Mussel dredgers at Wexford Harbour, Ireland 2003
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6 May, 2013 3:38
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SE Ireland Summer Cruise on Top Cat 2003
  • Pwllheli - Saturday 23 Aug 2003 1421z
  • Wind NW 2-4 then Calm

It was not until the last few days prior to our holiday that we knew exactly where we would be going. The nature of sailing means we are always left to nature with respect to destination. The weather was favourable although there was very little wind forecast, in actual fact the wind dropped off to nothing shortly after departure. This unfortunately meant starting the 'donkey' (engines), Top Cat will only reach 5 knots under power, this would mean a much longer and uncomfortable passage due to noise. She will go quicker than this, but currently the propellers are incorrect sizes, so cruising speed is somewhere around 4.5 kts.


  Top Cat leaving Pwllheli on 23 Aug 2003 at 1421z  
  Bardsey Island at Sunset, next stop Ireland  
  • 23 Aug 2003 1820z. 17.44 nm 4.4 kts (average)
  • Distance to go 51.83 nm ETA 13 hours 0720z at Arklow

Last landfall before Ireland Bardsey Lighthouse can be seen. Note the mirror sea starting to appear. Changes to destination will now mean the most direct route, instead of Wicklow we will now head for Arklow.

We started a watch system of four hours on four hours off, I slept first as Tanya prefers the early morning / day watches and I have no problems generally staying awake through the night. This system suits us well. During an uneventful night Top Cat took us over to Ireland. Sally the autopilot, don’t ask! Kept a great course and we made landfall a little earlier than my ETA, but it was still a long night.


To keep myself awake I had started dancing to music in the cockpit, alone at night I was Travolta, perfect execution of all the moves. I had not taken dancing this seriously since I was playing pop stars in the front room to my parents music, when I was seven years old.

Once I had got myself out of breath I put on my favourite Jack Dee comedy CD’s and spent the rest of the trip laughing. It is a little odd at first laughing away in the middle of the sea with no one to see. Thank you Jack for keeping me awake in the dead hours when I had nothing else to do. Occasionally we had a pod of dolphins arrive to see what we were up to. Although these sometimes took me unawares in the dead of night and I would find myself jumping with fright when a dolphin would take a breath through his blowhole along side where I was sat.



  • Sunday 24 Aug 2003 0615z.
  • Distance 69.27 nm Time taken 15h 55m
  • Average speed 4.35 kts.

We could not head straight for Arklow from Pwllheli as the large Arklow sand bank runs north-south about 8 miles offshore, this means dropping about 6 miles south and heading north into Arklow.

We arrived at the entrance to Arklow at 0615z. This meant we had averaged 4.35 kts across the Irish Sea, not very good at all. Had we kept the wind we started in we should have averaged nearer to 6 kts. Though this would have meant arriving at Arklow in the dark, so I suppose it wasn't’t so bad after all.

  Approaching Arklow  
  Julian at the helm off Arklow  

Above you see the harbour entrance, Arklow has some small commercial vessels, but is mostly now pleasure craft. A few ships were anchored outside the entrance, but generally things were very quiet.

When you enter Arklow you have the choice whether to enter the small marina to port just before the moorings or to tie alongside long visitors pontoons which run alongside the bank just past the marina entrance.


We chose to moor on the long visitors pontoon, the image bottom left shows Top Cat on this pontoon. After a small breakfast we both put our heads down for a couple of hours. Once feeling refreshed we went for a walk into town. The town is on the opposite bank so you have to cross the bridge and then cross the main road the N11.

  The visitors pontoon at Arklow  
  Arklow - Dublin to Wexford Road N11  

This bridge carries the N11 Dublin to Wexford Road. This is an incredibly busy road which nearly ruins such a beautiful town. Crossing it was scary to say the least. This town is desperately in need of a by-pass.

Since writing this account I have been e-mailed by a fellow Irish sailor who wrote to tell me, ‘Arklow does have a bypass, you should have seen that road before it was built!’. So I stand corrected, but it was still one hell of a road to cross.

We had a wander around the town and found a small restaurant to eat in around dinner time. We went for a traditional Irish fair and walked back to the boat bloated and a little merry.


