Sailing Solo Around Britain

Stranraer Marina Monday August 8 - Stranraer Marina and the Stranraer Jig

The wind and rain came from the west on Sunday. No boats stirred from the marina which is now pretty full with crews seeking protection from the weather. On Monday the wind shifts to the north west and brings the dreaded 'Stranraer Jig'.

Stranraer marina is well sheltered in south, south west and west winds, but when the wind shifts to the north or north west, a most uncomfortable swell is funnelled eight miles down Loch Ryan, pretty well straight into the marina.

It seems the marina breakwater was not built long enough to give full protection. In the swell yachts pull and jerk at their moorings whilst the pontoons become a fairground ride. A notice at the marina entrance warns that in strong northerly winds, life jackets should be worn on the pontoons and it is not advisable to venture there alone.

By Tuesday afternoon it is almost impossible to stand upright inside the boat as it rolls and pitches. The snatching and groaning of the mooring ropes eventually drives most of us to the local cafes. It does not calm down till after 20.00.

Tuesday August 9 - Stranraer To Belfast by Stena Line

The forecast for Tuesday promises more strong north westerlies so everything is battened down on Dark Star and I depart on the early Stena Line ferry from Cairnryan (4 miles north) on a day visit to Belfast to see the Titanic exhibition.

I catch the bus from Stranraer to Cairnryan port, paying £1.80 and was the sole passenger! The huge Stena Line ferry makes short work of the Force 6/7 north westerly in the North Channel crossing to Belfast but the swell looks horrible in the channel where tides can run up to 5 knots. The crossing takes just over 2 hours.

Titanic Exhibition Titanic Exhibition
The exhibition was built on part of the huge dock and slipway which gave birth to Titanic. The PO liner Arcadia berthed in Belfast this morning and consequently the exhibition site is very busy.

I am a bit disappointed by the exhibition. Titanic was a disaster which claimed over 1500 lives. At the entrance it seems hardly appropriate to be herded before a camera in a Titanic hat, for a souvenir photo.

The business also causes delays and a bottleneck. I decline the offer, along with two other queueing families, but it's not an encouraging start. Curmudgeon?

There are some highlights; the 3D representation, moving up through the decks from the boiler room to the Bridge is good, as is the extended film taken by submersibles when Titanic was finally discovered on the ocean bed. Some of this film has been shown on television, but it looks much more impressive on a very large screen.

Belfast City Hall Belfast City Hall is a winner.
After couple of hours I head off back to Belfast city centre. Unlike most cities in Scotland which are built of stone (often granite), Belfast is steadfastly red brick Victorian. Unfortunately once a couple of motorways have been slung over a city centre, attempts at restoration and regeneration face an uphill task. However there's not much wrong with their Burger King.....

The imposing Belfast City Hall dominates the city centre and proves the real highlight of the visit. Belfast was a booming city in the 1890's providing linen and rope making, shipbuilding, engineering and tobacco manufacture.

Fortunes were made and in 1898 the building of this magnificent town hall confidently proclaimed the arrival of this rapidly expanding new city in Queen Victoria's Empire.

Admission to the City Hall plus a 90 minute guided tour is free. It is still a working building, holding council meetings each week, plus civic events in the Great Hall. A fascinating tour and recommended.

The last ferry back from Belfast is pretty raucous. It's pitch dark but the bus back to Stranraer thankfully appears at 22.00. I stump up another £1.80 and as earlier, am the sole passenger!

Wednesday August 10 Stranraer Marina - Weather Bound

It's pouring rain and the weather looks pretty hopeless until a possible weather window on Saturday and Sunday. In the meantime, have decided to take the train to visit relatives in Musselburgh and return to Dark Star on Friday. The swell coming down the loch is making it very uncomfortable on board.

Friday August 12 Stranraer Marina - Still Weather Bound

It rains as expected on Thursday and Friday adds force 6 winds, but I have a nice break, making the journey by train over to Musselburgh to be looked after by my sister Kathleen and brother in law, Jim.

Those who know the family will be pleased to know that 'Calum's Hoose' has just the four walls and the roof still in place, but the big refurbishment is well under way. Calum reports that when he come across any large hole, the urge to throw money into it is hard to resist.

I'm sure it will all be worth it. Sailing round the UK seems a stress free doddle compared to the complexities of 'Calum's Big Project'

Saturday August 13 Stranraer Marina - Stilll Weather Bound

A rare area of high pressure will cover the UK on Sunday. After being stuck in Stranraer for a week I hope to take maximum advantage of the high pressure to make some big strides south.

The Isle of Man and Holyhead on Anglesey are in the sights. The wind may be light so the engine will be providing most of the propulsion. Well that's the plan.....

Thanks for reading this.