Saturday 6 July 2019

After the Jester Baltimore Challenge

The next morning (Friday) I cooked breakfast for me and Bernie and we swapped tails of our respective Challenges. Bernie had it a lot tougher in little Mischief – a light 24 feet. The headwinds and seas were particularly trying foe him and he did incredibly well to get in only seven hours after Arctic Smoke. After breakfast we went ashore and met up with a number of other Jesters – many of whom Bernie had met two years ago when he completed the Challenge on his even smaller boat (lengthways at least) 'xxxxx', a McWester 22'! It was a delightfully sunny day and we had our Guinness in the sun and went for a walk to 'Lots Wife' – the large white Beacon standing above the entrance to Baltimore Harbour. It was enjoyable getting to know some of the others – who I had met briefly at the Skippers' Briefing in Plymouth. A number of us went on the Historical walk and learnt about the infamous sacking of the town in 1603 (or thereabouts) by the Barbary Pirates from North Africa. There's a certain ironic justice to be found in that event. After the death of Queen Elizabeth, King James virtually closed down the navy and as a consequence many ex navy personnel became pirates and set up base in Baltimore. A handy location from which to intercept the returning Spanish and French ships, loaded to the gunnells with ill gotten gains from the Caribbean. Baltimore was therefore an English Pirate enclave for some 60 or so years in the 17th Century. The Pirates were of course officially on the Crown's wanted list, punishable by death! However, the local economy flourished on the back of Piracy and so a knowing blind eye was turned to their activities and very few ended up on the gallows. Eventually, the vast majority were pardoned!

That night was the Pirate Party put on by the locals – a successful piece of historical marketing that bolsters the local coffers today. It was of course great fun and there where many impressive fancy dress costumes in evidence. Photos can be seen on the recent photo post. That night I performed a mercy mission – after I dropped Bernie off on Mischief, I was hailed by John Passmore on his Rival 32. He had locked himself out of his boat. He had a combination lock but his phone battery was flat and he couldn't read the dials. Of course he rewarded me with late night drinks and by the time I got back to Arctic Smoke it was 0300!

The next day – Sunday – Bernie and I were to go sight seeing on Firkin Island but it peed with rain all day as only Irish rain can. I therefore stayed on the boat all day and wrote up previous blog entries and generally slobbed out. Of course I was slightly hung over too.

The next day Bernie decided to make tracks back to blighty and so I cooked us both another fry-up and he left around midday.

Later that day George from 'xxxx' - a lovely one off wooden 30 foot sloop made of teak – and his wife who had driven over helped me get AS onto a mooring. We lashed the two dinghies to the stern and with their outboard motors pushing AS along we were soon on the mooring. I would fly home on Wednesday for a week – my good friend Tom and his wife Nina, were visiting from the USA for a few days. That all went off fine and it was nice to spend time with Sharon and the kids too. We even fitted in a trip to Wimbledon as well as the London sight seeing with Tom and Nina. The Saturday nigh we had large family BBQ on the hottest day of the year.

I had contacted a local mechanic before leaving and was hopeful that he would have a go at the engine but nothing came of it and so on my return to Baltimore on Wednesday 3rd July it was once again to a boat with no engine. To rub it in, my spare key had gone walkies and as it was around 2000 the harbour master who had my other key was not around. Therefore after getting a lift out to the boat from a friendly local I had to break in, making a right mess of the companionway hatch in the process.

Thursday was a lovely day so I decided to get going after settling up with the Harbour Master and enjoying a coffee and croissant at the water front café. A very reasonable £100 Euros was the charge for the mooring for 10 days.

