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Showing posts from 2016

Fear not...sail off in 2017, you will not regret it.

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One of the questions we often hear from people who would never contemplate crossing oceans or moving to another country is, "Weren't you afraid out there?" Yes there were times when we experienced fear, but we didn't panic. We spent years learning everything we could, practicing what we would do if something went wrong, and beefing up our spare parts department. We knew if we didn't panic and worked together, we could work our way through almost anything.

Sailor's superstitions

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Superstitious  by Stevie Wonder
Very superstitious, writing on the wall Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass  Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past When you believe in things that you don't understand Then you suffer Superstition ain't the way
superstition ˌsuːpəˈstɪʃ(ə)n,ˌsjuː-/ noun excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural. A widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief.

I am not a particularly superstitious person, but I don't like to tempt the fates either. It is well known that sailors as a lot have been highly superstitious since taking to the seas over the centuries. Let's look at some of the beliefs and what their roots may have been. 

Coverting GPS Coordinates

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At some point in time, degrees, minutes and seconds that had been used to designate coordinates on a chart were changed into degrees and decimal minutes. In another step, the morphed into decimal degrees. Google maps uses decimal degrees. Charts use degrees, minutes and seconds, and some chart plotters and other mapping tools use degrees with decimal minutes. It drives me crazy to try to figure out one from the other.

Speaking about books

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We have been invited on several occasions to deliver lectures based on our books. Our anchoring book was actually born from a lecture. When people wanted to buy our book after the talk, we said, "What book?" That's when we set out to write Happy Hooking.

Manchester Cruising Association talk on Cruising in Ireland

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We were invited by Manchester Cruising Association to deliver our talk on Cruising the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland.  We were met at the airport by Roy Conchie, Commodore, and dropped off at the Brittania Ashley Hotel in Hale, Cheshire.  He and his delightful wife Susie took us to dinner later and made sure we were settled with our plans for the day.  Roy was a very accomplished photographer in another life. Susie an accomplished accountant. They were just back from Barbados.

We're in Manchester Thursday, 10th Nov

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We've been invited to present our talk on Cruising the Wild Atlantic Way of Ireland in Manchester on Thursday of this week.  More information is on the Manchester Cruising Association web page. We look forward to seeing you there.

Aleria is put to bed

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On Tuesday of this week, November 1, Alex and I drove to Killybegs to offload Aleria's sails, cushions and other stuff. We brought a trailer along this time and loaded the car and trailer full. It only took 2.5 hours to drive up ... into blistering sunshine the whole way.  We were very efficient this year and got almost everything done in 2.5 hours.  A quick lunch break on deck, and we were on our way home ... into blistering sunshine the whole way.

Delivery of Aleria from Clew Bay to Killybegs: Day 2

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It was a lovely morning and we were soon underway, thinking we might stop in to Inishmurray if the forecast for a calm day proved true. At this point, it was not. Once again we were soaring up the North Mayo coast in a SE. Then we realized it was almost 70 miles to Killybegs. That's a long day. We'd have to go straight there.

We passed inside the Stags on a perfect course heading for Teelin doing more than 9 knots with the current; we couldn't make Killybegs on our current heading as the wind had backed to ESE and we were hard on the wind, trimming sails to the shifts as if in a dinghy. The chop was surprisingly uncomfortable out there. It was going to be a long trip bashing into the waves  on a beat all day.

Delivery of Aleria from Clew Bay to Killybegs - Day 1

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We had a fine weather window that coincided with the astronomically high spring tide. If we left with the tide on Tuesday afternoon, we could sail to the Inishkeas or Black Sod Bay the next morning, spend the night there, then continue on to Killybegs Thursday and haul out on Friday. Unusually, there was a high centered over Scandinavia just above us that was extending all the way down to us. We were to have light southeasterlies and clear skies after strong easterly winds on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a succession of lows plunged across below to Spain and a slow moving hurricane Matthew was plaguing the US East coast.

