Islay Mist in the Med

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Waterford, Ireland and the Spraoi

Waterford is one of Irelands oldest settlements Vikings settled here in the 8th century. It is Ireland’s  only town to still hold its Scandinavian derived name Waterford coming from Vadrafjord (winter fjord).  There are a few museums and the like as expected but alot of the people we talked to here seem to feel that it has been overlooked by Ireland as a tourist attraction as everyone goes to Dublin or Galway and those kinds of places.  Well I suppose we only arrived by accident too as the wind was pushing us this way. 

Chain Ferry
So the last blog left off as we entered the River Barrow to get to Waterford.  Waterford is actually 15 miles up the tidal river and we quickly realised that we had got there on an ‘ebb’ when our speed reduced to 2 knots.  We were completely knackered too so we decided to anchor up, have lunch, a nap and resume the journey when the tide turned.  It is very nice going up the river, I am sure much nicer if the sun ever comes out down there (which I am entirely unconvinced of.)  There is a chain ferry going across at one point from the village of ‘Passage East’ on the Westside a very obviously named place if ever there was one.  We were very interested to see the chain ferry as it has been proposed to put one on one of the Shetland inter isles routes.  They certainly can move and agains a 4 knot current and winds so maybe not such a pipe dream after all. 

Some pics from up the river...

Nice Irish countryside

Cruise liners can get right up the river too.

"Quickly get a picture of that boat" "why?" "because they are unloading steel piles" "oh yes now I see why you want a picture?!"

Some of the pricier riverside properties!

The Hebridean Princess we always seem to meet her on our travels but never in Ireland before.

Getting berthed in Waterford was  a little tricky as there was little space to be found ont he pontoons.  Two guys shouted to us to go into a space on the inner side of one of the pontoons which we tried but the current almost had us aground as we turned in and thankfully Ali’s quick manoeuvring had us back out of danger and looking for a different spot.  Definitely a place where arriving at slack water is to be recommended!  We got a spot on the outside instead much easier!

The girls got some candy floss as another Biscay reward...  I think this was so bad it didn't even taste like real sugar - how do you fake candyfloss?

As I said before we arrived at the pontoon to the sounds of live music coming from the pier and found out we had by chance arrived on the Waterford Spraoi weekend.  It is basically a huge festival throughout the town with lots of street acts, stalls and stages for live music.  Apparently a lot of it would have been held in a park but they have had so much rain it was like a mud pool.  It was just a shame to feel so completely knackered the first night that we couldn’t enjoy it as much as we would have liked.  But there was always the next day! 

In the Luminarium
 We walked around town and heard bands, and saw many acts including fire juggling unicyclists amongst all sorts of other things.  The highlights of the Spraoi for the girls was the luminarium a huge light filled bouncy castle type thing

Saw Doctors although you can't see them!

and for us was the Saw Doctors playing on the pier stage as the last act on Sunday night. 

Then the grand finale was a big fireworks display on the river which of course we had ringside seats for.  Thousands of people crowded the waterfront to see the show it was great! 

We stayed another night in Waterford after the Spraoi mainly to get the laundry done and we had a little wander around that day too the town was like a ghost town after the Spraoi and it was bank holiday Monday so there wasn’t a lot open.  Reginalds tower was open and it boasts being Ireland’s oldest complete building and the first to use mortar no less.  It was built by the Vikings (Reginald presumably.  The tower/town has had a very interesting history being under attack many times from various different regimes throughout history.  It has also been a defence tower, royal mint and jailhouse in its time, now it is a museum and quite a good one too.  The museum here obviously suffers from the same as the Shetland museum in that anything that is found locally but is of ‘national’ significance is spirited away by the National museum only to be returned on loan.  Hopefully they have got it all on a longer term loan than we got the St Ninian’s Isle treasure back from Edinburgh for though!

We also wanted to hear live Irish music and the nice lady in the tourist office directed  us to Dooleys hotel for the ‘Session’ held every Monday.  It wasn’t quite what we were expecting.....   The word session and music to me who has worked in the Lounge Bar in Lerwick means a lively fiddle, guitar, drums anything goes kind of music session but this is not what we got.  It was actually a meeting of locals doing some of the traditional Irish dances with a band and a compeer telling them which way to go.  And I must say although the music wasn’t what we were expecting the dancing was impressive and way more complicated than traditional Scots dancing - you certainly wouldn’t be able to stagger up drunk into the middle of it and expect to make any sense of it! 

