"Light Blue"

Creaming along towards the Scillies

Living the Dream, part 2

What better opportunity to catch up with the narration of our adventures than while sat in an anchorage in Kinsale in a gale. We arrived here yesterday from East Ferry near Cobh (pronounced Cove) and had such an invigorating sail, close-hauled in force 5 south-westerlies, having spent a few days chilling out in the environs of Cork harbour. Our crossing of the Celtic Sea, which was at its benign best, was uneventful with a full day and a night of sailing into the wind.

We had been anxious to leave the Isles of Scilly as early as possible having spent an enjoyable but forced sojourn on St Mary’s as a result of the successful and expensive repair of the freshwater maker pullies. We sailed out early in the morning and as we exited via the northern channel a friendly seal popped up beside us, as if to say ‘Goodbye and safe journey’, before disappearing through the centre of a large ripple.

After the initial buzz of activity required to leave an anchorage, and after hoisting the sails and trimming them according to the wind, then switching off the engine, there is a very relaxing period, when one accustoms one’s body and mind to the renewed unstable motion and the absolute exposure to the raw, undiluted elements, which one does not experience so much while on land. Time to drink a cup of tea or coffee, get the log started and enter fully into that limbo, which is an integral emotional part of a long passage. Time to reflect upon one’s contact with the ‘land people’ and their habits, kindnesses. Time to realise that the World Cup and Wimbledon is happening, while one is at sea and that long distance offshore sailing is a very esoteric world. This is a world of the present, wherein the participant is predominantly interested in ‘Where am I?’ ‘Where am I going?’ ‘What’s the wind and weather doing?’ and ‘Am I hungry?’ Life is reduced to a simple process of survival tactics hopefully and happily laced with long bouts of vigorous controlled sailing.

When we set sail from the Isles of Scilly, Siobhan and I were confident and composed about being totally self-sufficient for a day and a half in the alien environment of the Celtic sea portion of the North Atlantic. We had been promised easterlies by the forecasters and were looking forward to between 24 and 36 hours of beam reach sailing. Weather forecasting is not an exact science, so the northerlies we experienced was a disappointment but an aspect of sailing to which we have become accustomed. Sailing uphill! Having said that, the trip was not demanding, apart from sleep deprivation.

Our navigation was spot on and we passed the Kinsale Head gas field (with its two rigs resembling something out of War of the Worlds) about a kilometer off . They are 30 miles off the Irish coast and so it was to be six hours before we reached the shelter and calm water of Drakes Pool 1,5 miles along the Owenboy River from Crosshaven. After 31 hours we were both ready to get our head down, but a surprise was in store as we circled the secluded spot choosing our anchorage among all the unexpected moorings. A very soft unmarked underwater muddy bank brought us to a gentle halt and we realised that we were aground. We were very fortunate, however, as we were within minutes, greeted by Frank, a live-aboard on his unique boat in the Pool, who reassured us that we would be off in two hours as the tide was rising. He was the first of many Irish people we met, who have made us feel so welcome and have shown a willingness to help, give advice and chat (and chat and chat!). As soon as we were settled, we went to bed and were asleep before our heads hit the pillow. We awoke 12 hours later.

After two relaxing days in that quiet backwater, we left and sailed over to East Ferry Marina further up Cork Harbour and spent three days there, to enable friends and relatives to visit us at an accessible spot. It was lovely to meet Sandra and her two little angels and to have a very relaxed lunch with Paddy, Joan, Aileen and Mike.

Sunset over the Scillies

East Ferry is on Great Island and is about five miles from Cobh, which we visited on a daily basis. On an historic note, Cobh is the town from which the majority of the Irish emigrants to the USA departed on ships, including the Titanic and Lusitania. It has been pointed out to me that they would have been transferred from Cobh to the ships, which were anchored in the bay, by small boats. We found the local people of Great Island so very friendly, helpful and unassuming. Siobhan and I, who are still somewhat affected from having spent 18 and 30 years in London, respectively, are finding this old-world charm refreshing, despite having been given a gentle introduction to rural good manners while living in Somerset. My somewhat jaded view of life from having worked in the Metropolitan Police is now accepting that not everyone is interested in number one. Thanks to Eddie, Frank, Pat, Liz and everyone else at Great Island for making our stay so pleasant.

Yesterday, we left East Ferry and planned to reach Corkmacsherry, some 30 miles away, but once again the wind was on the nose. Additionally, we were forceably headed out towards the Cork buoy, some five miles offshore, by a fishing boat protecting its 3-5 miles of salmon nets running directly out from the coast, which is a sailing hazard along the coast at this time of year. The sail therefore started off messily, but once we got the yacht in the slot, we had a great ride, close-hauled in constant force 5 winds with two reefs in the main and the working jib, tacking and galloping along the coast. With the forecast for south to south-east gales, making Corkmacsherry unsuitable, because of its bar, we headed directly for Kinsale and we are now at anchor there and as I write this the boat is rocking wildly and the gale force wind is howling outside. Last night I kept an anchor watch, and we didn’t budge. Tonight I am going to sleep soundly. Goodnight.

Lawry and Siobhán Nunn, 10 July 2006

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