Saturday 15th July to Thursday 20th July
Report from the Newry Reporter , Thursday 20th July 2000
Flotilla of boats in Canal Visit
The historic Newry Canal was
dramatically brought back to life on Tuesday as a flotilla of traditional Folkboats sailed
down the historic waterway for the first tome in many years, in an event sponsored by 'The
The Folkboats were traditional sailing boats of Scandinavian origin, the design of which dates back to the early 1940's and are characterised by the long keel, and traditionally built of wood. The boats were originally designed in Scandinavia as the "Peoples Boat" and for over fifty years have been enjoyed by people throughout the world.
Sailors from all over England, Scotland, and Wales visited Newry as part of their annual regatta, which this year was hosted by the Dundalk and Carlingford Sailing club.
The Newry Canal was the first man-made inland waterway in the British Isles, and over the years tall masted ships, steamers, and cargo boats brought imports such as coal, sugar, and butter into the busy port of Newry. In preparation for its revival, an independent research company was recently commissioned to assess the quality of the water in the canal and has pronounced it safe for approved sailing activities.
Eddie Cull, the centre manager at "The Quays" told the Reporter that "the visit of these Folkboats provided an interesting and historic day out for many families and I believe that everyone who visited the the area was excited at seeing so many boats. In days gone by the Newry Canal and the whole of the Albert Basin represented wealth and prosperity of Newry and we are really delighted that the arrival of The Quays has put this historical area firmly back on the map" commented Eddie.
adds that the Quays Management "Owe a great debt of thanks to all
who made this very successful visit possible, including the Canal Activity
Committee which sits regularly at The Quays; Anthony Russell and Sean
Og McAteer of the Newry and Mourne Millenium Company; Sean Patterson and
John McCann for their invaluable knowledge of local history, and also
the Newry and Mourne District Council for their assistance in providing
staff to open the gates at Victoria Lock".
Thursday 13th July Mike and I arrive late afternoon at Menai Bridge, meet Alex at Bangor Station and prepare for a morning departure to Carlingford. The weather has been up to its usual tricks with strong to gale force Northwesterlies all week - exactly in the direction we want to go. The forecast for Friday is for NW 5 - 6. Good news, though! Alex has bought a huge sea bass from two local fishermen who have just landed a large catch at Menai Bridge. We cook it for dinner aboard Neomys, before going ashore to the Liverpool Arms. Several beers later Eric and Helen (Gibbon) arrive, and after several more beers, we retire to the boats.
Friday 14th July Still blowing from the NW. In company with Gibbon and Parmelia, Gordon Brown's Macwester, we cruise slowly along the Menai Strait to Puffin Sound to have a look. As expected, the wind against the ebb tide is kicking up a nasty sea. Gordon takes Parmelia into the tide rip and through the 10ft standing waves. We retreat towards Menai Bridge! Off the Gazelle Hotel, we meet up with Harry and Roger. They are keen to get going, though they are a bit late on the tide. They head North in Rococa and Senta (a Twister). We wish them luck and retire to the moorings at Menai Bridge and a convivial afternoon testing the contents of Parmelia's drinks locker - and so back to the Liverpool Arms for the evening. Harry and Roger phone us in the pub. They were too late to round Point Lynas and are anchored at Moelfre. We phone Martin Ellis (Merch Medina) at Caernarfon. He has decided to catch the ferry to Dun Laoghaire and spend the week touring the west coast of Ireland. (Sensible chap).
Saturday 15th July The wind has moderated but is still blowing from the NW, so we decide to have another go. In Friars Bay, to our surprise, we meet Rococa and Senta heading back towards Menai Bridge. They left Moelfre at 0300 to go to Ireland but have been beaten back by large breaking waves and an adverse tide off the North coast of Anglesey. It all sounds very depressing. They have decided to get some sleep and then head out over Caernarfon Bar on the next tide and sail south about Anglesey to Howth, before heading north up the Irish coast. It looks as if we are all going to be late for the rally.
Doubtfully we sail up to Puffin Sound again. It only looks slightly better and it's 80 miles to windward to Carlingford. We take the NE passage inshore of Puffin Island and close hauled plough towards Pt. Lynas. It's bumpy and wet and gradually gets worse. The wind has dropped to force 4 but the ebb against the remains of the swell is still kicking up steep breaking waves. By early afternoon we are two miles north of the Skerries. Parmelia calls us on the radio and says his crew are seasick and he is heading downwind to Holyhead. We debate the situation with Gibbon. The forecast for Sunday sounds good and the prospect right now of a long night slog to Carlinford daunting. On the other hand the town of Holyhead is a depressing place to be weather bound and we are all remembering the 1998 rally when we were weather-bound in Holyhead. Some of us only made it to Ireland on that occasion on the Stena Line HSS. at least the sailing club is always welcoming.