So that was our time in Waterford and we liked the place, the people were really friendly as you would expect in Ireland although a quick read of the local paper makes you think there is a fair crime problem with knives etc which we didn’t see any of but it must be there before the people are getting jailed.  But we knew time was marching on and we need to get back to Shetland for school and work. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Biscay Crossing 2012

So D Day had arrived, the weather had been checked, boat tidied, and there was nothing left to do but say our goodbyes to William and Helen and go out into the Bay of Biscay and just hope the weather forecast was correct!
The last we saw of Spain

Out on the Blue behind us they made it to England in 72 hours! 

Which it was and it wasn’t.  We knew we would have to motor for about 20 miles to get into the weather system that was causing the westerlies winds we could see on the forecasts and then we thought we would have a pretty windy first Fight F5-6 and next day with 3-4m swells but this was supposed to reduce so the wind would be F3,4,5 and the waves would reduce to 2-3m swell (or less we hoped but this is Biscay!)  What we got was right for the first night but the wind and the waves just stayed up at F6-7 occasionally reducing to F5 for fun and the waves stayed at around 3m and 4m for the rest of the way until we were about 40 miles from Ireland and even then we were still rolling in on 2m swell!  The good thing was that the wind direction did what we thought it was going to do which was stay in a West or South West direction the wholeway so it was a down wind rollercoaster ride. 

Strangely even for me it wasn’t that bad although only Ali found it in anyway pleasurable!  As long as we didn’t have what I considered to be too much a sail up then I was fine and we hardly ever did.  Not many will believe me when I say it was Ali who suggested taking the main down again both times we did.  If the seas had been flatter we would have kept it up, it was just when a gust coincided with a large wave there was too much power in the sail and we would go right over.  As we could still make 6 knots with just the jib then we thought it might be safer to do just that.  The first time we took the main down it was in the pitch black so it was a little exciting Ali does all the on deck stuff whilst I man the wheel and the ropes whilst we are doing that kind of manoeuvre.  We are always well strapped onto the boat too so we can’t get swept overboard so it is OK if you can call banging about in the dark getting soaked in the rain OK that is. 

The weather apart from the wind was a mixed bag, the first few hours were lovely sunshine and we all had our shorts on a few hours later me and Ali were digging out the heavy weather gear and this stayed on although sometimes with a lightweight jacket the whole way across.  The chances of getting wet came either from rain showers or water coming over the deck so the girls had their rain suits on too. 

There was sickness.

And then craziness. 

Alsiha stuffing her face with freshly baked baguette a great sea sickness cure!

The full moon coincided with our trip – when it came out from behind the clouds.

There were only two ‘incidents’ on the trip, one was a reefing block broke which meant Ali had to go to the mast for any reefing that took place.  The other incident was probably lucky it wasn’t worse; I was woken after my early morning shift with a big bang and presumed it was a big wave but Ali and Kaylee were up on deck and saw a big fin behind the boat.  It was either a big shark or a whale, Ali couldn’t tell which and it was out of sight in the swell before I got on deck but thankfully though it was big it wasn’t big enough to do any damage or it just gave us a glancing blow.  We did worry when we went to turn the engine on 5 miles off the coast of Ireland that the whale had done some damage as it took a few tries and usually starts first time........  Anyway since it didn’t do us much damage we sincerely hope we didn’t do the poor creature any lasting damage either. 
broken reefing point

Round Up

The trip took 91hours from Muxia to the mouth of the river Barrow in Southern Ireland.  It is about 560 miles so we averaged over 6 knots the whole way as usual (strange when the speedometer always seemed to be up over 7 or 8!)  We only used the engine for the first five hours and the last 1 hour and that was so Ali could make water so as you can imagine he was delighted and so were we to see Ireland!  It certainly was better than the last time when we motored for 3 and a half days in 2-3m side swell.  It hasn’t put us off a long trip in the future as we have been assured (Shirlee) that Biscay is the worst but we will just have to wait and see!
Entrance to the river Barrow - thank goodness for that!

 We had intended to go up the west coast of Ireland but the wind and the waves didn’t want us to go and maybe they knew something we didn’t as when we finally tied up in Waterford and heard lots of live music and saw hundreds of people we found out the ‘Waterford Spraoi’ Sproai is pronounced spree – divine providence or what?!

