Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Starting the (external) Chores

[Kyle]Once we got situated in a slip at Salve Marine in Crosshaven, we went in with our list to see what they could help us with. The owner, a Dutch man with a hint of an Irish accent mingling with his Dutch, told us his name but we never got it. It was something Dutch starting in W that sounded as if it had no consonants. For the sake of discussion, we’ll call him William, which he most certainly isn’t. Maryanne: Actually Kyle never got it, the guy's name is Wietse.

His only employee was a South African man of few words whose name really was Ronnie. The place looked completely ramshackle, but the two could not have been more patient or helpful. We asked where we could get propane filled (our first in Europe). William said to just leave it outside and he would take care of it. American fittings were no problem. The place he took it had adapters for pretty much every kind of fitting. As for the broken rail, he came and looked at it and said if we got it off, Ronnie could do it on the premises. It was pretty much the same with the rest of the list.

Tired from our early start to get the tide, Maryanne and I snuck in an hour nap before tackling all of the work we had to do. Once we got done, we were surprised to see our two propane bottles had already been filled! We got the rail off and Ronnie had it done in less than an hour – sort of. He said he wasn’t done and went home for the night.

Later that evening, Maryanne’s parents arrived from England to congratulate us on our passage and came over for dinner and a catch-up before the evening was over.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Moving on to Crosshaven (Cork area)

Misty coastline of Southern Ireland, County Cork

[Kyle]We got up before sunrise to catch the morning tide out of Kinsale in a thick, windless fog. Not since leaving Maine have Maryanne and I left a harbour without being able to see anything at all along the way. The fog thinned out further from the coast and for just a minute, I thought there was enough wind to sail, but 30 minutes after putting everything out the slatting started to drive me crazy and the sails were furled again for the rest of the journey.

Boats moored at every bend in Owenboy River

We arrived in Cork Harbour and took a quick tour up the Owenboy River. It was packed with moorings for its entire navigable portion. We then stopped at Salve Marina in Crosshaven, where we intended to get through the rest of the repair list from our Atlantic crossing.

Salve has a huge, well equipped machine shop on the premises and the guys were great. We got our propane filled pretty much immediately, even though we had crazy U.S. fittings. We pulled the rail off the stern and they had the thing done within an hour or so (we’ll reinstall it tomorrow). This left us with enough time to go into the village for a quick look around. Everybody there was so nice and helpful.

Kyle feeds the swan that visits us as we arrive at Salve Marine

Now we feel rich again. We have full fuel, full water, full propane, and things are getting fixed. The only down side is that laundromats are almost unheard of in Ireland, so we have to have it done for us. It looks like it’ll be about the price of a decent meal in Kinsale.


Castle Desmond in the center of Kinsale

[Kyle]We woke up in the morning in Kinsale to windy conditions and dreary, Seattle-style rain. This pretty much killed our motivation to get out and see one of County Cork’s most popular tourist areas bright and early. Eventually, after a nice hot breakfast, we made the cold row into town. The guidebooks all gush about this place as if it were Sausalito or Venice. Frankly, I didn’t see it. Perhaps the gloom was bringing me down but Kinsale just seemed like many other tourist destinations. There was a continuous snarl of traffic and all of the businesses seemed determined to cash in on the tourists by charging double for everything. We went to a local supermarket to get some walking around food and then headed for our first stop at the International Museum of Wine at Desmond Castle. Desmond Castle was used as a residence, Customs house and a jail during its 500 year history but now is home of the museum. The museum was primarily dedicated to the story of the “Wine Geese” – Irish people who emigrated in large numbers to become instrumental in the wine industry worldwide.

Fort Charles

From there, we walked for about an hour along the River Bandon to get to Charles’s Fort. The fort was built beginning in 1678 and was used by the British military until the Irish Civil War in 1922, when it was burned down and fell into ruin. It was briefly occupied by a colony of hippies in the late 1960s. The Office of Public Works has since restored a few of the buildings and put in some nice exhibits about life there and the history of the fort. Like Fort Berkeley in Bermuda, it was almost never used for any real warfare and stands mostly as a monument to the British paranoia at the time about being invaded.

Kinsale - Scilly Walk

We had a lovely walk back along a pretty paved path back into town that tunneled through the foliage at the river’s edge through the village of Scilly and then back into Kinsale.

Kinsale Town View - lots of places to eat - the Gourmet capital of Ireland

Once back in town, we started looking for a nice pub to have a light meal and a pint. Kinsale has a large selection of gourmet restaurants, but perusing the menus posted outside, it quickly became clear that, particularly with the exchange rate, a pretty ordinary meal would have cost us around $100. Even a couple of sandwiches in a pub would run us almost $50. Not gonna do it. We really didn’t want to go to the trouble of cooking and cleaning up at home, though, so we had this depressing, drizzly slog all over town looking at menus and hoping to find something reasonable. Eventually, we just gave up and ended up at a gourmet pizza place, where we were able to split one and have a drink each for $40. It was nothing special. Well, at least we were fed, which did take some of the sting off the cold, drizzly row back to Footprint.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Castletownshend to Kinsale

[Kyle]After Castletownshend, we upped anchor around noon (for the tide) for the 27NM trip to our next destination: Courtmacsherry. The wind had calmed down quite a bit since the day before and was now mostly just below 10 knots from the SE. This put us close hauled to the wind for the whole way, but since the seas were flat, it wasn’t bad at all. The wind was just a little bit too close to our destination for us to go directly and we did have to tack back and forth a bit, spending a couple of hours on one tack and then as we gradually got too near shore, we’d spend half an hour on the other one until we were out far enough to repeat.

I had been really looking forward to Courtmacsherry. Our sailing guide has directions for navigating the tricky harbour entrance and said a couple of sentences about it being a nice village – pretty much the same it says about most places. Our other travel guides don’t mention it at all, which I took to be a good sign. I like discovering things off the beaten path.

