Sunseeker Chapter 7
The log says “No wind. No sails. Engine on!” Onto a flat calm sea the sun shone from a cloudless, azure-blue sky. Around midday Rene spotted three porpoise heading purposely towards the Isle of Man, with no time to play. Between half past one and two o’clock we were busy dodging a couple of large commercial vessels steaming north off the Irish coast. By half past four Sunseeker had successfully entered Ardglass Harbour in Northern Ireland, looking for a likely berth. The best we could manage was alongside a lobster boat, seven out from the quayside! The harbour master was no where to be found. Someone said he had gone fishing for a couple of days.
During the course of the evening we fell into conversation with the owner of the boat alongside. He is Gilbert and he lives alone on board his fishing boat. Maybe sixty-five, maybe more, he has the ruddy, weatherworn appearance of a man who has faced the elements all his life. But his voice and manner are so gentle. In fact, virtually everyone we met in Ireland, north or south of the border, had an endearing, easy gentleness about them. Eventually, as the evening sun slid below the line of hills beyond the village, and twilight enveloped us, he asked if we enjoyed eating lobster. When we told him we had never tried them he handed us five beauties, all alive and kicking. It was too late to cook and eat them tonight, but, with fresh, crusty bread from the village bakery, they made a veritable feast the following lunchtime!
Whilst in Ardglass we attended to a minor engine fault, located and bought some diesel fuel and lodged a Customs Departure Form at the office there in the Harbour; although customs officers were conspicuous by their absence. No problem. The form was pushed through the letterbox as I breathed a sigh of relief at having avoided a brush with officialdom. Our next passage was to carry us, for the first time, out of UK waters and into a foreign port. Sunseeker was ‘Going Foreign’.
Bright and early in the morning of the first of August we followed the lobster fleet out of the harbour. Sunseeker was laid on a course of 200 degrees magnetic; which would; should, after sixty miles, bring us into Dublin Bay and the large, commercial harbour of Dun Laoghaire. Across a lumpy sea, with not enough wind to fill the sails, we motored once again. Dundrum Bay and the Mountains of Mourne passed us by; their beauty denied us by the persistent mist. The block at the top of the signal halyard squealed noisily as the newly made Eirean courtesy flag was run up to the crosstrees. Rene had done a good job with the needle and thread. Though no one else was around to admire it, we judged it to look very smart.
Between midday and two o’clock a light breeze played with us. Sunseeker was running directly before it and as an experiment for future tradewind sailing the sails were set for downwind sailing. With the staysail hoisted we lashed its boom way out to port and set the genoa out to starboard. Without a whisker pole it tended to fold in upon itself a few times, but after a little while both sails filled and pulled well. Running downwind, Sunseeker rolled quite a lot but the pleasure of sailing without the donk, donk from the diesel engine easily outweighed the little discomfort. The sail combination seemed to work quite well and we were much encouraged.
By about two o’clock our wind died away again leaving us with little option but to restart the engine again. The gearbox is really being put to the test! Late in the afternoon, through a light haze we could see Lambay Island. By seven o’clock we have the Ben of Howth, a massive headland forming the northern arm of Dublin Bay, in sight far away over our bows. Also within view is the tiny island with the enchanting name of Ireland’s Eye. This rugged massif guards the entrance to Howth, nestling in the northern shelter of the Ben. Due to the lateness of the hour we were tempted, and succumbed to the notion of altering course to put into the marina at Howth.
A new course was plotted taking us around Ireland’s Eye to the harbour walls. As we altered course a small coaster overhauled us, hugging the shore of Lambay Island away over to the west.
Ireland’s Eye, seen from the northeast, is quite rugged and soon we could clearly make out the stacks and cliffs. Rounding the island Sunseeker headed west into the low, blinding sun. Suddenly, from having the entire sea to herself, Sunseeker is surrounded by dozens of colourful sailing craft, large and small. Some, obviously being raced, bore down on us flying spinnakers as delicate and colourful as butterfly wings, made transparent with the rays of the sun, so low in the sky behind them. Others ghosted along, to the obvious enjoyment of their crews. Even as we took Sunseeker through the harbour entrance, tiny sailing dinghies zipped in front and behind as we searched for the winding channel into the marina.
Safely moored in our allotted berth we took a breath and looked around. Across the water from us was Grey Seal, a lovely, traditional craft we knew from Glasson, although no one was on board.
Spending two nights in Howth, we enjoyed a railway ride into Dublin City; where the girls are so pretty. It was a hot, sunny day and we trudged for miles to find some fibre washers to fix a leak in the fuel system. Of course we looked at the splendid bridges spanning the River Liffey, Penny Bridge and Dublin Bridge amongst them. Rene refused to believe we were in a foreign country! Didn’t all the people speak the same language? Well, almost! Didn’t we pass the same High Street shops and wasn’t the food and clothes we ogled in the shop windows the same as in England?
End of Sunseeker Chapter 7