Friday, July 31, 2009

Belfast

[Kyle]We found out the next morning that the wifi wasn’t working. After spending a couple of hours troubleshooting the problem on our end, we called BT (British Telecom) and they confirmed the problem was on their end and they would get to it soon, so no internet – again. We are getting so tired of this.

City Hall with the New "Belfast Wheel" in the background - it was way too rainy and overcast to bother paying for the view up top!

Anyway, the three of us took the train into Belfast for a day of proper tourism. By the time we got into the city, it was raining hard. Most of the Irish seemed to think the weather wasn’t too bad because the drops weren’t huge. It was still pretty miserable, though. Most of the things (City Hall, Opera House, Ulster Museum), etc. that we were planning to see were closed for renovation. We popped into the tourist office and eventually decided that a bus tour was the best way to see things without getting too wet. Bus tours are a bit touristy for us but it was actually pretty well done.
Rain and wind makes for plenty of lost umbrellas - this pair are holding on tight!

Belfast is a really beautiful city. Its violent history adds another layer that makes it even more interesting. We found that, even though the peace is recent, people are pretty open about talking about it. Much of the tour went through areas where the conflict was particularly bad. This made things seem relatively normal but I was surprised to find that Belfast still retained a certain wariness about things flaring up again. The gates of the huge and serpentine Peace Wall separating Catholic and Protestant areas still close at night and Sundays, there are bomb proof walls surrounding most government buildings and, of course, the murals about the conflict are everywhere.
Fencing behind these houses continues to divide one Protestant area from its Catholic neighbors




Sample Murals found in Belfast, nearly all are political, and the more modern ones are depicting struggles outside of Northern Ireland

It was still pouring cold rain most of the time once we were done with the tour. We flitted from one place to the next, dodging the worst of it but it really didn’t make standing around looking at buildings seem like that much fun, particularly as it was pretty difficult to keep the camera from getting soaked. We decided that perhaps we were getting it all wrong and ducked into a pub for dinner.


The National Trust's Crown Bar/Pub, amazing glass and tile work, the pictures just don't do it justice, and it is exquisite inside too.

[Maryanne]We had hoped to dine in the Crown Bar/Pub, described by some as "the most beautiful bar in the world" and considered special enough to the only pub owned by the National Trust - unfortunately they were fully booked so we ate across the street and I even got to pull my own pint. If you ever find yourself in Belfast you have to spend some time in the Crown Bar and enjoy a pint or two!

[Kyle]From there, we went to the airport where I fought off my heebie jeebies as Sarah rented a car. She had unfortunately left part of her license back at the boat (British ones are two-parters) so I ended up being the one assigned to drive. I love driving in the UK. Not only is there the great novelty of driving on the wrong side of the road from the wrong side of the car, but the driving is, well, just different. In the U.S., we have a television show about bad drivers. These are usually taken from police car dashboard cams and are mostly cars careening down the wrong side of the road on bare rims before finally disappearing in a cloud of dust as they wipe out on somebody’s lawn. The British version of this show is mostly cctv footage of naughty drivers who have failed to indicate when entering a motorway or who have engaged in the extremely dangerous maneuver of undertaking. (For Americans, undertaking is passing in the slow lane. It is also technically illegal in the States but nobody cares. Brits, you’ve been warned.) The announcer engages in all of this hilarious hutting and tutting about how only the most reckless and immoral people would dare drive in such a manner. Don’t get me wrong, there are genuinely bad drivers over here as well, namely teenagers and middle aged men with overinflated egos, but, on the whole, the drivers over here are much more polite and law abiding. I think the roads are also nicer, particularly with regard to markings and signage. There is also the unmistakable superiority of the roundabout. (Maryanne calls them four-way stops where nobody actually has to stop.) It seems harder to get lost, at least outside of Cork. The only thing that makes me nervous is that the lanes are only about a foot wider than most cars, which is pretty scary on a two lane road with hedges on both sides.

We took the opportunity to head to the grocery store and get some heavy items. To make Maryanne feel more at home, I made her carry the cart to the car while I made sure she didn’t bump into anything. My wife don’t need no stinkin’ wheels.

When we got home we found that BT had still not fixed their wifi. Grrr.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Full Cruiser Experience

[Kyle]Our chainplates have been leaking badly every time the deck gets wet, which over here is all the time. (Chainplates are the steel straps connecting the mast shrouds to the main bulkhead. On many boats, including Geminis, these run through holes in the deck.) One of the things we really wanted to get done in the marina is re-bedding them (for the 3rd time this year). For this, we needed calm water, since the shrouds have to be disconnected, and at least a few hours of dry weather for the sealant to cure. We also had a whole list of other routine maintenance items we needed to get doing as well. This meant poor Sarah, who was a really good sport about it, got to spend the day scraping old sealant off the chainplates and other various jobs. The weather was actually lovely all day. It seemed like such a shame to not be out sailing in it like everybody else in the marina seemed to be doing but were really backed up on our boring jobs list. By the end of the day, we were grubby and tired but Footprint was back shipshape again. The only things we had left were the shift cable and the coolant line. Parts were on the way and both of those should be easy fixes.