The main difficulty with Courtmacsherry Harbour is that almost all of it dries out completely at low tide, leaving very little of the harbour where boats could remain afloat for the entire tidal cycle. Since Footprint is not a tippy boat, we should be able to take the ground better than most others, but being unfamiliar with the harbour, we didn’t want to risk being set down upon an errant rock, so we were keen to remain afloat ourselves. We arrived right at high tide near sunset, which gave us lots of maneuvering room to find a suitable spot. As in lots of places, nearly every bit of usable space was packed with moorings. After much searching around and a few failed attempts (as it started to rain), we did just manage to squeeze in between a couple of moorings far from the town quay. We would not be going ashore. Once the tide started going out, huge mats of smelly seaweed came zinging by the boat in a fast current, piling up on everything exposed. The prevailing wind also brought in the smell from a nearby stockyard. Lovely! I suppose we’ll be sleeping with the hatches closed, then.


The next morning, at slack tide (no seaweed), in the sunshine, I began to feel a little guilty about thinking all of the unflattering things that I had the previous night about the place. There were kids launching their sailing dinghies, people fishing and even one guy taking his pony for a walk along the beach. Still, we needed to get moving as the tide waits for no one. Pulling up the anchor also pulled up hundreds of pounds of seaweed that had to be stabbed at with the boat hook and then clawed at with bare hands in order to let the chain come aboard freely, leaving the deck covered in ‘lettuce’. So I guess I’m back to not liking the place again.
We had a repeat of the previous day’s sailing conditions for the 20 mile trip to Kinsale.

Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse with its distinctive black and white stripes

We were able to get up very close to the beautiful lighthouse at The Old Head of Kinsale (before tacking and getting out of there) on the way and were surprised to see two guys out fishing in a small inflatable right off the rocky point.

Dinghy fishing Waaaay out to sea!!, and more traditional fishing and farming in Irish waters

We had one more surprise waiting for us, though. After we furled the sails and were heading into the harbour at Kinsale, we came upon a virtual raft of seagulls. Scanning the area, I noticed a large fin in the water. I took Footprint out of gear and we coasted up to see two huge (10’-12’) sharks among the birds. They seemed pretty unconcerned with us and we were able to get right up next to one of them. It turned out to be a Basking Shark. These big fish swim around with their huge mouths open and just scoop up whatever is in their path. The water here was full of jellyfish and several schools of smaller fish (explaining the seagulls). We spent a long time trying to get a good picture but eventually gave up as the light was from a bad angle and the reflection/distortion from the water was bad.

Basking Shark on Entrance to Kinsale - For a much better shark picture - see this one from Wikipedia

Once we got up the river to Kinsale, we found the same problem with the moorings. Eventually, we found a nice, pretty spot just up the river from the town but it took us five tries on the anchor before we could get it stick adequately in the hard clay. Maryanne, at the bow for the first, second, third and fifth tries just took it in stride and kept hauling and setting, hauling and setting without complaint as she always does. She says she prefers that I find the spot and keep from hitting things while she’s up there working. I suspect it also has something to do with all of the sympathy she gets when we meet other people. On most other boats, the person at the bow actually has the easy job because all they have to do is operate the button for the electric windlass.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nevermind, change of plan

[Kyle]We’d originally intended to “leave Ireland” to go to Sherkin Island for a look around, but by the time we raised the anchor and made the short trip across the harbour, the wind was in the upper 20’s and the anchorage on an exposed lee shore. The anchorage was also very small, and very deep, full of mooring balls and with a high tidal range (3.5m). Try as we might, we could not find anywhere that was shallow enough to anchor (and close enough for the row to land) that we’d consider comfortably distant from the gnashing rocks at low tide. I tried to find a spot behind a little finger of a breakwater amidst some moorings, but again, was unable to assure enough swinging room. Maryanne finally said what we were both thinking – “let’s just skip here and move on to our next planned stop”.

So off we motored directly into the wind, out of Baltimore Harbour, and into the short steep chop of the Celtic Sea for the 12 nm bash to Castletownshend. The ride was horrible, we hadn’t been prepared for sailing as we’d expected s a short 1nm hop across the bay, and in any event I doubt we’d have made much progress under sail. So we motored directly into the wind and seas, where we were only able to make about 2-3kt with spray flying everywhere. The weather had also turned decidedly dreary, and although it never did, it looked and felt as though it were going to start raining any minute, all day long.

Castletownshend - what a beautiful village

When we finally got inside Castletownshend Harbour, away from the swell, we were rewarded with picturesque views of a beautiful, quaint stone village tumbling down into the harbour.

The town consists of basically one road down a very steep hill, ending in a castle (now used as a hotel/b&b and with a clear KEEP OUT signs for non-guests) and then the harbour with a small fishing fleet and green hills on either side.

After getting settled in (anchor secure, anchor ball up) we went ashore for a look around. The guidebooks pretty much say there is a castle and then you’re done. Probably about right, EXCEPT that the castle itself is surrounded by signs making it quite clear non-residents are not welcome. There is a beautiful Church of Ireland (Anglican) church perched on a hill behind the castle and lots of picturesque stone houses.

[Maryanne]We arrived ashore at Castletownshend at the rowing club, an ancient looking boat shed, clearly well cared for, and well used, but at the time closed up. Leaving here, we climbed the narrow road and eventually made it to the main road of town. There is no through road, Castletown is a dead end, not on the way to anywhere. We fully explored the street and found pubs closed down, restaurants not open, and were unsure if this was a sign of an abandoned village, or just too early in the season to be viable businesses. The highlight of the town for me was the shop. Marked outside with a lit sign that simply says “Shop”. It provides the bottled butane for the village, has a petrol pump in the street, and supplies newspapers and basic provisions in a cramped hodgepodge of a room – just perfect village stuff.