Porto to Muxia the last of mainland Europe :-(

Very reluctantly we decided to leave Douro Marina in Porto and head north into the mist in the afternoon rather than fog. We shortened our sights for this trip as we had decided maybe to motor all night up to Spain - but when we realised our autopilot was broken and there was no wind for the wind vane to steer and we would have to hand steer to where ever we were going..... And it was my birthday which I didn’t want to spend motoring in the gloom all night! We got across the entrance to Lexioes harbour without coming to grief under the bow of any large boats in the fog which was a relief. I say fog as although it had looked quite clear from the marina as soon as we got out past the breakwater at the end of the river the fog very quickly came back down.
Hand steering - boring!

Apart from hand steering the trip North that day was pretty uneventful you couldn’t really see anything, we went to see if the Pelamis seasnake was in operation as it hadn’t been on our way South 3 years previously and it wasn’t there, they have even taken away the warning buoys now. Why Shetland is pandering a company whose largest prototype has hardly ever worked is beyond me. Also if the swells of the Portuguese coast have broken the one they put down here then don’t you think that another one will definitely be in pieces after one Shetland winter (or summer for that matter?) Rant over! Still on the renewables front there was one addition to the coast line that loomed up out of the fog that definitely wasn’t there last time........

It is a bit of a shock as you can’t really see turbines against the mist, we kept on going carefully with the radar for a while after that but it seemed to be a lone turbine maybe if we ever come back this way there will be a whole forest of them we must remember to buy new charts before then!

We got into Viana Do Castelo just in time for a nice tea cooked by Alistair and a bottle of wine. We were here three years ago and so we looked forward to using the cafe on the pier for internet and a birthday beer but it was not to be as the whole complex on the pier which had cafes and restaurants is now all empty. It seems the north of Portugal hasn’t escaped the recession at all we wondered what happened to the friendly Welsh/Portuguese waiter we met last time. There was however a new play park so the girls were pleased.

We left at around 9am setting off to Portasin in Spain which is a 70 mile trip; we couldn’t go any earlier as the office didn’t open to pay until 8.30. This proved to be good in a way though as Ali bought this ...

Kaylee had been very angry at him the day before as I didn’t get a cake and she said it wasn’t fair as I always get them cakes for their birthday. You will notice I didn’t say bake there as if I can I get mum to do it and if you saw Kaylee’s this year you would know why!

This trip started the same, flat calm and foggy but at least Ali had fixed the auto pilot it was just the ‘arm’ which had come loose (don’t ask me.) This was probably good timing as if it had come loose crossing Biscay we may not have been able to fix it in the conditions and I would have had to learn how to use the wind vane very very quickly! We motored north until the wind finally came up in the afternoon and we sailed for about half an hour before it died again (poor Ali) When were about 20 miles from our destination the wind finally came up properly but from -you guessed it – directly the direction we were going in. The last few miles were fairly choppy and very slow. We anchored just outside Portasin harbour being the canny Scots we are we don’t like to pay a whole days marina fee without actually getting our money’s worth of electricity etc. It was actually fairly windy and we don’t like manoeuvring into marinas in the dark and wind as it can end up going disastrously wrong.

We went into the marina first thing the next morning to use the facilities, washing machines, wifi etc. The wifi is really good at Portasin and reaches right onto the boat the first time we had had this since Gibraltar. It meant the girls could get some time on too and feed and clean their moshlings – don’t ask!

We met an Irish guy on the pontoon next to us who was returning his boat back to Ireland that week too and wasn’t setting off until through the week not the next day as we had thought to do. We looked at the weather and decided to put our trip off for a couple for days too which was a bit of a relief for me. Then we met an English couple, William and Helen, whom we had seen as we were leaving Viana Do Castelo and they were also crossing Biscay. They told us about a free marina in Muxia which from where we were was just around Cape Finisterre and a much better start off point for crossing Biscay (and of course free) so we decided we would go there the next day – Sunday and leave for Ireland on Tuesday. It was amusing when we had William and Helen on for a beer in the evening and Ali was trying to impress with how we had sailed to Turkey and back and then we found out they have been the whole way around the world including the pirate infested Gulf of Aden!

