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Dun Laoghaire 1999

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A Foggy Day in Dublin Bay

IRISH SEA AREA Folkboat Rally 1999
by Robin Pinner

The 1998 rally had been plagued by gale force winds making it difficult for some boats to even get to Howth. This year the rally was held in Dun Laoghaire as guests of the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. Light winds, and sunshine, interspersed with fog, were the main features of the weather- a welcome change, except for the fog.

We left Menai Bridge in Neomys at midday on Thursday 1st July in a south-westerly force 2, and headed for Caernarfon Bar. A quick radio call to Merch Medina confirmed that Martin and his crew had already left Caernarfon and was about an hour ahead of us. Apart from an occasional chat during the afternoon we saw nothing of them. The passage to Ireland was uneventful since we motored all the way. By sunset there was no wind at all. We were off the Kish Light by 0100 and when we finally berthed alongside Merch Medina outside the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club at 0245, Martin and his crew were already fast asleep. The trip of 73 miles had taken just under 15 hours.dl199901.jpg (6946 bytes)
Rococo and Gibbon arrived on Friday afternoon. They had left Menai Bridge on Thursday evening, snatched a few hours sleep at Port Dinorwic and had negotiated Caernarfon Bar at first light close to low water. Parmelia and several of the Irish Folkboats also began arriving. Parmelia is a 32ft Macwester owned by Gordon Brown. He owned my boat at one time, and always tries to attend our rallies. He has performed sterling service over the years and was to do so once again this year as a committee boat, rescue boat and venue for impromptu parties! Doug in Argo arrived from Liverpool, solo having had a rough time off the Skerries, Anglesey, and George showed up in Flicka, from Northern Ireland.
The Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club is an extremely friendly club and made us most welcome. Despite its name there are very few motor boats. Most members sensibly go sailing and it is good to see a growing number of Folkboats based there, several owned by relatively young people. Berthing was free alongside the club's pontoon and we had bar and showers less than 30 metres away.dl199902.jpg (7601 bytes)
The rally was different from those that we have held in the past. The organising group Peter, Karl and Dermot wanted to make it much more informal and keep the costs down to encourage youngsters to attend the rally. They also felt that some crews would have difficulty attending for a whole week, so the organised racing was confined to two races on Saturday and Sunday. The formula seemed to work judging by the number of boats and everyone enjoyed the extra time to socialise. The only entry fee was for the Royal St George's Regatta on the Saturday. The club ran Sunday's race and the rest were do-it-yourself with Parmelia as committee boat

I'm not sure exactly which boats attended. I reckon we had the following: En Route, Triton, Wavedancer, Footloose and Vetus from Dun Laoghaire, Alara, Alar and Arlene from Poolbeg (Dublin), Serenader and Anoushka from Howth, Flicka from Northern Ireland, Argo from Liverpool and Gibbon, Rococo, Merch Medina and Neomys plus Parmelia from North Wales. Apologies to anyone I have missed out. It's interesting to meet the same boats over the years, some with new owners and also to renew old friendships. It is rather sad to see a decline in Folkboats from Howth but good to see that other groups are flourishing.
The Saturday race was both exciting and fun. As part of the Royal St. George Regatta there were more than ten starting groups and well over 100 boats racing - all on different courses - which made for some interesting crossing situations between converging boats under spinnakers. Although we had a note of the course we were unsure of the location of the buoys. From a list supplied by the club I entered their positions in the GPS as we waited for our start and we used that to find our way around. The wind was a fresh South-easterly, which produced quite a swell in Dublin Bay so there was plenty of spray. The final reach to the line was fantastic as we surfed down the rollers.
On Sunday we had a Folkboats only race around the cans in Dublin Bay. The main feature of this course was an enormous orange coloured car carried from Japan, anchored in the bay. We were to meet with her again.
On Monday seven of the boats decided to race to Malahide which is 12 miles north of Dun Laoghaire. Parme1ia provided the committee boat. The start was just outside the harbour, leaving N. Burford Cardinal to port to a finish inside Ireland's Eye at the Howth start/finish line, before cruising on to Malahide. That was the plan but soon after the start we were sailing in thick fog in Dublin Bay. Neomys lost sight of the fleet as we tacked onto port in the light easterly wind, and only Dermot followed us. Suddenly the orange car transporter loomed out of the fog. I thought she was still anchored until my crew pointed out that she had a bow wave and was coming straight at us. I hastily tacked and the orange giant slid past about 50 metres away.
By the time we reached N. Burford the wind had died though the fog had cleared and the rest of the fleet were in sight. After consultation on the radio it was decided to abandon the race. In any case Parme1ia was reporting an overheating engine so we volunteered to take her in tow and bring her into Howth. On a long warp she towed surprisingly well behind the Folkboat and we soon successfully handed her over to the harbour launch at the marina entrance. It didn't take long to catch up with the others who were still sailing (just) and cruise up the river to Malahide Marina.
Malahide is a particularly attractive town with two excellent pubs, though the marina facilities are still being completed. The entrance channel hasn't been dredged either but it is now clearly buoyed. With high water in the early hours of the morning we were going to have to depart rather early on Tuesday. It was a real effort to get under way after a superb meal the night before, washed down as usual with real Guinness.
By 0800 we were anchored off the beach at Ireland's Eye, enjoying breakfast in a light onshore wind. I blew the dinghy up after breakfast and ferried everyone from the other boats ashore so that we could explore the island and climb to the summit. The view from the top was magnificent; the descent somewhat more exciting than the ascent, thanks to the dive-bombing gulls. Although their young were almost fully fledged they were still grounded and the parent gulls were unhappy about our intrusion. However everyone made it safely to the beach and re-boarded the boats. From Ireland's Eye to Howth Marina is only half a mile so we were soon safely berthed and in the club bar.
That evening we were invited to join in the Tuesday evening racing and given our own start just after the Howth Seventeen's and Squibs. The wind was so light that some of the Folkboats towed two Squibs apiece to the start to the North of Ireland's Eye. I was surprised how heavy they were compared with Parmelia. The three classes got away cleanly, but the first mark was in the Wind shadow of the Island and all the boats closed up as we drifted about. It took a long time to reach the next mark especially in the strong tide. We actually overtook some of the Squibs, but by the time we were heading towards the third mark we could see the committee boat on station flying the shortened course flag. As we crossed the line the wind suddenly arrived and we all had a great reach back to the harbour, arriving back as darkness fell.

