We are home!


We arrived back on the 12th of September. We were met in Annet Bay on the beautiful calm day by a flotilla of boats. The first one was Netta, Dads Fishing boat, with Mum and Dad aboard, they greeted us with Champagne, we rafted the boats up and drifted gently down the loch as we popped the cork. So wonderful to see them again after nearly a year since we were last with them. Next my brother Andrew buzzed out in his RIB with Hardie, to welcome us back and celebrate with us . To our great surprise and huge delight Hardie had is pipes with him,  he played us in! What an honour! It was a very touching moment to be piped home down the loch, and will be a lasting memory of our trip.

More boats sailed and rowed out to meet us, including Trevor Robertson, who we last saw in Dominica! He arrived in Ullapool the week before we did, after a route across the Atlantic via Nova Scotia.

Thanks to everyone who have made our return such fun, its wonderful to see you all again. And Thanks to Hardie for the pipes! Click the link at the top to see the video.

… more up dates to come in time….


Highlands Ahoy

We have had a bit of a zig zag route north… to say the least

I last wrote from Cushendale, Northern Ireland. We had a nice afternoon there. We met Paul, a member of the committee of the Cushendale Sailing Club, who saw us rowing ashore in the dingy. He met us at the pier to welcome us; see where we had come from and offer us a lift to the sailing club for showers. Very nice! After a walk ( and very good bramble picking, they have been great this year) we set off for the island of Gigha. We slalomed through the flashing buoys in the channel and arrived at midnight, anchored on the north east and had a restful night till early am when we set off again on the north going tide.
On a gentle flat sea we motored through milky calmness up the sound of Jura to Loch Cragnish, to anchor in the pool south of Ardfern. The low islands gradated back in misty blue to the hills of the mainland, to starboard and Jura to port. The horizon line merged, white with the sky and seemed to leave the velvet lands hanging. We arrived at lunchtime and anchored in the placid lagoon. That afternoon we had a cycle up a wide Argyle glen, Barbreck. The trees were starting to turn: horse chestnuts and oaks singed with the first draft of autumn, then a pint in the Galley of Lorne.

With Hestur snug at anchor in the loch, we packed our rucksacks and booked bus tickets for a sojourn south! The next day we bussed up to Oban then across to Edinburgh where we joined Dans brother Nick and his girlfriend Maddy, we hopped in the car with them and headed down to the Lake District for Nicks 30th Birthday weekend. It was a glorious weekend. Friends came up from the south and we met here, half way from the north. We were camping in luxury, in a beautiful cosy and comfortable yurt in Langdale.
On Saturday we walked up Bowfell in perfect sunshine and along the rocky ridge of Crinkle Crags. Lovely to be back on the hills. That same weekend, coincidently good friends of ours from the mountaineering club college days were in the Lakes too, so Dan had a day climbing with them that day. We all ate together that evening in the Yurt. Curries had been cooked and then congregated at the camp stoves. They bubbled and steamed on the various flames fuelled by; paraffin, petrol and gas. We had a feast. It was a bright moon and cloudless sky that night. The crags and hills encircling the campsite glowed brightly with a magical light, we were cosy and merry under canvas and ash.
Sunday was as still and sunny as is possible. Not a cloud in the sky. We drove over little steep twisting passes to Eskdale and walked up the Esk to a superb deep turquoise fresh pool. We swam. The boys jumped in from the overhanging trees above the deep water ( reminded me of the monkeys in Gambia) . The water was so clear and sparkling. We warmed up with camp stove tea and birthday cake on the rock afterwards. It was as perfect as a Birthday weekend could wish to be, so lovely for us to see everyone again after so long away.

Setting the compass north again, we unwound our way from the Lake District; by car and then bus back to Ardfern, breaking the journey a night with Nick and Maddy in their beautiful flat in Portobello outside Edinburgh. They had done lots of work on the flat since we were last there so great to see it again. Also we coincided with there flatmate, Peter – the most handsome black and white cat!
From Ardfern we set forth once again. We bobbed and sluiced though the tidal races of the Sound of Luing, always a fascinating stretch of water. The surface boils and breaks, small whirl pools emerge as you watch, an ever changing surface- and depth. We got to Tobermory on the north western end of the Sound of Mull that evening. The anchorage is very deep there. It was high tide and we tucked in to the edge. The steep black and white lichened rocks disappear into the green water. Trees over hang the rocks.

Ashore in the morning I went to to An Tobar the contemporary art gallery on Mull where there was an artists film showing: The Weepers by Rachel Maclean (on till Sat 27th Sept). Involving, detailed and comic, the film was a captivating reworking of a Scottish folk tale, with intense characters, situation and sound score.
” Maclean’s intelligent, satirical and colour- saturated, exaggerated style is at home here as she presents back to us funny, twisted visions of heritage and stereotype that are at times uneasy, if not chilling” text from Comar Autumn publication.