By now I was starting to feel the pain of staying awake the night before and was ready to turn in. We sat up in the cockpit with a glass of wine watching a beautiful sunset over Arklow, turning in at 2100.

  Arklow visitor's pontoon  


  • 25 August 2003 1445z
  • 37 nm Average speed
  • 6.5 kts Wind NNE F5-6

We left early next morning from Arklow and sailed south towards Wexford. Dublin was out as the wind had gone into the north and the idea of wind on the nose all the way was not too appealing.

We had a terrible time trying to find the entrance. The pilot says that the entrance is buoyed during the summer months by the boat club, these would be orange buoys, it said.

leg 2 - Arklow to Wexford
  Approaching Wexford Harbour and training wall  

What I did not expect was that these would be mooring buoys, in onshore wind at the top of a F6 these would be neigh on impossible to locate. We ran in front of the wind towards the entrance, this gave us a false sense of security with respect to the weather, it was not until we turned we realised that the wind was 26kts gusting to 32kts. We were already in the shallows and needed to get offshore quickly in order to work out our entrance.

The sand banks around the entrance to Wexford move regularly and just heading in was not an option. I started the engines around half a mile out and started to make for more depth, once in deeper water we were quite comfortable and able to plan our strategy. We had four pieces of reference, the Irish pilot, the reeds almanac, paper charts and the navionics chart plotter. Oh and of course our eyes. The worst part of the plan was none of this information tallied!


We plotted a course that was an average of all the information, in the hope that at some point one of the orange buoys would appear and we could continue the entrance using the locals channel. This did work, although upon seeing the first buoy which was unfortunately not the first in sequence we inadvertently crossed one of the many sandbanks. This was not entirely unplanned, I had checked the depth and charted depths and decided we could make it, it would just be a bit lumpy, which it was!

At Wexford we still had 26kts of wind North of East, this is not a good condition for crossing the badly marked sand bar entrance. We crossed with steep waves with only 1ft of water beneath the keels, Top Cat only drafts 2ft 6in so you can see the bar was very shallow.

  Wexford Mussell Dredger 2003  

Once over the sand bar you find yourself in a tranquil bay, shallow all over with a moving channel. Mussel dredgers work this area (see photo). We were struggling to find the channel marks as we did finding the entrance buoys before the bar. These marks are laid by the boat club and are only orange fenders, which disappear below waves in the conditions we arrived.

The skipper of this dredger called me up on the radio to help me with my pilotage, even offering that we could follow him in as he was due to finish after a few minutes. Fishermen helping yachts in, never on our side of the pond, these guys were really happy to help.

  Suggested anchoring position in the marina development at Wexford (unfinished marina 2003)  

Visitors moorings

Wexford has made many improvements to its waterfront using large grants from the EU. Unfortunately the proposed marina development has been put on hold. The Irish Pilot says it acceptable to anchor in the area which is due to become the marina. I would not advise this in strong easterlies. It is a very small area and very open to wind.

Because of the space, wind and depth, getting your anchor on the bottom and fast before the vessel is trying to climb onto the back wall is quite entertaining, more so in Top Cat with her higher windage. Before we gave up and moved to the fishing wall we tried to moor stern-to the back wall tying up to the ladders (this marina has the worlds strongest ladders, there are no mooring facilities on the walls).


Our problem was aided by the haphazard anchoring of the small boats already there. Two guys on their fishing dinghies were very helpful but I had to abort eventually, we had got the anchor down but Top Cat was skidding about in the wind and there just was not the space.

We ended up moored to the wall just in front of the dredgers.

Here was our view for the next few days. It could not be much better, step off Top Cat and you are in the middle of town. The only problem was the design of the walls, they have been designed for fishing and larger vessels. Our wall fenders were useless as they would not hold us off the wall due to the beams being 20" thick. There were some tires where we tied up, but these have left terrible marks on the hull. They also tore chunks out of our rubbing strake, yes it was rotten, but now it also looks terrible.

