Friday, 27 July 2018

2017 in a nutshell

The year started with a failed attempted to circumnavigate the Isle of sheppy over the weekend of 6th &7th of March. In company with John and Simon in their own sailing canoes and with Jack as crew in my Solway-Dory Shearwater.
The plan was to launch at Queenborough sail into the Swale out onto the Outer Thames Estuary and down to Whitstable for Lunch and then enter the Eastern Swale to our overnight camping spot at the Ferry House Inn

However on Saturday while the wind was blowing a useful reaching Northerly it was initially  blowing force 5 gusting 6. we decided that given the strength of wind and the fetch on the estuary it would be wiser to take the more sheltered Swale route on Saturday , with the hope the wind would mellow allowing a easier passage on the open sea route. 

That turned out not to be....

GPS tracking and notes courtesy of Simon Knight. 

We set off up (or is it down ) the Swale. The tide splits on the Swale and moves down to the east.I was keen to keep on the right side of split on a falling tide so we got on the water and made to the first point, the bridge, which necessitated stepping masts and paddling under.

Once through we re masted and kept heading south east. soon we reached the wider part of the swale. even with the isle of Sheppy to our lee the water  was pretty bouncy and the day continued dreary and cold. Thoughts quickly focused on getting to the pub...

The landing at the pub was a bit of a nightmare. The old slipway was badly eroded in places with missing bits and potholes big enough to swallow a canoe trolley. we had to unload the our camping gear, walk it the 100 meters to the shore and then carry each canoe up the slip which is only five feet wide with deep thick mud each side of it

The pub let us use their field so after only 1 lunchtime pint to recover, we put up our tents and had a spot of lunch before returning to the pub for the rest of the day/night. 

The next morning we packed up and launched off the slip, made slightly easier by the level of the ebb tide , which helped us as we headed down the mouth of the Swale. 

However by tje time we had reached Shellness point , the wind had backed around to the North west and seemed to be continually backing to the East so that as we came out of the Swale channel and started to head along the northern side of the Island we had to beat into sharp, choppy waves and had the ebb tide running  against us.It was cold ,wet, grey and miserable and we made little progress. I could see Jack eyeing up the possibilities of getting off the boat at Leysdown-on-sea each time our tack took us close inshore, which, if you've ever been there, you would know would be an act of a desperate man. But thats how unpleasant it was getting. 

Thankfully someone else in the group cracked first and the suggestion over the VHF that maybe we weren't going to get back to Queenborough for many, many hours and perhaps we should head back to the pub and abandon the circumnavigation was met with unanimity and a very swift gybe from me, running back to Shellness point and back down the Swale channel to sanctuary. 

We weren't quite safe from peril however, Next to the Pub was a clay pigeon shooting range situated on the marshes which overlooking the Swale, next to the slipway. When we returned it was in use, the strong northerly wind helped to carry some of the shot further then might be expected: Simon's sails were hit, thankfully without enough force to carry through the sailcloth or Simon. The shot  merely rolled down the sail onto  him , but  noone likes being  shot at, even canoe sailors. 
Some words were exchanged with the proprietor after we landed...

It was then a case of booking a taxi to retrieve our cars at Queenborough and drive back to the Ferry Inn to pack up the boats & head home, by that time the sun had come out and it turned quite pleasant .Oh well.

Spring day on the Dart to the Ferry boat Inn

The old favourite trip. launching on the Dart estuary at mill creek in Stoke Gabreil and sailing a few miles down to the Ferry Boat Inn at  Dittisham and sinking a few pints whilst waiting for the tide to turn for the return trip.
Mari was the passenger on the outward leg. 

We landed on route for a brew up

Pub Ahoy

Arrival at the pub to meet the other land-based members of the family...
Mari and Mum 

For the return trip Mari decided to take the car home , my brother Greg was over from Norway, and was up for the return leg, I decided to lend him my dry suit as it was likely to get a bit bouncy/wet as the wind would be over the tide

Coniston Spring

A start of the season OCSG meet on Coniston lake. large numbers of sailing canoes and fine weather. On the first day we sailed up to the famous Peel Island and stopped nearby on the beach  for lunch. 

The second day started off calm but the winds picked up during the day. i sailed to the somewhat mythical 3rd cafe on the Lake, which is opposite the Blue Bird Cafe.

SalcombeEstuary: Bank holiday weekend

This was a beautiful August bank holiday Sunday down on the Kingsbridge & Salcombe Estuary. I purchased a legitimate permit to be on the Estuary for once as this was combined with the ability to use the all tide slip in Salcombe and have a parking spot for my car.

After launching at the slip at the head of Baston Creek we made our way down the estuary and crossed the bar and out to sea. There was very light winds but we sailed a mile or so up the coast looking for a beach to land on There was still a bit of a swell around and as we neared gara Rock beach i began to doubt a safe landing could be made. this coupled with increasing hunger as lunchtime neared and the oversight of coming with provision meant we decided to head back to the estuary and look for food!

we landed first on South Sands and rolled the canoe up the beach before heading to the South Sands hotel terrace.

