Sybil to Galway

Friday 1st August 2014

The long postponed cruise begins. Sunny July has been missed already and the forecast is not good, but at last Sybil is loaded up with stores alongside Dun Laoghaire's DMYC just before the tide drops too low. But there's enough water alongside to stay overnight, which is cue for a few pints on the club balcony while the clubhouse is being prepared for a wedding reception tomorrow. Barman Carlus makes up a Panini to prevent us from escaping up town, and this becomes the farewell dinner for Sybils Round Ireland Cruise. Peter departs for home and Louise stays overnight to get me underway tomorrow to Arklow.

Saturday 2nd August 2014

Northerly blast of wind with rain downpour was not a great start but got Sybil to Arklow quickly. Arrived on time for the Arklow Lifeboat festival where the Vikings came ashore in full regalia, but the locals didn't bother to come out and defend their territory as it was still pouring rain. Peter and Carolyn joined by road in their campervan and the old basin provided a fishy smelling but very suitable parking for both craft overnight.

Sunday 3rd August 2014

Sunshine enough for a morning swim off South Beach where Roadstone are carving away the mountain and exporting the gravel. Peter and Carolyn took off in The Van eager to go south where more sun and less rain might abound. Vintage cars and model boats made up the festival day and crew Louise abandoned ship with Marie for Dublin and left me single handed again on Sybil.

The Viking ship made a new and unexpected assault in the darkness at around 0300hrs, but apart from a few hull scrapes Sybil survived the attack. On hearing the commotion, I grabbed shoes and clambered on deck in the darkness and dragged their abandoned craft alongside another boat and returned to sleep. When I awoke next morning the Viking ship had disappeared entirely. Notice to mariners, beware sunken craft in Arklow basin.

Monday 4th August 2014

Arklow Sailing Club sent their fleet out to race on Bank Holiday Monday, but the sailing instructions may have been unclear. The fleet gathered round the dredgers working off the harbour, resulting in an interesting VHF radio outburst condemning those mariners who could not, or would not, understand the International Collision Regulations warning shapes and signals displayed by the working boats.

Sybil headed south inside the wind turbines to Pollshone, but the swell was high and wind onshore so anchoring was tricky. But my brother Timothy had invited me to inspect his new beachfront home and the opportunity was not to be missed. Locals guided me by phone to the deepest anchorage only a short paddle from the beach and welcomed me ashore. We walked and talked this lovely sunny seaside resort just south of Courtown. As the tide turned risking Sybils anchor, I had a quick swim and then paddled back onboard and sailed southward. A gentle south westerly wind let Sybil make good progress and the warm moonlight night helped me easily identify the Lucifer, Tuskar and Conninbeg banks to avoid them.

I have relied heavily on the Irish Cruising Sailing Directions, having once worked with Paul Campbell on their creation and with my father on their distribution. They do indeed provide an essential guide to Irish Coasts.  As I rounded the Tuskar, I closed up the North and East Coast book and discovered to my horror that my South and West Coast pilot book was not onboard. Therefore I chose to bypass Youghal to avoid navigating a new harbour without detailed information, and to carry on westward. A warm westerly breeze saw me passed Roches Point Lighthouse into Cork Harbour, though the wind turbines there had bright flashing white lights which confuse as they are not on my old charts. A darkened motor up the Owenboy River was filled with unlit obstructions including densely packed moored craft, mooring buoys, and navigational marks whose lights were not operating. A challenging obstacle course but I can assure you that no vessels were harmed in making good Sybils passage to moor at midnight.

Wednesday 6th August 2014

Dawned sunny and I moored at Royal Cork Yacht Club marina, then took the bus to Cork where chandlers and bookshops all failed to provide me with a new copy of ICC South +West Coast Sailing Directions. Apparently there is no demand for such reading in these parts - the locals must be born with "The Knowledge".

