Crossing to Ireland

We enjoyed a very pleasant couple of nights moored in New Grimsby Sound in the Isles of Scilly. The weather was as it should be, but unfortunately hasn’t been for most of this summer. So we made the most of warm sunshine to play on the glorious golden beach of Tresco Island and explore the two castle ruins at the north end of the island. We could have stayed there for a few more days – or forever – but decided the time had come to venture across the 130 nautical miles to Kinsale, our destination port on the south coast of Ireland. We had always intended to have another crew member on board for the trip to Ireland, but as the days and weeks went by and we grew more comfortable with handling Carina, we decided to go it alone. The 24th and 25th of July gave us a weather window – not great for sailing due to the lack of wind, but good for two novices who might have to forego sleep for 24 hours or more.

Julian and I woke early on the morning of Tuesday the 24th. It was foggy, but we got everything in order and at 6.30am we slipped silently out of New Grimsby Sound. After about half an hour the fog grew considerably worse and we wondered if we’d made a mistake. Luckily, the girls were still asleep, so Julian and I were able to give all our attention to navigating through pea soup. I helmed, while Julian regularly blew the fog horn, and we listened intently to the radio as we kept our eyes peeled for anything that might suddenly loom out of the fog. By 9am it had lifted, to reveal a clear blue-sky day, with a southerly puff of wind that wouldn’t knock a feather over. We motored along for most of the day, now and again cutting the motor to see if it was worth putting up the sails. If we had more crew, or were more experienced we might have been happy to chug along at 2 or 3 knots for 48 hours, but we made the decision to just go for it, and make as much speed as we could for as long as we could.

We spent a pleasant day at sea, getting on with life as usual – even the washing hanging out (see the photo below!). There were few signs of other humans – a fishing vessel mid morning and then a container ship far in the distance later in the day. For the first time we saw fulmers – lots of them. When the herring gulls ended the fulmers began, swooping low, masters of the open ocean. Gannets flew past too, often in flocks of twenty or more birds, but always going somewhere, never diving to fish.

Hardly ‘single-handed’ sailing!

I had a two hour nap mid-afternoon, and when I awoke I relieved Julian to do likewise, although he didn’t sleep for as long. Putting the girls to bed at bedtime proved somewhat difficult. They were aware that we were doing something different and wanted to be part of it. They both eventually nodded off, but half an hour later Lily reappeared, and finally fell asleep in the cockpit, wrapped in a sleeping bag, and we transferred her to bed.

It was around this time, after the sun had set, but there was still plenty of light in the sky, and Lily was drifting off, that we decided there finally was enough wind, and we got the sails out. Beautiful silence at last. Shortly after 11pm, Julian got kitted out in warmer overnight clothing and made himself a large coffee. I went down to the saloon to sleep for a few hours. At 1.30 Julian came bounding down the companionway yelling ‘Fog horn, fog horn’. I leaped out of bed, quickly found the fog horn and went up on deck. A thick fog had descended and the sound of a fog horn somewhere on our port side had Julian worried. But the fog horn was too consistent, too regular and a quick glance at the chart plotter revealed it to be marking the boundary of the Kinsale gas field.

Moments later we received a radio message from the gas field!! ‘Will the vessel one mile south of Kinsale B please alter course, you are entering a restricted zone’. Oops. We altered course to go around the restricted area, still in fog and not able to see a thing. Moments later the fog lifted, revealing two massive gas rigs lit up like Christmas trees, less than a mile from us. Hard to believe that two such massive brightly lit structures rising out the sea could be so obscured by fog. Thankfully that was the end of the fog and the rest of the night we had good visibility with occasional drizzle. Julian went to bed and I helmed for a couple of hours, watching the lights on Ireland’s south coast gradually come into view – lighthouses and other lights – and the coastline taking shape as dawn approached. We swapped places once again and when I was woken by Lily at 6.30 we were only a couple of hours from our destination.

We arrived in Kinsale on a cold drizzly morning, 26 hours after we’d left the Isles of Scilly. We were both exhausted, but delighted with our achievement and delighted to be in Ireland. After setting ourselves up on the pontoon at Castlepark Marina, we enjoyed a hearty fried breakfast. Julian slept while I took the girls to the beach, and in the afternoon Lily and I slept while Julian and Katie walked into Kinsale.

Yippee…we had arrived, and after a day of rest and recovery, we were ready to begin the Irish leg of our adventure!

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