Friday, 25 September 2009

Final leg, return to St Katherines Dock, London

Well the boat was lifted out of the water and took a couple of days to repair. We had to borrow the parts from another boat and somebody drove up with them all the way from Brixham. The boat was out of the water overnight so we had sleep on it when it was sitting on its keel, some 8 feet up in the air. See photos of boat being lifted.

Unfortunately the repair work meant we missed a couple of days sailing on the Rivers Orwell and Stour and a chance to practice our boat handling under sail and do some blind navigation (eg as though you were in fog). Nevertheless we were fortunate to get the boat fixed so quickly and not delay our return to London.

I was skipper taking the boat from Harwich to Queenborough on the River Medway where we picked up a buoy for the night. This navigation into the Thames Estuary approaches was fun, dodging in and out of the shoals and avoiding the large ships, using only compass and charts. Again the weather was perfect for sun bathing, but not sailing under sail - so we motored. When we arrived we opened a beer in celebration of having sailed around Great Britain (see photo below). Although we were not yet home in St Katherines Dock, we had so called "closed the circle" of sailing around Great Britain by sailing into the River Medway, where we moored at the start of our passage.

As I write we are motoring up the Thames, about 45 miles, to pick up a buoy by the lock gates to St Katherines Dock. The locks don't open until around 5:00pm, so we will have an hour or so to wait and enjoy the views, and no doubt reminisce about our trip.

A short while ago we passed underneath the QEII Bridge - the bridge was completely full of cars and lorries stationary in a long queue. This was a gentle reminder of London life - I have rarely been in a car, watched television, seen a queue, stayed more than a few days in one place, for three months.

Update 4:00pm

Well, as you can see from the above photo, we have arrived and are tied to the buoy by St Katherines Lock so all that remains is to motor into the lock, and I have been given the honour of taking the boat in this final few yards.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog, I have certainly enjoyed sailing around Great Britain - it has been everything I had hoped for, and more. I am very fortunate to be able to make such a trip, coastal Great Britain and Ireland have many wonderful places to visit, fascinating history and friendly people. By sailing you usually go right into the centre of the historic city or town as most were built up around their harbour. With my folding cycle and Rough Guide Travel Guides I made the most of each visit.

Finally, a sincere thank you also to all of you who contributed to my chosen charity, Link Ethiopia via JustGiving. If you haven't yet contributed but would like to, please visit

I have now both cycled from Lands End to John O'Groats (in my twenties) and with this trip sailed around Great Britain; all that remains is to walk across it (Wainwright's Way) - to do all three ie "cycle, sail and walk" is a bit of a personal goal for me! but please don't tell my close family !!


Monday, 21 September 2009

East Coast of England, to Harwich

So Chris, the skipper who we started with at the beginning of the trip is back on board and he has stepped up a few gears in the standard he expects from us as skippers and crew, but particularly when we skipper for the day. This is in preparation for my fellow crew planning to take the Yachtmaster exam after the trip, and in my case gaining the Coastal Skipper certificate.

To illustrate, he now turns the electronic chart navigation system off. The first time he did this was mid passage pretending it had broken down! but now we are not allowed to turn it on for the entire journey. So we have to navigate using the paper charts and compass, taking into accounts tide, leeway, depth and pilotage into ports - without the comfort of a GPS (like the car navigation systems - see picture below)

telling you where you are! We also have to do this at night, and last night was a good case in point sailing from Hull on a long passage, unfortunately under motor again, down to Harwich. There are several narrow passages between sandbanks and other hazards, and at times you are out of sight of land, for example across the Wash. Although I wasn't skipper on that passage, the skipper was on the other watch from me so when I was on watch I effectively had to navigate in the dark relying on lights from lighthouses and buoys. Each lighthouse or buoy has a particular light signal that helps you identify it, providing you know roughly where you are and can take a compass bearing. For example continuous white flashes means cardinal buoy that you have to pass to the North off, or you have green or red lights with particular flash patterns, eg 4 flashes every 20 seconds. Providing you have a plan and know the sequence of lights expected as you progress, it is not too difficult. I should however say we were in ideal visibility under motor on a flat sea - I dare not think how difficult it must be to navigate such a passage in challenging seas with poor visibility -or maybe you wouldn't, you would rely on electronic navigation tools instead!

