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Erm? They're Clive and Les aren't they?
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Bangor 16th August
16th August, 2005
We'd looked at the tides last night and decided that we should try to carry the tide up to Larne today. Although the tides are not particularly fierce south of Ardglass, as one sails northwards towards the easternmost point of Ireland, the tides get stronger, reaching four knots or so in the springs. You don't want to try to sail against that. So optimum time for departure was earlyish and we left at 10.00.
We had already showered, bought fifty litres of fuel, and discovered to our alarm that fuel prices which had been as low as 37p at the beginning of this voyage had reached 50p. We were to find it charged at 58p per litre in Bangor! We had put the fuel in the tanks, no easy task with a 25 litre can and the awkward location of Quintet's filler caps. We resorted to standing the can on the raised deck above the cap and siphoning fuel in, a clean method, minimising spillage but requiring much patience. Clive suggested that he was off to read 'War and Peace' while the fuel trickled through. I suggested that he probably had time to write it.
We finally got away at 10.00 am. I coiled up lines and put away the fenders in the forepeak while Clive picked his way through the maze of buoys and posts marking the channel. Shock, horror, we were missing a fender! We had started with seven and there were now just six. And it's not as if I just couldn't see it, like it could have slipped down the back of the cooker or was hidden behind a bunk cushion. These are big mothers. More bizarrely the missing fender was the oldest, flattest, scungiest of our collection. Nobody would have chosen that one to steal. Well, it is gone, the first major casualty of the voyage.
It was after midday before there was enough wind to sail but, when we finally hoisted sail we were making almost three knots. Larne may be a little far for today!
Just before 1.00 in the afternoon, we picked up the glow of South Rock Lightship through the mist and murk. Speed was building by now. We were getting four and a half knots over the ground. I think it was about this time that we decided that perhaps Belfast Lough, either Carrickfergus, or Bangor might be a more sensible destination if we were going to eat ashore tonight.
There are some odd names on this coast. Burial Island is solid rock. You'd need a jack hammer to dig a shallow grave. And Skullmartin Rock, what does that mean?
By 5.00 pm we were approaching the channel between Copeland Island and the mainland, at Donaghadee. We saw a huge marina sign painted on the sea wall, and, sure enough the chart shows a marina there. But it looks a bit too exciting to go in and out of without local knowledge and, at the lower end of the tide, there appears to be a wall of jagged rocks across the entrance. The almanac doesn't mention it but that's not unusual.
The almanac does mention that passing inside Copeland island can take an hour off the journey into Belfast Lough. It fails to mention the contrary tide which whistles round the island and makes small yachts go sideways. Our speed went from above five knots in the right direction to three and a half sideways. We were quite agitated for a minute or two, as you can imagine, with jagged rocks just below the surface all round us.
But we got through and called Bangor to reserve a berth. We said that we would be there in about an hour and asked for a hammerhead berth again, our old trouble of close quarters manoeuvring in stronger winds, and were allocated the end of pontoon 'F'.
About this time the wind started to increase as we came further west and hardened up, so we put in a couple of rolls in the main to keep her on her feet.
We approached the harbour a little before 7.00 pm and picked our way between the fleet on its way out the harbour for the evening races. Once in the harbour we easily located our berth. Bangor marina has a clever method of identifying the various pontoons; as well as letters painted on the piles, the caps of the piles are a different colour for each letter, red for 'F'. Isn't that simple. Other marinas please note.
By 7.15 we were tied up. We decided to go straight to dinner and do all that showering thing another day. So a quick change and we headed for town via the marina office to pay, of course. It was at that point we realised that our hammerhead berth is as far from the marina entrance and the town as one can get without getting one's feet wet. Better not get too silly tonight with all that pontoon to fall off, eh Trevor?
Bangor is a typical seaside town with huge, cavernous pubs like drinking warehouses. We tried to decide which pub might be most friendly. I proposed the Wolsely and we headed in that direction.
The Wolsely is a fairly soulless pub. It has the odd surreal element, the poster behind the bar advertising a tattoo and piercing parlour 'Tongues pierced while you wait' that sort of thing. But mainly it is chain-store, plastic Jacobean like so many others. But the Guinness was good and not too cold and we were told that the restaurant upstairs was excellent (I'm not sure whether the person telling us was the licencee so he may have been a bit biased) so we decided we would give it a try.
It was a good choice. We had just main courses, lamb kebabs for me and for Clive, pork and leek sausages on a bed of champ and for those who don't know, and I didn't, champ is mashed potato with scallions folded into it. I have been making it for years and now I know what it is called. Clive's sausages were also served with 'crispy' deep fried shredded onion which turned out not to be 'crispy' but was described as delicious anyway. And the Argentinian house red was bloody great.
Having eaten our fill I proposed staying for another bottle of house red but Clive convinced me that we should visit the Royal Ulster Yacht Club. He had spotted the club house as we sailed in. I was, of course, much too busy furling sails and getting fenders and mooring lines ready. It's the posh place in the middle. So off we trotted.
It really is a very impressive place. We rang the bell and the door buzzed open. We went into the bar and confirmed that, as visiting yachtsmen, we were welcome and I ordered a couple of Guinnesses. Then two gentlemen came up and introduced themselves and welcomed us to their club. They were Peter Ronaldson, Vice-Commodore and Maurice Flowers, Rear-Commodore. They made us most welcome, encouraged us to spend lots of money at their club and to come again the following day for lunch. (In the photograph, they appear to be some sort of yachting barbershop trio but they weren't actually singing. As far as Clive's voice is concerned, this is no doubt a good thing!)
We regretted that we would probably be on our way to Scotland by tomorrow, still having quite a way to go before we are back home again in Fosdyke. But we would certainly be coming for dinner next time we were in town.
We talked about Quintet and our voyages. We were given a potted history of the club and especially its relationship with Sir Thomas Lipton. And the we learned of the continued participation of RUYC in America's Cup Racing to this day. Did you know that RUYC still gives a 'Challenger's Cup' each time the America's Cup is staged? Neither did we. I encourage all of our thousands of readers to look at the Royal Ulster Yacht Club website. It really is very interesting and shows off their club far better than we can do justice to it here.
Our hosts finally took their leave and we settled down to one last pint of Guinness. I must admit I did have one of the excellent Havana cigars available at the bar. Now that's what I call the perfect yacht club! I shall be back as soon as I can.