Liverpool to Isles of Scilly

Well, I am sure that a real blogger is far more prolific than I have been – but there has been a lot going on – so I will try better in the future and, for now, bring you up to date.

Whilst this blog is quite obviously about the trip to wherever life, fair wind and weather take us, it would not be right to exclude mention of our wedding. Many of you reading this will have been there and will agree, I hope, that it was a brilliant day. Certainly Mike and I think so and know that it was the company of great friends and family which made it so wonderful. Special mention has to go to James who made the best “Best Man” speech ever, to Caroline for her poem, to Chris for “giving me away”, and to Dave for taking photos. The fact that his camera and equipment is so fancy that we can’t actually access the photos on our computer is another story – but Dave and Mag are joining us in Spain soon and will probably show us what we are doing wrong. It was also lovely to see other friends attend the ceremony and also thanks to those who joined us later in the evening. It was a day to remember.

And so to the following day when we set sail from Liverpool and again, our friends supported us – through a huge breakfast at the marina and lunchtime in the pub for Wapping Ale, pies and scouse. We really do take some supporting!


James and John had opted to sail on our honeymoon as far as our first stop in Arklow and we left the Marina lock at about 5pm hankies all waving from the lockside. It was great to be able to see Liverpool as we sailed down the Mersey, unlike our earlier reported sail up the Mersey a month before. The Three Graces certainly look better in the sunshine.

Into the channel, we looked for friends who had said they were visiting the Iron Men – but it took us about two hours to get there so, unsurprisingly, they had gone home. However, waiting at the Lifeboat station at Crosby were Sue, Frank and Peter and it was lovely to speak over the phone as we sailed by. The channel doesn’t allow us near enough to see each other but because Sue had had the foresight to think pillowcases rather than hankies I could see them waving and because they had binoculars they saw us.

The sail across to Ireland was pretty good except that, in true Siga Siga fashion, the wind was, for the most part straight on our bow – so it was a case of motoring. Mike was quite happy about this because the forecast was good until Sunday morning (after which time winds and rain were due) and we therefore wanted to make it by Saturday night if possible, which we did, berthing on the outer marina pontoon on the river at Arklow at 3.30pm. James and John seemed to enjoy the voyage and managed to record their “I’m on a boat” rap which we are waiting to see in edited version. John also found an excellent way of taking photographs by attaching the camera to the tripod, extending its legs and holding it above his head.

We received a fantastic Irish welcome from Brian and Ann [great meal at Egans – used to be Kitty’s] and from various other members of the Byrne clan when we visited the Byrne homestead on a very wet and windy Sunday. We said goodbye to James and John as they stayed to visit with family for a couple of days

Monday dawned clear and Mike and I set sail for Kilmore Quay – a days run of 10.5 hours – a remarkable 6.5 actually sailed – hurray! Kilmore Quay is a nice little place but unfortunately its pub closed at Xmas. As Mike discussed with the harbourmaster, its very hard for small pubs in small villages to survive. What has survived though is the excellent “Fishy Business Fish Shop” and, if the small cabin is closed then the attached all purpose shop sells you the freshly caught local fish.

The next two nights were spent on the River Suir near Waterford which was a 5.5 hour sail – yes Sail – from Kilmore. It was great sailing up the river (which took 3 hours), past lovely small villages and scenic surroundings. We passed a lone seal – and he was still there, in approx the same place, on our return journey 2 days later.

Anchoring in a tidal river was a new experience. OK we had been berthed in one at Arklow – which was not the most pleasant given the weather, but there we had been attached. This was the first use of our new anchor and it lived up to its reputation and stuck firm first time. What we were not ready for was as the tide turned to end up approximately horizontal to our anchor much nearer to the bank than we expected to be. So we have learnt something about the combination of wind and tide on a river – i.e. don’t immediately panic about the unexpected and seemingly concerning position you find yourself in. As long as your anchor is in then its OK.

