Next morning a gentleman arrived to fix my tiller pin. Who had told him I needed help I have no idea, perhaps ‘Arthur’s Dad’ (Arthur is the pontoon striding marina cat)? Incredibly he was a Jerseyman, but I didn’t – given the circumstances – hold that against him. By the time I had finished my evening fish and chips the tiller pin had been returned and fitted and I had sorted Yanny the Yanmar’s fuel supply, so we were ready to roll on the morrow.
Ardglass Marina is tiny, which I like because only smaller boats can visit. It is a private venture, started as part of an area regeneration scheme, but has been so successful in relative terms as it is a tiny backwater, that there is resentment that the profits are not being spread more widely. Well, all I can say is that Arthur needs his cat food and there are facilities to maintain …… I would happily come again to hibernate, though not to party.
I paid Arthur’s Dad for our stay using a manual card machine the like of which I had not seen for 10 years or more. His spaniel was up for a game of ‘retrieve the stone’ and seemed sorry I had to finish the game, which he could have continued FOREVER!! They like their dogs here I thought, as a bouncy tail wagging Alsation made himself comfortable in a whizzy orange Rib.
Time to go and I knew Arthur’s Dad, plus Arthur and the spaniel would be watching our every move from his eyrie: loosen springs, 2, 3 … engine in gear and bows up against the pontoon 2,3 …. bow and spring warps off, 2, 3 … stroll to stern and coil warps, 2, 3 …. release stern warp, 2, 3 …. reverse out, then full ahead and hard to starboard, 2, 3 …. and on into the narrow Ardglass channel heading for the open sea, where we joined a big old French gaffer; we both raised our sails together, in salute to the morning.
The low, soft green coast looked fresh from 3 miles out even beneath a streaky grey sky like something out of an amateur water colour painting, a coastline without the brightness of the Wicklow scenery with its background of brooding mountains, or the in your face harshness of the dark Cornish cliffs.
I wondered what rollicking history lay behind the name Guns Island and felt the lure of the South Patrick’s and Bar Pladdy buoys, drawing us in to beautiful Strangford Loch, but we resisted their siren calls and headed instead for the wreck off Butter Pladdy, overlooked to the North East by Crooked Pladdy, whoever or whatever he might have been.
How nice it was to have the wind aft of the beam for a change; it made up for the unpleasant day, so cold I needed to add a thermal to my attire, but nothing broke or fell off either the skipper or A-Jay, as we rode the tide Northwards like some terrestrial horseman. The time window was tight, as we had to reach the end of Donaghee Sound, squeezed between the Belfast headland and Copeland Island before the tide turned SE, due at about 1630 (Dover HW + 4 hours and 55 minutes).
We made it and as we bowled past Briggs Buoy my nostrils twitched to the heavy bovine scents that swept out from the foothills and pursued us down the loch. It is difficult to spot the Bangor Marina entrance as both arms overlap and look identical, but we aimed for the middle and the entrance duly revealed itself. Following instructions via VHF we were snugly alongside E pontoon by 1730 – time for anti-pasta followed by chilli con carne, enlivened with Angie’s chilies and extra garlic and a well earned glass of hair restorer.
Chap next door says his mate has been round the world and claimed the worst stretch of water he encountered was the Irish Sea North Passage, the neck of the Irish Sea that leads to the Atlantic and squeezes millions of tons of water each tide between its bony shoulders. I can believe it – I have crossed it but still have to climb further up and scramble across its top to reach the sparkling Isles off Western Scotland – at least I hope they’ll be sparkling when I get there, as they certainly aren’t at the moment.
The marina here is excellent and ‘elf and safety’ is thankfully subordinate to common sense, meaning you can boil yourself alive in the showers if you want and I wanted. So there.
Tomorrow we will head up to Glenarm, which will be our jumping off point on Northern Ireland for Gigha off Kintyre, all being well. See you there.