These are the voyages of the sailing vessel Pétillant. Her original eight-month mission: to sail from Baltimore to France via Florida and the Bahamas, to successfully navigate the shoals of the French douane, to boldly go where few Maine Coon cats have gone before was completed in 2008. Now she is berthed in Port Medoc and sails costal Spain, France, and the UK during the summer months.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Strangford Lough and Ardglass

We are now in Ardglass, Northern Ireland.  We spent Friday sailing placidly out of Bangor, down the coast of NI, and up into Strangford Lough, where we stopped at the Killyleagh Yacht Club. 

The trip started quite well, with the installation of the autopilot and the seatrial tests and adjustments.  Raymarine and DHL came thru with a delivery of the unit as expected. They found the burnt resistor and repaired it, at the nominal cost of only about €500(!), but when you have had to hand steer for long periods of time, cost is (essentially) no object.

The weather out of Bangor was great, and we motored out past (and thru) the Copeland Islands.  Then the wind picked up from the east, and we set sail.  Close hauled, at about 7 kts, we headed first towards the Isle of Man, and then further south as the wind headed towards the SE.  As we closed on the entrance to Strangford Lough we started the engine as the wind died, and we motored up the Narrows at 7.5 kts thru the water, but 10.5-11.0 kts SOG.  The current was quite strong, but we had timed the entrance perfectly (comme d’habitude), so we breezed past the Bar Pladdy, The Knob, Angus Rock, and Routen Wheel.   Phil and Joan got a completely unreal impression about sailing in these waters (more to come later…)


There is a large mooring field at Killyleagh for members of the YC, and we thought that we could “borrow” a mooring, but our first pass thru the moorings did not show any clearly available moorings.  Luckily for us, a nice fellow on a Moody (a Mr. Bridges, we believe), told us that there was an open mooring out a bit further that was intended for a large Beneteau, and we found it quickly and tied up right away.

Then, Phil and rxc had to drop the dinghy and do a recce (as they say in Ireland) of the situation.  We landed at the pontoon thoughtfully provided, and Mr. Bridges told us that we should go around the corner of the road to the house of his mother, who would loan us the visitor key for the night so that we could get into and out of the YC.  Off we went, to find the nice lady, and she was so gracious and helpful.  We got the key, and then headed into town to look for a restaurant or other source of comestibles.

The town of Killyleagh was about 0.3 miles away, and a nice walk in the warm sun.  It was basically a two street town, with a nice grocery and butcher, a full-service supermarket of a reasonable size for a small town, a gas station, and (supposedly) a good restaurant in the big pub up the hill next to the castle.  We passed on the restaurant, however, because of the presence of a large number of locals drinking beer outside who seemed to be of the “ hooligan”  variety.  Nothing they said to us, or did, but our antenna went up, and we decided to buy some steak and groceries and dine on the boat.  It was a good meal.

We went to bed that night on calm waters, with warm breezes and glorius sunset.  Next day, however, was a bit more exciting.

White Rock and Strangford Lough YC

We left Killyleagh late in the AM.  We had to drop off the key with Mrs. Bridges, and we talked to one young lad (son of Mr. Bridges) who mentioned something about a regatta where we were going.  The wind and seas had built up during the night, and it was a bit exciting to drop the mooring.  But we did it, and towed the dinghy, in anticipation of a future need.

The wind was still out of the ESE, so we were able to hoist sails almost immediately, and sail north.  It was marvelous, doing 8 kts close-hauled, not heeled-over too much  Even the kitties had a good time.  As we headed up the lough we noticed that there were a fair number of other boats leaving Killyleagh headed north, and they seemed to be taking an alternate route among the islands on the W coast of the lough. We eventually decided to have some fun, as well, and ducked into a passage surrounded by rocks and shallow islands, and eventually emerged at the top of the island that is just opposite White Rock Point, and we found the entire area filled with boats.  We had found our regatta.

