Part II – Ireland – Irish Sea
Rathlin Island is an L-shaped outcrop of rock about 5 miles north of the Irish coast with a population of around 200 which gives it a very special feel. Marconi conducted early radio telegraph experiments at the eastern lighthouse and Robert the Bruce encountered a spider in a cave on the island. There is a great little museum which explained a lot of the history. We had time to walk up to the lighthouse and could see the Giant’s Causeway in the distance.
The tide which has sped us along the previous day now held us back as we headed south east to round Fair Head, and once the tide had changed the wind was on the nose! We motored most of the way and enjoyed the scenery. Glenarm is a charming little harbour and we made the most of the modern facilities.
The highlight of the next day was the Titanic Exhibition and a tour of the dockyard and old Harland & Wolf offices where thousands of ships were designed, built, launched and fitted out. A very memorable exhibition and well worth visiting if you get the chance.
We were told that H&W no longer build ships but service the offshore oil & energy industries. The huge yellow cranes ‘Samson & Goliath’ still dominate the skyline, but much of the Titanic Quarter is being redeveloped with modern housing and a large leisure complex.
An easy trip out of the estuary, we noticed a lot of golf courses along the coast. We thought Bangor was rather like Southend with its funfair and amusement arcades! Peter joined us for a meal at the Marine Hotel which overlooked the harbour.
We were glad of the GPS chart plotter as many of the beacons and ‘leading lines’ shown on the paper chart were unclear until we were right upon them.
Strangford was named by the Vikings meaning ‘strong fjord’ due to the tidal races for which the Narrows are renowned.
There is a modern tidal generator situated in there and on our return trip it was raised up for servicing.
The next morning we had time to explore the Lough where it widens out and we sailed in smooth sparkling water. We had to wait about an hour for the tide to turn in the narrows before exiting so we picked up a mooring in a side creek and watched a fleet of toppers racing.
An easy passage, the beacons and leading lines were much more obvious on the way out! There were lots of seals as we approached Ardglass through its narrow channel and we were lucky to find a vacant pontoon right ahead of us as we arrived. We were soon joined by yacht Kasimir alongside us who had previously contacted Alan via his blog. We also met popular yachting author and journalist Tom Cunliffe and his wife whilst we were there; they were trying to get a wifi signal to upload some photos to the publisher – a working holiday for them.
A good westerly wind blew us down the coast and as we arrived at the entrance to Carlingford Lough we saw Peter leaving in Arcady. A classic design lighthouse marks the dangerous rocks on the way in, and strong tidal flows have led to a novel design of buoy to mark the channel.
The lough also forms the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The town of Carlingford which owes it name to the Vikings is in ROI and seemed to be a prosperous tourist destination.
We had to wait for sufficient tide to rise before leaving Carlingford marina, but once we did we enjoyed a fast beam reach all the way to Malahide averaging 7 knots (13 km/h) over 42 nautical miles (78km).
Malahide is a modern town with a largish marina and it was easy to stock up on provisions and a local hardware shop supplied camping gaz at a very reasonable price. We also made a few running repairs to a batten that had fallen out and a broken stanchion base.
Variable winds made crossing the Dublin bay TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) tricky and there was quite a lot of traffic to avoid on this occasion, plus rain-showers reducing visibility at times. DunLaoghaire is a large harbour hosting a ferry terminal and a sizeable marina.
As we arrived we had to dodge dinghies training in the shelter of the outer harbour, and in the evening a large racing fleet from the local clubs assembled for round-the-cans racing. We rendezvoused with Peter again and planned our visit to Dublin.
It was a short walk from the marina to the railway station and then a 15 minute ride into the centre of Dublin. We joined thousands of tourists as we visited Trinity College, the Irish Museum of Natural History, the Irish Museum of Archeology and History.
We stayed in DunLaoghaire marina for a couple of extra days due to poor weather and visited a very interesting exhibition about Shackleton, and the Irish Maritime Museum which is inside a decommissioned church.
It was a long sail with wind against tide, but when we arrived we found a visitor’s pontoon and were given a lovely welcome by the Arklow Sailing Club. We had intended to make an early start next day but abandoned the plan due to poor weather conditions and we were still quite tired from the previous day, so we relaxed and explored Arklow some more.
Another early start to catch the tide, but at least it was clear and dry! A good sail, mostly on a close reach. Kilmore Quay is primarily a fishing port but the marina was comfortable and we enjoyed a fish & chip supper in the town.
Next morning we topped up with fresh water and diesel and prepared to cross the Celtic Sea….