The sun was sparkling on the sea, there was a blue sky and hazy hills. The weather at the moment is very settled, sunny and beautiful, but with no wind. There is a warmth like a rubbed hand when the sun comes out, but a chill just behind it too, with a draft like someone left the door open, when a cloud intervenes.
The tide was in our favour again by the afternoon and we slipped off at 12 midday to head round the next marker point on our way home: Ardnamurachan – the most westerly point on the British mainland. Sailing up or down the west coast of Scotland, there are such clear points between zones : Islands, Headlands and Sounds like chapter headings – or conclusions. The feel of the southern areas I know, but I am not as familiar with them as I am with the northern chapters. Here though I could sense our progress in way other than just miles on the chart. Ardnamurachan point was a scene of tranquility as we passed it, no hint of the turbulence and ferocity in the water which gives it its reputation: boats who make it north of here earn the right to ware a sprig of heather on their bows (Aye, very good). Past this point we could now see across to the distinctive shape of the Small Isles, Eigg, Muck, Rhum and beyond to Skye. The Sound of Sleat lay before us with Mallaig and then Knoydart of to Starboard and Skye to Port. We motored – still no wind- up the sound and anchored in twilight at the Sandaig islands just south of the narrows of Kyle Rhea. A big moon shone.

On the tail end of this mornings’ tide, we slipped on through those narrows, passed the little cottages in the pink early morning light on the shore and the black headed seals fishing and playing in the rapids, to Kyle of Lochalsh where we tied up and waited for the tide to turn again and take us under the Skye bridge and up the coast. We shopped in the Co-op. I bought Gin for the sloes we had piked from a gnarled age-ed tree in the Lake District on our way home that sunny afternoon. We cycled over the Skye bridge to Kyleakin on the other side of the sound. We peered down from the bridge on the lighthouse, bright white in the fresh sunshine and the cool blue water with luminous barnacled boulders just below the surface. We spoke to a cyclist and people who had come up on the tide behind us from Kyle Rhea in a lovely little wooden motor boat to visit the dentist in Kyle.
Then at 1 pm we slipped our lines and took off under the next sea-mark on our journey home: The Skye Bridge. “The Gateway to the North” as Dan enthused , before us is familiar ground indeed…

Over the water again

We are in Northern Ireland! We left Portpatrick at 5 am this morning to catch the north going tide. Last night we saw a very good friend, from college days in Edinburgh, Amy Winstanley! She lives in Castle Douglas nearby and came over to visit us aboard for the evening. So lovley to see her.
After a 35NM crossing this morning on a flat, oily, windless sea, we have now just anchored in Red Bay off Cushendall in Northern Ireland. We will catch the tide north again at 6pm this afternoon and head on to the island of Gigha in the south end of the sound of Jura, another 35NM.

Time for a wander ashore…


Snowdonia to Snaefell


We had a couple of days in Snowdonia before we put out to sea again, to continue our route north.

We got back to the boat on at the Victoria Docks in Caernarfon Friday (22nd). Ruth and Martin stayed a night with us onboard . It was lovely to have them to stay. Although it was a bit damper and colder than the last time they were with us, we were cosy aboard. On Saturday, after a hearty breakfast in an old Caernarfon pub, we set off for a walk up the paths interlacing the Dinorwic slate quarries and old oak forests above Llanberis. The ancient gnarled oak trees appeared to crawl up the hillside as we walked in the green light they cast. Black silhouettes of the searching branches and limbs wriggled 6 foot above, and parallel to the contour of the hill. An impressive wild billy goat dozed in a disused mining building. Up above the trees we could see across to the cloudy eminence that was Snowdon and its attending outriggers of Crib Goch and Clogwyn. We could also see a tiny puff of smoke from the Snowdon steam train working up the mountainside, adding a patch of grey to the soft tumbling blue cloud.

The heyday of the quarry was in the Late 19th Century it was still operating into the 1960s . Here the excavation was opencast. There is infrastructure ranging across the quarry of ramps and inclines which supported steel tracks to transport the mined stone off the hill. The inclines were all built of slate; massive and tightly packed walls supporting the little rusty tracks. Cliff faces of raw rock and man made peaks of tipped broken slate dominate this part of the mountainside. This was the second largest slate quarry in Wales, indeed in the world. The blue hue of the slate turns mauve in the damp, this colour tunes into that of the blooming heather in the distance. As we walked over the little pieces of thin broken slate on a path down from the main tracks, it tinkled like broken glass, changing sound as the size of the fragments changed. We had tea in a pub down on the road and strode back to Llanberis.

