cruis­ing log

Peter Grif­fiths de­cides to liven up his weekly com­mute by sail­ing across the Irish Sea from his home in Scot­land to his of­fice in Ire­land

Yachting Monthly - - CONTENTS -

Com­mut­ing to work across the Irish Sea

The cross­ing is in­fa­mously un­pre­dictable, so I was un­der no im­pres­sion that this would just be a ca­sual Sun­day jaunt. Nev­er­the­less, I of­ten pic­ture my­self tak­ing the less com­mer­cial route across the Irish Sea to work. With the in­ten­tion of mix­ing busi­ness with plea­sure, I set sail in my 1980s Van Dam Nor­dia 51, Crofton Loch, from Port Ban­natyne, the gate­way to the Kyles of Bute to Dún Laoghaire just out­side Dublin.

As Crofton Loch was a new pur­chase, this jour­ney was also my first real test of the 60ft 32-tonne ketch, although she has cut her teeth in sig­nif­i­cantly more tem­per­ate wa­ters, hav­ing pre­vi­ously made sev­eral long voy­ages with the au­thor An­drew Rayner at the helm. Sail­ing un­der her pre­vi­ous name, Nereus, her voy­ages around the Pa­cific Is­lands were de­tailed in Rayner’s book Reach for Par­adise (Com­pan­ion­way Press, £16.45). Af­ter spend­ing 10 years with my eye on this beauty, I was even­tu­ally able to buy her in Au­gust 2016 with fund­ing from the ma­rine fi­nance spe­cial­ists Arkle Fi­nance.

When it came to find­ing some­one to take the trip with me, Matt Brush­wood, a pro­fes­sional yachts­man, said he would take me as a thank you for spon­sor­ing him in the early stages of his rac­ing ca­reer. Be­fore we set off, we cre­ated our pas­sage plan and di­ver­sion points for the 167-mile trip. In the end, this turned out to be an in­te­gral part of the jour­ney.

We knew the weather was go­ing to be changeable at best be­fore we set sail but af­ter de­part­ing Port Ban­natyne in light rain and rea­son­able winds, the sea con­di­tions took a turn for the worse. As we sailed down the Clyde, con­di­tions were good with speeds up to 14 knots, but as we got closer to the North Chan­nel, the weather rapidly de­te­ri­o­rated and we were soon bat­tling gale-force winds of up to 57 knots, whip­ping the sea into a frenzy. Luck­ily, the boat proved to be ex­tremely well bal­anced in high winds.

We hastily sought shel­ter from the storm in Lam­lash Bay in the lee of the Isle of Ar­ran

– one of our pre­vi­ously plot­ted di­ver­sion points. We shel­tered from the wind in a small cove and set up our radar to en­sure we did not drift off sta­tion in the high winds. We ended up wait­ing in dark­ness for around seven or eight hours for the weather to sub­side; our two-day trip quickly turned into a three­day ad­ven­ture.

The boat was well equipped, but these were hardly the op­ti­mal con­di­tions to be out at sea in. When we even­tu­ally de­parted, just af­ter 0400, it was as black as a coal cel­lar. With rocks ev­ery­where, we had to be cau­tious as we weaved our way out of the bay. Thank­fully, the wind had died down and so we felt more pos­i­tive about the jour­ney ahead and were look­ing for­ward to ar­riv­ing.

That evening – the night af­ter the storm – we saw the most amaz­ing sunset over the top of the moun­tains of Mourne, cast­ing large shad­ows from the top of the hills. With the sun speck­ling the coast, it was easy to see why they call Ire­land the 40 shades of green. Ire­land is par­tic­u­larly good for light­houses and as night fell, we could see the light beams from about 20 miles away. As well as help­ing to con­firm our GPS po­si­tion, it was com­fort­ing to know that civil­i­sa­tion was not far away.

The next day was smooth sail­ing at 10-15 knots – we were both up on deck en­joy­ing our favourite Scot­tish dish of hag­gis, turnips and tat­ties, which we pre­pared be­fore the trip. Of course this tran­quil­ity didn’t last long and when we were about 10 miles off the Isle of Man, the wind com­pletely dis­ap­peared.

It was a dis­as­ter, as the strong tides up the Irish Sea kept push­ing the boat back. For­tu­nately, we have a large Volvo Penta 6-cylin­der diesel which pushed us along at 8 knots, so we started a 48-mile mo­tor to the Irish cost.

When we ar­rived in Port Dún Laoghaire, we met a very af­fa­ble Amer­i­can cou­ple who were trav­el­ling around the world on a Nord­havn 68 named Ves­per. We moored up and went for a cel­e­bra­tory din­ner and a pint of Guin­ness in a bistro on Crofton Road.

We had made it across the stormy Irish Sea and now I knew Crofton Loch was the right boat for my next big ad­ven­ture. I’m plan­ning to go back to Port Ban­natyne very soon, and now have plans to sail to Ger­many, Den­mark, Stock­holm and hope­fully New Zealand!

The Irish Sea cross­ing was to be Peter’s first ma­jor voy­age in Crofton Loch The Moun­tains of Mourne were a wel­come sight Peter hopes to sail back to Port Ban­natyne soon

Peter Grif­fiths, 59, spent a decade in the Mer­chant Navy and Royal Naval Re­serve as a ma­rine en­gi­neer

Pas­sage plan­ning paid off when the weather changed

Peter and Matt ended up hav­ing to mo­tor sail some of the way due to lack of wind

It was a re­lief to see the Irish coast

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