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Waterford 5th August
5th August, 2005
Two days ago, although it seems longer, we woke in the Scilly Isles to a beautiful day with a gentle breeze blowing from the south west, the wind for Ireland.
Having got to the Scillies too late the night before and what with a poorly setting anchor (or poor anchoring, I suppose) we hadn't been ashore and were looking forward to seeing the place. And here we were with the wind we needed for Ireland and a forecast that suggested it might just blow long enough to get us there. So we took it. We can come back to the Scillies some other time.
We stowed for the expected strongish winds, possibly force six, and finally motored out at 11.00 am. The wind was blowing in the same direction outside and we hoisted sails and started a great reach towards Cork. We were at last going. No more playing about. Here was a real sea voyage. And we were going at it at six knots. Fantastic!
We planned to stay to the west of the rhumb line to give us a bit of room to fall away when the wind started to veer as it inevitably would, but we thought that twenty degrees should be plenty. We were so wrong.
For the first few hours the trip was just magical. At 2.00o'clock the GPS gave an ETA of 13.22 the following day, just twenty six hours for the whole trip. And I told the Coast Guard that it might take us four days!!!
We decided on soup and bread for lunch as the air was cool and something warming was needed. I hauled out a bottle of French fish soup and served it with 'garlic and coriander naan bread', an interesting combination forced by the fact that we only had 'French fish' soup and 'garlic and coriander naan' bread, which resulted from a failure to shop in the Scilly Isles. Surprisingly the ingredients complemented each other remarkably well. We may have to have it again.
At about 3.00o'clock a yacht passed us going south at a great lick across the flat sea but by 4.00 the sea was building and wind gusts caused us to reef four rolls in the main. And it seemed to make no difference to the speed, still upper 5s in the right direction.
By 6.00 it was quite murky and before long we had switched on navigation lights and were into full harnesses, even in the cockpit.
We had been working three hour watches since after 6.00 pm and I was off watch at around 9.00 pm when Clive asked for 'hands on deck'. As we had feared, the wind started to veer, earlier than we had hoped, and as the direction changed the wind speed increased causing us to have to reef down further to cope with the increased heeling as we hardened up on the wind. We reefed down to a little more than one quarter of the mainsail size. I contemplated taking a photograph of this tiny sail but with so much salt water flying about..
The night shifts were very unpleasant. With the banging and crashing through the waves, sleep was hard to find. Any movement of the boat ran the risk of damaging boat or body or both. Visiting the toilet needed a strong grip to stay in contact with the seat whenever Quintet was hit by a breaking wave.
At one stage I was trying to pull on waterproof trousers after such a visit which in itself had been disastrous, I had fallen against the button which triggers the bidet water jet and had filled my underwear with cold water, when the boat lurched particularly viciously and I was thrown against the table top. My weight was enough to wrench the hinges and split the wood apart. So I removed the table top and wedged it beside my bunk to be sorted out when we got to where we were going. I then went out into the rain and wind in my nicely pre-wetted underwear!
I should perhaps point out that I have a reputation for destroying tables. During a crossing to Cork last year I lurched across the cabin of the yacht Helene and ripped their huge heavy table from its fixings. Matt and Togs were most understanding about it.
We had no dinner. Neither of us could face cooking or eating other than the odd sip of water and a ginger nut. What with hunger and tiredness we were probably not working at top performance but we were bright enough to realise that with our current course, nearly due north and a tacking angle in excess of one hundred degrees, our plan to go to Cork needed revision. So, as morning light finally arrived, and the seas settled a little, over a breakfast of hot toasted crumpets, we agreed that Waterford was a better choice. Cork, like the Scillies would have to wait for another year. We bore away a little on to a more comfortable and faster course.
By 11.30 on the second day, the coast of Ireland was clearly visible, and we knew that we would not be spending another night at sea. That is a wonderful feeling.
The second day was calmer than the first and continued to improve. The seas went down, although the odd wave would still slap one in the face when one least expected it. The wind decreased and we could unroll some of that humiliating reefed sail. And we continued inexorably towards Waterford, anchorage, food and sleep.
We had agreed that we would spend the night at Dunmore East. It was 7.00 pm when we hailed a rescue boat from the Waterford Harbour Boat Club and asked if there were any visitors' moorings available. He suggested that we should just 'chuck the anchor over at the back of the bay' which we finally did at 7.30. As I had already put the bacon on to boil as we approached the coast, we were sitting down to dinner in a very short while; boiled bacon, new potatoes and sugar snap peas with a nice bottle of Aussie red.
The weather forecast that evening was for force seven winds so we expected a heavy night. I had put extra lashings on the flaked mainsail and removed the headsails and bagged them, but in the end the wind never arrived and we slept soundly all night.
This morning we breakfasted late and upped anchor to motor to Waterford town. We were fighting an outgoing tide but the pilot didn't suggest any particular problems going against the stream. As it was, the journey took much longer than the two hours I had estimated but passed without difficulty.
The only hazard encountered, apart from some eccentric channel marking, was the flotilla of fishing boats netting the estuary. These boats vary from fairly substantial motor boats with cuddies and staysails down to open boats with a tiny egg whisk outboard motor. Each boat lays out a fine net from an anchored buoy, across the line of the tidal flow to another buoy that is also anchored.
The top edge of the net is supported by small floats which are frequently impossible to see until one is almost on them. Actually the pilot recommends that vessels carry a long pole with a 'v' end to push the net down and away from the vessel if one becomes entangled. These nets are between one and two hundred metres long in Waterford although rumour has it that nets up to a mile long are used in other parts of the country.
The fishermen, there are usually two in each boat, having set their net, wait a short while and then haul themselves along the net from end to end, removing the fish which have become entangled. And, having got to the other end, they return to the start, wait a short time and do it again. Eventually, at the end of the day, on the last pass, the net is hauled into the boat with its buoys and anchors and the men take it home.
So each time we approached a boat or buoy it was necessary to slow down and await directions from the fishermen as to which end of their net to go round and how far one had to deviate from the course to get there. And there were loads of them, probably twenty boats in the few miles from the sea and all fishing right across the main shipping lane. I'm not sure what happens if a commercial ship comes through.
As the afternoon went on the heavens opened and the wind started to build, probably the force seven we had been forecast for last night. So we were relieved when Waterford town and the marina eventually came into sight. We saw a vacant spot on the pontoon and manoeuvred in. A helpful sailor took our lines and soon we were snug alongside.
I've been up into the town to get a key for the pontoon security gate. I got three separate sets of directions to the City Hall and none of them even sent me in the right direction so it took me some time, even though the pilot book says that the office is within one hundred and ten metres of the dock. The pilot book lies too. It's at least five hundred metres.
I must have been traipsing through the rain for half an hour in dripping oilskins before I spotted a council street cleaning truck which I stopped and asked for further directions. And even the two guys in the cab couldn't agree as to the best way to City Hall. And that's where they go every week to pick up their pay! Isn't Ireland interesting?
When I eventually found the place, I introduced myself and explained that I had just got off a boat down at the river. The charming lady behind the counter did say that she thought that the yellow suit and life jacket was a bit of a give away.
Money changed hands and I now have a key to get in and out at the pontoon. I have directions to the shower facilities at the Tower Hotel and we have booked in to stay and see the sights of Waterford for a couple of days.
Now I think that a pint of Guinness might be in order!