Whelks, Puffins, and Surfing Robots

Whelks, Puffins, and Surfing Robots

26. August 2017 Off By Søren

The cruising this summer from Lisbon to Carlingford has been mentally divided in 3 parts: Sailing the Portuguese coast up against the Nortada, crossing the Bay of Biscay on our longest offshore sailing so far, and finally sailing up the Irish Sea visiting England, Wales and Ireland with Carlingford as the final destination this year. The last part was the shortest with approximate 250 nautical mailes, and we were looking forward to slowing a bit down.

Ducks with orange beak.
After the two first long parts of this summer’s cruising, we were all suffering from fatigue. Luckily the challenges we were facing on this final part were of the culinary kind. When we finally managed to leave Penzance, we motored during the night up to Milford Haven. Luckily it was the last motoring through the night this summer. During the morning close to Milford Haven, a new animal appeared, which we had not seen before on the trip. I really didn’t expect to see it at this latitude, so I asked “what is this duck with the orange beak”. Of course it was a puffin. There we hundreds of them in the water, but whenever we came within 10 meters, they either flew away or dived and didn’t show up until far away.


The closest we came to getting a proper picture of a puffin – look to the left side of the picture…

We arrived at the waiting pontoon at Milford Haven monday early in the morning. Due to tide, the entrance to the marina was through a lock. Compared to the gate in Penzance, the lock in Milford Haven made entry and exit possible almost all day, however going through the lock was more time consuming. This was our very first lock, so we enjoyed it a lot.

Local delicacy
In the lock we were alongside a fishing boat and had a chat with the fisherman. He had been ‘fishing’ whelks, and before we knew of it, he had put 8 alive whelks in the pot we for some reason handed over to him. My first thought was to politely accept the gift, and them sneak them back in the sea later on. On the other hand, the reason we were there was to experience new things, so why not try what is considered a local delicacy. It was all settled by June posting the whelks on Facebook, leaving out the easy way out which no-one had to know about.


A pot of whelks – a delicacy around here

By the magic of Facebook, we soon had a recipe on cooking these slimy creatures. Junes friends daughters friends mom, who actually lived in Milford Haven (how small can the world be?), gave some instructions, and others were kind to give advice as well.

We postponed the delicacy to the next day which also meant not sailing off to Ireland the next day. Everyone was tired, so even though this meant spending the buffer of one extra day, I chose to use it now for a relaxing day on the boat with no plans other than a bit of provisioning. The hope had been to be able to spend that extra day to see Dublin, but as we needed to be in Carlingford friday and travel back to Denmark Saturday, we now wouldn’t be able to use the day for sightseeing. As we will be visiting Dublin when going to the boat in Carlingford we should be able to do some Dublin sightseeing later on.

The day off from sailing was a nice day on the boat, just relaxing and a bit of shopping – just what we needed, even though exploring the area would have been nice too. We booked a spot in the lock for the next morning at 5:30 am. The plan was to sail to Arklow 80 nautical miles from Milford Haven, crossing St. Georges Channel in the southern part which is the narrow part of the sea. Tidal stream would now be a factor we had to take into account, even though the stream will not be above 2 knots. From time of High Water in Dover, we could look up the direction and speed of the stream, and combine it with expected speed. Based on this I decided to go early, which also meant going with the current out of the river at Milford Haven. Also, we wouldn’t mind reaching Arklow before sunset.

But before going anywhere we had to deal with the whelks. They had been in water in the cockpit during the night, but unfortunately they had not escaped or been taken by birds. No way out other than preparing them and eating them. Inexperienced as we are, we overcooked them so they became rubbery and required more chewing. June had been challenged to publish a film on Facebook of her eating the whelk, so she tasted on rolling camera. We survived – no delicacy, but maybe we need a professional to cook them.

Cinnamon rolls

June baked cinnamon roles while sailing. Very much appreciated.

Next morning, June an I got up really early, and were ready in the lock at 05:30. We sailed off motoring. At 7 we were able to set sail, but a few minutes later we found our selves in thunder and a lot of rain. It was very windy, but luckily we had adjusted sails just before, and we really appreciated our new sailor suits. At lunch it cleared up, and the wind died completely. We motored the rest of the way to Arklow and arrived a little before sunset.

Without knowing, we also saw the last dolphins this summer. We had seen dolphins every day since one of the very first days. As a little compensation we saw a seal in Arklow marina. We moored in the canal, but inside the marina was another danish boat. It was a couple, who had made an early retirement, and was now sailing south to cross the Atlantic Ocean, with Brasil as the destination. As I write this they have reached Portugal. It is very special to meet other sailors in the marinas, everyone is friendly, curious and helpful, and we exchange many stories and experiences.

Wednesday we left for Howth, a peninsula outside Dublin, around noon, as we could sail up with the stream for most of the 40 nautical miles. Again we motored more than going by sail. We arrived in Howth af 7pm. Everything was prepared for a quick departure by train to Dublin.

We spent 4 hours in Dublin, including dinner at a random restaurant in the Temple Bar area. We managed to see some of the Temple Bar area, Ha’penny bridge and enjoyed the time together at the restaurant.

Surfing robots
My plan was to leave early next morning to be at our final destination before the harbour office closed. It was a 40 nm trip, and we were now in slack water so didn’t have to consider the tide – or so I thought. Again we had to go up a river (or rather into a lough) to get to the marina. We had to arrive at high water to be able to get to the marina, something I didn’t consider. Luckily I talked to the harbour master the day before. They explained we could not arrive before 2 hours before high water, which would be at 7 pm. So I had to postpone departure from Howth. The rest of the crew was quite happy with not getting up early, and quite frankly, so was I.

Green starboard beacon in disguise as a surfing robot

We left around noon friday. Finally with lots of wind on a broad reach. It was so nice going by sail instead of motor, and a good way to end this vacation. Arriving 2 hours before high water meant going into the lough with the stream. And quite a lot of it. Even they beacons were designed to handle the current. As seen on the picture, they looked like robots on a surfboard.

Through Carlingford Lough we sail on the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Sailing at Dublin, the coast looked a bit like in Denmark with green and yellow fields, but up here it was quite different with hills (or mountains compared to what we have in Denmark). We are looking forward to explore this nature further.

The boat is now at its winter haven, and will go onshore at fall. This summer trip has come to an end, and we are happy that we made it this far. This year was very different from last year. This was transport, 1200 nautical miles instead of 500, and the weather is very different from when we were in the Mediterranean Sea with 30 degrees Celcius and above, and water temperature almost as high. Normally I enjoy letting go of planning the next trip after 3 weeks of doing so every day, but this year I had to do a bit of planning for next year, just to see if it will be the same kind of sailing, or if we will be able to take it more slowly and relaxed. Carlingford up to the Caledonian Canal is fewer miles, and through the canal it will be nice and calm. So it looks as a more relaxing trip next year, even though we end up with the 4 days trip crossing the North Sea. But that is not a problem, because this year we did what is considered one of the tests of an offshore cruising sailor: We crossed the Bay of Biscay.