Tag Archives: Isle of Man

Wardley’s boat sails to scotland single handed part 2

Jamila, a Wardleys Marine Yacht Club sailing sloop was sat at anchor in Ramsey Bay following a perfect passage from Fleetwood. She had been powered over the Irish sea by a beam wind, carried for the most part by favourable tides and not using a drop of diesel. It has to be said there is a pleasure to be had by ghosting up to an anchorage under reduced jib and mainsail then putting the bow into the wind such that the boat comes to a gentle halt all timed perfectly so as to engender a gentle drift astern, such that the Skipper can waltz forward and lower the anchor. Yes, it may look Cool as a Cucumber to anyone strolling along the Ramsey promenade, but a word of warning it sometimes goes embarrassingly wrong.  

At anchor in Ramsey Bay

As discussed in in the first part of this trip, berthing in Ramsey was outlawed due to Covid. The skipper was by this time tired and was ready to put his head down. So following a last glance at Ramsey’s Georgian promenade terrace gently illuminated in soft pastel colours, and a final anchor check, the Wardleys Sailor hit the bunk to get some shut eye whilst the stars of the summer triangle  revolved high overhead. 

Getting deep nourishing sleep when single handed at anchor takes practice. It certainly helps when you are familiar with the territory. As for that night in Ramsey Bay, on the down-side I was not familiar, it was the first time, but on the up-side there was a reassuring anchorage symbol on the chart, I had a ROCNA type anchor dug in six metres below, and most importantly the weather forecast was good for the coming short night, so I was able to curl up on the starboard bunk feeling sufficiently relaxed to quickly fall into a long deep sleep. 

They look lovely at night under allumination.

Four hours later a bizarre dream  began to disturb me. There was a  noise getting louder and louder that forced me in to semi consciousness. It was that of distant surf. It slowly dawned on me that I was indeed on a boat at anchor and this was no dream. It was still pitch black outside but with a tinge of morning twilight arriving in the east. The Ramsey promenade was now simply delignated by a simple line of street lights, and the Georgian terraces that had been previously illuminated, had disappeared into the dark. The surf was too close for comfort. A glance at the depth sounder set alarm bells ringing. Only one metre under the keel! I had calculated their being one and a half at low water  the night before. And there was still an hour of ebb to go. I suspected that the situation was not that bad given the soft white sand all around, but then again there was a little bit of sea swell rolling in and a strengthening wind. Um, what was it to be?  Snug back up into the sleeping bag? I knew from previous experience that further sleep would be difficult if nothing was done. So the engine was brought to life and engaged in tick-over slow ahead. Over twenty yards of wet cold chain were hauled onto the foredeck. With the anxiety reducing good deed done, and the sound of the surf further in the distance an  extra hour of sleep was had.  

Had the anchor not been shortened Jamila would have looked like this!

Jamila’s destination for the new day was Scotland. This was to be a passage across the north eastern part of the Irish sea to the small all tide harbour of Portpatrick. The wind was forecast as a Gentle Breeze but was closer to a Moderate Breeze and rising. Jamila could either pass close to the Point of Aire at the most northerly tip of the Island with the wind close on the nose, or take a detour around the Bahama Bank, The detour alone would take half a day’s extra at the very least. The north end of the Isle of Man had a fierce reputation for dangerous seas with a notorious tidal over-fall. The sailing guide recommended staying well clear of the bank at all costs once the tide was running. The guide says that a small boat should only pass at slack water, and stay within the deep channel that runs very close to the shore. 

There was four hours to high water, and about that much windward sailing time required to reach the Point of Aire. So up went the sails and up came the anchor. As I did this, something caught my eye on the promenade 300 yards to stern. I recognize a pickup truck belonging to the harbourmaster with a distinctive yellow light. This vehicle is well known by those who have spent time against the Ramsey harbour wall. To allow ships through into the inner harbour, an impressive metal bridge painted in a colourful Victorian livery has to be swung open. To do this the truck, using its yellow flashing light, blocks the road. The harbourmaster then jumps out and climbs a short ladder on to the bridge and from a small cabin proceeds to swing the enormous metal structure.  Then usually with a cheery smile, he leans out of a small sliding window and beckons the awaiting ships to enter. But what in heavens name was he doing on the promenade so early on a Sunday morning? Just maybe he was there keeping an eye on the lone Wardley’s sailor who being denied safe haven had been forced to swing at anchor in Ramsey Bay? It was probably not the case, but it was a nice thought anyway! 

Point Of Aire on a calm day

The ensuing sail up the north east coast of the Isle of Man was brisk and efficient. Staying close to the shore put Jamila into a slight back eddy adding an extra half knot. In actual fact last of the flooding tide was whipping around the north of the island in the opposite direction.  Had Jamila been half a mile further to the east, the half a knot or maybe more would have been at least two knots running in the other direction.  As the well-known saying goes “There is no such thing as a free lunch”,  (referring to the practice of offering “free lunches” to entice heavy drinking in pubs), equally applies to Wardley’s sailors getting freebies out at sea off the Isle of Man, since the pay-back of being in the pinch point between the land and the Bahama bank was yet to come.  

