Whistle Stop Tour 2021

Whistle Stop Tour 2021 – Event review

Dun Laoghaire

The cruise began with a barbecue at the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC) in Dun Laoghaire on Tuesday 22 June for fifty participants.

To comply with Covid guidelines we sat in nine small groups, each at a different table. We used these catering groups or ‘pods’ at all the shoreside gatherings during the week.

RIYC Balcony

The fleet was distributed: seven boats at the National Yacht Club (NYC), six at RIYC and another seven boats in their home berths. Other boats joined the cruise later, and during the week 57 people aboard 24 boats participated.

Tides favoured southerly passages in the afternoons and northerly passages early in the day. The weather was uncertain, with the East coast on a border between high and low pressure. We were expecting only light or moderate winds.

Wicklow

At a civilised hour on Wednesday the fleet headed south. Four went all the way to Arklow, one to the marina at Greystones and thirteen made for Wicklow.

By the time we arrived Charlie Kavanagh had a rafting plan for the available ladders and we settled in with few mishaps. Rigging long lines to the shore kept us all amused for a while.

After dinner aboard we gathered on the roof of Wicklow Sailing Club. The club made us welcome with a bar service, and our commodore presented a burgee to the rear commodore.

Wicklow rafts
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Wicklow presentation

Greystones

“Have you seen the forecast?” was the word on the pier next morning. Low pressure was winning and a strong north-easterly was expected on Friday and Saturday. That would make our planned passage from Arklow to Greystones uncomfortable and, with wind against tide at Wicklow Head, potentially dangerous.

Skippers of the smaller boats made their decisions early, heading for Greystones before ten o’clock. The crew of Gusto were preparing to explore the river by kayak, but reluctantly abandoned the plan and also went north.

At 11:30 the remaining participants met to consider the situation. All decided to skip Arklow and make for Greystones against the afternoon tide. Three more left Arklow at 16:00 for Greystones while others chose to remain for a few days.

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Approaching Greystones

Everyone enjoyed sunshine and a light easterly breezes on the way north, and Greystones marina welcomed fifteen visiting boats a day early.

New pontoons D and E were made available to us, but space was short and big boats used the visitor berths at pontoon A.

Floating rope from carelessly marked pots snagged two boats approaching the harbour. A diver later confirmed no damage to Rockabill, and a GoPro camera on a stick reassured Timballoo’s owner.

As forecast, the big wind arrived in the night and we were glad to wake secure in Greystones on Friday morning. Coast and cliff walks were planned, but first we held a conference to consider options for Saturday and Sunday.

With the forecast weather and tide we could still reach Dublin, but not until later in the day. Dublin Port could change the timing of the bridge lift given a few hours’ notice.

A focal point for the southbound part of the cruise was a barbecue in front of Arklow Sailing Club on Thursday evening, with the club providing a bar service.

We had to call off the whole thing at lunchtime on Thursday, but during the afternoon a new plan emerged. Greystones Sailing Club offered us the use of their courtyard and bar service on Friday. The caterer, Eoin Murtagh, adjusted his other commitments and travelled to serve us there instead.

It was a very enjoyable evening, and our commodore presented a burgee to the club’s commodore.

Greystones barbecue
Greystones presentation

Dun Laoghaire

Participants discussed the schedule and itinerary for the rest of the cruise during Friday afternoon and evening. On Saturday morning we met again and decided to go to Dun Laoghaire instead of Dublin, setting off about noon to pass Bray Head near slack water.

It would be an arduous passage, particularly for smaller boats, and several stayed behind to await better conditions. Five boats went home to Dun Laoghaire accompanied by seven visitors. The smallest was Long Time, with a guest crew for safety, making the passage in four and a half hours.

Shore facilities were not available without advance booking, but we made ourselves at home near the visitors’ berths in the marina and held an impromptu pontoon party.

Leaving Greystones
Long Time to Dun Laoghaire

Malahide

Given the strength and direction of the wind over several days it was clear that anchoring in Skerries on Sunday would not be feasible. We had ruled out that option on Saturday.

Dun Laoghaire boats were unlikely to leave their home berths for another leg to windward, but participants from Howth and Malahide still had to get home.

We decided to shorten the cruise by one day and hold a final social event in Malahide Yacht Club on Sunday evening.

Seven boats from the fleet, with guest JIGSAW, set off from Dun Laoghaire on Monday morning into a light north-easterly that soon grew to make for a challenging passage past the Baily.

The Malahide participants and visitors gathered at the club for takeaway food and the regular bar service. We were a small group, but several participants surprised us by turning up in cars and trains for the last night.

Instruments emerged and we enjoyed an unexpected and long-awaited live music session in the club marquee.

Passing Howth
Music in Malahide

Acknowledgements

It would not be possible to organise an event like this without the goodwill, cooperation and hard work of many people.

I should particularly like to thank the organising team: Cliff Brown, John Leahy, Noel Lappin, Charlie Kavanagh, Paul Fay

Other committee members also supported the effort: Vincent Lundy (Commodore), Bryan Downey (Treasurer), David Meeke (Webmaster)

We’re grateful to the marinas, clubs and caterers who responded to our rapidly changing arrangements with understanding and good humour.

The skippers and crew of the participating boats contributed their energy and enthusiasm and made the cruise a pleasant experience.

Itinerary

Stop date Planned port Actual port
Tuesday 22 June Dun Laoghaire Dun Laoghaire
Wednesday 23 June Wicklow Wicklow
Thursday 24 June Arklow Greystones
Friday 25 June Greystones Greystones
Saturday 26 June Dublin Dun Laoghaire
Sunday 27 June Skerries Malahide
Monday 28 June Malahide (end)
Tuesday 29 June (end)

Fleet

Boat name Home port Skipper Head count
ADASTRA Dun Laoghaire John Leahy 2
ASILE Arklow Simon Parker 2
BELUGA Dun Laoghaire Jeff Brownlee 2
ELIDA Greystones Russell Gillespie 2
ENIGMA Dun Laoghaire John Murphy 3
FALIRAKI Greystones JJ O'Dwyer 2
GUSTO Dun Laoghaire Christine Heath 4
JESTER Dun Laoghaire Joe Buckley 4
JIGSAW Dun Laoghaire Mike Kelly 2
JOSLIM Howth John Connolly 2
KATRINA II Howth Denis O'Brien 2
KUDOS Dun Laoghaire Marcus Higgins 4
LONG TIME Malahide Kevin Cardiff 1
OSTARA Malahide Derek Duff 2
PHIXIUS Malahide Tom Ray 2
RANSOM Howth Conor Lindsay 2
RHAPSODY Howth Clifford Brown 4
RHIANNON Malahide Noel Lappin 2
ROCKABILL Dun Laoghaire Stephen Ryan 2
STEALAWAY Howth Sean Davis 2
TEREBLEE Dun Laoghaire Ray McMahon 4
THINKSYS Dun Laoghaire Terry Rowlands 2
TIMBALLOO Howth Vincent Lundy 2
UNDINE Poolbeg James Murphy 2