We took a day out to visit Waterford and, having seen the full pontoons along the waterfront there, we were glad we had made the decision to anchor where we did – even if it was a 2-3 mile walk each way to the town. Unfortunately Waterford wasn’t as pretty as I had expected but we had a good pint of Guiness at Doolans Bar [so good that we had to have another at the Waterfront Bar on our return journey!] so all was well with the world.

From Waterford we headed to Youghal [pronounced Yawl] and we found weather. Oh yes, we found weather. The forecast had been 4-5 occasional bursts of 6 – but Oh no – it was a constant Force 6 from about 12.00 onwards [having sailed pleasantly down the river and along the coast for about 5 hours in the expected Force 4]. The “small craft warning” came over the radio at 11.30 when we were well into the journey and they were right. We got a trouncing, but we battled on and anchored just off Market Quay in Youghal in relatively still water. Well by then just about anything would have felt relatively still! We celebrated our safe anchorage by eating Tapas in a local establishment – having supped a pint of Murphy’s to calm the nerves first.

At this point I have to mention “Tiddles”. Tiddles is a snap shackle, named after someone dear to us, and it was purchased by them as part of our wedding/leaving present. Tiddles is the means by which we now secure the anchor to prevent it from escaping as per the incident in the Irish Sea. Well, Tiddles has well earned her place on board – without it we would have again lost the anchor – and probably the plot! Buying the Rocna was the right thing to do – but any would be purchasers beware – make sure it fits the mounting and/or is well secured. Even with the fixing the anchor still tried to make its escape and jumped off the bow roller – so once again it was Mike to the rescue in rolling seas – this time to prevent it making holes in the bow as it swung happily to one side. So – we are now working on “Tiddles 2” which will probably be some sort of bolt fixing to compliment Tiddles 1.

The anchor is certainly making a name for itself and, as we have a habit of naming various bits of boat, we are trying to think of a suitable title. Any ideas welcome. I had thought of “The Prisoner” or “The Cooler King” as names taken from other would be escapees. So far Mike has called it “Eff….” several times and “The Wee Bugger”. I rather like the latter – but as yet it remains unnamed.

We did a biggish shop in Youghal because we weren’t sure of the food purchase possibilities at Crosshaven [our next stop]. Crosshaven is the main anchorage/marina option for Cork, and in itself is a smashing place to visit. This was our opportunity to fill the fuel and water tanks and having crabbed sideways into the fuel berth [it was the only way and remarkably carried out by Mike – thank goodness for bow thrusters] we received brilliant service from the guy left in charge of fuelling at weekends. He first of all informed us that as the tide was going out we were about to get stuck/have difficulty getting out of the berth. Ah! Not good. However, he then told us that as the fuel berth had officially closed he wouldn’t be serving anyone else so we could stay there for a few hours to let the tide turn and to visit the town. Result!

I didn’t actually count, but my recollection is that there were approximately six pubs in about a quarter of a mile. We didn’t visit them all, but obviously couldn’t leave without sampling some of the local hospitality and we chose the “Moonduster”. It turned out that it was the Traditional Boat weekend and there was also a weekend of yacht racing organised by the Royal Cork Yacht Club [we had sailed through a race on arrival – yes, literally through it].The Moonduster, named after a Trad boat itself, was the party pub of choice for the folk on these boats. The party was starting early – we were there at 2.30pm to 4.00pm – and I am thinking that there were probably some sore heads the following morning from the rate of sinkage those crews were managing to achieve. It even put one of our parties to shame and that’s saying something.

But, staying there was not an option as we had to move off the fuel berth and we moved up the Owenboy River to an anchorage about 2 miles up. Well, it was supposed to be an anchorage in Drake’s pool but there are so many mooring buoys laid now – and so many seemingly not used – that we ended up choosing one and using it. So, thanks to whomever, if anyone, it belonged.

Having managed to link to the Grib [weather] we determined that we probably had a five day window of opportunity – recognising that on the third day there was going to be some roughish weather but which we should probably have passed by then. If we stayed it meant waiting for that second low to pass by. Although we hadn’t seen all we wanted to in Ireland, having originally planned to visit Kinsale and possibly Baltimore, we thought we couldn’t let the opportunity pass – and after all, Ireland will still be here at a later date. We therefore planned for a 9.00 start to take the tide down river and have it with us for the early part of the journey. To celebrate all that Ireland had offered us we finished our evening with a drop of Whiskey [thanks Sue – a glass, or two! of the Bushmills was a treat].