That afternoon we drove up to Capel Curig to visit our friend Denise, it was her Birthday. We had tea and birthday cake, and champagne with her and Robin her son. We all went out for a wonderful dinner in Capel Curig, just down the road from her house, extremely good food and great fun. She had us all to stay that night, we walked back in the dark and starry night, seeing our breath in the headlights of on coming cars – something Dan and I had not seen in many months!

The next day Ruth , Martin, Dan and I set off on a walk up Moel Siabod. We said cheerio to Ruth and Martin up on the hillside as they had to turn round and head back to Shropshire, at midday. It was a funny place to say goodbye. Not the usual farewell of piling into a car or boat with all the bags and boxes and packing that we usually have. Instead we were at the style on a hill side, which features in one of the Johnson’s family photos. We had such a lovely fortnight with them in Shropshire. Dan and I carried on up the bouldery shoulder of Siabod. Cloud danced over the ridge as we got to the top. It was great to be in the hills again, stomping over rock and heather. We glimpsed views into Snowdon and over to Tryfan. The cloud which burst on the summit didn’t get us too wet as we set off down the north west side back to Capel Curig. We had another night staying with Denise: warm with an open fire, wine and stories of our mutual sailing trips.

The next day Denise drove us down to Caernarfon, to Hestur. We spent a wet afternoon aboard, sorting the boat for sea and enjoying lunch aboard with Denise and her brother Ian who joined us for a visit. Our crew arrived that afternoon: John Hewlett. His parents, Lynn and Chris, drove him over to join us at Caernarfon. We had a very nice evening with them.

We caught the tide at 9 am the next morning, up the Menai Straights. It was a very bumpy sea: wind against tide. We zoomed through the “Swellies” and anchored by Menai Bridge to wait for the now (at this point on the straights) contrary tide. Then at 3 pm we carried on north. As we slipped out past Puffin Island off the north east corner of Anglesey the grey sky cleared and we sailed on a comfortable sea for the Isle of Man through a blue and sunny evening. The mountains of North Wales shone magnificently as they receded behind us. We caught sight of the distant hazy bump of the Isle of Man and had dinner before darkness fell and before the wind strengthened and the sea stirred. It was a beautiful starry night. The brisk breeze ensured we had a fairly bumpy passage. John stayed dry from the infrequent slapping waves which entertained us in the cockpit, in his waterproof all-in-one motorbike suit. A handy thing!

We arrived in Douglas at 5am on Wednesday morning. Tied up to the cranky visitors pontoon at the outside pier, we drank hot chocolate before the dawn came to life. The huge ferry which arrived shortly after we did sent a turbulent wash which tumbled us urgently, strained the lines and nearly spilt the chocolate. We had a couple of hours kip then launched out into Douglas, to a big breakfast at the nearest cafe!



For these last two weeks in August the “Classic TT” and the “Isle of Man Grand Prix” attract over 3500 motorbikes to the island annually, and quite a few boats too! The road is closed most days for racing and the streets are filled with bikes of all shapes, sizes, speeds and vintage. After our breakfast we walked up into town to see the racing.
The famous TT mountain motorbike course is a 26 mile circuit round the center of the island. It climbs up to 400 odd meters through the hills, skirting below the summit of Snaefell, the highest point on the island, and continues on through the main towns, starting in the capital: Douglas.
We heard them before we saw them as we walked up the street towards the course. When we did see them, it wasn’t for long as they screamed along the straight out of sight. One by one they flashed through the town, frighteningly fast and loud: exhilarating. We watched from the pits for a while. On lap 2 of 4, they came into refuel from the temporary gravity fed tanks, lined up in the pits like a long mobile milking parlour (operating in reverse). People in bright boiler-suits fuelled the bikes, others polished the visors of bike and helmet, then they roared off with limiters popping and impatient till they crossed the white line and fled.
The second race that day we saw from Barrdan Bridge, a mile or so from Douglas. There was a church on the corner of the course which had set up chairs in the grounds, looking over the road. The hall was serving tea and cake. Spectators, mostly clad in leathers, sat on the wooden church chairs and sedately watched the speed. The bikes cranked over on the corner, the riders nearly touching the road with their knees, pierced the afternoon and were gone, in few second intervals. After the racing the tanoy radio which issued race details and music, played the national anthem. It all seemed quite old fashioned. We wandered back into town.