The passages since Edinburgh have been to Eyemouth in Scotland, then to Newcastle with a lunch stop at anchor in Holy Island, then on to Whitby, then to Hull and finally a long full day / overnight trip to Harwich - see photo showing our early morning entrance into Harwich, passing the docks.
In Newcastle and Hull we had some time to explore and I was impressed with the regeneration that has gone on in - I can thoroughly recommend both as destinations for a weekend sightseeing visit - see picture of our boat moored in the harbour right in the centre of Hull and also a photo of our boat moored just down from the Millenium Bridge in Newcastle.
When I was in Hull, I also cycled down to and across the Humber Bridge - an impressive sight. We also had an afternoon to explore the attractive harbour town of Whitby and treated ourselves to fish and chips - judging by the number of fish and chip shops in the town, a speciality of the town! See picture of narrow entrance to Whitby which I had to steer the boat through - entrance in to this harbour is impossible in a strong wind from the East, even in the slight swell we had on the day it was difficult keeping boat in a straight line!

I also fulfilled one of my ambitions of the trip, which was, much to the amusement and surprise of my fellow crew and skipper, to swim around the boat. I did this in nice sunny weather when the boat was at anchor off Holy Island, although had to swim hard in one direction as there was a tide. The only remaining ambition, apart of course from finishing the trip, is to get hoisted up the mast!!

Unfortunately we seem to be experiencing some trouble with the engine, or more precisely, the gear box. We have had this problem from near the start, but it has recently occurred more frequently and today when entering Shotley Marina in Harwich the failure occurred frequently. The issue is that the engine will not engage forward gear when you have been in reverse. Some manoeuvres require this, and if the wind is strong dangerous or potentially damaging situations to the boat or other boats can develop very quickly! I know our skipper Chris is now very concerned and mechanics have been called - but our concern is that the boat might need to be taken out of the water to be fixed as the gearbox cannot be worked on otherwise. Hopefully this doesn't interrupt the final few days of our journey now that we are so close to home.

As I write I am sitting on the back of the boat in Shotley Marina, Harwich. It is a pleasant evening and lots of other boats are returning from day sails in the area. When we arrived after the overnight sail from Hull we motored up river and picked up a buoy, then after catching some well earned sleep to mid morning, we sailed up the River Orwell to just short of the Orwell Bridge, then back to the marina at Shotley. The sailing was great. The plan for the next couple of days is the same, to sail in the area practicing sailing techniques such as pickup up buoys and refining our handling the boat under power coming alongside pontoons and so on. I really enjoy sailing the boat and am the first to insist the sails are put up in the slightest of winds - we really have motored too much across the top of the country and down the East Coast. Timetable, lack of wind or wind from the wrong direction has meant we have had to motor far too often.

Next time I post an update to the blog hopefully we will have arrived back in St Katherine's Dock, London .. plans are that we arrive on Friday when the lock gates open ... until then.

Monday, 14 September 2009

North East Coast of Scotland, to Edinburgh

This section has taken us from Wick on the North East corner of Scotland down to Edinburgh, and as I write we are a day sail south of Edinburgh. From Wick we called in at the commercial fishing port of Peterhead, then the attractive small harbour of Stonehaven and the interesting town of Arbroath where Graham a fellow crew member was born too long ago to mention! Then we attempted and succeeded with an overnight anchorage in the Tay River outside Dundee, despite the strong current (the log on the boat recorded some 11 miles travelled overnight although we went nowhere as we were on anchor!).

Next we sailed up the Forth estuary into Port Edgar on the outskirts of Edinburgh, virtually underneath the road and railway bridges - a wonderful sight.

Lucy and Simon visited me for a weekend in Edinburgh. We had a great time, taking the bus tour of the city, a walking witches and ghosts tour late evening, supper at the cafe that J K Rowling visited frequently when writing Harry Potter, and much walking - including crashing out on the grass outside the new Scottish Parliament building for a snooze - the weather was so nice and with all the walking in the heat we were all exhausted. There is so much to Edinburgh - there are so many layers of fascinating facts and history to uncover - and it is so attractive, particularly given nice weather.

