Our reason for a stop-over in Campbeltown was the promise of winds for a decent sail over to Ireland. In the event Campbeltown proves to be a great stopping off point in its own right. The facilities for sailors are clean, modern and…they don’t charge extra for luxury items such as loos, showers, electricity and wifi (which actually reaches to the end of the furthest pontoon)! Sadly we don’t have enough time to look around more, but what we see is delightful and we would recommend it for a longer stay…and a great local bakery.
After topping up with diesel we leave a drizzly Campbeltown, complete with mist rolling in from the sea and gear ourselves up for what has been forecast as some strongish cyclonic winds.
The currents in the North Channel (between Mull of Galloway and the Antrim coast) are strong and we have planned to arrive off Belfast Lough on the last of the Southerly stream. This means that we opt for a course which takes us further east of Mull of Kintyre than the direct route, to avoid the last of the north-going stream.
Cyclonic 4 or 5 does not appear and we motor on into an increasing bright day. To be fair, we probably are experiencing cyclonic winds but are just right in the centre of the slow-moving low. The sea is very lumpy however with a long and steep swell coming from the SW. The sky continues to lighten and soon we are stuffed up in our oilies and getting hotter and hotter. The huge lump of Ailsa Craig stays with us all the way to irish landfall.
Soon there are some tentative little gusts of wind from an unfamiliar direction and we shake out the sails. Just motor sailing with the main at first, but then unfurling our big genoa as the wind continues to get more north in it. Heydays is in a sunlit centre of circling cloud. There is gloom over Scotland and as far as we can tell, gloom over Antrim as well, but we are scooting along at 6 or 7 kts with just a few distant ferries for company.
We start to see the Irish coast and adjust our course to take account of the stronger stream south (as we’re closing faster than planned). The sun disappears as the wind strengthens to the forecast 5 and the oilies become a help rather than a hindrance.
We reach the entrance to Belfast Lough and round the Black Head lighthouse (unfortunate name) in increasing gloom and the first few drops of rain.
We get a tantalising glimpse of the cranes of Belfast, still two hours away. It is the last we see of the city until we are in it!
Our final picture of today (other than another Rothko study in grey) is the little town of Whitehead (no comment) where they appear t have used some colour on their pebbledash!
Belfast disappears into the rain and soon we are huddled under the spayhood counting the marker buoys down the remarkably narrow channel for such a major port. A huge cruise liner comes the other way with its little pilot boat in pursuit and we keep well clear. With sail down as instructed, we make contact with the harbour control and receive permission to enter…not sure what we would have done if they had refused. We begin to wonder if we should have opted for Carrickfergus instead of the City Centre Marina. We can only make out just one buoy ahead each time and soon another coaster appears out of the gloom going the other way. It would have been fascinating to have seen the city docks with all their history, but neither light nor inclination allow for photos at this point. The old Harland and Woolf big cranes appear and the old Titanic dock and new centre slide past just before we turn in to Abercorn basin and find a berth for the next couple of weeks. The sitter-oooter (cockpit cover in Peterheadish) is up in double quick time and we set off to find some beer and some nosh…