The next day there was no racing so we decided to explore the island : by train. The boom time for the Isle of Mann was at the turn of the century. Douglas was a popular holiday destination as a great sea side resort. The promenade along the front was built up with grand hotels, some still operating today. Along the 2 mile stretch, horse drawn trams were installed to transport the tourists. These are still in use. Beautiful big horses ply the front daily, taking holidaymakers and delighted little children from one end to the other. Each of the horses have their names on their harnesses, we saw Mark, Ian, Philip and Rocky at work. The conductor gave me a polo mint to feed to Rocky, how many of those they must eat each day?! We saw one of them having a break and getting a walk on the beach. It was a lovely sight, the big horse with his big fluffy feet silhouetted against the sea.
We didn’t take a ride with the horses, instead we rode on the ” Electric Railway”. I was thinking maybe some sort of super speed hover-train… No, of course it was a victorian creature, not far removed from a steam locomotive ( operating in the south of the island). It shook along the little narrow gauge line like a boat in a breeze. The wooden carriage was indeed very boat like, wooden and painted panels, glass sky lights. We trundled on to Laxey. From here we “changed for Snaefell” and took similar little train up the hill, the highest point of the island. We had a view ( which didn’t look likely as it was grey when we left the boat) and tea here before slipping back down hill.
John left us here as he had a ferry to catch at 4 pm back to the mainland. Leafy Laxey “station” was another funny place to say a goodbye, removed from boat and home. Dan and I carried on for a walk up the hill behind Laxey. We stopped by the Lady Isabella: the worlds largest working waterwheel, a whopping 72 foot high. It is magnificently painted white and red and kept lazily turning. It was built to pump out a mine up the hill from it. We walked on and round a route by footpath and through fields and lanes, passing the megalithic King Orry’s grave. We took the train back to Douglas and enjoyed a pint at the Terminus pub when we disembarked.

Over the next couple of days we managed to catch the last bike race and spend a bit of time getting to know Douglas and several of its pubs and cafes before slipping out to sea again on Sunday afternoon. The yacht harbour is tidal and locked. There is a road bridge which needs to be lifted to let boats in and out, so that was fun. We caught the 13.15 lift and proceeded on up the coast. It was a glorious afternoon, sunny and almost warm.
We left the Isle of man and set out NW to the Mull of Galloway. I was thinking a lot about people who had plied these waters before, as I often do. Crossing the atlantic the “trade route” was often on my mind and before that the sailors who ventured out in search and discovery. Here though I kept thinking of the Vikings. The Vikings made it of course all over these waters, but somehow the Isle of Man itself seemed to make them more tangible, imaginable? Perhaps it is that many of the place names on the island still bare such nordic sounds and impressions : Snaefell, Ballasalla, Maughold, Ouyr. These words suggest something of the north. The Isle of Man is an interesting place. It seems to take from each of the nations it neighbours: Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, and celebrate aspects of each while still having its very own and unique identity and place.
We went like a rocket up the coast despite the now weedy bottom of the boat ( lots of growth after the 2 weeks in Caernarfon ). We were doing 6 and 7 knots through the water and 8 plus over ground. The cloud came in from the north west like a curtain and we were enveloped by grey, soon to be wet. There was a strong tide running, the waves were turbulent. After 6 hours We tucked in behind the point of the Mull of Galloway and immediately were in a calm and tranquil bay. We anchored off East Tarbet just before dark, and just before another rain shower. We ate soup and custard and jumped into bed, lovely to be on anchor again, and in a calm bay.
The next day we walked up to the 1830 Stevenson lighthouse on the headland and saw the green shiny Kelvin engines which powered the fog horn there. Then (motor)- sailed up the coast to the beautiful tiny old harbour of Portpatrick, in time for a drink in the Crown Hotel. Back inScotland after nearly 2 years!