As for the sailing, unfortunately a bit too much motor sailing again as the winds continue to be in the wrong direction. For example when we sailed to Edinburgh up the Forth estuary the winds were from the West and therefore against us. This morning when we sailed back out the Forth Estuary the winds had changed to generally Easterly and were therefore against us again for much of the way. Anyway, we have done some sailing, including tacking (zig zag sailing up wind) up the Tay River in flat seas and a good breeze and sailing past Bass Rock on the way out of the Forth Estuary watching the 100,000 birds (we think the were gannets) covering the rock making it look white all over, as well as the distinctive smell when we were down wind and close in to the rock!

I thought it time to describe some of the more mundane housekeeping matters on the boat. With only three crew and one skipper on the boat we are all fortunate enough to have our own cabin - two up front and two aft. You can see my fantastic cabin in the photo.
We also have two heads (toilets!) with showers - although as yet I haven't used the shower (on the boat that is !!). The galley has a small oven and two ring cooker, a fridge and a freezer, which doesn't really freeze. The boat is very comfortable and spacious as boats go, and is designed to sail fast - it has a flat bottom at the front to create minimum wet area and we easily achieve 7 to 8 knots when sailing, even in light winds. However there is a downside to this design, because the front is so flat on the bottom, when sailing up wind, and especially when motoring, it bounces, or as they say in the trade, slams - very uncomfortable and tiring. We have a budget of £30 per person for food per week, do the shopping, and take it in turns to cook, wash etc. I have stuck with cooking four recipes, "Dad's pasta" as it is known at home (farfalle pasta with parma ham, parmesan, creme fraiche etc), spicy salmon with coriander mash, curry from a jar (surprisingly good with fresh meat) and sausages with savoury rice or mash. Many evenings finish with a visit to the local pub. Also I seem to have overcome my dislike of Whisky (see earlier blog) and the souvenir bottle is no more a souvenir - it is work in progress !!

I also think I have now found my sea legs - although being naturally cautious want to say I haven't really been tested out in tough sea conditions when down below. In all but rough conditions I seem to have no problem now staying below deck and doing chart work in cooking. Strangely I find if I look up to the sky I instantly lose my balance!! I have also learned to sleep in all conditions, day and night. At night the stretching or rubbing ropes, or fenders, or wind can make quite a racket, and the boat can move and rock quite a lot on the water - but nothing stops me from sleeping - not even the snoring of fellow crew .... !

So now we are a day into the final section of the trip - from Edinburgh down the east coast of Scotland, then the East Coast of England and up the Thames. Chris, the skipper who started with us on the first leg of the journey is now back with us, although he takes much more of a back seat as by now we should know what to do.

It is now well into September and distinctly colder, not just the fact that we are in Scotland. The evenings get dark much more quickly - 8pm this evening. This is when gales are much more likely although I think we have had more than our fair share of gale warnings already - and strangely enough the forecast at the moment is an unusually stable high pressure all over the area. Yes, we have also learned about weather systems on this Round Britain Experience .. so from one high up here in Scotland, I wish all the lows will stay away at least for the next two weeks ..unless of course they bring a nice Westerly wind to allow us fast and smooth sailing back to London. See you soon ....

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Orkney Islands and Shetland

Currently I am in Wick having sailed overnight and non stop from the Shetland Islands, a journey of some 130 miles. We seem to be hampered by bad weather, or gale warnings. Anyway, I am really pleased we made it up to Lerwick on the Shetland Islands, this is higher than the 60 degree Latitude parallel - quite high for a small sailing boat.
Since my last blog, our passages have been:
-Kinlochbervie on the top North West corner of Scotand to Scrabster (the port for Thurso) on the top North East corner of Scotland. Scrabster is a commercial and fishing port and we had to moor against the wall which is not ideal as in some wind conditions you have to keep adjusting the ropes as the tide rises and falls. Also to get ashore you have to climb a steep slippery ladder and sometimes even pull the 13 ton boat in to the wall if the wind has blown the boat away. On top of all this we were next to the noisy Ice making plant (for the fishing boats)! See photos:

- Scrabster to Stromness on the main island of Orkney, Stromness is a most attractive harbouside town
- Stromness to Fair Isle, a small island in between Orkney and the Shetlands miles from any other island; I only had a few hours on Fair Isle but we were fortunate to have good weather so I cycled all over the island - spectacular remoteness and a bird sanctuary

- Fair Isle to Lerwick, the main town on the Shetlands, an unspoilt and it seemed to me prosperous harbour town

- Lerwick to Wick, on the top North East corner of Scotland

Apart from the odd passage, or section of passage, the saling has not been great as much of it has been motor sailing. This is because we have limited time to wait for the right weather window and wind direction, so sometimes have to motor against the wind to get to our destination quickly before bad weather sets in, for example last night when we are expecting gales and didn't want to be caught out miles from any safe haven on the long passage in open seas from the Shetlands.