After a quick look at the tides I realised I would have 2-3 hours of the ebb flowing west and would then have to punch the flood if I left at around midday. The winds were light and variable and for a while I was in two minds – was there enough wind to beat out of the Harbour? The breeze picked up and I decided to go for it. We exited the harbour without incident and turned west. The first possible destination was South Harbour, Cape Clear Island – only about 5 miles. Initially progress was good and we could lay our destination but then the breeze faltered and headed us and of course the flood kicked in. We tacked slowly westwards barely making any progress at all at the end of each tack. To start with I was frustrated but then realised that if I just had to drift around for hours so what – I was in no hurry. I just had to ensure I didn't get too close to the coast. Eventually the breeze returned and we picked up speed. South Harbour was extremely difficult to locate even with all my modern navigational aids. It didn't open up until we were right on top of it and for a while I was very unsure.

Eventually we ran in on a broad reach through the entrance which looked like it would be a challenge to beat out of and of course the winds were pretty fluky due to the high cliffs. We rounded up safely and dropped the hook in 8 metres. An absolutely wonderful location. Photos will be posted in a separate post when I get a decent connection. Even this will have to wait until back in the UK because we are shielded from the telephone masts my the high cliffs.

I cooked a decent dinner – a sort of chicken stew and put a serving aside for another day. At least the fridge still works which is a blessing. There were no other boats so I had the place to myself before a fancy French yacht came in at dusk. My night's sleep was not great due the blasted cold I had picked up but I've had a lot worse.

Friday was another gorgeous day and I dragged myself out of bed around 0830. I spoilt myself with hot water for a wash and a shave and started to feel almost human. A light breakfast of toast and my mum's home made marmalade followed and after clearing up I tackled a few jobs. First was a bit of maintenance on Angus the wind vane. The chord that stopped the vane swinging too far had almost worn through and needed replacing. I checked Angus over, applied a little grease on the spindle and put him back in position.

Next I tackled the Navtex antenna. I had not received any report on the Navtex (a weather information service transmitted in text over VHF) since leaving Cuba and even then they had been very hit and miss. I concluded that the most probable explanation was that the cable between the antenna and the receiver had corroded and so whilst I was at home I got some more cable and fittings. I opened up the antenna connection and to my surprise the cable looked fine but it did appear that one of the connections had parted. Some delicate work with the gas soldering iron – Mick's favourite tool – followed and I felt very smug once I had completed the job. At the time of writing however (Friday night 5/7/19) I have still not received any broadcast. I hope it's because we are shielded by the high cliffs around the harbour. Certainly all other forms of radio transmissions are very iffy. I'll have to wait until get off shore to know whether it works. I'll have a day or so beyond the normal Irish VHF transmissions and the UK ones and so it would be helpful if it did.

After a few other jobs I had a sandwich and headed for shore to have a look around. The quay was only a few hundred metres and I thought I could do with the exercise and so rowed over. A 10 minute walk across the narrowest part of the island took me to North Harbour. Amos t a town compared to sleepy South Harbour. The Ferries from various locations on the mainland and Firkin Island use it and quite a few yachts were there too. A proper little harbour complete with Fishing boats, a café and a visitors centre but I was more than happy with the solitude of South Harbour. Civilisation was only 10 minutes away in any case. After a look around I had a coffee and local ice cream and continued on my walk up the hill and across the island by a longer different route. I was rewarded with the most stunning views imaginable across to the mainland and Firkin Island. I'll post photos ASAP.

I got back to South Harbour around 1700 and cadged some water from the local guest house. Back at the quay one of the guests was having a swim. I asked him how it was and he said lovely! I resolved to have a dip off the boat when I got back aboard. Lovely it might have been but it was absolutely freezing – I lasted 30 seconds and was back up the boarding ladder as quickly as I could manage with my dodgy back – I put it out earlier lifting Angus off his perch.

I've decided to take advantage of the predicted North Westerlies due tomorrow and provided they materialise soon enough I'll leave at high tide – a very civilised 0900. The passage back will be the subject of another post. I’ll probably head for Falmouth if weather and tides permit. I should be able to get in under sail. I'd like to visit the Maritime Museum there and possibly see Knox Johnson's boat Suhali.

Postsrcipt: Actually left very slowly a 1115 when a slight breeze from the West arrived.

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