Digital fix or digital detox

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On our voyage to Spain this summer, one of the things I was really looking forward to was disconnecting from the digital world for a period of time. There are two places where one can still disconnect: under the sea and in the middle of it. We'd be out of range of mobile signal, and therefore internet access, for days at a time since we sold our SAT phone. When crossing the Bay of Biscay, we could be unplugged for 4 days.

Fear of Hurricanes

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Hurricane Matthew is barreling toward Florida having taken more than 100 lives in Haiti and grown back to a category 4 behemoth. Florida and coastal Georgia and the Carolinas are being evacuated. The Bahamas are being pummeled and the eye was due to pass over Nassau. Don't know if it did.


Notes for the Cool Route and Failte Ireland

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By Daria and Alex Blackwell
This summer, we spent a month sailing Ireland’s beautiful southwest coast. We encountered many foreign vessels, more than we’ve ever seen before, mostly from Britain and France.

The first questions a cruiser asks when arriving in a new destination are:

Are there visitor moorings and are they secure and easy to pick up?Is the anchorage sufficiently protected from wind and seas and does it offer good holding?  What type of bottom composition does it have?Where is the access to shore? Is it a pontoon, a pier, or a beach?How can I dispose of garbage and recycling?Are there showers and toilets ashore?How far are the closest restaurants and pubs?Can I get water and fuel?Is there a shop for reprovisioning?Are there laundry facilities?What's the best thing to do here?

The incredible shrinking Inishoo

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It was dead calm in the morning. Any hint of breeze was from the NE and, of course, we were heading NE from Bofin to Clew Bay. We motored the 26 miles  over glassy seas past the Twelve Bens of Connemara and Middle Ground, past Inishturk, Caher and Clare Islands and into Clew Bay.

Back to Bofin

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It's a while since we stopped in Inishbofin.  We'd like to have stayed a while but we decided we'd push to get home before the forecast gale on Saturday. It was now more of a delivery than a cruise. So despite the northerly wind, we made for Inishbofin only 1which would make the last day quite reasonable. The wind was supposed to be 10-15 knots, no more, but instead it was 15-20kts and we bashed our way to Bofin under power. It was lovely to enter a nice quiet settled harbour.

Clifden, in the heart of Connemara

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We left early in beautiful sunshine again, raised our sails In Killeaney Bay, and jibed along the Galway Bay coast in about 15-18 knots SE, gusting higher. When we jibed again to head northward to clear Slyne Head, the wind settled down and moderated to a nice steady 15 knots. We flew up the coast, Aleria in her element on a beam reach. We were doing better than 8 knots. Glorious. Sunny. Hot. And it wasn't even the Costa del Cork any more.

Inishmore, again

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We sailed out of beautiful Smerwick, I should say we shot out like a cork out of a bottle, then the wind fizzled so we started the engine. And that would be the pattern for the entire day. On again, off again, this time with the engine. It was glorious weather otherwise but the consistent 15, gusting 30, that was promised was not to be.

Smerwick, County Kerry

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We had a leisurely start and left Ventry motoring in light air. Soon the wind picked up a bit out of the SE and we hoisted sails. We sailed out through Blasket Sound following another sailboat out.

The sail inside Great Blasket Island was beautiful. The anchorage there looked a bit more secure than the one we had just visited but exposed nevertheless. There was a sailboat and a power boat anchored there, presumably overnight. There were people roaming around the deserted village, presumably brought there by the tour boat in the anchorage. There is now a visitor's centre and cafe on the island during tourist season. It appears a few of the cottages have been restored.

Ventry, Dingle Peninsula

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We were heading for our friends' favourite anchorage in Ireland in the Blasket Islands. Wedged between Inishvickilane and Inishnabro, the anchorage is tenable only in settled weather. The wind had abated but there was still a considerable swell. We poked our nose in and decided we'd have to be tucked right under the high cliffs to be comfortable at all and if the wind blew up, that's a place we'd not like to be at night.

