Dublin, visitors and Bonnie Scotland!

I need to apologise for the immediate impact my head shaving has had on the economy. Sales of the hair product that I have used for years to tame a wild and generally uncontrollable barnet have ceased without warning. On the up side I love the fact that following a shower all my hair requires is a twitch of the head and it’s dry and styled! Well, it’s dry.

I feel like I did the marinas of Dublin justice. After three nights in Poolbeg Marina I left in search of some quiet and less commercial scenery. I find pretty much anything good or at least tolerable for a couple of days but I was quite ready to leave the rough and ready feel of Poolbeg and it’s interesting albeit noisy surroundings. Occasionally you get an insight as to how the most simple things in life make a huge difference and for Poolbeg Marina I would suggest one thing. Bins! I looked, looked some more and looked again but there weren’t any. The only one I did see belonged to the marina bar and it was locked away around the back inaccessible to anyone else. Inevitably this meant that there was a lot of rubbish just lying around making the place look shabby when it really isn’t a bad place at all. I took all of my rubbish away with me to dispose of at the next marina which I have never had to do before. However, I didn’t take Max’s sh*t with me. I hate to admit this but I left it pretty much where he parked it unless it was right in the middle of the path. There was no other option other than picking it up in a bag and emptying it in the river and then being left with a shitty bag to put on Fiesta which wouldn’t have made for a pleasant aroma! Other than the lack of bins and resulting eyesore of rubbish lying around, the Marina staff were very helpful, very friendly and all round good people but they should definitely get a few bins!

One thing that Poolbeg Marina does have in abundance is shelter. I only have myself to blame for being woefully underprepared but I pushed off the pontoon in bright sunshine wearing shorts and T’s in no wind only to be confronted in the outer harbour by 25 knots of wind, big waves, a good soaking from all the water coming over the bows, over the roof and into the cockpit where I was waiting to receive it dressed completely inappropriately. Things were crashing, banging and falling over inside and Max looked seriously f*cked off with his captain! I had intended to anchor for a night off the ‘Eye of Ireland’ to the North of Howth which is around the headland to the North of Dublin Bay. However, it soon became clear that I couldn’t get away from the wind and big swell so I decided to head into the Howth Yacht Club Marina. What a lovely establishment. Cracking Yacht Club, great facilities, lovely little fishing town feel and lots of peace and quiet.
I had planned on getting some kite surfing lessons whilst there but the wind which really hasn’t been my friend whilst sailing up the Irish Coast didn’t blow so this was a non starter.
After two nights there was a decision to be made. My Old Dear and Queen of all the Beavers were due to arrive in two days. Having spent two nights in Howth already what I really wanted to do was go to the other marina on the South side of Dublin Bay to a place called Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leery) where there was a bigger town and also good tram links into Dublin itself. The only issue was that a gale force 8 had been forecast as imminent and the wind was already whistling in the rigging. Honestly, the wind has been an all or nothing deal lately. As the journey from Howth round to Dun Laoghaire was only 10 miles and the gale was forecast to be from the Northwest, I decided to go for it and set off out of the marina just as the wind had stopped whistling through the rigging in favour howling! To me this is always a heart in the mouth moment as you imagine that everyone else who is safely tied up is watching you leave and saying ‘Is he right in the head? Hasn’t he seen the forecast’?
As it turned out, it was the best sail of my Irish Coast sailing experience. I absolutely barrelled round the headland and into Dublin Bay with big waves up my arse! I got to the shipping lane and called Dublin VTS to announce my intention to cross. You might have noticed here that my call to VTS was to give my intentions to cross rather than to seek permission as I had done before. This was because with 32 knots piling in Fiesta’s back door I really didn’t want to have to turn round and go into that whilst waiting to be given permission to cross the shipping lane. Fortunately I was told that there was no immediate in or outbound traffic and your man confirmed I could go straight across.
In no time at all I was through the gap in the breakwater which is the entrance to Dun Laoghaire Marina, the sails were down, Fiesta was tied up, my hair was shaken dry and I sat in the cockpit whisky in hand happily sheltering behind the massive harbour wall as the wind continued to build into the gale 8 that had been forecast. What a cracking little blast across.

At 2pm on Friday Mum and Queen of the Beavers arrived. They had had an early start but thanks to Ryan Air, a late arrival. Sarah had managed to fool my Mum for the last few hours but not me! She was pretty hungover and soon went to bed for a two hour power nap! I was well prepared for her state of arrival having had a conversation with her the night before. You know how these things go. Within the first 5 seconds you realise that your bird is pretty much totally bolloxed and that you have two options but you need to decide quickly. Do I go along with this (unusually for Sarah) overly girly conversation and accept that she has temporarily forgotten that she is talking to someone who owns a penis or immediately (which is what I decided to do) say ‘Honestly love, don’t waste time talking to me, it sounds like you are having a whole lot of fun so go back to everyone and enjoy yourself’. The deal is only cemented if the immediate follow up is ‘Well have a great time, enjoy yourself and look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Ok then, bye’…..All without allowing a gap in your own words or any time whatsoever for any sort of reply because one thing you can be absolutely sure of in this situation is that any reply won’t be a short one….
This works really well with Sarah and the following day there is one more necessary follow up. ‘No, it was really good to talk to you. You sounded pretty tipsy but we had a long, fairly deep and meaningful conversation that has given me lots to think about’. The guilt of having no recollection together with her fear of what was said usually means nothing is ever mentioned again! Everyone’s a winner.

