Fraser’s-eye view of the adventure
Cover picture: Sunday 2nd April 2023, 03.54 am. Ghosting past Donaghadee, a village that has made us welcome since we moved there in December. It seemed to represent our last link with safety and security as we cut all our ties and escaped to freedom.
That’s us away now. After a great and quite unexpected family send off on 1st April we set sail (or rather motor) to the Mediterranean on 2nd April. Maybe we’ll get there in a few months, or maybe we won’t — that’s what an adventure is! It was a very strange feeling to leave all our loved ones behind, but with modern communication technology, hopefully we can still feel close to them.
First of all, congratulations to Kerry, who finally managed to get me with an April fool, skilfully relating to one of my greatest anxieties, that the boat is sinking — well done Kerry! She was getting her own back for my birthday a few years ago when our boat did actually start sinking and I commanded her (my right as captain of the vessel) to taste the bilge water to check if it was fresh or salty.
Our first passage was from Bangor all the way round to Howth, just outside Dublin. This involved the traditional early start to catch the tide. Actually, a unique double tide in this case as we catch the tide coming in around Ireland and then changing to going out at the half way point — takes a bit of thinking about. Our alarms were set for 2.15am and we were early to bed on Saturday night with multiple layers of clothes laid out for the morning. Kerry’s greatest concern was being cold. I had numerous concerns, cold being low on my list, sinking, crashing, burning, etc being higher. Kerry was of course awake before the alarm and I awoke to her cheery, chatty face, which was way too much for me and I nearly demanded that I needed more sleep and to postpone the adventure for a wee while.
The weather was great for night sailing (or rather motoring). Very little wind, but quite chilly! It was strange to pass by Donaghadee, which had become such a lovely home for us, and the security of it beckoned as we travelled away through the cold, dark night. I always find night sailing more nerve racking than day sailing. There are lots of lights on the horizon, but not much else to see. Fishing pot markers are not lit and have a habit of wrapping around your propeller, so they are one of the great nuisances and worries for night sailing. I sat on the bow for what felt like hours panning around my little spotlight while Kerry steered. If I made a noise or moved then she was to cut the engine. Luckily we did not go over any, but probably more luck then judgment, as I really do not think I could have spotted them in the dark.
Daylight brought with it a more positive state of mind. Kerry was loving it, although I was yearning for a wee lie down. A seal was spotted, then a dolphin, which always brings some excitement. We took turns resting down below or helming, although I think Kerry did less of the resting and me a little more. She was on watch when the entire fishing fleet flooded out of Portavogie, which kept her on her toes!
Past Dundalk Bay it was open water with little sight of land and a nice straight line all the way to Howth. The tide was weak (neaps) so it didn’t help us much. All the same, we managed to average 6 knots. Top speed for our boat and slightly faster than brisk walking pace. It was lighter winds so engine all the way, but that didn’t worry us. The sailing can wait for now; we have plenty of time, and we just wanted a nice smooth passage to ease us into the trip.
We were tired when we arrived at Howth fifteen hours later, but glad to get there. We tied up with the promise of celebratory whiskey, but then the boom decided it would mysteriously hit Kerry on the head and she had to lie down for a while with a cold compress — but that’s what an adventure is about, sure — the unexpected!