  Wexford - Top Cat parked on the fishing wall  
  Wexford - Intercity train thunders past Top Cat  

26 Aug 2003

We were awoken in the morning by a rumbling train noise getting louder and louder. We had crossed the tracks the evening before and thought nothing of it, I expected maybe the odd goods shunt or even a tram, there are no fences or warning signs, like any tracks generally seen around docks. No; This was the Dublin to Rosslare main line, and as you see proper trains really do run through, though they do slow down, it is still something I have never seen before.

Here Tanya is walking the dogs (now international Staffies) along the board walk at Wexford.


We had a couple of nice days in Wexford waiting for a change in weather, which was nice, if you can Wexford is well worth the visit. The locals are unbelievably friendly. On our arrival yesterday Tipper had been on the foredeck sporting his bright life jacket.

Just before this picture was taken we had been in the town, victualling and I needed an internet cafe to get some idea of the coming weather. We had not run to Wexford, but we had no intention of leaving in an E F6.

While in a news agents they happened to have South East Radio on the radio, the presenter talking about the Welsh boat that had arrived yesterday and the dog had a life jacket on, he was chuffed by life jackets for dogs. So we got a mention, well at least Tipper did on National radio.

  Wexford - Tanya walks the dogs on the boardwalk  
  Wexford - Julian sat by the mussel dredgers  

Earlier on I had walked up to some of the fishermen on the wall and asked where I might get diesel, I still was unsure whether or not red diesel was available in Ireland. It is, but is coloured green and around the same price as the UK.

I was told of a supplier, but it was out of town and not too easy to find. The guy with the van is on lunch I will get him to give you a shout.

I did not know what to expect so nodded accordingly and wandered back down to Top Cat. About an hour later the fisherman with the van knocked on the boat, he then ran me in his van 20 minutes out of town to get fuel, he would not take a penny off me for his fuel, this is why I love Ireland. If you ever read this website, may I take this opportunity to thank you very much for your help and selfless help.


Later on, we had another visitor, the commodore of the boat club came to invite us up to the club for a drink. Wexford sailing club is quite an odd affair. To save on costs they share the premises with the tennis club, it is a little strange to see tennis racquets on the wall of a sailing club.

We had a nice night at the club and wandered back to Top Cat glowing from Guinness. It was a little difficult to explain to the taxi driver where we wanted to go and I think he was quite confused when dropping us off on the sea wall.

We had a great time in Wexford, and we thank the locals for making it so.

  Wexford - Bank of Ireland  

We left Wexford bound for Waterford at 0634z 27 Aug 2003.

On our way to Waterford we passed the windfarm at Rosslare, this is the closest I have ever been to a wind farm, the turbines were enormous. (How things have changed with the building of farms such as the North Hoyle, Rhyl etc etc)



27 Aug 2003 1541z.

We arrived at Hook Head Lighthouse at 1541z.

  • Time 09:07 hrs
  • 43.7 nm Average speed 4.8 kts
  • Wind ENE 3-4 then E 4-5
  Waterford - Hook Head Lighthouse  

Waterford river.

We had taken about an hour and a half to get this far up river, I had missed the tide and we had up to 4 kts of current against us. This was ok while we were sailing at 8 kts with the strong winds at Hook Head, but as we moved up river we were in the lee of the land and our progress slowed dramatically. At times the GPS fell below 1 knot speed of ground.

At times going up river we were down to 1 knot SOG. This did though give us plenty of time for sight seeing. Here the chain ferry from Waterford to Wexford crosses our path and a cargo ship leaves Waterford. There were very few leisure craft on the river as we sailed up, there was a lot of commercial traffic though.

  Waterford - Port Hand Marker   Waterford - Chain Ferry   Waterford - Container Terminal  
  Waterford - The Visitor's pontoons  

The visitors pontoon in the City of Waterford.

  • Time 2015z
  • Distance from Hook Head 16.7nm
  • Average speed up river 3.67 kts
  • Wind calm

The frontage of Waterford is split between leisure boats and commercial. Here a trawler on her berth on the other side of the river on the right the leisure boats rest on pontoons on the town side of the river. The visitors pontoon at Waterford is in the heart of the city overlooked by Reginald’s Tower, dating from 1003 AD so pretty old really.

  Waterford - Reginald's Tower  

On the right hand image you will see a lodged cannon ball from Cromwell's Son in Law, Ireton's assault; Unsuccessful. The Tower now houses a museum and gives an impression of how life was in the tower, which has also been used as a mint. The top floors were added later on in the Towers life, definitely worth a visit.