Castletownshend's Shop

[Kyle]The one open pub/restaurant in town is called Mary Ann’s, where we naturally decided to stop for a bite to eat and a pint. To our surprise as we entered the pub in this otherwise sleepy hamlet, we found standing room only and a waiting list to eat (on a Thursday evening!). Our walk around town had been very quiet so we could only assume that this one pub is renowned, and the whole town (and surrounding residents) used it. Places like this always amaze me. The town otherwise looks like it is clinging on for dear life, and yet we find these occasional businesses that no matter what have all the business they could want. The rumor about Mary Ann’s was its great food, and seafood in particular. We waited patiently our turn for a tiny table and eventually were rewarded with a delicious meal. Maryanne had Thai Fish cakes with a chili jam/sauce and I had a salmon with pesto mash and several sides of vegetables that appeared with that (chips, potatoes-au-gratin, carrots, cauliflower and beans). We’d intended to only stop by for an appetizer (budget cuts), and therefore ended up spending more than we’d intended, it was well worth the cost. One of the things I found most amusing was on the wall: A plaque awarding them the James Joyce award for an authentic Irish pub. It seems to me that in an ancient village like Castletownshend, just about as far from the tourist source of Dublin Airport as you can get, and not even on the beaten path, that a pub, in Ireland, at least 169 years old, would naturally be an “authentic Irish pub”, and no plaque would be necessary. Technically, it seems to me that anyplace in Ireland where someone with a name such as Fergus, who hands out a beer from their garage window, would be an authentic Irish pub, but I digress.

Mary Ann's pub/restaurant in Castletownshend

Feeling all satisfied from a delicious meal and a lovely walk around a beautiful village, we returned to the dingy for the row back to Footprint. As I reached down to pull in the painter (line that connects the dinghy to shore), our camera slipped out of my pocket, bounced on the gunwale of the dinghy, and landed on a mat of seaweed floating beside the dingy. I screamed at Maryanne to grab it but she was not quite fast enough (nor keen enough to get wet) and we had to watch as it slowly sunk into the harbour depths. I felt just terrible. Maryanne, however was very understanding and although upset at losing the camera, she was not upset with me. “Accidents happen”, she says. After I dropped her off at Footprint, I returned to the scene with a fish net to try an recover the camera (maybe we could salvage the memory chip?). No such luck. Even when I returned the next morning, all I pulled up was nets full of seaweed. That made for an extra expensive dinner out. Oh well, at least we have a spare camera.

[Maryanne]It had taken me a full year of whinging to get that little camera (eventually I justified it as a birthday present to me, from Kyle), with a great zoom and a small pocket size. We had a 10gig chip in there too… Grrr how frustrating to lose something that we use and value so much, and worse still to see it lost in such slow motion. I daren’t be mad with Kyle, as I’m just as likely to do something equally silly tomorrow and have certainly done so in the past. We’ll just have to suck it up and purchase a new camera. In the meantime we are at least not without a camera, but the one we have is a big bulky tourist/”look at me” type camera, not the kind you slip in your pocket “just in case”, but the kind you take out to a photo shoot. We’ve also discovered our back up GPS that also acts as our road route finder is broken, and we need to send that away for repairs, we seem to have a growing to do list that hits the bank account – grrrr indeed.

[Kyle]The following morning, just before we left, I retraced my steps with the camera while Maryanne scrubbed the bottom of the dinghy and gathered a few supplies from her current favorite shop. At least the light was better 2nd time around.

Maryanne cleans the Dinghy bottom

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Footprint Ship Shape (almost)

[Kyle] We spent most of today finally finishing up our various jobs, at least the critical ones. I installed the starboard centerboard line at the expense of most of the skin on my hands and forearms. I eventually learned that it was much easier and quicker to use our butane hot knife to cut away the old line than it was to try and get a regular knife down in there and saw away while the fiberglass edges eat through my arms. I did get the second one done in about half the time. That's experience, I guess.

After that, we tore apart the port hull so that we could get to the 'bouyancy' tank on that side. It wasn't too bad - about 3" water inside. The real benefit of all this is that the process of pulling everything out and putting it back in gave us a chance to give Footprint a much needed spring cleaning. We still have a few non-critical jobs to do, most notably the stern rail, but now the boat is recovered from the rough passage and ready to move on. The inside is all nice and tidy, perhaps not ready to represent PCI at a boat show, but not looking too bad for a 10,000 mile boat. This is a huge relief for me as I hate having a mess hanging over my head. I can't even leave dishes overnight.

That all done and feeling chuffed with ourselves, we headed to the center of Baltimore Yachting, Bushe's Bar, for refreshing showers, a light lunch and a steady wifi (so I can do this). We also loaded up at the local market on some of the stuff we've been getting short on, such as eggs and fresh bread.

Since we're finished with everything we can get done here, we're looking forward to a nice evening of loafing and looking out at beautiful Baltimore Harbour. Tomorrow, we're looking forward to anchoring at Sherkin Island, just a couple of miles away, still within Baltimore Harbour. It looks really pretty there and it's just a little out of dinghy reach. One of the guys we met keeps saying you have to leave Ireland to go to Sherkin Island.

[Maryanne]Kyle has had to do most of the work over the last 2 days, since I managed to take a seat in the dingy, only to find the seat was not where I expected - I slammed my back onto the edge of the seat and landed hard on the floor... That left me with a really bruised and stiff back and could hardly move, let alone lift and clean for 2 days... Whatever it takes I generally find a way to get out of too much hard work :-)

Together we are currently reading a book by Shane Acton about the boat "Shrimpy" an 18' boat that sailed around the world in the 70's, and I'm reading a book "No Place for a Woman" by Marie-Christine Ridgway. Both of these are making our adventures look like nothing more than a trip to the local park for a picnic.... Just as we are basking in the completion of our own little adventure these books are putting us in our place - heck, we ONLY crossed the Atlantic.

Monday, June 22, 2009

TLC for Footprint

With no late morning start, nor extra naps, first order was some tidying up, then a quick look at the list to prioritize the chores ahead. That seemed like work enough and we soon found ourselves taking a nap. It was NOT supposed to be like this. Eventually we surfaced for dinner, and got distracted by email and blogs, but the boat at least looked tidy and livable; we even put clean sheets on the bed. We were determined to do better the following day.