Portmagee visit by bicycle

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So what do you do when a gale is forecast? You assemble your bicycles for a land trip. The morning was relatively nice and there was no gale in evidence, although the forecast was clearly not great. So we got underway soon after breakfast along the coast road to check out Portmagee.

Knightstown, Valentia Island, in the Kingdom of Kerry

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Yet another gale was forecast to pass through the following day so we left the Costa del Cork behind and made way to Valentia in the Kingdom of Kerry. We left Bere Island at 09:30 in fairly strong winds. We raised our sails at Castletownbere and sailed out of Bantry Bay. There was a schooner anchored just inside the Bay in the first cove we passed by the night that our self-steering failed.

Back to Lawrence Cove, Bere Island

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We left at 9 am with a nice light breeze out of the NW. It was to clock W then SW as the day progressed, F5 for us but higher to the north. Then, midday, a new small craft warning was issued, now with a F6 on all waters.

A day in seclusion

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We took our time and had French toast before pulling up anchor. It was glass calm at first, but soon we had about 10 knots out of the NW. The barometer climbed to 1028 as a high settled over us and below an anticyclone tracking to the north. In Mayo, the weather was abysmal but not here on the Costa del Cork.

Back to Glandore

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The last time we were in Glandore, a fishing vessel slammed into Aleria amidships. It was not a good visit. Fast forward six years, and we thought we should go back to dispel our fears. We didn't want to tempt fate, but we did think that Glandore was a pretty nice place to visit otherwise.

Kinsale adventure by bicycle

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I got up early to do laundry. Yep, on a Sunday morning in Kinsale. They upgraded their facilities at the KYC including laundry. When I got there, there were clothes piled everywhere and I thought I'd never get in. But the nice young man in the bar came down and unloaded everything. I bought coins for the washer and dryer (€4 wash and $3 dry - €7 per load compared with €16 for one load washed dried and folded in Dingle) and got myself in before anyone else! Yes! That's cruising experience at work. Doing laundry in exotic places.


Kinsale...foodie heaven

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We got up early to get to Kinsale before the wind started to pick up into the high 20s gusting well into the 30s by 1400h per WindGuru forecast.  Met Eireann was forecasting a gale overnight and into the next day for our area and strong gale, possibly storm, north of us.

Castle Haven... a look back to the Plantation era.

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The morning after the gale was silent, flat flat calm, and sunny. Yea! Let's dry out and head over to Baltimore. We sailed in past kids having fun below Lot's Wife, the distinctive tower on the approach to Baltimore. We nosed in and realized there wasn't enough depth for us inside -- only 8 feet abd we draw 8.5. Where we'd have to anchor we'd be exposed. So we had a choice: Sherkin Island or on to Castletownsend. We chose the latter as we hadn't been there before.

We motored, then motor sailed the short distance to Castle Haven and anchored in the outer harbour. It was a bit exposed but would do us well for the forecast for the night which was benign. No sooner had we anchored that small sailboats started appearing and sailing out. More and more emerged and we learned that soon we'd be in the middle of a regatta. Oh well. They'd all have to take us into account. We got into our dinghy and headed ashore.

Next stop Schull...and the Calves Regatta

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We'd have to be somewhere sheltered from the south and west by Monday when the next gale was due. We had choices: a) sail through to Kinsale or Cork or b) work our way out via Schull, Baltimore and/or Glandore.  We decided to stop in Schull as neither one of us remembered much about it. As it turned out, neither one of thought we'd ever been there before once we saw it!

A little more about Bantry Bay

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I'm going backwards but I did not get a chance to fill in a few details about Bantry Bay. The Bay itself is lovely with high hills all around catching light in interesting ways. Aside from Adrigole and Glengarriff, there's a lovely marina on Bere Island servicing mostly sailing vessels. The approach to the marina is now marked so access is straightforward. Castletownbere on the other hand, as well as many small harbours along the shores, cater more to fishing vessels.

