0029 - Portavogie to Portaferry

Getting to Portaferry takes some timing. There are currents going into Strangford Lough that are just plain dangerous, to fast to fight - well, too fast for us. Even with our engine at full power, our boat is no match for these currents. Looking very carefully at the tide charts I noticed there's about two hours difference in the tide times at the entrance and the tides halfway into the entrance to Strangford Lough...and I thought I had worked things out, and I did - but nothing quite prepared me for these currents - they were the strongest I have ever seen, anywhere.

I am going to miss Portavogie, it was such an interesting little place, full of some of the hardest working people I have seen for a while.

A wee place just packed with character bearing the scars of unforgiving weather, loss and the constant grind of life...the aura of that place will be with me for a while. It's funny, from the outside it just looks so unassuming and plain...but what lies within is anything but...

Leaving Portavogie at 7am allowed us to catch the currents going South, and we were able to enjoy some speed on the way down to the entrance to Strangford Lough.


The sea was much calmer today but the wind was very light, but that's ok, we're not in any rush we don't have far to go, a mere 9nm to the entrance to Strangford Lough, and the currents were going to do most of the work for us and, to be honest - it was a beautiful morning! Just gonna soak it in!

Moving down the coast we passed the North Rocks just south of Portavogie. They're clearly marked and easily avoidable in these conditions, and we passed them without any incident.

Our software suggested the outer route passing to the East of the South Rock Lighthouse, but - I figure we'll be fine...there are some shallows but, again in these conditions - nothing to worry about, plus it shaves a mile or two off of our trip.

The chart says that this lighthouse is disused. It was built in 1793 and abandoned in 1877, Classified as a 'Wave Washed Lighthouse" in this classification - only Eddystone and Bell Rock are older than this one.


I think it looks kinda spooky and didn't want to get too close to it for some reason, not sure what it was about the place, just a feeling I guess, you can't see them in the picture but it would appear that a lot of birds call this place home...

With the currents pushing us, it wasn't long before this spooky place was well in our wake.


We also passed Quintin Castle, but sadly we didn't get too close, or close enough for better pictures...

As we weren't moving too quickly, there was a bit of time to take in the coastline, Ireland is just so green...but before long we were approaching the entrance to the Lough.



As we approached the entrance to the Lough we were approached the South Cardinal Marker.

And I figured I'd get a closer look at this one, and it was here I got my first taste of the currents. I had planned to get a little close, but the currents had already picked up - I had to make a last-minute course change to avoid hitting it as the current nearly drove us into it - we ended passing it with only about five feet of clearance - a tad closer than I would have liked...

You can see the current swirling around the base of this marker, things were about to get interesting...

But then we were nearly hit by a bird, this little bird was flying about a foot above the water, just not looking where it was going at all...then at the last minute, veered off and crashed and burned into the water....

I see these birds all the time, and they are usually very careful/expert flyers and swimmers...clearly, this one needs to go home to sleep it off...


Now I had been warned by lots of people about these currents, and I had listened to them, and taken steps to plan my arrival time carefully, but I have never seen currents like this, ever...passing these two markers marked the beginning of the channel and the start of the Strangford Lough tidal insanity.

As soon as we got past these markers our speed jumped from 5 knots to 8 knots, and I thought, meh, what was the fuss about - this is easy...

I was all relaxed and started taking a few pictures, just taking in the scenery...I should have been watching our speed a bit closer, but here are the pictures I took.

As we went through a slightly narrower section I suddenly thought we seemed to be moving a little quickly - just a tad faster than 8 knots...


I casually put the camera down and glanced at our speed, our 'course over ground' speed was 14 knots...I had to do a double-take on that one, looking over at the water - that I hadn't even been looking at - now looked very different from the last time I looked at it, it had gone from kinda calm to a swirling mess!

But then, it fell back very quickly to seven knots, and for whatever reason, I again thought, meh, is that it?

But then, I felt the surge grab the hull and just start forcing us all over the place, and the speed within 2 minutes we were doing more than 10 knots again...

And the highest speed I got on camera was 11 knots, but we went up to 14 knots at one point...


I didn't take any pictures at that moment - as I might have been freaking out a bit, not sure it's all a bit of a blur...

We flew past these Port and Starboard Channel markers and that means we're almost to Portaferry.

What's not apparent in the pictures is that we are almost sideways going down this bit of the channel, I just increased the revs on the Greta to get the steering under control...

I saw Portaferry coming up on the starboard side, note, I said starboard side...


We got close enough for me to spy the marina and to see what lines I would need for docking, and on what side to put the fenders...we were only about a mile away.

I got my lines ready, and put the fenders out, and was all set to go into the marina. I always get my lines and fenders ready. I once saw a newly retired couple come in on a nice shiny new boat - they had nothing ready, no lines ready, no fenders, I mean the lines weren't even on the deck even close to being ready...*shakes head slowly*

I watched as $2k got wiped from the value off their boat in about 30 seconds as their boat bounced about the pontoon and something gouged huge thick deep scratches into their shiny new hull, it was just the gel-coat that was damaged, but that was enough for me to see, to know - to always come in prepared... it was just awful to watch.