The solstice (here at 51.5 degrees North) makes for a very long day indeed; the sun came up at 5:20am and set at 9:58pm, and the twilight is so prolonged it never actually gets fully dark – even at midnight there is a thin line of blue to the North. This combined with clear blue skies made our time off so pleasurable. The weather has calmed down too… With our messed up (and excessive) sleep, and with the long days, we never seem to know exactly what time it is.

The following morning, we got up bright and early (oh, around 9:30am), and immediately started into our chores. For the most part, this meant tearing the boat apart and undoing all the tidying we’d done the previous day in order to access all the things on our list. We pulled everything out of the starboard berth to access the buoyancy tank and the Espar heater. We pumped water, fixed a loose connection, and aired the room. Kyle then went up the mast to check over things there: replaced the masthead light bulb and inspected the sheaves (main halyard sheave looks fine but no longer works under compression – to replace that we’ll have to remove the mast cap, so we’ll make do for the rest of the year). I re-affixed the enclosure track and some of the missing snap fittings that had pulled from the fiberglass. Kyle then attempted replacement of the centerboard control ropes. I think he did well to complete one today, the other will now be much quicker. This rope replacement is one of those horrible and frustrating boat jobs that requires cramming an arm into a space designed to shred an arm and then doing detail work with the tips of your longest fingers. A frustrating job, but the centerboard lift and lower mechanism is eventually working again. Kyle will leave me to put the rest of it together as he fixes the other side of the boat tomorrow.

The boat is still a mess, but we need it that way for tomorrow, and since it is almost dark we know it must be very late, so we are off to bed before picking up on a few more chores in the morning. I think we will do the remainder of the chores as we move around Ireland so it won’t seem as if we are ONLY doing chores. All the critical things have been done (or we need expert help for, and have to wait for an area with better services).

Passage Review

[Kyle]First the stats. St George’s, Bermuda to Baltimore, Ireland.
  • Depart Bermuda: May 26 2010, Arrive Baltimore: June 18 2009
  • Distance traveled (through the water):2800nm
  • Ideal route distance from start to finish 2691nm
  • Time under motor 6.1 hours (4 for battery charging, one for in and one for out of port). Approx 4 gallons of fuel
  • Total passage time: 22 days 23 hours 50 minutes.
  • Average miles per day - 121 nm
  • Average speed approx 5kt.
  • Max distance covered in one hour 8.31 (day 15, 27kt of wind). Maximum instantaneous speed we noted 13.2kts, which I can verify as I was at the helm and hand steering at the time. The boat showed no tendency to swerve during this speed and was very stable.
  • Min distance traveled in one 1 hour period: 0.09 miles (day 9, 1.6kt wind) – We were still moving!
  • Min distance traveled in one day: 73.23nm (day 9)
  • Ships sighted (approx, from memory): 5.
  • Propane usage: 1.5 tanks (approx 30lb), used for cooking and refrigeration.
  • Water usage: We left with 180L in the tanks plus 150 in jugs. We’d intended to use the jugs for drinking water and the tanks for washing/cooking, but the jugs ended up being too cumbersome for easy access/pouring, so Maryanne tended to use tank water for her drinks. In the end we used 38L out of the jugs (for drinking) and arrived with about 60L remaining in the tanks (used 120L from tanks). We also used an additional 12L from the solar showers. We used our seawater tap at the galley for washing up (saving the freshwater for a final rinse only) so this helped reduce our water usage. Water usage was higher during the first few days due to the heat (drinking more cold drinks). Average use 7L a day (we think this is quite low). So we arrived in Ireland with much spare water, but this also saves us rushing around looking to get our tanks filled.

Achievements / highlights
  • Broke 8, 9 and then 10,000 miles on Footprint – amazing one passage equates to a ¼ of all the miles we’ve done with Footprint.
  • Seabird swims by us, several times.
  • Dolphins! So many times.

Key moments of stupidity
  • Not cleating the main halyard before I cut it! This caused hours of “fun” trying to recover it.

Items to repair/replace
  • Autopilot Motor – we really should have had a spare, but we misunderstood the manufacturer phrase “no user serviceable parts” and somehow interpreted it as we had to replace the WHOLE autopilot and could not replace parts. I’m not sure how we made that leap, of course you can purchase spare motors and one would definitely be aboard in the future.
  • Sticking drive leg, tight control lines causing resistance on steering – to resolve.
  • WHAM radio remote mic (fails to recharge or work with rechargeable batteries)
  • Centerboard control lines (chafed through, most likely during times being hove to after autopilot failure).
  • Masthead light (still to verify, but may be same failure as on way to Antigua where the bulb broke from its bayonet fitting – not sure why this should happen).
  • One handrail to fix/replace, and a thorough inspection of davits and mount required.
  • Oven brackets rusting and screws not biting well – to replace/secure.
  • Galley cupboard sliding doors – Perspex/plexiglass broken – to replace
  • Enclosure snaps, chafe, and bolt rope bracket to repair/replace.
  • Helm seat attachment fittings (holes enlarging and weld breaking from rocking back and forth).
  • Speed wheel plug to find / replace (it floated somewhere in the hull during our flooding, and is not yet recovered/found).
  • Leaks on all 4 hatches
  • Main halyard sheave – suspect broken, it is no longer running smoothly.
  • Espar heater – fuse replacement required
  • Identify / seal leaks from stern lockers/rudder lockers into boat
  • Identify /seal leaks from forward (hull deck joints?).
  • Master Berth locker latches

I’m paraphrasing of course, but I remember Tony Smith saying something about how he did his North Atlantic crossing as he knew some idiot would try it sooner or later. While admitting that it could be done, he did not necessarily recommend it should be done. I think, having done a similar route ourselves, I would share the same sentiment. The boat seems to be a very stable design and even in conditions that were terrifying, both hulls seemed solidly glued to the water surface (possibly helped by our high loads since we live aboard). The boat also took several pretty bad hits from big waves and seemed to be able to just brush it off. However, an Atlantic crossing is definitely not for the faint of heart and I would echo Tony’s recommendation not to attempt it without getting very familiar with the boat and making necessary modifications prior to leaving. Some of the things we did that I consider invaluable were: Line control traveler/genoa tracks, and preventer. The enclosure and the helm seat were essential, as are jack lines and tethers. I also believe we would have had a real power consumption issue and would have to run the engine more (limiting range for emergencies) if we had not switched our incandescent lights to LEDs. We had also sailed the boat considerably before we left, and exposed ourselves to longer passages and rough weather. By the time we set off, we knew exactly where to place our hands and feet, and had a good muscle memory for all the activities needed to sail the boat essentially single handed.