They call Salcombe "Mayfair-on-Sea" and the £15 price of a fish finger sandwich seemed to prove the point, Still it was a lovely day and the chance of a pint was worth the price .

After lunch we took to the boat again and landed across the estuary on Sunny Cove Beach. we landed on a beach again and rolled the canoe out of the water .taking out the camping chairs, beach rug and newspapers from the locker we settled down to a few hours of chilling out before making our way back to the Slip and heading home .it was a perfect day for  chilling out.

Into winter at Windemere

The end of season OCSG meet in October at the south end of Windermere. This was my first time to visit the lake. I t was also the first time to use my new GPS plotter. 
From the campsite at the YMCa outdoor centre at the south of the lake 
Running downwind , shortly after this I saw 10 knots on the GPS .pretty hairy stuff!

Shortly after this my hat was swept off by the boom and sank to the murky depths

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Canoe Sailing in Ireland 2016

A Canoe Sailing Holiday in Ireland: Ireland's Eye & Upper lough Erne

I've been itching to take my sailing canoe to Ireland for some years.Now with a Solway Dory Shearwater in my possession and a cheap deal from Irish Ferries I finally was able to make it happen. Every other time I went to Ireland in summer the weather has been good, BBQs, sitting outside under umbrellas. None of the rain soaked cliches of the emerald isle ever seemed to come true. So in Mid June I loaded my canoe onto my battered Peugeot and headed for Holyhead with great expectations; it had been good weather there for the previous couple of weeks.
Awaiting the Ferry ay Holyhead
300 miles or so later we arrived at the ferry port and boarded the ship.Once in Ireland I had less then 2 miles to drive from the ferry to our home.Thanks to Solway Dory's fabulous side trolley I was very quickly able to take the canoe off the roof and store it in my hallway. How many other sailing craft can you do that with?

The benefits of a side trolley
Somewhat ominously the heavens open as I was bringing the canoe into the house. The weather wasn't great and the forecast was for rain.

Trips to Ireland's Eye

After a few days rain the weather dried up and although cloudy and grey, the winds were light. I loaded up the canoe and head a few miles north of Dublin to Howth Head, which sits on the top of Dublin bay.It has a pretty harbour and just 1/2 a mile or so offshore from it lies the small Island of Ireland's Eye.Below is a picture that I didn't take!

I unloaded the canoe and with my wife Mari on board took a few turns about the harbour until she was comfortable with the idea of heading out to open sea! I kept a turn or two in the sail and head out of the harbour...
Landing on Ireland's Eye under leaden skies
A very short sail brought us to the east side of the island.

Landed !

Mari & Eve

Heading back to Howth

We took some photos and headed back for the Harbour. 

Circumnavigation of Ireland's Eye

The next day brought cloudless skies and similar light winds.We returned to Howth again in the afternoon to circumnavigate the Island.
Back on the slip in Howth in brighter conditions

Full survival gear for the epic voyage! But you have to dress for the water not the weather,

Leaving Howth Harbour; Ireland's Eye ahead.

Ireland's Eye from the Harbour mouth

Once out of the Harbour I headed south to round the Island counter clockwise, heading toward Howth Head.

Looking south to Howth Head

At the Island's southern point we beat up wind close to the east side of the Island. The cliffs were full of gulls and puffins enjoying the fine weather,
Heading North 

One of the most prominent features is "The stack" festooned with sea birds.

The Stack

Looking back, at the stack!

Behind the stack and behind Howth head you can  just make out a ferry entering Dublin Bay.

Blue weather sailing

Once past the stack we headed west, on the northern tip of the Island stands a Martello tower.

We landed underneath the tower on a sandy beach looking for somewhere to eat lunch. I deployed my anchor to save myself the effort of dragging the canoe up the beach. I ventured off the beach and up onto the low grassy cliffs, hoping to explore some of the island.However this was not appreciated by the nesting seagulls which swopped over my head. Mari wisely refused to leave the beach and was left unmolested by the birds.

On the other side of the tower I could look north towards Lambay Island, a slightly more challenging destination, however its privately owned and landing on it is by permission only.

I made my way back down to the beach for lunch. I was thinking of sailing from Dublin bay around Howth Head to the harbour as the next sea trip: perhaps launching from Clontarf or maybe sail from Clontarf to DunLagoghaire across Dublin bay. However it turned out this was the last days sailing I would do on Irish seas for this trip.

