Grand Tour Day 52: Douglas to Howth via Port St Mary

Missing Link log 7 June 1999

Crew: Kim Hollamby and Malcolm Threadgould.
From: Douglas Harbour, Isle of Man.
To: Howth, Eire via Port St Mary, Isle Of Man.

Port engine start hours: 366.6. Finish hours: 371.9. Hours run: 5.3.
Stbd engine start hours: 366.7. Finish hours: 372.0. Hours run: 5.3.
Log start: 4069.9nm. Log finish: 4157.0nm. Distance run: 87.1nm.

Moored off King Edward VIII pier in Douglas, Isle of Man
Moored off King Edward VIII pier in Douglas, Isle of Man

Navigation log
0545: scend in harbour making life difficult; next door boat rolling in disharmony with ours. Aft line broken, chafed through by neighbouring boat’s gunmetal fairlead. Foreline inspected and found to be in poor shape. Replace both, rig extra fenders, watch for further problems.
0600: large bang. Get out on deck and find all our fenders and fittings okay but the neighbouring boat’s forward fairlead pulled out of deck and missing. Then both boats roll awkwardly and gunwales clash, causing some damage to our gunwale fender. Make decision to leave as soon as safely possible.
0620: cleared away from raft. Hold station of King Edward VIII pier whilst squaring boat away and making a drink.
0650: call for clearance. Given okay but warned about 0700 ferry movement.
0653: clear harbour. Weather good, light wind and 1m-1.5m swell from N-NE (hence harbour scend).
0713: Santon Head.
0725: Dreswick Pt.
0739: off plane in Bay ny Carrickey.
0750: alongside Port St Mary Alfred Pier. Pay dues 6.91. Diesel from Castle Marine by road tanker 561lt 127.62. Discover damage on brow over forward windscreen; must have been caused by yacht’s missing forward fairlead as it was catapulted off.
1652: engine start interims log 4084.8nm, port engine 368.5hr, stbd engine 368.6hr.
1703: wpt 1060 1nm S of Cregreish. 54 02.80N 004 45.00W Wind NW F4, occ 5 at first, then closer to F3. Sea 1m-1.5m waves at first, a few breaking, then slight.
1803: 53 49.92N 005 11.11W
1823: alter course 10 stbd to go around stern of trawler. Many fishing boats around.
1826: on track again.
1830: 53 43.84N 005 23.65W
1900: 53 36.83N 005 37.56W
1930: 53 29.86N 005 51.35W. Wind now light SW. Sea calm.
1945: raise speed to indicated 31kn (SOG 28.2kn). Check log.
1950: wpt 1061 Rowan Rocks ECM. 53 23.85N 006 03.20W.
1952: off plane S Rowan.
2010: alongside berth B1 rafted out on Sarrazin.

The rolling started with a vengeance at 0300. Making my way around Missing Link‘s decks, re-securing fenders to the stanchion feet and checking lines, I wondered if I should have listened a bit more to my earlier misgivings about entering Douglas on a predominantly northerly and somewhat variable weather pattern, even though the NW forecast seemed to make it a safe bet.

By then I was deadbeat, having stayed up into the early hours to clear away internet and e-mail reports on an indifferent GSM phone signal, as well as to keep an eye on our long-keeled traditional wooden 13 tonne neighbour which was rolling in a very different pattern to our hard chine lightweight. So it was Malcolm who first stirred to a different beat as Missing Link‘s aft line parted, sawn in half by the gunmetal fairleads of our friend next door. The foreline was soon found to be heading the same way. As he knocked on the door I thought “Oh no, not 0900 already”, believing it to be a wake-up call to clear the berth ready for an awaited ferry. But it was over three hours earlier than that.

We soon had new lines in place to replace the breast warps, and extra fenders squeezed in between both craft, an operation not made easy by the disharmonic motion of decks. Contemplating the notion of departure was initially crossed off the list as no-one else had yet stirred and with just two of us the operation might have been very hazardous.

Damage to Missing Link's flybridge brow
Damage to Missing Link’s flybridge brow

A loud bang just a few minutes later got the show on the road though. With such a noise I expected to find a burst fender or damaged fitting on Missing Link, but noticed instead that the forward fairlead on our neighbour was no longer to be seen. Our ropes had been pulling through an acute angle on it and the strain was obviously too great. Then even as we watched a strange swell lifted both craft awkwardly, the fenders lost the plot, gunwales clashed and Missing Link was scored down on that round, her aluminium and rubber fender taking some damage in the process.