The "Thelma and Louise" team of Marion and my sisters Louise and Elizabeth arrived by car to relax for a few days and find themselves, having navigated to Cork via the intricate roads of Youghal - resulting in a journey time of 5 hours from Dublin. It was my fault of course for failing to stop off in Youghal. In reality Thelma was not there, but Louise arrived from Singapore and Marion from US and Elizabeth from...well, just Dublin actually. We sampled the bars and restaurants and enjoyed the sunny village of Crosshaven, before squeezing the luggage that filled an Audi car into the already stuffed Sybil. And then we slept. Well some of us slept, and some of us just snored.

Thursday 7th August 2014

Cooler wind but enough sun to get us walking over the headland to swim off the beach overlooking Roches Point. An evening cruise took us upstream into Cork city but time and tide were against us so we never reached the city centre. We tied up at Monkstown marina but were unable to exit to the only pub there as the gangway exit was locked, so we moved on to inspect the navy at Haulbowline and then tied up at Cobh to get an ice cream. A visiting cruise ship cast off beside the Titanic jetty, spun in the river and we followed her down to the Atlantic. She radioed Cork Harbour to complain that the racing yachts were not giving her sufficient clear space, and we were thankful to be on her stern and clear of trouble.

Friday 8th August 2014

Even more sun allows a morning run along the old Carrigline Railway route as it follows the Owenboy River up to Drakes Pool. The girls are reluctant to leave so we fill Sybils fuel and water and head upriver for a last voyage. The sound of the engine indicates that seaweed has clogged the engine water intake and we must moor up to clear it. But its a restful break in this scenic sunny part of Ireland, before the girls head off and I am alone again. I moor Sybil upriver in the quiet, but there is a strong westerly wind (small craft warning in force) which I hope will die down before I head west to Baltimore tomorrow.

Saturday 10th August 2014

Early morning departure from overnight mooring in Owenbuoy River at Crosshaven. Sunny warm light westerly wind gave close hauled sailing but lumpy seas.

Sybil self steered as I read my book, but a strange new sound caused me to look up at 1400hrs to see the starboard crosstree had come adrift, risking the mast. An at sea repair was quickly deemed impossible. With the starboard stay useless, the mast would say upright only so long as Sybil remained heeled on port tack. Spinnaker halyard and topping lift created makeshift support before I dropped sails and turned to run before the wind 8 miles back to the shelter of Kinsale. Completing 12 miles to windward was considered too risky, and repair facilities in a Baltimore mooring would be very limited. Cork would have the better repair facilities but the risk of breaking the unsupported mast on the longer journey ruled Cork out. Prepared VHF portable radio and flares, and mentally prepared the liferaft and other emergency gear "just in case". Motored in large swell with the mast bending like a bamboo, into the shelter of Kinsale where I started to relax at last.

Swedish Sven took my lines as I rafted up alongside the marina full of French yachts. Sven had sailed from Sweeden and was waiting a weather window to depart for La Coruna Spain and across the Atlantic. Sven hoisted me aloft to inspect, downing in one gulp the beer I gave him. I decided not to offer more beer until my life no longer depended on his winching. Armed with his electric drill and new screws, the spreader was soon repaired. Sven suggested a full rigging inspection to which I readily agreed, and a quick inspection of bottle screws revealed 2 missing split pins (absence concealed by black tape) which could easily have brought the mast down at any time.
Incessant rain dampened spirits in this gastronomic town, and boats hammered against each other in the uneasy southerly swell that mad the marina a very uncomfortable marina. The town council has added an additional marina fee for all visitors, surely a disincentive to visit Kinsale - spread the word.

Sunday 11th August 2014

Early morning departure from Kinsale, gently testing sails and rigging to ensure no permanent damage had been done by yesterdays accident. All tested and inspected, I departed the bay with more confidence. Westerly force 4-5 with lumpy sea made for slow and very wet progress, but warm sun made up for the wet. Wind increased beyond forecast and sea state still very lump so decided to cut short Baltimore target and head for shelter of Glandore.

As the pilot book recommended in relation to the rocky outcrops, I avoided Adam and Hugged Eve and made it through safely to pick up visitors mooring 2100hrs as darkness fell.
Peter Pan in the Van arrived to join me for dinner, but all of Glandores eateries have been closed and are for sale. The sole surviving pub made us up sandwiches of a quality that more than satisfied us and fulfilled south Corks reputation as gastronomic capital of the country.