Next day's race was to Poolbeg Yatch Club which is in the heart of Dublin Port up the River Liffey. Unfortunately the wind was as light and fickle as ever and after drifting about right under the cliffs of Howth Head for ages we abandoned the race and motored into Dublin Bay. With the tide already running North there had been no chance of reaching the, first mark. Once round the headland and past the Bailey Lighthouse of course the wind filled in and gave us a good run to Liffey entrance.

Dublin is now a very busy port with the Irish economy booming, at least in the Dublin area. As we motored up the harbour three large ships and two ferries overtook us. We rafted up on the pontoon outside the clubhouse alongside a large yacht from Antwerp not a common sight in the Irish Sea. I have visited the Poolbeg Club on two previous occasions and each time the heavens have opened. However it is has never dampened the welcome we have received. This time the weather was a perfect, balmy evening as we sat outside until after midnight enjoying the Guinness again and watching the ships manoeuvring in the river - not the most idyllic view but an impressive display of seamanship by the tugs - and the company was great

Next morning - Thursday - Rococa, Gibbon and Wavedancer set off for Wicklow. Merch Medina had sailed to Dun Laoghaire to pick up a new crew the night before, and Argo and Parmelia had stayed in Howth. These two were due to sail in company to Holyhead before Doug set off back to Liverpool. My crew Steve wanted to be home by Friday night so that he could go sailing on Bala Lake! He has a catamaran there. Our plan was to make the short cruise across to Dun Laoghaire, have a day in Dublin and then sail back to Wales on Friday. However it was a beautiful day with a light to moderate Easterly wind and it seemed a pity to spend it in the City. After a brief discussion we decided to follow the others to Wicklow. The weather did not hold. As we approached Dalkey Island on the South side of Dublin Bay, we ran into dense fog,(A Foggy Day in Dublin Bay) and the Wind veered South-easterly and freshened. We radioed the others who reported dense fog interspersed with clearer patches. We pressed on, passing through Dalkey Sound without seeing the Island, a mere 100 metres away. Because we had set off later than the others the tide soon headed us and it was cold and damp in the fog. When we finally reached Wicklow the others were already on their second round of drinks, but the sun was hot against the wall in the river, so we soon dried out and warmed up.
Steve and I planned to leave Wicklow at 0200 in the morning to catch the tide over Caernarfon Bar and through the Swellies, so we left the party early and got our heads down for a couple of hours. Right on time we quietly slipped the warps and motored out of the harbour. It was a magnificently clear night with not a breath of wind; so clear that the thousands of stars overhead were perfectly reflected in the sea, and the South India cardinal mark six miles away, looked so close one felt one could touch it. Not long after passing it the moon rose, followed by a fantastic dawn and a welcome sunrise.
The day gradually got hotter and although the horizon was hazy and fog seemed to threaten, thankfully it didn't materialise. With the boat on Autohelm we sunbathed, sorted gear and aired our clothing and the bunk cushions. By 1000 we could see Holyhead Mountain and had a chat on the radio with Parmelia, which was in Holyhead Harbour with Argo, waiting for the flood tide to take them to the Menai Strait.