A green and pleasant land

A Shropshire Lad returns…

Well we have been having a very nice time since I last wrote, exploring inland for a change. We sailed up to Caernarfon in the Menai Straights- Wales and left Hestur, snug for 2 weeks while we headed west to Shropshire – England to stay with Dans’ Parents. We were greeted into Wales by our very good friend Denise who we have done a lot of sailing with as crew on her boat over the years. She lives near by and buzzed down to see us when she heard of our arrival. Dans’s Uncle Steve was next to arrive and welcome us back to the British Isles. He drove over to pick us up and take us home to The Mill, Dans parents house, where he was staying while Ruth and Martin we away. The surprise: that we would be there when they got back the following day, nearly went to plan. It was indeed a surprise! However Ruth arrived back without Martin, as he had already launched out (in the Rolls Royce) for the Welsh coast to go and collect us. He was only half an hour away when we got him on the phone so was able to return before too many unnecessary miles. I got a ride in that beautiful car later on in the week though. It was SO lovely to see Ruth and Martin at the Mill, we had lots to catch up on since we last saw them in Antigua! And wonderful to see John, Dan’s granddad too, we hadn’t seen him for a year and a half. He had also sailed a route of the Atlantic in the late 70’s and so he was often in our minds as we visited the different islands. It was lovely to talk to him again about his trip and show him photos of ours. The Mill is an amazing place. It’s a restored watermill from the 1790’s, which was used to grind wheat from the neighbouring farms. Martin and Ruth bought the ruin of the mill, 10 miles south west of Shrewsbury when Dan was 7 and brother Nick: 5. It comprised of a brick roofless structure with ivy clawing up and through it aside the external waterwheel and fragments of the old wooden cogs and internal workings. Martin restored and extended the existing mill into a beautiful, fascinating and unique family home. He has since rekindled the waterwheel itself and is now generating electricity with it. The house is set in a wonderful garden built up by Ruth and Martin over the years. Ruth tends and works it sympathetically and impressively. It’s a beautiful arrangement of different areas and planting : little paths and terraces link together and are screened or highlighted by the trees, banks and walls. The stream which feeds the waterwheel trundles through the center of the garden, when its power is not being harnessed by the big black steel wheel on the orange brick gable end of the house. The stream first appears in the garden as it tumbles down a cutting in the bank, deep behind the ferns and woodland plants then reappears to lazily trail past the grasses and flowers overlooking it from the bank, then slips away under the grass bridge and off past Martin’s workshops. The vegetables and fruit are prize worthy and the flowers sweet and cheery. The big bright sunflowers all came to life while we were there, they gaze across the garden to the house. We ate lots of fabulous vegetables from the garden during our stay ( I love vegetables! ) There was a massive crop of whopping courgettes when Ruth got back from her week away, I made chutney from some of them. They also were roasted, stuffed and made into a delectable chocolate and courgette birthday cake for me by Ruth! I also made jars of green bean chutney, plum jam and red current jelly: one pan full a day. Dan did some work with Martin, who runs an oak timber framed building and restoration business called Heritage Oak Builders. He has some very interesting projects he is working on at the moment so Dan was delighted to be involved in several of these at exciting development stages. There was a windmill restoration (which dates from the 1700’s?) which Martin has been recently working on the rotating top cap of. It’s a very beautiful thing. Martin built the the roof of the windmill previously, its curved and clinkered larch, like an upturned boat. Next they will be installing the “sails”. There was also a job at a farmhouse ( from the 1600’s?). Martin and his right hand man, Richard are building a massive oak framed wing extension onto the front of the house, so Dan helped with that as they got the floor up in place. There was also a trip out to an old boat house to look at it for potential renovation. Dan really enjoyed getting involved with some practical projects again, and having some involved and interesting workshop time. At the weekend Martin, Dan and old friend John Hewlett ( Dan went to “mothers and toddlers” with John, a few years ago) (John now works in the Hydro electric business) worked on reengineering the main shaft bearing and final drive to the new generator on The Mill Waterwheel. Jenny, Johns’ girlfriend and I meanwhile had a super walk up over the Styperstones. A long hill to the east of The Mill with rocky tors dotted along its spine. It was a blustery day with sun and cloud chasing over the land. The hill was purple with blooming heather and fruitful blaeberries. Later we chopped the courgettes which would be come the chutney. Jenny found a puff ball on a later walk and we all had that the following day for breakfast, very good fried in butter and garlic! We spent a night with John and Jenny in their new house which we hadn’t yet seen. We had a superb curry cooked by them, in fact multiple curries! The house has a huge garden with great views sweeping down and across fields to open country side. The following day, instructed by John, we uprooted various things in the garden and chopped at hedges. Jenny was at work, I hope we targeted the right things?! We met Dans God Father, Dick and lovely Jeanie for lunch that day. We walked across fields on a footpath to the pub a couple of miles from John and Jenny’s house to meet them. It was a lovely afternoon, bright and breezy. We sat out side the pub and had an very nice afternoon catching up on each others news and had a very fine lunch. Nick, Dans brother, was able to join us one evening as he had been south, working near by. We hadn’t seen him since he came out with friends to join us in Madeira back in September last year, so it was so great to meet up again! Ruth had planned a mini christmas, since she had her two boys back, and together for a night. She had a goose for the feast, something Dan had been dreaming about during months aboard! I had a couple of rides on a very fine horse, Jill, who belongs to Ruth and Martins’ next door neighbour Linda. It was a thrill to get back in the saddle. Linda keeps her horses ( she has Jack and Jill, but Jack was away that week) between two fields so I offered to “help” her take Jill up the lane. Linda let me ride her, but in the process she had her foot trodden on, so not sure how much help I was?! She did invite me back for another ride however. What fun to be striding through the country side. It was my Birthday while we were at The Mill. We had a lovely day there and then in the afternoon we all set off for Wales to spend the night on Hester in Caernarfon. It was a super day. After very a good breakfast with Ruth and Dan, Dan and I had a walk up a nearby hill, Rodneys Pillar. It was chilly, bright and breezy, great views from the top, then we tumbled down to a country pub for a pint and a bite to eat. I inspected a section of the river Severn for a swim ( i always swim on my Bday) but it was thick milky muddy and cold, so we carried on back to The Mill for a dip in the pond! It was a beautiful evening as we drove into Wales. We drove through Snowdonia, down through the Llabmberris pass, stopping at an old hotel bar at the top for a drink, the Pen-y-Gurid. It had been an old climbers pub, with artefacts displayed; crampons, axes etc from several famous mountaineering expeditions and many signatures on the ceiling from climbers who stayed/ drank there during mountaineering trips in the area, including W.H. Tillman amongst others. We carried on down through the pass, passing climbing crags/ walls/ corners Dan and Martin knew from their relative collage days. And Ruth and I knew of them too! There was a a duet of head torches, like little frozen fire flies in the dark on one wall. Cars parked at the bottom on the road and climbers still milling about, we carried on. We had a very delicious curry in Llamberris, then carried on down to Hestur. It was damp and dark night, but we soon got snug aboard. We spent a few more days in north Wales then set off to sea, with our friend John Hewlett aboard. Those tales from the hill and sea coming soon…. g