There was a slight puff of easterly wind across the marina on the Sunday morning so Ali was up like lightning and pulling the gennaker up the forestay shouting at the rest of us to get up. Lo and behold we did sail most of the way down the bay and then the wind died but not for long. As we had sailing company Ali was determined to sail the whole way to Muxia although I wasn’t entirely convinced as the forecast was for the wind to die in the afternoon and the tacking course we were having to take seemed to be taking us South and West rather than North but who am I to argue with captain? The other boats going the same way as us all motor sailed or just motored close in to shore whilst we were about 7 miles off to ‘catch the best wind’ tacking back and forth in the lumpy sea with small girls hanging over the rails spewing. We were still about 7 miles off when the wind really did die and we had to put the engine on. The statistics of this trip were – straight line around cape distance – 36 miles, miles sailed 39, miles motored 21 which means basically we took all day and a lot of miles to get where we were going but apparently it was all worth it because we used 20 miles less diesel and we sailed.

We did see a pilot whale very close to Muxia and the scenery up this end of Spain is beautiful even though it is peppered with turbines. And most importantly we had passed Finisterre which can be very rough and wouldn’t be a good way to start a five day crossing of Biscay.

William and Helen’s boat Out on the Blue was obviously already tied up at the pontoon in Muxia when we got there and there was a Belgian boat with small kids onboard who are just starting out on a two year trip with their kids which made us a bit wistful! The situation with the marina in Muxia is this, the Spanish government or EU decided to invest in the area and to build a Southern breakwater and marina in the harbour however he locals did not want this and the local council refused to take responsibility for it! There are pontoons and cleats to tie to and it is very sheltered but that is it, no water or electricity but we had just filled with water and don’t need electricity. We really like the place and Ali wants to move back and offer to run the marina but I have heard enough of these types of schemes to realise it probably won’t happen! It could be an opportunity for others though....
Muxia marina

Anyway as I said we really liked Muxia it is a small coastal town and as we realised after a bit of exploring it is one of the ends of the pilgrimage route “Camino de Santiago” which is the one that goes from somewhere in France up through he Pyrenees and across Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela and then to here or Finisterre. Thankfully this town wasn’t full of straggly hairy people with battered leather sandals and long walking sticks like Santiago de Compostela was three years ago -they must all go to Finisterre. I suppose finisterre translated as the end of the earth would have more resonance with most pilgrim types although this town certainly tries to cash in on it all with the little tell tale scallop motifs everywhere you look.

Unfortunately our knack this trip of arriving everywhere there was a fiesta on was still holding and there was a funfair on the pier opposite the pontoon with lots of rides to entice the kids. We went out for a beer or two with William and Helen and a few spendy rides. We wished we had taken the camera when Ali discovered the merry go round with real horses tied to it! William and Helen invited us to their boat after and as always it made us jealous they have an Oyster 485 which incidentally is for sale now they have headed back home so if anyone wants a new boat this one is pretty good and big It is certainly big enough inside to have a good old party!

How many pins can I stick in my finger

The next day we located the internet cafe and made a final weather decision that we would go at around 2ish the next day as the North winds coming down the Spanish coast abated around then and the Westerlies would start a few hours later. We spent that day getting final provisions and just relaxing I couldn’t do my usual pretrip hoovering as there was no electricity - oh well. Also there isn’t much point in cleaning before a long trip as everything gets thrown around and messy anyway.
Camarinas Bay

The girls and I went to the beach which is lovely and did some rock climbing and stone collecting it is really pretty there and the girls did plead to stay for a day or two more which we would have done gladly if the weather window wasn’t as good as we would ever get for crossing Biscay. On our last night in Spain we decided to eat out with William and Helen and have one of the menu’s we saw advertised around town. We should have gone to the place they went to the night before which had been nice but we tried somewhere else on one of the back streets and really it was a bit bogging the wine was OK and the chips but the veg seemed to all be canned or frozen... That really says it all! It was a shame as we have had some wonderful food in Spain but never mind the beer and wine was OK! Now Helen if you are reading this I will inform you that we all (except Alistair) got you cold, Kaylee went down halfway across Biscay, and I went down with it just as we were tying up in Ireland and Alisha still has it now! But hey ho it will just be preparation for launching ourselves back into the bug infested first few weeks of the school term!
So that’s just about it for this post.  We love Spain and wished we could have cruised Galicia and the Rias for a few months but as always we rushed through and were on to the next part of the journey Biscay......... YIKES!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Via Inmarsat:

Pos update 50 38.03N 7 53.15W Been rough all day hoping to get to irish
coast b4 wind direction changes still at least 65 miles to go. feck drink
as jack says!

Please note your reply is limited to 160 Latin characters or approximately 135 for non-Latin characters.

Sent via Inmarsat. The mobile satellite company