Job done

The Anabella saga continued until late, when the life boat finally reached her. The Holyhead CG had done a fantastic job advising, supporting and arranging help, all credit to them.

Dinner was eclectic though none the worse for that; stag bol without the spag, with chopped banana and heavily buttered French toast. My meal was interrupted by a very large blob on the radar that morphed into a huge superyacht, approaching at perhaps 7 knots. Following behind it like a faithful hound was a powerboat, probably full of minders, bows sometimes pointing at the sky as it could neither plane nor go at hull speed! I could just imagine the conversation of the disgruntled heavies on board and was surprised they didn’t pop over for a little light relief.

Superyacht

Arran slipped darkly by as my 67th Birthday arrived without fanfare, unnoticed by anyone but me; this leg was was becoming quite challenging navigation wise, requiring experience, a sharp lookout, total trust in the instruments and regular marking of the chart. I had a number of emergency anchor spots in mind for I was knackered, but it never got totally dark, so I was able to continue, unlike my attempts to sail which were repeatedly doomed because Boreas teased but never blew, so I dropped the mainsail before I got too busy with navigation, as a yacht motored 1/2 mile off clear on radar but no AIS. A little later a second one slipped by also without sails, again showing no AIS signal.

Miss Lemon and Hercule beavoured away, though frequent corrections to the course over ground were necessary as there seemed to be inumerable currents, eddies and skipper errors all combining to push us off course.

Up ahead, 2 miles from Rhu, bright white lights aboard an approaching ship blinded me such that I could not see its navigation lights. Too close, it’s bow wave clearly visible, I finally saw its red port light and grabbed the helm from Miss Lemon and swung Pippin out of danger as the large dredger slipped past 100 metres off.

I found it confusing that there are so many lights along the many channels on this route for it is nuclear submarine country, though fortunately they seemed to be in bed that night. I knew enough not to pass between two approaching tugs as they would have a sub slung between them! Mind you, the 2 sinister back RIBS full, of Royal Marines that shadowed these little convoys would be on you before you could say “cup of tea chaps”?

The first flush of dawn lit the sky as I prepared for docking and at 0400 I secured Pippin in her new home and stepped ashore. I was pleased as I had planned on 20 hours and it had taken just 15; a moment later, totally exhausted, I joined Gollum in the dark deep caves for a couple of hours.

It had been a trip of 650 miles, not all of them pleasant, but as ever the journey was highlighted by the friends and people I had met along the way – not least keith, Pippin’s new owner – generating wonderful memories I shall treasure until time steals them from me.

Pippin in her new home
Pippin’s sister ship, Wren

Job done.

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By ajay290

The final lap

It isn’t quite the last lap, as I’ve got to get home but there’s time for that.

My Jester friend cast off quietly and without fuss in the wee hours to continue his journey south towards the Hamble without disturbing me. That’s the thing about Jester types, self sufficient and contained, quietly gregarious amongst their own kind, always ready to assist each other, non judgemental, followers of the KISS principle. Its a select rather eccentric group and the first mate said I would miss the whole thing – but as with being a soldier, once a Jester always a Jester; the mindset doesn’t change.

Right now I am following the 2 remaining Jesters in the 2022 trans Atlantic Challenge. Bedogged by horrible weather, two of the 4 have retired and the 2 others are heading for the Azores to retire with various problems – the first ever Jester Challenge with no finishers. My Azores jaunt was 1640 miles one way and the thought of doubling that doesn’t bear thinking about; these guys are seriously tough and my heart goes out to them. To retire is good seamanship not failure.

Comforting to know the lifeboat is nearby

The clouds were magnificent over Bangor Tuesday morning, tumultuous and black, promising a miserable few hours so a mad dash (the word dash being relative) to town before it hit. I was in need, because my Ardglass sweet and sour remained lodged stubbornly in my dental nooks and crannies; having acquired tooth picks, I felt a chocolate éclair to be suitable reward. Sadly they only come in twos, so I had one for tea as well. Toothpicks and éclairs – Heaven.

