Grand Tour Day 54: Howth to Ardglass

Missing Link log 9 June 1999

Crew: Kim Hollamby and Malcolm Threadgould.
From: Howth, Eire.
To: Ardglass, Co Down, Northern Ireland.

Port engine start hours: 371.9. Finish hours: 374.9. Hours run: 3.0.
Stbd engine start hours: 372.0. Finish hours: 375.0. Hours run: 3.0.
Log start: 4157.0nm. Log finish: 4227.2nm. Distance run: 70.2nm.

Navigation log 
1530: depart Howth.
1610: 1nm W of Rockabill Lighthouse. Steering 005M. Wind: F4 NW. Sea: smooth. Vis: 50nm. Navigation by compass and also by cross-referring to chart plotters.
1640: 53 46.69N 005 59.89W.
1713: 53 59.10N 005 57.27W.
1727: 1nm NE of Kilkeel 1nm off shore, turning to run parallel to shore.
1736: 1nm off Russels Point. Turn to run north, clearing Roaring Rock by 0.5nm.
1752: 0.75nm off Newcastle. VHF Ch 16 calls to boat called St William who contacted us earlier by telephone asking us to meet off Newcastle. Calls unanswered, head east.
1812: 0.25nm off St John’s Pt.
1820: off plane outside Ardglass Harbour.
1825: entering harbour, waved through small red and green buoys near pontoons and away from last port mark due to shallower waters inside that mark.
1830: alongside pontoon.


Howth Yacht Club Marina from the abbey
Howth Yacht Club Marina from the abbey

Legend has it that the great Sea Queen of Connaught, Grace O’Malley, once sailed her galley into Howth after a meeting in London with Elizabeth I during which this original pair of iron ladies conversed in latin, as neither had the other’s tongue. Upon reaching the Irish fishing port, probably still in something of a foul mood, she found the welcome extended to her virtually non-existent. So she captured the heir to the castle, a little lad playing on the beach, ran off to the west with him and refused to send him back until Howth guaranteed hospitality for its seafaring visitors.

The lesson was taken onboard and we are told that the castle gates are never closed and a spare place is laid at dinner. We didn’t take up the tacit invitation, but did notice a comfortable welcome at the Howth Yacht Club on the evening we arrived when found the place buzzing; not bad for a Monday!

Perhaps it is no surprise, for the 2000-member (with waiting list) club has self-funded the development of its packed to capacity 300-berth marina and excellent fully-manned clubhouse during the past two decades. And it has also recorded enough achievements in just over a century of sail racing and cruising for WM Nixon to fill a 500-page book on the subject. The emphasis is certainly on the mast, Missing Link being one of only nine motorboats in the company of many yachts when we visited. But at no time were we made to feel inferior for our chosen method of getting about, something that cannot always be said in similar circumstances elsewhere.

We had chosen the Yacht Club as by far the best base from which to explore Dublin (see Grand Tour Day 52), but found the Ben of Howth, once an island, now a peninsula, to be a fascinating place in its own right. Feeling in need of a stretch of legs, Malcolm and I strode off around the cliff path that leads out of the harbour, steadily climbing not far short of 500ft (150m) in the process. As we puffed our way up, the breath was further taken by stunning views across to Irelands Eye and Lambay beyond and by the playful colonies of sea birds whirling and wheeling around the cliffs below. Striding further west the lighthouse at Baily unveiled itself, then the whole of Dublin Bay came into view.

Having made the required altitude, we could have carried on round the edge to complete the loop, given more time, but schedule dictated taking the short cut back down the hill to town. Local maps still show the electric tramway that encircled the peninsula and we had a vague hope it was still running and might give us a lift. But of the trams, or even their rails, there was no sign.

Not so very long afterwards we had Missing Link underway again, tucking her nose through the inshore side of Irelands Eye and navigating by eye through the inside of Lambay, scene of Eire’s earliest Viking invasion, and on through the gap between Rockabill light to starboard and the Skerries Islands to port. The predominantly northerly airflow has kept the air clear and visibility was once again good enough to see the Isle of Man away to the north east and the Mountains of Mourne right ahead of us.

Ardglass, Northern Ireland
Ardglass, our first port of call in Northern Ireland

Soon it was time to remove our Irish tricolour and stow it, but we will very much look forward to the day when we can break it out again.

Our run northwards was straightforward. Taking a brief diversion towards Newcastle in Dundrum Bay we called in vain for a boat which had made contact earlier in the day before heading east and polishing off the last few miles of the trip.

Entering Ardglass, we immediately saw several seals lolling about in the water, safely tucked behind the first starboard-hand mark, but didn’t hang around to watch as we had been told on VHF that someone was waiting to catch our lines. Closing the pontoons through the narrow but well-marked channel, we were waved through two tiny buoys on the run in, their presence marking a shift in the channel since the last port perch was laid.

This community marina looks a little empty at present, but is very well organised and has most facilities to hand. More news tomorrow.

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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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