Crookhaven, a true refuge from the storms

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We'd spent three nights at anchor in Glengarriff we loved it so much. But it was time to move on despite the misty weather. We thought about Schull but there was a strong gale on the way and Schull could be exposed from the South. Better to head to Crookhaven. Exquisitely sheltered from the south and west and south east, we'd be secure in the spacious anchorage and within reach of O'Sullivan's legendary pub.

Glengarriff's gem - The Ewe Experience

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We came into Glengarriff with the expectation that it would be beautiful, as it is legendary among Irish Cruising Club members. What we didn't expect is for both of us to see in it the resemblance to the great lakes and camps in the Adirondack mountains in New York. Fringed in forest so unusual in Ireland and tall peaked hills, with tiny islands strewn throughout and camps perched on rocks jutting into the waters, it was hard to remember we were on the sea and not a lake. We liked it so much we stayed an extra day. The weather was good so we decided a walk was in order.

Setting a course to Spain

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We left Dingle mid-morning. It didn't matter as we had about 4 days at sea if we were lucky. If we were really lucky, the wind would hold out the entire way. First out of the west, then moving to the northwest. It could be ideal for a southerly passage.

Gale Warning: Crookhaven looking like refuge

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We were tracking a system which appeared likely to form a gale over Ireland and track to the North. We would have southwesterlies veering to northwesterly. We knew we'd need to find safe harbour for Tuesday night into Wednesday.

We had spent plenty of time in Bantry Bay and it was time to move on. At first we thought Schull as we hadn't been there in a long time, but as the forecast developed we realized that Crookhaven would be safer. Schull is open to the south east and any southerly swell might come around Long Island. So Crookhaven it was. Completely protected from the south, north and west, it's an easy harbour to access and hunker down in.

Ring of Dingle by Sea

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We rounded the Dingle peninsula or the "Ring of Dingle" from Tralee to Dingle in dense fog and mist. There was little wind and it was on the nose to begin with and the seas were much bigger and more confused than the amount of wind would suggest. We have to come back and see the Blasket Islands proper like another time. This day we could barely make them out in the fog as they kept appearing and disappearing mysteriously.

Underway at last: Clare Is., Inishmore, Tralee

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I have to work backwards now as I did not manage to blog when we got underway. Our first night was quick stopover at Clare Island for the night since we left on the evening tide. Ian from Xena came by to welcome us but shore leave was not in order. Freebird was in the harbour and had come in just before us. But we were heading for Spain. We had stuff to stow and distance to make! We were in cruising mode (which of course meant we should have gone ashore to party!).

Glengarriff, the jewel of Bantry Bay

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Adrigole was lovely, but Glengarriff at the top end of Bantry Bay beckoned. This is the legendary harbour for cruising in Ireland. It's where the Irish Cruising Club was born and the place that must be checked off the cruising destinations list in Ireland. We were really looking forward to exploring this iconic anchorage. I hoped we would not be disappointed. We sailed past Bere Island, promising to stop in another time.

We weren't disappointed. We had a great stay in Glengarriff. Our first impression was that it was akin to the Adirondack lake region, but full of salt water. It was a rocky inlet lush with forest and spectacular "camps" all around.  With small islets strewn throughout, it was truly reminiscent of a lake rather than a sea loch.

When Customs Calls

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Today, for the first time since we sailed to Ireland in 2008, a Customs boat came to visit. Three officers were on board a rib and two let us know they were coming aboard. We welcomed them and offered them some tuna salad as we were just having lunch. They declined.

The most beautiful harbour in the world

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Here we are in one of the most beautiful harbours in the world -- at least in Ireland -- Adrigol in Bantry Bay in the west of Ireland, and instead of marveling at the beauty we are fixing things. We cruisers know that cruising is all about fixing things in exotic places. But this time it’s bit different.
We were on our way to Spain yesterday. We had worked our way down the coast of Ireland from Clew Bay our home, stopping in Clare Island, Tralee, and Dingle. We set off from Dingle to cross the Bay of Biscay for a grand adventure.