All was well as we sailed away on Sunday morning. We partly sailed and motored through the day and into the night. When I got up at 1.30am to take over from Mike who had taken first watch I did not particularly want to be greeted with “We’ve got a problem”. Oh S…. thinks I – what have we lost? Has a sail ripped? Has the engine failed [as we were slamming around a bit as the wind had dropped and Mike hadn’t started the motor]? Has something gone overboard? Fortunately it was none of these things. It was that Mike had forgotten to contact our Boat Insurer before we left Ireland. Now this may seem nothing as we had spoken to them and told them what we were doing – but we were supposed to contact them the day we left and we also needed the piece of paper to prove to the Spanish Harbourmasters that we have the full European Coverage. So, it was a case of left turn – lets divert to the Scilly Isles. I had originally wanted to visit the Scilly Islands but Mike had said it wasn’t best to divert from what should have been a straight line sail down from SW Ireland to the tip of N. Spain – but now here we are. Its probably going to add about 150 miles to our journey – but what’s that between friends at an average of 5 miles an hour!

Having made the decision – it may fortuitously have actually been a good one because the aforementioned low seems to have come in rather early! We ended up with Force 5 beating across to Scilly, made worse by the rain and bad visibility. It was poor all day and certainly made the approach to the Islands a very interesting experience.

The Almanac says that the Scillies should not be approached with a poorly equipped boat or an inexperienced crew and now I know why. Mike had to navigate by Chart plotter as I peered through the deepening gloom for cardinal buoys and, worse, the many hundreds of small, jagged rocks and followed his instructions for the autopilot. However, we made Hugh Town [St.Mary’s] safely and after a rolling night on a mooring buoy, have opted for a second night to see the low pass – we hope.

So, its off to visit Hugh Town itself and, hopefully post this on our blog. It looks pretty from here.


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Ardrossan to Liverpool

Well, we had to start the blog somewhere and though it should perhaps have been last year we failed miserably – so I will try to make up for it now in one article covering our time since buying “Siga Siga”. Firstly, we bought her as “Rogue” when she was lying at Glasson Dock. How do you say “thank you” to someone for selling you their pride and joy – not enough “thank you’s” in it really – but many, many thanks to Richard.

Anyway, having bought her we decided that we wanted to test her – and ourselves – so sailed on the first Bank Holiday last May [2010] up to Ardrossan to spend a year sailing around the Clyde and beyond. Now, anyone who knows me will wonder why I would agree to the Clyde because I really am a Mediterranean weather kinda woman. But I have to admit to being very pleasantly surprised by the weather we got. Ok – it wasn’t exactly an overall tan – but the face, arms and legs did fairly well! What was even better is that for some reason, the midges I have endured on other trips to Scotland in the summer – which was ONE because they were so bad, didn’t actually appear – so perhaps there is something to be said for lots of snow and an icy winter.

So, we spent nearly every summer weekend visiting various anchorages on Arran, up Loch Fyne, around the Kyles etc and we had a great week at the end of August when we sailed to the top of Loch Fyne [to the Brewery of course]. The highlight of the year, apart from meeting some lovely people [Hi there Steve, Gill, Nikki and Malc] was our two week sail late May/early June round the Mull of Kintyre, to Gigha, Kerrera, Tobermory, round Ardnamurchan and into Arisaig – whacky experience- up to Syke [Portree and Isle Ornsay], and then Canna [most fantastic place] via the much visited “Forge” at Inverie [where we found the only midges of the year], Coll, Lismore Island, Puilladobhrain [see photo], Jura and Islay. Of course we had to visit all three Whisky Distilleries having berthed at Port Ellen. A great day. The overwhelming memories of the two weeks are superb sunsets, basking sharks, and a boat sailing at 8 knots and going absolutely nowhere against the tides through the Sound of Luing.

