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0028 - Portavogie - A very neat little place...

If you're the kind of person who likes Bars, Nightclubs, Restaurants, and lots of shops to visit and browse - Portavogie is definitely not for you.

But if you like honest, hard-working people who do whatever it takes to get the job done - without all the fluff of modern living that you are likely to find in a city or large town - then maybe Portavogie is for you.

Everything is here is just raw, from the pier to the people - It's just a really real place - no BS here, at one here has time for BS - there's work to be done...

There's a fuel station that doubles a small food store, a cafe, a restaurant, and two fast food places (chip shops) - and that's it, no high street, no tourist shops, nothing like that at all. And I like that.

All too often these smaller places get hijacked by tourism and turned into a cartoon theme park of overpriced goods, with endless gift shops selling stuff no one needs - this isn't a place for tourists - or even yachts for that matter. When I called this place to see if I could stop here for a few days the Harbour Master was on holiday and I got another chap who was managing affairs on his behalf and coming in was no problem, but later learned this was not the usual practice as this is a busy working harbour and, in the past, yachts have been damaged - and that caused problems for some boat captains that were already struggling to make ends meet. One particular story I heard was of a scratch below the water line to some fancy guy's yacht, and he went all out to get money off of a boat captain to have his fancy yacht hauled out of the water and professionally repaired - it was/had to be settled outside of insurance so as to not affect the Fisherman's insurance premiums and, quite frankly, this really hurt this particular fisherman financially.

These guys work really hard to earn a living, and they fight for every dollar they earn - the last thing they need is some millionaire 'fancy lad' standing on them to get a scratch fixed because of an accident, so I get why they try and keep private yachts out of here.

I, myself, don't care about a small ding or scratch - to be honest - I already have a few of them that the boat came here - it's a risk you take, but the captains I saw - were some of the most skilled I have seen anywhere - moving these huge boats around the confines of the harbour like they were toys - just incredible skill. I can't imagine accidents of that nature are too common, but it just takes one 'a-hole' to mess it up... In short - I felt really privileged to be here, in this environment, with these people.

On the pier, life is very different from that of a marina where you just plug in power and just get water with ease, Here that's just not possible - at all - just getting on and off the boat is an exercise in parkour, it's not for everyone - but I loved it.

As to power, we've got the ability to make our own. We can run the engine to charge the batteries, which we don't like doing - but when I bought this yacht, I thought while I still had some money - I figured that buying a generator would be a good idea, and we don't really use it all that often, but in places like this it really becomes a useful thing to have, and means your not too dependant on running lines to the shore to try and hook into some kind of powerpoint.

There was power on the pier, but the connections were of a much larger industrial connection type that we just don't have, we would have needed some kind of adapter - which we also just don't have - so I hauled out the generator to top up our power - it's not that loud, actually it's quite quiet for a generator - but Chloe did not like it at all - she did get used to the sound and eventually plucked up the courage to go on deck while it was operating - but did spend a good bit of time observing it before making her move...

The harbour was bursting with all kinds of sea life, hundreds of seagulls and other types of sea birds...and then there were the seals. Now, when I was stuck in Eyemouth when Scotland got locked down for a few months, I, at night, would occasionally hear the seals making a strange noise - but the seals here are loud, at all times - even a 4am you can hear them shouting at each other.

I tried to get some audio one night, but every time I pushed record - they would just go silent....but then I was just sitting in the cockpit one day and they just started their shouting and was able to grab some footage on my phone just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about...

Taking a walk down the harbour one day I counted five very fat, they're very well fed, so well fed in fact that they seem to have a strange relationship with the seagulls.

In the picture below - you can see a seagull standing on one...and the seal doesn't even care - In Eyemouth - the seals would go for them - they did not like them at all, but here, there is plenty to go around so they tend not to fight with each other...

Walking a bit further down the harbour I was able to grab quite a few more shots of these seals. They really are big fat things - very well fed indeed.

Again, they just don't seem to mind the seagulls here at all, they tend to hang around the seals to get any scraps that they don't eat. I watched them as they would dive down, get a fish and only eat the best, fattest bit of meat - and throw the rest away to the gulls. Like I said - plenty to go around...

This went on for hours, dive, get fish, eat a tiny bit, dive get a fish.....and so on.

When I came back hours later - they were still doing it...

The seals would come near the boat every now and again, and the cats were not fans of the seals - they seemed very perplexed with these seals...

They would sit for hours just watching them with a mixture of interest and confusion at these huge noisy beasts - I know they know other things live in the water, but these fellas really piqued their curiosity...

The girls did really did pay a lot of attention to them, whenever they came near - they were under constant surveillance by the crew...

The last time they saw seals was back in Eyemouth, Scotland - but as I mentioned - these seals were very loud...

Chloe was the one who was most affected by the seals, she really didn't like them!

She was barely able to mask her contempt for these beasts...

But Portavogie is really dedicated to the fishing industry, and to the fishermen themselves. Almost everything in this place has connections to fishing.