Back in the harbour car park

Upper Lough Erne Day Trip

The next day we head up the hundred miles or so from Dublin and across the border to Upper Lough Erne in the county of Fermanagh . I decided to launch in the more southerly end of the lake , near Crom Castle. The lake here is winding and small, almost more like a river. I made the mistake of not having a map , which made navigation problematic along with the winds, which  were gusty and fluky, and the weather a familiar shade of grey and cool.

We sailed about for a little bit then decided to land at the old Castle ruins. 
The castle was built in the 17th century by Scottish settlers. Although landing was prohibited I decided that the Scottish settlers were most likely prohibited from landing too by the original inhabitants, but that didn't stop them doing so and proceeding to building the castle, I just wanted to fry some some Gunnard fillets I'd brought at Howth the day before.

Gunnard a'fry!

After enjoying our  Gunnard and a nice cup of tea we sailed back to the launch point, packed up and drove back to Dublin for dinner with friends, it was quite a long day , and I was returning back to the Erne the following day for an overnight sail.

Upper Lough Erne Overnighter

the following day I set off again for Upper Lough Erne in company with my Nephew Osin. we were heading slightly further north and to the west side of the Lough to the Share Discovery Village, outdoor activity centre where we were meeting up with fellow canoe sailor Frank Dobbs, The centre has a bothy on Trannish Island  but it was in use by a school when we inquired.Frank suggested we make north down the loch to Knockninny House  a hotel and pub some 3 or 4 miles away. I set about assembling the canoe and storing camping gear for two in it for the first time.I was delighted to discover how much gear the Shearwater can hold. It easily held tent, tarpualin, sleeping mats, sleeping bags,2x dry bags with spare clothes, cooking gear and food, water, and a crate of beer. All this as well as the normal equipment of spare paddles, anchor, bailing bucket and various other bits of safety equipment.

 We set off in light winds across Shanagy bay and landed  on Creaghanacreesty Island for a cup of tea and some lunch.

Once refreshed we set off northwards. I was very happy to be in the company of Frank , who as well as sailing the lough in his canoe also sails a barge on it with his family so knows the lough well enough to guide us. As I had discovered the day before navigating the lough can be a challenge  even with the charts Frank had provided us. Upper lough Erne was formed by the the flooding of glacial drumlins to create over 150 islands and a network of peninsulas making a marvelous but challenging network to navigate.

We head on North towards Innishore, following the main navigation route which has numbered markers assisting in the navigation. 

Another great feature of the Solway Dory Shearwater is the ability to allow the "passenger" in the canoe to skipper the canoe, simply by extending the steering stick and sliding the sheet block on the boom forward, Osin was able to sail the canoe for almost all of the trip in the forward seat. I enjoyed being a back seat passenger for once and enjoyed being able to attempt to map-read, drink, eat,observe wild life and generally annoy Osin from the rear seat. I was also able to offer paddle assistance  when the wind dropped or we were shadowed from it by an Island 

As the afternoon drew on we made our way slowly along the north side of Innishcorkish,Edercole Island and the Nann group of Islands

Patches of blue sky appeared at we made our way North West. The bovine population of Nann Island west seemed to be enjoying wading in the reed beds.We moored up at the public jetty on the island and brewed up a late afternoon cup of tea.

After rounding Nann Island West the lough opened up, as did the skies unfortunately. The wind dropped to nothing,
We rolled up the sails and got the paddles out as we made our way across the lough looking for the route though the islands for the comfort of the pub and the prospect of an evening meal which was made more and more  attractive with each paddle stroke and each drop of rain.

Paddles out ....

...Sails furled....

...across the open water.

A light wind eventually picked up allowing us to sail onto the beach in front of the pub.We ordered some beer and food and later as the daylight started to fade made our way back to the canoes to sail a short distance to Innishliroo. This island has a house on it but at the moment is uninhabited.We landed at a small grassy cove and erected tents and tarps in the increasingly heavy rain. A last cup of tea was had and then we went to bed.I hadn't felt great all day and was becoming increasingly ill as the night went on, feeling somewhat  feverish in the damp conditions.

In the morning I a took a quick look around parts of the Island, including the cottage. The island is still up for sale. Yours for just £250k.  Here

we had our breakfast before breaking down the camp packing up the canoes  and making our way back to the Share center.Before we left the island I managed to loose the 8" screw in hatch cover to the rear bulkhead. I found out they don't float and were impossible to spot on the dark bottom of the lake.

Sailing back to the Share Center

The winds had strengthen a bit and had shifted from a Westerly to the East insuring that we had a headwind for the second day as we returned back to base!

Making for a short cut through the reeds

After accidentally sailing past the center and to down  the lady Craighavon  bridge before we realised our mistake  we turnaround and finally landed and set out packing up the canoes and saying farewell to Frank before heading back to Dublin.

Postscript: The following day I developed a chesty cough that eventually took me to be the Mater hospital suffering from pneumonia! Finished off any sailing for most of the summer and took a couple of months to recover from.

Tis a damp place Ireland, alright.