Hot Chocolate...Sailing from Dublin to Oban.
Trip Start Apr 23, 2012
3Trip End May 05, 2012
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I had been watching Crewseekers since I got back from wintering in the Canaries and replied to the occasional advertisement.
I was looking for something handy and warm and cheap but they were few and far between.
There was one for a couple for cruising in the Canaries but I missed out on it,it would have been a nice jolly for both Catherine and myself.
I replied to a delivery from Dun Laoghaire to Sweden and thought no more about it as I wasn't too keen in battling the North Sea this time of the year.
I had forgotten about the ad when I got an e@mail from Matt the delivery agent to phone the Skipper been used for the job.
As I wasn't that interested I delayed answering and a few days later I had another e@mail.
I tried to find the ad I had replied to but it was taken off the system and the only one I could find was a Najad 54 going to Sweden from Dublin so I thought that was the one.
I was a bit concerned about the size of the boat and took a trip back to see Cyril and have a chat about it.
He said I should go for it as a chance like that might not come again,I was inclined to agree.
I phoned the Skipper,a Donegal man and said I was up for it.
He said to bring my own bowl and cup and knife and fork,this surprised me but he said it was common on deliveries that there might not be any on board.
The first thing I had to do was to go to Union Chandler in Cork and get an Offshore Sailing Jacket.The one I had was about 10 years old and after the trip to the Canaries last summer I discovered that it was not good enough anymore.
We had one wet day on that trip and even though I was wearing my jacket I got soaked as it left the rain in so its day was done.
Luckily enough they had a Gill Offshore Jacket on special off and I got it for €200 so I was pleased enough even though the jacket was yellow. I got the pants as well.
We drove to Dun Laoghaire on Monday to inspect this Najad as we thought,had a look around the marina and couldn’t find it so I phoned the Skipper and met him on the pontoon by an Elan 333.
Obviously he didn’t know about any Najad so the advertisement I must have replied to was the Elan.Catherine & myself were disappointed but what the hell I could handle this one and might not have been able for the bigger one.Catherine left for Balbriggan, the third crew man turned up so we got started on getting ourselves organised.I was looking forward to the trip across the Caledonian Canal but not as much to the North Sea crossing as it was early in the year and would probably be cold. That sea has a bad reputation.
Our Skipper Greg was a Donegal fisherman doing deliveries part time when there was no fishing.This was his first offshore recorded trip,over 600nm, for his Ocean Cert.He had fished in Scotland and the North Sea so was very familiar with the area.He had been through the Caledonian Canal several times and holidayed there last year with his family.His sailing skills were ok but he was more of an engine man. He really knew his weather and tides.
Luke, the other crew member, was 23 years old 6ft 10 and 18 stone and getting his sailing certs.This was his first deliver, he had spent time recently in the south of England doing sailing courses.He clocked up his 1000 mile run crossing the English Channel several times non stop in bad weather.He said they hit storm force 10 at one time and that was no joke taken into account the shipping lanes etc.He was a good sailor and knew his stuff.
Leg 1 Tuesday 24th.April.
There was a hold up about leaving the marina as there was money overdue from the previous owner and they would not release it until all outstanding moneys were paid off and the skipper was anxious to leave as conditions were favorable. There were many phone calls and I really thought that the trip wouldn't happen.Eventually we got a call saying we were cleared so we dieseled up and took off.I am not a lover of late leaving as you are into a night watch early and haven’t got a real feel for the boat.The watch system we agreed on was 3 on and 6 off.I agreed to do the watch after Greg so I was on at 1800 hrs.and again at 0300 hrs.Conditions were good, high tide was at 14.15.
t was good to be passing the Baily Lighthouse once again, the last time I passed it was when I did a mile builder on One Life with Sailing West through the Crinion Canal in Scotland & back in 2009 and before that while circumnavigating Ireland with Clare & Marie on Bounty in 2006.All the familiar landmarks were passed Ireland’s Eye where I was taken in a row boat in 1958 while visiting an uncle in Sutton,,Lambay Island and Rockabill and in the distance the Mourne Mountains were in view.There were plenty of fishing boats and trawlers around the place and it was great to have the AIS system on board.Catherine’s Shepherds’ pie went down a treat even though we didn’t’t have an oven to heat it in, it had to be heated in a saucepan.It was probably the first time I have ever eaten on the first evening out, normally I would be taking the food intake handy but conditions were good and we all felt ok.
Wed 25th April.
At 0300 hrs we were off Belfast Lough and it was busy enough with ferries and cargo ships coming and going but the night was bright enough and the current was with us so progress was good.We hadn’t decided whether to push on or head for Ballycastle at the end of my watch, we would wait and see if we could get into the Sound of Jura,weather forecast was for gale force winds of Malan Head so the bad weather wasn’t too far away.It was decided to keep going and we had a lively sail off the Isles of Islay and Jura with 25knots of wind.It would have been nice to have pulled into a few places in Scotland but we were on a delivery so time was money.
I would have loved to have visited Ballycastle in NI and Port Ellen on Islay and gone through Corryvreckan but all that will have to wait for another day.The scenery was spectacular all around and there were several sailing boats out and about including a tall ship in the distance, and I thought we were the only mad ones.I found the first night cold enough especially my hands as I didn’t’t have gloves, I thought I could tough it out.Luke offered me a spare pair that he had and I was very appreciative of that. Heading north in April with snow on Ben Nevis is not to be coy about.At this stage I had at least 5 layers of clothes on, god bless those thermals.I remember while working in Northern Manitoba in the 60s wearing two pairs of long johns and still been cold.This was a different coldness it would go through you with the dampness in the air and the cold wind off Ben Nevis.We pulled into the marina in Ardantrive Bay opposite Oban at 2000 hrs.got Catherine’s Chile Con Carney heated up in the saucepan and after devouring it headed for the showers.Unfortunately the little ferry had stopped running across to Oban at 0930 so we were in for a dry and early night.
Thursday 26th April.
The plan was to rise at 0400 to get the tide north but the weather was desperate, the wind was howling outside and no one made any attempt to get up, so we gave it a miss.I took the ferry across to Oban in the morning and did a bit of exploring in the town.
Oban was full of tourists and it seemed to be the place to catch the ferries to the neighbouring islands.
I took a walk out to the headland on the Isle of Kerrera and was delighted that we were not out there battling the conditions, it was full of white horses and not pleasant. There was sail boat out there that I didn’t envy as he was been tossed around a fair bit.Our skipper decided not to take the afternoon flood either and said we would leave at 0230 the following morning.
Friday 27th April.
It was all systems go then and we left Oban at 0300.I put on an extra layer, had 6 on at this stage and they were not coming off.The 3 of us were on deck leaving as we had a few narrow channels to negotiate.It soon got bright and conditions were so different than yesterday.It blew NE 10 knots so it was a lovely sail.Ben Nevis looked cold, there was plenty of snow up there.Plenty of photos were taken and the plan was to be at the loch gate for the first opening at 0830.It was about 30 miles to the Caledonian Canal entrance through Loch Linnhe past Fort William to the first loch at Corpach.We arrived there at 0800hrs and I was surprised there wasn’t a suitable waiting pontoon there.