I'm told, that what you see here in this place is nothing compared to what it used to be like, evidently, at one time you could've crossed the entire harbour just by using the fishing boats as a bridge - it used to be stuffed with as many boats as the harbour could hold! If I thought it was busy now - it must have been something else years ago!

I can't imagine how busy it must have been here at one time, everywhere you look there is something relating to all the fishing that goes on here, it's just an incredible little place.

In a way, I'm not surprised, these men are just impressive humans - and the work they do is very dangerous - I don't think enough people really appreciate how dangerous it is, here, they are held in high regard, and rightly so - I feel.

And although they are tough and hardened by the sea, after discovering I wasn't a typical yacht owner and was not a threat, I found them to be as kind and generous as anyone anywhere. They were keen to pass on tips about the weather and passage making in the Irish Sea.

They were also keen to help me make repairs to my yacht by offering tools, supplies and anything else I needed - I didn't need any help, but it was very kind of them to offer their time to a complete says something about them as humans.

The harbour itself was just an interesting place with fishing gear all over the place in various stages of repair and being worked on, to boats not being worked on - Nothing goes to waste here, everything can be fixed - and put right back in service.

When we got here the weather was pretty rough, but the harbour looks pretty different in calm conditions... but the rocks still retained their menacing look, I really don't like those rocks.

It was just an interesting place to have a wander around, just something going on in every corner of the place...I think if you lived here you could easily get used to it all, but for me - it was just a fascinating look at another facet of life in another place that you never really get to see and given most yachts just pass this place by, or are not welcome, I feel, it was a real treat to see this place.

I also met a few of the 'foreign' workers - I say foreign but not in a derogatory way, I just mean these were men from far-flung places who were working on fishing boats, most were working to support their families back home - wherever that was. I met a few from Ghana, one chap called Godwin, was as cool a guy as you could ever want to meet, but his boat wasn't based here in Portavogie, he was just visiting so to speak. His boat was based out of Campbeltown, a place we visited very briefly before we came to Ireland.

Godwin loves Scotland, he loves the way they talk, and act, and is basically in love with Scotland and everything about it, and although being from Ghana his English was very good, I suspect he will try and stay if he can, and I hope he does. He has been fishing for about 18 months and wasn't super happy about being in Portavogie, Ireland - He just wanted to get back to Campbeltown, Scotland! Wherever he is now I wish him the best - such a cool dude!! I really enjoyed speaking with him.

There was another group of workers I came across, referred to as 'the Indians', but I heard at least 3 languages amongst this group, not sure where they were all from, but I found them all behind a fishing warehouse having a very high-spirited game of cricket.

These guys were having an absolute blast, just the most incredible fun. Using fish boxes as markers on a makeshift field.

I, myself, don't play or understand cricket to any degree that would amount to any understanding of what was actually going on with the game, but it was fun to watch these guys just having a great time in their off-time.

Later that night, in the middle of the night - all of a sudden, the harbour sprang into life.

These massive fishing boats that were all sitting quietly, suddenly fired up their engines and began to make their way out to sea.

It really is something to see a perfectly quiet harbour transform into a hive of activity.

With boats coming from all directions and all perfectly maneuvering around other boats including our little yacht, one boat passing with a few feet of our stern...

These boats continued to dispatch all night - It must be a tough life going out for days or weeks at a time, being away from friends and family just to earn a living.

And with the government constantly changing the regulations, the situation, as I understand it, is more political than practical - it's all very confusing - and probably very frustrating for all involved. But here, it's all hustle and bustle...I even saw this little boat heading out in the morning after the long line of big boats had gone out...

And on this morning I happened to be on my personal Facebook page and noticed something in my newsfeed. An old friend of mine from school had posted that he was in Newcastle having a caravan holiday - At first, I thought, what a shame he's in England, I was going to give him a shout to see if he wanted to meet up.

Then I remembered, there's a Newcastle in Ireland as well, quickly checking my charts - he was, in fact, in the Irish Newcastle - I quickly dropped him a message to see if he would be interested in arranging a meet up as Newcastle wasn't too far away, but also I was to be heading in his direction, so we could maybe meet someplace closer to him.

Within an hour or so he had messaged back to say that he would be able to meet and that he and his husband were soon to be on their way to Portavogie! I wasn't sure how long it would be before they would be here, so I decided to check out the beach to the South of the town to kill some time as the crew wasn't up for being on deck as the seals were hanging around making a lot of, off I went to the beach.

At the north end of the beach, there were just a few flies...

Luckily they're not the kind of flies that bite you, there were just an awful lot of them! But the beach itself was really nice, about a mile and a half long with all kinds of birds - all feeding on something in the shallows...but it was just a nice surprise to have this little beach to walk on right next to the town.

No beach houses, no ice cream stands, and no other people - and very quiet, with nothing other than the sound of the waves lapping at the shore...although the birds were making a bit of noise as I approached, it's not the kind of noise that's was sort of a surprise that this beach existed just 1000 feet away from a busy harbour filled with industrial equipment and the near-constant rattle of diesel engines...

No sooner had I snapped the last photo - my phone rang, it was my friend Douglas - They were here already - way sooner than I had expected! They both came down to the beach to meet me with two dogs they had 'borrowed/dognapped' from one of their friends. And no wonder - these two little dogs are just the cutest little things!!