I do believe that in 80% of the conditions in which a mono-hull would be uncomfortable, a Gemini remains stable and livable. However, the other 20% of conditions are also awful aboard the Gemini (possibly worse in a mono-hull). Movement is so bad at times that nothing can be achieved without holding on constantly and there are too many open spaces with no decent hand holds – especially when crossing from one side of the boat to the other (cockpit, foredeck and inside between hulls). Loose items are readily thrown around. Another disconcerting issue in rough conditions is the noise and motion; with the two hulls on slightly different wave patterns there is a lot of bending, flexing and creaking along with wave pounding, all of which can be nerve wracking. It is such a complicated shaped structure that although not concerned about the boat stability as a unit, I did spend several sleepless nights worrying about how much stress the parts working against each other could take.

I was hoping when we set off that we would be able to enjoy the days of solitude and reflection, but since conditions turned out to be so rough, (always a possibility we had to be prepared for) this really amounted to an exercise in endurance. The seemingly constant cloud cover prevented seeing the constellations. The forced hand steering towards the end of the trip removed any remaining opportunity to reflect on the passage.

Overall, I feel pretty satisfied with the voyage. It is incredible to be here in Ireland and to look out from the pub and see our boat anchored in the harbour. Because of the conditions on route, I feel like we earned it well and have no sense that we got away with anything by having an unusually easy passage, although I fully realized things could have been much worse. In fact, here is an excerpt from an email from our friend JD, “Dave and I have been following the blog and also plotting your position on ww.passageweather.com to evaluate the upcoming weather and sea conditions. I'm sure it’s no news, but you had your very own major low pressure system in tow for most of the trip. I looked all over the world and even in the Southern Ocean, the weather was not as severe as your conditions! How fitting that the first land you would see is Fastnet Rock (from the famous disastrous race in the 70's).”

Because I can’t know what would have happened if conditions had been worse or if something more critical had failed, I’m reluctant to recommend it to anyone else. I think anyone planning to make an eastbound temperate passage in a Gemini would need to be prepared to make an ocean crossing regardless of the boat type. It is almost inevitable that at least a few days (or more) rough weather is going to be encountered. I have no way of being sure, of course, but I have to assume for the sake of prudence that we got lucky to a degree with regard to breakdowns, etc. Even so, it still required a good bit of creativity and ingenuity (as well as a good stock of tools and spare parts on hand) to keep things from turning much worse for us. Our main philosophy is to inspect everything as often as practical in order to catch things early. This has saved us on numerous occasions, most often from things that start off as minor, such as seizing wire, cable ties or split pins breaking, of which we have tons of spares.

Maryanne and I have been planning this crossing for a long time and it feels strange to have suddenly put it behind us. The passage itself in many ways felt like a series of 30 mile sails between naps. Our furthest point from land was when we were 575NM from the Azores and Ireland, respectively, but since we are so used to sailing the boat out of sight of land, it never really felt like we were out that far. Once we wake up from our off watch, it’s a new (half) day and everything begins anew, so we keep sailing. What else are we going to do? The weather also provides a means of reducing the apparent size of the Ocean. Even though the whole thing is just a huge expanse of water at sea level, I keep a constant mental map of the weather patterns, which causes me to mentally subdivide the entire ocean into regions of wind and wave and high and low pressure systems so that our ‘region’ only feels like it’s 100 or 200 miles across.

I certainly could not have done it without Maryanne (nor her without me, I hope). Maryanne is not in any way someone who was dragged along for the ride but has been a full and valuable partner in the entire endeavor. She has a childlike wonder about the world and has a fun and cheery demeanor, but she takes her job as seriously as an old sea captain when things get dicey. I can leave her at the helm at night in frightening conditions knowing that she understands the responsibility of having our very lives in her hands and that she has the skill and knowledge for the job. She has always been right there in any kind of emergency putting the full force of her considerable intellect and talent into solving or helping me solve the problem. I sleep better knowing she’s out there with me, keeping an eye on things

It really wasn’t until enough of Ireland was in view that I could see it constantly and clearly that it began to dawn on me the magnitude of what we’ve done. I was able to gaze at the hills and realize that somehow, after all those years of thinking about it and planning for it, we had made it happen. They looked like any old hills, but there was something fundamentally different about them that I understood intellectually. These hills were not merely far away, they were on the other side of the ocean. Once we finally got ashore, it seemed like we’d come a long way indeed. The climate was different, the geology was different and everybody’s accent was different. At the pub in this sailor’s town, when even the salty sailors would buy us a round and introduce us to yet more people who congratulated us with pats on the back and warm handshakes, we started to get a real feeling for what we had done. Then, of course, we had checked our email and saw all of the good wishes and support we received, and began to feel like we had Mission Control behind us the whole way.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Baltimore, Ireland

Baltimore Scenes

Baltimore is a small village, almost at the southern tip of Ireland, with a large proportion of holiday/second homes and a large proportion of B&Bs, pubs and eateries, all centered into a very small waterfront area. There is just one small convenience store, no bank, no petrol station, and at least 3 sailing clubs/schools. The focus is the waterfront. There is an active fishing fleet (although clearly smaller than it used to be historically), and several ferries and eco-tour type boats leaving the small town harbour all day. On the water itself we see a constant stream of sailors (with all size boats), and even wind surfers and jet skiers. For us the water seems way too cold to get that close to it. Seals frolic around, and the sea birds follow the fishing boats. It seems everyone owns a boat of some sort here. It also seems very international here, where daily, French sail boats arrive to visit, along with British and Irish from further afield.

