Cruising Logs: 2004
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Was it a sense of optimism that led us to leave only 3  days for our delivery trip to Cork – or was it just an over reliance  on the accuracy of modern forecasting?  Whichever it was, with a week to go it looked like a good call, as the computer models forecast brisk NE winds all the way. The nearer we got to departure however, the less clever our decision seemed as that brisk NE‘er turned into as nasty a little channel  gale as ever we are likely to see  mid summer.  By this time it was too late to change and leave earlier – patients and meetings were booked -  and so it was a sombre crew who pottered down the Solent on Tuesday night under engine , trying out all the storm sails for size and generally checking all the gear. Once through Hurst the wind sprang up and we were making knots to the West under kite- and well before Portland had snugged down to two reefs and a boomed out Working  jib. Every half hour the various French and English coastguard stations would broadcast warnings of severe gales in the Channel, but until we got to Start Point the wind stayed below 30 knots and we kept quite dry. By 1100 all that changed and the rain became horizontal, the sea started to boil and we changed down to storm jib and 3 reefs. At one point a ship loomed out of the gloom on a reciprocal course and passed horribly close. Two other yachts – both under bare poles - struggled to gain the land – but we swept passed them on a close fetch, feeling supremely comfortable under our storm sails, although still making nearly 8 knots.

  Discretion seemed the better part of valour, so we beat into the Yealm and anchored under the cliffs outside the bar, turned on the heater to dry out and took stock of our situation. It seemed that we could just afford a 24 hour stop and still make the first race, so when the tide allowed we slipped into the estuary, slept mightily despite the clattering wind and spent a pleasant time next day exploring the creeks  , eating puddings and admiring the rowing boats . We were back at sea by 1800 in 25 knots of NW, looking to catch the tide round Lands End next morning, gradually being joined by a veritable Armada of other boats emerging from Plymouth , Falmouth and Penzance with the same idea.

  Lands End was uncomfortable in a light westerly and left over sea, and we didn’t really have enough fuel to motor across – but as the day wore on the wind built and we could sail again- eventually filling in from ahead to give us a fresh beat through the night. The boat sailed itself under No 2 and 2 reefs and we arrived at 1100 with 6 hours to go before the start of our offshore race. With the cruising gear to stow in the campsite and the mysteriously lengthy business of getting 9 people organised for an offshore race to be undertaken, this was little enough time even when fresh. The madness that is Cork week had begun.




I’m writing this in the most Westerly anchorage in Europe – a little cove on the NE side of Inishvikillane miraculously sheltered from the Atlantic swell that is crashing on the rocks just around the corner .  Its not a place for the faint hearted – especially in the current boisterous Westerly conditions.  Although we are tucked up in the lee of the island the wind curls over the top and at sea level is onshore, but we have two anchors out, one decidedly larger than usual for a “racing boat” and we feel pretty safe. Even if we didn’t feel safe, the thousands of Puffins , Fulmars, Guillemots , Razorbills ,Oystercatchers and three friendly little seals that are getting on with their busy little lives around us would more than compensate for a bit of uncertainty even without  the impossible grandeur of the other Blasket islands ,and in the far distance the magnificent cliffs and mountains of the Dingle peninsula . As if that were not enough, the trip here was enlivened by porpoise , dolphin , whales and stunning numbers of gannets fishing in all their majesty.


It is however the perfect antidote to a crazy weeks racing at Cork – wonderful fun and impossibly tiring in equal measure . Which brings me to why I am sending you this – to thank all of you for your part in the adventure that was Festina Lente’s Cork week.


