Wednesday, 2 December 2020

To Jester or not

Every 4 years a single handed small boat event from England to Newport USA or around the Azores takes place. In line with this, is a shorter event, Mid Wales to Cork, around Fastnet and back.

The 2020 event was cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic. This was in line with government guidance. 

So the shorter Jester is being planned for 2021. I haven't seen the dates as yet, for the life of me, I cannot find them. I know what will happen, I will post this and then I will see them. 

What I am thinking is a west coast Jester. Killary to Cork, round Fastnet, back to Cork and then up the west coast again. 

There are 2 things that may prevent this. One being the pandemic. The second being my desire to do my Day Skipper practical test. 

So watch this space. The Bilbo dream continues. 
image courtesy of

Monday, 16 November 2020

Update on Slow Boat Around Ireland

I have decided to put the circumnavigation off for a year. I need to gain more experience and will be doing my Day Skipper practical exam with WaveRides.

However I plan to one or two shorter trips and will add a fundraiser for Clifden RNLI and Achill RNLI. 

I also have other plans to do different fundraisers so watch this space. 

Whilst I am confident in my sailing, I feel I do need that little extra. 

Monday, 9 November 2020

A late sail goes wrong

I have been checking the weather and tides for the last week. The tidal stream out of the Killary is not that fast and with an easterly wind, about 15 knots forecast, I decided to head out for a sail on Saturday.

I haven't sailed much in stronger winds so I double reefed the main, only unfurled about ⅓ of the head and made preparations to head off.

Outboard was filled and the new container of petrol, I added the 2 stroke oil to. Then on with my jacket and life yacht. Sailing plan added to SafeTrx and texted to my shore contacts.

As the wind was coming from the east, I was able to sail off the mooring and slowly headed out of the mooring field. And into the bay. The wind was a lot weaker than the forecast so I let out a bit more of the head. I left the main reefed.

Then heaven happened. I was surrounded by a pod of dolphins so I slowly sailed with them breaching around me, they were more than likely feeding but they stayed around me for 30 minutes or so. I think I took over 120 photos. 
The plan was to sail around Crump Island, where my family originated from. This was a short 4 hour sail but with the wind from the east, I knew I would have to tack back. And I was prepared to do so. 

As I was rounding Crump, I was dodging Lobster Pots, and a fisherman from InishTurk was heading back to the island, we waved at each other and continued. 
As I started the leg from waypoint 2 to 3 I could see the waves were building slightly. But they seemed manageable but I knew I would be using the outboard to get back. So I a started it early and continued on my way. 

As I turned at waypoint 3, the winds also started to pick up. Sustaining over 20 knots and gusting to 30 knots it made progress slow. 

Untypical for me, I did not panic. I was confident in my boat and knew she would see me right. I had dropped the main into the cabin and furled in the head. 

I was motoring away but my progress was almost nothing and only half way across the island, the outboard started to stutter so I filled it again, a little concernwd about the fuel usage. 

I was using transits on the island to monitor my progress and at one stage I was going backwards. In the back of my mind, I was working out where to head to for safe mooring but the pier I launched Bilbo at was a no go, she would have been bounced to bits there. 

So I kept motoring but I was struggling to made progress the winds were still gusting over 25 knots and the waves were at least 2m if not more and the time between the waves was very short. This was not in the forecast and I have never seen it before. 

I was harnessed in and had all the lights in. I was looking around to see if there was any of the local fishing boats out. Not a soul except me. 
I had to made a decision. I checked the remaining fuel in the outboard, roughly about 2 litres. So I knew there was no way to safely make it back. 

I knew what the decision was but I checked the fuel twice more. I was just keeping Bilbo heading east, almost directly into the wind. 

I made a PanPan call. I needed a tow. I gave the location and information to the coast guard, explaining that Tully Pier was a no go. And that there was no vessels around. I explained the weather and waves to them also. 

I just kept the outboard on idle so I was heading into the wind. I did debate heading to InishTurk but the forecast for Sunday was not good to head back. And where would I have got fuel. 

Almost as suddenly as these waves and wind arrived, it disappeared. The waves dropped to almost flat calm and the wind dropped to about 6knots. But the wind was still on the nose.

I was in constant contact with the Coast Guard and was still getting the odd 20+knot gust. I did try to tack a little but every time I brought out the head sail, I was getting a gust that was turning me. 

The Achill All Weather Lifeboat arrived and towed me to the moorings. I had just about enough fuel to make it to the mooring ball that I swing off. 

I thanked them for their assistance and also the Cleggan Coast Guard crew who came out to assist me. 

By the time I had made Bilbo safe and secure it was pitch dark. No amount of head torch would make it safe to head ashore. So I stayed on Bilbo for the night. I always bring an extra day's food with me. I am considering getting MRE packs. 

