Friday, 4 July 2014

Carrickfergus N.I to Stranraer, Scotland.

Today we lost Charles to Belfast airport and the journey home, but gained Chris. The forecast for today was for the first time in iur challenge potentially difficult.  The wind was forecast as force 5-6, resulting in a strong wind warning, with a further warning of force 7, one down from a full gale. Sea state was forecast as being from moderate (waves up to 2.5m) to Rough (waves from 2.5 to 4.0m). In addition, there was a good chance of wind going one way and tide another, and the resulting confused wave pattern would be challenging. The proposed passage started from Belfast, where of course we had had such a horrible time yesterday, to Stranraer in Scotland, a distance of only 22 miles, but where tides and winds were known to be difficult. We did quite a lot of planning for the passage, including a Plan B port for use as a place of refuge in the event that we could not continue.

After much consultation over lunch and a libation of tea, our council of war chose to delay our departure by one hour so that we would not fight the tide and perhaps even gain from it, and we dutifully left Carrickfergus at 15.00 as planned. It was immediately clear that the strong wind warning was justified. We hoisted the main sail immediately, although it was fully reefed, so that it could be deployed if necessary, and also flew the gennaker. Our speed immediately rose to around 8,5 knots,and we positively screamed along even with our cautious sails configuration. As we hurtled along at between 8 to 9 knots,  we briefly saw 10 knots. Bliss!! 

At 1700 we reached the half way point between Northern Ireland and Scotland. We raised our Scottish saltire courtesy flag, notwithstanding that Scotland is not yet its own country. We pondered what we should do, and asked if we should emulate the ceremonies inflicted on those mariners  who have passed the equator for the first time. Having no fish heads and rotten food to hand with which we could smear each other's faces, we elected to honour passing into the jurisdiction of a much valued part of the United Kingdom, and decided on a strategy. We ate Scottish strawberries and chocolate as a means of confirming the high esteem in which we hold Scotland. Feasting over, we continued to cream along at around 8,5 to 9 knots with huge stability and a sense of great safety.

Approaching  Stranraer was a feast for the eyes. It is the convergence of two pretty headlands, and although the marina is very efficient and helpful, arriving at Stranraer town in search of food,  did not match the quality of the journey itself. 

Simply put, we had a blissful, amazing sail for much of  the 5 hour passage, at high speed and with a boat that tracks beautifully in heavy seas. Well done Broadblue! 

So, why, I hear you say Stranraer? Well, it is a manageable jump of 40nm from Carrickfergus, from which we can land in the inner Hebrides. Most of all, it is a North facing inlet totally protected from the raging South to South Westerley wind due to hit tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, dependent upon weather forecasts, either the Isle of Arran or Campbelltime are contenders, although the forecast is windier than today and significantly less pleasant.

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