Firstly Jamie and Edward – congenial and uncomplaining companions on what was from time to time an eventful delivery, and then fiercely competitive members of the racing crew who insulated me from the electronics, got me on the line and got more shifts right than all but a very few of the boats at Cork. Then there was Anne who tamed the main in all conditions and fed us all magnificently. Helen performed miracles tuning the “piano” – I think it is the first regatta that have I ever sailed when we havn’t come out of the leeward mark at least once with the spi up and the genny down rather than vice-versa. Robin provided much needed reality checking (actually Robin, we subsequently found that the fluxgate compass is mounted at the front of the locker in which we normally keep the emergency rations – very magnetic beans and tuna etc – it works much better now we have moved them!) and endless enthusiasm whilst JD’s effortless good humour and strength when needed was the perfect foil to the competitive instincts elsewhere in the boat. Paul, Geoff and Dave all brought great skills on those days that they sailed and Ben and I learned from all of you

As well as greatly enjoying your company, I felt second was the correct result –plenty of margin for improvement -so we will have to go back. All in all I thought it was a great regatta and I hope we can sail together again soon!




OK, so I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Lynda and Bryony flew out on the Friday, and by Saturday the hordes of racing boats and the teeming yachties had all melted away, leaving us to beat out of Cork in near solitude. Two gentle days of beating up the coast to Kinsale and Glandore respectively  saw us acclimatised  and we decided to take a SE wind to power us 80 miles West , to anchor in Valentia harbour – and the next day  slipped over to stock up in Dingle whilst a low whistled past.  It wasn’t really settled enough to stay comfortably in the Blaskets – but we had come this way with the intention of retracing our cruise here in Polly 10 years before – and we weren’t going to miss it for anything.  It was in fact even grander this time around, spending nights at Inishvickillane and in Ventry bay, as well as a tea time stop in the rather open, rolly roadstead off Great Blasket Island . Our trip to Sneem , running down  the Kenmare river under spi whilst the sea breeze built underneath us was identical to how I remember it in Polly – and if Sneem itself was even tackier than before , the dinghy trip to get there was as beautiful as ever.

  Crookhaven via Dursey sound was terrifying – our calculation gave us a few metres to spare under the cable – but we all had our hearts in our mouth as we approached – and all giggled foolishly in relief as we crossed beneath !  We heard 3 maydays during our stay on this coast – all due to yachts trapped in salmon nets. Indeed, we narrowly missed them ourselves on a couple of occasions. Despite this, it is a grand cruising area and the thought of racing out to the rock and turning back 5 miles short of arguably the best cruising coast in Europe seems eccentric to say the least.

  It looked as if the following week was going to be windless – and the prospect of motoring across the Irish sea with our badly soundproofed engine was less enticing than leavinf with the last of the wind and enjoying the calm at the Scillies – so with some regret we left for home waters a few days earlier than expected. The upside of this decision was a glorious spinnaker run from Schull harbour to 15 miles short of the Scillies, when the wind dropped right off, the spi wrapped and we motored the last few miles, arriving just at dawn. This would have been the perfect passage – sunshine and 15 knots of breeze from astern – but for the unwelcome appearance of a facial neuralgia which had me completely incapacitated whenever it switched on. Bizarrely the counter irritant of cold water seemed to switch it off, albeit temporarily – until the minor crisis of the spinnaker wrap did so for good. Weird things, human beings!

  4 days and 5 anchorages later we left the Scillies bound E once more, stopping briefly at Mullion cove before rounding the Lizard and anchoring in St Mawes. We were due some fresh Easterlies for 2 days now , and after a visit to the wonderful new museum in Falmouth spent the afternoon and evening thrashing our way into it.  At dusk, just off Plymouth , we were slabbing a reef when the outer layer of the main halyard snapped – leaving us unable to lower the main in the freshening breeze. Out came the torches, needle and thread and a hurried repair was effected – allowing us to drop the main and motor the last few miles into the Yealm where we were able to effect   a more permanent job in the daylight. Back outside it was howling so we thrashed our way to Hope Cove and waited for it to ease, which it did by midday. The seas off the Range and Start point were huge despite the now absent wind so we bounced our way into Dartmouth under engine in poor visibility, dropping the  anchor at dusk.

  We were up again with the early shipping forecast – and away under engine hoping that the wind would fill in before we ran out of fuel. We needn’t have worried as by Portland there was enough  to make 6 knots under kite , and it continued as we slalomed around St Albans and through Hurst at 12 knots over the ground , finally mooring at the Southern an hour before midnight.

  Great cruise, great boat, great company!



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