I am going to put off my circumnavigation until 2022. I need more experience and also a better outboard. I would love a bigger yacht but my income would not allow that to happen. 

I will do something in 2021 to raise funds for Clifden and Achill RNLI. I am currently doing my Day Skipper theory and plan to do my practical early next year. 

I will continue to gain experience by sailing but will buy a new outboard a 10 hp 4 stroke with 2 external fuel tanks. 

One of the things I think stood me is the theory course. All the information was fresh in my mind. So this old dog is learning. 

I did see that another sailor was further up the killary but in a more sheltered area. It must have been a localised weather situation that hit me. 

It has not put me off sailing. In fact it has made me more determined to get the experience to handle these situations better. I enjoy being at sea. And I enjoy solo sailing. I am not a people person. 

So expect a fund raiser early next year for both life boats and more sailing stories. I will blog my winter projects and have decided to add a slab reefing system to Bilbo. I had considered a tiller pilot but I enjoy sitting at the helm watching the waves go by. 

Friday, 6 November 2020

Winter projects

As we head into winter, it is time to start thinking about jobs on Bilbo for next year and especially to make sleeping aboard a lot more comfortable and convenient.
I am in the middle of a Day Skipper theory course with WaveRides. It is definitely going to stand me good stead and Hugh has a natural way of getting you to learn. 

I am going to add a slab reefing kit to the boom, so that reefing will be a lot easier than at present, and I have seen a BOOM strut system that does away with the topping lift, although I would probably leave it in place. 

I also want to add an external microphone for the vhf and a loud Hailer. My Standard Horizon radio has automated fog and other warning signals so a loud Hailer will be a definite add. 

I am hoping to add a better method of anchoring as the current way is a lot of hard work. There is no now roller and no access to a chain locker, which is there but no deck fittings. 

I also have to check the main sail halyard sheeve as I have a feeling it went out the top of the mast at some stage. 

I also want to put the water bladder in a better location as it sits on one of the quarter berths and when full, weighs that side down. I think glass work and make it permanent fixture with a deck filling point.

Whilst I am working at the top of the mast, I may change the coax and use heavier duty cable to prevent signal loss. And maybe a new antenna. 

Then there is a few usual painting and minor electrical jobs to be done and the V Berth bed to make. 

That will keep me going most of the winter and all going well, should be ready for the start of May when I will do a few long shakedown sails before the Circumnavigation 

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Day Skipper

I have done my Competent Crew course, and want to do the Day Skipper theory and Practical.
I am about to start the theory course shortly with Waverides and would hope to be in a position to do the practical just after I complete my circumnavigation of Ireland next year. 
After the Day Skipper, then it is the harder exam, the Yacht master. This will be the final exam I will do before I hopefully head off to new pastures, the Baltic and Mediterranean seas.
Bilbo may by then become Bilbo II, a longer and deeper vessel so I can live aboard with the dogs and so that family can visit and stay with me. 
I will always keep Bilbo and sail her when I can. She is a great little sailor and moves through the water with great ease. 

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

A weekend to remember

 As those who know me, this weekend gone is a MOTOGP weekend, so for me to leave a weekend of couch potato and watching motorcycles is rare. But with the weather promising to get worse, I made the decision to watch the MOTOGP later and head out.

The week had been good and I had visited Bilbo several times to do the odd few jobs, get water and generally just drink coffee and enjoy the peace and quiet of the Little Killary. It is an amazing mooring, that my cousin lent me for the summer. You can see out into the bay, but is blocked from the westerlys. 

So Saturday, as usual, checks done on the tides and weather. Weather was promising to be good with light winds and high temperatures. So food was made the night before, early to bed and up at the crack of dawn to walk and feed the dogs and head off.

It takes me about an hour to get Bilbo ready. I don't rush. Outboard is filled with petrol and kettle boiled, main sail stuck up but not powered. I use SailTRX so my ground contacts know my route and if I am late, contact the Coast Guard. I also have AIS and a Delorme (now Garmin) inReach which also acts as a tracker and technically an EPIRB.

I headed out on the outboard, and as soon as I cleared the point, out with the head sail and powered the main, and a day of sailing. Bilbo does well in most winds, except running with the wind. Maybe she needs a lighter sail up front, Close Haul or broad reach, she is happy.

The plan was to head towards Renvyle, cut in in front of Cramp Island and then up slightly towards InishTurk, then head back. All was going well until I turned back towards the mooring and the winds dropped to almost nothing. This was not the plan, so motored back, a long stretch. 

Tied Bilbo back up for the evening and cleaned the cabin. I still have not made the base for the v berth up front so that is a job for the winter. Coffee and watched the tide slowly climb. The problem with where the tender is stored, is there is a lip of rocks. If the tide is almost out, then it is a hard job to get tender back in. 