Last stop, historic Lambertville and New Hope

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As Lambertville was only half an hour's drive from the christening party, I booked a room I the Lambertville Station Inn. Lambertville House, where we had stayed before, was booked. It was on the expensive side but it was also July 4th weekend and I had been worried about finding a place to stay at all.



We had a large lovely room on the creek side of the hotel, which is right on the Delaware River and just across the bridge from New Hope. Lambertville is quieter than New Hope, which has many restaurants and bars and shops. We walked across the bridge and found a place to have drinks on a terrace overlooking the river. Martine's was so pleasant that we stayed on for dinner and were not disappointed.

Philadelphia, city of Brotherly Love

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The Christening we were in the states for was to be just on the outskirts of Philadelphia, in the Ukrainian Catholic Church I once belonged to. I was born in Philadelphia, but back then it was not a nice place to be. It's very different now. Quite lovely and vibrant. A big city with a small town attitude. We booked a night at the Club Quarters on Chestnut Street and made plans to join our cousins, the Kowals, who live downtown with their two children, for dinner.

Two if by sea...

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Our next stop on our eastern seaboard journey after Annapolis was to be Cape May. Rather than travelling around the Delmarva peninsula we decided to take the ferry from Lewes to Cape May. We arrived with a half hour to spare before the next sailing and we hadn't eaten. So we grabbed burgers at the restaurant at the ferry terminal, On the Rocks Bar & Grille. It was surprisingly good and the waitress had a wicked sense of humour. She got us out in plenty of time to catch the ferry.


The sailing capitol

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Our next stop in our land journey was to be Annapolis, the Sailing Capitol of the world. When I sailed there I learned that Annapolis is the Capitol of Maryland, hence the Sailing Capitol as a motto. This is as opposed to Newport, the Sailing Capital of the World.


One if by land...

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As happens when cruising and living overseas, we don't get to see much of the family often. It takes big occasions to get us across the pond and we had a biggie this year. We traveled to America this time to meet our niece and nephew's new baby and visit their new home in Alexandria, Virginia. We flew into JFK (which is amazingly better now) and drove down to VA, then worked our way back up the coast for the christening in Philadelphia.



Planning a passage

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We are currently planning a passage to a place even more remote than ours, the Faroe Islands. The Faroes are half way between Denmark and Iceland in a desolate stretch of water. Like Scotland to their south, they have little tide range but strong tidal currents. Navigation can be tricky, but we are figuring it out. Self-sufficiency is paramount. One of the joys of having a sailboat is being able to get to remote places that are not so easy to get to otherwise.

Tropical Cyclone Season Is Underway

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The season for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic begins June 1 and ends December 1. Here we are two weeks into June and we've already had three this year. El Nino has apparently been snuffed out and La Nina has not yet reared its head. A La Nina pattern may develop as early as late summer or early Fall. In this situation, sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific usually run below normal as opposed to the above-normal temperatures of an El Nino pattern that we've seen in the past couple of years. We are currently experiencing a neutral pattern that may continue over the next several months. This is often associated with a more active Atlantic hurricane season and a less active eastern Pacific cyclone season. After the devastation caused by cyclones in Vanuatu and Fiji, that will be welcome news in the Pacific.

Hot summer days on Clare Island

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The Met Eireann office released its climate report for May which was confirmed to be the dryest, sunniest month in years. People were flocking to the Blue Flag beaches and coastal islands in droves. Compared with last year, the year that summer never arrived, we've had our fill of summer already with little brown bodies tanned for the first time in the absence of the need for wetsuits. Long may it last.

We sailed out in beautiful weather though not much wind. In fact it was glass calm. So we motored most of the way to Clare Island, our destination for the June Bank Holiday weekend.