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Shannon Estuary and beyond

Posted by John Geary 
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Shannon Estuary and beyond
16 February, 2018 22:08
I am about to launch a 26' express offshore cruiser for the new season. The boat is fitted with GPSMAP 400. I have been to Limerick a few times on the previous boat and some years ago nearly joined a cruise to Kilrush. This year with the bigger boat I would like to travel further up the estuary and weather etc permitting perhaps towards Dingle or Bantry. I would welcome any advice on coastal cruising.

John Geary
(Sweet Escape)



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 18/02/2018 17:00 by John Geary.
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
19 February, 2018 21:03
Hi John

Please forgive if I am telling a seasoned sailor how to suck eggs with the tips below.

No 1 check your boat insurance covers you for the planned passage into tidal waters.

If you wait for the right weather window getting around to Fenit, Dingle or even Lawrence Cove marine on Bere Island in Bantry bay is very doable. Normal advise is to start from Kilrush, have charts, tide tables and tidal stream atlases for all the places you might visit or get diverted to as alternates. Reeds almanac is great for this. There are also excellent tide table apps for smartphones and tablets. Have boat well serviced, and especially if the vessel has been inland for many years, suggest having the fuel tank cleaned in case wave action disturbs sediment in the tanks that could stop the engine(s) due fuel filters becoming blocked. Bring some spare fuel filters with you and know how to change them and bleed fuel system after change. Check you have all the usual safety gear including PDFs, a life raft and backup battery powered hand held VHF and GPS, in addition to fixed VHF and GPS plotter. An inflatable dinghy unless towed or very quickly deployable over the side or from davits is useless as a life raft in an emergency where time may be limited (e.g. fire), having a proper inflatable life raft is IMHO a very good idea.

Your GPSMAP 400 should have preloaded coastal charts for Ireland/UK including inland shannon. You can download the preloaded charts onto a blank SD card, and then pop that in a laptop with Garmin HomePort app so you can do your passage route planning in the comfort of home, then saving waypoints and routes to an SD card for transfer to your GPSMAP 400. For some passages I plan two routes, a fair weather one that is usually the shortest distance, and an alternate in case the wind and sea state are not as settled for a more comfortable passage but that may be a longer route keeping well clear of uncomfortable waters (i.e. shallows, tidal races, etc). Obviously when planning a passage always place waypoints and route legs well clear of hazards so if your steering is a little off you have some tolerance for track error. If doing very long legs plan for human factors such as fatigue, etc. An auto pilot really helps here because steering on long passages for 6 to 10 hours can be very tired. An auto helm takes all the hard work out of this and allows better social interaction between the helm and crew members (e.g. eye contact, chats, etc). Obviously of the sea state is less than pleasant and in a single engine vessel you probably might have to disengage the auto helm as it probably could steer straight in a bit of a blow. Likewise if in a faster planing vessel down assume you will be able to maintain an economic planing speed if the sea state is bumpy and on the nose. You'll have to find the best speed for the wave length on each leg of a passage. All this might sound a bit negative or fearful, but as I said at the outset if you only go out in really settled weather it is very very pleasant out there. Remembering that it takes a few days for the well to die back down after a big blow (e.g. don't expect to travel on a flat sea that has zero wind the day after an F8 had been blowing). A great big azores high settled over Ireland for a week is the ideal.

The estuary is usually fairly sheltered until you get down close to Carrigaholt when exposed more to where the down stream flow and ebbing tide meets the Atlantic fetch which even in settled weather can cause some motion inland boater may find uncomfortable. The usual trick here is to travel close to the Clare coast almost heading for loop head for a bit, until past the slop which is caused by wind against tide depending on wind direction and strength. I few times in the past we almost turned back but the slop was only for a few miles in an F3/4 but once we got past it the sea state became more regular. There is not a lot in Fenit but the scenery, beaches and walks are stunning, and there is a fab restaurant there two. Well worth a few nights. Portable bikes really make visiting places like this a different experience. Fenit is not on the way to Dingle, its quite a diversion into Tralee bay, but worth it as a destination in its own right. If Dingle or beyond is the main plan then bypass a visit to Fenit, especially if limited to displacement speeds. The navigation is straight forward if you follow the charts. Obviously avoid fog cause there are ships that depart the Shannon estuary with the ebb tide and arrive with the flood tide. Keep well clear of Beal bar purely for more comfortable wave action. Shallow water causes the most uncomfortable wave action, deep water is more comfortable. When cruising around the south coast some years ago we kept 10 miles off shore in deep water because it was more comfortable. Hugging the coast may give physiological comfort but its actually the least safe place to be. You can't hit a hazard if your far off, and in the unlikely event of an engine failure there is loads of time for a rescue vessel to get to you before and onshore wind or current pushes you close to the coast and therefore danger. Having an anchor with a decent length of rode is one of the most essential safety devices on a boat in the event of a break down. Personally I recommend an EPRIB or a PLB. Plan for the worst and expect the best.

