Isles of Scilly

Prior to leaving Scotland we made a decision that we would not allow ourselves to have any actual destination in our minds, and by that thought process we could simply enjoy the journey and meander at our leisure. That way, when we found places we really liked, we would simply stay, relax and savour for as long as we wanted. Well the Isles of Scilly fall squarely into this category, as we have simply fallen in love with these delightful islands.

Our first few days were spent at anchor in Porth Cressa taking the dinghy ashore, and enjoying walking the coastal paths around St Marys. This shot is of the anchorage in Porth Cressa, and you can see a Cruise Ship over in St Marys Pool.


Here is a clearer shot of the Cruise Ship


It is so peaceful on this island, and every corner one turns there is a different vista to enjoy. For a bit of a giggle we even hired a golf buggy for a day to go around St Marys. This was a lot of fun, and also pretty safe as there is very little traffic on the roads.


We visited most of the places of interest, including the spot where Admiral Cloudsley Shovell was washed ashore after his fleet was wrecked on the rocks off the Scilly Isles, causing some 2000 men to lose their lives. Those who remember their school history lessons, will recall that this tragedy led to the Government of the day putting up a sum of £30k for anyone who could come up with a timepiece that would work accurately at sea. If this could be done, longitude could be then calculated and an accurate position obtained, thus avoiding such terrible loss of life ever happening again.

This is why John Harrison spent his adult life coming up with various models until he invented the timepiece ( ultimately he had to fight the Government for his reward) which resolved the whole issue of longitude. Those who remember the TV series “Only Fools and Horses” will recall that Del Boy came across one of these watches and it finally made him and Rodney millionaires……….



We then moved the boat around into St Marys Pool/Hugh Town Harbour for two main reasons. One being that the wind direction was changing (and increasing in strength) and also because the whole place was filling up with people coming over for the World Championship Pilot Gig Rowing Championships. Neither of us had seen these kind of boats before, and only knew about the event from an entry in the Channel Pilot Book. We could never have imagined just how popular this event was, nor indeed the sheer number of people this brings to the islands. Hugh Town and the rest of St Marys cannot accommodate everyone, so the other islands hotels and B&B’s are also full, with the campsites across the islands also being busy. We were chatting about this to the Harbour Master who said that this event alone brings in around £10 million pounds annually to the local economy of the islands. Quite incredible!

We took a spectator boat out to watch the men’s longline heat where, believe it or not, there were 125 of these 22ft gigs lined up for the start. Each gig has six rowers and a cox. The support boats were full of family and friends all encouraging their respective teams, and this created quite an atmosphere, and it was great for us being part of the fun and excitement.

In this photo you can see the “Mathew” anchored out in the bay.


With all the visitors mooring buoys being full we were reluctant to move off and visit the other islands on Sun Dog, as in doing so we would have either lost the mooring, or to keep it we would have had to leave our dinghy attached to it, which in turn would have meant we couldn’t get ashore on the islands. This kind of defeated the object therefore we decided to leave the boat on the mooring and book a trip on a local boat called Calypso. This skipper offered a trip to three island on one day and gave us a bit of local history en route. We were dropped off, and had sufficient time on St Agnes, Tresco and Bryer to explore and get a feel for each of the islands, which in our opinion all have a different atmosphere. Our favourite island out of those we visited was St Agnes. However lots of people say that St Martins in delightful.

On Tresco it looks like someone has either lost their anchor – or are they simply making sure it is well bedded in?


The gardens at Tresco are well worth a visit, as is the old ships figureheads etc located at the Valhalla Collection situated in a corner of these beautiful gardens.


With us spending all this time enjoying the Isles of Scilly we missed our ideal weather window to head over to Brittany. Now we have the forecast indicating strong winds increasing from the east and veering to the south. This would not be good for the Brittany coast and it would also make it a bumpy ride to the south coast of England. So here we wait until we get the right “weather window” to allow us to move on – ideally to L’Aber Wrach in France.

Kinsale to Isles of Scilly

As it will take us around 24 hours to reach the Isles of Scilly, we left Kinsale at midday. The forecast is predicting westerly winds to begin with, then veering to the North West (ideal for our route) with a predicted wind strength of F3/4, and then reducing by night time to F3 or less, with the sea state smooth to slight.

