Isle of Man via Howth

Last weekend (19-21 May 2017) saw an interesting collaboration with Howth Yacht Club.  HYC member Jill Somerville had organised to take a group of transition year students by boat to the Isle of Man.  As they needed extra boat space, Blue Air was invited to join the expedition.

Blue Air sat out for Howth on Thursday 18th at 15:00 and left Howth with most of the other boats on Friday morning around 05:00.  Each boat carried 2-3 students, most of these aged 16 years.

The students were from a range of schools and clubs but most had some junior sailing experience.  Berthing fees and other expenses were covered by a reasonable fee charged to the students.  For most of them this venture would contribute to their transition year experience and, in some cases, to the acquisition of the Gaisce award.

Part of the pre-trip preparation included a  meeting with the young people to train them in basic skills such as boarding a boat, setting fenders, cleating warps, using marine heads and general safety instructions.  Our new recruits joined the boat in Howth on Thursday evening at 19:00 and then headed off for a quick bite to eat with their new saiing friends before hitting the sack around 22:00.

Friday’s trip went off well.  It was a very chilly morning and then the afternoon went to 24 Celsius.  There was very little wind so all the boats motor-sailed the 13 hours to Peel arriving around local HW at 18:00.  Once on the island, the young people were provided with food and activities by Jill (who seemed to be everywhere).  The adult crews were very much left to their own devices but most ended up in Peel Sailing & Cruising Club to end a good day’s work.

On Saturday morning the juniors assembled in the marina car-park around 09:15 to begin the day’s activities.  These included kayaking and coasteering.  We crossed paths with some of them later and they seemed to be enjoying everything and making lots of new friends.

During the day the skippers were debating the weather scene for the return journey and opinions were divided.  Sunday threatened force six with gusts and had been the original plan.  The alternative was to sail overnight (Sat/Sun) where force five was anticipated.  On both days the wind was, of course, on the nose!  In Blue Air we opted for the night passage, one that we knew would be uncomfortable but safe for our size of boat.  (Those who sailed on the Sunday reported pretty awful conditions and some made detours to Carlingford and Clogherhead!)

After a 20:00 departure from Peel, we had hardly cleared the harbour when Blue Air’s engine uncharacteristically ground to a halt!  Knowing we had plenty of fuel I quickly checked engine temperature, fan-belt and battery voltages.  All were in order.  I called to the two accompanying boats to stand-by and both Gabelle and Sandpiper did so.  It then occurred to me that the engine’s demise sounded like a fuel problem so I had a look at the tank.  I thought a fender might have accidentally closed the fuel valve.  It was a good guess because in fact a fender had hit the release screw at the bottom of the water separating filter and some diesel was dripping out.  The problem was the air that was getting in, an air-lock!  Since Blue Air’s fuel tank is higher than the engine I guessed, rightly as it happened, that the engine would bleed itself once I tightened the screw and restarted.  Two turns of the key and the Bukh sprung back into life.

We ran a watch system (2-hour stints)  for most of the return trip and, although we did not require them to join this, our two students, Jed and David, kept to their watches.  In fact they showed a lot of endurance during what was a cold and uncomfortable night.  One had a touch of sea-sickness and Lawrence helped him deal with this with virtually miraculous results.  Our two recruits rose to all the challenges of this trip and came out with flying colours.  Indeed, all the skippers reports about their students were in glowing terms.  They had great support from their parents and wonderful organisation by Jill.

The boats involved in this expedition were: Aldebaran, Bees Knees, Blue Air, Gabelle, Púcabán, Sandpiper and Sojourn.  All had at least one adult crew-member as well as the skipper.

As usual, Peel marina, scenery, club and people came out glowing.  It’s a great place to visit and we all came away with great memories.