Mukti’s Diary • May 2007

Thursday 31st May

Proof against water

The wind was good for our passage north towards Oban, but I was shattered. After breakfast I suggested a day of rest, and Jay was in agreement. Clive drove us back to Balanoch.

On opening the port locker we found that the bottle of water-proofing fluid I had bought for the mattress covers after the Irish Sea drenching, had opened and emptied its contents into the locker. Being waterproofing, it was very difficult to clean up. Jay and I spent a couple of hours washing everything out with soapy water and pouring the water onto the nearby gravel car park. Eventually it was done and the boat was very clean.

A reporter for an Argyll newspaper came down to do an interview. After lunch Jay took his guitar for a walk and I passed out in the cabin for the afternoon. We were supposed to have an early night but talked until late about honing my talk and other things. Tut, tut.

Wednesday 30th May

A canal tow - by bicycle!

We went through the sea lock at 0830 and it was Chance’s first time in a canal. She looked so sweet and small in the locks, and rowed beautifully between. At the top of the first flight, an elderly gentleman in a cycling helmet came over. It was Clive Brown, our contact in Ardfern, the next port. Clive was retired and had brought his mountain bike down to tow us. It worked fantastically. We tied a long line from half way up the mast to the back of his bike, and Clive gallantly pedalled us the first two miles at a sparkling three knots, which felt very fast. Jay took over then, and Clive came on board to take the helm and have a cup of tea. Not long after, a keen cyclist passed and insisted on towing us another mile with his fixed-gear bicycle.

We reached the top of the Canal after lock number seven, and there was yacht Liberty. We had a nice lunch together and exchanged digital photos and email addresses, before the midges arrived in swarms. Jay and I were fine in our midge-hats, but Liberty had to push on to escape the swarms.

We soon caught them at the next flight of locks and went down together, with the wonderful Scottish scenery stretching out into the distance below and all around us.

I took to the pedals after lunch and by 5pm we arrived at the Balanoch Basin. We left Chance there, and Clive’s friend, Sandy, drove us up to Ardfern, where I was to give a talk.

Clive and Jan put on a fantastic spread for dinner, and then we went down to set up the village hall. There was a great audience of around 30, and I thoroughly enjoyed giving the talk. It was difficult to get going, partly as we couldn’t get the video projector to work for the initial photos of Chance and the journey. But once things got going it was great. There were lots of questions, and I sold 15 books, and received lots of positive feedback.

Tuesday 29th May

Caladh to Ardrishaig via Crinnan Canal

We weighed anchor at 10am and sailed with Liberty towards Ardrishaig, the entrance to the Crinnan Canal. This 5-mile canal allows one to cut through across the top of the Mull of Kintyre, avoiding a long journey round.

After a pleasant run down the west Kyle, we had a long, hard beat to windward with little tide to help. The wind was dead against us, a NW5 and all the bouncing made Jay feel nauseous for a while. He found it easier on the helm, so I left him there beyond his watch. We found calmer waters tacking up the lee of the land on the east side of Loch Fyne. Later in the day the wind dropped to a gentle breeze, that was comfortable but slow. Jay played the guitar and I made the best of every last scrap of wind to ease us on, and we arrived at Ardrishaig at 10pm.

Monday 28th May

Kip to Caladh, Bute

I had left my old sailing jacket in St. Enoch’s Square. It was 8 years old and on its last legs, so I wasn’t too disappointed. I found a new jacket in Kip Marina’s Chandlery, as well as a Tilley Hat for the summer sun. Jay had bought us two mosquito-net hats and a net for the hatch too, as we were entering midge country.

We sailed at 1pm for the Kyles of Bute, the narrow channel inside the island of Bute. The scenery was fantastic, with the steep grass-covered hills stretching high up from the water’s edge on both sides. Over lunch we were almost becalmed, creping forward with barely a ripple and plenty of time to chat. Later in the afternoon a force 5 gusted on the nose and Jay learnt about Chance’s stability even with the gunwales under. We finally crept into Caladh harbour, a natural harbour between the mainland and a tiny islet at the north end of the Kyles. We anchored behind a good-looking navy-hulled yacht.

A tender arrived from the yacht, Liberty, and invited us for an after-dinner drink. We had a lovely evening on board and then slept tired and content.

Sunday 27th May

Clyde to Kip

I was staggered to find that the weather forecast today was NE. The prevailing wind in the Clyde is westerly and I was wondering how we were going to get out of 26 miles of river against the wind. I would have had a day of rest, but this was too good to waste, so Jay, Geoff and I set off from the Prince’s Dock at 12pm. We dropped Geoff off at the Maritime Museum to continue his journey to Holland, and Jay and I sailed on down the Clyde. Fred met us at the Govan Gauntlet to make sure we had a nice farewell, but the bottle-kids were all in bed with hangovers. Fred wanted to crew on the tour. “7th July in Newcastle!” I shouted. “7th July!” he replied.

With a fair wind and sunshine we sailed on, goose winged, with the keel right up. We ate humus and cucumber sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and peanuts, miso-soup, rooibos tea, and chatted. Jay and I met on the Atlantic crossing in 2000 when I designed Chance, and had not spent time together for a while, so it was good to be able to catch up.

We reached Kip Marina at 1930, terribly pleased to have got out of the Clyde in one day.

Saturday 26th May

At 9 o’clock Dennis and John turned up with a 16 tonne truck and hiab crane. They lifted Chance out of the Clyde and carried her to St. Enoch’s Square in Glasgow’s city centre. Dennis negotiated tiny back alleys to avoid the morning traffic. It was strange and wonderful to see Chance lifted through the air like a bird. A boat in the air is always a wonderful site, to see the whole hull as a fish would from below.

The day in St. Enoch’s square was great. The sun shone and a breeze wafted through with just two brief showers. There were several low-carbon stalls including Friends of the Earth, Sustrans, The Green Blue, Glasgow Is Made By Us, Six Cities, and others, including a great biking group with a fantastic four-wheel, four-pedalling-passenger, bike-car made in Switzerland.

Several bands played and I gave a talk at 3pm. Councillor Martha Wardrop said she would like to buy 79 copies of The Guide for all the Glasgow City Councillors.

At the end of the day Dennis came to pick Chance up and we were soon back in the Clyde.

Friday 25th May

Glasgow: Stones and curry

Spent the day catching up on diary and email. Sunny Govan Radio called at 11am and I did a live radio interview on the tour and low carbon lifestyles, for about 15 minutes.