Sybil sat on a visitors mooring in Glandore from Sunday as Peter arrived with the campervan and we toured by road to Roscarberry, Skibereen, Clonakilty and even nearby Union Hall which boasts a newly opened Lifeboat Station of which the entire town is very proud. In January 2012 fishing vessel Tit Bonhomme sank off Adams rock when it suffered engine failure entering Glandore Bay, and this new station fills a gap on the coastline.
We travelled by road to Baltimore where the wind and seas remain very stormy, as the town faces north. Paddy and Aideen in their holiday home joined us for a pint, having abandoned there wayfarer and cruiser here to resort to inland pursuits until the weather improves.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

A potential drop in wind and Sybil departs Glandore, after a motor to Union Hall to give Peter a long walk back to his campervan at Glandore. This voyage also allowed Sybil to visit another new port, one which I had believed was inaccessible to yachts. Peter had come aboard to hoist me upmast to replace the spinnaker halyard which had come adrift. As it had previously proved more useful as an emergency mast stay than for hoisting sails, I deemed its replacement an essential task as I would be heading off single handed again.

Westerly F5 with lumpy seas but sunny, tacked back and forth 40miles against the westerly wind but only made 20 miles over ground to Schull by 1900hrs. As dark clouds gathered at 2000hrs decided not to risk an overnight voyage, despite my shortage of time to complete the Round Ireland voyage. A small craft warning is still in place as I pick up a mooring in the shelter of Schull, alongside sistership Shimpan28 "Nomad". The VHF radio is live with rescue services searching for no less than three overdue boats in the area. The passing Customs boat launches its own RIB to aid the search effort and the Schull local rescue boat joins RNLI Baltimore and Castletownbere lifeboats and helicopter searching around islands of Baltimore under floodlights as darkness falls around 2100hrs. Unfortunately one fatality and two survivors are found the next morning. The survivors were found on Castle Island, past which I had sailed at 1900hrs to enter Schull - should I have seen them?  The question continues to haunt me.

Thursday 14 August 2014

My morning swim is brief in the Atlantic is definitely colder than Irish Sea which I am used to. But Sybil is of such vintage that she has no shower, so daily swims are essential. 1100hrs cast off Schull mooring under sail just to prove that I still can. The rescue team still searching the area after yesterdays fatality. Beating upwind in sunny fresh winds out to the infamous Fastnet, which does not now as in 2012 afford me good enough weather for a photo opportunity. Symbol of my fathers favourite Irish Cruising Club, I had hoped to get a good shot of the Fastnet lighthouse close up. Round Mizzen head to pass another milestone on the voyage, the head itself being a little anti climax as its known so famously from weather forecasts that I always expected something formidable looking. More westerly head winds and large rolling seas curtail voyage to only Castletownbere 30miles distant, but next stop Derrynane is 20miles upwind, maybe 8hrs away. Abandoned plan to continue overnight. With yesterdays fatality still strongly on my mind, I take the cautious option and cut short the day. Anchored in sunny Dunboy Bay under the Castle hotel, and swam again before dinner. I worry that the target of getting to Galway for the weekend to meet friends there will not now be achieved.

Friday 15 August 2014

Depart Dunboy in sunny light wind but it is still northerly. Small craft warning now rescinded by met office, wind drops and I motor sail for 5 hours. Wind goes west and increases so I carry on overnight past Shannon mouth and Clare. By morning the small craft warning is broadcast again and wind freshens to F6 with large seas. Such rapid changes in the weather and the forecast seem to be a feature of west coast sailing, with which I have not yet come to terms. Weather worsens and I worry about entering into Galway bay with a lee shore and no shelter (until tidal basin opens) but there is no port of refuge on the Clare coast. Aran Islands maybe?