One of the most essential aspects of coastal cruising in a motor vessel is fuel planning, contingency in case you have to divert or turn back, and pre-planning where you are going to refuel and availability of fuel. We have always tried to arrange to refuel from a road tanker when we arrive at a harbour and arrange the day before to avoid delays. An advantage of this is that you are ready to go to the next destination especially if wind and tide dictate that is early in the morning when you are not going to be able to get a fuel truck. Another good tip is fill to the brim so that fuel moving around in the tank is less likely to throw up sediment from the bottom of an old fuel tank, and try never to let the level fall below half a tank.

If the weather is nice it is an incredible experience to use either mooring bouys (i.e. yellow visitor mooring buoys put out by local authorities for the summer), or anchor out for the night in beauty spots like Bere island, Ventry harbour, Bantry, etc. If using anchor recommend an anchor drag alarm so you will be woken at night if it drags. Anchors are hooks not a weight and need to pull horizontally on the sea bed and be dug well in using boat engine after laying it. If mooring out or using anchor plan how your 12v system inc fridge will bear up. When anchoring tidal knowledge is important so you know how much the tide will rise and fall at the spot you anchored from the time you anchored, so that at low tide you still have enough water under the keel, and at high tide the anchor chain/rope is still long enough to have a 7:1 scope therefore pulling the anchor horizontally and never with a vertical lift component (i.e. so it stays dug in).

If travelling to marinas like Fenit, Dingle, Cahirsiveen, Lawrence cove, etc, have contact numbers and/or VHF channels used so you can make prior contact. If you had any mechanical problems all of these places should be able to find a mechanic fairly quickly for you but you may have to wait a half day or so if busy. Having and understanding marine charts and bouyage is essential especially accessing places like Kilrush, Dingle, etc, where there are narrow dredged channels.

Dingle is an amazing place. Your could easily switch into relax mode and spend an entire week there. Lots to do. Folding bikes are a wonderful bonus even getting around town from the marina rather than walking depending on fitness.

My main advice is plan, plan, plan, have alternates when setting out if conditions don't turn out as you expected and always be prepared to turn back if he conditions are beyond your crews comfort levels. The other thing is achieving a passage but putting crew off for life due either sea sickness or being scared by wave action they are not used to is not what anybody would want. Setting crew expectations with good briefings and explanations helps their confidence. As regard sea sickness, the Atlantic swell is nearly always there even if only 1/2 meter on a flat clam day when the water can look like a mirror, but one that is very slowing moving up and down, such that eyes cannot see it but the middle ear will feel it. So taking a sea sickness remedy BEFORE setting out is very advisable and all the usual provisos like keeping folk atop looking forward helps if the sea state is likely to induce a little nausea. There is no swell in the estuary until almost past Carrigaholt. Having said that we've enjoyed passages to Dingle, Kinsale and Cork in glass like seas with no swell because we were blessed with some stunning weather of over the years. We have always used Nelsons 'travella' which has worked for us but may not for others. We favour it because it doesn't make you drowsy.

Sorry have to run, hope this was of some use, if any questions fire away.

Cheers
Noel



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 19/02/2018 21:26 by N Griffin.
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
20 February, 2018 19:28
Noel

Eight years on the Shannon but no sailor I'm afraid! Will investigate the possibilites and re-read your advice and take as much on board as I can. Certainly Kilrush should be doeable. Now based In Silverstone, Banagher, so hope to spend more time in your backyard -magnificent Lough Derg.

Many thanks for your detailed response which is very much appreciated. Best Wishes.


John

Sweet Escape

John Geary
(Sweet Escape)
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
21 February, 2018 09:46
Hi John
Your welcome. The Shannon estuary itself is a wonderful place to cruise and explore with four safe locations to overnight. The estuary is as sheltered as loughs Derg and Ree. Limerick hunt jetties (on outside away from silt), Kilrush Creek with its fully serviced marina, great cycling and town, Foynes by arrangement with the YC floating jetty, local flying boat museum, and off Carrigaholt on one of the sheltered visitor mooring buoys. You can dinghy right into the old village harbour for about four hours when the tide is in, or the new pier at any height of tide. Very nice but rather expensive. Trip from Kilrush out to Scattery island by tender for a tour of the island is worth doing if weather is nice, or pop out of the marina and anchor off Scattery for some fishing, or just R&R. There is a dredged marked channel to the sea lock at Kilrush, which is marked by buoys but the two leading light markers should be used instead to stay on the correct track (i.e. keep them in transit one behind the other) and avoid drifting left or right due tidal flow or wind. Few links below.
Noel

LSER 2012: [www.ybw.com]
LSER 2012 FB: [www.facebook.com]

Tide Tables: [www.sfpc.ie]

Kilrush Marina: [kilrushmarina.ie]
Kilrush Map: [kilrushmarina.ie]
Foynes: [foynesyachtclub.com]
Foynes Flying Boat Museum: [www.flyingboatmuseum.com]
Reg
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
21 February, 2018 13:50
If I could just add just one small point to Noel Griffin's very comprehensive guidance. For purposes of passage planning if you could get your hands on the latest edition of the Irish Cruising club Coastal Directions for the West Coast. This covers all the waters you will be cruising including the Shannon Estuary. Very useful as it provides detail on all the harbours and anchorages, including chartlets with depths.