As I was changing the engine oil, I looked up at a couple of people walking by and was pleased to see that it was John and Dorothy! They had sailed Gadabout in the previous night and were berthed only two slips down. We had not even noticed that the only other Gemini in Ireland was only a few feet away when we came back from dinner the previous night. If they hadn’t been past us, we probably would have climbed on their boat instead. They had also seen us in Carlingford when they got in just a few hours before we left. Their last day up to Bangor was also very rough. After we got everything done and were cleaned up, they came over and the five of us spent a nice evening chatting away for hours. It was such a nice, unexpected surprise to see them.

John and Dorothy of Gadabout join us for drinks - parked just 2 slips away in Bangor Marina

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bangor Marina (Near Belfast)

[Kyle]It poured all night, of course. The next morning, we made the short trip over from Ballyholme Bay to Bangor Marina to check in for a few days. The marina is very nice and the staff is friendly. When we asked about wifi, we were told that it was available. This means it’s not included but is provided by a third party. Eventually, we signed onto BT Openzone for 26 pounds for 5 days. Ouch! Well, at least we have it.

We had a quick tidy of the boat before Maryanne’s sister, Sarah arrived for a few days. Most of the rest of the day was spent catching up with her and doing various chores. Afterwards, she took us out for a nice dinner at a nearby pub.

Kyle hoists the new UK courtesy flag once we've officially cleared in

[Maryanne]Once we arrived at Bangor Marina we officially cleared customs; this process involved a phone call to a disinterested official. Legally we are obliged to report our arrival in EACH EU country since Kyle is a US Citizen and the Boat is US Registered (It is not required for EU citizens/boats). We will continue to follow the letter of the law, but it is both amusing and frustrating to find us in our 2nd EU country and nobody seems to care, nor do we have any official paperwork to prove our arrival/departure dates. Once cleared, I left Kyle to tidy the boat, and went to meet with my Sister at the local rail station - it was great to see her again (it had been over a year since our last visit).

To Belfast

Another Lighthouse.... They are all over the place

[Kyle]Our day to Belfast was horrible. We got up early intending to catch the very beginning of the ebb out of Strangford. This would allow us to make the most of the following current up the coast. As I was doing the pre-departure check on the engine, I found that the hose from the heat exchanger to the overflow reservoir had become brittle and allowed the reservoir to leak out. Fixing it was easy. I just cut off the offending end and reclamped the shorter hose back in place. I started the engine. Maryanne asked me to go forward a bit to relieve some of the tension on the anchor rode. I couldn’t get it into gear. The handle didn’t feel like it was doing anything at all. We opened the transmission cover and discovered that the problem was that the socket on the ball joint that connects the cable to the transmission lever had corroded and was no longer staying stuck on the ball. Being the masters of the jury rig, we figured out how to fix it temporarily using cable ties. Our main problem was that the space is hard to access and so it took a while to get everything right with only one hand available. Now we had stuff to fix in Belfast.

We ended up finally getting underway just as the maximum ebb current approached. I was a bit concerned about this because the wind was forecast to be onshore against the ebb although not that strong at only 12 knots. We went zinging past Strangford Town at eleven knots. The water was turbulent in spots but it was manageable. Further ahead, I could see a small area of what appeared to be 3 or 4 foot chop at the entrance. The wind increased to about 25 knots true (we were seeing 37 with our forward motion). I briefly considered turning back but we would have been barely able to make headway against the ebb and the current was still increasing. The chop was now looking like four or five feet. I knew it would be uncomfortable but figured we could get through it. As we approached the waves, Footprint was sucked toward them like entering a rapid on a river. Just then, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. The waves were only four or five feet but what I couldn’t see from a distance was that they were separated by four or five foot holes only about a boat length apart, making the faces near-vertical. Footprint would drop into a hole just as the next wave curled over her. The motion was extremely violent. All I could see in any direction was walls of water right next to the boat. Every time we came off a wave, we would slam to a complete stop making the rudders practically useless. The only way I had of turning the boat was by changing the direction of engine thrust with the drive leg. Even then, it was very difficult to keep the boat straight. I was terrified of getting beam to the waves and being flipped over. I doubted we would even be able to successfully swim in this. I knew we couldn’t turn back. I desperately wanted to go sideways to get out of the current but I didn’t dare risk a turn. We had no choice but to ride it out to sea until it dissipated.

The next few minutes were the most frightening I have ever had on a boat; worse than 20 foot seas in the middle of the Atlantic, worse than seeing a ship come out of the fog right at us in New York Harbor, worse than getting knocked down in a monohull and seeing the mast hit the water. I am NEVER, EVER doing that again! A few miles out, the seas calmed a little and we were able to turn sideways and get out of the current. Within seconds, we were in a long 2 foot swell and everything was calm. It took me about a half an hour to stop shaking, though.
Another Cold Irish Passage
It rained all the way up and it was so cold. I know Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever saw was a Summer in San Francisco. Well, I’ve lived in San Francisco over the summer. It was very cold but San Francisco has nothing on Northern Ireland for cold summers. As we rounded the corner into Belfast Lough, we turned into the wind and the wind chill got worse. Maryanne had a laugh when I asked for a cup of hot tea. I finally get it! Why would anybody in this climate want cold tea. It’s too cold, man! Iced tea when it’s only 60F sounds like the worst idea in the world, but hot tea in a mug you can wrap your cold fingers around is just lovely!

