Northern Ireland Arrival


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The 225-mile overnight run from Scalpay to Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland started and ended in positive current and calm conditions. We sped around the west shores of the Isle of Islay at 13.5 knots as the current flushed us into North Channel between Scotland and Northern Ireland. There the winds picked up to only 15 knots, but against the current it was enough to produce 15° of pitch for a few hours before settling back down again when the tide turned. The tidal streams around the British Isles are very strong, and can be dangerous when strong winds blow against a fast-flowing current.

We arrived at Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland in sunny and calm weather and had an easy run inside on the start of the flood tide. The area is steeped in history, and we passed several castles en route, including 15th-century Audley’s Castle, pictured above, where several scenes in the HBO Game of Thrones series were filmed. We anchored for the night off Chapel Island and looked forward to spending a couple of weeks exploring this popular cruising area.

Below are highlights from April 1st and 2nd, 2021. 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 mvdirona.com/maps.

4/1/2021
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Conditions
We departed shortly before 5am on a 225-mile overnight run to Ireland. As forecast, the winds have settled down substantially (wind graph below and right of center) and we’re making good speed in a slightly positive current. Our speed will vary dramatically over the run as we encounter large positive and negative currents, but the winds should be light and the seas calm by later this afternoon.
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Sunrise
Spectacular sunrise over the northern tip of the Isle of Skye.
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Rolling
The winds are blowing 20 knots from the northeast, and the current has switched against us, stacking up the seas a bit. We’re rolling to 11.6° (pitch and roll and lower left beside the time). We expect the winds to settle down soon.
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Isle of Skye
Dramatic coastline along the west side of the Isle of Skye.
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Neist Point Lighthouse
The 1909 Neist Point Lighthouse on the Isle of Skye is among the most well-known in Scotland and a popular hike destination. The lighthouse was one of 26 designed by David Alan Stevenson, of the famous Stevenson family of lighthouse engineers who designed most of Scotland’s lighthouses. The “black sheep” of the family was author Robert Louis Stevenson.
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Crossing Track
We’re just about to cross our 2017 track en route to cruising the Outer Hebrides.
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Hyskeir Lighthouse
The lighthouse on Hyskeir Island, completed in 1904, with Isle of Rum beyond. Hyskeir marks the southern end of body of water known as The Minch, between the Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland. Due to the relatively shallow waters, strong currents and high winds, conditions there can be among the most dangerous in the country.
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Dolphins
A pod of dolphins chased our bow as we neared the Isle of Coll on a calm and sunny afternoon.
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Gunna Sound
Bouy marking shallows with the Isle of Coll in the background as we pass through Gunna Sound. The current is now against us and we’re making only 4.7 knots as we pass through.
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Dubh Artach Lighthouse
The famous Dubh Artach lighthouse, designed by Thomas Stevenson of the Stevenson family of lighthouse engineers, was completed in 1872. The structure, perched on a tiny islet, is an impressive piece of engineering to still be standing after over a century given the horrific seas that can occur here. Conditions were so adverse, with waves over 92 ft (28 m) recorded, that the keepers were paid extra. Even landing here was a challenge. At low tide the landing surface was 40 ft (12m) above the water, but still could be subject to swell.
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Rhinns of Islay
About to round the Rhinns of Islay at 10pm. We’re back in positive current now and speeding along at 9.5 knots.
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13.5 Knots
Our speed increased to 13.5 knots as we rounded the Rhinns of Islay.
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Nordic
The tanker Nordic underway for Brofjorden Port, Sweden’s largest oil port. This is the first commercial vessel we’ve seen underway for hours—vessel traffic is much lighter than our past trips through the area.
4/2/2021
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Positive Current
We continue to run in a positive current as we enter North Channel off the Northern Ireland.
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Pitch
The winds picked up to 15 knots from the east and was blowing enough against the southeast-flowing current to generate tight waves on the bow. The current is slowing, but we’re still pitching over 15° (pitch and roll at lower left, directly right of time). The tidal streams around the UK are very strong, and can be extremely dangerous when strong winds blow against a fast-flowing current.
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Negative Current
Our ride in the positive current is over for now, and we’re now running against the tide and making only 4 knots. The pitching motion has improved, but is still high at 11.6° average over the past five minutes.
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Ballylumford
Traffic off the port of Ballylumford shortly after 5am. The fishing vessel Pesorsa Dos is running northwest 3/4 of a mile away, the ferry European Causeway is approaching from the east, and a tanker is approaching from the south. The oil-fired power station at Ballylumford supplies about half of Northern Ireland’s power.
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Moon
Fabulous moonrise near Ballylumford.
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Sunrise
Sunrise over the Rhins of Galloway at the southern end of Scotland.
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Mew Island Lighthouse