So Sunday. The weather was almost the same, very hot, clear skies, but a little more wind. In fact it was gusting quite strong as I prepared Bilbo that I ended up reefing the main twice. That means I had the smallest sail area possible. And with the winds coming, unusually, from the east, I was able to sail off the mooring , I did have the outboard running just in case. 

The plan was to head to InishTurk, have a coffee and food, then turn back. However the winds were to decide that that was not going to happen. They died away and I was sat for an hour slowly moving at about 1-2 knots. So kettle on and food was eaten. I cannot say how beautiful the scenery was. The whole bay glistened. And Bilbo bobbed on the waves. Life is good when you are away from the hustle of life.

So expecting to have to motor back and less than 2 nautical miles from InishTurk, I turned and headed back. At this the wind freshened and was hit with a steady wind of 10 knots gusting to 15 - 18 knots. Bilbo was a very close reach and sped off like a scalded cat. I tacked my way back until I was about an hour from the mooring, at which point, I knew the evening was setting in, so the outboard was fired up and in we went.

An hour listening to the outboard and watching the beautiful Connemara landscape and in the Little Killary we were. Tied up, main was flaked and covered, coffee and generally tidied up. Looks like this maybe the last sail, but we will see.

I sit back and wonder where the last year has gone. With Covid, I did more work on Bilbo than I had initially planned, and sadly less sailing than I had hoped for. 

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Sunday, 6 September 2020

A Slow Boat Around Ireland planned routes

I have been planning the trip on Navionics and checking my decisions against charts and other online sources.

This is not a definitive list. I may decide to sail for a couple of days and then stop somewhere else than planned. Or the wind maybe totally against me so I end up staying in one location for an extra day. 

The rest days are not listed simply as I will sail when I feel fit and rest when I know when I need to. It was the same when I crossed Russia in 2015, I stopped in Omsk and Krasnoyarsk for rest days even though I had not planned for them. 

If anyone has a suggestion for a stop along the route or sees something wrong, please leave a comment. I plan to either tow my tender or bring an inflatable dinghy. 

The route is as follows:
  1. Clifden to InishTurk: 27 nm
  2. InishTurk to Blacksod Bay: 27nm
  3. Blacksod Bay to Ballyglass: 26nm
  4. Ballyglass to Killala: 35nm
  5. Killala to Drumcliff Bay: 22nm
  6. Drumcliff Bay to Donegal: 29nm
  7. Donegal to Teelin Harbour: 18nm
  8. Teelin Harbour to Tramore Strand (Donegal): 26nm
  9. Tramore Strand to Cruit Bay: 18nm
  10. Cruit Bay to Fanad Head : 33nm (maybe split over 2 days) 
  11. Fanad Head to White Strand Bay: 10nm
  12. White Strand Bay to River Bann moorings:28nm
  13. River Bann moorings to Ballycastle: 20nm
  14. Ballycastle to Carnlough Bay:21nm
  15. Carnlough Bay to Belfast Bay: 23nm (Definite rest stop) 
  16. Belfast Bay to Knockinelder Bay: 27nm
  17. Knockinelder Bay to Ballykeel Bay: 23nm
  18. Ballykeel Bay to Drogheda : 26nm
  19. Drogheda to Ireland's Eye: 20nm
  20. Ireland's Eye to Greystones: 16nm
  21. Greyatones to Arklow: 24nm
  22. Arklow to Wexford: 31nm (possibly 2 days) 
  23. Wexford to Loftus Hall: 31nm (Hook Head)
  24. Loftus Hall to Dungarvan: 24nm
  25. Dungarvan to Ballycotton : 25nm
  26. Ballycotten to Folareal Bay: 34nm
  27. Folareal Bay to Bullock Island :21nm
  28. Bullock Island to Dunmanus: 31nm
  29. Dunmanus to Darrynane: 31nm
  30. Darrynane to Portmagee: 16nm (Valentia Island) (2 day stop)
  31. Portmagee to Great Blasket Island : 16nm (2 day stop) 
  32. Great Blasket Island to Brandon: 20nm
  33. Brandon to Carriagaholt: 28nm
  34. Carriagaholt to Kilkee: 26nm (Loop Head)
  35. Kilkee to Inishsheer: 25nm
  36. Inishsheer to Roundstone : 25nm
  37. Roundstone to Clifden: 23 mm (Slyne Head) 

This is a total of 906 Nautical Miles or 1677 KM

This is not a definitive route. I am still checking guides and online sources and charts. 
The exact time to do the route will depend on weather, wind and tides, all well if I feel tired or not. 

This is being done to help raise fund for the brave crew of RNLI Clifden. They are an amazing bunch and deserve all the help we can give them. Of course, this applies to all RNLI crews.

To Jester or not

Every 4 years a single handed small boat event from England to Newport USA or around the Azores takes place. In line with this, is a shorter...