A grand time in Ireland



imageWe have had a wonderful 12 days in Southern Ireland, exploring the coast, bays and islands near Baltimore and the pubs, cafes and galleries of Skibereen and Cork.
After Shirkin Island ( where we anchored opposite Baltimore) we sailed west through the little passages and channels to Schull. There were so many boats on the water; beautiful traditional boats with tan sails, dinghies with fluorescent sails, yachts and loads of RIBS buzzing through. The islands and headlands merge and mingle in a low line of pale rock and grass. It is difficult to know what is mainland and what is island. The channel sweeps through these lands, knocking islands aside, they drift back together in your wake closing the view of the route.
In Schull we met a boat which we had seen in The Gambia! By complete coincidence ‘Moonriver’ with Adele, Sebastian and their two young daughters, had arrived early that morning (24 hours after we had arrived a few miles up the coast). They had sailed direct from New York. It was lovely to see them again. It was our second year wedding anniversary the morning we visited them aboard for coffee, their daughters drew pictures for us. That same day We sailed to Crookhaven, 10 NM south west. The weather was blue and bright. We walked on the beaches and ate in the pub, later there was live music. The next day we cycled a 14 mile loop, swam from a sandy beach then sailed back west to a tiny group of rocks called the ‘Carthy islands’, an out crop of skerries. We anchored in the pool in the middle of the group, disturbing the seagulls, we rowed ashore with Bar-b-que materials and ate on the rock.
From the Carthys we headed to Clear Island, the most southerly part of Ireland, except of course for the Fastnet its self, blinking a few miles out to sea. We rounded Cape Clear and anchored in the narrow South Harbour. The next morning after a walk along the cliff tops we sailed under them and back towards Baltimore, retracing the route we had taken a week before in the dark as we first arrived in Ireland. Today it was bright and hazy. The atmosphere lending a distance and softness to the now recognisable hills and headlands.

We had seen posters in the shop about the Skibereen Arts Festival which was on that week. That evening Martin Stephenson, a musician who plays regularly at a pub at home in Ullapool, was playing as part of the festival. Baltimore is 8 miles south of ‘Skib’ so it was a good place to leave the boat while we headed inland. We got the bikes ready and set off for town. It was great evening and was followed by a wet and dark cycle back at midnight.
We had a couple of nights next in Lough Hyne east of Baltimore. This is a sea loch which narrows to shallow fast tidal rapids and then opens up into a semi-brackish shallow loch, rich in wildlife, and densely wooded nearby. We had a lovely walk through old forest up the hill Knockomagh beside the loch. We could anchor Hestur at the southern end of the loch in a pool protected by Bullock Island. Dan, clad in wet suit and helmet launched himself into the rapids, running at full tilt, one rainy afternoon. He bobbed down stream like jetsam and swirled himself into an eddy at the shore (repeated quite a few times). There were canoeists there and a pale speckled seal also making use of this tidal conveyer belt, for fun. We sat in the dingy by the rapids and watched them change, as the tidal heights evened out on the sea side and the loch side the flow lessened. Still I couldn’t row against it in the dingy. The water was cool and green, rich brown kelp cut the surface and white bubbles of foam from the turbulence circled sideways. Rain fell heavy on the water. Soaked, we headed back for Hestur and hot chocolate. I had a swim in calmer high tide waters from a stoney spit by the boat, a chilly wind ran past. That evening after dinner when the rain clouds rolled back and the raw blue of the evening sky appeared, I rowed us in a loop around Bullock island. Flask aboard we dipped into the caves and between rocks of the coastline, and skimmed across the calm but breathing sea.
We cycled again to Skib, from Lough Hein, to see some more of the festival. Exhibitions, open studios, installations, films and poems. We skipped around the town catching what we could of the last day of the festival, then cycled home in the evening sun light.
We made a longer passage the next day to Kinsale 35 plus NM. We left early to catch the favourable tide east and arrived into Kinsale mid afternoon. It was a busy place. The regatta was on that week. A little boy on the pier was wearing a medal round his neck, which he showed us and told us proudly that he had won it that day at the rowing races ( national championships). There were lots of tourists and holiday makers sauntering about.
The next day ( a calm day) we motored from Kinsale to Cork, another early start to catch the tides, this time up river. The trip up the river Lee took about 3 hours . It was a fascinating trip past historic forts and old dockyards, modern oil refineries and wind turbines, shipping container ports, villages, a cathedral, castles and and lighthouses. There is a little pontoon right in the centre of Cork City where we could moor, and we stayed for a couple of days. It is right beside the customs dock and the main headquarters of Cork Harbour.
We loved Cork. It is a very lively city. Seeing it from the water we were very aware of the industrial heritage and on going activity of the place. Big ware-houses and cranes on the dock, a few streets from the centre. There were so many great pubs to visit, and a lot with live music, we heard some great stuff. Really interesting cafes and coffee shops, the ‘English Market’ a big old food market in the center, with lots of local produce, breads, meats, veg, cheese. And lots of arts venues, galleries and theatres, independent cinemas etc. we saw an enjoyable exhibition ‘Feildworks’ Animal habitats in Contemporary Art, at the university gallery The Glucksman gallery.