So I am a little disappointed that we have not sailed more, but nevertheless have taken every opportunity to explore with my folding bike. I cycled to John O'Groats to have my photo taken under the same sign I stood under some 27 years ago when I cycled from Lands End. Actually I had to cycle the 20 miles from Thurso in two attempts, giving up after 12 miles the first time due to rain and worse still strong headwinds -a cyclists nightmare. I called in to a hotel exhausted, had a coffee and a beer, and the landlord kindly gave me a lift back to Thurso. The next day I caught the bus back to Mey where I had stopped, popped in to Castle Mey which was the Queen Mothers summer residence and had a personal tour of the castle as I was the only person on the 10:20am tour - most interesting!

We also now have a new skipper Aubrey who joined us in Scrabster. Like the others, he has extensive experience of sailing including in his case a large number of yacht and motor boat deliveries (eg new boats, or to / from the Mediteranean for owners who want their boat there for the summer) so seems to know everybody famous. He chats non stop and jumps from topic to topic - most tiring for me as you can probably imagine! Aubrey is not keen on the modern electronic chart navigation, which I am because I am not intending to take the Yachtmaster exam. I find the traditional chartwork is much more likely to make you sea sick as you have to spend significant time at the chart table in the cabin plotting "dead reckoning, estimated positions, depths, log of distance etc". Nowadays all this information is readily to hand or redundant as it is instantly available at the push of a button with an electronic chart plotter and GPS. Anyway, it is great to see the different approaches to being a skipper - so I am learning nevertheless.

We had a narrow escape in Stromness after an evening sail and arrival in the dark. As we arrived late we decided to pick up a buoy rather than go to the pontoon. This avoids paying pontoon fees and it is usually easier to pick up a buoy which requires only one or two mooring lines, rather than tie up to a pontoon which requires at least four lines and more work. We then planned to go on to the marina pontoon the next morning. Anyway, we tied up to a buoy which seemed to have lots of seaweed on and went to sleep. The next I knew our skipper was waking us up at 5am saying we had "dragged the buoy" so all on deck. Our boat had been blown right the way across the harbour, which was used by a large car ferry (!) about a hundred yards to the other side and we think the buoy then hit the bottom again and thankfully stopped before we went aground. We were very fortunate not to have been blown in a different direction hitting something or going aground, or into an even more dangerous situation ! Anyway, no harm done and lessons learned.
We are now on to the final East Coast passage of the trip on the way back to London. It continues to be a fantastic trip - I just wish the weather would stop interferring! Maybe we are in for an Indian summer .... I wish ..

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Tobermory to Kinlochbervie, just South of Cape Wrath

The Western Isles of Scotland and the Minch Sea are undoubtedly a highlight of the passage around Great Britain, but sadly spoilt a little by bad weather. We sailed to the east side of Skye because we needed the protection of the land mass of Skye against the forecast strong South Westerly winds, but this meant we missed some of the interesting places to visit such is Iona and other remote anchorages on Skye. However we have still visited some wonderful places.

Our passage has been Tobermory to Arisaig (on the mainland and I believe a training centre for Special Operations), then to Kyle Akin, then to Gairloch, then to Stornoway with a days rest, then back to mainland at Kinlochbervie, just south of the North West corner of Scotland, Cape Wrath. We will go around Cape Wrath on Monday 24th.

