a Ques­tion of sea­man­ship

Yachting Monthly - - CONTENTS -

Should we leave now, later, or not at all?

QGe­orge and Jill keep their Contessa 26, Martin­gale, at Largs on the Clyde Es­tu­ary. She’s a tough lit­tle boat – long keeled, over 40 years old, well looked af­ter and well kit­ted out. Un­for­tu­nately, their in­ten­tions to ven­ture fur­ther afield beyond the Clyde are fre­quently thwarted by lack of time and the weather.

This year, they plan to go to North­ern Ire­land and visit friends at Bal­ly­cas­tle. The dis­tance from the Mull of Kin­tyre to North­ern Ire­land is only about 11 miles but in be­tween is the North Chan­nel where the ti­dal stream, on the day they have cho­sen, runs at a max­i­mum of 4 knots. This can cre­ate a rough sea, es­pe­cially wind against tide, and there can be some nasty over­falls south of the Mull of Kin­tyre. Sturdy though Martin­gale is, they don’t want to push her too hard.

They are cur­rently at Camp­bell­town. In the morn­ing, the wind fore­cast is SW 5, which means they can’t lay Bal­ly­cas­tle on one tack from Mull of Kin­tyre, and while Martin­gale is fine in this wind in the shel­ter of the es­tu­ary, Ge­orge is anx­ious about ven­tur­ing into the open sea. Jill reck­ons it’s pos­si­ble. The ti­dal stream in the chan­nel runs south-east un­til 1200. What would your plan be?

AIt makes sense to get across the chan­nel into the lee of the North­ern Ire­land coast as soon as pos­si­ble be­fore the stream starts get­ting too strong. Tim­ing is crit­i­cal: they should ar­rive at the south­ern end of the Mull of Kin­tyre at the end of the south-east-go­ing ti­dal stream, leave Sanda Is­land and the over­falls well to star­board and then sail close-hauled on star­board tack. Within an hour, the tide will have turned and Martin­gale will be favourably lee bowed by the tide.

Given there is such a strong favourable tide, I would crack off the wind slightly and go for boat speed. This would get the yacht out of the rough weather. Keep an eye out for ships en­ter­ing the TSS. Once on the NI side, hug the weather shore in the calmer wa­ter to Bal­ly­cas­tle. Set­ting off on port tack seems the most di­rect and sim­plest route but it keeps the boat in rough wa­ter and would in­clude the cor­ner of the TSS where the boat would have to tack to keep her course as close to 90º to the traf­fic as pos­si­ble. Against the tide isn’t an op­tion; Martin­gale would be al­most sta­tion­ary over the ground.

Strong and with good wind­ward per­for­mance, the Contessa 26 will get the cou­ple to Bal­ly­cas­tle

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