Baltimore's historical and unusual claim to fame is it was the site of a visit from Algerian pirates in 1631 who kidnapped a number of Baltimore citizens and took them away into slavery (it is assumed, they were never seen again).

After dreaming for days of a hot bath, and a comfy bed (and without the need for laundry, and cleaning before hand) when we arrived in Baltimore. We found and booked a B&B before we even left the boat (Thanks, Mom).

The morning after we arrived, we slept like teenagers, just getting out of bed long enough to eat Breakfast at 9am before returning for more sleep. I guess we must have been very tired. Eventually, we surfaced and made it all the way next door to the 1215 O'Driscoll clan castle, Dún na Séad ("Fort of the Jewels"), recently renovated from stone ruins into a beautiful home. The castle was lovely inside and out, and had a roof top walk with great views of the harbour.

Dún na Séad Castle

We then found ourselves back at Bushe’s bar for a quick bite to eat which turned into several hours (we abused their WiFi). Determined to find somewhere different to eat for dinner, we walked out of town towards Casey’s hotel, however when we asked for a menu, they just verbally offered us chicken, lamb, beef or fish and chips (no price list given). We ordered fish and chips and were none too impressed with the fish, the chips, or the price. Casey’s restaurant/hotel is in some beautiful grounds and has some stunning views into Church Strand Bay (just off Baltimore harbour) and a ruined church with the sun setting to add to the ambiance.

Church Strand Bay

Eventually we walked home for another 12 hours of sleep.

Again we surfaced for our Breakfast and returned to bed. What luxury! Determined to so SOME activity in the early afternoon, we walked just out of town in the other direction, back towards the bay entrance to see the Beacon known as Lot’s Wife. It was a very pretty walk past the waterfront and a smaller bay, winding along with wild flower borders on the road (dominated by beautiful, tall, purple foxgloves). Eventually, we left the road for the moorland trail, and this provided yet more stunning views of inlets and amazing sea cliff formations. There were plenty of wild birds on the cliff, and plenty of evidence on the ground of cattle having been around.

Baltimore Area Countryside and cliffs

Despite being a weekend, we shared Lot's Wife with just two other couples, each sat enjoying the views and seeming to enjoy each other with dreamy smiles all around.

Baltimore Beacon - Lot's Wife, guiding boaters into the harbour

The beacon itself is set atop huge jagged lichen encrusted cliffs (the pictures, as usual, don’t do it justice). The area is a geologists' Heaven, plenty of different materials, and lots of exposed layering.

We returned back off road for as far as we could manage (with no idea if we were on public trails or private property), but eventually had to climb a gate to get back to the road. Here, we were stopped by a distressed lady on a bicycle looking for her cows. Had we seen any? Now that we think of it, we did see two black cows over by the beacon, but way down on the cliffs – was she looking for two black cows? Yes she was, she seemed relieved to know where they were and that she would now not be cycling around the moors all day.

Back into town, Baltimore was now very different on a weekend than during the week. We came across a handful of vintage cars – the Rolls Royce and Bentley club were having a tour of the area, and had stopped in Baltimore for a bite to eat, we assume. Their cars were highly photographed by the many tourists (and Kyle). From there we found ourselves back into Bushe’s, but this time for the end of the BIG rugby match (Lions against Springboks). (Lions are a joint British/Irish team, and the Springboks a South African team). It seems we joined the game at the best possible time. The Lions were expected to lose badly, but had just started to turn the game around for a big comeback. Although they didn’t win, it made the local crowd happy to see that they just might have.

Kyle, being used to American Football, kept making the big mistake of looking away every time the ball hit the ground, or a play ended; he was expecting this to be “safe” as play would stop (as it does in American Football), and he assumed he had 30 seconds at least to concentrate on his soup before any new action, but in rugby they just keep playing. He kept missing all the great action.

Being mid afternoon, we were now ready for more rest. We nipped to the only store, picked up some snacks and a DVD and returned to our B&B for a hot bath and more rest. Later we left the house again, looking for Pizza, and bumped into our new friend Len. We were sidetracked into sharing more beer, and eventually joined Len again at his house for sunset and cocktails, along with dinner. What a great night, spent with meandering conversations in great company and a beautiful setting. Thank you Len. He returned us home, but with a stop for drinks and live traditional Irish music at Casey’s en route. We could not last as long as our new friend. We decided to turn down the next pub, and retired to bed. We thought we might watch our movie, but that never worked out (I think we managed 5 minutes before we were both sound asleep).

Maryanne and Len share a beer outside Bushe's Bar in Baltimore

The next morning, Kyle would never allow me to forget, was the Summer Solstice. We got up early, knowing we would be returning to Footprint and starting on the big cleanup and fix up. But first we had to watch that movie. Eventually Kyle performed his solstice ritual, and along with his head of hair, he also removed his beard of 26 days. The beard had been driving him crazy! When we finally made it to breakfast Kyle shocked the landlady, who could no longer be sure if Kyle had hair the day before…

We packed up and headed back to Footprint, and yet again we bumped into Len, now dressed in foul weather gear, and with Kyle’s new lack of hair, he didn’t recognize us at first. Even for me, Kyle’s new image was quite a change, very white.

When we made it back to the dinghy we found the actual harbour master at his post, and we checked in with him if we were here legally. He kindly assured us, called customs again for us, and assured us we were all official we were in the records, and we could remove our Q flag.

Kyle removes the Q flag and raises the Irish courtesy flag - with his new hair-free look

So now we are back aboard Footprint, about to give her the love and attention she deserves now we are fully rested.

