I spent a week in the Isles of Scilly with several boat-fulls of friends. I made a new self steering blade with some Spruce I had in a locker, and it was soon time to get going again.
Hoisting the anchor in st.helens pool proved to be slightly troublesome; a weeks worth of weeds made it too heavy to get the shank out of the water, and I spent about 20 minutes lying over the gunnels hacking away and hoisting inch by inch, glad that the wind and tide were perfectly opposed, holding the boat stationary while I struggled. And finally, away! It was before sunrise, but my friends were up in their pyjamas waving me off, and even the lighthouse on Round Island seemed to say ‘fair voyage!’
The winds were fair and the sea was friendly. North I went, with the breeze on the quarter. I set my course, and, for what felt like the first time in too long, relaxed. Some nice dolphins came and said hi for a while and I played them some songs. The sun set, the moon rose, and Lorema held her course. There was very little shipping around, and I was able to get some sleep, but only in twenty minutes naps, the minimum time it would take for a ship to arrive from over the horizon.
Ireland appeared on the horizon mid morning, and grew. Clouds also appeared over the horizon, and also grew. They grew faster than Ireland did, and brought with them squally wind and rain, but they couldn’t dampen my excitement at landfall; New shores! A sea crossed alone! An uncharted Island discovery! – In my mind I was the first to cross these waters, and would be the first to encounter whatever awaited me on this mysterious Island.
I sailed into Cork harbour with a good breeze behind me. As it happened, there were no cannibalistic natives to be found, but I did find my Great Aunt Wanda in Cuskinny house, on Cobh Island. In fact, I was able to anchor a couple of cables away from her front garden, and having inflated my dinghy, my first ever footfall on Irish soil was on my old family home.
After a week of Irish breakfasts and walking the dog, I sailed west. The first leg was horrible and grey and too windy and foggy and stressful so I stopped at Kinsale. There I sat on a mooring for a couple of days while swarms of children sailed dinghies enthusiastically but hopelessly, occasionally having a bash at my paintwork before piling up on the lee shore of the river in tetris fashion. A few awkward friendships with Kinsaliens, and away. The harbourmaster looked kindly upon my cornish ensign and my destitution and waved me off without asking for a penny. Or rather, a cent.
It was regatta day when I left, a sensible time for departure. As I sailed out of the river I was waved at by confused fluorescent hoods, no doubt thinking that I had my chart upside down and was actually trying to join the throng of boats entering the harbour. But no; West again, and we were reaching for a while before the wind backed and I was forced to take long tacks along the coast. Finally saw cape clear, and then the entrance to Baltimore harbour, and as I approached, a racing fleet appeared from behind Sherkin Island and led the way into the large bay that shelters Baltimore. Being less than excited about entering a new harbour at the rear of a fleet, I was glad when a couple of the slower boats cut in too close to the point and were left floundering in the wind shadow while I breezed in, standing at the forestay like a right cocky bastard while my trusty self steering gear did all the hard work.
It was certainly yacht season in Baltimore; you could barely fight your way to a bar without getting slapped in the face by a fluorescent patch. I skipped away and anchored off Sherkin for a pint and some island banter at the Jolly Roger.
The next evening I came back with a guitar and had a right good sing along; The Irish have a wonderful appreciation of live music and you can be assured of a great night (and endless beer) in any proper Irish pub if you turn up with an instrument and a story, as long as you don’t mind a bit of casual abuse thrown in for good measure.