20thAugust.  Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by unsettled weather. Our whole trip has been characterised by complex low pressure systems and variable wind directions, often too localised for the forecasters. This time, however, the wind is forecast to be solidly in the south for several days. And that poses a problem – we’re trying to go south! The forecast is for strong winds too, so now we were looking for weather ‘windows’ to travel.

Anne with charts and books, including the 1962 Irish Sea Tidal Atlas that belonged to Jonathan’s grandfather

Over several days in Dublin we puzzled over the forecasts and the tide tables. It takes a lot of time and mental energy to work through the possible scenarios and think as creatively as we can. Within the next week or so, we want to reach Milford Haven – one of Jonathan’s ‘12 Ports’ and our next crew changeover port. To get there, we must cross the Irish Sea. But can we cross to Holyhead and down the Welsh coast? Or would it be better and wiser to sail down the east coast of Ireland and cross from there? Jonathan was keen to visit Holyhead and add another Welsh port to his project, linked to Dublin by history and geography. In the end the conditions looked good for a passage to Holyhead, but recognising it is likely we will be storm-bound in Holyhead for a few days if the wind is as strong as forecast.

Dun Laoghaire harbour light, as we departed

We left Dun Laoghaire at 7.45 in the morning, with Anne’s brother Alan and our friend Rob on board as crew.  The wind was light and from the west to start with so we motored for a while down-wind, out past the shipping lane, watching two ferries leaving Dublin and heading the same way as us.  As the wind began to rise and moved round to the south west we mounted the bowsprit and hoisted then unfurled our big gennaker. For several hours we broad-reached at about 8 knots, heading slightly north to play the tide and to ensure we approached Holyhead from the north, and to avoid strong currents round the Stacks (headland).  For the first time we were using a new planning web-app called Savvy Navvy. It is a bit glitchy – the software is trying to do something new and inherently complicated involving both tidal streams and wind forecasts – but when it works it provides a valuable additional view, and their team have been responsive when needed.

Sailing under gennaker

The wind continued to strengthen as forecast and we had changed from the big sail to jib: the sun had disappeared behind grey clouds and our destination, Holy Island, was a misty shadow in the distance.  The last couple of hours into Holyhead could be described as ‘hearty’ (that is a polite way of saying: wet, windy and generally quite unpleasant) as we sailed across the growing swell. There’s a video on our Facebook page. We were glad to turn into the harbour round the long breakwater and moor up at the pontoon. Despite this 19th century wall, Holyhead marina was destroyed in a storm early last year. Interim facilities are limited to a single rather short pontoon, with a few electricity points and a water supply. They have big plans to re-build soon. For now, the remains of destroyed pontoons are strewn around the harbour, unlit. A Frenchman single-handing his boat had arrived at night and crashed into one of them in the dark. He’s not best pleased, but today he managed to get a repair and he seemed very happy with the work.

Holyhead marina pontoon

The forecast for the next few days is for strong southwesterly winds, which means it would be unpleasant and unsafe to set off south. So we have decided to hire a car for a couple of days and explore the beautiful island of Anglesey. 

  • Distance: 64 nm. Motored 2.5h, sailed 7h
  • Wind: SW 3-5 increasing to 6

ABOUT THIS BLOG

On our passage ‘Around These Islands’ Anne is writing about each trip, and Jonathan is writing some more ‘technical’ blogs, from our perspective as ordinary cruising sailors. We are sharing what we’ve learned, and welcome your thoughts too. Please remember that this blog – and your comments – are public.

There’s also a special focus on 12 key ports on our planned route, with articles from These Islands and a series of podcasts from Chrome Media called ‘Around These Islands in 12 Ports’.

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