Days 50 and 51, Sunday 15th July…. Rainy Day Rest Day in Bangor ( Northern Ireland )…. and Monday 16th July, Sailing Day Bangor to Ballycastle ( still in Northern Ireland ). Both 2018!

Well a heatwave of 30 degrees C plus in the South of England and a cold rainy Sunday in Northern Ireland. So w ask the man on the desk in Bangor Marina…. “are there any restrictions on hosepipes in this marina… eg can we wash the salt off our boat?” Well he looks outside, sees the leaden skies, listens to the thunder of the rain drops on the roof and observes the puddles of water on the pontoons…. well he said… “if you get the marina hose out…. fill a bucket and then throw it at your boat… you might get away with it… yes there is a hosepipe ban in all of Ireland.”

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A wet Bangor Marina early Sunday morning….. grey and gloomy. Poli Poli is dead centre… you can just see the grey dinghy on the stern.

Sunday was a wet, wet day…. we woke up to the rain in the night…. it sort of drums and echoes on the coach roof…. and we went to bed on Sunday night when it was still raining. so Sunday was a wash out…. in one sense…. in the other… the boat did not get washed.

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So we did jobs like the laundry…. back and forth to the washers and driers in a rain coat… big tidy up after the two 75 milers across the Irish Sea…. and Mike hosted a family reunion Sunday lunch with his sister and cousins in the Salty Dog Hotel ( which turned our to be excellent )…. and planned the Monday journey north to Ballycastle.

So I went to bed after catching up on the blog wondering…. well I wonder if there is a hosepipe ban in southern England?? So the next morning…. just before we took leave of the town of Bangor …. a town surrounded by amazingly green fields… we took the marina hose and filled the water tank on the boat… then when nobody was looking, had a crafty spray of the windows, coach roof and cockpit.

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Day 51, Monday 16th July, Bangor to Ballycastle in the far north, not a stones throw away from Scotland.

We could not leave on Monday morning before 11am. Why?… very strong north to south tide running along the coast. If we left at 11am we would get the last two hours … the 2,1 of the 123,321 sequence of 6 hours. So head tide to start with, then slack… and then we would have at least 6 hours of positive, following tide up the coast of Northern Ireland.

We decided to top up on fuel at the fuel berth first. What should have been straightforward turned out not to be! Firstly having booked the 10.30am slot there was a queue so had to hold station and wait. The actual paying system was one we had not met before…. after taking on board the diesel… the marina guy had to accompany you some distance to the main office where you had to pay. Not experienced this before. So we got away late.

A different day Monday. Cool yes but dry, some sun and some blue sky!! Poli Poli…. under full sail, headed north across Belfast Lough.

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Poli Poli making her way across Belfast Lough in exceptionally calm conditions. Sails are up though!

Having been promised Force3, 4 and 5 winds…. from Northerly through to SW…. we got 5 knots of “variables”… ie next to nothing. So the sails stayed up but on went the motor.

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Screenshot of the chartplotter. Poli Poli with the red and green lines has just crossed Belfast Lough from Bangor on the south side.Lots of AIS target boats buzzing about. Here we are “punching tide”.

We managed 6 knots going north along the Antrim coast against the last knockings of the south bound tide. Passing the port of Larne, the Maidens ( two huge rocks… one the West Maiden has the old brick and stone lighthouse on it, the other rock… the East Maiden a conventional and more modern black and white lighthouse ), Carrickfergus, Red Bay and finally the great headland of Fair Head…. jutting out into the North Channel.

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One of the Maiden Rocks… the Old Lighthouse… abandoned in 1906. Note flat sea.

By about 2pm…. after Mike had grilled Irish potato cakes for a light lunch… our speed quickened as the tide turned in our favour. Now roaring northwards at 7 knots. The sea was “smooth”…. oily and glassy for much of the time but the different breezes which blew from all points of the compass couldn’t make more than a ripple on the surface. So all calm and orderly…. and making good progress northbound.

 

Then came the North Channel. “At the north end of the Irish Sea, the North Channel is a stretch of water sixty miles long and just twelve miles wide. Its headlands, tidal races, overfalls and eddies constitute one of the greatest challenges to a cruising yacht in the British Isles.” I didn’t say that…. David Rainsbury wrote that in his book “Irish Sea Pilot” ( 2009 ).

You have to imagine a huge volume of water from the Atlantic Ocean pouring in through a 12 mile wide gap from the west… filling the Irish Sea… and then 12 hours later reversing and pouring out through that same 12 mile gap.

Well we met the west going North Channel tide somewhere between Red Bay and Fair Head…. and boy did it move us along. From a sedate 7 knots we went to 9, and then 10…. and thinking that was it…. we went to 11 and the finally our top speed of 12.8 knots SOG. The fastest Poli Poli has ever been. Fortunately this was all done in controlled conditions ( except for the tide!! )…. a relatively flat sea, calm in terms of lack of wind. cold yes…. but certainly not screaming banshees where you wrestle to control the boat. Poli Poli steered a wide arc away from the rocky shoreline and remained to a single degree ordered on the helm…. always under control.

We had seen the Mull of Galloway earlier…. our first glimpse of Scotland…. but as we came into the North Channel… we admired the great mass of The Mull of Kintyre… and then almost in the same breath we could see Islay and Jura further to the west… and the Rathlin Island just north of Ballycastle.

Fair Head is a giant of a headland. Passed by on our port side, we then entered the big bay of Ballycastle… for the first time the waters assumed a strange swell with fairly large waves roaring in towards us. But as quickly as the swell appeared, four miles offshore, the swell calmed and the sea went flat. Fenders and mooring lines were safely prepared and we entered the harbour of Ballycastle. We arrived at 5pm…. 6  hours from Bangor.

Distance from Bangor to Ballycastle… 46.4 n.miles.

Distance from Eastbourne….1,272.7 n.miles.

Tomorrow Tuesday…. Ballycastle to Campbeltown in Scotland…. across the North Channel ( again!!! ).

 

 

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