Shore leave in Dublin & Howth (7 days)

Looking down to Howth
Looking down to Howth

Friday, 20 May 2011 – Thursday, 26 May 2011

Friday 20th

After a very decent sleep, we were all set to explore Dublin.  It is my first visit to Dublin, to Ireland.  I never expected that I would have sailed there myself!  I never even fancied the crossing from Hollyhead!

Howth is a lovely town on a headland to the north of Dublin, about 30 minutes by the fast train service.  It is known as a fishing town, and is home to a fleet of fishing boats and a number of rather excellent looking fish restaurants.

Pete had only been to Dublin with work, and had always been hosted by someone or other… so this time we would have to work it out ourselves!  This was initiated by a text to Karen, who relayed some ideas from her in-laws, T&G.  We set off in search of the recommended coffee stop, Cafe de la Seine.  It was a gem of a place, and gave us a chance to get our bearings and consult the guidebook that we’d bought on Gafton Street.  We really rate the DK Travel Guides, and the one for Dublin doesn’t let DK down.  After a couple of days at sea, both of us fancied a touristy walk, so we embarked on the Literary Tour marked in the guide…  Georgian Dublin was ours to discover, as we rounded wonderful squares and wide tree lined streets, marvelling at the abundance of literary landmarks.  We were walking in the footsteps of so many great writers and artists.  The quote in the header photograph is of course by Oscar Wilde, whose statue we came across…..

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Pete, reluctantly posing by the statue to the great man of quotes…

We wandered for about two hours, which was just what we needed to regain some land legs.

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Jules makes friends with Patrick Kavanagh….

The walk finished at Trinity College, and we wandered through some of the grounds.  Neither of us had considered it as a potential location to study when we were making our respective choices many moons ago.  It is a beautiful campus. Founded by Queen Elizabeth I – that was quite a surprise to both of us – it must be steeped in history and traditions. After wandering through the College grounds, we thought about finding a pub to have a pint of Guinness in, but neither of us was up for it (having had a rather splendid lunch at Pearl Bistro, much more ritzy than planned!). We would save that for the following day and really appreciate it.

Saturday 21st

Once again we headed into Dublin, this time in search of Black Gold – and the Guinness experience.  I have never ever had a pint of Guinness, so Dublin seems a very fitting place to try it.  The Guinness Storehouse, where the tour and tasting takes place, is in not quite as salubrious a part of Dublin as we’d experienced in the South-Western area, home of the literary greats.  When we alighted from the tram at James’ to find the brewery, neither of us wanted to get out our maps to advertise our tourist status.  Pete navigated us by reference to the glass-topped building dominating the skyline which we’d seen in the guidebook…. the centre of the building represents a giant pint glass, and the glass top the ‘head’ of the pint.  We’d been told that HM Queen had visited a couple of days previously, but had declined the pint.  Shame! Apparently, the guinness at the Storehouse is about the best pint that you can get in Dublin; the volume of pints poured there mean that the pipes are in perfect condition all the time. Before we could taste, we had to complete the tour, which was over several floors, and was a multi-media presentation of the Guinness story as well as how it’s made (and delivered, and advertised).  It was a really wonderful tour.  Well done Ben’s company (Diageo)!  The real test would, of course, be in the tasting.  We opted for the skyline bar (rather than waiting in line to pour your own).  The verdict on the full 119 seconds it takes to pour the perfect pint?  Marvellous!

Make mine a pint!
Make mine a pint!

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Two happy customers!

Our day in Dublin continued with a march towards Temple Bar, for a spot of lunch (this time opting for a more traditional Irish fare, of boxty pancakes) and a mooch through the lanes.  We ended up in the Gallery of Photography, where we took in a very inspirational exhibition about ageing..

http://www.galleryofphotography.ie/exhibitions/bealtaine.html

Once again, we left Dublin with weary legs and a happy heart.  Dublin has more than lived up to my expectations… and I know there’s more to explore!

Sunday 22nd

Today we were due to leave to head further north to Carlingford Loch.  However, the weather had other ideas. There is a series of very low pressure systems crashing about somewhere to the north-west of us, which is creating a whole amount of havoc.  Really strong winds, gale force forecast, so not the sort of weather you’d chose to sail out into.

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Baily Lighthouse, Howth Head

We decided to have a more moochy day, rather than tear off into Dublin, so we wandered in the food market in Howth (very cosmopolitan) and then complete one of the circular walks around Howth Head… there are four marked out.  We, naturally, opted for the longest route, about 10 km.  It was a gorgeous walk, if a little blustery at times!  The wind was blowing strongly from the south-east, which blew us along the first part of the walk but near the end, we were walking headlong into it, just when we were growing weary.  Of course, not long after we’d set off, we got caught out in the most terrible squally shower, which sent us running for cover (not very effectively as shown by Pete’s attempts to shelter below), and had the backs of our legs completely soaked… but at least with the wind, we didn’t stay wet for very long!!!

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This was the longest walk that we’d done in ages, with a route that was up and down along the coastal path, and then up across the headland back towards the town of Howth.  Returning to port about 4pm, we were both ready for lunch and enjoyed tapas and a carafe of rose in a quirky Spanish influenced restaurant on West Pier.  We reckoned we’d earned it!

