Category Archives: Isle of Man

The Green Flash…

While I was away in India, Laurie met a nice retired couple on a power boat, John and Val who befriended her and fed her at a local establishment. By the time I got back to Ireland, they’d left, leaving their boat on the hard in Bangor while having some work done this winter.

We caught up with them again when we arrived in the Isle of Man, enjoying dinner aboard Toodle-oo! followed by a movie at the local Centenary Centre and then yesterday they treated us with a ride around the island to Castletown, followed by dinner at their beautiful house just about 10  minutes out of Peel.


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John retired from the Telecoms industry where he was involved in Fibre Optic design stuff – including many other things as far as I can make out! Val has taken up painting in her retirement – with great success! They started boating in the late 90’s and now traipse around the UK during the summer months. They also use their boat for surveying the local Whale, Dolphin, Shark and probably other species of animal in the Irish Sea – and John can credit himself with getting the Man and UK governments to recognize that these animals not only live in the Irish Sea, but thrive and therefore need to be recognized (so that they can then enjoy a measure of protection).

John is a mine of information – about most things it seems – but his involvement in optics has probably led him to a specific appreciation for solar and atmospheric phenomena. So when he started spouting about the Green Flash and other related phenomena, I did my normal routine of poo-hooing – since I’ve never seen such a thing and don’t believe in them. (Despite other good friends – Peter, Diane – assuring me of it’s existence.) Next thing I know, the books are out and John is documenting all the effects. Not only that, but his house is positioned in such a way that it has almost perfect alignment to observe the Green Flash from. And so it was, in the middle of dinner, we abandoned our plates and were treated to witnessing a magnificent green flash, immediately after the sun dropped behind the ocean. Wow! I can even explain now at least in layman’s terms) how and why it shows up!

John also shared other interesting things with us: How to follow our path using a website to track our AIS (when it’s turned on): and then he explained a way to tie a boat up in a slip such that you have no need of fenders (nor their potential to ruin the side of the boat! Shall be out there after breakfast to try it out! The pictures of him standing on the left and then the right of some quartz – are demonstrating standing on the European geological plate and then the American plate – the fault line being marked by the quartz (and the crack).


It’s really nice to be welcomed to an unfamiliar place by strangers – it’s another when they turn out to be so warm and knowledgeable. Getting to see the Green Flash was something I never expected – and to do it almost on demand was spectacular! We met as strangers, left as friends and hope to bump into John and Val again as we head north to Scotland next year.


Back to the Isle of Man

We’re back in the Isle of Man!

Having arrived back in Bangor from my 2 hectic weeks in India, the itch took hold and we both decided that we needed to go sailing before calling a halt to the season. So, with plans to overwinter in Whitehaven, we decided to have another attempt at the Isle of Man – so left on Tuesday morning bright and early…

Bangor turned out to be an excellent stopping point – providing all the essential requirements – laundry facilities, good internet, clean bathrooms and access via rail to the major cities. Laurie and Sandra apparently had a fun week together – venturing as far as Dublin (for the Guinness Factory) I think – and going into Belfast a couple of times – including a tour of City Hall – with it’s magnificent furnishings…

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So… Tuesday morning we’re up at 6:00 – but it’s dark! Still, preparations are made and by 7:00 it’s light enough, so I warm up the engine and make final preparations… We untie docklines and the very light air means we have a very easy getaway – except… the engine won’t rev. Not at all. I have virtually no power and when I push the throttle forward more, the thing quits. I get it started again, and have Laurie change our diesel tanks over. No better. Nothing for it, we have to dive into a slip and sort this out. Good job we’re not too quick to pull in fenders and lines! Fortunately there’s a slip open and we ghost into it. The culprit turns out to be my tool bag – stored right next to the dual fuel filters – the selection lever was moved to be between the two filters – getting fuel from nowhere! Quick fix – we’re off by 7:30…