Anyway, so my guests had arrived. It wasn’t a very nice day, the wind was still howling and the early start and late arrival meant that we were all happy to shelter on Fiesta, chat and have dinner onboard. The next day we went into Dublin and Sarah had a list of ‘Things to do / see in Dublin’. Unsurprisingly for a person who’s homeland is only about 30 seconds old, the first on the list was Dublin Castle. Once that was ticked off we went to the Temple Bar area and after a good look around ended up in a pub drinking Guinness and whisky. Straight Jameson’s to a 74 year old was seen as no problem at all, positively welcomed and swiftly dispatched. Well done Mum, I knew I could rely on you but it took about 15 minutes of goading, one regurgitation and then some bribery to get Sarah to do the same. In the end I had to settle for half a shot but at least she gave it a go. Funny though because I’m not sure there was any reticence when necking everything in sight the previous night!
We had a great time in Dublin and after some more sight seeing we had lunch and then headed back to Fiesta to relieve Max of his watch.
On Sunday we had a Dun Leery day. The sun was out and we had a lovely walk around the harbour before having an al fresco lunch in what felt like a truly Mediterranean climate. Fickle stuff this Irish weather.
As usual the visit flew by and after a lovely day and dinner out it was time for bed in leu of getting up at 3.30am to get Mum and Sarah on a bus to the airport. Mum was off home but, most unfortunately, poor Sarah was heading straight to work. Hahaha!
Once I returned from making sure they actually got on the bus, Fiesta was made ready and we left the marina at 4.45am.
I sailed out into a glorious sunrise and headed North. This was the start of my journey to Scotland!

I can’t believe that it’s been three months since I left Burnham-on-Crouch but it has and my plan was always to be in Scotland at the beginning or as near as possible to the beginning of July and the plan so far is working.
One thing I mentioned earlier is that the wind hasn’t really been on my side in the Irish Sea. My plan was always to slog it along the South Coast into the prevailing wind at the start of my trip and once up and into the Irish Sea, enjoy the Southwesterly wind as it pushed me effortlessly North. Err, no! There has either been no wind at all or wind from the North.
To be honest I had my fair share of luck going along the South Coast so this is an observation rather than a complaint although it might not sound like that at times!
After six hours of sailing North in a dying breeze, at 11am it died completely. There was absolutely nothing. I had no choice but to turn the engine on and spend the next 8 hours listening to the hateful drone that shatters the utter peace and tranquility of sailing.
Jesus, I hate motoring! Is what I said but no one answered and the wind didn’t come.

I made it to an anchorage near Kirkstown Castle which is about 30 miles south of Belfast. The anchorage was in a massive featureless bay and I couldn’t get close enough to the shore to take Max for a walk as the edges are too shallow and rocky. I felt absolutely beaten so decided to turn in for the night. There was meant to be a light breeze building from the Southwest overnight so I was looking forward to a good nights sleep in this bay protected from such a wind direction before setting off in the morning bound for Scotland following a nice Southwesterly!

At about 4am I was shaken awake by the motion of the boat and noise of the water. WTF! The wind, totally unforecasted, had built from the East and was pushing an uncomfortable swell into the anchorage and sleeping was no longer an option. I got myself sorted and decided that instead of being annoyed, I would embrace this good stiff Easterly and get underway. To be honest there was no choice. The anchorage was just a pitching and rolling bay of frustration and despite the heavy rain, I had to go. I got the sails up and things were going nicely for an hour or so at which time the wind completely died again although the rain remained.

Right, let me save you from falling asleep! I know this blog entry has already gone on long enough so I will just say this.
It pissed down, I motored for 7 hours in the worst confused washing machine like sea state I have ever been in, the wind did come back but it came from the North, directly where I was trying to go, it was rough, wet, cold and truly miserable!
I finally turned the corner to go into Loch Ryan and with the wind now behind me, after what seemed like an eternity of noise, I turned the engine off. I sailed for about three minutes before the wind died and I put the engine on AGAIN! Welcome to Scotland!!!!!!! I was cold, tired and totally frazzled.

Sorry, that’s enough of me being miserable. I anchored at a place called ‘The Wig’ where I am nicely sheltered and was able to take Max for a well deserved walk. Back on Fiesta I had dinner and a rather large measure of one of Scotland’s finest. Suddenly all was well again in my world and I went to bed feeling, in the words of Pink Floyd, comfortably numb.
After an incredibly peaceful and deep sleep I woke up. There wasn’t a sound to be heard nor a ripple to be felt in this perfectly still, calm anchorage in Scotland.
Hang on a minute……..I couldn’t quite believe what I had just thought to myself and immediately bounced out of bed to look outside.
Bloody hell!!!!! It’s happened. I’m here. I’ve only gone and sailed to Scotland!!!!!!!! This calls for a celebration. Umm, what to do. I know! Time to toss the caber…..

Windy blast from Howth to Dun Laoghaire

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Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Mum & Sarah and the old fog horn (bell). No offence Mum or Sarah….

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Temple Bar, the good stuff and in the Castle

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Lunch at Dun Laoghaire and Sarah now proving that she can definitely coil, at last..

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Sunrise on leaving Dun Laoghaire

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And…..Bonnie Scotland!!!!!! Anchored at ‘The Wig’ in Loch Ryan

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