At 06:15 we set off up river towards Glasgow City Centre for the official arrival at 7pm. Gal Gael met us a mile from the Science Centre in a beautiful traditional boat like a small Viking longship, with eight oars. Under a following wind we had trouble keeping the speed down so as not to leave them behind, but is was great sailing in convoy with this beautiful boat and the great Gal Gael crew. Unbeknownst to us we soon passed the Govan Gauntlet. We had been warned that yachts entering Glasgow can have stones thrown at them, but I never thought they would throw stones at such a small boat. However, having got a bit ahead of Gal Gael we were tacking across the river to get back to them and John, who was on their helm, started calling “Mukti! Mukti!” to warn me. Kids were yelling abuse and they started throwing stones. One was a very good shot and Geoff and I watched this stone hurtling towards us and wondered if we were literally going to have to duck. It hit the sail and did no damage, though it could have knocked one of us out. We tacked out of reach and stayed on the other side of Gal Gael’s boat. The Gal Gael crew shouted something at the kids and they backed off a bit. It turned out that one of Gal Gael’s crew, Fred, knew the kids. The next day, Dennis, our truck driver, said “Oh, that’s the Glasgow welcome. They only threw stones? They must have liked you. If they didn’t like you, they would have thrown bottles!” We all had a laugh.

At 7 o’clock we arrived at the Glasgow Science Centre. There was a small crowd to welcome us, including my friend Jay who had organised the Glasgow event. Councillor Martha Wardrop and a journalist came down, and we all sat aboard the Gal Gael boat chatting. It was a wonderful solid wooden boat and the Gal Gael crew are so full of character that the atmosphere on board was rich and warm. It was a traditional boat of these waters and similar to the vessel of the song:

“Sail bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, over the sea to sky.
Carry the lad that was born to be king, over the sea to sky.
Hark the bell ring, hark the waves roar, 'Onward!’ The sailors cry.
Stranded our foe, stand on the shore, follow they dare not try.
So sail bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, over the sea to sky.”

After Gal Gael had gone, Jay, Geoff and I dropped Chance’s mast and rowed over to the Crown Plaza Hotel pontoon for the night. We had heard that Glasgow is the capital of curry, so we went out and had quite a good one.

Thursday 24th May

The man with the crane thought it was OK

We rang Gal Gael today and Helen came to pick us up and take us to their workshops. Gal Gael is a wonderful trust that works with unemployed people, youths and traditional boatbuilders to build, restore and maintain traditional wooden boats of all kinds and to sail them on the Clyde and beyond. They gave us a very warm welcome and showed us around. After lunch I gave a talk on Low Carbon Lifestyles.

Johny took us down to the Science Centre so we could size-up the best spot for Chance to be lifted out. It seemed a very long way down from the quayside to the water’s edge, but if the man with the HIAB (a crane on a lorry) thought it was OK, that was the important thing. We walked down the river to St. Enoch’s Square, where we met Neil, from Six Cities, a project to revitalize communities in the six Scottish Cities. Together we drew-up a site plan for the event on Saturday. Geoff went to collect some unused posters from the council, and I went to ask if the Strathclyde Transport Offices if they would consider letting us use electricity through one of their windows.

Tired and hungry, we had a crepe and then caught the dinky Glasgow tube trains back to Gal Gael and home.

Wednesday 23rd May

Bordering on grumpy

I had all sorts of plans for the day but in fact I was utterly shattered, absent-minded and bordering on grumpy. We managed showers and the purchase of some fresh foods before collapsing again for a siesta. Before a moderately early night we walked down the quayside to X-scape and went in to have a look at the indoor ski-slope. A snow mobile was shunting the real snow around. The whole place was a vast indoor playground for adults, with climbing walls and dance-machines where you have to dance on a grid that lights-up. Unfortunately the ‘canned air’ was rather unpleasant.

Tuesday 22nd May

Clyde to Glasgow

The wind was still in the south west. I was apprehensive about negotiating my first major river port with the issues of current and shipping. But as it turned out there was plenty of space on the water. Goose winged again we sped up the Clyde towards Glasgow. The major ports of Greenock and Port Glasgow drifted past to starboard. There were a few ships around but all very much on the ball in these confined waters and giving us plenty of room.

When planning the round Britain I assumed that Port Glasgow on the Chart was Glasgow itself, so had to do a second-take when I realised the city centre is about 20 miles further up river. But Jay had organised a huge event and the boat was due to be lifted out and taken into the city centre so up the river we would go.

After Dumbarton, about half way up, we encountered my first bell-buoys. These are huge stone pillars built at he side of the channel to act as starboard-hand channel markers. They were very impressive, the last one big enough to incorporate some accommodation, like a mini-lighthouse.

Nearing Glasgow we passed under the Erskine Bridge and our first ship went by just 20 yards beside us. The sun glowed its evening warmth and the wind dropped to a gentle breeze that fluttered the leaves of the young birch trees along the river. We sailed right under the flightpath to Glasgow airport and photographed a landing aeroplane huge above the mast.

Time and tide were just right and we pulled up to the maritime museum pontoon at 5 o’clock. We had reached Glasgow in Scotland.

Monday 21st May

Like the clappers to Kip

Roddy sent the local paper down first thing for an interview, and since the wind was still good from the SW we set off at 1000 for Ardrossan. The fantastic isle of Ailsa Craig passed on our left, like a huge Christmas pudding in the middle of the firth of Clyde. Arran lay behind it, with her tremendous peaks dominating the skyline. It was fantastic to be sailing into an area with mountains on all sides yet still be in deep water.

The sun shone and the wind only picked up a little so by 4pm we were nearing Ardrossan after 27 miles made good. The tide would turn against us, but it is so slight here that it would only produce 0.2 knots of current, so I decided to sail on into the inner firth. The Atlantic north of Ireland narrows into the north Channel. This opens into the wider Firth of Clyde, and at the top end this in turn enters a much narrower channel which I call the inner Firth of Clyde. So we were sailing from into ever narrowing channels but still were in the sea and deep water. Such is the wonder of cruising in Western Scotland. As we entered the inner firth I got more excited that we would be sailing further and further into the mountains. The combination of sea and mountains together I find very powerful.

By now the wind had picked up to a 5 and one o the south. We were running goose-winged (with the mainsail on one side and the Genoa on the other) with poled out Genoa and a preventer (a rope that holds the boom out so it can't fly across the boat and hit you) on the mainsail. The waves were three and four feet high and causing us to surf forwards at ever increasing rates. Soon we reached 7.7 knots with the tide against us, and then the all time hull speed record for Chance to date, 8 knots through the water.

