Sunday, January 20, 2019

Ireland and UK

Sailing in the higher latitudes is never easy with frequent weather systems changing the winds every few days.
A few days out of Iceland the wind changed to south. Rather than drifting about and losing distance to the north, I kept Nomad as close hauled to the wind as possible, sailing east, then west. I tacked 75 miles from the Faroe islands resisting the urge to stop and visit, eventually arriving at a point only 10 miles north of where the wind turned against me.  After 100 miles of sailing and as planned the wind worked it way around to a usable direction.
The weather fax was now showing a gale force eight west winds arriving a day before I could make any port in Ireland. Deciding that it would be too risky to sail down the west coast in a westerly gale it was time for a change of plans, settling on Lough Swilley. With it's two mile wide entrance, entry should be possible in any conditions.
While in the process of reefing the main as the winds increased, I was quite startled to look forward and see that the jib was missing! It was all on deck and blowing about the bowsprit. Going forward to secure the jib the problem was apparent. The masthead block for the jib halyard had broken leaving me with no way to hoist the jib without a trip up the mast to replace it. Nomad sailed well enough with the wind on the quarter to make the coast, but when it was time to turn south and head down to enter Lough Swilley she lost all speed and I had had to resort to motorsailing to lay my course. This worked out well enough for as Nomad closed the shore the seas built up to  a very steep five meters on the beam. Without the sails to steady her it would have been impossible to hold that course.
As in any mountainous area as I got behind the headlands the sea decreased  and the wind began to align with the channel, resulting in a very strong headwind. It took Nomad over a hour to cover the last two miles to the beach in Ballymastocker Bay .
Safely at anchor, it was time for a much needed rest. Two days later the wind settled to a more manageable pace and I went to find a place to go ashore and clear in. Seeing a few sailboats in the distance, I headed for Rathmullen and found a pontoon to tie to.
Safely at anchor, it was time for a much needed rest. Two days later the wind settled to a more manageable pace and I went to find a place to go ashore and clear in.
Ireland is very green after being in the stark rugged scenery of the north
Nomad approaching Rathmullen

The local Garda station was closed, so I went to the first pub right at the end of the dock, ordered a pint of Guinness and asked the owner if she could call the Garda to report my arrival. They arranged for me to get a ride and meet with immigration in a nearby town in two days to get checked in.
My arrival was noted by the locals and was photographed for the local Facebook page.  It was a bit odd that the first person I talked with on the dock asked "How was my trip from Iceland?" He had seen Nomad anchored in Ballymastocker on the AIS and had checked me out on MarineTraffic .
The weather had settled so it was time to leave Rathmullen and start working my way around Ireland. This requires meticulous planning due to the frequent weather systems and the fierce tidal currents around the north and east coasts of Ireland.  A late night departure to catch the tide put Nomad into Ballycastle to ride out an overnight gale and wait for the morning tide.

Fair Head, the entrance to the Irish Sea

Nomad rounded Fair Head with the following current, reaching speeds a little over eight knots.  However  the fun only lasts for six hours, then the next six saw speeds down to two knots as we pushed against the tide. I pushed Nomad hard through the night to get into the lee of the shore for an approaching weather system. Unfortunately this put me at the Drogheda jetties right at low tide, so I had to heave to and wait for the tide to refill the river so I could enter. Navigation in Ireland is all about timing you travels with the tide. By late afternoon Nomad was at the Fiddle Case Pier in central Drogheda. With a thousand years of history to explore, every place in Ireland has many stories to tell.
Nomad's berth in Drogheda

St Laurence gate in Drogheda, remnants of the ancient city walls.

St Peter's Church in Drogheda. The churches in Ireland are among the most spectacular buildings in the country.

Drogheda was the beginning of a very special three weeks on Nomad. My Mom flew to Ireland to meet up with me and stay on the boat. This was her first ever overseas trip and the first time she had ever seen Nomad since I purchased her in 2003. With due care to pick flat water for traveling on the water she enjoyed traveling to Arklow and Waterford on Nomad.
Custom made Waterford crystal artwork.

Mount Congreve gardens, Kilmeaden
Waterford at night.

Tight parking on the pontoon, but it's a great location

Waterford is quite a ways up the river so it is completely protected from the ocean. There is quite a tidal current in the River Suir and with my usual luck arrived at the half flood with a few knots of current adding to the challenge of parallel parking on the pontoon. The Waterford pontoon was ideal for access for my Mom as it was level with my deck. It’s central location in Waterford was perfect for shopping and a short walk to the bus and train stations.  We explored the local history of Waterford and toured the Waterford Crystal factory with it’s impossibly high priced glass artwork. The bus brought us to Cahir and Cashel to explore their castles. We rode the train to Kilkenny and spent the day walking around town and touring the Smithwicks brewery.

The castle at Cashel Rock.

The castle at Cahir

Hore Abbey seen from Cashel Rock

Another exquisitely designed church in Waterford, including Waterford crystal chandeliers.

The bishops palace in Waterford, with Waterford crystal here,too.

Suir river narrow gauge railway
Mom enjoying Cahir castle
  When Mom decided it was time to head home, I focused on the weather, intent on getting across the Bay of Biscay quickly as it was getting late in the year. It seemed stable as far as I and the forecasters could tell so I took a chance to sail to Falmouth UK to meet up with some other junk sailors.  Arriving late in the day I made my way up the River Fal and tied to the second pontoon with only one other boat on it.
The entrance to historic Falmouth harbor, UK

Nomad on the pontoon, River Fal. These pontoons are not connected to shore, so it's nearly as nice as being at anchor.
 Lynda and David from the Junk Rig Association sailed their boat up to the pontoon to meet me. Later I moved back downriver to a more convenient location anchored in front of Trelissick House.  My time in the River Fal was all too brief, I never even got to visit the town of Falmouth. Three days after arriving, the forecast showed a five day period with northerly winds and no gales to Cape Finisterre. I forgot all ideas of checking out the neighborhood and got underway quickly to get across Biscay non-stop.  For a change, the forecast was accurate, the gale began building right on schedule as I turned into a protected anchorage to wait out the weather.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Iceland, Nomad's visit to the land of fire and ice.

