The summer is well gone, we never did get the engine sorted out! We had great plans at the start of the season – The Scilly Islands, Lundy, Wales, the Isle of Man, Scotland – all were possibilities. However, a dodgy engine meant no power, no battery, no battery charging and a lot of wonderful little harbours and anchorages ruled out.
As I have said before, the plan for Koala is to lift her out, transport her close to home, get her under shelter and get her back to her former glory. This is a pretty major task and I’ll outline the plan in a future post.
The first stage of this was to get Koala ashore. This meant sailing to Bangor. Sounds simple, but with the strong tides of the Narrows, no engine and a small jetty to come in alongside to in Bangor, it was going to take a combination of fair winds and helpful tides. Ideally, we wanted a high tide at East Down YC, which would allow us to get out of the lough and give us a push up north towards the Copelands. We had to get to Belfast Lough before the tide started running south again. We also needed a westerly wind as we were leaving to help us out the Narrows. If the wind stayed in the west as we sailed up the Outer Ards, then went to the North or NW to allow us to fetch Bangor and sail into the the harbour. We knew this wasn’t going to happen!
So…….in mid November, we had a forecast of light westerlies and high tide at 10.30 am. I was joined by four other EDYC folk, all who sail on both big boats and dinghies – Keith, Margie, Finbarr and my regular crew, Emily. We cast off and headed out in a light wind, toward the Narrows. As we picked up speed on the now ebbing tide, the wind dropped off. Looking SE towards the open sea, we could sea a line of breaking waves across the entrance to the Narrows. The rough water didn’t last long – we were soon heading north past the old South Rock light.
With a dropping wind, it became clear that we wouldn’t carry a fair tide all the way to Belfast Lough. By the time we were off Portavogie, we were only making about 1 knot through the water. The sails were slatting and the sun was dropping. A look at the GPS showed that while we were moving through the water in a northerly direction, we were actually heading south at about 1.5 knots!
Eventually, the sun went down – it was the night before the ‘supermoon’ and was indeed pretty spectacular, very, very bright. It was a beautiful evening to be sailing – cold, clear and a light wind. We watched other boats pass – fishing boats and ferries – as we headed north.
The wind went around to the NW and it soon became clear that we couldn’t lay Copeland Sound – we would have to go outside the islands and beat into Belfast Lough. What’s more, it was going to be slow!
The lighthouse on Mew Island slowly came abeam, then went astern. We tacked in toward Ballyholme Bay. One more tack out towards the large ships anchored in Belfast lough, then back in to Bangor. We dropped the main and sailed into the harbour under jib alone. Once alongside, we could confirm a lift out date. Next step is getting her under cover, close to home.