Dublin to Milford Haven Monday 3 and Tuesday 4 July


This is to be our longest trip so far, and at 130 miles is around 24 hours depending on wind, tides etc. The pilot book unhelpfully suggests that the south to north route is best, as it is possible to carry tides north for a long time using back eddies and other oddities off the coast. We are going north to south so just have to sit through two tide cycles and tough it out.  James flies in on the morning flight from Bristol and by noon we are waving goodbye to Chris and to Dublin.

Again, we are told to keep well clear of the channel and as soon as we are able, we gratefully bear away south east across the bay and away from the big commercial movements…just the ferry into Dun Laoighaire to think about…

The wind is more south than the forecast SW and we motor-sail with some tide having decided to keep to the Irish coast for as long as possible before getting a good wind (and neutral tide) across to Milford Haven. We set a course to pass down the outside of Arklow Bank and the wind farm and the autohelm whirrs away happily as we alternately doze in loose watches. Dublin County and Wexford coast slip past…


But of the Wexford coast we see nothing. The clouds close in and the visibility reduces just in time for us to be in a relatively busy part of the shipping lane along the coast! With visibility less than a mile, the wind farm is there and not there…


…and at times strangely half there…

The radar however gives us great comfort and we can ‘see’ other boats in reasonable time and make adjustments to keep clear. This is only the second time we have had to use it in anger so to speak on this trip and we count ourselves lucky, given the number of anxious foggy crossings of the channel we have made in the past in the days before we had radar.

The fog comes and goes and darkness descends early, together with a more lively sea and Heydays still only able to motor-sail with just a main to help us along. Ships come and go and only one gives us concern until we show a very definite course change, at which point she also changes course to pass well clear. Even so, a mile and a half is close enough…By now we are plugging a foul tide and the miles tick past…and the night wears on….

We close the edge of the main Irish side shipping lanes and bear away towards Wales, thankful to be away from the main traffic and able to finally set a decent genoa in what it still stubbornly a SSW F4 or 5. Taking turns to sleep, the night passes and just a ferry with lights so bright they mask the navigation lights, gives any cause for concern. It slips away into the night as the moon and a few stars put in an appearance for a short while…and then we are alone again, peering hopefully into the east for some signs of brightening if not actual sun.

By 3 we have the first signs of Wales with the Bishop and Clerks light welcoming(?) us and then the first signs of dawn around 4. Just after 5 John is woken by an excited James as we have the company of a pod of dolphins. They disappear on their own journey all to quickly and just a lone dolphin joins us later for a short while before she(?) too follows another path.

We breakfast on warm focaccia and coffee to welcome the day and pick our way past Skokholm and Grassholm islands and the start of the channel into Milford Haven. From the ruggedness and tranquillity of the coast we are suddenly into heavy industrial area of docks and refineries.

The pilot book, the chart and the almanac each give conflicting advice on what the yacht should do…the pilot says either east or west side but keep out of main channel; the chart shows the track for yachts clearly in the west channel and Reeds Almanac says keep to the East! We’re coming from the West so opt for West channel. A large tanker is given permission to leave by the harbour authority over the radio and we decide to cross rapidly to East channel just as a pilot boat speeds up very close to head us out East. We wave cheerily and comply. He doesn’t wave back! The tugs are busy nudging and nosing the huge tanker…and we keep clear.

Only a tug passing by in a hurry to Pembroke Dock bothers us…


…until we pass under the Cleddau Bridge and then….another world. The refineries and docks are hidden from view and all is beautiful river, with trees and woods tumbling down to the banks and occasional lines of moored yachts and other assorted small craft.

We pick up a mooring buoy belonging to Rudders Boatyard just down river from our friend Madeline at Llangwm and having given Heydays a cursory tidy up …we sleep in the cockpit in the sun.

This is Heydays’ home for a couple of months as we all have commitments over the summer, although will be visiting to explore on several occasions hopefully. It is difficult to imagine a more peaceful spot and the sun goes down (after a pint or two at the Jolly Sailor)


with some more focaccia and cheese (OK and some rum…) and the sound of curlews to take us to bedtime….

Footnote: We have a rough plan for September to re-cross the Irish sea to explore a bit of southern Ireland and then cross to the Scillies for a week or so, before working our way home to Lymington along the south coast. Home by end of October is a broad plan…we’ll see.

In Dublin’s fair city where the girls are…


Actually, as two old blokes we have no idea of the girls 🙂 …but while James flies home for family stuff like daughter and granddaughter birthdays, Chris joins John for a few days. They’ll fill in the rest including close encounters with the Caribbean Princess…

Thursday dawns clear and cool. James has left to celebrate lovely Phoebe’s 2nd birthday, and Chris is flying out to join me for a long promised return visit to the fair city.  Time for John to sample some more of Dublin’s public transport system and pick up Chris from the airport – would it match the integration and friendliness of Orkney?  I need not have worried, it worked like clockwork – a good welcome to Dublin.  We dropped off the baggage at Poolbeg YC, and a short walk later we were on the LRT to the centre in time for (another!) lunch at Sweetman’s, using pre-purchased weekly passes.  Lively and bustling streets provided much entertainment – we stood entranced by the nonchalant skill of a drayman flicking barrels off the truck onto a cushion so that the barrel rolled precisely across the road unerringly towards his colleague waiting to guide it down the cellar chute. The traffic seemed to take it in its stride. So much to see that we only just made it to the snug at Lotts – a diminutive and wonderfully quaint bar – in time to meet friends Sue and Dave from Malahide.  Back late pleasantly tired, but entranced by the non-stop activity on the river by Poolbeg  we sat out in the cockpit for quite some time unwilling to turn in!