There was still an hour left of flood tide when Jamila began to draw level with the Point of Aire lighthouse. By this time the wind had mounted to a strong breeze (F5) coming from the East, and the coast line suddenly twisted further round to the east forcing Jamila ever close to the wind at the critical point.  The tip of the Island came into view. To my horror I noticed the waves were breaking violently on the beach just up ahead in a way you would associate with storm conditions, and not an F5. Then something very strange began to happen around me. The sea began to change is such a way that it wasn’t following the normal rules.  It changed from regular lines of waves from the east into a boiling cauldron. Monster pinnacles of water started to tower above Jamila on all sides. It was like being in the Swiss alps except  at one moment you were deep in the valleys and the next you were on top of the Matterhorn. The wind was good and steady and I should have been making a good four knots and be safe in spite of a nasty looking lee shore just to port!  

Point of Aire in a gale? The confused state of the sea in this illustration gives an indication of what the sea was like going around the tip of the Point of Aire.

My heart dropped into my stomach when I noticed I wasn’t moving.  Worst still, I was being slowly and remorsefully  sucked towards the violent breaking seas on the beach. It was as if some monster squid from Jules Vern’s ‘Around the world in Eighty days’  had taken hold of my keel and was dragging me to my doom. Suddenly something caught my eye on the shore. It was a flashing yellow light. I craned my head around ripping the  hood from my head for a clearer field of vision. It was the harbourmaster parked on the very last bit of Island. He was gesticulating to me above the breaking waves with hand raised into the air. He was making a twisting action with his wrist. “Start the engine”!!  

I had been caught like a rabbit in the lights of a passing car. On went the engine full ahead. It wasn’t the tide that was at fault, neither was it the wind. It was the remorseless heaving of the waves. The wind was being knocked from my sails and the bow was coming to a halt on the steepness of the waves. Amazingly they weren’t even breaking, they were just too much and too none sensical for a small sailing boat to make headway with the wind on the nose.  So this is what they call a tidal over-fall. God only  knows what it would like in a full gale. The engine had saved the day. Instead of being stopped dead, Jamila’s bow was now punching a white spume splattered hole straight through them. With reference to a Dirty Harry movie, it felt like I’d pulled out my very own MAGNUM 50 cal. and with great joy and entertaining relief had bad guys scattering. 

And so the disorder didn’t last long. With the tip of the island slowly falling into the distance, the sea miraculously transformed into a milky flatness. This was a  very strange sea state indeed, when all the time the wind was blowing a fresh breeze, and then some. This strange state persisted for a full nautical mile until eventually the prevailing waves reverted back to a long set of orderly parallel lines. Having cleared the land’s end a new course was struck  to the North West. The effect of backing off the wind on to the said direction put the wind on the beam.  Jamila was not now battling the weather head on, and so began to gather speed and even surf on the face of the occasional big wave that came along.  In short, the sea had behaved in an extraordinary manner, and I freely confess that I had been truly ‘Gas Lighted’ by the ‘Point of Aire’.  Somewhere in the murky distance across a shimmering sea lay the Mull of Galloway. 

Mull of Galloway

Many hours of coursing along in a declining wind had left Jamila somewhat under canvased, but eventually the coast of Scotland began to grow in size. After another short spell down below, the next visual check out on deck revealed the immensely tall cliffs of the Mull of Galloway in all their glory. The splendor was all the more emphasized when two yachts sailing incredibly close to the rocky shores were observed. At first I thought they might be Wayfarer dinghies since their white sails looked so small against the mighty cliffs. It turned out that in fact they were much bigger yachts on a heading to Ireland. After another forty minutes they were three miles up a head crossing my bow, and after yet another hour I could only just make out their white sails far to the west. Soon Jamila was also hugging the Galloway coast. As said, the wind was blowing away from the land so the dangers of a lee shore were more or less harmless. Eventually the cliffs reduced in stature revealing some very pleasant green countryside beyond. This last leg to the seaside village of Portpatrick dragged on a bit, and in fact it took longer than the open sea crossing just before. And now the thrust of the tide was no longer favourable where jamila had lost a  knot of speed as a consequence. But still, the early part of the passage had been so rapid that there was no pressing rush to make it before the shops shut. The sea had become noticeably flatter too, being close to a windward shore, so maintaining progress to find a nice warm harbour side pub, despite the falling wind, was not going to be difficult. The entrance into Portpatrick was between a narrow gap in a rocky—potentially fibreglass crunching—coastline, and arriving from the south as most Wardley’s sailors would do, the main bulk of the town is more or less obscured by ‘Tandoo Point’ headland.

Tandoo Point

It was if Portpatrick was keeping its head down still expecting a shelling from one of the Kaiser’s battleships, It was not until arriving opposite to the entrance where a small beach and a coastal road lined with cottages revealed itself that I finally considered Portpatrick real and not a figment of the imagination. The entrance was between a gap in the rocks. The  cruising guide instructions stipulate heading straight for the beach keeping a leading marker lined up with the white washed “Rose and Crown” pub and only when you are plumb opposite the stone walled entrance to the harbour do you execute a sharp 90 degree turn and then head into the main basin. Cutting the corner in an attempt to smooth out the turn will almost certainly  run you aground on a submerged rock just to the left of the entrance.

