The ‘Erly Tour – Fleetwood to Ardrossan

25 June 2021 – Blackpool

My pal Dave who had been my berth neighbour in Plymouth had joined me on the 24th of June and we had intended to set off on the following day but the weather was miserable and we didn’t fancy it! Instead, we decided to take the tram to Blackpool and have a look around.

Blackpool Tower
The Pier

It was good to see it but, to be honest, I was rather disappointed. It looked run-down and grubby.

26 June 2021. Fleetwood to Port St. Mary, Isle of Man

So, Saturday dawned bright and clear. with a decent breeze. The plan was to get to Port St, Mary at the southern end of the Isle of Man where we could take a mooring or anchor for the night but couldn’t go ashore because the borders were still closed due to Covid-19.

The tide in the channel up to Fleetwood runs pretty fast and the channel is quite restricted in places so we had to wait until high tide slack to get going which was around midday. That meant that we could keep “gentleman’s hours” which is always nice 😉

After a brief stop at the fuel dock to get filled up we were on our way.

Goodbye England!

The sail to the Isle of Man was really good with a decent breeze of between 12 and 15 knots on a beam to broad reach, making for really good sailing conditions. It was great having Dave along. We’d been mates for a few years and I knew I could rely on him. Here’s a tip for free if you are looking for crew – take someone you already know (or who comes recommended by someone you know and trust!).

So the passage to Port St. Mary was uneventful and we arrived after dark and picked up a convenient mooring in the small harbour. I hadn’t sailed into many harbours at night and it is always a bit daunting – the array of lights can be confusing at first, especially when there are lights on-shore that complicate the picture.

In the end though it was pretty straightforward and, with Dave on the bow calling out the distance to the buoy, we managed to hook on at the first attempt. The only “problem” was that the buoys didn’t have pick-ups on them so, whilst Dave held onto the buoy with the boat hook, I threaded our own line through the eye on the buoy. Once that was done we had something to eat and turned in for an early night.

On mooring 22:30. 66 miles, 10 hours

27 June 2021. Port St. Mary to Stranraer

The plan was to go around the southern end of the Isle of Man before turning north and heading fo Dumfries and galloway – the large peninsular in the south west of Scotland. Then up the North Channel between Scotland and Northern Ireland and, finally into Stranraer.

We had to navigate through Calf Sound between the southern tip of the Isle of Man and Calf Island. Again, here there are quite bad overfalls and timing is critical but, following some local advice we got the timing spot on and had a very easy passage through the sound.

Approach to Calf Sound
Calf Sound

Once through we set course for East Tarbet at the Mull of Galloway which is on the southern end of The Rhins of galloway, that double ended penisula at the western end of Dumfries and Galloway. Here we planned to anchor for a short while to wait for the tide to run north to take us up the north channel.

West Coast of The Isle of man
First Sunset in Scottish Waters

All the way around this area are extensive overfalls but our departure from the anchorage was at local high water so, that should be slack water and the overfalls would be calm. Right?

WRONG!!

Weighing anchor at around 03:30 we made our way around the Mull and started heading west. All was going well until we cleared the headland. Then the wind increased dramatically and the seas got proper rough with about two to three metre waves coming from what seemed every direction. I wanted to put a reef in and dropped the mainsail the right amount but the boat was being thrown around so violently that I said to Dave that it was too dangerous to go up on deck to complete the reefing – even if we were clipped in! So we just carried on with half a genoa and a scandalised main for about forty five minutes until we were through the overfalls. Maybe I’ll look into single line reefing after all!

Once that adventure was over we continued north in a fresh northerly which meant tacking all the way up the north channel. There were really two options: make a lot of short tacks and stay close to shore or make two or three long tacks. We chose the latter. In the end we only needed three as the wind backed slightly allowing us to keep a more northerly course then bear away east as we rounded the northern end of The Rhins.

When we entered Loch Ryan we felt that we were there but, of course, from the entrance to of the Loch to Stranraer is over seven miles so it was a further hour and a half before we got to the marina. The original plan was to have anchored at “The Wig” but it looked pretty exposed so we called up the marina and booked a berth. I’m glad we did because the anchorage is a long way from the town and would have taken probably over half an hour in the dinghy.

Heading into Loch Ryan

Arrived in marina 12:45. 82 miles 25 hours (including 3 hours at anchor)

The marina was really nice but could, I think, be a little exposed in north easterlies. The facilities were very good and the staff friendly and helpful. Stranraer itself was a suprisingly pleasant town. I don’t really know what I expected but wasn’t really thinking it would be as nice as it was. Of course, the weather was glorious which always makes things seem better!

Castle of St. John

The Castle of St. John was a pretty impressive building right in the middle of the town. Now a museum (closed when we were there because of Covid), it was originally a medieval town house but has also been a prison and a garrison.

We found The Coffee Bean (from where I took that photo) was excellent for a gut-busting breakfast and “Papa Rabs” was great for an evening meal in the restaurant at the rear or a couple of pints in the bar.

Everyone we met in Stranraer were really friendly and helpful and we ended up staying for a couple of days.

Sunset over Loch Ryan

30 June 2021. Stranraer to Girvan

Girvan is another harbour with a shallow entrance so, once again we had to time our departure so as to arrive at the right time. This meant another gentlemanly start time of about 11:30

The shortish passage up to Girvan was uneventful and we arrived just before 17:30. The entrance is pretty narrow but doesn’t really present a problem in decent weather. What it’s like if there is a blow on I wouldn’t like to say. We were advised to keep to the starbord side of the channel as the port side was still quite shallow. We did so and got berthed with no problem.

Arrived 17:30. 24 miles, 6 hours

Girvan harbour is council run and has a different (and in my travels this year unique) way of collecting harbour fees. they use a “pay and display” system like a car park. You just go to the machine, enter your details, put in the relevant fee and are presented with a sticker to place in the window – very simple and effective.

Entrance to Girvan Harbour
Girvan Harbour

The harbour is very coneniently located right in the town and just a short stroll from a very spectacular beach.

Girvan Beach

The impressive “Aisla Craig” is just offshore and an awesome sight it is!

Ailsa Craig

1 July 2021. Girvan to Ardrossan

Once again the tide determined our departure time. We could either leave at 03:30 or 15:30. Tough choice!

Another pleasant sail up to Ardrossan where Dave was to leave to go back to work.

Work, yeah, I remember that. That’s that thing you do where you drive somewhere to work for someone to earn the money to pay for the car you leave in a car park all day and the house you leave empty all day and, maybe, if you are lucky, get a holiday or two each year. I don’t know about you but that sounds quite ridiculous to me now despite the fact that I too was caught up in it for forty-odd years. Yes, of course we all need to have an income to live the lives we want but that “life model” seems absolutely ludicrous to me looking back on it. I’m no different, I need to have an income to live the way I do but I found a much better way of creating that income. It’s called “affiliate marketing” you can google that if you don’t know what it is or you can go here. You can thank me later 😉

Back to the plot…

We arrived in Clyde Marina just before sunset and immediately went to “Cecchini’s” the harbourside bar/restaurant to get something to eat only to find (once we’d already got our first round of drinks in) that the kitchen had already closed. “Covid rules, it’s the law” was the reason apparently.

So we wandered into town and found a kebab shop that hadn’t heard of that law and had the best doner I’ve ever had. We took them back to the boat, watched a movie and had a “few more beers”. Perfik!

Clyde Marina

Berthed at 22:20. 25 miles, 7 hours

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