Skipper wondering what’s happened to Pippin’s name

A little passage planning as the Bangor rain settled comfortably, rather like a dirty beanie atop a head. It wasn’t pukka Irish rain though as a wall would offer no protection – a brolly would be more use. There are such lovely names on this next route, like Ailsa Craig, Arran, Firth of Clyde and Isle of Bute and it was a pleasure to sprawl over the chart for a good look. The pity is that it will be dark for much of the interesting part, though the possibility of a submarine encounter added a frisson of excitement.

I’m heading past Arran and Bute, right a bit at Dunoon towards Helensburgh hoping little Rhu, my ultimate destination, will jump out at me in the early morning light. Keith, Pippin’s very patient new owner forwarded a flurry of information to help us on arrival, which was very helpful. More importantly he booked the steak restaurant.

From Belfast across the North Passage and on past Arran

Talking of charts, I have electronic charts on my plotter of course, but the satisfaction of opening a proper chart and transcribing your position on it in chinagraph cannot be matched by staring at a screen. It’s a good safety feature too, because in the unlikely event of electronic failure, you have a recent position clearly marked on the chart. It’s also something to do during long hours on passage.

I was in a bit of a panic before leaving, torn between common sense and a huge desire to stuff the near empty food lockers with grub, despite there being but a day and a half to go; it’s tough as I get nervous at the thought of empty lockers. Well you never know – I might get stuck on a desert island or have to barter with natives, though no native is going to have my Gentleman’s Relish or Bacon Grill. Period.

Interesting window position
Belfast CG HQ

I have a fractious relationship with weather in these parts and know only too well that if it gives something, it will take something else. My old mate Boreas, God of the north wind was in charge on departure day and whilst he teased with some sunshine, he snubbed my hopes by swinging irrevocably NE, precisely my heading across the North Passage. I was too tired and too ready for journey’s end to want to argue so gave extra special attention to the Yanmar, changing the secondary fuel filter amongst other checks, for he would be on duty much of the time.

Leaving Bangor

Wednesday 1245. I borrowed a couple of knarled old salt, my sort of age, to hold Pippin as I prepared to leave, though they tut tutted over her bow thruster until we exited smartly stern first and on our way with barely a thrust. Pippin nosed out of the marina into Belfast Lough, where I raised sail more in hope than expectation , and pointed in the direction of Stranraer and Isle of Arran beyond. An Asda salt and chilli chicken goujon wrap and a mug of lobster bisque served as a very satisfactory lunch.

I had to pinch myself as blue calm sea spread before me and the sunshine invited me outside, only Boreas spoilt the day as Miss Lemon and Hercule took us smartly across the North Passage. My old stomping ground islay, Gigha and kintyre stood clear to the north and the Corsewell coastline, my destination, ahead. Its never dull and I followed length conversations between Holyhead CG and yacht Anabella with an incapacitated skipper, struggling to make progress towards Holyhead.

Most un Belfast like weather

As the story unfolded it seemed he had suffered a stroke or concussion, serious whatever and his crew were inexperienced; sometime later, the CG tasked the Holyhead inshore lifeboat to gomto their assistance. I think I have witnessed incidents involving the RNLI on most of the legs of this trip, and I sympathise with any crew who encounter situations that require their help- it can happen to anyone, anytime.

Mid afternoon I dodged a pretty trawler and overhauled a yacht making less than 3 knots – 3 weeks aboard, with a pile of dirty washing in the forepeak, plus wishing to press on, it was no day for me to wallow in self righteous sailing mode. So the Yanmar sang its tune and and glorious scenery closed around us.

Stranraer ferry

Tea time and I turned to pass close to Ailsa Craig, a startling pointed feature towering 337 metres from the sea, aloof, uninhabited and yours for £1.5m. But with the nearest land 7.5 miles and much more to anywhere significant it could only appeal to a rich hermit. Somewhere in the foggy depths of my brain I recall this rock featuring in an Alistair McLean novel?

Ailsa craig

By contrast Arran, lying beyond, is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde at 167 Square miles and an imposing 874 metres above the sea. Bigger than Guernsey, but with 1/14th the population!

This is a beautiful cruising area and I sensed Pippin taking it all in – no more ocean bashing, instead civilised, gentle cruising with quiet nights at anchor deep in the bosom of beautiful landscape.

Right now I’m going on a locker hunt, in search of dinner so I’ll come back later……

By ajay290