PortPatrick harbour. A very cosy sheltered haven for small boats.

Now, imagine watching tele with your young family watching “Thomas the Tank Engine” steam into a small rural fishing port on his adventures. Well, there you have Portpatrick to a tee. There is even some fusion with another well-known TV show Balamory, because I’m sure I came across Mrs McCredie in a post office positioned not far from the water’s edge. I tied Jamila up against a dark towering and somewhat forbidding looking wall. Two giant sliding fenders on vertical rails kept the boat off the stone. The town’s plentiful array of pubs were choked-up with day trippers due to the lovely warm weather, and made worse by social distancing rules which caused hour long queues in some quarters. Instead I dined aboard on mash-get-smashed potato, fried spam, and garden peas. All that remained to do that day was to soak up the chocolate box harbour scene. As always, when the ambiance is perfect, which it was on that evening, even the ship’s stores tinned cuisine seemed to taste excellent. The skipper slept much better during the short summer night in Portpatrick. During the time of slumber Jamila quietly fell twenty feet down the harbour wall. It would have been nice to stay a little longer. 

Jamila up against a wall.
Barrow based Lady Tika arrived. Was nice to have a fellow Morecambe Bay sailor, first mate (Missus) and Labrador for company.

Still, this particular Wardley’s sailor had a tide to catch that would suck him up through the problematic stretch of fast flowing tidal water between Scotland and Ireland called the North Channel. Jamila’s destination was not a smart marina replete with floating pontoons, power points, and identikit bistro bars, but instead a WILD and potentially exposed  sandy white bay with a little navigable creek running some way inland. The destination was called Cushendum situated on the north east coast overlooking Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre. After having scoped the location on Google Maps, it was tempting to venture up the creak and see the hinterland, but having recently re-watched the classic war film ‘The Eagles have landed’ where the German e-boat did venture in to such a creek but went haplessly aground sneaking out, helped dispel any such idea. Nevertheless the thought of making a fantasy motorcycle get-away across beautiful green north Antrim countryside with a sultry Jenny Agutter on the pillion did appeal. 

On my departure from Portpatrick, a rather touching moment occurred. I was on the quayside taking the  ropes from the bollards, with Jamila seemingly along way down the ladder.  When a little boy five to six years old approached, somewhat walking a head  of the rest of his family, appeared  to be wholly mesmerised by the small fishing port ambiance—exactly as I would have been at his age. He had been watching the sailing boats coming and going during the morning. He shouted over and asked if he could come with me. I don’t think I appreciated how deadly serious his question was and I answered glibly, “You certainly can but you’ll have to ask your mother and my next stop is Ireland”. Mother had caught up by this time shaking her head with a mournful expression explaining that Ireland was too far to come and pick little Johnny up. Relieved that I wasn’t the one to break the bad news I quickly escaped down the long vertical ladder and cast off. As Jamila slowly motored away from the quay I looked up and saw a very stoic looking six year old waving me off with a tear in his eye. It was a  bitter sweet but beautiful moment. Everything briefly seemed to fall into place. I was in a charming location, on a gorgeous day with  a god gifted wind and tide all laid out at my disposal. 

The passage plan from Scotland to Ireland up the North Channel was to make best use of the prevailing easterlies and ebbing tide and get close to land north of Belfast Lough and so benefit from the back Eddie when the tide turns and starts to pile in from the North Atlantic. The point where the northern back-eddy meets the vast mass of water surging south is an outcrop of headland half a mile to the north of my destination. 

The greater part of the sail across the sea to Ireland was a pure sun and clear sky experience. The sea was a deep gushing blue all the way over punctuated with the odd white breaking wave. The noticeable change from my previous passages was the fact that the Irish sea at this point was constricting rapidly such that the sea as morphing into a shipping highway with an identifiable stream going north and a counter stream running south. As Jamila cut across the entrance of Loch Ryan, the equally busy stream of ferries cutting across the shipping lane between Scotland and Belfast were encountered. Out there on the ocean  is something live affirming about seeing a P & O ferry cutting across the sea leaving a long white wake.  In my mind at least this is the very essence of a summer holiday in full bloom. As the day wore-on the horizon began to reveal a long broken black line, as the hills of northern Ireland hove into view. A few hours later it was resolved into long continuous line. Finally cliffs and white sand and the glinting reflection of sun from windows of still distant houses. As Jamila pushed further northwards helped along by a favourable back-eddy running parallel to the coast, the sun disappeared behind a  layer of grey cloud. At the same time the wind dropped off significantly but remained sufficient to maintain the promised ETA of around 8pm at Cushendun. 

Over the sea to northern Ireland.