Monday 23rd

The weather forecast seems to be worsening with each day.  We woke this morning to a new horror in the forecasting… the mention of ‘violent storm 11’!!!  Another day of not sailing…. However, we are not the only ones.  There are a few boats around us who were due to move on, but all of us have our boats firmly tied up, with all fenders out.  Activity is spent checking and re-checking lines.  This morning the wind had much more ‘south’ in it, and it was hard to really think what the fuss was about (but we do get a lot of shelter from the south), however, this afternoon it has swung round to the south-east again, and it’s really pretty mad.  We have 40 knots of wind (Force 8) in the marina, and apparently it’s 45 knots in the bay (according to the Marina guys), with 75 knots reported on the Mayo coastline.  It’s hard to describe the noise, and the feeling.  I’ve made a sound recording of the wind from my phone, standing on the pontoon by the boat, trying to get the whistle of the wind, the clanking of warps on masts and the slapping of the waves on the pontoons.  I don’t know if it comes out, as it’s hard to hear it above the noise that I can hear ‘for real’ outside!  I’ll try and imbed the file, and see if the sound can be captured as part of today’s blog….(I don’t think it is working, but I’ll see if I can fix it… Nope never have been able to!!)

The forecasts are inconsistent, and seem to vary by day.  The outlook for tomorrow isn’t great, currently, but perhaps it will all blow itself out.  The one thing for certain is that it truly terrifies me to think about being caught out on the water in these conditions, or in a mooring that isn’t as secure.  At least we can go ashore to make sure that the Guinness is still flowing!  On this matter, I said I’d buy Pete a pint this evening, so we went via the East Pier, to poke our noses over the sea wall and see what the sea was up to… as you can see for yourselves, quite lively (and this is in the relative shelter of the bay).

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On our way back round to the pub, we encountered the most bizarre sight.  People standing around in wetsuits!  The Howth Challenge, it turns out.  An aquathon event which included a swim around the marina and a run… Insane!  It was properly windy, literally blowing a gale, and there were mad men and women lined up to compete.

The crazy of Dublin enter the water...
The crazy of Dublin enter the water…
A free-for-all!
A free-for-all!

Duo-athletes entering the water, and then off!

I chatted to the wife of one of the competitors, who said that the organisers were close to cancelling, and had to change the location of the open water swim in order to continue safely.  She agreed that it was utter madness.  It was certainly the most excitement that we’d seen all day!  We did get to go for our Guinness, where we could glimpse the runners coming to the end of their race.  The lady I’d spoken to thought that we were pretty insane to have sailed from England, which made me think that there may be degrees of insanity.  I couldn’t, after all, disagree with her assessment.

Tuesday 24th

The gale warning has abated, but it still looks like horrible weather, with another deep low waiting in the wings.  None of the visiting boats are moving, and there is a shared despair at the weather.  Pete and I decided that we would go back into Dublin today, in search of Kilmainham Gaol.  This was an excellent trip.  Built in 1796, it was a revolutionary jail of the time, with the introduction of single cells and attempts to reform prisoners rather that letting then fight and fester in massive rooms.  It is a guided tour, and our guide was excellent, giving snippets of life inside the prison and some of its more famous inmates – mostly the political prisoners of the 1916 Rising.  My goodness, were they brutal!  One prisoner, Joseph Plunkett was allowed to be married in the chapel, only to be executed the following day.  James Connolly was a dying man, having been badly wounded in battle, but was transferred from the hospital to be shot.  The executioners had to strap him to a chair as he could no longer stand up.  The prison walls feel heavy with these histories, and yet it is a remarkable tour.  We learned that the prison has been used a number of times as a film set….

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Pete recognised this from The Italian Job, where Noel Coward descends the stairs… apparently!

Wednesday 25th

Pete set the alarm this morning, just in case the weather had abated.  Not so lucky!  We have woken to yet another gale warning for the Irish Sea.  Pete is growing more gloomy each day.  We have come to sail, after all.  We have been provisioning, again, and for another walk around Howth Head… What a difference a low pressure system with a different path makes.  The winds are still strong, but they have backed with more south in them.  I am guessing that it’s cold front weather coming too, or possibly occluding, as it is mizzly, misty, squally… horrible.  It was very hard work walking into the wind around to the lighthouse.  I for one was happy to be on land looking out to sea, with no desires to be out at sea myself.  I am not sure that Pete really felt the same… not even with another wonderful pint of Guinness with lunch!

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Baily Lighthouse, Howth Head (contrast to the picture taken on Sunday)

Thursday 26th

Guess what?  We’re still here!  It was blowing a right old hoolie, again!  We had a more moochy day today.  Pete had some instruction from Craig on the matter of the tank gauges which required the sourcing of a new gadget, a multimeter!  (Cross reference to the “Boat Owners Engine and Electrical Maintenance” book, and such a gadget is described as the most essential tool, legitimising said purchase).  The chandlery didn’t have one but said they could source one if we could wait a couple of hours!  We’d been waiting a week, so what was a couple of hours?  Very friendly guys in the store – who told us that the weather had basically been foul for May, with many boats not yet ventured out into the harbour… Who can blame them?

Pete was occupied with his new gadget, and as days went, it wasn’t so frustrating.  Strange that.  Perhaps we had turned the corner?  By the end of the day the forecast for Friday was looking promising… So perhaps, just perhaps we could leave.  Pete decided to set an alarm to make sure we would be good and ready to go.