Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Sailing Adventures

I got an email from my cousin James last Sunday entitled Urgent:Sailing. On opening it I discovered he needed a hand in sailing his yacht (a hunter Sonata) from Beaumaris to somewhere on the West coast of Scotland so how could I say no. Now my sailing experience is limited to a couple of hours on a lake in a topper and reading Swallows and Amazons when I was younger. I didn't really know what to expect.

Gi Gi at anchor in the Menai Straights

So when we set off from Beaumaris at 4am I thought we would have a nice sunny sail up the Irish Sea and arrive at the Isle of Man in time for a hearty fish pie and a pint of ale. All was going swimming for a few hours - sunny, calm sea, light winds - when James showed me our position on the chart and I realised just how far we had to go and how we desperately needed some more wind. After a close encounter with an oil tanker we decided to crank on the small outboard for a few hours. Unfortunately our slow progress meant that we missed the tide to get round the bottom of the Isle of man and had to battle against 3 knots... which considering the lack of the wind was a big problem. With darkness falling and little progress we started to worry that we wouldn't make it. We were thankfully saved by a warm breeze off the land which allowed us to speed up to 6 knots and we managed to find our way blindly into Port Erin well after 11pm!

Heading to Puffin Island and the Irish Sea

After a lie in and a trip to land for breakfast we sorted the boat and headed up the coast to Peel. Our jumping off point for Scotland. This was more my idea of fun - a steady wind and more importantly in to harbour for a pint and a curry at a reasonable time!

Skipper James

An early start the next morning found us once again in light winds combined with thick fog. We were also not receiving any calls on the VHF - so no forecasts, warnings etc. Thankfully the wind picked up and as we passed the Mull of Galloway the fog cleared but again we had missed the favourable tide so a long battle ensued to get to Port Patrick. We rewarded ourselves with Guinness and sea bass while struggling slightly with the now swaying land!

A slightly more impressive ship!

The last leg of our tip was round to Stranraer - only 7 miles by road but nearly 20 by sea! Finally we had a good NW wind and a favourable tide. These however combined to give a pretty big swell and we had 5 hours of hard tacking to get round into Loch Ryan. We had a minor emergency on the way when we almost lost our rudder to the sea as a nut had worked loose. Thankfully a bit of quick thinking from James allowed us to jury rig it with a ' g' clamp and saved us from being blown on to the rocky cliffs!

It was a great adventure... not sure I'll be rushing to get back on a boat unless it involves a short but vigorous sail followed by a cold beer!