We got to our anchorage in Ballyholme Bay, by Bangor, just outside Belfast. I was a bit concerned because there were no other boats anchored there. I figured it may because the holding was bad or something but the anchor stuck first time and held fast. In spite of the fact that it was now blowing near 30 knots, we got a front row seat as the local kids had their day of dinghy practice. The poor kids were capsizing almost constantly. There was always one or two capsized at the same time. We saw one dinghy capsize directly in front of another. The second kid capsized trying to avoid the first but managed to jump onto the first boat and keep from getting wet. Pretty slick move.

More Strangford

Footprint Shares the Lough with the Seals

[Kyle]By the next morning, the wind had dropped and there was a blue sky. We decided to make the best of it before it rained. We put a reef in the sail for the Pudgy and had another go at making it to the yacht club. No sooner had we left Footprint than it became apparent that we didn’t have enough sail. We shook out the reef and tacked our way up the harbour. The Quoile Yacht Club is right below a big dam that acts as the head of navigation. I was determined to get at least within sight of the dam. While we were reefing just off Rat Island, we saw and heard several seals making a huge racket. Closer examination revealed that they had several adorable furry baby seals on the beach. They are just too cute.

Seals in the Lough

The wind picked up and then it started to rain. Between the rain and the spray from the chop, we were getting hit with a lot of cold water. We were at about the point where we turned back the day before. This time, we were determined not to turn back and let Ireland beat us again, so we kept going. The rain shower turned out to only be a few minutes and soon enough, we were back in sunshine and light breezes, drying off. We made it to the edge of the yacht club and began tacking our way through. Because there is an outlet for the dam on the other side, there is pretty much a continuous current to fight. We spent an entertaining couple of hours inching our way along. A few times, it took us five or six tacks to get past a particular boat. This gave us a great sense of triumph when we finally bumped past their mooring ball with the stern of the Pudgy. We eventually got within sight of the dam and I changed my goal to landing on the yacht club’s dock so we could stretch our legs and find their restrooms. We were being a bit naughty since this was technically illegal. We hadn’t cleared Customs and Immigration for Northern Ireland yet. It is unnecessary for Maryanne to bother within the EU, but I need to. We’re supposed to clear in before making landfall. It’s generally okay to anchor as long as you don’t go ashore, which, oops, we just did. We made it quick.

One note about the Quoile Yacht Club: Near the restrooms are their recycling bins, which were piled high with bottles for fine wine and expensive spirits, not a cheap beer can in sight. These people’s parties are the ones to which you want to get invited.

Back at the dinghy, we cast off and had a brief conversation with a couple on a nearby boat about where we’d been, etc. Just as we stated sailing off, the guy tossed us a couple of candy bars for the sail back. Maryanne made two astounding one-armed catches, leaning backwards out of the dinghy like a pro outfielder. I was sure we were going to have to chase them down and fish them out but no need.

We were amazed at how fast we blazed through the mooring field on the way out with both wind and current in our favour. Within ten minutes, we were passing Footprint for the trip up a different channel to see the cows and the Viking boat. The tide was by now almost all the way up and I got it into my head that we just may be able to circumnavigate Gore’s Island and come out again at the yacht club. As we were tacking up the estuary toward the gap, it started to rain again. This time it didn’t look like it was going to let up soon. I could tell Maryanne was keen to just give up, but she indulged me and we finally made it through with the rudder kicked up in inches of water. The sun finally came out again and we had yet another fast downwind sail home, but not before we also ticked off a circumnavigation of little Rat Island.

Goodbye Republic of Ireland, Hello Northern Ireland


Kyle loved this "Bumble Bee" lighthouse we found while heading North

[Kyle]We had to get underway very early in order to get the currents in our favour and arrive at our next stop before nightfall. At 2 a.m., I got up and poked my head outside to find a clear, starry sky. What the hell!? I think I’ve finally been in Ireland long enough to resent good weather. Nice in the middle of the night does hardly anybody any good. I shot the sky a disapproving look and prepared the boat for departure.

Once underway, we shot out of the Lough with help from the current. The wind picked up and I raised the sails in a fifteen knot tailwind. Within seconds, the wind completely died and we ended up with a four knot headwind, which was really just the four knot current pushing us through still air. I shot the sky another one of my looks and restarted the engine. He wind never really came back again after that. We had one two hour period when we just couldn’t take the motor anymore and we just crept along under sail anyway, enjoying the peace and quiet. We had a current to worry about so we eventually had to give up and start the engine again. The sea was a flat mirror. We slid along under a beautiful, clear, sunny sky. The visibility was fabulous. On one side, the Mourne Mountains slowly slid aft, on the other, we could see all the way to the Isle of Man, 30 miles away.