We surfed past Hunterston nuclear power station, a strange, dull building with not a soul to be seen. Largs Yacht Haven was a possible destination but as we were going like the clappers we continued towards Kip. At 8 o’clock the wind reached a six. Goff was having great fun but in the fading light I had to opt for reducing sail. Things can change very fast at sea and if we had had to turn to windward for any reason we would have been overpowered otherwise. With a reef in and moving sensibly again, we reached Kip Marina at 9 o'clock. It was a great leg, and we had covered 43 miles. We were now so well tucked up in the inner reaches of the firth, that I felt confident we could make Glasgow by Friday in most weather conditions.

The night security man used to work for Glasgow Port Authority. He dug out an excellent nautical map (not a chart as it had no lat and long) of the river all the way up to Glasgow, and showed me all the possible stopping off points en route. He even called the port authority to let them know we'd be sailing up the next day, and they said it was a quiet day in the river.

Sunday 20th May

Dodging ferries toward Girvan

The gale was well passed and the sea calm so we set out at 1300 on the north setting tide. It was a great sail; the conditions were perfect, with a SW3-4 on the quarter (rear corner of the boat) as we headed north. The sun shone and the land was beautiful as we ran up alongside it. Geoff had taken Stugeron, a very effective anti-nausea pill, and with his wellington boots was having a thoroughly enjoyable time to make up for the last leg.

The wind held and after dodging the fast ferries at Stranraer, we drew up to Girvan 25 miles and six hours later. As the wind was so good I was very tempted to carry on into the night, but Geoff wasn’t keen and we had reached our intended destination.

Girvan is a very pretty little port to pull into, with trees and grass right down to the harbour. After dinner we had a walk and then fell into lengthy conversation with the harbour master Roddy Leitch. It all started with us noticing the wonderful model boat in his office. It was a 3ft radio controlled sailing vessel and Roddy had actually used it to collect harbour dues from yachts on moorings. Roddy was full of great stories about the Russian Navy coming down to visit their ancient flagship which had finally been sunk near Girvan. He was also very up on carbon issues, so we talked about the planed zero-carbon marina development and the windfarm on the hill. Roddy said he really liked the wind turbines up the valley, but we all agreed that the plans to put a 300ft turbine in the middle of town were a bit over the top. It seemed like Girvan is a town with tremendous potential.

Saturday 19th May

Bram Stoker at Portpatrick?

Spent all day writing diary and finishing off emails. Geoff went into town to buy some wellington boots and go to the gym. In the evening we had a great walk along the cliffs. There is a wonderful ancient castle completely built of stone just south of Portpatrick, with stone arches over every window. It’s like Count Dracula’s Chateau, built on a piece of land that juts out into the sea, with precipices on two sides. Geoff went exploring and I found a place on the rocky cliffs where the sea surges over a slab of rock, and just watched it for a long while, reflecting.

Friday 18th May

Bedded down amongst the fishing nets

As there was no laundrette in the village, we caught a lift with the harbour master into Stranraer to do our laundry. I spent a very pleasant afternoon in the drawing room of the Northwest Hotel, who kindly let me use their wireless connection. The decor was classical Scottish and they served me tea in silver teapots.

That night the gale blew up and things got very uncomfortable in Port Patrick harbour. The evening was fine and we had a great dinner on board with fruit and cheese and biscuits and fig yoghurt. I wrote diary on the laptop and Geoff surfed the internet on my phone. But after we turned in the swell really picked up in the harbour. I kept adjusting the lines and regretted using pre-stretched warps for mooring lines. The nylon un-stretched lines give a little and don't jerk the boat around so much. I quite enjoyed adjusting the lines, watching the boat motion for a while and then making adjustments. About one o'clock in the morning it was high tide and things were getting really rough in the harbour, with all the boats pitching and rolling. I got up, dug out the anchor warp, and put nylon lines on all the cleats, which improved things a bit.

But Geoff had had enough. "This is crazy, we're the only people in this whole town who are being jerked around and there's stable land 30 yards away. I'm going to look for somewhere, can I take a mattress?" "Sure I said, but if it gets wet, you'll have to sleep on it." Geoff went off and I watched the lines some more. After a while Geoff came back with the fisherman from the boat next door, who let us into his boat shed. We laid out some fertiliser bags and our mattresses, and bedded down amongst the fishing nets and outboard motors, with the smell of engine oil. It was blissfully still. I knew Chance would be better off without our weight on board too.

Thursday 17th May

Bioluminescence to Portpatrick

My alarm went off at midnight. "It only takes one to row, so you might as well rest" I said to Geoff. "You sure?" he asked. "Positive." I replied. I pulled up the anchor, and began to row. "WOW!" I exclaimed. "What?" asked Geoff. "The phosphorescence! It's amazing!" I cheered. With every oar stroke I was stirring up a mass of tiny lights in the sea like a microcosm of the stars in the night sky. They swirled around the oartips and lasted a second or two before going out. There was a trail of tiny glowing starlets swirling out from behind the rudder as we gently rippled forwards. "Wow! That's the first time I've ever seen that in my life!" Geoff exclaimed. It was a beautiful row north with a misty rain on my face, the black cliffs and sometimes the crash of waves off to my left and the masthead light casting a moon-like glow across the deck. I concentrated on rowing, and found that the gentlest, easy strokes kept us best on course. Zen and the art of rowing. I felt I understood why people would row across oceans. It is a great activity that gets you very in tune with your body. And it keeps you warm, and gives you endorphins into the bargain! In 45 minutes the lights of Port Patrick came into view. Geoff took up the oars. "This is absolutely amazing." He said. "It almost makes up for the whole day." As we neared the harbour, I took the helm and GPS, and we steered in across the tidal flow to the mouth of this tiny Scottish fishing village. We moored at 2am, happy and exhausted. I made up a rehydration solution of salt, honey and squeezed orange for Geoff, as he couldn't take water without throwing up - normal when dehydrated. The salt re-balances the cells to allow water absorption again, the sugar speeds it up and the juice makes it taste better.

We slept late. The crew state rating was too low for any sailing today, and there was a blow on for tomorrow, so we settled on the idea of being here for a couple of days. We cleaned up the boat, had a walk around the village followed by a siesta. We went out for dinner as Geoff wanted a high protein meal, and fancied the local lobster.