We left on the tide at 3 pm on the 6th and headed back down stream passing the industry and heritage of the banks of the River Lee a second time. And off to sea. We were leaving Ireland for Wales. We sailed north east along the coast over night and the next day and made our way towards the North Welsh coast, arriving this morning on the 8th of August at 10 am. We are anchored off Porth Dinllaen on the Lleyn peninsula, 174 NM from Cork City. We are waiting for the tide this evening to take us up into the Menia Straights.


Arrived in Ireland

We have arrived. We got in on Saturday morning at 5 am local time. Just getting day light as we dropped the anchor off Shirkin Island opposite Baltimore. It was a fine passage, however a bit short of favourable wind. We ended up doing a fair bit of motoring. Flat sea, comfortable but not fast.

Half way we had a fantasticly exciting encounter with some huge whales. We havent identifyed them yet, photos attached, any one know?… They swam right beside the boat surfacing and breathing. One cut accross our bows, thought we would hit it, but it knew what it was doing. They were huge though, bigger than the boat! Dan unplugged the depth sounder as we thought the sounds it makes might be attracting them, yes they were almost un-nerving to have them so close, exciting as they were. Every wave slam of the hull, we thought was an impact later that day/night.

As we approached past the Fastnet light we could smell the land, it smelt like peat banks after a hot day, lovely and familiar. As we entered the loch we had a massive dolphin swim with us, piloting us in and to anchor.

So we have had a great time finding our feet in Ireland so far. We had a great walk yesterday, and delicious pint in the pub and last such a lovely evening/night with folks on a neighbouring boat on anchor.

In the evening sun, I thought I would have a swim from the boat. The huge dolphin was swimming round the boats and a chap in a wet- suit, face -mask, fins etc, was swimming with him! On the spir of the moment I thought I would take the plunge too. Well oh boy I don’t know what I said to this dolphin, but when it came all-together too close to me I got some what apprehensive. Next thing I knew it was blooming well thrashing me with its tail. I took three hits on my way back to the ladder on Hestur, the last one the hardest, it hit me and then with all its weight pushed me down. I shot up that ladder, Chee-so, I thought my time was up! Dan who was watching from the boat thought I was just making new friends!  The drink with our neighbours ( who had watched it all ) was very well appreciated! Its great to have that ticked off “the list of things to do ….”, but once is enough!

so exploring Shirkin to day – by foot!


