mast(s) raised again in Coleraine before attempting the Barmouth. After that, I have routes planned and ports picked out for most eventualities. We’ll see what the weather forcast is by then.