Saturday 16 August 2014

Midday I sail on through strong westerly winds with massive rolling seas between Inisheer of the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher on the Clare coast, a rolling cauldron between two severe rocky coastlines offering no refuge. Fatigue is taking its toll and I imagine lights and images as the breaking seas blind my vision with sprays of salty seawater. Constant attention is needed to ensure Sybil takes the 3 meter high seas on the quarter, as to take them beam on will certainly roll her over. Beyond the Aran Islands channel, Galway Bay disappointingly proves no calmer. The GPS indicates 10knots speed over ground as Sybil races up Galway Bay, much faster than her normal 4 or 5 knots.

I determine to seek shelter before entering the narrow shipping channel and head for the shelter of an apparent cove, but while the wind lessens the seas actually increase in the shallows, providing no respite. I drop the mainsail, and I am so close to the cliff shore that a tour bus stops to check if I am in distress. I gybe around and head eastward again. Kinvara at the end of the bay might provide shelter, but its rocky entrance deters me - running aground there would be a swift and sudden end with no second chances! I run the engine (just to be sure) and even without the main, a quarter sized jib still speeds Sybil downwind at 6 knots. Surfed through the narrow buoyed channel and tucked into shelter just outside the Galway basin at 1700hrs, where a French yacht is also anchored awaiting tidal gate opening. Slept soundly for first time in 30hrs.
Mike wakes me by phoning at 8pm, he is standing onshore and sees basin tidal gate open. I try to start engine but no joy. Sounds like fuel starvation. Discovered that the main tank was empty and did a rapid refueling but this did not help either. Still, I am delighted this did not happen during todays tempestuous journey. Hailed the adjacent French yacht using fog horn (they did not answer my VHF channel 16 call) who kindly towed Sybil through the tidal gate and into the basin. It was a tricky job to lift the anchor (which had dug into the mud very deeply due to the strong wind) and accept towline whilst trying to gesticulate as my French language was as poor as their English. Fortunately Mike was on the jetty to arrest Sybils advance as the French boat towed us at high speed alongside. We came to rest only 1 foot away from crashing into other boats on the jetty. Mental note, always carry a knife to cut the towline in emergency!

Much needed rest was postponed as the Galway Gang took me downtown to sample their wild nightlife. Galway is a great city and Saturday night easily rolled into Sunday morning, with craft beers and music sessions to sample throughout the bustling town centre.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Started an early search to find the engine fault, as the plan had been to sail to Inismore Aran Islands with the Galway Gang today. Hours of testing with motor specialist John Bourke concluded injector pump (and possibly injectors) most likely damaged by running fuel tank down to last dirty and water filled dregs. Repair job must await suitable mechanic Monday, and as injectors are likely need to be sent to Castlebar for refurbishment then this work could take a full week. Sybil might not now get back to Dublin by end August holidays as planned, unless I head to sea without engine and rely on sail only. But maybe the omens are that Sybil should stay a full season in Galway. Western islands and Atlantic inlets might be worth a longer visit, and the basin in Galway City provides a very sheltered mooring. If only there were shower facilities here in the marina here.

Monday 18 August 2014

Search for mechanics begins. Dan in Bowwaves is launching Inishfree for Bill Whelan, after a hull renovation, and he has too much work on his hands having "created a monster" of a boat repair business which is growing too quickly but with insufficient space and staff. Ever helpful Pat Hicks of Hynes Engineering was too busy but went to great trouble to get me a number for John Ruddy, who is en route - from Dublin ironically where he has landed from France having completed a yacht engine restoration there. John has recently refitted an engine on a Shipman28 which is moored Rossaveal nearby, so he is the right man for the Sybil job. By Tuesday we have the injectors and pump removed for refurbishment, and I must wait in hot sunshine until their return while Sybil is stranded. The notion of going to sea without mechanical power will not leave my mind. Swimming at Salthill Blackrock becomes the past time as well as running the city, and Colin has loaned me his bike to explore further.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Mechanic John reassembles the engine and Sybil is powered once more. If I depart now and sail non stop then I might make it back to Dublin by end August deadline. But gales postpone any thoughts of departure and I am resigned to negotiate a mooring deal between distant Rossaveal or city centre Galway basin. Galway wins out and the decision is to moor Sybil here for a full year. This benefit is even more time to explore locally and spend time with friends on the west coast.

