Passage Making, The West Coast.

Which Side?                                                

In my view this decision is relatively straight forward, if the wind is in the west go along the Irish coast inside the off lying banks. If it is in the east then follow the Welsh and English coasts to Anglesey then head for Northern Ireland. And if the wind is changing do a bit of both.

Note a BREXIT issue: 

"Check on UK and Irish reporting requirements into and coming from Ireland that keep changing. In 2020 & 2021 during covid-19 I sailed along the Irish coast, anchored off but did not enter a port or harbour and did not report. The rules seem to ignore the common travel area and you have to report leaving for and returning from Ireland, even if you are going via Northern Ireland. Its not a major task to do but is a pain in the neck and clearly you can't put the departure notification in the post if you do not make the decision until after leaving port. At the time of writing new rules come in on 1st Jan 2022 Link: Notice 8: sailing your pleasure craft to and from the UK - GOV.UK ( I think next year I will do the same again if the wind is in the west but do the same at your own risk!"

The trip around the Mull of Galloway is problematical with strong tides and, at least for a fin keeled boat, there are very limited anchorages or shelter for a long way on the south side. 

The Mull of Kintyre is another obstacle but there is good shelter at Campbeltown on the east side of the Mull and at Gigha on the west side so with careful timing and decent weather it is not a major problem and can be avoided altogether by using the Crinan Canal.

Machrihanish Bay, 2008.
Given reasonable weather my preference would always be to go along the coast of Ireland at least between Ardglass in the south and Larne or one of the anchorages further north and cross from there. 

South of Ardglass I would use whichever coast was most appropriate possibly including the Isle of Man. North of Larne with a favourable wind or under engine on a calm day there are plenty of crossings that can be done in daylight, including to / from Loch Ryan (Stranraer), Campbeltown (see my trip Cambeltown to Browns Bay in 2021), Machrihanish Bay (fair weather only), Gigha, and Port Ellen, Islay (see my trip Ardglass - Browns Bay - Port Ellen in 2020) Just watch out for the TSS and make good use of the tide.

South of Ardglass the options are varied and dependant on the wind direction, sea state and the tide around Lands End.

Rounding Lands End.

South round Lands end 2021 (blue plan, red actual)
Timing and good weather are critical here as there are some seriously nasty seas in the area, especial wind against tide and from Cape Cornwall to well east of the Runnel Stone and towards Wolf Rock so check out Reeds which has a good guide. 

Coming south timing this passage is difficult and it may be necessary to slow down or use the engine to get through at a sensible time, in fair conditions a night at St Ives or further north might be a good idea coming from Wales or even a stop off in the Isles of Scilly although that too has its own timing issues (see my passage from Milford to St Marys in 2022). 

Sorrento Bay Dublin to Milford, 2021. AIS tracking was lost
mid channel, the track was definitely not that straight!
In a reasonably quick boat with decent weather and reasonable wind Milford Haven direct to Newlyn is doable single handed in a single hop and without sleep, those with smaller boats might want to head further east and come down the north coast. In 2021 I left at 05:15 and got to Newlyn at 07:15 the next morning but had a very rough time of it between Cape Cornwall and the Longships due to wind against tide, I was earlier than planned but with only 5 knots of wind pressed on under engine, unfortunately the wind piped up to 15 knots and against 2.5 - 3 knots of tide it got rather nasty until the tide turned.

North bound the timing is easier and the tide favourable for longer with time at the Runnel Stone the key. Starting from Penzance Bay will make timing easier. If stopping off at St Ives (good weather only) that leg can be done in summer daylight from the Fal or Helford if the conditions are right as I did in 2020.

Warning: My navigation software does not correctly compute the quickest / best route timing heading north, probably because of the limited number of tidal diamonds around Land's End, Reed's and other authorities say that when heading north to be at the Runnel Stone 2 hours before HW Dover; the navigation software, without the detailed information, shows the quickest time achieved (e.g. Newlyn to St Ives) if you are at the Runnel Stone two hours later at HW Dover.

St Ives - Carnsore Pt, 2020. Going
west of the line in anticipation of
the wind veering, which it did.
Crossing to or from Ireland

Northbound from Lands End / Cape Cornwall or St Ives there are a number of options (all work in reverse):

  • Direct to Milford Haven then across to Ireland with a landfall off Carnsore Point, it takes longer but avoids the longer leg going direct. With easterly winds going up the Welsh coast is likely to be preferable. Particular care must be taken getting between the offshore banks between Carnsore and Dublin, southbound in 2021 I went south of the Arklow & Glassgorman Banks in brisk conditions broad reaching under reefed headsail alone and I was very glad I was not going in the other direction!
  • Along the Cornish and Devonshire coast before heading for Wales, perhaps stopping overnight at Lundy.
  • Direct to Ireland (avoiding the TSS's!), again heading for Carnsore Point as I did in a shifting wind from St Ives in 2020. Landfalls from Kinsale to Dunmore East are a little shorter but then requires another day or two to get to Carnsore Point.

Going via the Isles of Scilly the leg to Ireland is around 130 miles making landfall from Kinsale to Dunmore East, a tad more to Carnsore or 145 miles to Baltimore followed by several extra days sailing north. See my thread Celtic Sea Circuit (full trip from the Solent) or from Day 8 Newlyn to Baltimore.

Having done most of these routes, one way or both, I would now make the decision before leaving Mounts Bay going North or Dublin or some point south of there if heading south. Wind speed and direction would obviously be the main factor in deciding to leave but, especially heading north and with overall time not being a big issue, tides would most likely be the decider on the best route and given good weather in some tides I would go via Scilly and accept additional days at sea.

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