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#1 2021-03-14 17:36:51

From: Chester
Registered: 2017-06-25
Posts: 60



Dawn in Conwy on day one

Since buying Triptych, a 1988 Victoria 34 in 2017, we have been refitting her in stages. Having worked our way through the most important issues – standing and running rigging, engine, stern gear and so on – we moved down the list to leak hunting, replacing all the sanitary hoses and removing the dysfunctional holding bladder last winter. We also ordered a new suit of sails and were ready to sail quite early in the 2019 season, but pressing family issues and the weather pushed back our departure date so it was gone mid-August before we sailed.

Outward bound, towards Douglas

With a reasonable forecast, we sailed from Conwy to continue cruising the east Irish coast. Previously we had visited Glenarm, Bangor, Ardglass, Howth and Dun Laoghaire and we liked them all, but if we had to pick one favourite it would be Dun Laoghaire. Once across the Irish Sea we hoped to go south beyond Dun Laoghaire and see where the wind took us. We decided not to sail via Holyhead so first stop was Douglas, IOM. We sailed most of the way on a broad reach under headsails alone as it was quite lively with a quartering sea and we still made a good speed.

Douglas marina, north side

In the Isle of Man, August Bank Holiday means Classic motorbikes – deep vibrato everywhere. The marina was quite full, we had a delicate job getting onto our echelon berth well up the north side and getting off had its own problems.

Triptych in Douglas Marina

We paused here for a few days and explored the island a bit more, going up Snaefell by tram, which was fun though visibility from the summit was poor that day. We also took the bus to Castletown; it was misty in the morning on arrival but that burned off by afternoon and revealed a gem. We couldn’t lie against the wall to dry out but a bilge keeled boat could easily be quite comfortable here and also get into the inner harbour by arrangement with the harbourmaster to open the footbridge.

The refuge on Conister Rock in Douglas Bay for shipwrecked mariners

Lady Isabella wheel, used to pump water from the Laxey mines

All change for Snaefell summit

After a little drama turning around in the marina, we locked out and sailed for Ireland on the Tuesday, intending to visit Ardglass first and then move on to pastures new. The sail down the Manx coast was straightforward though we did encounter some standing waves off Langness. We reared up and crashed down a few times, much to my wife’s alarm, but it proved two things; one, for a quiet life, keep well to seaward of Langness, and two, our leak-sealing programme had worked; everything below was bone dry.


Castletown quay

Castletown harbour

Chicken Rock

Ardglass is easy to spot from offshore. A water tower is sky-lined to the south of the harbour; it’s the second opening north of St John’s Point and the first opening south of Strangford.

Head straight into the harbour heading for a small white tower on the old harbour, that shows a sectored light at night. You may experience some swell off the entrance. Leave the main harbour to port and an isolated beacon to starboard then head for a cluster of buoys - green and red lateral and an east cardinal - to the east of the inner breakwater. Because of rocks, do not attempt to cut between the cardinal and the breakwater; leave the cardinal to the east (port) before entering the marina fairway.


Phennick Cove Developments had the basin blasted out of the bedrock in 1994 using international grant funding to aid regeneration of the town. Fred Curran still runs it but now he is in his 80s and has some younger helpers. It is run as a community project and all, Fred included, are unpaid volunteers. Parallel community activities include the building of two St Ayles rowing skiffs for competitive rowing on the Irish coast and in Scotland; in addition, they have built two Viking longboats for other fun activities.

Ardlass Marina

Long boat racing is fun for the local young people

Ardglass is an active fishing port

Ardglass harbour

The three pontoons legs are chain-moored. Most of the local boats are on the far side of the marina, allowing twenty or more berths for visitors, which includes three berths for boats of around 50 feet. Water and power are available on the pontoons at no extra charge and the marina showers are better than most. Laundry facilities are available, there is Wi-Fi reception in the main building and a loan/exchange library. Access is controlled by a door-code.

Mannie and his motor boat, built by a Swedish farmer while he was in the Merchant Navy

Ardglass is well placed for a stop off for any craft transiting this coast. With two metres maintained in the fairway, the marina is accessible throughout the tide to small craft and, nestling behind a second breakwater, it is well sheltered.

Although the pilot books tell you to call up Ardglass marina on VHF 37/80, don’t be surprised if there’s no response mid-afternoon or later. We took a berth on the open side of the first pontoon and sorted ourselves out. Fred Curran wasn’t there but Ricky Le Bloas, a Channel Islander married to a local girl, came later and we paid him. However, as soon as we heard the evening forecast and saw the weather charts it was clear we were not going anywhere for a day or two. Therefore, we settled down for what we hoped would be a short wait before we were off again.

We had done some coastal walks on a previous visit but the paths on the north side of the harbour have since overgrown. Being unable to sail to Strangford Lough we decided to take the bus there, changing at Downpatrick bus station. From this hub there is a good and frequent service to Belfast which we used later.

A sculpture outside the St Patrick Centre

One of many fortified buildings around Strangford Lough

Despite the forecast, it was a glorious day ashore. We lunched at the St Patrick Centre close to the Downpatrick bus station, before going on to Strangford and that was very pretty indeed. There’s a gated single pontoon by the ferry port for local yachts and visitors; contact the berthing manager on 02844 881222 or 07767 781975. Public toilets are provided at the rear of the ferry building and the local shops are in easy reach.

From the shore it was easy to see the strong flood tide ripping along in the fairway. We took the ferry across at a pound each way and enjoyed the view across the lough to Audley’s Tower on the west side and across to Portaferry on the east. With the tide underneath the us, the ferry was swept smartly up channel to Portaferry.

