Slowboat round Britain and Ireland

We did it!
A toast to a great cruise!

After spectacular scenery on the West coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and many interesting harbours and anchorages, Spring Fever is back where she started last year, on the River Medina at Cowes. There was nothing heroic about it: the  longest single cruise  was only 24 days, from Ardoran near Oban to Truro in Cornwall this summer, taking in Iona in the southern Hebrides, Tory Island off Donegal, the Aran Islands off Galway, and the Scillies.

Altogether Spring Fever has logged 2,200 miles round Britain and Ireland over two years.  It was planned as a series of quite short and leisurely cruises, to fit around our other commitments, with the boat wintered in Scotland, and in one sense was no more than a voyage round our homes, on a small island we already know well; but it is hard to beat the distance and perspective that comes from visiting familiar places by sea, and there were many others we would never have found if we had been travelling by land.

  We went anticlockwise, exploring the Thames Estuary rivers in 2012, up the east coast, through the Caledonian Canal, spent time cruising the Hebrides, and wintered the boat at Ardoran on Loch Feochan, near Oban. This year we came home by the West Coast of Ireland.

Our route took in many places we missed on our previous two-season cruise round Britain via the Orkneys in 2007-8, in another boat, Pepper. Once was not enough: there’s something particularly appealing about a cruise that begins and ends in the same place and circumnavigates the land without ever having to cross its own track. There is nowhere else in Europe where you can do that over the satisfyingly long distance of a couple of thousand miles. We were never far from home, but it felt like a real voyage.

An account of the first stage of this two-year round Britain, from Cowes up the East Coast of England and Scotland and through the Caledonian Canal, can be reached through this link.

Leaving Spring Fever
Leaving Spring Fever

Charts, pilots, weather – Scotland, West of Ireland to Scillies

The cost of a portfolio of paper charts for the British Isles is enormous, so we ignored advice in magazine articles and pilot books to stock up on large scale charts and relied mainly on electronics. (See this link to earlier posts: electronic navigation ).

We have:

C-Map NW Europe – chartplotter.
Memory Map UK and Ireland – laptop.
Navionics UK and Holland, including Ireland – iPhone.
Antares, Bob Bradshaw’s ultra large scale inshore charts for West of Scotland – laptop. (We tried them out in some very tight little anchorages, and they seemed very accurate).

We used Imray paper charts covering the whole area, though pilot books can be a bit sniffy about them:

C66 Mallaig to Rubha Reidh and Outer Hebrides
C65 Crinan to Mallaig and Barra
C64 Belfast Lough to Loch Foyle and Crinan
C53 Donegal Bay to Rathlin Island
C54 Galway Bay to Donegal Bay
C56 Dingle Bay to Galway Bay
C56 Cork Harbour to Dingle Bay
C7 Falmouth to Scillies

Next is a list of the larger scale UKHO charts we had on board, a very small proportion of those available. They cover a handful of particularly tricky areas in the West of Ireland. 22 of the 60 or so charts for Ireland have been reissued lately because of a major survey effort by the Irish government (see this link to post on survey accuracy ). But many others rely on Victorian era surveys. To check this, study the source information on any UKHO charts you buy  – its absence on Memory Map raster charts is their main drawback. It is also puzzling why there is so little source information on Imray charts.

UKHO 1820 Aran Island to Roonah Head
2792 Plans on the NW Coast of Ireland (the only one we would have missed).
2707 Kingstown Bay to Cleggan Bay and Inishbofin to Inishturk
3339 Approaches to Galway Bay including the Aran Islands (not the same Aran as in 1820).

We also had an old UKHO folio for the Mull and Oban area on board, bought in 2007 for a previous cruise, and not corrected since. In practice, when we wanted large scale UKHO charts we used Memory Map on the laptop.
Finally, we took 2692, Western Approaches to St George’s Channel and Bristol Channel.

Cruising Association almanac

We economised on pilot books in Scotland by using editions bought for a 2007 cruise there. Apparently the Lawrence pilots will no longer be updated and the Clyde Cruising Club will be the only source. In Ireland, the 2013 edition of the Irish Cruising Club’s Sailing Directions is essential because substantially revised and because it is one of the best pilot books we have seen, even commenting area by area on chart accuracy.

South and West Coasts of Ireland Sailing Directions, 2013, Norman Kean, Irish Cruising Club Publications.
East and North Coasts of Ireland, Sailing Directions, 2002, Irish Cruising Club.
The Isle of Mull and adjacent coasts, Martin Lawrence, Imray, 2008.
Clyde to Colonsay, Martin Lawrence, Imray, 2007.
Skye and NW Scotland, Martin Lawrence, Imray, 2002.

For the Scillies, we have to admit to using a pilot bought for a cruise in 1994 plus the Cruising Association almanac and Reeds, and the large scale UKHO charts on the laptop.

Cruising Ireland, Balmforth and Kean, Irish Cruising Club Publications – an excellent read for planning.
Cruising Cork and Kerry, Graham Swanson, Imray

Weather on line
Apart from standard sources such as Navtex and coastguard broadcasts we used: – they have an iPhone app for Grib files, includes swell  (no sailing app yet).
Met Eireann for Irish Sea area forecasts.  has useful weather links

Wind Guru – download the iPhone app
WeatherPro – land forecasts for seaside towns – download the iPhone app.   – for Ireland forecasts.
For rainfall radar and very short-term forecasts –

Back to the Solent

Monday 17 September: Tony picked the boat up at Malpas and took it down to Falmouth Yacht Haven, mooring singlehanded in 35 knot gusts. Dinner at the Ghurka restaurant. Forecast 5-7 from the Southwest, occasionally 8, so decided to wait till Wednesday. Falmouth has the depressed look it always assumes in rain and chilly wind, with glum holidaymakers patrolling the long narrow shopping street.

Tuesday 18 September: Rick Stein’s new Falmouth restaurant does an over 60s fish and chips takeaway special on Tuesdays for 4.95, which compares with 12.95 for grown ups to sit down and eat it. We’re not proud. Took it back to the boat, with lager to drink. Delicious!

Leaving Falmouth
Leaving Falmouth

Wednesday 19 September: A wild night, gradually cleared after breakfast, so we left just before 10, with a forecast of NW 5-6, which is perfect, because off the land. At Dartmouth, we went alongside the ferry and tripper boat pontoon, where yachts are allowed overnight, but have to leave by 8.45 am. Passage notes: 66 miles, 10 hours, maximum NW 6, min NW2, calm, good visibility.

The sun sets as we approach Dartmouth
The sun sets as we approach Dartmouth


Thursday 20 September: Moved from the ferry pontoon. After a day reading the papers and shopping, we left at 2100, when strong SW winds had gone NW and eased. Stared for hours at a clear moon over water.  Wrote up the deck log without the aid of a torch.

Friday 21 September: At times we were doing 10 knots over the ground as we entered the Needles Channel and approached Hurst Castle, the narrows on the way into the Solent. The wind died, and we were back in summer – out came the sun cream. We arrived at Cowes as the tide turned against us.

Mooring for the last time on this cruise
Mooring for the last time on this cruise

Passage notes: 90 miles on the log,  14  hours, max wind NW 6, min Variable 2, sea slight to moderate, visibility very good.