Solstice Sunset from Footprint

Friday, June 19, 2009

Photos added

[Kyle/Maryanne] We've added a few photos to the previous posts since leaving Bermuda. Enjoy!

Holed up and Resting

Baltimore Beacon guides all sailors safely to harbour
Kyle and Maryanne Toast their arrival with a Guinness and a Murphy's at Bushe's Bar in Baltimore
Baltimore Village

[Maryanne]Whew, we are in a hotel/B&B and back on a reasonably normal (for a teenager) sleep pattern. We've had hot baths and plenty of beers and good food. All is well with the world. Our hotel provides forced relaxation, there is not even any internet available there. We're currently in the local boat friendly pub (they even offer free showers) for lunch and WiFi. The boat is out there at anchor, looking after itself until we are "ready" for the big clean up involved and to start fixing things.

We've finally caught up with reading (but not replying to) emails, and our blog comments. We'll catch up properly with emails in a week or two. We'll get around to posting some video too.

A BIG Thank you to all of you that commented in any way and those that have followed our progress with such obvious concern and support.

TO Scott on Split Decision - GREAT Job on the widget that shows the world where we are on our blog page - I wasn't expecting the Europe map to be visible - it looks great. I know how disappointed you are in our lack of fishing, and we've had a good chuckle at your frustration on our part. No TVP for you eh? LOL. For the most part Kyle and I are vegetarians, but we will eat Free range/organic produce where we can find and trust it. TVP really is great boat food (no refrigeration, easy); honest, really perfect boat food, but I see we'll not convert you. Thanks again for the Widget, and great to hear you got some sailing done now spring/summer is here.

We arrived in Baltimore to a rough wave-filled Harbour filled with pre-assigned mooring balls and no response from anyone on the various VHF radio channels. We eventually anchored and then rowed ashore in big waves and lots of wind. We checked in with the Harbour master office to find his son decorating - assuring us we didn't need to worry about customs/immigration. Eventually he called his Dad for us, who just asked for our details and said not to worry.. We found the local Guarda (Police) at the dockside hanging out in their car. We told them we'd just arrived and were looking for Customs/Immigration... "OH, don't worry, you'll be fine" was the response, which when we pressed they just sent us to the local pub for more info. YES - you hear me right, the police sent us to the pub for legal info.. Freaking Hilarious! You gotta love Ireland. We've left several messages and aren't 100% sure if we are here legally or not, but the beer is helping us discount any worries.

Once we gave up with the formalities, we checked in to our local hotel (Thanks Mom), had a really long hot bath, and a short nap, then headed out to the pub. There, we toasted our arrival officially and Kyle made a beautiful romantic speech telling me what a great first mate he has. (Naturally). At the bar, we met Len, a local Dr. who took us under his wing, bought us more beers than we planned to drink and then took us back to his house to watch the sunset and share some wine; this was great company and a wonderful welcome to Ireland; Thanks Len. His sunset views really must be one of the greatest in Ireland.

Stunning sunset from Len's house in Baltimore - WOW, our first night in Ireland

Today we slept again for hours (Surfacing for a BIG breakfast, before returning to bed), and now find ourselves back in the pub (Bushes) :-) What a terrible life we lead eh?

We expect to move on to Cork to get laundry and boat repairs done, and to meet up with Family visiting and we'll take our time to get there.
A Hot Bath is really welcome after so long at sea!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Arrived in Baltimore

Hi All, just a quick note to say we've arrived. Could not get anyone on the radio so we've anchored out... Looks like a rough row to shore to find Customs and Immigration and start our R&R.
Current Position: 51° 29.052 N, 009° 22.608 W
Thanks for keeping an eye on us :-)

Day 24 - Bermuda to Ireland

Fastnet Lighthouse

Weather: Gray, overcast. Big seas as water shallows and channels around Ireland.

General Comments: "LAND HO!" Kyle shouted around 0521 (GMT) this morning (at this latitude by then, the sun had already been up for an hour). Finally, we could see Ireland (well he could, I'm afraid I acknowledged him, rolled over, and went back to sleep. Kyle says I'm dead inside). When I finally awoke, it was to the cry of seabirds and a gray sliver of land filling the horizon (Ireland is definitely not the Emerald Isle today). Fastnet light is ahead of us, but still a tiny stick right now. We are all set to arrive and clear in by early afternoon. Very few ships around, but we are getting lots of Irish Coast Guard chatter (weather and basics) but not much else on the Radio. 

[Kyle]We are getting into shallower water, and the seas are building. Although winds are only 15-20kt, the waves overtaking us are 15-20'. It is not a good day for a day sail, and we are glad to be headed downwind and not into this mess. We are both very excited.

Food: I wanted to use the last of our Bermuda Free Range/Organic chicken so made Pasta with parmesean chicken... Tonight should be a pub food (with a Guinness perhaps?) if we can find an ATM, or the pub takes cards.

Progress: Yesterday we made 136nm, So far on this trip we have traveled (through the water) 2783nm, and have 16nm (plotted direct course) to go.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 23 - Bermuda to Ireland

[Kyle]Yesterday the wind finally did abate as the storm left. In its place came fog and cold drizzly rain. The wind also shifted to the side no longer protected by the enclosure (brrrrr) so it made for some cold and miserable watches indeed. We did have a dead air spell after the frontal system passed, putting more pressure on our (hoped for) arrival time - certainly not by first thing in the morning.  We expect to see Fastnet light sometime tonight, probably during Maryanne's night watch (ends at 3am GMT).

Weather: I awoke this morning to actual blue sky peeking out between the clouds and shadows in the cockpit - will the sun stay? I hope so.

