Friday, July 08, 2011

Berehaven To Baltimore

I awoke around 06:30 to find my boat still anchored in Lawrence Cove. Good start! A light breeze is raising light ripples - and is blowing our way. No engine this morning! We weighed anchor under mainsail and jib, washing some reassuringly clingy grey mud from the anchor flukes - ideal holding ground for our anchor.

Soon, the very convenient direction and strength of the wind suggests the notion of raising Briongloid's spinnaker. This gorgeous sail is very definitely the most frightening piece of equipment aboard, rockets and bolt-cutters included. My second best memory of this monster was the time I went forward to douse it; instead I was myself hoisted clear off the foredeck, arms clamped grimly to the starboard (outboard) end of the spinnaker pole, not actually overboard but taking a keen and lively interest in the possibility of returning to the deck at some point in the future.

The channel being broad and calm, with only a wreck or two for hazards, I pulled my old adversary from the forepeak and hoisted the gorgeous rascal. This time, we had a lovely run straight down-channel, our spinnaker submitting quietly to be gybed, and, eventually, doused, as we rounded up to exit Berehaven via its western channel. The lighthouse here has a nice feature: the beacon sends a fan of white light over the whole channel, and a much narrow red beam to show the fairway. When first built, it remained dark for some years. The notion of a lightless lighthouse did not amuse the local skippers, who didn't appreciate having to circumnavigate Bere Island to reach port via the (lit) eastern "man o' war" entrance (much the easier approach for sailing craft), leading to this parliamentary exchange with Baron Ritchie..

A port tack took us out of Bantry Bay and into the open Atlantic, propelled now by mainsail and genoa. A swell coming from the west and refracting around Dursey Island began to rise. As the land shrank astern, the crests rose higher and higher against the green hills on our beam (Sheep Head and Mizen Head), until, from our perspective in their troughs, they swallowed up the land entirely, even (I checked) when I stood on the fore-deck. Disconcerting as it was to be looking up at a wave, these giants were harmless, with a smooth, rounded shape and definitely no breakers.

We tacked in for Mizen Head eventually, crossing tracks with a lone dolphin who didn't stop to play. As we closed with the land, the sun came out and the wind died. Keen to see the landmark familiar from so many shipping forecasts, we came a little too close; replacing fickle wind with faithful engine, we blithely motored straight into the tide race than runs east of the Mizen during a flood tide (clearly shown on Admiralty charts, up to 4 knot currents at spring tides). Here, the wave fronts were short and vicious, and weird vortices betrayed extreme turbulence underneath. No more rising serenely over the summits; Briongloid slammed her bows straight through a particularly vicious specimen, which promptly burst all over the fordeck, passing safely over the anchor locker (well dogged down) and straight through the forehatch (ajar), whence its waters settled comfortably among our cushions and general effects. As the next wave ran eagerly after the first I jumped on the hatch, and remained damply in that position till sea and boat returned to their traditional configuration.

Eventually, normal service resumed. I went below for a doze. We found a whale, who showed no interest in us whatsoever and dived before we could identify it. My helmsman said "the whale is gone". I pointed out the very significance difference between absence of whale and invisibility of whale.

Fastnet Lighthouse (From Bantry to Oysterhaven)

We motored on, beckoned by the rather special Fastnet Light, old and beautiful navigation marker and part-time race buoy. It functions with roughly the same relation to yachts as a moth has to a candle; essentially, the ship killing reef and boiling tide race notwithstanding, it is too beautiful not to approach - two other boats were circling when we arrived.

From Bantry to Oysterhaven
Lot' s Wife, Baltimore

We turned in for Clear Island and Baltimore, passing a drowned calf and, later, cattle grazing on an un-fenced cliff-top by Lot's Wife, a Victorian re-build of a much older marker. We anchored in Baltimore harbour, near a very pretty Cornish Crabber, and ate with friends of my helmsman in a cafe above the harbour. After 13 hours and 70-odd kilometres, sleep came easily.

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