On our way out we passed Charles Fort


Then the landmark Head of Kinsale


The first few hours were pretty much as predicted and we had all the sails up making about 4.5 kts of speed over the ground and really enjoying the sail under a sunny sky – it doesn’t really get much better when out on a yacht when conditions are like this and we were happy bunnies. As the forecast predicted the wind subsequently dropped and so did our boat speed to around 2 knots, so to maintain enough speed to arrive at the Isles of Scilly in daylight we rolled away the genny, left up the mainsail, and started the engine to motorsail.

The wind however did not stay light, both it and the seas started to increase and built to a F5 gusting F6, but thankfully on our quarter, and as long as the wind stayed behind us I was happy enough. We reefed the mainsail, pulled out a bit of genny and were belting along with the log sometimes showing 7.5 to 8+ kts. This was not as fast as a more modern boat would have achieved, but fast enough for little ol’ Sun Dogs’ hull design. I have to say that Sun Dog sat wonderfully throughout the night, as the swell and waves increased until they were a more than reasonable size (sic). Notice I am refraining from mentioning forecast v reality 😉

We had decided that when I went for a bit of shut eye that Sara would wake me whenever she saw any lights or was concerned in any way. It seemed to me throughout the night that every time I just got to the point of drifting off into a deep sleep that I would hear the words………….”sorry Gerry but there are boats ahead/to the side”………..and lo and behold fishing boats that had all the sea area to trawl were across our route. I kid you not at one point I was surrounded by them, and wish I had taken a photo of the chart plotter, as the AIS would have shown us with the fishing boats circling their wagons around us……bloody unbelievable, but it does have the positive effect of ensuring that one is really wide awake and alert.

All through the night the seas and wind stayed fairly constant……………… much for the F3 or less forecast! – but importantly both boat and crew were comfortable. Before going (finally) to sleep I had asked Sara to wake me as we approached the traffic separation scheme (used to ensure a one way system for big commercial vessels) where yachts must not impede their progress and must cross these lanes with their heading at ninety degrees to the big ships, so that they can be seen more easily by the big boats.

When Sara woke me as requested I duly checked the AIS on the chart plotter (ships can be seen on the screen before being picked up with MK1 eyeball) and there was only one large commercial vessel showing as heading our way, with the AIS giving her course and speed. Therefore a quick bit of mental arithmetic told me that I could pass ahead of her with a safety margin of around one mile. I factored in that she would need a slight change of course to line up for the separation scheme and our forward progress (speed over the ground) all was calculated correctly. In these seas I really did not want to be slopping around waiting on it to pass across in front of us, as this would have been more than a little uncomfortable in these conditions! AIS is without doubt a really good aid to navigation, and I’m glad we had this fitted just before the start of our trip as it does provide additional comfort.

The Isles of Scilly duly hove into view and we were so pleased to see them, albeit we had to keep focussed to ensure we were tracking on the correct course through the North West passage as there are a serious amount of rocks awaiting the unwary.

No matter how carefully the planning beforehand, when you are heading towards your marker with jaggy rocks all around, and in reasonable seas it means that when you are in the trough of the waves you lose sight of land, and on the peaks have a good view – it’s a case of check, check and double check. Sara was our eyes with the binoculars to ensure we picked up and identified the correct cardinal markers. We were mightily relived to get into the approach to St Mary’s pool as we were planning on picking up one of their heavy visitors’ mooring buoys. However with the wind from this direction these moorings were very exposed and we would have been hellishly uncomfortable.

Therefore our contingency plan B came into force, and we simply went around the isthmus and into the anchorage at Porth Cressa, where it was a bit busy with boats sheltering, but we found a suitable spot and dropped anchor. Once secure we felt tired yet elated at safely completing our first “crossing” on Sun Dog. Kettle was quickly on, something hot made to eat, (as making anything hot last night was a big no no) and then some well earned zzzzzzzzzzzzzzd’s with no fishing boats to spoil my beauty sleep – and I have to say, we both slept like contented logs.

Crosshaven to Kinsale

Around midday today with the sun beating down, and the Owenboy River like a millpond we decided to have a lazy day going down to Kinsale.

Here is photograph of us leaving Royal Cork Yacht Club and heading down the Owenboy River – it kind of reminded me a bit of Dartmouth/Fowey.


However, as has happened already this trip, as soon as we exited the estuary we had winds of up to 25-30kts. When I went to put a reef in the mainsail, the reefing line came right out in my hands! I’ve never really liked the rope the sailmakers used when they set the sails up, so it’s now consigned to the bin and a new one that can be trusted will be fitted. The rope they used is – and this is the real technical bit – made of a kind of slippy material!