Faial , Sao Jeorge and Terceira

Well we have been busy exploring the islands, visiting Faial , Sao Jeorge and now Terceira
We spent a quite few days on anchor in Horta on the island of Faial. Horta is a very busy and popular harbour for yachts passing through, as the harbour wall testifies with all its paintings. The town is very nice, not big, with lovely cafes and bars. We met up with lots of friends here.
One day we hired scooters with Fred and Tina, and made a lap of the island; dirt tracks and country lanes. We rode up to the top of the island, over 1000m ( easier than the push bikes! ). It was great fun to zoom about on these, breathing in the fresh smells of flowers with the wind in our faces looking for cafes and swimming spots. On the east point of the island there is a lighthouse which stands strangely cut off from the sea. It was at the eastern most point of the island till in the 1950s there was a volcanic eruption which spewed out a new arm of land, cutting the light house off from the water. It stands strangely in the barren dusty landscape, matching the grey of the new land around it.
In the bay of Porto Pim, on the south side of the town of Horta there is a lovely beach. There is also a whaling museum where we watched footage of a hunt and catch of a sperm whale from the early 1980s in the traditional long narrow wooden boats, just before the whaling industry tailed off and came to an end. The museum is in an old processing plant, where the whales were dragged up and cut, ground and rendered.
We of course visited “Peter Cafe Sport” the famous sailors bar a few times. One night there was good live music there and a big sardine BBQ to celebrate an anniversary of the bar.
On the 1st of July we headed off 20 odd NM to the little port of Velas on south of the island of Sao Jeorge, where the most friendly harbour master works. We spent a very happy week there on anchor by the mini marina. Sao Jeorge is a great island. Its 30NM long by about 4NM wide. We walked, cycled and scooted about. We did a loop of the west end one day on the bromptons. We hired scooters again with friends Pierre and Corrine and toured the length and height of the island, up through the cloud to a view of Pico popping up above the cloud across the channel. Pico is often present in view from the neighbouring islands, a great triangular mountain, pale blue and often ringed by a stripe of cloud.
There are 3 cheese factories on Sao Jeorge. We visited one, dressed in white plastic coats, head nets etc etc we toured at the great stores of delicious cheese, maturing gently on their shelves.
It was Festival time when we were in Velas, a 4 day event. There were two big stages set up with music each night ( till 5 am) , traditional music and new, lots of food stalls and Super Bock ( one of the Portuguese beer brands) bars. We frequented a really nice Pizza stall a few times (most evenings). The guys had made their own portable pizza oven, and also prepared delicious Capperhinas.
On the last day of the Festival there was a Bull Run. This was held on the main pier. Big containers sealed off the area. The harbour in Velas wall is built with three concrete tiers which along with the containers provided an industrial amphitheater from which to watch the ‘sceptical’. I was extremely nervous of what this event may be. Being absolutely totally against the whole thing that is, Spanish Bull fighting, I was scared that this may be similarly as violent and gruelling. There were 4 bulls, they were let out one at a time after a rocket fired. The bull was on a long rope. 6 men dressed in grey trousers, white shirts and a black flat brimmed hats held the other end of the rope and to a small extent kept the bull under control. The bull proceeded to carrier around the stadium and head-but members of the public ( stupid enough to be on the same level as it) off the edge of the pier into the water, with great uproars from the audience. A lot of these people were prepared in their swimming shorts and ready to jump. To attract the attention and stir the emotions of the Bull, an umbrella is twirled at horn height, the bull charges and the umbrella wielder(s) jump to one side. It does stress the animal, and it must surely confuse it, ” what are these people doing?” But the bull is physically unharmed and released back into its field at the end of the day. It does seem that it has the upper hand at times? It is certainly not as awful as the Spanish ‘fights’.
After 20 minutes a double banger marks the end of the run and the bull goes back in its box. We subsequently saw fields of bulls in Terceira, green open and lush, a nice place for them between their appearances in the towns.
From Sao Jeorge we sailed and motored to the city of Angra do Heroismo on Terceira, 50 NM from Velas. Angra is a beautiful small city ( its like a town). Black and white cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and very elegant botanic gardens.There is a marina and an anchorage off the beach where we were for a few days. Angra is full of lovely cafes and bars. There are lots f boats we know in the marina: boats we have got to know here in theAzores and friends we met last year who are also heading back to Europe after Atlantic winters. We have even been quite engrossed in the World Cup this year as many of the friends we have met are of nationalities who were competing in the exciting later stages. We have just watched the final with our German friends!
We shared a hire car one day with friends and toured the island, this time it was : volcanoes and caving ( including the ‘off piste’ / out of bounds section of a lava tunnel , crawling flat on our tummies with phones for torches), an ice cream factory ! and another cheese factory-come-bar. The following day – a supermarket shop.
We encountered more Bull Running in the streets of Angra one saturday evening. Hot-dog and beer vans set them selves up along the side streets ‘taped’ off from where the bull was to run. Venders with baskets filled with sweets and bags of popcorn fed the crowd.
In each tourist shop window there are videos showing Bull Running ‘mishaps’, people being charged, butted and floored by bulls, or jumping over bridges etc in their desperate escape.
With this video in mind, I joined those who kept themselves behind garden walls or up on platforms higher than the street level. The windows and parking meters on the street were boarded up, in preparation for the rampage. Dan however joined the small throng of 20 to 30 somethings who ran hell for leather up and down the street like a surge of bubbling excitement every time the animal came their way. Dan broke both his shoes in his flight, and resorted to climbing up drainpipes. He said it was like being a kid in the playground.

So after a month here in the Azores, we are preparing our selves and Hestur for the next leg. We are leaving this afternoon and will beheading for southern Ireland. We came into the marina yesterday to get things all sorted, and get water etc so we had a good nights sleep and are ready for the 1000 odd sea miles ahead