I will leave it to the photos to do the talking and describe one of the days. We were on the pontoon in Kyle Aikin, where the recently constructed bridge to Skye is, expecting to sail to Gairloch further up the coast, but expecting an uncomfortable passage. I was to be skipper for the day. We awoke around 7:30 and Tony our "real" skipper announced we were not leaving because there was heavy rain, strong winds and to leave would have been very uncomfortable sailing. The weather has been unsettled for a few days and wet far too often (I know, this is Scotland!) - so you can imagine we weren't too pleased to be staying put as each delay makes it more likely we will miss interesting ports of call and will have to do a long passage to get the skipper to the port where they change over (ie Tony leaves us on Tuesday 25th August in Scrabster, to be replaced by the next skipper Aubrey). Anyway, we settled down to some further learning of the Yachtmaster theory and by lunch time the rain stopped and the winds dropped slightly, so we decided to leave. The sail up to Gairloch was absolutely tremendous, no rain, some sun, and sailing "goose winged" at some speed (see early blog for explanation). Upon arrival in Gairloch, a stunning loch, the sun was setting over the mountains in spectacular fashion. Then we went to the local pub and found a tremendous two man band for some really good evening entertainment. The day was tremdous, starting off badly, but finishing on a high.

During the sail from Gairloch to Stornoway across the Minch Sea I got a phone call early in the morning from Lucy who had just returned from her working with Camp America. She got the A level grades she needed and will be going to Oxford next year to study Physics. Of course I am one very proud Dad and despite the weather, enjoyed the rainsoaked half hour watch that followed Lucy's call. Also, a school of Dolphins swam alongside the boat shortly afterwards for ten or so minutes - I went up to the front of the boat and was only a few feet away from them swimming and jumping out of the water.

So here are the photos which will do the talking for this section of the trip ...

Friday, 14 August 2009

Bangor to Tobermory on the Island of Mull

At this moment we are moored to a visitors buoy in Tobermory Bay, which is at the top of the Isle of Mull off the West Coast of Scotland. Several of you have commented that my photos always show good weather. Cameras lie! Here is a photo taken just now of the view of the village across the bay and you can see from the water on the underside of the boom that it is raining - in fact it is drizzle, but we had the heavy rain when we were sailing here and we have spend the last few hours drying ourselves and the boat out - yes the boat has a heater!

Today we sailed from Oban, which was a fairly short sail of only 26 miles (measured through the water). I was skipper and sailed the entire route only using our motor to get in to and out of the harbours. We had to "goose wing" the sails (see photo of "goose winging" taken yesterday when there was no rain) - the wind is directly behind us to make this direction of sailing possible. This is also a tricky direction to sail as you have to keep both the main sail and the genoa filled with wind all the time.

A little over half way the wind strength increased and we took the main sail down and sailed on the genoa alone (the front sail). Just before we reached our destination the wind increased to gusting Force 7 (nearly a gale, although we had a fairly flat sea because there was land all around us) and we had too much sail up so it was quite difficult to steer the boat. With this strength of wind and too much sail the boat has a mind of its own, rocking the boat from side to side as you try and keep it on a straight line (remembering you are steering 13 tons of weight through the water at what seems like quite a pace).

On the passage since my last blog in Bangor, we also visited Rathlin Island (an island off Northern Ireland and still part of Northern Ireland); and then in Scotland, Port Ellen on the Island of Islay; Scalasaig on Colonsay Island and Oban on the West Coast of Scotland. As you might expect, the scenery in this part of the world is stunning although some times difficult to photograph as too often it is raining and covered in cloud despite it being August - nevertheless see some of the photos I did manage to take:

Not surprisingly, I have managed to find time to visit a few distilleries, so far one every other island! and there are plenty of islands, and even more distilleries here!! I first of all took a tour of Laphroaig on Isaly, and judging from the photos of Prince Charles, a favourite of his. Next I took a tour and this time had time for to sample the whisky as well in a small distillery in Oban. Small yes, but still makes a million bottles a year. Actually, or maybe fortunately, I haven't yet developed a taste for whisky, but who knows what this trip will do for me. I did purchase a souvenir bottle from both tours, although I am told Laphroaig is not a beginners whisky! Here is a photo of the beautiful location of the Lagavulin Distillery on the Island of Islay that I took whilst cycling past, just to wet the appetite of those amongst you who have already developed the taste for whisky:

Tony is our current skipper. I already mentioned his wealth of experience in a previous blog - more than 30 years as a skipper and teacher, generally on larger boats of 60 to 70 feet, and much of the time with the Ocean Youth Trust. I can see he is going to be tremendous at turning us from enthusiastic hobbyists into an effective sailing crew / skipper, able to handle the boat in more difficult circumstances and with a proper regard for all the safety aspects. Also, he is very good reacting to difficult situations and communicating to the skipper (under tuition) of the day in particular what needs to be done, rather than grabbing the controls as many would. As an example, I was motoring on to the pontoon at Port Ellen and because of the large size of our boat we had to go on the end (known as the hammerhead) of the pontoon. There was very restricted room to manoeuvre the boat and we had to do a 180 degree turn to get the boat on the pontoon, in about one and a half lengths of the boat. As I was making the final turn and putting the engine from forwards into reverse to increase the angle of the turn and slow the boat down, the gearbox failed to engage (a recurring problem with our boat). We were about to drift out of the deep water area onto the mud - embarrassing if not dangerous. Without any hesitation Tony shouted "prepare to drop emergency anchor (to stop us drifting out of the deeper water)" and started to move quickly to the front of the boat, when fortunately the gear finally engaged and I managed to motor forward slowly to the pontoon. Many a skipper or boat owner would have grabbed the helm at the moment of crisis - Tony was calm and issued instructions such that as a crew we were reacting together to deal with it even though fortunately the situation didn't develop beyond the initial scare.

Tomorrow we will probably be staying in the bay of Tobermory because there are gale warnings and the wind is from the South West, which will make the next planned anchorage next to the "remotest mainland pub" in Great Britain uncomfortable at best and possibly also unsafe. You can see we have our priorities right ... bye for now ....

Addendum Saturday 15th August..
Well we did stay in Tobermory, but we managed to find a space on the pontoon. In the morning the weather was better so I went for a cycle to the fairy tale type Castle Glengorm - see photos of Tobermory in beter weather and Castle Glengorm. In the afternoon we did some learning for our Yachtmaster / Coastal Skipper qualifications.

Addendum Sunday 16th August..
We woke early to get ready to set sail at 8:30am but the weather had deteriorated which would have made sailing today uncomfortable (rough sea for an exposed section once we moved North of the Isle of Mull), so we are staying put in Tobermory today. Also the forecast for the next few days has winds from the South, which probably means we will have to sail the inner route around Skye (ie sail to the East of the island) so we have shelter from the land. To sail to the West of Skye is exposed to Southerly winds and therefore rough seas.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Ireland and the Isle of man, up to Saturday 8th August

After recovering from the sail from the Scilly Isles to Ireland, and sampling the local brew Guinness (although I actually prefer the competition, Beamish Stout!) there has been some very enjoyable sailing up the coast of Ireland, then across to The Isle of Man, then back to Northern Ireland.

First we sailed up the coast to Arklow and it was my turn to be skipper for the passage. The Round Britain Experience as the trip is marketed is not just to have a hopefully enjoyable sail around the country, but to learn how to sail, and sail to a high level. My fellow crew members, Jacob and Graham are planning to take the commercially recognised qualification of Yachtmaster in the couple of weeks following the end of the trip. I am not planning to take Yachtmaster but hopefully will anyway gain the qualification of Coastal Skipper which is one level below. The Coast Skipper qualification is enough to charter yachts and undertake long Coastal passages - so family and friends had better start thinking of excuses now if a sailing trip doesn't appeal !

Anyway, being skipper for the day on this Round Great Britain trip involves planning the passage using charts and the Almanac. This latter document, a large book published annually has information on tides and pilotage at ports, berthing / anchoring etc. Also and importantly we listen to the weather forecast, usually from the Coastguard on VHF.

