Getting to the start line

Trilleen is finally positioned on the North Irish coast, ready to cross her track from 2022 and begin the next leg of her Round Britain and Ireland sail. Up to this point this season has been all about getting to the start line. This is the point at which it all starts to get very real and I face some long testing passages ahead.

Lamlash harbour had been my last stop inbound up the Clyde from the Mull of Kintyre for Trilleen’s wintering grounds in Inverkip Marina. It was also my first stop in this second season of my Round Britain and Ireland sail. Lamlash is a mostly sheltered roadstead: to the west by and north by the great bulk of Arran, and to the east by the massif of Holy Island. This time Trilleen hung off one of the mooring buoys provided, in part to allow me to go ashore and explore the many fine craft shops that are splattered round the area, and in part to weather a little blow that was coming through. The blow did indeed come through and I and some tough Spaniards on the buoy ahead of me enjoyed getting beaten up for a few days.

a grey and orange sunset over an empty anchorage with an island on the right hand side
A stormy sunset at Lamlash

From Lamlash I was hoping to route direct to Northern Ireland but wind and tide intervened and I got pinned down in Campbeltown for a few days. Trilleen initially anchored in the vicinity of the NATO jetty in sand and mud. There I enjoyed two nights of peace on the hook, before moving into the marina to get fuel, and weather the next gusty depression which threatened 40-50kt gusts before heading out to Ballycastle.

Shows a grey and red sailboat alongside a pontoon held in place by large steel piles. The sailboat has seven stars on the bow and text reading '' on the side
Trilleen alongside Campbeltown

Passing through the North Channel between the Mull of Kintyre in Argyll and Fair Head on the island of Ireland is a notorious challenge. The tidal calculations, together with the sea conditions which routinely build up at this strait where the full might of the Atlantic meets the sometimes confused fury of the Irish Sea make this a perpetually challenging passage. Ideally in this strait avoiding the tide and wind directions being opposed is ideal. Trilleen though was faced with persistent northerlies and so I had no option but to run the gauntlet of a contrary wind in order to gain a fair north going tide. Going without the tide in a little boat like Trilleen isn’t an option: it runs swifter than she can sail… The sea chopped up the something special, and I wouldn’t want to repeat it with the wind stronger than it was, at 20kt. It made for six unpleasant hours, but was an excellent test of Trilleen’s condition, which she passed well.

We slipped into Rathlin Sound round the vast basaltic outcropping of Fairhead with the last of the north & west going tide and were welcomed into Ballycastle by the smiling harbourmaster who took my lines, and provided the warmest Irish welcome. The marina facilities – which are excellent, and include a great accessible wash room, are co-located with the local tourism information centre. They too were welcoming and ensured that I was more fully briefed on the options for enjoying local attractions than I could possibly have wanted.

An outcropping vertical headland with basalt columns towers over a calm blue sea under a blue sky. There are soft breaking waves on a sliver of beach at the foreground
Fair Head, the Island of Ireland.

I left Ballycastle on a flat day, hoping the catch the dying edge of a depression and fetch the Foyle estuary without too much motoring. That was too much to hope and in fact Trilleen had to rely on her ancient Bukh engine to shove her westward for much of the day. We entered the estuary and advanced up the winding dredged channel to the Port Anchorage of Cullmore,

Sunset over a calm anchorage. The sunset is pink and purple and the water reflects the colours.
Culmore Port Anchorage at Lough Foyle

At Culmore I virtually met Garry from SV Kind of Blue, whose home is nearby. He is an amputee sailor with remarkable blue water achievements under his belt. He and his colleague form Foyle Sailability then met me in Derry / Londonderry the next day when I advanced the last few miles to the city centre.

Three men, one missing his left arm, stand in front of Trilleen which is moored on a pontoon. The water is shining with sunlight
Thanks to Foyle Sailability for meeting me at Derry / Londonderry

I’ve been stuck in Derry / Londonderry for a few days longer than planned. I came into the city centre to change my suprapubic catheter – a medical chore which has to be done periodically – and which would next be due when I anticipate being in the outer islands of the Hebrides or in Shetland. It turned out to be a good decision to do this change within easy reach of a hospital as it turned out to be exceptionally difficult. I ended up needing the help of a surgeon’s hands to get a catheter into the stoma. Even they weren’t able to get the catheters I normally use in so I had to delay further while I secured some spares of the successful sort of catheter.

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