Belfast Harbour Marina opened in 2009 in the city’s rejuvinated Titanic Quarter and provides an excellent base for accessing the city. The marina is the first we’ve been to that is completely self-serve: moorage can’t be reserved in advance and is paid daily through a ticket machine similar to that in a car park. We spent a great week there, enjoying the views from our berth, exploring beautiful Belfast and the Titanic Quarter, and taking in a fabulous Hallowe’en fireworks display just off the marina.
Below are trip highlights from October 23 through 29th in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps
Position: -5 53.38, 54 37.57
The Harland and Wolff twin shipbuilding gantry cranes dominate the Belfast skyline and are a notable landmarks on entering Belfast Harbour. From the Isle of Gigha, we departed Scotland and made a 9-hour, 83nm run south past the Mull of Kintyre, through the North Channel and into the busy Victoria Channel to Belfast.
Position: -5 55.75, 54 35.57
One of the reasons we’d come to Belfast was to see one of our favourite bands, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, at the renowned Limelight. We admittedly were a little nervous about the idea. Belfast was once considered one of the world’s most dangerous cities and it’s impossible not to reflect on years of violence covered in the news, even though those years are actually distant memories now. In some ways it makes Belfast a more exciting place to be. There’s no question it’s now a world-class city and is well-worth visiting. Every place we went the Irish were warm and friendly, and we always felt safe.
Belfast also is a beautiful city. During the Industrial Revolution, it became Ireland’s major industrial city with thriving linen, heavy engineering, tobacco and shipbuilding industries. In the 19th century, Belfast was known as “linenopolis” because it was world’s largest producer of linen and for a time had the highest population in Ireland. The city’s past and present prosperity is reflected in many beautiful historic and modern buildings, with excellent restaurants and pubs throughout. And we thoroughly enjoyed the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show. The Limelight is an excellent mid-sized club venue that has hosted such notable bands as Oasis and The Stokes, and we had an great spot only feet from the band.
Looking west across the River Lagan from our berth at Belfast Harbour Marina on a calm morning.
Position: -5 54.88, 54 36.29
Belfast Harbour Marina is completely self-serve. Moorage is on a first-come, first-serve basis and is paid each day through a car-parking-style machine. The moorage receipt includes a security gate code that expires after 24 hours. It’s an unusual system, but you can’t beat the price at only £16.80 per night including power.
Position: -5 54.61, 54 36.42
Belfast’s Titanic Quarter stands on part of the shipyard where the ill-fated vessel was built and is one of the world’s largest urban-waterfront regeneration projects. The 185-acre (75 hectare) site includes Titanic Studios, Belfast Harbour Marina, and hotel, office, education, retail and apartment complexes. The district also is home to a number of excellent nautical exhibits, including the Titanic Belfast museum that describes the construction, loss and underwater discovery of the Titanic; the SS Nomadic, a tender to the Titanic and the only surviving White Star vessel; the Thompson Graving Dock, where the Titanic was dry-docked during construction; and the HMS Caroline, the only surviving ship from the World War I Battle of Jutland.
Belfast Harbour Marina
Position: -5 54.60, 54 36.49
Dirona moored at Belfast Harbour Marina viewed from the Titanic Belfast grounds.
We’re really loving the views from our berth at Belfast Harbour Marina. The night scenery is particularly impressive in calm conditions. This is looking across the River Lagan at dawn.
Our weather station has failed twice in the past few days, so this morning James climbed the mast to replace it with a spare. The weather station failure turned out to caused by it being filled with salt water. It appears that although it’s 30 feet above the water, it’s been hit by enough wave pressure to both crack the case seam and fill it with salt water. We suspect that was one of the three storms we saw on the North Atlantic crossing. We replaced the weather station and ordered another one to serve as a spare.
Position: -5 55.57, 54 35.98
We had a good dinner at the Morning Star pub on Pottinger’s Entry, one of several narrow alleys between High St and Ann St.
We opened up the area behind the TV to retrieve a part and Spitfire, as usual, was instantly inside.
Wine Cellar Entry
Position: -5 55.69, 54 35.99
Walking down Wine Cellar Entry, one of several narrow alleys between High St and Ann St in downtown Belfast.
