Having made a fairly rapid decision to go, the couple of hours kip is over almost before it has begun and a 12.30am alarm is not terribly welcome. Not a lot is said as we get Heydays ready like a well oiled machine (ha!).
The Harbour Control give us permission to leave and we pick our way down the Lagan, once again not seeing anything much like our arrival. The line of red buoys is mesmerising as we peer into the not-quite-night picking our way past a very active dock and yards. A pilot boat hurries past to meet an incoming big ship and leaves us wallowing in its wake.
There is still light in the North Eastern sky and we are grateful for the reminder that dawn in this latitude is not far away. At buoy 2 we radio out of Belfast Control area and breath a sigh of relief to be in wider channels. We put two reefs in the main ahead of the promised 4 to 5 and with a couple of rolls in the genny as well, Heydays is soon very keen to leave NI behind and head for the morning sun as it wins its battle with the rising moon.
We rush headlong out of the lough at nearly 9kts over the ground thanks to a strong southerly current carrying us past the gradually wakening villages along the coast.
With the islands past and clear water ahead, we decide to each get some kip and take proper watches for a few hours at least. Sod’s law of course dictates that as soon as John is making zzzs below, a line of fishing boats appears over the horizon. there follows the usual period of continual questions…are we on a collision course….are they fishing in pairs…can we pass behind this one….and ahead of that one???
It gets resolved of course with minimal course changes in the end and then the excitement is over. Still, its helps to pass the time until I can cough loudly and get a bleary John taking his turn on watch. The seas are quite confused at times and every so often a string of 4 or 5 breakers comes hissing up over the port quarter. The autohelm is struggling to cope and we steer manually, feeling her respond as the head is pushed off and then bringing her back as we slide down the back of the wave.
Next decision…do we save ourselves a good 2 hours by going through Calf Sound between Calf of Man and the main island? The pilot guide is saying it will be bumpy but will be over (?) in a short time…we decide to go for it. Sod’s law is back and three boats all meet at just about the narrowest and bumpiest point. We are being tossed around and John is concentrating hard to avoid a broach (but clearly enjoying himself). The sailing boat coming the other way is faring much less well and we are genuinely concerned for him. The motor boat….well…we started this blog by saying to ourselves that if we can’t say anything positive then we wouldn’t say anything at all….but he ploughs on through with less than 20m between us…make your own minds up.
…and then as if stepping over a line, all is calm…
As we come round up the east coast of IoM the wind eases and starts to head and we motor sail to Douglas. The rock formations are fascinating as always and then after a glorious crossing the lighthouse beckons us round the final headland and into the harbour with just the Isle of Man Steam Packet for company.
We are too early for the lifting bridge and flap gate into the marina so we wait outside, rafted up next to a boat with a broken boom. They were towed in by the lifeboat having had boom, genoa furling AND engine impellor failure.
We catch up on some sleep in the afternoon sun only to be awakened by the arrival of a mast-less Sadler34. Apparently they lost it around 6 this morning not far from where we were (didn’t see anything guv’). Two Polish lads (in their 30s but lads to us) had been planning the trip round UK for months but were understandingly distraught at losing all rigging, sails and guard wires. They refuelled and then left around 5pm for Holyhead and presumably a train home to Plymouth.
We are grateful to get Heydays into her berth in one piece…
…shame about the attractive deck cushions drying in the sun!