Heydays Friday 30th June – Dublin

Dave had taken the morning off work and engaged tour guide mode! We had a fascinating drive through the by-ways to and from Dún Laoghaire, including a great look around the James Joyce museum, dropping us off after lunch at

Kilmainham Gaol.  This time we were ‘Just Visiting’ – but the visit was quite sobering imagining the lives of those incarcerated there, and the political and cultural values in the UK at that time which put them there.  Choosing to walk back to the centre rather than jumping on a bus we somehow deviated from the direct route and ended up outside Lotts snug again, at which point dinner seemed the only sensible option, followed by the ever dependable LRT home.

Heydays Saturday 1st July


Wanting to explore the north arm of Dublin Bay, and waking to blue skies, we took the LRT and railway to Howth.  A spot of tourist and harbour seal watching from the harbour wall helped develop keen appetites. Spoiled for choice, we settled on wonderful thick haddock soup and freshly baked bread at a market stall. Then it was time to take the train to nearby Malahide – attractive and well-heeled with a great beach and views out to sea.  After trying unsuccessfully to get into the Joyce which had by now appeared on my kindle and a walk around the castle grounds, we enjoyed an early dinner and were back in the big city in time for an evening walk around Temple bar. What an amazing atmosphere – much laughter,music and warm, friendly people.   Chris is loving the Dublin accents!

Heydays Sunday 2nd July


Last full day in Dublin – time to see more of the city – so the hop-on/ off bus proved ideal, taking the full circle with a witty, charming and informative driver with his own brand of spin, although we had intended getting off en route….. Round 2 ding ding – this time we stopped to explore St Stephen’s Green, Trinity College and Temple Bar in daylight, stopping to enjoy much Irish hospitality. We just had time to walk to the National Concert Hall for a rousing performance by the Irish National Radio

Orchestra.  Another full day, once again sitting out on our return watching all the buzzing activity on the Liffey.  From cranes that sprang into action moving cargo and lit up like Christmas trees, to trucks ferrying boxes, crates and containers to and from the port, activity was constant.  Ships that arrived at 2300 would turn with precision, dock and be unloaded and gone by morning – it never stopped!

Monday 3rd July


The last day began about 0430,  with a low rumbling sound that we felt before we heard it.  Chris jumped up not realising what was going on, but John had recognised the reversing propellers and thrusters of something very large and not very far away.  We watched in fascinated and slightly horrified silence as the Captain of the Caribbean Princess  executed a smooth 360 pivot turn right next to Heydays. Strictly Come Dancing here he comes!  The photos hardly do justice to something that large manoeuvring closer and closer to within 20m of Heydays with no tugs in attendance.

All to soon it was time to welcome James back on board from Phoebe’s birthday celebrations, give Sue a quick tour of Heydays, and say farewell to Chris who would spend the rest of the day with Sue before flying back home to Southampton.  A quick top up of the tanks and we were off to Milford Haven, pursued round both sides of the bay by Sue and Chris trying to find the best vantage points for viewing our departure!

A vibrant and very friendly city with a fantastic transport system and so much more history and culture yet to explore, serviced by a central, friendly, no-frills yacht club marina – we’ll be back again ere long!

Conwy to Dublin Monday 26 June


Tides here (as everywhere, but more so here) dictate everything and we slip out of the marina on  the noon high tide. The late June sun was doing as it should and we had a decent breeze from the North West to see us on our way. With the tide racing out past Anglesey, we were making indecent haste and speeds over the ground of nearly 11 kts kept us well ahead of schedule into Dublin… we were planning to arrive in the early morning light to see us safely up a very busy Liffey and onto our berth at Poolbeg Yacht Club.

As the afternoon wore on, we passed several big cargo boats waiting for a tide into Liverpool and then crossed the main shipping lane round the north west tip of Anglesey. In the early evening we entered Irish territorial waters, but refrained from breaking into Danny Boy or even the rum. Instead, we celebrated with a couple of Pizzas and some coffee to keep us reasonably watchful into the early hours. With the wind continuing from the northwest, we reconciled ourselves to a landfall in darkness….and mugged up on the lights and route in across the bay and up the Liffey.

We entered the bay at midnight to the accompaniment of a light drizzle which became steadily worse and from behind us to add to the joy. The chimneys of the Poolbeg power station could be seen from miles away, even in a rain-filled midnight sky and we focused doggedly on them for what seemed like hours, willing them to come closer.

A pilot boat speeding out to an as yet unseen ship in the bay heralded a slightly anxious final hour up the river. We established radio contact with the harbour authority and were told to keep well to the south of the deep water channel. Fortunately ‘big boat’ also heard us and was aware that we were there which was some comfort when they appeared out of the gloom about half a mile behind us. We finally docked at around 2am after an exhilarating sail across the Irish sea (our third crossing so far!) and sat up for an hour just winding down with a glass or two (we deserved it…).

Footnote: The following morning showed just how busy the port is…and how close our mooring was to the big boats, they looked very big and we felt very small, especially as they were turning round…(more of that in the next post).

Final footnote: The old dock area of Dublin is changing rapidly and is unrecognisable since James and Yee Tak were last here with friends Graham and Madeline on their boat My Foolish Heart. Fond memories of happy times, but Graham is sadly no longer with us and My Foolish Heart lies somewhere in Scotland…