Position: -5 55.71, 54 36.00
We had an excellent lunch at White’s Tavern down Wine Cellar Entry. White’s was established in 1630 and claims to be Belfast’s oldest tavern. Unlike a pub, a tavern provides food and lodging.
Position: -5 56.54, 54 36.33
In several days of touring around Belfast we’d seen no signs of the violence, known as “The Troubles”, that once made it among the world’s most dangerous cities. Of the 1,541 killings there, most ocurred north and west of the city and it is in West Belfast that evidence of the conflict is still prominent. Large-scale political murals memorialize those who died on both sides, celebrate some gruesome achievements and, more recently, some call for peace and understanding.
Perhaps the most striking reminder of the Troubles is the “Peace” Line, a series of barriers stretching a total of 34km that separate the largely Protestant unionist and the mainly Catholic republican communities in urban areas. Gates along the “Peace” Line allow traffic and cars to pass, but still are closed nightly and all weekend to keep the groups apart and head-off any sudden violence.
We’ve made a number of modifications to address the water ingress issue we encountered during our North Atlantic crossing (Alarms at 1:15am), including adding a transom plug to the cockpit locker drain and a fourth bilge pump. The transom plug should prevent water from getting into the cockpit locker and flowing down into the bilge through the shore power cable retractor standpipe. And if water does somehow get in, the new bilge pump should evacuate it. Today we emptied the cockpit locker to make one additional improvement to minimize water flow down the standpipe should the locker flood.
For an extra level of redundancy, we sealed off the shore power cable retractor standpipe using an alpine boot gaiter. The recommendation came from two blog readers and we think it’s a good one. Rod Sumner came up with the idea of a fabricating a Sunbrella water-exclusion sleeve. Paul Wood suggested we buy a pre-made boot gaiter and even recommended the brand. A boot gaiter is a waterproof boot extension that wraps around your leg and is secured with velcro to prevent water from rushing down your boot tops when walking through snow or high water. This was inexpensive, pre-made, and fits beautifully. We installed one on the cord retractor hole, and this seals it 8 inches above the floor. Strictly speaking it should never do anything but, if the locker flooded for any reason, this would reduce the flow below to a trickle.
Position: -5 55.62, 54 36.00
Walking down Joys Entry, another of the several narrow alleys between High St and Ann St in downtown Belfast. We were planning to have lunch at McCracken’s pub, but it was 11:30 and they don’t serve food on Sunday until 1pm.
Revolucion de Cuba
Position: -5 55.68, 54 35.87
The beautiful interior of Revolucion de Cuba caught our eye and we stopped in for an excellent Latin American meal.
Position: -5 55.63, 54 35.99
Back in Joys Entry, we loved the popup bar tables outside McCracken’s.
Position: -5 55.61, 54 35.98
We had wanted to visit McCracken’s before we left Belfast, so we stopped in for a pint on the way home. As with most places in Belfast, Hallowe’en decorations covered the walls. Hallowe’en isn’t celebrated much in most places around the world we’ve visited, so we were surprised it was so popular in Ireland. As it turns out, Hallowe’en actually originated here.
The ancient Celtic festival of the dead, Samhain, was celebrated in Ireland in early November as summer crossed into winter. Large communal fires were lit to ward off evil spirits of the dead who supposedly returned to the mortal world during this crossover period. When 8th-century Christian churches established November 1st as All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Day, the Irish Celts began celebrating Samhain the day before, calling it All Hallows’ Eve.
Position: -5 55.13, 54 36.11
The Broomstick Belle steam train to returning Belfast Central after a special Hallowe’en-themed excursion.
Position: -5 54.95, 54 36.25
We’d been moored next to the huge Odyssey Pavilion for a week, and have walked past it many times, so finally decided to have a look inside. Besides a dozen movie theaters and several restaurants, the pavilion is home to the W5 (whowhatwherewhenwhy) interactive Discovery Center. Many people were out in Hallowe’en costumes.
Position: -5 54.96, 54 36.22
The view to downtown Belfast from the second floor of the Odyssey Pavilion adjacent to Belfast Harbour Marina.
Crowds along the railing around the marina, with boats rafted all down the dock, in anticipation of tonight’s Hallowe’en fireworks display. Thousands of people were in attendance.
Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.
On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.