Further up the waterfront is Waterford Museum, these two attractions are a must to anyone visiting.

The Tower Hotel is a very nice hotel right above the moorings. They offer showers to visiting yachtsman as Waterford does not have a dedicated sailing club, they also give gate keys out of hours when the City Hall Engineers department office is closed.

  Waterford - Reginald's Tower Cannonball  

For 3 Euro you can use the gym showers, that is each! (2003)

This was the one aspect of our stay that in my opinion was terrible, the showers are communal in a bank of 4, one cold and three hot. They have those sticky taps that you press and they release almost immediately you release, stopping the flow of water. After a quick swim or session in the gym these showers are fine, but when you need to clean up after a day or two at sea, they really are not up to scratch, I hope the harbour rectify this blip to an otherwise great stay.

  Waterford - The Tower Hotel  
  Waterford - Rafted yachts  

On the vessel we had rafted against I had spoken to the owner who earlier that day had popped down to check everything was ok with his boat. I had asked him when a good time to leave was, with respect to tide, and he told me an hour before HW is usual. The next morning I found an envelope attached to our cockpit.

Inside Alan from his boat Mabona had printed out weather and tide info for the next week ahead, I had not asked for this, he just wanted to help us, I love Ireland. Thank you Alan, I hope you got the box of biscuits we left, before the seagulls did.

Waterford Town images
  Waterford - Julian at Reginald's Tower  
Waterford - Town Centre
  Waterford - Franciscan Friary  

Dunmore East

30 Aug 2003 0710z

On Saturday morning we left Waterford. This was to be our last day in Ireland as the coming forecasts where not looking good for the week ahead. As it turned out the forecasts had been incorrect, each time I logged on the forecast changed, this has been the case all year, but I had to make a decision, I did not want to have to leave the boat in Ireland if the weather had turned nasty.


  Dunmore East  
  Dunmore East  

30 Aug 2003 1206z

We were held up in Dunmore East waiting for the fuel guy to return from lunch. We were told he would be about ten minutes or so. After thirty minutes I was getting anxious, I did not need fuel desperately, but thought it would be nice to fill the tank, and the Eberspasher tank was getting low.

After an hour I wanted off, but you know how it is, he may get here in two minutes. It was after two hours I called some fishermen on the quay, they called him up on the mobile and he came from home in about a minute.

I think he fell asleep!


30 Aug 2003 1322z

Finally we left Dunmore East and headed back for Wales. I had decided to go over to Milford Haven and then travel down to Padstow from there, thus completing a trip we attempted earlier in the year. This is our last landfall of Ireland, we had had a great week, and vowed to come back soon, I want to cruise further north next time and then come home via the Isle Of Man; watch this space!

      Irish Sea 30 August 2003 1716z      
  Dolphins follow us from Ireland  

A pod of about forty dolphins began to follow us from Ireland. They regularly swam between the hulls and enjoyed the broken water.

Although we do see dolphins regularly when we sail, this pod stayed with us right across the Irish Sea. They were close enough, well literately rubbing along the boat that we could hear them singing to each other. Strangely after a few hours this actually started to become annoying, the autopilot regularly have to correct our heading after a larger dolphin pushed the bows off course when he back flipped.

  Dolphins follow us from Ireland  
  One thing we did see, that I have never experienced before was dolphins lit up by the phosphorescence in the water at night. Ten feet down you could see a perfect green outline of a dolphin in the pitch black water, I wonder if this is what sailors of old took to be mermaids. Unfortunately none of the night pictures came out, so I will have to keep that one in my memory.  

We were held up for a couple of hours in the middle of the Irish Sea when I spotted distress flares north of Tuskar Rock, I know it was north as I was at the time staring at the plough and the North Star, oh yes and Mars reflecting on the water.

I stood on which was not difficult as the Irish sea was as a millpond. For two hours I waited to see if any more flares were fired. After Rosslare Coastguard called close-by ferries and nothing more was seen or heard I requested that I could move on. I was stopped pointing at the heading the flares had been seen, I was too far to help, but was the only one who had seen the flares.