Once I had the main sorted out we were out far enough to have the wind at our back again, and we had a lovely trip down the coast and into Kinsale. We were hoping to get a berth at Kinsale Yacht Club where I had been before with Marcus on Csardas, but I don’t know whats happening this week, because it was chock a block with boats rafted out three deep on the visitors berths. That being the case we went over to Castlepark Marina where there was plenty of space, albeit it is across the water from Kinsale and looks like a 1/2hr walk around by road or I will need to blow up the dingy…………..seems like a 1/2hr walk to me 🙂

We are both really pleased to have reached our jumping off point for the Scilly Isles and have been lucky in that the whilst the weather has been varied, it has allowed us to keep going and as such we have arrived here a lot sooner than expected. We will probably spend a bit of time in and around Kinsale, and wait for an appropriate weather window. Current weather forecast precludes us heading off for at least the next few days.

For those that don’t know where Kinsale is we are here…………….


Youghal to Crosshaven

Well this morning was lovely as you can see from the photo of the sunrise we took from our anchorage.


The effect of the tide/river was running strongly as we went to raise the anchor. All was going well until the chain jammed in the locker and stacked up at the navel pipe, (pipe which goes through the deck and guides the chain into the chain locker) which meant going down inside the boat to the underside of the bow and kicking the chain out of the way to allow more to drop into the locker. By this time we had done this the current had ran us over the chain and the chain scratched the port side of the boat…….bugger bugger bugger.

Once cleared however the remaining chain came up fine, and the good news is the new Rocna Anchor came up and settled reasonably well onto the bow roller – so that was good – in time we should consider having another bow roller manufactured to suit the Rocna, but it’s fine for the time being. Our plan today was to go down the coast and stop for lunch at Ballycotton which had been suggested by friends Ange and Marcus.

The exit we were taking would take us over the west bar, which with our draft wouldn’t be a problem, but when we exited past the lighthouse the whole scene changed as the seas were more than a little lumpy and were on our beam creating a real rolly polly situation for a time, as I couldn’t change course until over the bar and clear of the real shallow bits. Once clear I headed across the waves to settle the motion and kept going away from our course until I had enough clearance off the headlands to enable me to turn to starboard and thus have the waves behind us all the way to Cork Harbour. Ballycotton would need to be visited another time.

This leg was pretty much a straightforward trip down the coast dodging lobster pots etc until we cleared the headland and sailed into Cork Harbour, and then into the Owenboy River. We took a berth at Royal Cork Yacht Club, and enjoyed a lovely hot shower with plenty of hot running water. Looking forward to a good nights sleep tonight

Klimore Quay to Youghal Pt 2

Following on from yesterdays blog Sara and I searched the internet to identify the shark we saw yesterday, and just about fell out our seats when we saw the exact match was a Great White shark. My immediate reaction was that we must be wrong, so checked further on the internet and found that Great Whites are not uncommon off the Irish Coast – now THAT was news to me!!

The one we saw must have been a juvenile, and perhaps the “big splash” we saw might have been mummy or daddy taking a seal? In some ways I’m glad they were off chasing seals leaving their offspring to have a wee nosey at Sun Dog.

Makes yesterday all the more special…………………

Kilmore Quay to Youghal (Yawl)

Left Kilmore Quay behind this morning, and we have both voted it the best place we have visited thus far in Ireland.

On the way down the coast the weather was fabulous, and it’s fair to say that the trip had more than a few highlights. We had the absolute joy of Dolphin riding along with us and we left the boat on autopilot for a spell to sit up the bow and enjoy the experience………simply lovely. They are so hard to catch on camera, but we did manage this one – not great but good enough.


With the strong tides down the coast there have been times when I thought I had spotted a “fin” but they have turned out to be black 25 ltr containers (used as marker buoys by lobster fisherman) being pulled halfway under the water by the tide so that they looked like a triangular black fin…………………….I have had to take a bit of a ribbing from Sara !!