It was tempting to pull into Cushendall, which is a much larger town further to the south, but that would have meant further to go the following day and by this time I was well aware that tail end of  Storm Ellen was well on its way. Cushendall was the first town I really got to look at up close. I could clearly make out the houses and see cars moving along the roads. Maybe another time. As I closed in on the sandy bay of my destination drizzle started to fall. The wind and died away almost completely and it was the last of the tide that was moving ever closer to my final anchorage. The engine went on at the very end mainly so that I could scout around a little both visually and studying the various depths using the sounder. The settlement consists of a spit of retro modern and original houses all joined together in a long line a bit like a classic terrace house and all painted bright white. To the right is the bay peppered with only a few original cottages and  grander looking houses set further back in the distance,  but remaining basically unspoilt by modern builders. Good on the folks at Cushendun! 

Triangle marks the anchorage in Cushendun bay.
The beautiful Antrim coastline and the lovely Cushendun nestled in a sandy bay.

An evening at anchor was spent out in the cockpit under a very slight drizzle. Two to three families could be seen on the beach braving it in their bathing costumes, and to hell with the weather. Maybe one of these days some of them will also become sailors and sail around the shores of the Irish sea. And who knows…

The next instalment of the  WMYC yacht Jamila’s summer cruise will cover the next two days of the passage from Cushenden in Northern Ireland to the sailing gem that is the ‘West coast of Scotland’. The ultimate destination is to a magical location called ‘The Fairy Isles’ tucked away at the top of Loch Sween. 

Wardley’s boat sails to scotland single handed part 1

Pulling yourself and kit to the starting line for a single handed cruise out into the Irish sea is never as you might imagine it. When sat at home enjoying the warmth of an open fire with a mug of tea in hand, the expectation of a summer cruise always includes a sun that  shines, a sea that always shimmers, and gulls that glide endlessly in a perfectly blue sky. The reality was somewhat different. There was a cold wind, a miserable grey sky, and a gale forecast in four days time. With this, and being alone, and added to the stress of preparing to get away, a cloud of melancholy descended. I suddenly became painfully aware that I was leaving a safe and  cushioned world for a very uncertain Irish sea  where anything could happen and something was almost certainly going to do so.

First leg send-off at the Fairway.

The Marina was deserted. My electronic pass got me into the building. No one was there. I comforted myself with a cup of vending machine hot chocolate. This small but strangely up-lifting treat reminded me of youthful days with pals following a swim at the local pool. It did its job, at least in my head the sun started to break through the cloud. I still had to stock up on diesel. The plan was to take as much as I was likely to need and replenish on route where the opportunity occurs. Fifty litres of capacity in all sorted cans sat empty in my car. It was soon coming up to High Water Fleetwood, and still no marina man on the fuel pontoon. This was the last bit of the jigsaw before I could set sail. Maybe this service was disrupted because of COVID-19? Should I go to ASDA? The thought of filling the cans at the pumps and lugging them all the way down to the boat didn’t appeal. Time was running out, a decision would have to be taken soon.

Ten minutes earlier, I had checked Jamila’s sea worthiness. She looked great. Her batteries were OK, she had dry bilges, her engine started the instant the key was turned. yes, she was sitting pretty. So far so good.

Jamila Ready for anything?

I walked out into the car park to see if anything was happening elsewhere. Maybe the marina lads were doing an errand somewhere nearby. Just as I walked around the harbour office a tooting car horn caught my attention. I looked over and saw a friendly face beaming back at me from a small white van. It was Billy Wizz from the club. Bill is one of those steadfast characters that are the bedrock of any organization. He is a cup half full man, always smiling, always good humoured, and always ready for a natter about boats and some good old club gossip. Together we went back to the Marina office and drank yet another cup of hot chocolate.  He cheered me up with a bit of banter and news of goings on at the Wardley’s Marina.

Up until this point, Billy had not yet been adorned with the moniker ‘Wizz’. He had for a long time suffered more than his fair share of bad luck with boat engines, but had recently found a crack marine mechanic who sprinkled some magic dust over his Honda’s Forty-Five horses and had bought them back to life.  On this very day Billy was determined to  take his very competent Hardy 18 out into the Fleetwood channel and up  to twenty knots in speed.

Billy Wizz with a mini Jaws!

I was beginning to feel much better thanks to Billy.  The proverbial sun had begun to shine again, and to make things even better, in walked the missing fuel pontoon man, just as I had been readying myself for a trip to ASDA. The fuel pontoon man, with a broad smile containing a wry hint  of amusement such I should dare to doubt his honour, had assured me that there was plenty of diesel to go around, and would sort me out whenever I wanted.

Billy announced that he was awaiting a pal from the club, Martin, and that in due course would escort me down the channel for a good old send off, explaining it would be an excuse to test out his newly wired up ship’s horn.

First leg to Ramsey on the Isle-of-Man. Game on! Jamila finally got on her way, leaving the calm and safety of Fleetwood Marine, turning left in to the river Wyre, and eventually meeting the gently swell of Morecambe Bay as the river gave way to the sea.