The sail up to Arklow was in sunny weather with a 15 to 20 knot wind from the South West which was ideal for our passage, so we made quick progress on flat seas. It is quite incredible how the conditions at sea change depending on whether the wind is blowing from the coast, or from out at sea, together with tides, currents, swell from the ocean if there is no land in the way. On this occasion the sea was flat and in such circumstances the boat goes quickly, making 8 to 9 knots for much of the time. When we arrived in Arklow unfortunately there was no space on the town quay so we had to go into the commercial port and moored alongside a disused trawler that had seen better days, see photo:

We decided there was nothing to hang around in Arklow for so made an early start the next day, see photo of us motoring out of the harbour at sunrise:

Our destination was Howth, a port on the outskirts of Dublin where there is a nice marina and an easy train journey into Dublin itself (Dublin itself is primarily a commecial port, not suitable for yachts). We managed to sail for half of the passage, but had to motor the rest as there was not enough wind. We arrived early and in the afternoon I went for a bike ride along the coast to a cliff path which is really only designed for walking - certainly not for a folding bike with small wheels, particularly given the cliff dropped hundreds of feet at the edge of the path no wider than a few feet. The next day we went up to Dublin itself by train and did the tourist open top bus tour of the City - most attractive Georgian squares in parts of the city, and off course we got off the bus for a tour of the Guinness brewery, including free pint!

After Dublin the next destination was Warren Point (with sad memories from troubled times in Ireland) at the end of Carlingford Lough. There are very strong tides, up to 5 knots, at the entrance to Carlingford Lough so we had to time our arrival for when the tide is rising so we can go in with the tide. A most beautiful sail up the Lough and our first sight of mountains, or maybe tall hills! The actual sailing was different from anything previous as we had the wind directly behind us - so we only put the genoa up (the sail at the front of the yacht). This makes the sailing comfortable and it is anyway almost as quick as as with both sails because the mainsail would just pinch the wind that would drive the genoa.

From here we had a fantastic sail at great speed and in moderate sea conditions (ie fairly comfortable) across the Irish sea, some 65 miles on the yacht log (but note this is distance through the water which is affected by tides and will therefore be greater than as the crow flies!). At one point the boat reached 11.1 knots on the broad reach - quite a speed for a 13 ton yacht. Apart from the fantastic sailing, we were also very lucky to see several basking sharks as we were nearing the Isle of Man. We were heading for the port of Peel on the east coast. We arrived in the bay and had to wait until 10pm for the lock gates to open (they only open for 2 hours either side of high water to keep the water at a sufficient height in the marina / river). Whilst we waited we cooked supper and enjoyed the sun setting.

The next day was a rest day to explore the Isle of Man and we were fortunate enough to have nice sunny weather. I was up early to journey around the island on the various forms of land based transportation, much of it from the Victorian era, on a tourist one day pass. The journey included normal buses, a steam train, a horse drawn tram, an early electric tram and a mountain railway. The final bus journey back also went along some of the motorbike TT circuit. The Isle of Man seems to have much to offer - rolling hills, cliff tops, quaint harbours, must come back one day.

The final sail for this section was back to Ireland, but this time Northern Ireland and an attractive harbour town called Bangor (which is in Belfast Lough along the coast from Belfast) We were having problems with the engine so we decided to get back to Bangor early to give maximum time for the engineers to take a look, and therefore we sailed overnight, which also meant we had favourable tides. Also, we had to wait until 10:30pm for the lock gates at Peel to open to begin our journey. The sail turned out to be one of my favourite passages even though we had to motor almost all the way due to lack of wind. The water was flat, the sky was partly cloudy with a near full moon. I was on the 2:30pm to 6:30pm watch and I got my IPod out and just enjoyed the experience - tremendous.

A couple of days in Bangor the next day, including 2 hours in the launderette washing three weeks of clothes (I am using every old t shirt I have, purchased extra underwear and loads of cheap white socks - so if you are wondering, don't!). I even ironed all my t-shirts!

At this moment I am trying to finish this blog having just eaten our evening meal. Our new skipper for the West Coast of Scotland has just arrived - Tony. He started as a paid skipper in the 1970's and I believe has been full time since 1986 - so you can imagine his experience is extensive. We have four skippers in total taking us around Great Britain - it is great to have the chance to learn from the different styles and techniques. Tony has just briefed us about the planned destinations for the next few weeks sailing the West Coast of Scotland, sounds tremendous, and includes many remote anchorages.

Until next time ..

ps : many of you have commented on my suffereing from sea sickness - thank you for your kind thoughts but don't worry, altough it is horrible it only lasts for a short while ..... and anyway my presciption for patches which I believe you stick on your neck has just arrived in the post so maybe I have a solution - although they are sleep inducing so I may fall asleep on my watch and crash the boat into something ...