The high mountains gave way to low, rolling fields and we turned into Strangford Lough. Strangford Lough is another large estuary (about 5x15 miles) dotted with islands that is all fed through a gap of about 1 mile at the town of Strangford. Because of this, peak currents are around 7 knots. We had about four going with us as we zinged by the town being gently shoved this way and that by eddies. We entered the main part of the Lough, passed the village of Killyleagh and headed down the channel towards the Quoile Yacht Club. Before we got that far, though, we pulled off and dropped anchor in a secluded spot between Salt, Gore’s and Rat Islands. Rat Island is uninhabited (at least by people), Salt and Gore’s islands are both populated with dairy cattle living a nice, easy, pastoral life.

Since we left so early, we got in early. With the day still being so bright and beautiful, I decided to get the dinghy out and have a sail around the islands. It was blowing pretty hard and it was a little cold so Maryanne decided the first trip out would be a solo reconnaissance one. I put a reef in the sail, making it about the size of a dinner table and took off. What a nice day! The scenery was just lovely. Rolling, tree lined pastures with the steep Mourne Mountains behind. One of the smaller islands was just covered with nesting sea birds who squawked nervously as I approached in the little, scary, orange thing. I came around a corner and got a similar reaction from a small herd of cows. Somebody way up there had a Viking longboat on a mooring. I sailed back past Footprint and headed up the Lough to see the yacht club. By then, many of the boats were returning from their day and I got lots of friendly smiles as we passed each other. I made it to the edge of the Yacht Club mooring field. Going further would have involved tacking up through the mooring field, which I wasn’t up to. Clouds were rolling in and it was getting colder. The wind decreased enough for me to shake the reef out for the quick downwind trip back to Footprint. I got there just as it started raining. I think I’m starting to figure out Irish weather. Blue sky means it’s about to rain, gray sky means it is raining.

Eagle Mountain and other scenes

It rained all night in sheets. The rigging vibrated all night in the howling wind. Both of us kept getting up in the night worrying that we’d dragged. We never have but we frequently worry about it.

The morning was the same. We couldn’t even see the islands through the rain-streaked windows. Yuck! Nice day for a book. At 10 o’clock, it just cleared up – just like that. Huh! Okay, it was still pretty windy but otherwise nice. Maryanne rowed into the shallows looking for mussels and found none so we decided to take the dinghy out for a sail. Even with the sail reefed, it became obvious as soon as we left Footprint that this was a bad idea. Going downwind, the little Pudgy was completely overpowered and kept trying to broach (for you lubbers, it’s pretty much a wipe out). Turning upwind toward the yacht club, we ended up pounding into chop and taking cold wave after cold wave over the side. Not fun. We endured this for maybe ten minutes before deciding it wasn’t worth it and high-tailing it back to Footprint. By the time we got there, I was sitting in a three inch puddle of water. I stood up and it all ran down my legs. Eeewww! It never did end up doing anything but rain the rest of the day. Fleh.


Kyle in the Dinghy, and this tree shows the predominant WINDY conditions in Ireland

Leaving Dublin



Photos

[Kyle]The morning we left Malahide, we got up early so that we could head to FifteenBucks to get some much needed internet so that we could upload blog entries and download weather. To our horror, it turns out they don’t have wifi. We were told it was coming soon. Who has ever heard of a SixteenBucks without wifi? We were back on the street begging everybody we could find for wifi like homeless people looking for bus money. Eventually, we fetched up at a cafe that had a sticker on the door advertising it. The guy gave us one of those looks that made it clear that he didn’t like serving our kind and handed us a card with the code, good for 30 minutes. We tried to appease him by buying sandwiches but it had no effect. 30 minutes later, we were almost done. I went to the counter and begged for more. He looked at me like something he wanted to scrape off his shoe and then shoved a new card at me as if it were a knife. Whew! Ireland is supposed to be one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. For the life of us, we cannot figure out why wifi is so hard to find.

We got back to Footprint, cast off the lines and headed out with a fair current. The sky was clearing up and was mostly blue for a change. The wind was blowing off the land at about fifteen knots. This made the air warmer and the seas nice and flat. We flew up the coast under mainsail and screacher. Occasionally, the wind would increase at gaps in the land and we’d roll up the screacher and switch to full genoa until it was passed. Dark, heavy clouds formed over the land all day but we were in clearer air over the colder sea and we never got more than a brief sprinkle.

We crossed Dundalk Bay and turned in to Carlingford Lough just before the ebb switched to a flood. The timing for the entry had to be just right as the currents are so strong we would not have been able to make headway against it. The buoys at the entrance, instead of having the normal round shape, were actually perched on hulls shaped like skiffs so they could streamline in the current.