Portaferry Marina is a larger affair with buoyed access at the seaward end. It is gated, has water and power available with 2.5 metres water at LAT. There are 15 berths for visitors and toilet facilities are close by; the manager is available on 07703 209780. Portaferry is another gem with shops close by.

Strangford ferry

Portaferry Marina

Winds of force 6 and above persisted. We went for a walk along the fishing quay that evening, and spotted tan sails over the sea wall. A nobby came in with headsails handed, entered the fishing harbour and rounded up as the skipper handed the main. We then watched a master class performance in single-handing an old gaffer by Joe Pennington in ‘Master Frank’, a fully restored Ramsey Nobby. When we got back to the marina, he was already tucked up close by.

Master Frank, executing a masterclass in solo sail handling in Ardglass

Master Frank getting under way

The strong winds continued and the next evening a Dutch sailing barge came into the fishing harbour with a broken main gaff. In the succeeding days, two more boats came in with damage, a torn genoa on one and main on the other. We were tucked up safely in this comfortable hurricane hole. The only place we were going was Belfast.


The Titanic Exhibition Centre

HMS Caroline

Melanie on HMS Caroline

There’s a boat yard attached to the marina compound where various repair work is done. Marine diesel is available from Milligan’s in the old harbour and unmarked road diesel from the Maxol filling station on Bath Street, where there is also an excellent Eurospar and pharmacy. For hardware or cooking gas try Browne’s on Bath Street and there is a basic ship’s chandler on the fishing quay.

Fuel is available from Milligans, close to the marina

The forecast remained very changeable but was settled for long enough after the passage of a front to let ‘Master Frank’ make a bolt for Peel, but we stood fast, as did everyone else and the next morning we went off to Belfast. The bus took us through the quaint old grain and livestock port of Killough on the way. There is a sea wall but this harbour dries and I understand the bottom is rocky for anchoring off.

Killough Bay and the Mountains of Mourne

The first time in Belfast we saw City Hall and stretched our legs; we returned later to see HMS Caroline, having previously seen the Titanic exhibition. HMS Caroline is a fast WW1 light cruiser that was present at the Battle of Jutland. For many years, she was the headquarters ship for the Belfast RNR, which is how I first boarded her. Since then, she’s had a great deal of work done to her to return her silhouette to something close to the original. This includes dummy deck guns and gun shields to support this illusion but the roofed-over drill-deck remains. We had a light lunch aboard in the junior rates mess and were very impressed with the conversion to museum role as well as the exhibits ashore.

On the way through the Titanic quarter, we passed the SS Nomadic – Titanic’s passenger tender - sharing the dry dock with a rather curious beast that turned out to be the gate to a graving dock and close by is the Belfast Harbour Marina. This is accessible throughout the tide, providing 45 berths including visitors’ berths with four metres depth. You pay by debit/credit card using a machine on the pontoon. The ticket provided then allows you access to shore facilities and regain the pontoon.

SS Nomadic, tender to SS Titanic

The best place to eat out is the golf club but the catering service stops early, particular Monday to Wednesday; give them a call to check timings (02844 841219). Alternatively, Curran’s Bar and Restaurant (02844 841332), a couple of miles away in Chapeltown, serves good food. For takeaway options try the fish and chip shop on Bath Street or the Chinese takeaway and restaurant on the quay.

Ardglass Golf Club

They take their golf seriously in Ardglass

Finally, a ridge of high pressure nudged into UK waters and gave us 48 hours of settled weather, and the next day all the captive, visiting yachts bomb-burst up and down the coast. We sailed for Douglas in a fresh north-westerly breeze and the sail across was fast. When we rounded the Calf of Man, and got into flat water, we were creaming along at 7-8 knots and in sunshine. Sadly, good things don’t last forever and the wind faded away before we reached Douglas Head. Wanting to leave early this next day and without the fuss of arranging bridge lifts, we opted for the waiting pontoon at the Battery Pier overnight and that proved a good decision – it was a quiet night with no early morning flap to get ready to leave.

Dawn after we cleared Douglas Harbour

After a magnificent, Technicolor dawn we had a good romp, sailing most of the way back to Conwy but we lost the wind off the Anglesey coast, while towards Snowdonia there was another magnificent but monochrome display, this time of Cumulus clouds in a thousand shades of grey. There were a few ships coming up to Liverpool as we approached the shipping lane but with AIS and hand-bearings there was nothing to worry about.

Cumulus off the Anglesey coast

Sailing along the Anglesey coast, the tide was on the flood now and gave us a lift as we approached Conwy. We entered Conwy fairway just after half tide with water enough over the bar and the flap-gate open in the marina. We were all but home.

Although we had only entered two ports, we had visited three other marina facilities and two other harbours, which wasn’t quite what we had intended. However, I can recommend a stop at Ardglass if you are passing and need overnight respite or shelter. It is a cracking little marina with friendly people, useful facilities and it’s easy to get about on the buses to Strangford and beyond.

Conwy Marina

Don Fitzroy Smith


#2 2021-03-15 16:39:20

Committee Member
From: Dun Laoghaire, Ireland
Registered: 2017-03-14
Posts: 152


Lovely write-up Don! Looks like I should get on with planning a visit to IoM from Dun Laoghaire, various factors permitting.

Victoria 34 Cutter - 'Blue Opal' (the non-bowsprit edition)


#3 2021-10-04 19:19:16

From: Petersfield Hampshire
Registered: 2015-06-07
Posts: 23


An interesting account with some great photographs


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