The races were just starting, and we wanted to try to find a place to anchor or moor.  We also wanted to stop in a fish restaurant that was supposed to be on Sketrick Island, but we did not have any name for the restaurant or a more precise location.  The guide books also talked about taking a mooring in one of two different  YCs.  Strangford YC was located to the south of Sketrick, while the Down Cruising Club is located to the north, thru a narrow and shallow cut.  The northern location is more protected, but more difficult to use.

We decided to do another recce, by sailing around the Strangford moorings for a while, and then head to the northern field.  There were a LOT of moorings in the Strangford field, but they all seemed to be occupied or else they would be occupied when the races were over.  We had just decided to leave, and were headed towards the edge of the mooring field when a large RIB pulled alongside and the fellow driving it asked if we were looking for a mooring.  We said yes, and he said to follow him to his mooring.  He was one of the regatta organizers, assigned to safety/ferry duties, and his Jeanneau 39 was off its mooring, parked on the club pontoon for the event.  His mooring was first-class, and he invited us to partake in the festivities ashore.

We got all cleaned up, hailed one of the ferry boats, and joined a very large crowd of sailors.  It turns out that there are a LOT of YCs on Strangford Lough, and they all have regattas and race series.  This one was the major event of the year at Strangford YC, and boats had come from all the other clubs to participate.  Given the great conditions in this lough, it made sense that it would be a hotbed of sailing activity, and we just happened to walk into it.  We met the local commodore, were given a complimentary beer, and just wandered around for a while talking to John about the activity and events going on.

Eventually we headed off to the restaurant, “Daft Eddies”, which was named for a young boy who had run to warn a group of smugglers about the approach by revenue agents, and was rewarded by being shot.  The food was good, although the service left a bit to be desired.  We walked back to the YC, and were ferried back to Petillant by John’s son Scott.  It was quite a nice stop, and we cannot say enough about the hospitality that the Strangford Lough YC extended to us.  Truly outstanding.

South to Ardglass (Dive, Dive, Dive!)

We left White Rock about 9:30 AM, with a nice ESE wind, and sailed all the way to the narrows, where it became impossible to pinch our way thru, so we rolled up the jib and motor-sailed down to the ocean.  This is where we discovered one truth in the guide books – the bar at the entrance to the Narrows can be quite intimidating.  We went from flat water to 3 meter rollers, and the bow of the boat rose and fell considerably for about 30 minutes.  We took quite a bit of water over the bow, and once we  shipped such an enormous wave that we got water inside the enclosure(!), wetting down all four people and 2 cats. (Imagine a momentary imitation of a submarine...)  We also seem to have taken on some SW into one of our water tanks, which will have to be drained and re-filled.  Probably thru the vent.  There had been some concern that Joan and Phil would be leaving us with a very unrealistic view of the sailing conditions in the Irish Sea, but in the end they got the full treatment.


Once we passed over the bar, the seas moderated to only “moderate” roughness (1-2m rollers), and we headed SW.  We intended to stop in Ardglass, which is only about 6 miles S of the Strangford Narrows, but we were concerned that we would see major rollers at the entrance.  This turned out to be a non-issue, and the entrance was pretty flat.  The real problem was squeezing into a spot in the marina in 2-kt winds.  There were a few anxious moments as we brushed by a few protruding bowsprits, but we succeeded in rafting up to a large wooden motor-sailer, and we even had enough cord to be able to plug in.  And, the Wifi connection was quite good.

Dinner was quite a bit away.  We had to take a taxi to Curran’s Bar and Steakhouse, but the trip was worth it.  Phil and Joan celebrated their 45th anniversary, we had some good food and wine, and then some champagne and chocolate back on the boat.  All-in-all, a successful day.

It looks like we will be here in Ardglass for at least another day, because a nasty low is building SW of Ireland.  We should have a window on Tuesday, and we intend to head straight for Malahide, and bypass Carlingford, because the weather on Wed and Thursday is supposed to be truly horrible.

More to come from Malahide, where Phil and Joan will leave on Thursday AM, and Musetta will join us.

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