Wednesday 16th May

Irish Sea to North Channel - Overfalls - a bit rough

We sailed out of the entrance at 0915 and north up the coast to the Point of Ayr, the Island's northern tip. A huge tidal eddy in the bay took us north at speed in the steady breeze. The west-setting tide north of the Island would help us from 1130 and we zipped out from the Point of Ayr an hour early. The wind was W4 but it was after all the Irish Sea, and there was quite a bump on. I knew it would get worse when the tide turned against the wind, but all in all we couldn't ask for much better conditions amongst all the Lows that May has brought. Geoff was doing fantastically at sailing to windward with no previous helming experience, and whooped as the waves splashed over the deck.

We were in the shipping lane from the North Channel to Liverpool, and I taught Geoff how to tell if a ship is on a collision course, using a ship on the horizon for reference. It was a good example because several bearings over the next few minutes confirmed that we were on a collision course - steady bearing, closing range. At about three quarters of a mile I radioed the ship. There was no radio response, but immediately after that the ship changed course to head behind us. It passed a mile astern and I took some video footage.

At 1220 I plotted a position and took the helm from Geoff. We were about 8 miles out from the Point of Ayr. Grey clouds had filled in around and the Isle of Man disappeared from view. It was raining and the boat lurched over the waves a bit, as we were close-hauled. The forecast of SW4 would have put us on a reach, when the wind is across the boat, a very fast point of sail. But it turned out as W4 so we were close hauled, sailing 45 degrees into the wind and waves. This is slower and harder work, but at least the waves aren't smacking you right on the side of the boat.

"If my mum knew what I was doing right now, she would be worried." said Geoff, peering apprehensively towards the north. After a while I could make out dark lines amongst the greys that were Scottish headlands.

At 2 o'clock the Mull of Galloway was getting quite big before us. I put Geoff on the helm and plotted a position. We had come 11 miles in the last hour and forty minutes - to windward! That was the effect of the massive tidal current at spring tides. Now we were at peak flow, wind against tide and entering the huge patch of overfalls off the south of the Mull of Galloway. But we were well on time to go round the Mull. I had a cup of Miso Soup and some cake and took over again. Geoff didn't feel like eating.

I could tell Geoff was rather cold and tired so suggested he take a nap below. With some hesitation he agreed. He went below and I closed the hatch for him. Just then I saw masses of white water across the horizon ahead. It was the notorious overfalls, and with Spring tides against the wind they would be bad. I had no worries for Chance, but it was going to be a bit of a dance.

Soon the tide swept us into them. They were probably some of the worst overfalls I've been in, real 6ft gutters and spouting peaks, all over the place, and covering a huge area, some miles across. There was a knock on the hatch. I opened it and said "what's up?". Geoff poked his head up and threw up, facing forwards. Just then a nasty wave crashed over the bow, roared across the foredeck and hit Geoff in the face, spilling into the cabin. "You'd better get out!" I exclaimed, and Geoff jumped out of the cabin like nobody's business, popped the washboards back in, and shut the hatch. I was impressed. "I was sick twice" he said. "Oh well, such is life" I replied, thinking there must be sick all over the cabin. "It was my fault, I shouldn't have suggested you go below. I just didn't realise we were about to go into such rough water" I said. "It sucked down there!" Geoff exclaimed, and continued "I'm sorry, I'm not mad at you, I'm just venting!" "No worries!" I replied, feeling quite sorry for him. "Look, it's going to be rough for the next couple of hours till we get through this and the tide eases, then it'll calm down." I said

.

We carried on for half an hour, ducking and diving over the waves. Geoff sat there in front of me looking gloomy. I knew his feet must be cold in the wetsuit boots. I had wellies with two pairs of woolly socks on! Geoff said "I'm sorry, but I just can't enjoy any of this right now. I'm tired, wet, cold, and I feel miserable. I know the scenery must be amazing, but my body is just preventing me enjoying anything." I considered him. I wasn't worried about the seasickness, nor dehydration. I've known a man go three days without food or water through seasickness and be fine. My only concern was Geoff being cold. But he is a first-aid medic, so should have a good idea of the signs. "Are you cold?" I asked. "No, not really." He replied. His face did look blue, but he often had that look ashore I had noticed. He was very fit and healthy. I decided it was not critical, just very unpleasant. "It'll calm down soon" I said. Geoff put his head on his arms on the foredeck and rested. It was his watch, but I didn't need to plot a position, and felt fine to continue.

A few minutes later we passed out of the overfalls. We were out of the Irish Sea and into the North Channel, and everything had gone flat! What a sea, the Irish Sea! It was rough from the moment we got out of the Menai Straits, all the way to the Isle of Man and all the way to the North Channel, and five minutes out of it, it's calm again. No wonder the reputation!

After about 20 minutes, Geoff looked up and said. "Man, I am cold! I just realised it. I've got to do some squats or something!" The boat was quite level now and sailing calmly under a nice breeze aft the beam. Geoff stood up centrally in front of me, held onto a deck cleat with each hand, and started doing squats. "Come on, be my trainer man! Count me, three, four, five!" "Six! Seven! Eight! Nine!" I called with a smile. This was active solution grabbing, and I was impressed. "I've got to do 50." Said Geoff. "18! 19! 20!" I called, glancing across the channel for boats. Geoff did squats, Chance rippled north, and the cliffs of Scotland raised up green, grey and impressive on our right. The Mull of Galloway was falling behind, and we were through the Irish Sea.

My hand gentle on the tiller, I looked down at Chance and felt massive affection. I know I've built her myself, but I was so impressed with her. She had come through so much in the last few weeks, and was always there, slender, lively and reliable. I was getting to know her motion so well, and it was always predictable, and so safe for such a small boat in all that rough stuff. I was so happy with her. We rippled on.

Geoff did two rounds of 70 squats and came back to life quite a bit. He opened the hatch and climbed back into the cabin to keep warm. "I can't believe you're so fit at this!" he said as he went. "You get used to it." I said. "You've done really well, Geoff, that was strong stuff to go straight into for an inexperienced sailor."

It was 4 o'clock and Port Logan was now abeam. The little pier looked pretty small. The wind was dropping off a bit, but we were still doing 4 knots and would make Port Patrick at this rate. Port Logan was a dead cert. Port Patrick was unsure. But what can you go on but the forecast, and that was SW4 until midnight. I didn't alter course.

But the wind was dropping, and going from the west back to south-southwest. This became a problem because to make our course of due north the mainsail was covering the Genoa. It was faster to go NW with both sails filled, but that took us away from the coast, and I wanted to get closer for when we reached Port Patrick. But if I followed our course and the Genoa was hidden, our speed dropped to 2.5 knots. It was still eight miles, and we would not make it before the tide turned. I reached in for the GPS and sat it on deck in front of me. For half an hour I watched our speed, and did constant time and distance calculations in my head. It was looking very touch and go. Then it looked like wishful thinking. Then it looked like great faith indeed. The wind was dropping. But every time the calculation looked ridiculous a gust of wind came up and we picked up speed again. I should make a decision by seven o'clock to give us time to get back to Port Logan by dark. But our speed kept dropping and picking up again.