Carlingford Lough marks the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and it is just beautiful. The Lough is maybe two miles across. Each side rises up steadily, fjordlike, to the tops of 3000’ hills that were capped by clouds. The hills were covered by farms and forest until about halfway up, and then they gave way to rocky scrub. Having grown up in an area where the tree line is at about 12,000 feet, that, and the clouds gave the me feeling that the hills were much larger than they were.

We made our way to the anchorage at Carlingford town. The harbour dries out completely at low tide. In order to keep enough water under us, we had to anchor about a mile from shore.

The next morning, I had intended to get an early start and climb Carlingford Mountain but rain was slashing down from the direction of town so that ended up having virtually zero appeal. By the time it was around 11:00, the rain and the wind had left and we could see the town’s kids getting out their dinghies for a sail. We decided to follow suit and rigged the Portland Pudgy for the sail into the harbour. Carlingford is a charming three street village so it didn’t take us long to see all there was to see. I think we were both keen to hike a few of the nearby trails but the tide was falling and we were worried that the Pudgy would get stranded and we would have to portage through ¼ mile of mud. We had a quick cup of tea in a pub to escape a quick rain shower and then started the sail back. The wind had shifted and we were fighting both it and the current to get back to Footprint. We were barely making progress and at the rate we were going, it was going to take us a couple of hours to get back. No worries, we weren’t in a hurry. Before too long, clouds started rolling in over Carlingford Mountain and it began raining. It was awful, cold rain that collected on the sail and then ran onto us in steady streams. Enough of this, we decided, and broke down the sailing rig and started a mad row into it. It was wetter because of all the spray but at least it was over with faster. It was good to get back aboard Footprint and fire up the old heater.

Around Carlingford

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Around Malahide

Look! Another Gemini, this one is "Gadabout" and sits much higher in the water than Footprint!

[Kyle]Well not really. When we got up in the morning, it was windy and raining (again). Most of our outside jobs had little appeal. We did what we could indoors and at midday, went up to the chandlery to price up a few things we needed. By the time we came out of the store a few minutes later, it was blazing sunlight. Man, the weather is weird here.

We managed to get a few fix-it jobs done before John met us for what would eventually be dinner at his house. In the meantime, he graciously drove us to the boat store, the hardware store and the grocery store, saving us the effort of walking all over town and carrying stuff home on our backs (mine is pretty much back to normal now) We made an effort to focus on bulky and heavy stuff.

Back at their house, which is on a farm, Dorothy made us a lovely dinner and the four of us spent the rest of the night laughing and talking about anything and everything. They are such great people. The time just flew by. By the time John drove us back to the marina, it was 2:30. Wow! Just as we got there, it started raining again. We piled all of our shopping into a dock cart and then made the long, wet slog back to Footprint.

We had planned to go back into Dublin again the next day but, understandably, we ended up sleeping in a little late. After a brief period of denial about still being able to fit everything in, we eventually gave up and decided to spend the rest of the day on odd jobs at the boat. Perhaps we’ll even make it to Fourteenbuck’s and this will make it out into the ether.

Dublin

Typical Dublin Pub

[Kyle]We were up early for the quick train ride into Dublin. Dublin was demolished in the 70s and rebuilt using that period’s unfortunate architecture. There is nothing left of any interest to see.

Just kidding, this 1100 year old city is just dripping at every turn with rich history. Our first stop was Trinity College.
This university is nearly as old as the city that surrounds it. So old, in fact, that when it was first built, it was touted as being near Dublin, only a few hundred yards away. We took a very nice walking tour guided by a recent history graduate who did a good job of giving us the highlights of the college’s long history. Following this, we went to the library to see the intricately illustrated Book of Kells, dating from around AD 800 and one of the oldest books in the world. While there was a certain aspect of being herded past the book itself, the displays leading up to it did a very good job of explaining the laborious process of producing a handwritten, carefully illustrated book in those days.

From Trinity College, we had an amble through Merrion Square, a beautifully landscaped park that is a tranquil respite from the bustling city. In one corner of the park is a statue of Oscar Wilde accompanied by a few of his witticisms. After that, we had a look at City Hall before heading to Dvblinia, an exhibit focusing on Dublin’s Viking past.
City Hall Entrance

Dublin's Christchurch Cathedral and Catacombs

Dvblinia lies in the Old Synod Hall, which is attached via bridge to the Christchurch Cathedral, reputedly the prettiest in Ireland, although, personally, I’d go with St Finbarre’s in Cork. Still very nice, though. My favourite part was the giant organ with the circular staircase up to where the organist sits.


With some daylight still left, we headed over to the Castle Gardens for a bit and then returned to the train station via a stroll through Temple Bar, Dublin’s artsy tourist district, and then down the boardwalk on the River Liffey.