Well today I saw another “fin” and then lost it in the waves, next thing it was coming towards us, and my immediate thoughts were “oh bugger I’ve picked up a pot marker” as it kept getting closer and closer. So I put the engine into neutral and prayed silently, but this was no pot marker it was – well in truth I was not sure exactly what it was but I knew it was not a rope around the propeller (prayers answered) As it came closer we saw that it was a shark about 10ft long and it had a distinctive white underbelly. I am not exagerating when I say it’s snout was two inches off the boat. Sara made a dive for the camera but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared. We must look up picture of sharks to see if we can identify what it was, this should be easy as it did have such a distinctive look, and not like any other sharks I have seen around the coast over the years.

Sometime later we saw an almighty splash from something that must have been pretty big and we can only assume that this was caused by a Whale or something pretty big breaching……………..what a super day, and one we will remember for a long time.

We arrived at the entrance to Yougal where it is pretty shallow all around with a couple of routes in being clarified by the sector lights on the lighthouse, and as we reached the Lighthouse the tidal effect on the surface was amazing to witness, and our speed suddenly leapt. The pilot books advise against anchoring at the town quay and suggest a point just at the spit of land on the opposite side which is where we decided to drop the hook. The current was flowing strongly and I wondered how the new anchor would set, there was no need for concern as it bit first time, and left us facing the tide, at anchor with the boat speed showing 2.75 kts.

A local chap was out in his canoe and came over for a chat, and I asked him about an area I could see further in behind the spit that looked like it was out of the main tidal effect. His view was to stay put as he reckoned it was both a bit shallow and there was a serious risk of fouling something with the anchor. He did suggest that we might want to be awake each time the tide turned, and you know what it’s like at times like this, one part of your mind is happy that the anchor is totally secure while another part has a tape recorder playing a loop of what he had said.

That being the case I decided to sleep in the wheelhouse, and when the ebb started I was awake for a bit, but there was no excessive tidal effect even though we were on spring tides. Aha said I, he must have meant when the flood started, as when we had arrived we were two hours before high water, and perhaps the tidal effects were stronger when the flood tide started. Once again yours truly was awake, and the real peculiar thing is that there was no strong tidal effect, all the way through to our departure time of 30mins before high water.

Now I am no expert, but perhaps someone can explain how the flood tide one day can be flowing strongly and the next day not especially when the wind has been constantly from the same direction……………answers on a postcard please to……

Kilmore Quay

After a good sleep last night we felt fully refreshed and ready to go out and explore the area, and have to say that it is simply lovely with many of the houses in the town having thatched roofs. Below are a few examples of these lovely properties.

Kilmore Quay

Kilmore Quay

We also learned not to give way – but rather to Yield !!

Our plan was to eat in the Silver Fox this evening, but couldn’t wait that long and instead we went in for the Sunday lunch menu. The venue was spotlessly clean and the food stunningly good, and it’s little wonder it is so highly rated. We read that the head chef of the Silver Fox was previously head chef on the QE2 for 12 years, therefore attention to detail will be second nature.

With the tide being out I also tried to capture the leading lights and the bar that runs out into the beach, but I couldn’t capture the scene in one shot. You can see in this photo that you wouldn’t want to be following the leading lights too far in a nightime approach!!

Kilmore Quay Leading Line

When looking out to sea we could see the safe water mark but not the green and red markers to aid crossing St Patricks Bridge. It turns out that these are only laid around this time of year, and today we saw them being prepared to be taken out. This made me doubly glad that I did not run through the inside gap yesterday, as I would have arrived with no markers to aid the crossing the bar shown in the photo!!

The following is a shot of the marina, which was again today really busy with about 12 boats taking out anglers. When they came back in I went round to speak to one of the skippers to find out why this area was so popular with sea anglers. Turns out that because of all the rocks around this area the fishing trawlers avoid an area of some five miles out to sea and fifteen miles parallel to the coast, therefore there are plenty of fish to be caught on rod and line. There is definitely a lesson to be learned if this is what can happen when trawlers don’t hoover up the sea bed.

Kilmore Quay Marina

Arklow to Kilmore Quay (My Birthday)

We needed another early start this morning to catch the tide down to and around Carsnore Point, which is the most south eastern part of Ireland. Between it and Tuskar Rock the tides run strongly with some dire warnings in the pilot book should the weather be poor, and also when in a wind against tide situation.

When planning this leg there were various options, one was to go right outside Tuskar Rock and miss the worst effect of the tide. Another was to go the inside route sticking close to Carsnore Point. I finally settled on a compromise, in that I would go between the point and Tuskar Rock, assess the effect of the tide, and if all was OK at the Barrels cardinal marker I would then cut inshore and go over between the marker buoys at St Patricks Bridge (gravel bank with 2 metres depth at lowest tide) and into Kilmore Quay.

