The Logical Route

Carlingford Lough and the Mountains of Mourne

So that’s it: I’m going by the logical route.

The “Logical Route” has a certain ring to it. This was what the great French singlehander Bernard Moitessier suggested to his wife as the best way to get home from the South Pacific in time for the school holidays: Instead of flogging all the way over the top of Australia, across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal and across the Mediterranean to Marseille, wouldn’t it be much quicker and certainly a lot less distance to nip round Cape Horn?

This was 1966. Hardly anyone had sailed a small boat round Cape Horn – and those who had told terrible tales.

The Moitessiers made it – and, in doing so, set a record for the longest voyage in a small boat – 14,216 miles in 126 days.

But I’m not going round Cape Horn. I am going to Blyth in Northumberland – and I have been sitting here in Carlingford Lough on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic debating how to get there.

First, a little explanation: When I bought Samsara, she came with a good solid spinnaker pole and a flimsy little stick which hardly deserved the name of whisker pole. The first thing I did with this was to bend the piston mechanism on one end.

Then the mechanism on the other end.

In fact, I bent the pistons and had them straightened (and weakened) so frequently that it might not have been an accident that on the way back across Biscay in the aftermath of Storm Ellen, the wretched thing slipped its lashings and disappeared over the side.

What I needed was a proper spinnaker pole to replace it. For one thing, I wouldn’t keep bending it. Secondly, if I were to get a spare headsail, I could fly matching twins and (thirdly – and not insignificantly) quite the best jury rig is constructed by using two identical poles as an “A” frame.

I posted on the Rival Owners Facebook page a plea for anyone who had a pole they didn’t need – after all, how many people fly symmetrical spinnakers these days?

Sure enough, another Rival 32 owner said I would be welcome to theirs.

In Blyth.

I was in Liverpool at the time and feeling rather delicate after a particularly good evening with my son Theo, the medical student. As the crow flies, Blyth is hardly more than 100 miles from Liverpool.

Another point in its favour is that it is not terribly far from Matlock in Derbyshire – and I was due in Matlock for the annual family walking weekend in the Peak District. I could get a train from Blyth.

The only trouble was that the 100 miles from Liverpool to Blyth was all land.

The sailing options were to go over the top of Scotland or, alternatively, back down the Irish Sea, up the English Channel and north from there – 900 miles in all. Also, I was beginning to think of the English Channel rather as a trucker thinks of the M1.

Obviously this is going to provoke all those South Coast sailors to catalogue the delights of Salcombe, the Newtown River and even Brighton Marina. So I should explain that, if you don’t stop,  those 300 miles from Land’s End to the North Foreland really can feel like Newport Pagnell to Donington Services (I did it six times, one year).

The northern route, on the other hand, had a lot going for it: Not only was it only 560 miles but it would tick a lot of boxes. Regular readers may remember that when Lockdown was first mooted, I had a notion to self-isolate in the Orkneys (until the local authority up there pleaded with second-home and campervan owners – and, by implication, yachtsmen – not to come and swamp their little hospital).

Also, I have never visited the northern Hebrides or any of those dramatic sea lochs. I could go to Mull and Skye. I would see Cape Wrath…

Admittedly, this would be happening at the end of September and for most of October and all the books tend to dwell on how quickly the weather can change and how very rough it can get up there with wind over tide in the Minches. But weather forecasting today is remarkably accurate up to 48 hours.

After 48 hours, it becomes rather more like newspaper astrology.

For instance, this time yesterday, I had decided that the Scottish option was a non-starter when the Windy App offered this for the four-day forecast.

By this morning all that “red wind” has shifted south:

Still, if it does shift back again, there are more anchorages in the Hebrides than there are salmon and I have a whole month to cover 560 miles. I can afford to spend a few days snugged down in some deserted anchorage with the stove lit – self-isolating.

8 Responses to The Logical Route

  • That sounds a good plan, beautiful sailing waters and much more interesting and exciting than the southern route. Have fun!

  • I barely know anything of the terminology you are using, have only sailed with the ‘out-laws’ who liked a gentle flutter up & down their nearest estuary: however your tales are so charmingly told it’s causing me to research & find out!!
    Good luck with the top: if you get chance to alight in the Orkneys check out the ‘Ring of Brodgar’: it wont disappoint!

  • Sounds like a good plan. Enjoy the trip and your new pole!

  • Hi John, I did that very route this summer as part of my round GB trip although I anchored in Dundalk bay rather than in Carlingford. If day sailing the northern section or looking for shelter I can recommend the anchorage at Loch Ewe (Aultbea) and Loch Ned (east of Head of Stoer), nearby Port Dhrombaig looked good on paper but waves were breaking right across the entrance when I got there (it was quite windy) Loch Ned was fine.

    The Rispond Bay anchorage at the entrance to Eriboll is crammed full of mooring and pot buoys, avoid, also avoid Portnancon – limited space due to a buoy and kelp. Ard Neakie opposite was fine.

    Stromness marina is to be recommended with v helpful volunteer staff but I suspect the showers etc will still be closed.

    If you stay in Blyth for any length of time try to get on a finger rather than the visitors section which is a bit exposed – I was stuck there for 12 days (with the YC closed for most of it) waiting for a weather window and glad to be on the inside. John. SY Sancerre.

  • Good luck, Scotland would be my choice but Everyman makes his own choices!?!!

  • Aye, there’s sense and merit in ‘Northabout’. You’ll hardly have left the green glens of An’rim behind before you’re inside the welcoming arms of the Sound of Jura, where there are oodles of anchorages…. and that continues much of the way up towards Wrath. But you’ll likely need about as many anchors as anchorages due to the acres of fishfarm debris abandoned on the bottom everywhere that looks at all enticing.

    Ca’ canny!

    And fair winds…..