General Comments: After some fitful sleeping, convinced the boat was falling apart, it was a huge relief to find all well aboard Footprint. The fix we put in place yesterday is holding strong on that rear rail (whew). Of course not all is perfect. Our masthead light has failed, so we are sailing at night with steaming lights and an anchor light just to be sure we can be seen - once we get into harbor we can fix that with the spare bulb we have aboard (I assume). Not surprisingly, that centerboard is now failing to lift & raise, and the other board looks like it won't work for too many more tries - the line that controls it has chafed through - presumably from when we hove to. We have plenty of little leaks to tend to - but the worst is one, we assume, is coming from the hatch but that finds a path and drains down the chain plates where they attach to the wooden bulkhead. (Chain plates are the critical metal fittings that hold the shrouds, that support the mast at the sides).

Sailing conditions have been good and we even have the screacher back out.

Food: I experimented yesterday and made a delicious SOY/TVP Cottage pie... I was worried it wouldn't be spicy enough for Kyle (who loves chilis and curries, and adds Tabasco sauce to everything) but he loved it too; it is now on the regular list. To help save washing up I made it with just cans and dried food - it took maybe 10 minutes max of prep and cooking. It was so cold, it was perfect to have such a homey dish.

Progress: Yesterday we made 115 nm, So far on this trip we have traveled (through the water) 2646 nm, and have 146 nm (straight line) to go.

We know so many of you are following our progress and it is really comforting from our end.  We obviously don't check our standard email when offshore (we have a secret offshore account that only special people are told), and once we arrive it will probably take us weeks to catch up - so if you have sent us something, don't worry if you don't hear from us for a while. Today I wanted to send a quick thank you to Kyle's Aunt Linda so managed to get a message to us here at sea. She tells us she is following (with mixed feelings), but also many in her office are following our progress - so hi to Linda's office colleagues.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 22 - Bermuda to Ireland

Weather: Mixed 1.5m seas, fog - cold; not the Caribbean.

General Comments: Did I mention how were were enjoying the relative calm yesterday morning? After 7 days of storms that interlude was wonderful.. Just after we'd sent our emails and Kyle was getting ready for his rig check I heard a TWANG (???) something under tension had just given way - gulp. The noise came from the back of the boat, I took a quick look and was relieved find the back stays connected - Kyle went to do his full rig check and immediately found the solar panel leaning down on one side - the cause? -  one of our hand rails had sheared. The starboard step, inboard "n" shaped handrail just broke cleanly as if cut about 3" up from the deck at the forward attachment point (and 1/4 above the welding for the clip on point). Connected also to the hand rail is the love seat and some of the dinghy davit hardware (and of course the solar panel). The main part of the hand rail had been pulled up and back (presumably by the forces from the davits?). Clearly, it would be crazy to continue sailing like this, but we still have a long way to go and it would also be crazy to tow the dinghy - we had to find some kind of temporary fix. We spent some time with tackle and lines until we could pull the rail back in alignment - we put the two pieces back together with some 1/2" PVC pipe inside to help guide that position and we've cinched it down with some good line and a Spanish windlass. So far, it seems to be holding. I have no idea why it would break in such a way. The dinghy is not that heavy (well within the limits for the davits) and it has a cover to prevent water getting in, but even if water gets in, the drain hole is open - so no extra weight should be in it. This happened in our calmest moments. I'm not sure if there was some inherent fault in that rail, or if somehow, some unexpected/unknown forces have broken it - for now it is a mystery and we'll have to seek help once we get back to land. Of all the problems we've had on this passage, this is the one that I expect to be the most expensive and time consuming out of our "fun" schedule to solve.  Grrrr.

Broken Handrail and Temporary Fix

Kyle adds: that we managed to pull the rail back into place using our windward preventer tackle with its 5:1 purchase and quick release clips on either end. We'd rigged it like this to help in recovering items (people) aboard, but it came in perfectly for this need - with a block clipped to each end of the hand rail and the tail line cleated once at the right tension we were able to then bring the parts together and then tie separate lines and a Spanish windlass securely before removing the "preventer" tackle.  We've added a vice grip at the base to hold the two parts in alignment too (secured separately to the boat in case it falls off). The fix seems pretty secure, but the real test was that we had another 24 storm forecast. We are (hopefully) in the last hours of that now and so far all is well. Yesterday the weather started to get rough again during dinner (we were expecting that 24 hour storm), and it was pretty bad through the night (it is really hard to steer in these seas). On my off watch, each time the boat pounded, slewed or rolled, I was convinced the dinghy was hanging off the boat by one increasingly bendy davit; I kept calling out to Maryanne to check on things, and she would assure me that everything was fine. We are also on a really fast point of sail (broad reach) surfing down waves. It is hard to keep the boat speed below 8 or 9 knots. This is great for getting to Ireland, but from the bed it sounds and feels as though the boat is way too overpowered, so apart from worrying about the dinghy I was now also concerned we needed to reef more than we already had (we were sailing with reefed main and jib, and winds were around 21kt - so all was just fine for the conditions)  In the end, I got maybe a fitful hour of sleep during my off-watch. By the time I came on watch, of course everything was fine, I had a fast night of tearing a grove in the ocean towards our destination.  It looks as if our arrival time is most likely dead of night.  We want to avoid this, not just because of entering the harbour - although it looks quite safe, but because we will have to clear customs and immigration and there is no benefit to arriving when they are closed (then we'd have to anchor and dinghy ashore in the morning) - We are hoping if we arrive in work hours, the marina will let us tie up there to clear customs - much easier.  Plus we've come all this way - it would be nice to enjoy the views on our arrival in Ireland and the entrance to Baltimore in particular.  To make sure we arrive in the day time we'll eventually have to slow down and coast slowly in. For now, we are making the most of the storm winds to get us as far as possible before they die off. We've just now managed to get full sail up (in 15kt of wind).

The good news is that neither of us has yet to be seasick on this passage. Given it hasn't happened yet, I assume we are set for the rest of the passage. The secret must be to set out on a calm day. I'll make sure Kyle takes note of that concept.

Kyle actually woke me up on my off watch to tell me he spotted a regular old seagull yesterday.... He was very excited.

Food: Mexican: Burritos

Progress: Yesterday we made 114 nm, So far on this trip we have traveled (through the water) 2537 nm, and have 258 nm (straight line) to go.