Wicklow to Dublin

[Kyle]The forecast was for very light winds so we (I) got up very early for the trip to Dublin in order make the best use of the current. We left the harbour in a clear, starry sky and made decent speed north in the light winds. By the time we started seeing the first hint of twilight, a gray, featureless cloud mass was approaching from over the horizon. Over the next couple of hours, the wind died down and the clouds descended. A drizzle started that gradually turned into real rain. Yup, we were still in Ireland, all right. It was only short lived and after we passed Dublin Harbour, the rain stopped and the visibility was improving slightly. The area to the north of Dublin Harbour is very pretty. Several islands are scattered about maybe a couple of miles apart, some with pretty houses, and some only with nesting birds. Malahide, where we were staying, was entered through a shallow cut in a sand dune. We had come here partly because it was convenient to transportation but mostly to meet the owners of the only other Gemini in Ireland, John and Dorothy of Gadabout.

The marina is one of those enormous developments that takes up most of the real estate in the area and includes a posh restaurant, a chandlery and a large condominium complex. John tells me U2s guitarist, The Edge, owns one of the condos and uses it for guests. (Edge grew up in Malahide). We were assigned a dock just over the horizon from the marina office that was within sight of Gadabout but because of the marina layout, was a good 20 minute walk away. We got settled in and were distressed to find that there was no wifi. How can that be? The marina practically has its own train stop. Nope, no wifi. If you want wifi, you have to go to Fourbucks, or as it’s known in Ireland Fourteenbucks. Yaargh! (On the train, we saw a newspaper headline about how Ireland had moved down to the second most expensive place in Europe. I don’t know what the first is now, but with our luck, it will probably be Scotland or Norway)

John and Dorothy came down and we spent a little time on Footprint before making the trek to Gadabout for snacks. They had other plans for the evening and since Maryanne and I got up early, we decided to make an early night of it.

Exploring Wicklow

[Kyle]Our next day in Wicklow, the weather was fairly dreary in the morning, so we lingered about and didn’t really get out until the afternoon. We had been unsuccessful in finding a good wireless connection, so we had a quick orientation walk with that as our focus. We found one signal that would always disappear before completing the connection process but nothing else. There are two internet cafes in town but neither of them had wireless, which was pretty useless for us since we wanted to upload stuff from our computer as well as download grib weather files that we need our software to interpret. All we could do with their machines was check email, which wasn’t cutting it.

We finally gave up on that and had a walk along a ‘nature’ trail. It started off okay in a nice park along the river but eventually wound itself through a bunch of construction sites and ended up being decidedly unlovely. We decided to make a loop and walk back along a road and happened across a grocery store. We only popped in for a few things but kept remembering stuff we needed. Fortunately, Maryanne had the presence of mind when we left the boat to bring her big camping backpack. We filled it and then some with stuff that was mostly heavy, like cans and milk. By the time it was filled, it probably weighed half as much as she did. When we got into the parking lot, I balanced the thing on the edge of the shopping cart and she backed up to it like a truck picking up a trailer. After much strap adjusting and wiggling to get as underneath the weight as possible, she put her muscle into it and heaved it into the air. It was like watching the space shuttle take off. She had gravity beat, but just barely. We hadn’t quite been able to fit everything into the pack and had three shopping bags as spare; one light, two heavy. She insisted on taking the two heavy ones because she was worried about my back, which was barely functional by that time, and I got the light one. I’m sure it looked pretty bad. Maryanne was stoically marching ahead making cracks in the pavement with every footfall while I followed behind carrying a sack that contained a bag of potato chips and a roll of paper towels in one hand and her coat in the other, which was making me miserable because my hand was getting kinda hot.

The walk turned out to be longer than we thought. Like going through a line at Disneyland, every time we would think we were almost there, we would come around the corner and find that we were definitely not. When we finally got back to Footprint, Maryanne then had the frightening task of swinging the pack over the side of the wall and climbing down the ladder with it, poor thing.

The next day, the weather was clear and beautiful. We got up early and packed a bag and headed off on the coastal trail to Wicklow Head. The woman in the tourist office the day before suggested we take the road and avoid the trail, implying the trail was dangerous in places. We both decided she seemed like a bit of an indoor girl and that we would take our chances anyway. The trail had a few spots that were steep or overgrown, but there wasn’t anything I would consider treacherous for a person with normal balance. There was one spot that did have me scrambling up a steep hill away from the cliffs on all fours. I was practically buried in the thick heather, but that was because I lost the trail in an overgrown part. Maryanne had the sense not to follow me.


The trail was absolutely stunning. We snaked our way over cliffs and around coves through ferns and heather with little purple flowers with a background of either sea or rolling green hills. Eventually, we returned to the road right at the gate to the lighthouse. We took the path in and had our lunch looking out at the sea past the lighthouse we had sailed past a couple of days before.

Back in Wicklow Town, we had showers to get the mud off and then resumed our search for internet. Our first stop was the sailing club bar, where the woman there impressed us by remembering what we had the one other time she had seen us in her life. No luck there so we wandered off. Eventually, we found a weak signal from a park bench on a hill, but only if I stood a certain way with the antenna. It reminded me of the old rabbit ear days of TV. Oh, if only we had some aluminium foil! It was windy and very cold, so we could only stand to get the bare minimum done. Everything else would have to wait until Dublin.

Friday, July 17, 2009

USA v. UK

[Maryanne]Having spent 5 and a half years in the USA, and now returned back to Europe, and with Kyle’s input too, I figured it was time to talk about a selection of some of the less reported differences that we, ourselves, are often amazed.