We decide in the end to turn south for Holyhead. The difference is amazing as we surf at 6 knots down the waves instead of bursting through them. I phone my son, Chris on the mobile. He is onboard Dermot's boat, Wavedancer. They are currently beating north towards Carlingford along the Irish coast in company with the other Dun Laoghaire boats and although it is windy, the sea is at least flat for them.
In no time we cover the 8 miles to Holyhead and soon all three boats are snug in harbour. We spend the evening in the sailing club and phone Carlingford and tell them to start the programme without us. There's a voicemail on my phone from Doug McGarvie (Argo). He's been trying to get out of the River Mersey for two days now and has retreated back to Liverpool Marina. He's decided to go cruising on a friend's boat. (It seems another sensible decision). As it turns out he ends up in the Menai Strait for the week!
Sunday 15th July For once the Met Office has got it right. It's a beautiful day with virtually no wind. We set the autopilot and spend the day sleeping, eating and sunbathing as we motor towards Carlingford. Harry comes up on the radio and reports that they are heading for Howth and then on to Carlingford. Parmelia also motors towards Howth.
Twenty-five miles from Holyhead the Mountains of Mourne slowly grow on our western horizon. We can still see Holyhead Mountain astern and the hills on the Isle of Man are visible 20 miles to the North. Even without GPS we would still know where we were!
By 2130 we have negotiated the Narrows into Carlingford Lough and are berthed in the Marina with the other boats, except for David Connoly's Xania. He has had the boat lifted out and is ashore in a cradle on the Marina hard standing. On the way into the Lough yesterday he cut a corner and bumped over one of the many reefs just outside the marked channel. In the swell the rudder bounced out of its gudgeons and he has lost it! Luckily he was able to get a tow into the Marina. This episode makes him a prime candidate for the Cemaes Bay Hoers Trophy - awarded to the boat that has the most "interesting time" getting to an Irish Sea Rally.
2200 and we are happily ensconced with all our Irish friends in the bar of the Dundalk and Carlingford Sailing Club - our hosts for the week. The other boats have held one race without us, the second being abandoned when the wind died. The skippers vote for a late start in the morning with three short races to catch up on the programme.
Monday 17th July Another gorgeous day dawns with a light NW blowing down the Lough. This is my third Rally in Carlingford and Mike's fourth, and on each occasion the weather has been fantastic - hot and sunny on each of the weeks. I can scarcely believe it. The Lough is surrounded by beautiful green mountains and they don't call this "the Emerald Isle" because of any prolonged droughts! The local boat crews on Mistress (Brendan) and Tumlin (Rowan) can't believe it either.
We hold the three races. Neomys wins the first and third and Mistress the second. With Brendan's win on Sunday, both boats are neck and neck in the overall standings.
During the afternoon Rococa, Senta and Parmelia arrive safely from Howth and the sailing club throws a splendid Barbecue in the evening. We eat alfresco in the warm evening sunshine and afterwards George and Jim entertain us on guitars and penny whistle. This is the life!
Tuesday 18th July Today is our wedding anniversary. Oh dear, I always seem to miss it. It is also the day for something a bit different for an Irish Sea Rally - a cruise inland. We have been invited jointly by the owner of the new Quays Shopping Centre, and the Millennium Committee of Newry and Down District Council to visit the town of Newry which lies 6 miles upriver from Warrenpoint. It's another beautiful day with hardly any wind and at 1100 prompt we gather outside the marina. The invitation has been thrown open to all the boats in the area and some have even come down from Belfast Lough. In a convoy of 34 boats led by the Dundalk and Carlingford S.C. committee boat, with 80 year old ex-pilot John McCann on board we chug gently northwards in the sunshine. We receive our instructions by radio, call sign "Carlingford Armada". At Warrenpoint we sail into the Newry River. Here the channel narrows and the high hills close in. The sides are forested, with water meadows along the banks - altogether different from the open sea. After three miles we reach the sealock into the Newry canal. This part of the canal was built in Victorian times to bring coal in and quarry stone out of the area. The canal further inland from Newry was the first built in the British Isles, not the Bridgwater canal as many think.
The canal is rarely used these days though it is being restored. The local council workers in their orange lifejackets are having trouble with the gates - that is until John McCann shows them the sequence of closing the sluices. The gates are still opened in the original Victorian way. A wire rope is attached to each gate and these are wound open using huge four-man hand-operated winches. They are closed by sending the wires across the lock to the opposite gate and the winding them shut - a fairly lengthy and laborious process. At last all 34 boats are in the lock. There are dozens of sightseers and the local press on the bank. On the boats we are having a party rafted up together.
From the lock is another three miles to Newry. The river is now on our starboard side below us and the valley is much wider. At last we reach the old basin right in the heart of the town and moor alongside the grassy bank, fastening our warps to the steel crash barrier which is between us and the road. Over the road is the new Quays Shopping Centre with a very large Sainsbury's next to it. I've never been to Sainsbury's by boat before!