We didn’t stop sailing until New Year, spending New Years Eve on Arran – though it was by motor there and back I’m afraid. Talking of motors – when we came to leave the Marina on 3 January there were no car keys. All luggage, tool box, every part of the boat overturned – certainly no car keys. Couldn’t believe it – when we phoned the Pier Head at Lamlash to find that they had them. To fall out of Mike’s pocket in such a safe place, given the tender journey too and from pub and various meanderings around Lamlash for New Year celebrations we were very lucky. Therefore, unfortunately [ha!] we had to extend our stay for a day and make best use of the Calmac service to Arran and back to pick them up.

And so to the title of this entry – our journey from Ardrossan to Liverpool which I guess is the start of our trip. It doesn’t exactly feel like it at the moment because we have a house to clear, and parents to sort out and opticians/doctors etc to visit [is that a sign of age?] and also our wedding to arrange. But, I digress again – and won’t bore you with all the details of those things.

We set sail at 6.30 am on Tuesday 3rd May [having had two great weeks with fab sis Chris and partner John over Easter, and smashing mates Dave and Mag over the Bank Holiday] as we had worked out all the tides and timings for getting us to Peel on the Isle of Man for lock opening time the following morning. Anyway, all went really well to start with – in fact we were in advance of ourselves – so we slowed down a bit once we were through the North Channel as with sails in good order we were probably heading for Arklow – which is supposed to be our first destination in June and we were therefore a bit early! Mike retired below and all was well though the wind was getting up a little.

Having brewed the required cuppa prior to waking him we were set for a “handover” and sharing the aforesaid brew when a certain shake and rattle announced our anchor deploying itself in the middle of the Irish Sea at 3.30am. We stopped. We both stared at the depth gauge so long that it probably near melted under the gaze because we really thought we had managed to anchor ourselves – such was the lack of any movement at all. We had the engine on but couldn’t go forwards or backwards – all we did was go round and round. Oh – I forgot to mention – we also went up and down and side to side. This was perhaps best demonstrated by the cup of coffee which left the cockpit and made a fabulous arc down onto the chart table. The log book will never look the same again! But – what to do – and what would you do? In total, the anchor and chain weigh about 100kg and it had played out to the rope which doesn’t, obviously, fit the windlass. Cut it loose? But its Mike’s new toy – [Xmas pressie] – a brand new sparkling, never used, Rocna 25. Basically, the answer seemed to be – its 3.30 am, and dark, and blowing a hoolie, and though uncomfortable with the up and down and side to side and round and round actually we aren’t in any danger – so do nothing. Whatever was going to happen I was clear that Mike’s limbs and digits were far more important but, come the dawn at around 5.00am we managed to get our joint thinking power in order and, using the genoa winches and lots of grit and determination [Mike’s] we brought the anchor back on board and tied it down like a trussed chicken. And so……on to the Isle of Man.

Why, when we live in Lancashire, have we never before visited the Isle of Man. Splendid place. Really friendly folk, great beer [see next sentence!], super pubs and brilliant transport options for seeing the whole of the island. The beer – well Mike is a bit of a “Landlord” fan [not quite as much as Dave – but anyway it’s a standard that so many beers have, happily in Dave’s view, come to emulate]. But – there are two brews we tried on the Island – Old Laxey and Okells which were different to Landlord but equally excellent and which Mike was really delighted to sample – several times of course. On the issue of transport, a day “rover” each meant we could travel by bus from Peel to Port Erin, with time for a coffee in the Old Station café [think 1930’s] before getting the steam train to Douglas followed by the tramway to Laxey and back and then a bus back to Peel. The walk from steam train to tramway along the promenade – at 2 miles, was more than it looked on the map and, fortunately for us was about the only time during the whole day when the rain stopped. So it wasn’t the greatest day weather wise to see the island, but if we enjoyed it so much – just think what it could be like on a sunny day. We did go to Ramsey on the day we arrived, again by bus, and we did traverse all of Peel, particularly sampling, and taking away, the most excellent kippers. Finally, before reporting on our leg from Peel to Liverpool, I couldn’t fail to mention Mike’s jeans. Obviously they were pretty wet when we arrived in Peel – given his heroics with the anchor – and so he decided to put them over the guard rail. “Is that a good idea” says I as we were leaving the boat for our trip to Ramsey. “It will be Ok” says he. Well, they are now somewhere in the Irish Sea. I could mention the salvage job we tried to do as we could see them on the Marina floor on our return – but unfortunately fishing hooks and grapnel hook only caused mud to rise, rather than jeans – so out to sea they sailed – probably!