Consideration had also to be given to the fact that we are moving onto Spring Tides which means stronger curents, and the charts were showing some tidal rips in certain areas. The final part of the equation was that as we cleared the point we would have the full effect of any wind from the south creating a wind against tide situation.

We set off early in a light F1/2 southerly wind and when the sun came up it was a lovely sunny day and we spotted a few Porpoise on the way down which will always brightens up the day. Everything was going to plan as we approached the gap between Tuskar Rock Lighthouse and the Carsnore Point, and as you can see from this photo the seas were calm.

Tuskar Rock Lighthouse

Just after I took this photo the full effects of the tide kicked in, and the sea state changed. The wind was now only F3 (as we had cleared the shelter of the point) but the effect was dramatic, we were whoosing through at 10.5kts over the ground, and into some sizeable waves. It was perfectly safe in Sun Dog, but I could visualise just how hellish this would be in strong winds, especially bearing in mind how light the winds were today, and the sea state created!

Approaching Barrel buoy I had the binoculars out to look inshore, and all I could see was white water everywhere, therefore with no local knowledge I applied my mate John’s philosophy…….”if in doubt, bottle out” . Therefore our course was now to go the long way, and loop around the Saltee Islands and into Kilmore Quay. This would add a few hours to the day, but it was without doubt the safest option.

Rounding the Great Saltee Island we passed a load of boats out with Sea Anglers and began our approach. There are a few unmarked rocks to be avoided in the approach, and the leading lights are noted on the chart at a very precise 7.8 degrees true! To be fair once the safe water mark is reached the leading marks are clearly visable and the only thing that required care was the force of the tide, as we had arrived after the turn of the tide. We were running/crabbing down the leading marks with the bow some 30 degress to starboard of the marks. The turn into the harbour is sharply to port with dire consequences if you overshoot as there are nice jaggy rocks and shallows all waiting to spoil your day 🙂

This harbour is my kind of place, as it has a good atmosphere. It is busy with small commercial fishing boats, and it also has a sizeable number of boats taking out sea anglers.

Kilmore Quay

As we were pretty tired we took a cursory look around the town and found a Seafood Restaurant called Silver Fox which has a number of awards including one saying it is Irelands Best Seafood Restaurant…………..guess where we will be eating tomorrow night?

Dun Loaghaire to Arklow

We left Dun Loaghaire around 0800 and once again the prevailing winds were on the nose. We timed our departure to catch the tide at Muglins and sail down the coast passing Wicklow Head which according to the pilot books has the strongest tides on the east coast of Ireland, and we certainly did get a lift of about 3kts for a time. We then passed Mizen Head and duly arrived at Arklow early in the afternoon.

We decided not to go into the actual marina, but instead took a berth on the long pontoon on the Avoca River. This pontoon is just past the entrance to the small marina, and as we passed we noticed a boom across the entrance. We have no idea why this was there, as there were plenty of boats berthed in the marina, so it wasn’t closed for maintenance.


We were puzzled so decided to go round and check out the facilities, and at the same time find out the reason for the boom. But these were locked with no explanation as to where we could get a key, nor indeed where visitors should pay!

Later in the day a grumpy individual came down to the boat and we paid our just and lawful dues – it can fairly be stated that this guy does not have a career ahead of him with either the Irish Tourist Board or the Diplomatic Corp!

One of the boats in the marina was a Hans Christian (which I think are lovely boats) and it was being worked on by the owner who it transpires had recently bought her in Southampton. We were having a good chat and he invited us down to view her, but as we still had to go and get some bits and pieces before the shops closed, we politely declined and said we might come down later.

The sun was so lovely and warm and it was good to stretch the legs and enjoy the rest of the day ashore. We found an American Diner type restuarant called Eddies Rocket which is part of the new Dunnes shopping centre and just up from the marina. I have to say that it was a really neat place with excellent food and service with reasonable prices considering the quality. On the tables and adding to the experience there were mini juke boxes where you could choose and play a track for 20 cents – a fun place to eat.

In the evening a chap we had met earlier in the day came down to the pontoon to have a look at Sun Dog and chatted away for an hour or so, and he proved to be really good company with some interesting tales to tell.