Author and Jamila’s skipper

There is always a feel-good factor to be had when leaving port with a full tank of fuel and with various five and ten litre cans stashed in and around the boat in reserve, which is not always the case when weekend sailing.  And this sense of well being is accentuated when you find yourself creaming along under full sail on a broad reach for a whole twelve hours, and moreover with a favourable tide.

As the Fleetwood promenade began to resemble a thin line in the distance, in what looked like a miniature pilot-boat, Billy and Martin could be seen rapidly approaching in  the distance.

By this time Jamila was at full pelt, ploughing an nice frothy white furrow down the Fleetwood channel toward the Fairway Buoy. But in spite of mother nature’s awesome power pushing at the sails, and the boat’s willingness to respond, Billy was nevertheless catching rapidly and was in the process of earning his new nickname Billy Wizz.  He could be seen sitting at the helm of his fast fishing boat, beaming from ear to ear, as he approached and soon overhauled the sailing boat. His crew member Martin was stood in the stern holding on tight looking vaguely embarrassed at the ease of it all.

Speed and brute power

A photo session then took place. Both Skippers tried to out do each other with clever artistically framed camera shots, as if both boats were the iconic ‘Christine Keeler’  in the buff on a back to front chair.

To the sound of a few farewell hoots of Billy’s ship’s horn, Jamila continued her long march out into the ocean, and the miniature pilot-boat, with a fuel gauge needle rapidly heading south, calved a long turn creating a fanfare of spray and spume and headed back to  safer  waters. 

Photo session – Jamila on her way for Ramsey, Isle of Man.
Photo session – Billy and Martin

Jamila charged on and on. The first waypoint  Halfway Shoal marks the absolute limits of navigation west of Walney. Between said waypoint and the shore errant sailing boats  run a risk of spending a night on a sandbank, which is not normally a feature of this Wardley’s sailor’s passage plan. Once clear of the Heysham Deeps and over the Mort Bank shallows where big boats don’t  venture, the auto pilot was set allowing the skipper to duck down into the cabin below. It always good to get away from the tiller for short periods. When out of the wind and spray the charts can be checked, the passage plan can be verified, the chart plotter can be gazed at, and maybe  the barometer can be tapped.  And in addition,  these days you can’t forget ones social media commitments!

Boat position for social media.

Why not do a posting showing an electronic position and a  pretty sunset over water came to mind? Surely better than yet again another picture of an enormous plate of food from an American holiday, or a  picture of mate’s daughter  pouting her lips? To be honest the FB ‘Likes’ tend to prove me wrong on this score such is social anthropology these days. In any case, as the land starts to recede you’ve got a get a move on before the signal vanishes.  From then on you are out at sea on your own.

The vast wind blasted space between Walney Island west and the eastern shores of the Isle of Man is a show case for  the new world wind turbine paradise  that keeps our kettles bubbling and our router lights pulsating. The passage plan to Ramsay leaves the Halfway Shoal buoy to the north west, threading  between the  Walney West wind farm and the Ormonde wind farm to the north, up past first one  north cardinal, then on to another north cardinal buoy,  scraping the boundaries of the  Walney Extension Wind farm — that’s three  farms in all — until the field of vision is clear all the way to the Isle of Man.  The canny Wardley’s sailor leaves Fleetwood an hour or so before high water getting across Morecambe Bay at slack water or there about, and then hitches a ride on the ebbing tide towards the Isle of Man lasting six hours. The neat trick it to get into the lee of the IOM before the tide turns and tries to sweep you back down towards France. Get positioned roughly in the vicinity south of the Bahama south cardinal, you’ll find the contra flowing flood tide is weakened by the IOM land mass, and will never reach its normal speed as it would do further to the east. 

Big blighters and lots of em.

Passing the shear scale of this array of wind farms is impressive. Our PM talked up Britain’s windfarms in a recent speech on tele. He lamented the days when people claimed that the power generated by these installations would be unable to knock the ‘Skin off a rice pudding’. Well, I got a little bit close to one of these towering turbines and experienced first hand the deafening scream that pulsated my ear drums as a  blade, exceeding the wing span of a jumbo jet, came down from the sky at one hundred and fifty mph, reaching its lowest apex, and then shooting back up skywards a moment later. An experience such as this puts you in no doubt of their awesome power and that these things can kick-arse, at least when the wind is blowing.

Luckily for my little fluttering burgee and mast head aerial, the said lowest apex of one of these monster blades is well above the height of Jamila’s not inadequate proportioned mast. 

Later in his speech, Boris continued and listed off notable British wind farm locations, citing Teesside, Humber, Scotland and Wales, but no mention of the biggest of them all off Walney Island, Chez Nous. You just cannot get decent speech writers these days!

Once south of the Bahama south cardinal buoy and after seven hours of sailing the vast wind farms began to recede into the east. The first glimpses of the Isle of Man appeared. Mountains shrouded in cloud and mist could be seen up a head. The tide had turned by this point, but who cared. It would  never reach a speed, as I have explained above, to worry Jamila, She was still  doing what she was doing earlier on when Billy Wizz turned tail, and that was creaming along under her billowing white canvas sails with a full Beaufort force five wind coming at her from the beam. Like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch, this was where Jamila was born to be,  and what she knew best.

