Cardiff Bay to Belfast Lough 

We are entering Belfast Lough. It’s been a mixture of weather over the last two days. Once we left the sandy shallows of Cardiff – six hours late thanks to the eel – the weather has blown up to a F5, right on the nose. The sea was a yucky brown colour and ruffled into steep, irritable waves. We got the main up (with two reefs) and the staysail and slowly beat our way westwards. 

The sea stayed rough for while. I was on galley duty for the day. Lunch had been pretty easy, sitting at anchor. My biggest problem had been lack of access to the fridge, as the crew had tools all over it while they fixed the engine. No cheese! The evening was a bit harder and after directing operations and Sue womanfully delivering, I retired.

At 0400 I got up, only for the skipper to remind me that as chef I was excused the night watch. But it was a beautiful night with shooting stars, moonshine, dolphins and a smooth sea. (Too smooth really: much motor sailing.) It was delightful so I stayed up. I love being at sea during a night watch.

Yesterday, Sunday, was very busy on Sea Dragon. We finally got the manta trawl in the water, a tool designed to capture different grades of material in the water for analysis. It was exciting as up to now the weather has been too poor to get it in. And when we were finally ready, spinnaker pole rigged up and all set, a curious seal popped up to examine our antics. After she had gone away, we waited the prescribed 20 minutes; fortunately she did not come back till later. We hauled it in and immediately found we had caught a compass jellyfish who was duly measured and returned to the sea.

We also trawled for phytoplankton, observed gannets, dolphins and other wildlife, and even saw some plastic. Oilskins disappeared to be replaced with shorts and suncream. A good day all round, and with no signal so we could not report to anyone on our progress.

In fact we were doing well. The flat seas allowed us to ride the tide up north, past Milford Haven and St David’s, Cardigan Bay and Anglesey. All the time we were in Welsh waters and latitude, it did not rain even when windy. 

By the turn of last night though, things were changing., I was on watch 2000-0000. By then it was getting pretty windy, at 25-30 knots. It kept coming from the south, so although the waves were building, it was a comfortable, if rolly ride. Unlike Lands End, there was no vomit. Our watch jibed in quite big seas. The whole operation took an hour. I spent it all on the helm and by the time we were done my arms and shoulders were sore with keeping us on a safe course as other crew slowly winched and eased sheets, preventer guys and the back runners. Yes it was complicated.

Today has stayed rolly and intermittently wet. Just now, in the shelter of the Lough, we are managing some science. As I type, we are approaching fairway bout number 5, so I want to go up on deck and see our arrival.  I’ve never been to Belfast before.


About Sarah Tanburn

I'm a writer, a sailor and a strategic adviser to public organisations. Visit my websites to find out more.
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