And now…. across to Liverpool. Again, as with the Ardrossan to Peel leg we had made our plans to accommodate the lock gates at both Peel and Brunswick Dock which meant leaving Peel at 14.40. We had to motor down to the Calf of Man – all the while hoping that once round Chicken Rock we might be able to sail but unfortunately not and the whole of our journey was into wind, into mist and then into rain! Just an aside about Chicken Rock – well its lighthouse anyway. The last lighthouse keeper, who had previously been the postman for the whole of the south of the island, then went on to be the first station master at Port Erin. Obviously a man who thought he looked good in uniform… Given the rather unpleasant weather the evening drew in rather sooner than we had hoped and we were in thermals and wet weather gear for most of the journey but, in comparison to the Ardrossan/Peel journey, there isn’t much to report really. We both managed to get some sleep and the watches were uneventful. We enjoyed the company of a fishing fleet – though, as dawn finally broke, one of the vessels with a seemingly bright light turned into a gas rig with a huge orange flame! Having been overtaken by a range of tankers on our approach to Liverpool Bay we then passed them all as they waited for the tide to take them into Rock Channel. We had planned for the Queens Channel – and stuck with those plans. The sandbanks are really quite amazing but it’s a shame that the channel isn’t closer to Crosby to get a real feel for Anthony Gormley’s Iron Men. They are worth seeing from the shore if you ever get the chance.

Having worked in Merseyside for the past five and a half years, making the journey every day from the Rossendale Valley, I would very regularly go home and say “It’s much warmer and sunnier in Liverpool”. So, Mike and I had visions of the Three Graces with the sun glinting off them and a pleasant morning gliding up the Mersey. Ha! Not only did it rain all that day, it seems to have rained most days since. I still think Liverpool is a fantastic place to be moored not least because of the pubs, beer and the brilliant colleagues and friends I have had here but on that Saturday morning I was not impressed by the murky wet gloom. The locks were due to open at about 11.00am. They actually opened at 11.30ish which wasn’t too bad except that there were around ten boats looking for a lock out and, as a result, we had to wait for their entry, descent and exit before we could leave a very wet and cold experience going up and down about a quarter of a mile of the river. And then, into the lock. Our previous experience of locks [Crinan Canal and Glasson] is that there are folk there waiting to be tossed warps which they helpfully attach so that one can guide the boat up/down. So, we entered the lock and, not only was no-one there but we realised we had to berth. Yikes! However, several quick scurries around by yours truly and some fancy steering by Mike seemed to secure the boat and up we went. At least we know what to expect when we leave, which is now actually now only three days away.

In the month that we have been moored here we completed the aforesaid and have cleared our house [mammoth task], assisted in a move for Mike’s dad, taken my mum to various appointments and visited dentists, opticians and everyone else we could think of in preparation for leaving and planned our wedding which takes place on Thursday before we leave on Friday [weather permitting]. Mike has become expert on e.bay and we have both become quite adept at fitting far too much stuff into limited boat space. We are still working on that bit – but will surely get there as the next weeks unfold and we determine what we do and don’t actually need. We have also had the pleasure of the company of good friends, joining us for leaving do’s or any other excuse any of us could think of to imbibe and engage in fun, food and good conversation. Great, great pubs to visit across the city – and Mike’s new favourite “Wapping Summer Ale”

Its now definitely time to post this first entry and I have just asked Mike how I should close. He said – well its time for a G&T – so that seems like a good exit to me. Until next time…..

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Photo of Siga Siga

At anchor Puilladobhrain.

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