Geoff looked out from the hatch and we discussed the matter. "I've got to make a decision to get us somewhere before dark" I said, and explained the parameters. "Could there be a tidal eddy near the shoe that might help us?" asked Geoff. "Maybe, but to be honest I don't think that's likely, because the North Channel has very simple, straight sides." I said. "Can't we anchor near the shore?" Geoff asked. "We can, but with this onshore breeze, although it feels calm under sail, as soon as we anchor we are going to rock like nobody's business, and won't get a good night's sleep at all." Nothing presented itself as an attractive option. We were in the North Channel with spring tides and a blow on the way. A breeze picked up again and helped us on.

At about seven the GPS was saying 1 knot. Then I saw what I thought were the white buildings of Port Patrick ahead. Perhaps if we rowed we could make it. It was about two miles now. "Geoff, I've seen Port Patrick!" I said. "If we row we might make it." "I can't, I need some more time" said Geoff. "O.k." I replied, thinking that's that. But a couple of minutes later Geoff climbed out and said "let's do it." He got out the oars and I sat on the helm with the GPS. Geoff had a real good crack at the rowing, but it was really difficult. We realised that we were actually sailing quite fast through the water and it was an adverse tide that was slowing us down. So it was really difficult to row faster, because the oars kept catching the water. Geoff had had a really good attempt, and I knew I couldn't do much better. We were going to have to give up.

I called Clyde coastguard to check for the time of change in flow direction, and they said the tide would turn again at 1140pm. Two miles from our intended destination, and we were not going to make it.

I instructed Geoff to sail south and inshore, and we eased around onto the new course in the last breaths of breeze. A few hundred yards shoreward the wind went SE and then died completely. "We'll, if there's no wind we can anchor along the coast" I said. "It would make me so much happier if we didn't have to go back" Geoff replied. I furled the sails, took up the oars, posted Geoff as lookout, and rowed under the cliffs and down the coast to a little baylet with a solitary house by the sea. We anchored in 25ft of water at 8 o'clock. We shook hands. "I think I need a hug" said Geoff. "Yes, good idea." I said, and we had a big hug. It was a lot to have gone through in one day for a new sailor, and I thought Geoff had done really well. I liked his openness, straightforwardness and bright thinking throughout. It was nice to get a touch of another culture, another flavour of thinking, on board.

I had some more miso soup - I'm really into the stuff right now - the rest of the cake and some peanuts, and we both crashed out in the cabin for a couple of hours into the night. Geoff had managed not to get any sick in the cabin - he was sick into his balaclava - what a star!

Tuesday 15th May

Fifth nation in the British Isles

There was a low blowing over so we stayed in port. I called Joanne Clegg at Border Television and she came down with a cameraman at midday. They did a nice little piece and a bit of sun came out to help. The media was making quite a bit of the fact that we sailed up from Wales in a Force 7. I suppose it was a rough old trip, and I wouldn't have liked to have done it in any other 15ft boat except Chance.

At one o'clock Amanda brought us pastries and came on board for a long interview. She gave me time to talk about all the aspects of the tour just as I would have in a talk, and this was the first time a journalist had taken down the whole story so to speak, including how to lead a low carbon lifestyle and the ways it improves your quality of life. I look forward to seeing the article.

Then Geoff and I went off to the library to check email and the weather. I bought the Isle of Man broadsheet, The Examiner, and there was a huge half-page spread on the tour with a massive colour picture of the boat. It looked good. I sent three postcards home saying how I had discovered a fifth nation in the British Isles.

After supper the skipper of our neighbouring Catamaran came down and we sat at his saloon table poring over charts and tide times. It was 45 mile to Port Patrick. The Mull of Galloway was 30 miles. We had a favourable current up the Isle of Man followed by 7 hours of favourable tides (springs). So we had to average about 4.5 knots to make Port Patrick before the massive North Channel current turned against us. We would need at least three hours after the Mull of Galloway so we had to pass it at the very latest by 1630, preferably 1530. (The tide would turn at 1830 but would be slow till 1930.) If we did not make Port Patrick we could go into Port Logan, but it was too small and dilapidated to offer shelter from the coming Southwesterly blow. So we thought if we did not make the Mull on time we should chicken out and go into Loose bay. We could anchor right behind the Mull, or go up the coast 5 miles to Drummore, a small tidal village port. So we had our options and parameters worked out.

We were standing outside the library at 10pm trying to pick up their wireless signal through the walls but couldn't get it. A young man came along. "Are you looking for a wireless signal? There's one on the right hand side half way down that street there" he said, pointing. We walked down the street and lurked around outside a house. The signal was there but I couldn't make it work. Then the young man came along, tapped a few keys on the laptop and made it work. So there we were crouching on the pavement outside someone's house at 11 o'clock at night, peering into the luminous glow of a laptop screen connected to the all the world via the web. Weird and wonderful 21st century phenomena. It felt like a scene out of Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The met office gave a good 24 hour forecast.

Monday 14th May

Castletown to Ramsey

Barbara picked us up at 1045 for a photoshoot with the Isle of Man Minister for the Environment, John Shimmins, at the new Green Centre in Douglas. John is a really amiable chap, and was keen to do more to reduce the carbon footprint of the island, although quite a bit was already in progress with insulating houses and other measures. We looked through The Guide to Low Carbon Lifestyles and I made suggestions for major areas that could be looked at as individual campaigns, such as house insulation, electricity conservation, travel miles and "buy local - buy Manx". Phil from friends of The Earth and I presented John with the 40 guidebooks for the Isle of Man Members of the House of Keys and the photographer from Manx Newspapers took some photos under the tour banner. We left at 1120 sharp and Barbara ran us back to the harbour to catch the last bridge lift at 1145. It worked out perfectly. While we awaited the tide in the outer harbour, Roger Tomlinson from the Isle of Man Positive Action Group came down and did a video interview for Youtube.

We slipped the moorings at 3pm and sailed north in a westerly 4. It was a great introductory sail for Geoff, who has only crewed about 30 miles before on racing yachts. He did really well, and picked up the feel of the helm quickly. He spent a little too long below putting on a jumper and felt a bit queasy, but after being a little sick over the side go back on the helm and sailed us all the way to Ramsey.