Volume V. Weight in recipes. When I first moved to the USA, and started cooking I was amazed and scornful of the use of CUPS used in all recipes. I’ve always measured ingredients by weight – any British recipe will only give a list of items by weight (or for liquids by volume). This has the advantage of great accuracy and repeatability. Clearly a fixed volume of flour, sugar, raisins, etc, will vary in weight depending on how packed it is. So if your recipe requires a precise mix of ingredients, then measuring by weight is MUCH superior. Eventually, and mainly because I live on a boat, I came to LOVE the use of cups. A weighing scale would be useless on a heaving boat, but just reaching in and scooping a cup of flour is easy, and right. In the USA, butter comes in packets ready marked by cups and half cups, so you can just cut off the amount you want. Easy. I’m really struggling with cutting off a cup of butter now back in Europe. I guess the American system has evolved from the wagon train days, and I’ve grown to find it perfect for us aboard Footprint. Now I’m struggling to convert 200g of anything into “cups”... Help!!!!!

Cordials v. Powder drink mix – In the UK, no powder fruit drink exists as far as I know. We purchase our fruit flavour drinks in a highly concentrated syrup, i.e. a liquid form. When I first moved to the states, I spent ages walking up and down supermarket aisles looking for drink mixes. Eventually with Kyle’s help I found, in the USA, these mixes are all powder mixes, sold either in small paper sachets or in larger tubs with a measuring scoop included. In the USA, Kool Aid, Tang, Wyler’s etc are the most common, and they come in 100’s of flavours. In the UK we can buy a much smaller range of flavours, but all in a bottle to be diluted with water... I guess you get used to what you know.

Blackcurrent flavour. Kyle didn’t even know blackcurrent was a fruit (just like I’d never heard of boysenberry) – blackcurrent is (as well as a fruit) a common flavour of drink and sweet (candy) in the UK (and great mixed with larger too). In the UK it can (obviously) be purchased as a cordial. Blackcurrent has a very strong and distinctive flavour and kids in the UK grow up with it.

Lemonade. UK lemonade is more like an American Sprite (it is carbonated, and has a similar flavour).. To get “American” lemonade in the UK you need to search for “Traditional Lemonade” in the supermarket, but even then you might find it carbonated.

Chocolate.. American chocolate is ... well ... crap. Not the top range stuff, but the general chocolate candy bar type thing (Mars, etc) uses a totally different chocolate recipe in each country. In the USA they use extra sugar, and extra stabilizers (to prevent melting) - even wax in some cases. Kyle initially thought I was crazy (and snobby) with my complaints about USA chocolate, but now he agrees, he’s a total convert, he’ll never eat a regular Hershey’s bar again.

Shelf v. Checkout Price – In the UK TAX/VAT included in the ticket price, when I first moved to the USA I was constantly shocked when asked of extra money at the check-out, now I’m just as confused that the ticket price is all inclusive... Ahh, it’s the little things! And while we are on shopping, in the UK we have shopping trolleys, in the USA, carts, same thing, different name.

Prawn cocktail flavour Crisps/Chips – they just don’t have these in the USA, and think it very odd, personally it is one of my favourite flavours and I missed it terribly when in the states.

Sweetcorn in sandwiches and pizzas. – It’s a British thing! American’s think we are really crazy. It’s delicious.

Hot Mustard in Chinese Restaurants – again an American only thing.. I wonder if they use it in China? Kyle is still in shock about this one.

Crackers in Soup – it is an American thing – the Brits think the American’s are crazy, we stick to bread and croutons here.

Cheez-Its! Kyle is seriously missing Cheez-It’s since we moved back to Europe. The nearest thing we have is Ritz Crackers, but Cheez-It’s are smaller (pound coin size, but square), and Kyle regularly throws them on his soup in place of crackers...

Ice in Drinks. In the USA a cup will be filled with ice, and then the drink added. In the UK, the drink will have (at the most) 3 ice cubes. Of course in the USA you often get unlimited top-up on that soda drink, so you aren’t losing out, no such luck in the UK! In the UK, you just don’t need ice to keep your drink cold, it isn’t that hot!

Iced Tea. This is just wrong. Tea should be hot. OK, now we sell such a thing in the UK, actually you can purchase it as a powder mix (like instant coffee), but it is just not the same as in the USA, and you won’t find it in most restaurants and cafes. In America, they first make a hot tea and leave it in the sun to cool (???? – sun tea), or add ice cubes and throw in the fridge (iced tea). For me, a tea loving Brit, even luke warm tea gets thrown out – tea should be hot. In America you can get iced tea everywhere (e.g. in McDonalds at the dinks dispensers along with Coke etc). Kyle assures me it is delicious and refreshing... Every time I’ve been given it and not realized, I’ve been shocked and disgusted. Kyle tells me that iced tea was served for the first time in the USA at the 1939 World’s Fair (Atlanta??), I guess they drank normal cold drinks before then, probably even cordials.

