Thursday, 5 September 2013

Voyaging from Conwy to the Clyde on Jacana (Malo 38 #212)

We decided to move our base up to the Clyde to access the Scottish West coast so arranged a transfer from Conwy to Rhu marina, which happen to be run by the same company.

We originally intended to move in June, to have the best of the weather on the West coast, but turbo problems on the boat delayed us until the last week in August, which is often notoriously windy from past experience.

These trips always start with a blood letting session from the diesel tank to drain off accumulated water before it leads to diesel bug which is a nightmare to eradicate.

Once underway we spent a final and, as it turned out, rather uncomfortable, night at our favourite anchorage at Puffin Island off Anglesey.

The lighthouse marking the Menai

As is often the case, a rough night ois followed by a flat calm day and the sea was a mirror-smooth, meaning we had to motor all the way to the Isle of Man. We decided to head for Port St Mary on the Southern tip as it is all tide and allows freedom to select the best time to transit Calf Sound to the West side of Man.

Port St Mary is no happenin' place and I dread to think what teenagers find to do but it is a quiet and beautiful place in the right weather. In bad weather it is a place to be avoided as the swell bounces around the harbour and can be dangerous.

We were not exactly fighting for a place

This shows a cloud cap leaving the mountain tops to the West which indicates a wind shift from N to W.

 The run down to Calf Sound has some very attractive cliffs and rock formations, only visible from the sea.

Made it to Peel, our favourite holiday port. Lots of tea drinking and cycling followed and we took a look at practice for the Manx GP which was taking place. As you can see Ro likes her new cycling helmut to go with her retirement present (to herself), a titanium Brompton Superlight.

I managed to strip first gear on my (gas pipe version) 5 speed Brompton which, of course I put down to superior power, rather than loading! Every cloud......... it seems there is now an 8 speed Sturmey Archer hub, which was duly ordered from Kinetic in Glasgow and hopefully should be ready by the time we get back.

The next stage was a bit more challenging from the sailing point of view, up the North Channel, Mull of Galloway, East of the Mull of Kintyre across the bottom of Arran to a safe harbour at Lamlash on the East side of the Island. We decided to break the journey at Port Patrick, near Stranraer, on the side of the North Channel, which owes it's existence to shipping Redcoats, who had previously marched up from London, over to Ireland to suppress the natives. It is only about 20m over to the Emerald Isle.

All started well with a fast sail on a beam reach to the bottom end of the North Channel but then the wind got up and the sea with it and we had a bumpy ride for the last few miles. The entrance above is very narrow and there are strong cross tides and breaking swell as the depth shallows. We found the leading lights and locked onto it grimly as we pitched in.

Once in we tied up to the harbour wall with only a couple of other boats in dock. Regretfully we were tempted by the quayside chip van and I can only conclude there was fresher oil in our sump.

Portpatrick proved to be a pleasant surprise thereafter with some impressive local scenery and coastal walks and a Draculean hotel on top of the cliff.

The beach was littered with Jellyfish and we couldn't decide if they were dead or alive. Either way there were dozens of them.

The weather, which had stayed fine so far, now showed definite signs of deteriorating so we decided to pitch for a gap before a forecast F8 storm to the proven shelter of Lamlash on the Isle of Arran.

We got off to a good start but quickly had to don full gear (including Ro's new buff to match her bike!)  as the wind and rain set in.

Along the way we passed Paddy's Milestone (Ailsa Craig) on which I landed 48 years ago on a school cadet trip. We were in an increasing Westerley wind but it was on the beam so no trouble.

Pictures now stop for two reasons, one, I dropped my camera and broke it and secondly the conditions continued to deteriorate with the wind rising to a 7 gusting 8 and a sea to match, especially just South of Arran. We bashed on under double reefed sails with some large breaking waves knocking us off course from time to time but Jacana is a good sea boat and coped well with the conditions. In fact we were flying with a max of over 9 knots, well above the theoretical max speed of the hull. Basically it is surfing..........sounds fun, but it wasn't.

Worse was to come when we arrived at Lamlash. We had stayed here before in mild conditions and it is supposed to be an all weather harbour. The wind was now gusting 35+ knots and we moored to a buoy in the bay. I used the standard procedure of lasooing a buoy and pulling it alongside to pass a rope through the eye, leaving the lassoo rope as a insurance. This proved to be a mistake as Even though I balanced the load on both ropes it chafed through at 01.00 in the morning. Fortunately, in this case, sleep was impossible and I heard the remaining rope straining and got up to investigate.

The scene which greeted me was not a happy one with ragged rope ends hanging off either side of the bow and the sole remaining line near breaking point. I roused Ro who drove the boat up to the buoy whilst I managed to hang over the side a thread a second line through the eye. I then drank tea for the next two hours in order to check that the new arrangement would not chafe through before finally getting to sleep at 04.30. The wind never dropped  below 30 knots all night and showed a F8 on the dial when the line failed.

Lesson learned don't leave the lassoo line on!!

Typically all was calm by breakfast, in fact it was a beautiful morning, and we set off for the Clyde.

It was still a bit squally so we alternated reefed sails and motoring to sail up the Clyde to our new home at Rhu. This proved to be a tranquil delight with plenty of space and friendly, helpful staff and natives (although I think the name helps a bit :-))

All in all, an interesting and challenging trip. We are looking forward to exploring the West coast of Scotland and Islands.

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