Hope this helps.

Reg
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
21 February, 2018 20:13
Great. Will check that out. Many thanks. My appetite is well and truly wetted for the salty stuff!

John

John Geary
(Sweet Escape)
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
23 February, 2018 20:35
Hi John,
I would like to add a word of caution here.
Once you leave the Shannon estuary and you taste the salt sea tang, feel the bows lifting to that Atlantic swell and realise the whole world is before you, you may never, ever be satisfied with the confines of inland waterways again. Iceland, the Azores and so much more are there to discover. Be warned, but enjoy!
May you have fair winds and following seas.
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
25 February, 2018 19:07
Quote:
Tony Baker
I would like to add a word of caution here. Once you leave the Shannon estuary and you taste the salt sea tang, feel the bows lifting to that Atlantic swell and realise the whole world is before you, you may never, ever be satisfied with the confines of inland waterways again. . . .

I know what you mean. smiling smiley On occasion I get slightly claustrophobic even on majestic Lough Derg, but on the confines of river I sometimes feel like I'm wearing a straight jacket. Don't get me wrong I love the large loughs and parts of the river, but they can seem rather confining after a while. Cork/Kerry coast is on the radar for this summer. There is nothing like being miles offshore on the expanse of the wide open ocean on a lovely day. The scenery off the SW and W coast is literally out of this world.
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
25 February, 2018 23:30
Tony,

You mention the Azores & Iceland. Assuming John G drives a mobo, he'd need a pint or two of diesel to reach either of the above.

Forgive my total bias, but rag & pole boats are better suited to include these places in an itinerary, in that the 'fair winds' blow 'em there and the diesel stays in the tank

And there is also the sea legs factor. Without a couple of tons of lead pointing down to the Center of the Earth or the steadying press of wind against sails aloft, the motion of a mobo at sea in anything but near calm is no joke.

Tom K (Sailboat 'Cautious')



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 25/02/2018 23:36 by Thomas Kirby.
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
26 February, 2018 10:17
Quote:
Thomas Kirby
Tony,
You mention the Azores & Iceland. Assuming John G drives a mobo, he'd need a pint or two of diesel to reach either of the above.

Forgive my total bias, but rag & pole boats are better suited to include these places in an itinerary, in that the 'fair winds' blow 'em there and the diesel stays in the tank

And there is also the sea legs factor. Without a couple of tons of lead pointing down to the Center of the Earth or the steadying press of wind against sails aloft, the motion of a mobo at sea in anything but near calm is no joke.

Tom K (Sailboat 'Cautious')

Well said Tom.

Even a small sailboat can sail round the world - only a very large mobo can carry enough fuel to do it.

John
Yacht "Blowhard"
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
26 February, 2018 10:47
Tony,

You mention the Azores and Iceland. Driving a small mobo John G will have to have a few pints of Diesel on board to get anywhere near those places.

Forgive my extreme bias towards rag & pole boats as more suitable conveyances to distant shores, because the 'fair winds' blow 'em there and the diesel stays in the tank.

There is also the sea legs factor. Without two tons of lead pointing towards the Center of the Earth, or the steadying press of wind against sails aloft, the motion of a mobo at sea in anything other than a near calm is no joke.

Tom K. (Sailboat 'Cautious')
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
26 February, 2018 17:09
I know my limitations - lol and petrol rather than diesel too! smiling smiley. I just want to stretch myself a bit further. It would be nice to do it in some experienced company as well. No sign of a rally?

John

John Geary
(Sweet Escape)
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
26 February, 2018 20:06
Tony,

You mention the Azores and Iceland as places to explore. Driving a small mobo John G will require a pint or two of diesel to visit anywhere remote.

Forgive my chronic bias towards rag & pole boats as suitable craft to visit far-off places, because the 'fair winds' blow 'em there and the diesel stays in the tank.

There is also the sea legs factor. Without a couple of tons of lead pointing at the Center of the Earth or the steadying press of wind against sails aloft, the motion of a small mobo at sea in anything other than near calm is no joke.

Tom K. (Sailboat 'Cautious')
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
28 February, 2018 08:34
Apologies for the repeated posts, but of late new posts have a habit of disappearing for days after submission. I don't know why this is.

Tom K (Sailboat 'Perplexed)
Re: Shannon Estuary and beyond
28 February, 2018 20:14
Quote:
Thomas Kirby
Apologies for the repeated posts, but of late new posts have a habit of disappearing for days after submission. I don't know why this is.
Tom K (Sailboat 'Perplexed)

If it is worth saying once Tom, it is worth saying again!

I was out for a solo sail on Sunday last but not sure about this Sunday.. There must be a spare bedroom that needs painting.... smiling smiley

Last Sunday was cold and breezy but dry. This Sunday who knows?

Visitors welcome once Father Winter takes the hint and shuffles off ..

John
Yacht "Optimistic"

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