In went our white towel. Malcolm somehow got across three sets of boat rails, gained the ladder, shinned ashore, released our long lines and got back again without a bruise. Never let it be said he is not nimble.

There would have been no chance of using fender and spring routines against our rolling neighbour. So I was particularly grateful for the bow thruster as we pulled clear and held for a while further up the dock to tidy ship, gather charts, make a drink and think about our next move.

Port St Mary had been on our cards anyway, especially as it offers good shelter from the north-easterly swell that had begun to run in the middle of the night. So we called the very efficient Douglas Harbour Radio (a must when leaving or entering) and told them of our plans, asking for permission to pay dues at the destination and requesting immediate permission to depart.

The short run along the coast was in complete contrast to recent events before, the NE swell now comfortably on the stern and the sun lighting the pretty green slopes and rocky bays that predominate all around the Isle of Man. Malcolm made matters perfect when appearing with bacon sandwiches and steaming cups of tea.

Navigating by eye, compass and depth sounder and keeping well clear of all hazards, Missing Link’s nose was soon pointed into Bay Ny Carrickey and the gap between The Carrick and Port St Mary’s Alfred Pier. Turning round the end of the latter we were pleased to see a perfect Missing Link-sized space on the wall right by a ladder.

Tidying ship, cleaning our scuffed fenders and tying them off against the port rail to dry, I was somewhat surprised to see a large coin-sized bullet hole of gelcoat missing from the flybridge brow just inches above our wheelhouse windscreen. It didn’t take long to work out that was where our neighbour’s forward fairlead had impacted before flying off again. It was lucky enough that it hadn’t hit the glass, but seemed even more fortunate when I remembered that both Malcolm and I had both been working in that same area a few moments before.

Port St Mary, Isle of Man
Port St Mary, Isle of Man

Fortunately our new berth was the perfect antidote to earlier dramas. We had a steady succession of friendly visits. First the informative harbourmaster. Then the honorary secretary of the nearby Isle of Man Yacht Club, who offer a full range of facilities for visitors. And then the Castle Marine fuel truck, operated by George Elston who has been following our progress on the internet and had e-mailed a few weeks back inviting us to call.

We couldn’t stay aboard forever however, as brilliant blue skies, albeit with a chilly northerly wind, beckoned us ashore. Taking the promenade that fringes Gansey Point we found a delightful sandy bay sandwiched between Carthure and Black rocks, overlooked by a commanding line of Victorian terraces, once all hotels, now a mix of holiday and private accommodation along with empty properties awaiting new owners.

From here you get the perfect view of the harbour, developed to accommodate a thriving herring fleet, adapted to deal with the arrival of scallop boats and now a mix of leisure and much reduced fishing interests. Sheltered in most wind conditions, Port St Mary may one day boast a marina although she is having to wait her turn behind big sister Douglas which is now in the throes of developing the drying inner quay areas upstream of King Edward VIII Pier into a floating haven with a cill. Judging from our experiences, the latter’s needs are greater and the former is pretty good just the way it is.

With an evening invitation to the IOMYC in mind it was a close run decision but we regretfully prised Missing Link away in the late afternoon. Ronaldsway’s efficient and cheap Met information service had promised us nothing more than a NW F4-5 and we found less than that has we tracked the 60nm straight line to Howth. Even as we cleared the Calf of Man the visibility was good enough to see the Mountains of Mourne off to starboard. The sea was speckled all around by trawlers and by a naval patrol vessel and razorbills zoomed in with remarkable energy, one cheeky example darting across our bow from side to side as if to say ‘you may be going fast but I can go faster’.

When we called Howth Yacht Club earlier in the day the woman answering the phone had alarmed us by saying that we had to leave by Friday as the marina was closing. Tucking behind Irelands Eye and opening up the harbour entrance we knew immediately that was not because of a lack of boats. Later we discovered it was due to what we suspected, the holding of a regatta, although where on earth they are going to put anyone else in this thriving place will have to remain a mystery to us. Given completely unfazed they go about tackling anything on this side of the Irish Sea I have no doubt they’ll cope.

The green white and orange courtesy flag bought at Neyland Marina is now fluttering proudly at Missing Link‘s mast. Our faith has been rewarded.

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1999 Grand Tour circumnavigation of Britain by motorboat index.

This article originally appeared on the Motor Boats Monthly website.

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