The three of us, well the five of us went into town to the only cafe and had a coffee, and had a good catch up - it had been 23 years since we had last seen each other - in fact, the last time I saw Douglas, I think he was going to start a job on a ferry going to and from Ireland and Scotland - and he's been over in Ireland ever since - but just look at these little dogs!!! Their cuteness even scored them a free ice cream treat from the cafe owners! These little dogs are much cuter in person, just adorable little pooches!

After having a good chat and getting to meet Douglas's hubby for the first time, I can say that Jim was such a nice guy - Plus, he was the driver in this situation and drove Douglas down to meet me which makes an even sweeter dude - given he had never even met me before!

And before long, the coffees were finished and a few hours had passed, and it was time for them to get back to their caravan holiday from which they had taken a break from to come and meet me - the entire event was such an unplanned surprise and it just added to the random stop that was Portavogie.

Jim snapped a quick photo of us both before the dogs and themselves were on their way - My only hope is that it's not another 23 years before we meet again!

As they drove off a quick wave was exchanged and I was back to being on my own in Portavogie. I decided it was time to see if the crew were up for coming on deck.

After a bit of Parkour - I was was back on the boat and started to empty the diesel we had onboard into the tanks as we were going to get them filled again by an awesome local dude called Colin - And by now the girls were finally ready to come out on deck for a the seals were nowhere to be seen - or heard...

Part of the awesomeness that is Portavogie is what's available to you if you have a boat. A local guy named Colin runs an Engineering/Fuel Supply business and some helpful fishermen had pointed me in his direction. Affectionately referred to as "Coll", this guy had a warehouse that was like an 'Alladin's Cave' of boat parts.

I had decided to get to the bottom of the ingress of water situation on board our yacht and had finally worked out where it was coming from. Our stuffing box on the prop shaft was beginning to fail and needed new packing to correct the problem. It's an annoying job to do, as access to it is a bit difficult - but it needed to be done.

And not only was "Coll" able to sell me all the fuel I could carry, but he also gave me some of the highest quality gland packing I have ever seen. And he gave the packing free of charge - what a guy! - he was just another example of the kindness I have been in receipt of since getting to Ireland - I love this country! After an annoying few hours of working on the prop shaft - I am happy to report that our bilges are dry and dusty - job done. To celebrate, I took a walk to the Noth of the town along the promenade.

After all this I decided to call it a day, grab a bite to eat, feed the kitties, and get some sleep, however - when I got back to the boat - something was different...instead of being the fourth boat rafted to the pier, I was now the fifth boat out. A fishing boat had decided it wanted my space and had just moved my boat so they could tie up where I was and had retied my boat to the outside of theirs. And that was totally fine, this is their harbour and, after all, they have priority, and they had retied our boat securely, and quite frankly, I didn't care - these fishermen are pros - my only inconvenience was that I now had an extra boat to climb over - meh, who cares - all part of the excitement of being in Portavogoie!

The next morning, Phoebe was being in an extra needy mood, and no sooner had I gotten up than Chloe took my warm spot and promptly pretended to be asleep - translation - I'm not moving - I lost my spot...

The new switch up with our mooring and a new boat next to us gave the girls something new to check out - not sure how they felt about it.

They certainly looked confused about the new arrangement, I might not have cared about it but they were suspicious of the new boat...they gave it a good checking out!

After a good thorough checking out was completed, both of the girls got a bit silly, Chloe wanting to play - her golden eyes looking extra gold in the sunlight!

And Phoebe, being unusually active, ended up in what remains of the sail bag, for an older cat, she can be quite silly at times - perhaps there is something in the air as it seemed to affect them both at the same time!? After the silliness, regular cat activity was resumed. (The first photo is what Pheobe looks like a second before she sneezes!)

This particular day, the harbour was very calm and the water was very still, so as the cats played around for a bit I snapped some photos of the fishing boats. But then our new neighbor left, leaving us back to being number four away from the pier...

It's quite interesting how well looked after these boats all are with the exception of the ones we are tied on to, such care is given to these boats, and they manage to line them all up with such precision - and I am quite fond of how they paint them all different colours, created quite a nice look for the harbour and makes for some pretty pictures if you're into that kind of thing - I just liked the reflections on the water...and you can even see our boat in with the big boys...

Not completely sure what happened to this day, but I didn't get too much done, spent a bit too much time playing with the cats I suppose, and watching seals or something.

I did go to the shop where, along the way, I saw a very strange-looking Irishman just sitting in his van, a dead fish, and a burned-out car...

But before I knew it, the day was over and all that was left to do was to take some pictures of the place in the setting sun...

Portavogie is an interesting place, and it takes on a whole new look in the orange light of another fading day on our strange little journey through Ireland...

And that's it for this post, and that's it for Potavogie. Tomorrow morning, we set off for our next destination. I hope you can see something in the place where they said there was nothing.

I really enjoyed this little place, and I feel bad that previous yachtsmen made this place, 'not a place' for visiting yachts - I think it was a neat little place...


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