Friday 29 August 2014

Gales continue to lash the western coast, but warm temperature still allows swimming at Blackrock in tempestuous seas where Ice Bucket Challenges continue.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Finally escape from cabin fever by departing Galway basin single handed as soon as tidal gate opens 0800hrs. Unfortunately navy ship L.E.Aoife has the same idea and we share the too narrow channel out of Galway into a westerly F3 with lumpy seas inherited from the weeks gales. Tacked west to Rossaveal 1600hrs to collect Caoimhe, Eoghan and Fionn and daddy Mike O Rourke for a trip to Inishmore. A Cruinniu na mBad gathering of nearly 20 Galway Hookers greets my entry into the bay, and concentrates my vision to alert me to the starboard marker I had been short cutting whilst busy with the camera. A blustery Force 4 excites and drowns the young crew en route to Inismore. We tie alongside the quay wall outside Brian and Ronan Adams Tempestuous at 1900hrs. It seems a so calm and quiet island after our trip, and the young crew want to stay awake to see the island lights by night. We dine and fall asleep early as nobody can think of any ghost stories to tell, and everyone is yawning anyway.

Sunday 31 August 2014

Wind forecasted F5-7 decreasing around lunchtime but the wind is still rising with rain spreading as we finish skimming stones and competing in Mikes obstacle course in the playground. Even a midday coffee does not improve the Galway Bay weather, but open day at the lifeboat station postpones our inevitable departure with a tour onboard the allweather Trent lifeboat afloat. Skipper considers that it might be very useful for the crew to be familiar with the lifeboat in this stormy weather and heartily encourages the visit. Did radio checks with Inisbreacan alongside and planned to keep in touch as we both head across the bay to Galway.

Finally cast off in persistent rain and howling southerly wind 1400hrs. Soon lost sight of all land in the misty rain, a first for the young crew. Rolling seas behind and a reduced jib surfs us speedily to Galway at 6 knots. Rain persists and all foul weather clothing onboard is pressed into service, but at least the wind abates a little. Lots of bird life indicating dolphin or seal activity, but we only catch sight of one dolphin. Mike suggests they have all stayed at home as the weather is too wet. Narrowly avoided the departing huge cruiseship in the mist but at least she showed us the two channel markers we had been searching for in the mist. Colin and Andrew Owens of Galway Bay Sailing Club welcome us and take our lines as we come alongside 1900hrs awaiting the tidal gate to open at 1930hrs.

The young crew of Caoimhe, Eoghan and Fionn rejuvenated us all by preparing warm tinned chicken stew while Mom and Dad went to retrieve their car from Rossaveal. Visited inshore lifeboat where crewman Crewman Daniel was very patient even at this late hour and allowed the young crew a photo shoot wearing helmets onboard the inshore boat inside the boathouse. This made it the second lifeboat visit for our young crew in one day.

Eamon arrived to help bring Sybil into basin 2100hrs where she will now winter. Sybil takes up the last available berth in the marina many boats from the west coast have now arrived in the basin to batten down safely for winter.

Once again, Sybil has completed another year of cruising, adding over 700 miles distance under her keel, including 350 miles from Dublin to Galway. Sybil has proved her ability to handle any weather the Irish and UK coastline can throw at her. Despite her 30 years of age, the Shipman 28 has proved a very strong seaworthy boat and is easy to handle as a single hander or fully crewed.


It was good to have our young crew of Caoimhe, Eoghan and Fionn back onboard in calm sunny weather in September for an end of year voyage in Galway Bay. A warm day of diving and swimming from Sybil made up for the downpour they had survived on the Inishmore voyage, and provided a perfect end to the Sybil season.

A final voyage to Kinvara was cut short at Parkmore due to tide, but we met Anna and Alan Wallace who moor Sybils sistership Ban Eile there, and we promised to cruise the two Shipman28s together on the west coast next year.

September 2014