In the evening every one is invited to dinner in a local hotel. The local council are interested in developing the basin where we are moored, into a marina and we spend some time discussing it with the Deputy Chairman. After dinner, with the speeches and thanks made, we are entertained by an Irish folk group until the small hours. It's a marvellous night.
Wednesday 19th July A full cooked breakfast is provided by our hosts in the Quays Shopping Centre restaurant. Their hospitality has been wonderful and made this the most memorable part of the rally so far. At 1130 the Carlingford Armada heads down the canal to the sealock. This time their are no hitches and we are soon on our way back to Warrenpoint. It is from here that we are going to hold our crews race, starting just off the main jetty, with a finish off the marina at Carlingford.
It's going to be a downwind and downtide start, so I hand over to Alex and prepare the spinnaker. We have made a trial run at the line before the start gun and, with a minute to go, we power for the line, only to lose the spinnaker pole uphaul up the mast! I just don't get enough practice on the foredeck. We are nearly last over the line by the time I've got it sorted. However we catch up several places and by the first mark we are doing well, only to get a wrap around with the spinnaker as we head for the second mark. After that things improve and by standing out into the tide we pass the others and Alex wins the crews race.
Once again we spend the evening in the sailing club.
Thursday 20th July While we have been in Newry, Peter O'Reilly has been back to Dun Laoghaire in his car and has returned with the old rudder from En Route. David Connolly and his crew have spent most of Wednesday reinforcing it with odd pieces of wood. It's strong now but rather lacks the smooth aerofoil section of a normal Folkboat rudder. They have also borrowed a welding kit and Mike Maguire spends the morning fabricating pintles to match the fittings on Xania They a re-launched at lunchtime and try out the rudder during the afternoon. It works!
We have just one race today round the cans. If we can finish second or better and ahead of Mistress we should win overall. When Mistress gets a port/starboard wrong with Gibbon it looks good for us. However Carl in Triton wins the race, we finish third and Brendan wins overall. However its been a great week and we are all pleased that a local boat has won.
In the evening we hold our traditional dinner and prize-giving in the sailing club. But where are the prizes? Graham Wilson has polished them all for us and sent them up from Dublin with Neil Soffe. I saw him last on Monday and he confirmed that they were in the boot of his car. However he went back to Dublin on Tuesday! Is he coming to the dinner? His son thinks so, and just in time Neil arrives with the prizes.
Friday 21st July Sadly it's time once again, to bid farewell to Carlingford Lough and all our good friends who have made this such a great rally. Senta and Rococa decide to go back via Howth and join the Dun Laoghaire boats. Jackie Connick in Olwen is sailing back to Kilmore Quay on the SE corner of Ireland. Parmelia is going to the Isle of Man before returning to North Wales. We head off with Gibbon directly towards Anglesey. It's another perfect day with very little wind so we motor most of the way. We seem to be "towing" the Mountains of Mourne , they are so clear astern of us. Once again we can see the Isle of Man and Holyhead Mountain all at the same time. By 2100 we are off the Skerries and the tide has just started to flood eastwards in our favour. I suggest to the others that we keep going it is such a lovely evening, but the vote is for a stopover in Cemaes Bay for the night. As Alex points out we can catch the morning tide, do a spot of fishing and have a gentle sail back to the Menai Strait. (Famous last words!) We turn in happily after a night-cap with Gibbons's crew.
Saturday 22nd July We wake to the sound of the wind whistling in the rigging from the East! I can't believe it (as Victor Meldrew would say). We had a bash in westerlies to get to Carlingford last Saturday and now we are in for another wet trip home, especially with wind over tide - and so it proves. Once out of the bay we are exposed to the full force of the wind. Reefed down we beat the twenty miles to Puffin Sound. With so much kit in the boat Neomys behaves more like a submarine as she dives through the steep breaking waves. We are both soaked, despite first class oilies, as we take turns to helm.There is some respite up against the bulkhead, but not much. Eric has his main pinned in and opts to motor directly into it . They get just as wet as us but arrive in Menai Bridge ahead of us.
Oh so slowly we approach Trwyn Ddu lighthouse at the entrance to the Strait and turn SW. As soon as we are through Puffin Sound, the sea flattens, we shake out the reefs, hoist the spinnaker and blast down the channel towards Menai Bridge. The crews of moored boats come on deck and wave as we cream past. All too soon we reach the mooring and yet another rally is over.
Footnote The Dun Laoghaire boats stopped off in Howth for fish and chips before sailing home on the Friday night. Rococa and Senta had to beat across the Irish Sea on Saturday and stopped off in Rhoscolyn before returning to the Straits on Sunday. Parmelia had a rough trip from the Isle of Man. Xania's rudder was found floating off the coast of Northern Ireland by a couple. Retrieving it the woman fell in the sea!. Once ashore they telephoned all the local yacht clubs and the Carlingford folk were able to identify the owner. David reclaimed it for the price of a bottle of Irish whiskey. The patched rudder was so effective that he left it on the boat until the end of the season. The proper rudder has now been refitted.