Upon returning home I e-mailed the Irish coastguard to see if anything had turned up and they responded to my letter;


The incident you refer to occurred on 30/08/03 at 2307 utc (local time minus 1 hour). MRCC Dublin did initiate a response and eventually attributed your report to a party held on the Balinesker Beach near Curracloe in County Wexford (north of Rosslare Harbour) where fireworks were discharged.

MRCC was in contact with persons on the shore and other vessels at sea. On behalf of the Irish Coast Guard and MRCC Dublin I would like to thank you for reporting the sightings of red para flares and for standing by whilst the matter was investigated. I do hope that your passage was not unduly delayed.

Please rest assured that you took the correct action and that you could have been of no further assistance under the circumstances.

Regards and best wishes

SAR Operations Manager IRCG HQ


Milford Haven

  • 31 August 2003 0929z
  • Crossing time 18:07 hrs
  • Average speed 4.28 kts
  • Weather NW 3-4 then calm

After a long night we made it to Milford Haven. Predictably for this trip the wind fell to calm over night and we had to motor over the Irish Sea. September is usually windy!

  Approaching Milford Haven  

Milford Haven is the fifth largest port in the UK, and set in the heart of the only Coastal National Park in Great Britain.

The Old Red Sandstone is one of the most distinctive rocks of South Pembrokeshire, and is widely exposed in the cliffs, especially around the entrance to and along the cliffs of Milford Haven. It is always quite a visually stunning approach to the Haven.

As you travel up into the Haven you can see history unfolding with every yard covered. The forts, prisons, strong holds, old jetties etc. Milford's history has been up and down through the ages and a visit to the area has to be on everyone's list.

We stayed one night in Milford, and only one as they chose to charge us double rates for daring to enter with a catamaran, we have no more beam than some modern powerboats. It is an ugly marina anyway. In usual style, they also berth us on the furthest pontoon from the offices and showers, when I pay extra I expect the best berth. There are not many marinas who do this anymore.

  Milford Haven marina sea lock  
  Bristol Channel Dolphins  

We picked up another pod of about thirty dolphins on our way across the Bristol Channel towards Padstow. This time though, they seemed to be more mature and larger than the pods we had seen before.

Because of the wind direction I had sailed quite wide and was hoping that near Lundy we would turn and tack into Padstow. Just approaching the turn the wind chose to drop. This meant the final leg would take longer than the previous, even though it was the same distance.



  • 02 Sep 2003 1150z
  • Distance 90 nm
  • Wind SSE 3-4 then calm

To help matters we also picked up a lobster pot, in 178ft of water, mid channel. The line from our port prop to the pot was bar tight, I had to launch the dinghy and saw through the 25mm line and pick up line which had tangled nice and tight around the shaft. On arrival to the River we ran Top Cat up the beach at Daymer Bay. Then stood in waste high water it still took me an hour to remove the bundle of cords wrapped around the propeller.

  Julian makes Top Cat fast against the wall at Padstow Harbour  
Images from Padstow
  Julian at Padstow   Boats moored in the harbour, Padstow   Padstow tide gate at night, Firefly yacht on the wall   Padstow - Boats on the Wall inc. Top Cat   Padstow - Early morning, Cornish fishing boat on the wall PW11  
  Milford Haven - Anchored over night at Dale Roads  

Dale Roads

  • 05 Sep 2003 0917z.
  • Dale Early Morning.

We left Padstow the afternoon before. We arrived at Milford Haven at about 0100z and I was not happy about travelling through Ramsey Sound at night so we anchored over night at Dale.

There is a visitors pontoon set out by Dale sailing club, but we as many of the overnight visitors chose to lay to our own anchor, I do not know if the pontoon is used more mid season.


We had to travel back to Milford Marina again for fuel, but just popped in and out while they were running free flow through the dock.

We left the Haven for home about 1600z.

We had a great sail back to Pwllheli, though it did rain 'A LOT' through the night, we maintained a sailing average a little under 7 knots, arriving the next morning to slip back onto our mooring. I hope you have enjoyed this log, please take time to sign our guest book.


  Dale Roads - Tanya packs the boat ready for passage back to Pwllheli  
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