Although I now had lines and fenders ready, when I looked up we were near a half-mile past the marina - uh oh...


I managed to turn the boat around and began motoring into the current, noticing Portaferry Marina is now on our port side. I had started motoring into the current at about half of our engine speed, and we, according to the chart plotter we're making 3 knots - yea, uh-huh - we were making 3 knots backwards.


I quickly went to flank speed and was still only making, in a forward direction - 0.25 knots, this was a disaster. Looking at the water, I noticed that we were in the main flow and were going nowhere fast here, I could see the flow was less on the Southern Side of the channel so the plan was to go where the current was less, make some headway, and cross over and into the marina...

The plan sort of worked, and we did get into the marina, but it only took me about two and half minutes max to set my lines and fenders when we were approaching the marina - but that time cost us forty-five minutes to fix - the currents here are just insane, and our yacht is not that weak - she has plenty of power but is just no match to fight these currents.


At one stage I was almost just going to go with the flow and try again in about an hours time when the flow would be less, but as we started to make a bit of headway, and as I spent more time at it, I became more and more invested - it got personal - in the end - I just couldn't let it go - it cost me about $6 in diesel to correct a two and a half minute oversight.

The first thing I noticed in the marina were these very suspicious-looking birds having a business meeting of some kind. I don't care what you say - something was being discussed here - I swear it...and what is that skulky-looking seagull even doing there?

These two on the end seem to be having some sort of a 'domestic' - I think they're married or something...not sure why - it just seemed that way...

I think these birds are called Cormorants - the same species as the one that nearly hit our boat a little earlier.


Portaferry was to be the first stop our way up Strangford Lough, but sadly our last in Ireland, and was only supposed to be a short stay but the weather got a bit sour and is going to be sour for at about a week, with the exception of one day, tomorrow the weather is to be ideal for crossing over to Wales as we can't afford to hide out for a week here, time-wise, there are many mooring in the area that you can grab for free, but I only planned for a couple of days or so here...but the weather has other ideas

I might have just braved it out if I thought I could have done the two weeks before entering the South of Ireland, but a few boats we met had three weeks documentation and were still not permitted into harbours or marinas - they had folders of documents to prove their every step- much more than we do - Southern Ireland isn't taking any chances with Covid-19. Rules are Rules


The second thing I noticed in the marina were these people swimming in that water!

These people were dedicated to swimming - they must be, to be out in that water swimming about - absolute Mad Lads and Lasses!! And, of course, they posed for a photo!


They insisted the water was 'lovely'...a quick check with my hand in the water said otherwise, and they were wearing wetsuits - for a reason I suppose...and not because the water was lovely...

Given this was to be our last stop in Ireland I wanted to get a look at this place. I started on the western end of the town but, it was looking a bit neglected.

Nice, but still neglected, but I came to learn the people don't live here for nice apartments and finely manicured lawns...

But this was just one tiny area, the rest of the town was really nice, I think every town has a little section like this...


The rest of the town was actually quite well kept, but due to covid restrictions a lot of stuff was closed - or taped off due to the current state of affairs...

There was old ruin right in the middle of town but was also closed off due to Covid...


It looked quite interesting, it was called Portaferry Castle - I couldn't get any closer for better pictures...usually, you can go inside, there's a courtyard and some other areas that I was able to see through the locked gate...but access denied.

Moving just past the main town area, I was walking past someone's house and came across this rather disturbing scene.

Clearly, an act of vandalism has occurred, but these boys had seen better days...

But then all of a sudden the photos took a jump in quality, all through the town there are benches, and outside of most of the houses there are also benches, all facing towards the water. And not sure who lives here - but they're cool - whoever they are.

Taking a walk down by the waterfront revealed what all the benches were pointing at, clearly the reason most people live here...it's very pretty

On my way back to the boat, I saw this little seabird just sitting on the sea wall, she looked really tired...kinda felt sorry for her, but I later saw it fly away - so maybe she was okay...

Once I got back to the yacht the crew were a bit more ready to come on deck, and I let them stay out a little longer than usual - they seemed to be on their best behaviour.

I was fully dark before I had to chase Chloe in, I think she would have stayed out all night if I let her, but rules are rules...but I wish she wouldn't stick her head out the side of the netting - but she loves doing it...

I took a picture of Strangford, which is directly opposite where we are, and we were going to stop in there on our way out of Strangford Lough after we had checked out the top of this Lough - maybe next time.

But sadly this is as close to it as we're going to get as we need to cut this trip short and get South of Ireland, next stop Wales...

We should get a few stops in Wales, but restrictions are changing all the time - Even as I write this, Cardiff to Swansea, basically the whole south of Wales has just been locked down due to Covid-19.

After dark - I managed to do one last thing in Ireland, and in the countries Smallest Pub...

We will need to be very careful where we go so we don't get caught in the lockdown nets...Will have to do something I hate doing - watch the news...

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