We had winds behind us most of the way and quite light – but managed to sail the bulk of the way to Peel Harbor – with a nice current behind us nearly all the way! We were forced to watch the clock closely since Peel’s entrance has a ‘Flapgate’ which is only open at high water +/- 2 hours – so 4pm was the deadline! Failing this we’d have to take a mooring on the outside, but with 30kt northerly winds forecast the following morning, this was not something we were looking forward to! Fortunately, we arrived in very good time and took the 2:30 bridge opening time to enter the harbor and secure on B dock. Peel is a tight little harbor, and having secured, we decided we ought to face the opposite direction in order to face the expected wind. Turning around was quite interesting – but we managed – with Laurie fishing a poorly thrown dockline out of the drink and steering us backward into the slip. All good. Gin and Tonic’s well deserved!


The Isle of Man

We sailed to the Isle of Man on Monday – leaving with almost no wind and being happy to eek out 3 knots. We ended the sail some 5 hours later with double reefed main and small jib in 25kts! We anchored off the small town of Laxey as close as we could the the shore to get shelter from the wind. This was our first experience of anchoring in a location with over 20ft tides – you really have to know what state the tide is at when you drop the hook and what’s it going to be at – deepest and shallowest through the night… We managed quite well sitting in about 4M at low water, 10M at high with 40M of chain out. Unfortunately, the wind was holding the boat at 90 degrees to the swell – so we rocked and rolled all night long!

We didn’t even get off the boat – upped anchor the following morning and headed for a sheltered harbor – Port St. Mary on the South Western tip of the island. Since we were already uncomfortable, we decided to depart early and deal with some negative current… (OK Stupid Move!!!)

What a trip! We started off with 35kts! (fortunately from behind us) and made our way down the coast with an adverse current – wind against current is not good – and it kicked up a violent chop. We had to give  the southern head, Deswick Point, a wide berth since the current there was 5kts against us!!! We therefore went 5 miles off shore to avoid the worst of it – still getting 2.5kts against us. The worst of it was then having to make the final stretch INTO the wind which was still blowing 30kts and still a violent chop. It took forever to cover the last 5 miles and we arrived weary but into a nice sheltered anchorage (with wind only blowing 25kts) and secured with some difficulty to a visitors mooring. 15 miles as the crow flies, 30 miles and 6 hours by Toodle-oo!

The following day when talking with the Harbor Master he commented that they had watched us arrive – they being a crowd at the local pub I gather – we must have made a sorry sight! Later that day we bumped into a couple of golfers – one of which said – oh – you were in that boat beating across the bay!!!! Everybody’s watching our antics it seems!

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The Isle of Man is really nice. Rolling hills, excellent walks, interesting transportation opportunities (steam train, electric tram, horsedrawn trams and cog railways) which can be sampled on a one day ticket – along with the bus.  We had a really nice walk down to the Calf of Man – the south west tip – where brave sailors can sail through a narrow cut and shave a good amount of time off their journey – but have to plan (better than us) to ensure current is going the right way – as standing waves are not uncommon there. When we arrived (on foot) the tide was almost slack, but there was still signs of standing waves!

In the early evening, back on the boat we watched the RNLI Lifeboat head out of the harbor at full tilt… Less than an hour later it arrived back with a 30ft sailboat in it’s care – they’d lost power in the calf and were slowly but surely being swept to the rocks! Interestingly in the UK the RNLI is funded by gifts/donations only and there is no charge made to those that are rescued. Moreover, you don’t already have to be in dire need (like in the water) for them to come out and get you. The US Coast Guard could certainly learn something here!

Unfortunately, our visit to the Isle of Man was cut miserably short due to the impending arrival of some severe weather that was forecast to stick around for several days – so we reluctantly made our way to Bangor in Northern Ireland where we’ll park the boat for a month while I fly off to India for a couple of weeks and while Laurie has her friend Sandra aboard…

Fortunately, the crossing to Ireland was not difficult – with light winds unfortunately pretty much on the nose – but we arrived in our slip some 11 hours later… Interestingly, the boat that had been rescued left at the same time as us, also headed for Northern Ireland – he didn’t use the same shortcut again!!!