Waterford to Wicklow


Lighthouses En Route

[Kyle]After 2 days anchored outside Waterford, the wind died down gradually during the evening to more sensible levels. After another night’s sleep, my back was much better and the forecast was looking really good so we decided to head out. I was able to get most of the departure checklist done. Some of the stuff still made me a little sore but I managed.

We had a fast trip down the long river in a following current. The sky only had a few puffy cumulus and the air was clear. The green, hilly, English style countryside slid by. Further down the river as it widened at its mouth, the wind and current were opposing one another and it made for a pretty choppy upwind pound before we were finally able to get out into the sea and turn across it, picking up speed and smoothing out our ride.

We made it to Carnsore Point (the big bend in Ireland’s coastline that separates the South coast from the East coast) just before sunset. From this point on, our cruise transitioned from an eastbound one in the Celtic Sea to a northbound one in the Irish Sea. This made our course more downwind and I was able to unfurl the screacher for the first time in a long time. The current was at its peak going the other way and we found ourselves surfing gently down the faces of big, standing waves while making almost no progress at all. A few hours later, the current reversed again, carrying us along with the wind in flat seas as we zipped over the bottom.

As the night wore on, since it was clear, it became very cold and eventually, by 4 a.m., I had to give up and give it over to Maryanne.

[Maryanne]Kyle was determined, I think, that he would sail the full way, I kept napping and offering to take over, and eventually he gave in and went off for a sleep. I got to see the sun rise, and a bank of wind generators in the twilight, but we were a too far off the coast to see much detail of land. There was little wind, and what was there was variable so I spent most of the time tweaking sails, gybing, etc . With light winds and a strong current against me, I sometimes found myself going backwards over the ground, even though I was moving through the water – I saw a lot of that off shore wind farm! I think in 6 hours of sailing I made around 5nm over the ground.

[Kyle] Eventually, the current reversed again and released us from its grasp and we finally made it to the little man-made harbour at Wicklow. The harbour consists of an inner harbour on the Leitrim River, with an outer harbour protected by breakwaters that is diamond shaped, with the opening on the top. The harbour is around ¼ miles each side. Once inside the entrance, we found the western half of the harbour was filled with moorings and the eastern half was filled with kids in dinghies racing around a triangular course. The thought briefly occurred to me to make a dash for the middle and just put the anchor there, allowing us to act as one of the race buoys and giving us a good view of the races. Since that was extremely cheeky and we would be blocking the inner harbour entrance, we thought it better if we didn’t. We were going to be here for a couple of days and it would not do us well to irritate the whole town right away. Best to let them become irritated after spending some time with us. It did seem just possible to drop our anchor just outside of the line of the moored boats, but it looked tight. As we were hovering around planning and measuring our spot, one of the inflatables tending to the racers came over. Maryanne asked if he know if any of the moorings were available for use by transients. He said probably not and that most transients tie up to the East breakwater. He then pointed over to a huge, jagged, slimy concrete wall with gnashing teeth. Ooh, uh, perhaps we’ll just keep measuring. A different inflatable came by and repeated the same advice. Okay, well, we’ll go over and look at it and see if we can’t make something work. On closer inspection, it didn’t look so bad. It was actually nice and smooth, not jagged and the teeth, well, I don’t know what happened to the teeth. Below the tide line, there was actually so much seaweed that it probably would have kept us from scraping concrete, even without fenders. The main problem was that the tie-down rings were way up on the top of the wall, inaccessible from the boat without climbing the ladder to the top. This required that Footprint be held exactly in place with the engine while the lines were passed up, etc.

Shortly thereafter, a man just climbed aboard our boat and introduced himself as the Harbour Master. He was very friendly and helpful and said we were free to tie up to the wall. The charge was 14 Euros per day. That’s not too bad for the convenience of not having to row the dinghy in, particularly as it was forecast to blow hard for the next couple of days; and we get the use of the showers at the sailing club.

A little while later, we were boarded by another man (don’t you people knock?) who introduced himself as the commodore of the sailing club and repeated the invite to use the showers and the bar.

{Maryanne, it is generally considered highly inappropriate to climb aboard a boat without an express permission from the captain. Most visitors will call from the dock, "Ahoy" or some such thing, or will knock on the hull and await a response... So far here, that rule does not seem to apply. Kind of like having a visitor to the house, say collecting for some charity, just walking into your kitchen and not first knocking on your door - very odd. Of course everyone was really nice once aboard, so we can't complain too much, but we are just a little uncomfortable what the "rules" are here, and who we may find aboard next!}

As the tide started to come up, just like in Youghal, all the town kids came out to jump off the wall into the water. Between them and the others in the dinghies and rowboats, we felt conspicuous as if we had accidentally moored in the middle of a public swimming pool. Everybody was very nice, though, being both very helpful with advice on the town as well as being interested in our travels.

Footprint on the Outer Harbour Wall at Wicklow

We are pleased that even if it blows like crazy here, Footprint is relatively secure and we will still be able to climb the ladder and head into town.