|Stavros S Niarchos at anchor in Bangor Bay, Northern Ireland|
Stavros is a 600-tonne brig, with two masts and around 65 metres long. That makes her small compared to a Nelson-era ship of the line, but much much bigger than anything I have ever sailed before. Helming her up Kilbrannan Sound (between Kintyre and Arran), under sail in brilliant sunshine, has to be one of the top sailing experiences of my life.
And yes, I did climb the rigging - twice, although both times we were still tied on to the dock in Liverpool.
We left Liverpool around 10.30 on Monday morning and did an overnight passage to Bangor in Belfast Lough. At that point there was enough south in the wind to enable us to clear the south of the Isle of Man, but it started to veer in the morning and we couldn't make Carlingford Lough, which was the original destination. You realise the limitations of a square-rigger; with the wind just forward of the beam she's really pinching, and doing only 5 knots or so, where tiny Kalessin would be loving it and flying along at well over six.
I managed to get ashore in the RIB at Bangor, which is my first-ever visit to Northern Ireland. We were only ashore for an hour - just time for a quick walk and even quicker half of Smithwicks.
|Working aloft. There is a safety line on the top of the yard and you are clipped on with full harness|
Campbeltown Loch is lovely, very sheltered and wonderful Scottish scenery. Campbeltown itself is quite small, and has a couple of pubs where (according to Captain Liam Keating, our skipper) things can get a bit nasty. The fact that he's a bloody-minded individual from Waterford has, I'm sure, nothing to do with it.
|The Davaar light at the entrance to Campbeltown Loch|
|View from the AIS tracker at http://www.shipais.com|
We were fortunate with this voyage in a number of ways. We covered 251 miles of which 137 were under sail, a higher proportion than usual. I was part of Red watch, a great group of let's say mature individuals, and we bonded very well with the support of our lovely watch leader Jo. We had very squally weather but in between each gusty shower we got warm, bright sunshine. And we sailed through some absolutely stunning scenery.
www.tallships.org. If you hurry, you can book for Belfast to Cardiff from 21 May for an astonishing £99!
Thank you to the permanent and volunteer crew, the rest of my watch, and in fact everyone on board and in the Tall Ships organisation, for making it such a memorable trip.