Haughold Head Lighthouse

Maughold Head lighthouse FI(8)30s 15m began to resolve itself as Jamila surge forwards and onwards. Situated to towards the top of a dramatic rocky cliff, the said lighthouse it just what any Hollywood director would like to have in his movie, say in a scene where some hapless undersized fishing boat is being stalked by some ravenous blood and flesh obsessed shark. The destination was an overnight anchorage in Ramsey Bay, and, unfortunately for this particular Wardley’s sailor,  not safely tucked away in the atmospheric port of Ramsey, where there would be beer on tap in the ‘Harbour Hotel’. Instead, I would be exposed out front in the bay, swinging from a hook clinging to a submerged sandy beach, two hundred yards offshore. Such a position would be exposed to any easterly gale that might appear in the  night. But fortunately, in the modern internet age, Wardley’s Sailors are not reliant on tapping the barometer with a finger to gauge the impending weather anymore. A glance at my  iPhone’s display revealed a friendly message from my service provider welcoming me to the IOM, and  to paraphrase, assuring me of  business as usual at no extra charge.

Jamila at Anchor

Once at anchor it was time to relax and ponder the current Covid-19 situation that had denied me, as a Wardley’s sailor bound for Ramsey, my inalienable right to drink a beer or two in a port side bar. Still I couldn’t complain. I got to briefly share an anchorage with the celebrated IOM tramp steamer ‘SILVER RIVER’. Hallowed company it was for sure. I have now bumped into her both at Glasson Dock and Ramsay. She wasn’t to stay long though. We had both had arrived at roughly the same time. The SILVER RIVER passed JAMILA as we both negotiated the final reach  of the Walney Extension wind farm. Fortunately for Silver River, the COVIDE-19 rules do not exclude commercial traffic, only leisure traffic to the Isle of Man like me. Ramsey is not an all tidal port. Boats can only enter and leave port two hours before and after high water. As soon as there was enough depth for Silver River to drag her bilges over the soft Manx mud, she weighed anchor and disappear between the jutting but impressive parallel harbour walls. 

Silver River. moving heavy goods of any description between Glasson Dock and Ramsey. Both dock dry out at low water, where she sits on her keel.

The irony of the Isle of Man Covide-19 rules is that they were quite rightfully make by a risk averse committee mentality, to protect the elderly tax exiles,  who  most probably during their rise to financial supremacy had conducted themselves  in quite a NON risk averse manor, most probably borrowing other peoples money as capital,  under the protection of limited liability where the risks and costs of failure are yet again most probably borne by the  good folks from from the excluded mainland — or perhaps this minor pension fund investor currently swinging at anchor in Ramsey Bay. That said however the people of IOM are incredibly friendly and welcoming in better times and the very best of them are the harbour masters and crew that operate the ports of Ramsey and Douglas. 

Ramsey Bay

Luckily, that night the weather was kind. A gentle onshore wind maintained a view out of Jamila’s companion-way toward a lovely row of  Georgian Terraces, which as the day slowly turned to night were gently illuminated by cleverly sited  multi coloured lights, bringing out the magnificent spender of a by-gone era.  It must be said here that this type of aesthetically pleasing architecture is rarely seen now for utilitarian cost-saving reasons,  compounded by a lack of skilled artisans,  and a modern greed for space including a modern desire for oversized glass windows and balconies.

But I had to count my lucky stars, since it was I who had the best view in town that night and it was costing me nothing. “Oh, to be swinging at anchor out in Ramsey Bay”! (SA, get your guitar out, I can feel another Wardley’s ballad coming on!).

The next episode coming soon: from Ramsey – Port Patrick – Cushendun via the very disturbed and rough waters of the ‘Point of Aire’!

Isle of Man – Wardleys to Derbyhaven – May 2018

In early April an assortment of Wardleys sailors crowded around a small map on the club house notice board and chattered excitedly amongst themselves. The map showed a large bay facing  the north-east with a thin strip of land separating it from yet another bay of equal size on the opposite side.  To the east of these conjoined bays was a thin strip of land, containing a golf-course, jutting out into  the Irish sea. Tom, one of the club’s experienced sea-sailors, clutching a large mug of tea, suggested that this would be the ideal place for a ‘Wardleys flotilla’ to rendezvous, after setting out from the tidal channels of Morecambe Bay. Five Wardleys’ skippers declared they were up for the challenge!

Morecambe Bay to the Isle of Man. A very long day 12 hour sail.

Any anchorage had to be well sheltered from the prevailing south-westerlies, and not-least be somewhere on IOM,  so a quick straw vote was taken and ‘DERBY HAVEN’ bay it was to be.

Derby Heven Bay in the south east of the Isle of Man. Five intrepid Wardley’s sailor on four boats sailed into this bay in the month of May 2018.

