Thursday, 3 July 2014

The camera never lies... ...and leprechauns are real!

Having already been upstaged by Martin's blog kindly using up any commentary material that I may have had in mind, I have opted for the alternative version.

My previous sailing exploits in Britain have been with Martin on the East coast and previously on the Solent. I had visions of stormy seas and a need for serious foul weather gear for the Irish Sea. Despite this, my inbuilt programming to travel light meant that I was prepared for rowing in the Caribbean. I arrived at Portaferry in Strangford Loch a couple of hours early, whilst Martin and Andy were lunching, so spent a pleasant couple of hours drinking tea in the sun. This was quite unexpected, as was the view that lay before me, which included this oddity that appeared to be some kind of alien landing vessel. Anyway, I pressed forward and ordered some more tea. I was starting to think that perhaps I was getting this craic thing wrong, but thought that I'd better stay sober to defend us from the aliens.
Strangford Loch tidal turbine
Some time later, out of the blue came our lunch boys, with Alexandria looking resplendent for our (ahem, staged) photographs. It soon become apparent that the seas ripple with huge currents and make navigating through what appears to be an open area of water quite challenging, although no problem for our experienced sailors.

Andy endeavoured to assist in the arrival at the stunning but isolated Portaferry Marina through his careful instructions.

Heading out to sea the next day, these ripples and vortices (perhaps the work of the aliens) became much more apparent. Apparent to us, that is. Photographs make it appear that they were perfectly still. This is the first instance of the phrase that 'the camera never lies' being inaccurate.

We progressed out to sea, heading for the Isle of Man. Having travelled to the Channel Islands frequently, I had plenty of expectations, many of them misconceptions. I had never expected the landscape to be dominated by an industrial chimney, spewing fumes into the sky. Or perhaps it was sucking them in?

Like my own expectations, this was merely the camera lying. Peel, on the west of the Isle of Man has a pretty marina, albeit with somewhat restricted access (only around 3-4 hours during the afternoon) at slack water. Douglas, meanwhile, which is the capital of the island is on the east coast and substantially more built up. Rather than the usual practice of circumnavigating the island, we opted to traverse it via the lush and varied country terrain. Douglas has a very long promenade resembling many British seaside towns. The water was crystal blue and it only seemed fair to support the local economy by eating copious amounts of ice cream. Sauntering along, we attempted to sum up an island by simply passing locals on bicycles returning home from work, listening to a broad variety of predominantly northern English accents and trying to stitch together other common attributes. We didn't knowingly meet any locals 'born and bred' during our Island landing. Towards the end of the promenade, we were met with a Hollywood-esque sign on the hill indicating an 'Electric Railway'.
With our ice cream energy almost depleted, we about turned and headed for the Douglas marina to refuel. Via the ferry terminal. Good job that Martin's sea navigating skills beat our onshore ones. Eventually locating the marina by the tell tale mast heads, we found ourselves at a traditional Manx tapas bar, where the very well informed Polish waitress answered some of our rapid fire questions on the workings of the Island. Her responses seemed surprisingly in depth and knowledgeable, although perhaps it was the delivery that made it sound more convincing. After all, I could try to convince you that this photograph shows a 5 mile long promenade that we walked along.

Back in Peel, we turned in with Martin still in search of somewhere to do his laundry, which was to be deferred until the morning.
With high water, necessary from our departure, not being until after 1pm, we slept in late and did some yacht-min, having been offered some queenies for breakfast and politely declining.
Come some time after the promised 1pm high tide, we were first out of the gates to the marina and made a charge across the Irish Sea for Carrickfergus (you can tell the tourists as everyone else calls it Carrick). Both the seas and skies looked wild. The coastguard hadn't lied. He'd covered all bases except for sun, so was correct on at least some counts. The below photo was taken with the aim of making it look as stormy as possible. It seems that there were perhaps just 2 yachts that chose to make the crossing that day. It was long and challenging but very rewarding. Upon arrival at the mouth of the inlet towards Carrick and Belfast, we could be forgiven for thinking that we were home. However, we had a further 2 or so hours and 36 knot winds to endure before we finally moored. Just in time for some traditional American food, albeit at 10pm, but with the light still holding.

Throughout my time in Northern Ireland and the IoM, I found everybody to be hugely welcoming and to really go out of their way to be helpful. The countryside out here is stunning and I'd happily recommend anybody to visit. I've spent many years in search of the ultimate road trip, but over the last 2 days, I've dipped my toe into Martin's ultimate sea trip. I found both to be hugely rewarding as well as exciting and eye opening.

As I fly home in a plane that is dressed as a chicken, I have fond memories and wish Martin and all his crew and followers safe travels. The camera never lies.


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