Saturday 23rd July/Sunday 24th July
We spent Saturday morning putting a ton of cruising gear onto Gusto; including a brand new Cockpit Table which was bought for a fiver in Woodies. The little table had been damaged but only required a couple of stainless screws for the folding legs to regain their foldability. It stowed away neatly in the cockpit locker.
We set off from Dun Laoghaire at 15.00h, reaching up the Irish Sea in a sunny southeasterly; spirits were high. On board were Pascale Wolfe, Chris Irvine, Shay Lyons and I – Christine Heath. We sailed through a star-filled night over a sloupy sea and arrived in Douglas, Isle of Man at 07.00h, Sunday morning. Just then the bridge lifted into the inner harbour – so perfect timing!
Monday 25th July/Tuesday 26th July
Peel Harbour Douglas was Bray multiplied by thirty – so it wasn’t quite ‘our thing’. We set off on Monday morning for Peel on the other side of the island. We took the inside passage through Calf Sound; it was exciting because the tide under us was very strong, and the wind was a noser – so choppy, choppy. When we arrived in Peel we took up a visitor’s moorings for a few hours; we had to wait for the tide in order to enter the harbour. During this time we pumped up the dinghy and went ashore. We walked around the Peel Castle (14th century) which sits on an islet overlooking the bay.
Later, when inside the lock gates and snugly on the marina, Chris Irving produced cocktails, and our Cockpit Table was baptised – this became a daily ritual on the cruise. We dined at the Creek Inn where the seafood platter was excellent with lots of queenies (small scallops) and kippers (smoked in Peel).
On Tuesday the wind wasn’t favourable for going north so we stayed put. We walked the hills along the coast and visited the museum, and Shay went for a swim. The sun shone all day.
Wednesday 27th July/Thursday 28th July
Portpatrick It seemed that the sun couldn’t stop shining – it was still at it on Wednesday when we set out for Portpatrick in Scotland. The wind had swung into the south, so with sails goose-winged and heads covered by wide-brimmed sunhats, we sailed north. At 16.30h we came alongside the quay wall in Portpatrick. We explored the small village and then had a coastal walk; later we sat down to another seafood platter in the Crown Pub. This platter was very different from the one in Peel: mussels, crab and ½ a lobster, and a wonderful sauce. In the pub we met John, Reg and Wacker, they were the crew of another Shipman, Triplet from Strangford Lough.
The next morning we left Portpatrick at 09.30h. The wind was northwesterly force five, and with the tide going north the sea was lumpy. Rather than beat into a steep sea we changed our destination from Glenarm to Carrickfergus. Gusto went well on a beam reach with just the main up – but we didn’t realise that Fairy Liquid was spilling onto the cabin sole and into the bilges. Later we pumped our suddyness all around Carrickfergus Marina (sorry about that). The showers there were wonderful after the limited facilities in Portpatrick.
Friday 29th July
On Friday we motored all the way to Glenarm because there was no wind; it took about four hours. We arrived at lunch time and tied up on the marina; we availed of its brand new showering facilities, and then we went for a forest walk. After cocktails in the cockpit and dinner aboard, we repaired to the Bridge End Tavern. Such a sociable evening! Lots of friendly sailors and campers, and a big open fire!
Saturday 30th July
We departed at 10.00h, destination Ballycastle Marina. We arrived at about 15.00h after braving the swerlie-werlies and the choppiness in Rathlin Sound. Marianne Fegan and Michael Wolfe met us there – they had done a huge grocery shopping job. The Cockpit (cocktail) Table was used nonstop for the rest of the evening. We dined aboard and all six slept on Gusto that night. Pascale left the following morning to get back to Dublin.
Sunday 31st July/Monday 1st August
We set off for Rathlin Island – about an hour’s run across the Sound. The wind was quite strong and we goose-winged through the swerlie-werlies again – gybing every now and then. There is a good pontoon in Rathlin now (and showers are available). We walked as far as the lighthouse on the north coast; there are spectacular cliffs and birds galore. Rathlin is home to fulmars, razorbills, guillemots, puffins and kittiwakes, and is a designated bird sanctuary.
We had a few pre-prandial scoops in the Manor House pub; it has a good restaurant. Only five slept on Gusto that night! Shay and Chris left on the ferry the next morning, so we were just three on the trip back to Dun Laoghaire. We set off later that day – destination Glenarm. (Shay told us later that he saw us arriving in Glenarm from his seat on the Dublin bus!) This time we visited the Glenarm Castle walled garden. It has been recently restored and includes a vegetable garden; it is beautiful and well worth a visit.
Tuesday 3rd August/Wednesday 4th August
We sailed into a fog bank; despite this Marianne navigated us safely inside the Maidens Lighthouse, past Larne and around the corner into Belfast Lough. We visited Carrickfergus Castle (Norman); it is spectacular from the sea because three quarters of its perimeter is coastal; and due to its strategic location it was in use until 1928. It is now maintained by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Our next port of call was Ardglass. We had a long walk across the golf course, and then we looked for an eatery – unfortunately there was nothing much on offer. However, during our search we met the crew of two classic boats which were on the marina. They invited us aboard their boats – one of which was an old lifeboat; the couple had spent twelve years sailing around the world in it (with their young daughter).
Thursday 5th August/Friday 6th August
So then to the wonderful Norman town of Carlingford (en route we saw a basking shark – quite something!). As we approached the Marina there was a sudden monsoon deluge (our first rain in two weeks). We arrived absolutely drenched – not a grain of salt remained on Gusto, or on the crew.
We visited a small church in the town which has been converted to a museum (a lot of information there if you like history). Later we had a delicious meal in the Oystercatcher Bistro. On previous visits we climbed Carlingford Mountain – but this time we were a little lazy.
Saturday 7th August/Friday 6th August
We arrived in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday afternoon – very pleased with our cruise, we had been particularly lucky with the weather. Our Cockpit Table was a wonderful addition to our cruising gear – it has undergone an extensive revamp over the winter; it now has a new top made of marine ply (legs still folding well). It has also acquired several coats of French varnish.