We came round the headland and headed west towards the entrance around 7pm. I called Lenie Lewis and Mill Millichamp from Isle of Man Permaculture and they invited us for dinner. Ramsey has a very narrow channel between two piers to enter the harbour and we had to tack all the way up into the wind. It was a bit alarming with fishing boats steaming in as we tacked in their path, but we were soon along side the pier and tidying up the boat.

Mill came down to collect us and we had a lovely evening discussing low carbon lifestyles and life on the Isle of Man and in Devon. Mill told me that Devon is marketing itself as England's Greenest County, which is amazing. We discussed this at length and I realised there are a lot of green activities and organisations there. I had always viewed it as the land of farms and cream teas, but both are true. Mill bought the two copies of The Guide that I had with me and ordered 40 more for his permaculture students. We made an appointment with their friend Amanda for an interview the next day for Permaculture Magazine and the Isle of Man magazine. Mill dropped us back tired and happy at the boat at 1130.

Sunday 13th May

After a hearty breakfast Geoff and I strolled down the wide-open promenade of Douglas, the fresh sea breeze carrying the salty smell of the sea to our noses. The tide had reached the foot of the little castle on an islet in the middle of the bay. I left Geoff with the laptop at the sea terminal and strolled on up the hill to Manx Radio. The presenter, Roger Watterson, used to be a member of the House of Keys, The Isle of Man parliament, and now divides his time between running his copyshop and current affairs programming on Manx Radio. First on the programme was an interview with two gentlemen running the new Isle of Man branding scheme "Freedom to Flourish". Then Roger introduced me and mentioned how he would never have the guts to cross the Irish sea in a 15ft boat. It was an excellent interview and covered broadly the boat, the tour, low carbon lifestyles and typical questions. I stayed for the phone-in and there were some very good questions. By two o'clock I had spent one and a half hours at the radio desk. Roger dropped me back to the boat, and Geoff and I went shopping. There is no whole food shop in Douglas, and being Sunday we had to go to Tesco's, but enjoyed our time sifting through products to find organic and local foods. It was a huge shop, cost £78.00 and completely re-provisioned the boat. We went back to stow it all away on Chance. After dinner on board we went via the sea terminal to the bed and breakfast. The weather was looking good for a hop up the coast 13 miles to Ramsey the next day. This would shorten the next leg to Portpatrick, Scotland from 60 down to 45 miles, get us out of the tidal inner harbour at Douglas, and past the tidal gate just south of Ramsey, where the tide splits as the Irish Sea ebbs.

I crashed out early while Geoff did sit-ups on the floor.

Saturday 12th May

Still lows all over the North Atlantic

After breakfast I left Geoff to stow his gear and checked my email using the wireless network in the nearby sea terminal. In the afternoon I finished fixing the hinges. Even after a night at Phil's place we found the mattresses still had some moisture in the very middle, so Geoff took them off to the laundrette to tumble dry. In the evening we did more email at the sea terminal and checked the weather. There were still lows all over the North Atlantic, and strong wind warnings, but it looked like Monday might offer a window for getting a few miles up the coast. I returned a missed call and was invited for a 15-minute interview on Manx Radio with Roger Watterson the next day at 1230. It would be followed by a radio phone-in, which I offered to stay for. The word travels so fast in the Isle of Man!

Manx Co-operative Membership generously offered us a couple of nights in a bed and breakfast as our bedding was wet, so we went off to stay at The Devonian and had pizza for dinner. I still hadn't caught up sleep entirely, and Geoff was jet-lagged from his flight. From Canada, he had come over to visit his ancestors in Holland this summer. So we would both benefit from an early night.

Friday 11th May

New stainless hinges

Barbara left early to give a talk at a school and I caught the bus to Douglas. I met Phil Matthews, a school teacher who had been at the Friends of the Earth meeting, at 11am. He took me to the local comprehensive school, where I gave two 45 minute talks in succession to a class of 14 year-olds and 6th-formers. Phil was really enthusiastic about my message and the positive low carbon lifestyle approach. He said it was so refreshing. The pupils seemed quite interested and alert during the talks. Most of them disappeared pretty quick for their lunch break, but a few came up for flyers. One lad asked how I had invented Chance's new keel design, had the idea just popped into my head? Well yes, but in the context of trying to find a keel solution for a very specific set of requirements: Light enough to row, self righting, and beachable.

I spent the afternoon fixing the hinges on the port locker again. These little brass hinges made of cheap modern brass have no strength. The one I had replaced in Swansea was broken again when we got to Douglas. The chandlers here, Manx Marine, has one of the best selections of all marine equipment I have ever seen in a chandlers. I selected new stainless hinges and various other parts. When I came to pay, Tony, the owner, said he wanted to give me all the parts as sponsorship. He and his assistant, Craig, have been full of warmth, friendliness, sound advice and help since I arrived. They have also been drying my mattresses in the shop for the last couple of days. Deeply touched, I took my parts back to the boat.

Phil Matthews dropped in at four. I was having problems with the new hinges. Phil whipped off and bought new brass ones before the shops shut just in case I couldn't make the stainless ones work. He also took the mattresses home to dry over night, and lent me a couple of camping mattresses. More tremendous Manx hospitality and care.

It was nice to have time by myself on board, just sorting things out, tidying shelves and pottering around on board making order. I went to the toilet about 10pm and a tall young man appeared at the gate. "Are you Mukti?" he asked. It was Geoff, my new crew.

Thursday 10th May

Castletown

Barbara had set up an interview on Manx Radio at 0820 so we went up to the radio station on the hill over Douglas. It was a three-minute interview. I had a chance to say something about the tour, but not much about low carbon lifestyles. Still, it introduced the terms and the tour. On the way out the Manx Radio webmaster came out of his office and took a load of details for the website. Someone else appeared and took some photos for the website. I left some fliers.

At 9 o'clock a photographer and journalist from Manx Newspapers met us at the boat for a photo shoot and interview. The young journalist Noela was really interested and enthusiastic about the tour. She said it was really inspirational.

Keith and I spent a couple of hours tidying things up aboard. Then Barbara came back and took us on a little tour of the south of the Island. It was by car, but with three of us on board the fuel efficiency would be almost as good as a bus or train with average passenger occupancy levels. We asked a lot of questions about the Island. I never realised that the Isle of Man is a completely separate country, not part of the UK, with only 70,000 inhabitants. There are 40 members of parliament, and all their home telephone numbers are in the phone book. People know the prime minister to stay hello to. Fascinating.

