The good, the bad and the ‘buggly’

February 9, 2018

Written By Paul Flint – Jeremy Fisher  

The Isle of Man is an intriguing and sometimes elusive destination. At times, from Whitehaven, it feels within touching distance. At others, it can be hidden in mist at the flick of a finger – that of the Manx sea god Manannan.

Kirkcudbright Bay, followed by Douglas were to be our destinations on a three night ‘expedition’. This term is not an exaggeration. A trip in Jeremy Fisher, a 44 year-old, Fisher 30 motor-sailer can be unpredictable. Perhaps that is the attraction. If getting from A to B was too easy, would the journey be memorable?

My previous trip to Kirkcudbright had been plain sailing, but the boat came with a history. I had bought it in Carrick Fergus, from where a friend and I had made brisk progress to Whitehaven, but one mile short of the breakwaters the wind and the engine had failed and we were towed ignominiously into the marina. I soon found that the fuel tank was riddled with diesel bug. This started a frustrating relationship with black sludge and emulsified fuel. I drained the tank, moved the fuel vent from just above the waterline, added liberal doses of chemicals and now make frequent filter changes. Bug still lingers at the back of my mind and, like my thoughts, it has never entirely gone away.

After scrutinising charts and pilot books we sailed with a good supply of fresh fuel, a box of primary filters and me, discretely, touching wood. Our departure was delayed, however, when we found that although the engine turned beautifully, the boat barely moved. Through the murky water we could see the propeller encrusted with a grey growth. I now carry a hoe, not for a wheelhouse roof garden, but to clear problems.

We sailed, the wind veered to the north, and so we headed, instead, for Douglas to arrive at about midnight. Night sailing is fun and easier than it might look. Blurry daytime headlands, that defy easy fixes, can be seen 20 or 30 miles away as lighthouses betray their position. Ships’ lights indicate relative courses, and useful apps help fill in gaps. 

We arrived in Douglas amidst a sea of lights. I use the word ‘in’ advisedly as I had forgotten to radio the harbour staff of what was, at that time of night, a very sleepy port. I am sure it was only coincidence that, after the need to seek permission before entering was explained, we were told to use the most distant berth from marina facilities. It’s amazing what you can fit into 36 hours, including a trip to Castletown on a steam train, where we uncovered a sailor’s gem, the Nautical Museum. We were too early, however, for the annual tin bath race across the harbour.

Our journey north took us within shouting distance of the Point of Ayre, to anchor in Kirkcudbright Bay in the dark, amidst showers and the eerie flicker of flares on the firing range. A safety boat hogged the only available mooring, but ensured that we did not become a naval target. Little Ross Island was for sale (did the price reflect the fact that a lighthouse keeper was once murdered there?).

When work deadlines are pressing, these need not stand in the way of an enjoyable mini expedition. We had fitted a lot into four days, except seeing a Manx cat!

 

Preparing to leave Whitehaven

 

Leaving Whitehaven

 

En route

 

Paul and Cecilia - Photo by Richard Flint

 

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