The Mew Island Lighthouse, erected in 1884.
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Stena Superfast VIII
The ferry Stena Superfast VIII about 7 miles away doing 21 knots en route from Belfast to Cairnryan, Scotland.
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Patrol Boat
In this picture you can see us underway with a 100ft fishing vessel about a mile to our left. Behind both these vessels you can see what might be a fisheries patrol boat, the selected target, with the grey radar track showing its course. The boat was working along the shoreline and looked like it was approaching us, then turned 90 degrees and went over to have a close look at the commercial fishing vessel beside us, then left heading back towards the shoreline.
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Kilwarlin Lighthouse
The inactive Kilwarlin Lighthouse, built by Thomas Rogers in 1797. The light, replaced by the South Rock lightship in 1877, is the oldest waveswept lighthouse still standing in Ireland and possibly in the world.
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Scottish Courtesy Flag
Lowering the Scottish courtesy flag we’d been flying since we picked one up in Stornoway.
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UK Courtesy Flag
Raising a UK courtesy flag to replace the Scottish one as we near landfall in Northern Ireland.
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Angus Rock Lighthouse
The light marking Angus Rock at the entrance to Strangford Lough was initially built as a daymark in 1853 and a light was added in 1983.
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Pladdy Lug Beacon
The Pladdy Lug beacon to starboard as we enter Strangford Lough.
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Kilclief Castle
Kilclief Castle, on the western shores of the entrance to Strangford Lough, was built between 1412 and 1444 and is one of the oldest tower houses in the area.
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Fisher
Fisher working the waters at the entrance to Strangford Loch.
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Gowland Beacon
Beacon marking Gowland Rocks to our starboard. Currents in the entrance to Strangford Lough can reach 8 knots and we’ve arrived shortly after low-water slack as the current is turning to flood. Entry is safe anytime on the flood, but easier with less current carrying us through.
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Portaferry Windmill
The ruins of the Portaferry windmill, built atop a hill above Portaferry in 1771 and destroyed by fire in 1878.
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Saint Patrick’s Church
St. Patrick’s Church, above Portaferry, was built in the late 18th century.
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Strangford
The village of Strangford on the west side of the entry channel to Strangford Lough.
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Old Court
Old Court is a large 17th-century estate just north of the village of Strangford, complete with stone lookout tower at bottom left. The property is now a unique and beautiful wedding venue.
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Audley’s Castle
15th-century Audley’s Castle was used for several scenes in the HBO Game of Thrones series.
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Portaferry Castle
The ruins of 16th-century Portaferry Castle overlooking the harbour in Portaferry. The mint-colored building to the left of the castle is the Portaferry RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) station, established in 1979.
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S.S. Empire Tana
The wreck of the S.S. Empire Tana just inside Strangford Lough. The ship was built in Trieste, Italy in 1923 and taken as a war prize by the Allies who used it as a block ship during the D-Day landing in Normandy. The ship was raised and was under tow to Strangford Lough for scrapping when it went aground and could not be refloated. The wreck is a popular dive site, teeming with life.
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Chapel Island Anchorage
Our anchorage off Chapel Island just inside Strangford Lough in 33 ft (10m) on 185 ft (56m) of rode.
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Arrival Lunch
Enjoying lunch outside at Strangford Lough on a wonderfully calm and sunny day. After a bit of a rough overnight ride here, it’s awesome to be in a sheltered and easy cruising ground.
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Hatch Lock
On the trip south to Strangford Lough, the pilot house overhead hatch lock mechanism broke and fell out. The plastic pivot ping in the red locking lever in the picture both sheared off, causing the locking lever to fall free. We don’t have a spare handy, so we drilled through the locking lever and installed a metal pivot pin. You can see the new pivot pin in the picture. It’s now working as well as ever, and if the plastic pins lasted ten year, this one should last about a hundred.
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View from Anchorage
View to Portaferry with the Portaferry windmill prominent from our anchorage off Chapel Island.
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Bristol Dirt Race
Tonight we watched the NASCAR Cup Bristol Dirt race on YouTube. NASCAR Cup is the premier US stock car racing series. In the early days of the series, they raced on small dirt tracks throughout the country. The dirt tracks have all been replaced by paved ovals and even an few road courses now.

In this weird step backwards in time, they’ve put a thick layer of dirt over the cement racing surface of Bristol Motor Speedway and these big, heavy stock cars are back on the dirt for the first time in forty years. In fact, it’s been so long that many of the drivers in the series have never raced on dirt.

The event was surprisingly entertaining, even if seemingly a bit low-tech. In fact, it was so good they are planning to do it again next year. Producing this show required 2,300 truck loads of dirt—it’s perhaps a first to carefully pave an oval and then carefully spread dirt over the pavement :-)

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Sunset
Sunset over Chapel Island in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.
Show locations on map 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 mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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