We dropped into Castletown, the Co-op office and the One-World Centre. Then we went down to the southwest point to the sound between the mainland and an island called the Calf. The current reaches 8 knots in the sound and we could see small standing waves. We had lunch in the restaurant that overlooks the sound, then drove along the coast to Peel, and Barbara's home. Keith and I exchanged photos from our digital cameras via the laptop. Then we had a big hug to say goodbye. Keith had been on board for three weeks, and nearly 200 miles, through some of the roughest conditions Chance had ever seen. And he was always happiest on board; so often offered accommodation ashore, and preferred to stay aboard. And a mine of wisdom and stories. We bade each other fare well and Barbara took Keith back to Douglas, where he would catch the dawn ferry to Liverpool. I stayed and checked email.

At 8pm Barbara took me to the nearby village of Dalby, where I gave a five-minute introduction to the tour before a showing of Al Gore's film The Inconvenient Truth. I have not had a chance to see the film, although my mother gave me the book for Christmas. But I was so shattered still that I decided to home and get an early night. I have to put sleep as a high priority if I am to b ready to catch the next weather window when it comes. As Chance's bedding was still not dry Barbara put me up again. She said "mi casa es tu casa" and that I could walk in any time and help myself to anything. I was very touched, and she said that Manx people are very hospitable.

Wednesday 9th May

High winds - slow speed

After a full English breakfast we went back to the boat. Keith took all the washing and bedcovers off to the laundry and I washed out the cabin. It's interesting; we thought that a strong wind would get us there faster, but in fact we were so well reefed down that our average speed was only 3 knots. Then if you take into account the time it takes to sort out the boat and recover physically, the effective passage time is really slow in very strong conditions.

My mobile wouldn't work and I found that the Isle of Man has its own phone system. I used a phone box to update the tour answer phone, call Steve with a position for the website and check my messages. There was a message from Barbara Quilliam the Isle of Man Co-operative Membership Affairs Officer. I called her and she invited me to the Friends of the Earth meeting that evening.

Barbara picked me up at 730 and we went to the meeting. The chairman, Phil, had put me at the top of the agenda. I asked how long I should speak for and they said 20 minutes? There were about 15 people there. I went a bit over time, but everyone really liked it. There were loads of questions and discussions. I had taken seven copies of The Guide and everyone bought them there and then. When they heard I was going to give 1,000 copies to the UK parliament, they said could they buy 40 copies to give to the Isle of Man parliament. It was a great vibe. Barbara and I apologised for taking up most of the meeting, and we left with friendly and enthusiastic smiles and handshakes.

Keith had gone back to the B&B, and Barbara offered to put me up, so I had another night ashore.

Tuesday 8th May

Douglas, Isle of Man

After dozing off the exhaustion a bit we sailed up the outer harbour to catch the opening of the swing bridge at 1415 for the inner harbour. The harbour staff were really friendly and said they thought we wouldn't be charged to stay. They gave us shower keys and having a shower was about as much as we could manage. I cooked up a bit of rice and curry around 6. Since our bedding was drenched, we found a B&B and crashed out.

Monday 7th May

Conwy to Douglas • Gale Warning Irish Sea

The forecast for the next 24 hours was SW 5 to 6 becoming W 5 to 6 occasionally 7, followed by W or NW 5 to 6 for the following 24 hours. It was a little on the strong side, but would put us on a reach (when the wind is across the boat) so we would not need to go against the wind, and it is a very fast point of sail. The Passage Viability Calculator (PVC) gave a reading of 62%, which was quite good considering that the distance, lack of safe ports and shipping would all score low. We planned to leave on the ebb tide at 3pm, sail across to the North Anglesey coast, and get the 6pm forecast before heading North towards the Isle of Man. If the 6pm forecast was unsuitable, we could pull into one of the Anglesey ports such as Amlwch, or the bays on the sheltered NE coast.

The marina tidal gate opened at 2:30pm and we sailed through at 3:15. It was the second time we underestimated the Conwy Bar. We had looked closely at most aspects of the voyage, but even though the fetch (available distance for the waves to pick up; i.e. distance from land in the direction of the wind) was not large at the bar, the strong wind blowing right against the ebb tide flowing over the shallow sand bar created a terrible steep 3ft chop. The channel is also very narrow so we were back to very short tacks. The wind seemed to be accelerated around the mountains to the south so was blowing a 6 and we were overpowered even under the first reef. Altogether it was quite a battle to get out and Chance was put on her beam-ends several times. Lots of yachts passed us in the opposite direction, all heading into Conwy. We sailed on, looking forward to the calmer waters beyond the bar.

Conditions improved after passing the Fairway Buoy but we kept fairly close-hauled (sailing towards the wind) to head for Anglesey. I called Holyhead coastguard at 6:15pm and asked if they could give us the new forecast issued by the Met office at 6pm. The Inshore Waters forecast was the same as before, so we headed on our new course of 330 degrees, roughly NNW towards the Isle of Man. I stayed down below for a rest.

At 8pm Holyhead gave their standard weather bulletin in which the shipping forecast gave a gale warning for the Irish Sea, but the Inshore Waters forecast was as before. I was alarmed, but confused at the differing forecasts. I opened the hatch and Keith and I discussed this in loud voices against the noise of the wind and waves. It was windy, wet, cold and getting dark outside, with the rush of water along the hull and waves hitting the deck. We reasoned that since the Irish Sea had been lumped in with Lundy, Fastnet and Sole to the South, the gale warning must be for the South part of the Irish Sea. We were in the north part, hence the Inshore forecast did not include the gale warning. It was plenty close enough though. Our options were to return towards Anglesey, now three or four hours against the wind through an area of the north coast that produces a very rough sea in westerly winds, or continue. Given that the actual forecast for our area had not changed, we decided to continue.

I took the helm again at 9pm, and Keith went below. There were some pretty big waves on the beam now, up to 6 feet or so, and occasionally these reared up very steeply and broke a little on top. The wind was with the tide for the next six hours. From 3am to 9am the tide would turn against the wind. If the wind increased further this would create a much stronger wind against tide situation, and I didn’t like the thought of the waves that could be created. I tend to prepare for the worst, and I could imagine a 10ft vertical wall of water. This could capsize the boat. The boat would be fine and right herself, but if the wave was large enough to crash onto the sail the pressure would be so massive (one cubic metre of water weighs one tonne) it could dismast the boat. Even so, this should not break up the hull, so we should be safe on board, simply not going anywhere. I considered preparing the sea anchor (a small canvas parachute deployed on a long line from the bow, to keep the vessel pointing into the wind and waves when not sailing) but decided that extra lines lying around the cockpit would only add to the confusion, as we already had the bucket and bailer on lines in the cockpit to add to the other ropes.