Well, as we all know, great plans are easier to make than to realize.  Beers in the club house, a good bit of banter alloyed with collective   desire for adventure can easily give birth to plans, but somewhere between making and executing plans things can happen.  But hey-ho,  a month later two Wardleys boats and three members found themselves sailing with the ebb down the river Wyre,  stocked up with provisions, diesel, and sails aloft.

Simon was on ‘Jamila’ and Darren and Phil on ‘Rivendell’.  The plan was to complete the outward bound cruise in two legs.  First to head over to Piel — not that far in the scheme of things — get an early dinner,  drink a pint or two, and be sleeping by ten o’clock so ready for a half-past three morning departure.

The other skippers in the planned cruise, Nick, Malcolm and Tom, all hoped break their shackles and rendezvous later on in the week.

For ‘Rivendell’ and ‘Jamila’, the first leg went pretty much according to plan. The two Wardleys  boats arrived at Piel in unadulterated sunshine. The scene was the classic ‘summer holiday’. Crowds of tourists, sailors and  campers milled around the Ship Inn. Children were crabbing in the shallows.

Crabbing at Piel

The Piel ferry was at the slipway full of punters with happy smiles, climbing on and off over the gunwales.  Up on the island by the Ship Inn the sounds of joking and laughter,  mothers calling children,  and dogs barking, all came floating down over the water as far as the two Wardley’s boats now sat at anchor.

Piel ferry full of punters

The three sailors decided to wait an hour for the hustle and bustle to clear, then launch the dinghy,  go ashore, dine quietly in the Ship, then retire early in preparation for the early start. In fact, all three sailor fell asleep for a short while!

Unadulterated sunshine at Piel Island

The three sailors packed tightly into Rivendell’s small dinghy to go ashore. As they rowed towards the long pier they could just and so hear, over the rhythmic creaky clattering of the oars, the faint sound of the  ‘put, put, put’ sound from the last Piel Ferry heading into the distance depositing the last of the Island visitors on the main land.

A disappointment was awaiting the three sailors!

The walk up the slipway to the Ship Inn was eerily quiet. The landlord’s 4×4, wasn’t in its usual position adjacent to the kitchen, and looking in through the windows, chairs could be seen upside down on every table. The pub was shut! The transition from ‘busy’ to ‘dead’ had happened so quickly. Well, it was Sunday evening, the landlord had some urgent business to conclude in Barrow, and had to leave quick whilst the tidal path across the sand was passable

A rather forlorn walk around the island ensued.  The evening was idyllic, the views over Morecambe Bay were magnificent but there was a sense of loss and disappointment in the air.

Walk around the island. The sailor were hungry Only the owl was dining that night on the island.

The Wardleys sailors retired back to the boats and set about choosing a route over to ‘Derbyhaven Bay’. After some discussion, a decision was taken on which way to go around the huge wind farm just off Walney Island. One route looked marginally better for the tides, the other route looked better for the winds. A priority was set on sailing and so they selected the southern-route and maybe make a small saving in diesel along the way.

The march of time never stops, dates, deadlines and everything else in life sooner-or-later comes along whether you want it or not. Morning wake-up alarms rang on both boats at half-past three. Luckily, ‘Rivendell’ crew member Phil,  a good solid early riser, was on hand to ensured that his skipper ‘Darren’, who’s solidity here is highly questionable, was up and ready by four o’clock, the allotted time for departure. Simon on ‘Jamila’ also made it out of his bunk, and both boats quietly slipped anchor as scheduled. The sun was still more than six degrees below the horizon, just behind the seaside resort of Morecambe, thus the sky was still a dark shade of black. An early morning dog walker, looking out to sea, would have witnessed the dimly lit sails of two vessels quietly tacking down the Barrow channel out into nothingness.

The first part of the long road to IOM was easy,  the helmsman  maintains a steady path between the red and green channel lights until reaching the ‘Lighting Knoll’ buoy. This last is the main cardinal that marks the start of deep water ahead. During this first leg the sun, still hidden below the horizon,  entered the sub six degree sector and the sky started to lighten dramatically. The far-distant shore lights that could be seen all around started to  disappear one-by-one and were replaced by thin faint strips of coastline.  By the time the two boats arrived at the ‘Lightning Knoll’  buoy a magnificent sunrise over the Northwest coast of England took place. Now…, without doubt, there is no better place to witness this thrilling moment than out at sea.

Sun rise over Morecambe Bay. ‘Rivendell’ making way. Click image to see in full detail.

Over to the west and through the semi daylight gloom a forest of wind-generators started to appear. The first ‘wind-mills’ people see from the shore are just a small farm twenty to thirty strong, but behind those, are three much larger farms that reach-out deep into the Irish sea. Here there are hundreds of them!

The question on the mind of one of the Wardleys skippers was: “Do I go all the way around to the south,  or do I cut through the farm and set a heading direct for Derby Haven bay?” By now, the wind was blowing nicely on the beam, perfect for a fast reach all the way to the Isle of Man.  The question quickly became, “Should I?”

During this decision making process, the skipper of ‘Jamila’ was looking at the big arrow on his GPS. It was pointing confidently across the Irish Sea  towards Derby Haven bay some 50 miles distance.