Nomad departed her winter berth in Conception Bay South Newfoundland  on 04 July to head  North once again.  Destination : Iceland, with a possible stop in South Greenland  conditions permitting.  In light winds, I motorsailed for two and a half days to get clear of the Grand Banks before an approaching weather system caught up with me. Nomad cleared the Banks just north of the Flemish Cap with a little time to spare.  The wind built to near gale strength as forecast from the south which put the wind on the quarter, Nomad’s fastest point of sail. It was a wet and uncomfortable ride but the wind was steady so I was able to carry a good amount of sail without worries of being over canvassed in gusts.  By noon the following day conditions were easing  and Nomad had logged her best ever twenty four hour run of 186 miles.
Wind and current kept me to the west of the rhumb line to Iceland and about and I got within 250 miles from Prins Christian Sund in Greenland .  The wind became light and I was motorsailing again when I noticed that Nomad was only making 2.5 knots.  Checking the gearbox temperature and finding it was getting warm, I shut it down . This evoked a healthy bit of impolite language from me. After the troubles in Greenland last year, the gear was still not working right, so I paid a highly regarded transmission shop in Newfoundland to rebuild it for me since I could not find the problem with it. When it was cool, experimentation showed that it could be run at 1110 rpm before it started warming up due to slippage. I decided not to motorsail and save it for making the harbor in Iceland.  This was a frustrating moment as I turned away from Prins Christian Sund for the second time in as many years.  Being familiar with the conditions in Greenland’s fjords and not wanting to attempt to sail in them without reliable auxiliary power the course was changed to Reykjavik.  Once behind the peninsula approaching Reykjavik the wind quit completely and Nomad tediously made her way into the harbor  under power at two to three knots.
After two unsuccessful attempts at repairing the gear box it became apparent that the only solution left was replacement.  Shipping to Iceland from Europe is surprisingly expensive.  I could fly one way to the USA for the same cost as shipping a new gear from Europe. So six days after arriving in Iceland I flew to the USA and did a couple short jobs, flying back to Reykjavik with a new gear as a “personal item” carry on.
Nimad at the Brokey Sailing Club docks in Reykjavik.

The Harpa concert hall at night. The Brokey Sailing Club is conveiconven located right in the heart of Reykjavik.
It was now the middle of August and darkness was returning at night.  It was time to start working my way around the island and head south to avoid repeating last year’s weather challenges from staying in the north too late in the season.  I took a short bus trip to catch a glimpse of the interior and reluctantly set sail out of Reykjavik only seven days after returning to Nomad. As long as I kept moving in the right direction, there was time for a little exploring on the way.
Reykjanes Aukaviti

Iceland' s geography is quite interesting. Hot springs...


Even the ditches along the road have hot water in them.
Twenty six hours out of Reykjavik, Nomad was rafted up to the F/V Maggy  in the very secure harbor  in Vestmannaeyjar  island.  A volcanic eruption had made the island larger and nearly closed off the harbor entrance a few years back. The resulting narrowing of the entrance provides a nearly surge free harbor even when a storm is blowing directly in.  There are a number of walking trails and some good climbing around the island. 
Nomad's berth in Vestmannaeyjer

Vestmannaeyjer town from the 290 meter Heimaklettur.

Entry to the snug Vestmannaeyjer harbor.

Vestmannaeyjer dead ahead after a long day and night

Like all Icelandic towns, there’s the usual public pool. Thanks to abundant geothermal  energy there is no shortage of hot water. Public pools all have warm swimming pools, hot tubs and steam rooms.  No reason to shower on the boat when one can shower at the pool and then spend half a day playing in warm water.
Vatnajokull glacier close to the ocean.

The haborh in Hofn, up the Hornafjordur

Vatnajokull icecap and glacier.
A day and a half sail from Vestmannaeyjar islands brought Nomad to the town of Hofn  in Hornafjordur.  Sailing along the coast provided great views of the nearby ice cap and mountains.  Despite my best efforts at keeping Nomad moving briskly I missed slack water at the Hornafjordur jetties by two hours.  The seas were beginning to break partway across the entrance as the outgoing tide met the swell.  The new gearbox worked without complaint as I powered against the ebb current, occasionally slowed to 1.5 knots.  Slowly Nomad made her way through the harbor and found a dock to lay on in the inner basin at 2130.  Hornafjordur  is on the SE corner if Iceland  making it the logical place to head south from.   I spent a pleasant but all to brief visit checking out the area including several visits to the local pool.  Ever mindful of the lateness of the season and increasing storm frequency  I sailed for Ireland after only four days here.  Iceland  makes clearing  out simple. Once I saw the weather forecast was in my favor, I called Iceland Coast Guard radio on the VHF for clearance. They instructed me to scan and email them the documents and  by the next morning clearance papers arrived via email and I was able to leave promptly at high tide.  Iceland is another place that I would like to visit again and spend more time exploring their fascinating culture and geography.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

West Coast of Greenland in Pictures

Greenland emerging from the fog

 Nuuk and the surrounding mountains





 Mountains on Hamborgerland


 Disko Bay and Illulissat

 Northe entrance to Smallesund and Torsukkatak


 Disko Island

 Refueling Aasiaat


 Nordafar fish Plant


 Greenlandic fishing boat

 Aurora Borealis


 Russian sailboat




 Kap Egede