At midnight Keith came back on watch. "The bad news is..." he said, "I just heard Liverpool coastguard on the radio saying 'Securite, securite, securite, Gale Warning Irish Sea, listen channel 23’ but when I went to channel 23 I couldn’t hear anything. You better give them a call when you go below." We bailed out the cockpit, and then I gave a brief for worsening weather. In the event of a capsize, it is favourable to duck into the cockpit footwell and keep inside until the vessel rights, as due to our 6ft safety lines we would otherwise have to go right under the hull to get back on again. If outside the vessel and trapped by one’s safety line, we would have to release ourselves and climb back on board on the safety ladder on the stern. I trailed a 50ft line astern as backup in case we lost hold of the vessel. In the event of the wind becoming too powerful we would respond in the following stages: (we were already under deep reefs) (a) sail under Genoa alone, (b) heave-to (stop the vessel under a configuration of sails that keeps you still), (c) lie to the sea anchor. Lying to the sea anchor we would drift down wind, but given that it was about 40 miles to the mainland, the gale would probably abate before we were pushed ashore.

I went below and tried to call the coastguard but there was no response. We must have been too far out to sea to reach their aerials on the mainland or the Isle of Man. The cabin was pretty wet. A few drops came in when a wave broke over the deck, but it was mainly from us climbing in in full waterproofs. The chart was rather damp and so was the logbook. The cabin bounced around and roared with the rushing water along the hull and the crash of waves on the deck. The bright white led lamps lit up the yellow mattress covers, my navy-blue waterproofs, and the wooden hull. My lips were wet with salty seawater. I was damp at the knees and cuffs and a little chilly, but not really cold. I lay back to get some rest and slept in drips and drabs.

At 0245 I plotted a position. Douglas was 26 miles away. I went on deck again. There was a ship quite nearby. "I’ve had a constant stream of ships all watch. They must be coming down through the North Channel towards Liverpool" Keith said. I sat there for a couple of minutes, and then was sick over the side. I had drunk a cup-a-soup in the evening that I had not let stand for two minutes, and it was absolutely vile. I was sick then and there, and then too much time concentrating on charts in the bouncing cabin brought it back. Feeling better, I bailed out the cockpit, and then took over.

The clouds were thick and low so it was really dark and one couldn’t see the waves that were approaching, you had to go by sound and feel, which was reasonably ok. The masthead light cast a faint glow on deck so you could make out the boat. After half an hour I spotted the loom of the Douglas Light House flashing once every 10 seconds. It was nice to have a sense of direction apart from the compass. The waves were quite large but not as steep as before, though every so often there was a roar and a breaking wave would hit the side of the boat, crashing all over you and throwing a few litres into the cockpit. But it still took three hours to fill the cockpit with three or four inches of water, so we could wait till the end of our watch to bail out.

Keith took over at 6am, and conditions were much the same; rough but manageable. I discovered to our horror that the starboard locker was completely flooded. This was a great weight of water that had been slowing us down. It must have filled up gradually every time a wave came over the side, or perhaps even when we were put on our beam ends on the Conwy Bar. Emptying that lifted us in the water and made us faster. After bailing out I lay down in the cabin. I wanted to acclimatise before plotting a position, but fell asleep. Around 7 there was a lot of noise on deck. I opened the hatch and Keith said that the waves were getting huge and the boat was getting hard to control. I furled up the Genoa from the hatch and went back to sleep. At 0750 the Liverpool Coastguard weather bulletin woke me up. The gale warning was now included in the inshore waters forecast. I plotted a position. Douglas was now 12 miles away on a new course of 030 degrees. I called the new course up to Keith and slept again.

At 9am I took the helm. It was a magnificent morning. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing a seven behind us, the sea was a dark navy blue with white crests all around, and the waves were big, some huge, with great powerful backs. The Isle of Man was all along our port side, green and grey below the fluffy clouds. I unfurled the Genoa for maximum speed, as we wanted to get into port before things got worse. Occasionally a breaking wave would pick up the boat and make her surf. I kept these on the quarter (the rear corner of the boat) to implement a controlled broach which Chance managed very well, and some breaking water would enter the cockpit, but not much. But I was heading gradually inland.

After an hour I had to call Keith on deck. He sat against the cabin watching aft for waves. This meant I could steer the direct course. As soon as a big wave loomed behind he would warn me, and I would steer off to port a few degrees so that the wave would always take us on the quarter, preventing too much surfing and keeping the vessel under control. If a wave had caught us on the starboard side we would have jibed (when the boom goes from one side of the boat to the other) dangerously. Keith thought the biggest wave he had seen on this passage had been 12ft high. There was some big stuff around. But we were under control, and speeding down the home run. It was stunningly beautiful, but we were so tired we couldn’t even get a camera out.

We reached Douglas at 11am. The harbour was calm and sunny, we pulled up alongside another yacht. After going to the toilet I lay down in the cockpit and fell asleep for a couple of hours.

Sunday 6th May

Irish Sea to the Isle of Man

Keith and I looked at the weather and the passage plan ahead and it seemed that tomorrow might offer a window for the voyage across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man. This would be the longest offshore stint of the tour so far, a distance of 60 miles, with open sea beyond Anglesey about 10 miles away. We would want a good steady wind to avoid being becalmed in the middle. There is a large shipping lane for Liverpool, and the tides would need to be right to leave Conwy. Furthermore we would want to avoid strong wind-over-tide situations (when the wind blows the opposite direction to the tidal flow), as the Irish Sea is renowned for getting rough easily. Looking at the chart I figured that one reason for this could be the very uneven surface of the bottom of the sea. There are lots of underwater mountains and valleys on the seabed, and the fast tide flowing over these perhaps creates the rough conditions on the surface that this sea is known for.

I caught the 11:20 to Liverpool and gave a talk to a small but enthusiastic audience at the Liverpool Yacht Club at 17:30. They had a keen interest in the subject, and several people bought copies of The Guide to Low Carbon Lifestyles.

Saturday 5th May

Sea and mountains side by side

Today was a day of rest, some provisioning and catching up on my diary and emails. In the evening I went for a run and found my way up Conwy mountain, a small mountain overlooking the town, which offered a fantastic panoramic view of the whole town, bay and surrounding mountains. This North Welsh scenery really is spectacular; I find the combination of sea and mountains side by side particularly stunning.

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