We were just enjoying our second breakfast, with the toast doing nicely, when there was a sudden bang and the engine revs increased dramatically. We had hit something! I put the engine into reverse and pieces of polythene floated to the surface astern of us. Unfortunately the vibrations told us that there was still some round the prop. We stopped the engine and inflated the dinghy and luckily, because it was still so calm, it was easy for Steve to fish the debris off the prop. I restarted the engine and put it into gear. The vibrations were shaking the whole boat so we still had a problem, apart from the burnt toast, which I had nearly forgotten about in all the excitement. Steve hopped in the dinghy and had a look under the boat. "You have lost a blade off the prop!", he announced. I didn't believe it and had a look myself. The water was perfectly clear and with the sun shining onto the rudder I had to admit he was right.

We made a. quick appraisal of our situation. There was still no wind but we could make about three knots under engine. Any faster and the vibration was unacceptable. It seemed unlikely that we would make Caernarfon Bar in time unless we got a tow. Well Gordon was In Holyhead and he owed us one. We contacted him on the VHF and he agreed to rendezvous with us South of Anglesey. We also reported the situation to Holyhead Coastguard in case we lost the other blade from the prop. As ever they were more than happy to monitor our progress home, though the only danger was probably from sunburn as we slowly chugged towards the Menai Strait.

After about an hour the wind filled in enough to set the spinnaker on a shy reach and we were able to motor-sail. Our speed increased to five knots, so we changed our rendezvous with Parmelia to the Caernarfon Bar buoy. We watched Gordon's progress along the coast inshore of us, both arriving at the Bar exactly at the same time. From there Gordon towed us up the Strait and through the Swellies to our mooring. With nothing to do but follow Parmelia on a long line we lunched, cleaned the boat and packed our gear.

While Dermot in Wave Dancer sailed north from Wicklow back to Dun Laoghaire, Rococa, Gibbon and Merch Medina had an uneventful crossing to Anglesey and anchored in Rhoscolyn for the night so they could continue the party in the Eagle, before sailing to the Menai Strait the following day.

So ended another memorable Irish Sea Folkboat Rally.

Perhaps the 1999 Rally may become a blueprint for future years and with less emphasis on racing and more on cruising, I hope that even more people will join us in the future.


We were one of four North Wales based Folkboats taking part in the annual Irish Sea Area Folkboat Rally, and had been guests of the Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. We had spent the week in a mixture of racing, cruising and socialising, and were now on our way South to Wicklow before heading for home across the Irish Sea.

My crew and I had planned to spend the day in Dublin but the weather seemed too good to confine ourselves to the city, so we had left Dun Laoghaire for Wicklow in bright sunshine and easterly force three winds. However as we reached Dalkey Island on the south side of Dublin Bay we ran into fog blowing off the sea, and the wind veered to the Southeast - not so good. As we rounded the southernmost tip of Dublin Bay the houses on the cliff top above us were still bathed in hazy sunshine but Dalkey Island, a mere 200 metres away, was totally lost in the fog. . The other three Folkboats were about an hour ahead of us and reporting better conditions further south, so we decided to continue.

With the wind in the southeast we were able to make long tacks to the south, slowly closing the coast with the help of the echo sounder, chart and GPS. There are miles of beautiful sandy beaches along this stretch of the Irish coast. Apart from the occasional person taking their dog for a walk, they were deserted. Each time the water shallowed to four metres we tacked out to sea for a mile or so before heading south again. Bray head emerged from the fog, bathed in sunshine but it soon disappeared as we sailed on.

About an hour later, we were again closing the coast still in thick fog. Although we were only two or three hundred yards off, we could see nothing. Suddenly there was a single long blast from a foghorn very close on our starboard bow. I didn't wait to find out what it was and immediately tacked out to sea, sounding our fog signal in reply. Nothing else happened! No vessel appeared and there were no more fog signals. Somewhat chastened, and keeping a very good lookout, we sailed on for another hour, when, as suddenly as it had appeared, the fog cleared and we could see our destination about five miles away.

Once again we were close to the beach on port tack.I was facing forward looking for any sign of the other boats and nearly jumped out of my skin when the same fog signal as before sounded just off our starboard quarter. "What was that?", I gasped - or words to that effect. Steve who had been looking aft was grinning from ear to ear. "Look! It's that train approaching a level crossing!". Sure enough the railway line was just behind the beach and a train was thundering along it. With the wind in the southeast, we hadn't heard the other train, only its warning horn in the fog. We had tacked away from a train!

So, if anyone ever asks you what makes one long blast in fog, you can tell them it's a power driven vessel underway and making way - or the Dublin to Rosslare express!

 Robin Pinner

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This page was last edited 17/01/02 14:11