Sunseeker Chapter 2
We spent five nights in Douglas, and, after the first, wild, bouncy night, enjoyed a pleasant and relaxing stay. Misty, our ship’s cat, had the run of the pontoon and dockside and Benjie had all the exercise he needed. The local sailing club members made us feel very welcome. Their comfortable clubhouse overlooks the picturesque inner harbour.
We enjoyed the luxury of hot showers and partook of more than one nightcap in their cosy lounge bar. We found the pace of life much slower than on mainland Britain as we took a fifty years step back in time to a less hurried, simpler and altogether more pleasant way of life.
Our passage to Portpatrick took us, one bright, sunny, early morning, close-hauled to a northwesterly breeze, northwards along the East Coast; past towering, rugged cliffs in the shadow of Snaefell. As we rounded the bold, stark white lighthouse of Maughold Head to cross Ramsey Bay we were retracing our wake of a couple of years ago as we delivered Sunseeker from Ipswich to Glasson. Then we were sailing in and out of thick fog banks on a flat calm sea in the company of a huge basking shark. Today we had only BlackSwan for company on a sparkling sunlit sea as we headed for the Point of Ayr. As we struck out, past the dual lighthouses, into the boiling, surging waters off the point we were gripped by the strong west-going tide with a northwesterly strengthening breeze. Although we would have the island in sight until much later in the day, it was here that we took our leave of the Kingdom of the Manx people.
The rising and backing northwesterly wind against the strong tide gave us a bouncy, exhilarating sail in the bright sunlight. The mountains of the Isle of Man and the distant hills of the Solway Firth bound our horizon. Far, far behind us now were the mountains of Cumbria and the Lake District.
Rounding the Mull of Galloway was memorable for the amount of time our side-decks rolled under water. First one side and then, seconds later, the other. For more than an hour Sunseeker’s diesel forced her slowly, wildly through bucking tide rips, broiling whirlpools and eddies into the calmer waters inshore, successfully rounding the formidable headland.
A strong, foul tide slowed our progress north along the wild, rugged coast of Galloway. The evening sun, golden now as it slowly settled towards the Irish mountains way out to the west, highlighted every crag and crevice in the cliffs; so close it seemed we could reach out and touch them. The wind died away and eventually, with the sun, now bright red, dipping into the Atlantic beyond the shores of Ireland, we followed the
Ocean Youth Club’s enormous ketch Lord Rank into the tiny, crowded harbour of Portpatrick. Sunseeker and Black Swan found a quiet corner and despite the hustle and bustle of tying up, making fast and tidying ropes and sails, we felt a special, magical peace settle around us and once again we were enveloped by the calm of yesteryear.
Martin and Benjie were first up the, seemingly endless, iron rungs of the harbour-wall ladders. Benjie, being the well-mannered dog that he is, refused to do his duty on the boat because it is also his home. So Martin’s first priority on reaching port is to get his pet ashore as quickly as possible. Benjie has a special lifejacket with a handle set in the back, so that lifting him ashore is a fairly easy business and we soon got used to the sight of him being hoisted aloft from deck to quayside and back again, mission accomplished.
Three nights in harbour were enough to ready us for the next passage. Just forty miles would carry us to the fishing port of Campbelltown on the Mull of Kintyre, famous, of course, for its mist rolling in from the sea. We sailed through one of these, unable to see any of the famous landmarks. Corsewall Point, Ailsa Craig, the Isle of Arran, even the Mull itself may not even exist, for all we saw of them on that passage! It was an afternoon sail to ride the north-going tide as it rushed through the North Channel. By the time Sunseeker and Black Swan were safely made fast alongside in Campbelltown the daylight was gone. Our sundowner, this evening, in the cosy cabin of Black Swan was a misnomer as the sun was well and truly embarked upon its passage round the other side of the Earth.
Our plan, with Martin, was to continue north to circumnavigate the Isle of Arran. However, the wind and weather had other ideas and conspired to detain us in Campbelltown. We all enjoyed the town so much that each delayed day of departure was not too sadly mourned. We had good company on the pontoon and more than one pleasant hostelry quite happily dispensing traditional Scottish hospitality.
Delays notwithstanding, we still needed to be in Yorkshire on the 28th May for the wedding of Rene’s son Kevin to Helen. So a safe berth for Sunseeker had still to be found, preferably on the other side of the Firth of Clyde to make our overland journey easier and less costly.
End of Sunseeker Chapter 2