November 2011 - Epilogue

Jeff's blog of his life living aboard a yacht, at anchor, in the UK, with his wife, a dog and a baby.

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November 2011 - Epilogue

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So we bought a new boat, as pictured in the previous post, and sold Isabella. Then a few things happened...

Part 1. Sailing Isabella to Dublin.

I waited for a wind window in order to sail Isabella from Devon to Ireland and her new owner. A trip of 300nm which would take approx 2.5 to 4 full days in total. A long enough stable weather window seemed to be a rare thing this November - but - one appeared! So my Dad and I made a quick plan and took the train down from North Yorkshire to Dartmouth, where Isabella awaited. One night aboard to make sure all was well and then off we set.

Conditions were perfect and we started in 15 knot knot winds on the beam, making an average of over 6 knots through the water, sometimes over 7! Not sure if it was because of the good winds, the massive weight reduction of Isabella since removing our worldly goods when we moved out, or the fact that Isabella had been jetwashed off before her hull survey a week or so previously. Probably it was a combination. Whatever it was we were making great time.

As it started to get dark I initiated 'watches' and went below to put my head down. Next thing I knew was the AIS vessel proximity alarm was beeping at me and bleary eyed, half asleep, I tried to work out what the screen was telling me. It looked like a number of vessels (at least three) were all on collision course with us. Then the VHF piped up... "vessel in position xxx yyy are you receiving me, over"... I checked our position and it didn't match. Head slowly clearing. And then again, a little more urgently, "vessel in position xxx yyy are you receiving me, over". At this point I realised that our position did not match but was xxy yyy, so in fact it was us they were referring to. I jumped on the radio... "vessel calling vessel in position xxx yyy, this is vessel in position xxx yyy, Isabella, how can I be of assistance, over". They sounded a little tetchy when they responded, "yes, Isabella, this is Big Tug towing Big Ship on a collision course with you, can you not see our lights which clearly show we are restricted in our ability to manoeuvre!?"

Now, before I tell you what I replied, I'd like you to recall from above that I was still half asleep at this point, had yet to get out of my sleeping bag, and had not actually had a visual on anything other than the inside of Isabella. I pressed the transmit button and said something along the lines of, "hi Big Tug, no, I can't see your lights, or anything, I'm inside at the moment". I then proceeded to ask them what they wanted me to do. I don't think they were very impressed :(

I shot on deck and we ended up doing a hard turn to starboard under a hastily started engine, then shortly after resumed our course under sail. We missed them by about half a mile or so. Loads of room to spare and we could have just beared off a little downwind to miss them, when we got closer. I guess they were just being careful. Put the wind up me though. So I took over watch at that point.

We continued doing 3 or 4 hour watches for the rest of the trip, rounding Landsend later that night uneventfully - apart from frequent visitations by dolphins and amazingly clear skies with the odd shooting star for good luck.

Our weather window had predicted that as we continued along, the wind, which would be a nice force 4, would slowly veer round from North to East to South East to South. And it seemed to start to do just that. But as day two began, it was clear something wasn't quite right. It was blowing up to 27 knots, and had decided to stick to the North East. We tightened up the sheets and managed to make great speed into the increasing swell, but ended up motor-sailing after a while. Despite this we were still managing 6 knots water speed which was fantastic!

As the second night came, so did our second shipping lane encounter. This one however, West of Milford Haven, was practically empty and we made our way around it before turning a little more West, our final bearing for Dublin Bay.

It was shortly after this that a "new small craft weather warning" started to be shouted out over the airwaves in an Irish accent. Great to hear Irish voices - a tangible sign of our progress finally when we'd not seen anything except clouds, waves and ships since Landsend - but unwelcome all the same. The wind was set to go South Easterly and pick up to a 7. Not ideal. We had the shallows which run the length of Western Ireland to negotiate and this definitely would make them 'bouncy'. It was a close call as to whether we would make a run back to Milford Haven (about 6 hours away at this point) or carry on. But if the wind did as predicted we'd be bashing directly into it to get to Milford Haven. So with fingers crossed and a slightly ominous feeling, we carried on.

The warnings became more frequent and seemed to be covering more and more sea areas in our location. There were gale warnings for pretty much all of the surrounding sea areas. I made us a fried egg, ham and cheese sandwich.

My Dad seemed unfazed by all of this; his first sailing trip of more than about 15 miles in length, his first overnight sailing trip, his first multiple overnight sailing trip. He continued to buck convention and end each of his watches with a strong cup of coffee followed by almost uninterrupted sleep until I had to poke him to wake him for his next watch. Apart from his questionable ship missing abilities, he's a natural!! :wink:

We reached the shallows off Ireland with 22nm to go to Dun Laughaire, the wind still blowing from the East North East, and crossed them without a problem. Thank goodness we made it through this area in daylight though because there were so many fishing pots to keep out of the way of.

As we parked in the marina, darkness fell and the wind started to increase. Later we could hear it howling in the rigging at the tops of the masts all around us.

In the marina office the receptionist took one look at us and said something along the lines of, "you'll be wanting a point of Guinness I suppose".

Next morning. After a quick lesson for the new owner, and a very sad feeling as I left Isabella for the last time, we hopped on the ferry for the 2 hour ~70nm (seriously) high speed ferry crossing back across the Irish sea to Holyhead. My goodness how the sea had built up! Had we taken another 12 hours to make the trip we would really have known about it! I'm sure Isabella would have been fine in the 5 meter messy seas. Not sure I would have liked it much though. Captain Birdseye (Dad) would have slept though it, after a cup of coffee, no doubt!

Here's a video which shows none of the exciting bits:

Isabella now begins a new life as home for one of our good friends. He's a bit bonkers. He has never sailed a boat. And he gets seasick. Brilliant!! I thought _we_ were crazy! Hopefully he'll blog his experiences (hint!).

Part 2. The Bumps of Destiny

We are having a baby and some puppies.

Part 3.

Who knows what's going to happen next. My fingers are crossed. Watch this space...
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