[It was back in nineteen-seventy-eight that our Americans cousins launched the first of the thirty-three satellites  that give us this marvellous navigational aid — god bless Uncle Sam!]

Quite suddenly a corridor opened up in the grid type arrangement of generators and the said GPS arrow was pointing straight down the middle.  The corridor looked clearly defined as far as the eye could see, help by the closed-up elignment  of the towers on each flank.

Why not?

In an instant Jamila’s tiller was pushed hard to port, her sheets were slackened, her sails allowed to billow, and away she went diving directly into the vast mechanical forest.

Jamila changes course and dives into the forest of wind generators.

Phil on ‘Rivendell’ with first field of generators (closest to Walney) to starboard. The photo illustrates nicely now the towers line up in a grid pattern.

The skipper of ‘Rivendel’ decided to stick to the original plan and head for the GPS way-points that had been discussed the night before on Piel Island. This meant a couple more hours of arduous motor-sailing into the wind and tide in order to skirt the southern edge of the wind-farms.  This wasn’t really a problem though, for ‘Rivendell’ is a Mirage 2700  equipped with a powerful diesel, and with her big blue spray hood pulled up, she makes a comfortable motorboat when the conditions require. ‘Rivendel’s dividend was paid in FULL two or three hours later. By then she had passed the planned GPS way-point, she was well to the south of the wind farm, she was able to change course to west-north-west bringing the wind onto the beam thus providing the optimum angle of attack, but most importantly, the tide had turned in her favour. All the key parameters had come into alignment. Now, it was full speed ahead for Derbyhaven Bay.

But things got even better!

Suddenly ‘Rivendell’ wasn’t alone, but surrounded by dolphins. A whole pod of them for a period of thirty-minutes  headed in the same direction.  It is often said that this particular experience can stir and prick the emotions of the hardiest mariners, Daren and Phil can confirm this!

A dolphin off the starboard bow.

Further to the north ‘Jamila’ was struggling! Advancing beyond the the wind-farms seemed like a losing battle.  The south-westerly force-four winds didn’t really materialize as promised. For far too long she was surrounded by them and they just wouldn’t go away.  This was largely due to  plugging a flood tide still heading towards Morecambe Bay.  And in addition, it was all too easy to get complacent whilst relying on the tiller pilot. On more than one occasion the skipper set a course down a corridor of towers only to find, when emerging from the cabin after say doing a spot of chart-work,  a blooming great tower reaching high out of the sea,  well above the mast and sails, and only yards distance.

Along way up to get to the ground floor!

The bottom of the blade still high above Jamila’s mast top.

The hours passed by. Then three positive events came into conjunction. The tide turned, the wind increased, and Jamila had finally passed the last of the wind-farm generators. Until this point there was still two-thirds of the total distance to sail and four hours had passed by. The GPS was predicting a ETA of eleven o’clock in the evening. It was not a very nice thought, arriving in a strange location late at night in the pitch-black, dropping a hook and hoping for a good night’s sleep. Four more hours passed, during which time Jamila steadily creamed across the Irish Sea, the sky was blue, her white sails pressed hard, and the water around her turned a deeper blue with the odd white crest here and there as the wind steadily increased. Nothing much changed visually until you look behind and traced your eye back along Jamila’s foaming wake to where the wind-farm had been, for now it was but a thin strip of gleaming  pins just visible on the horizon.

More time passed and still no sign of anything. Its often when you stop straining your eyes looking for something that the something in question comes into sight. Shrouded in mist that is often the case for the Isle of Man the land became visible. Amazing when the Skipper next looked at his GPS the ETA had reduced to seven o’clock in the evening. The combination of the increase in speed and an ebbing tide carrying the boat directly toward ‘Derbyhaven Bay’ had been astonishingly beneficial. The pubs might be still open!

Land appearing shrouded in mist

In the meantime Daren and Phil on ‘Rivendell’ were taking the more southerly route around the farms. With the wind more or less on the nose she had gunned past the wind-farms under engine and made much better time. By the time the favourable beam wind had arrived, she was more than an hour ahead, and had disappeared out of sight of ‘Jamila’.  In the end both boats arrived safely and dropped their anchors, still in bright daylight.

Derbyhaven Bay looking north west towards the aerodrome.

Derbyhaven Bay looking southwest towards Derbyhaven port.

As it happen, visits to pubs was far from what the Wardleys’ sailors really desired. What they all really really wanted was sleep and lots of it!

‘Rivendell’ and ‘Jamila’ with Ronaldsway aerodrome beyond. Taken from Langness golf club the following day

View of Derbyhaven from Langness.

The delights of Derbyhaven, and Castletown just beyond, would be checked-out in the morning.

As for the other Wardleys sailors who had been huddled around the club notice board back in April, Nick arrived a day or two later, Malcolm arrived a week later, and Tom’s dreams of a late May IOM adventure were spoilt by unexpected commitments.

There’s more to come soon: “The middle of the night gale in Derbyhaven Bay”