Passage 31, Bangor to Port St Mary

Early start. Up at 2am and some sleazy bar on the shore was still thumping out music. As soon as I was out of the marina I hoisted sails so as not to risk fouling the propellor on numerous buoys that I’d noticed on my arrival in the bay (and which, being night time, were now invisible). I sailed further away from the coast to avoid them and watched the lights of Bangor slip away with much satisfaction.

The wind had decreased from yesterday and set more to the west so this time my trip to the Isle of Man should be easier. It was. Although the Irish sea was pretty lumpy mixed in with a fair old swell (2 meter waves). So anyone with a less sturdy sea-faring constitution than myself would be heaving over the side in short order. I seemed to be OK. I had to leave at 3am in order to catch both wind and tide, although the wind did die down half way across (as expected) necessitating a bit of motoring. But it picked up again and so most of the 55 mile trip was under sail.

I went through Calf Sound which is a tricky tidal gate at the western pointy end of the Isle of Man. My timing was, if I may say so, impeccable. I arrived at the Sound at precisely the time I’d planned and sailed through it with just 1 knot of tide against me. Even then it was interestingly swirly.

Once through and turning east to get to Port St Mary I had to fire the motor up again as wind was not enough. I caught a visitors buoy on arrival at 1pm and sorted myself out.

Subsequent shenangans

At low water at around 3pm I motored over to the harbour wall to tie up there so I could get access to land. Unlike a pontoon that moves up and down with the tide, a harbour wall does not. So you have to have long ropes that allow the boat to rise and fall with the tides against the wall. So I sorted all that out and went for a walk into town. Nice little town.

When I got back I fixed my bike (flat front tyre … wheel off, out with the old inner tube, in with the new taking care not to pinch it - last time I did pinch the tube and when I pumped it up the tyre burst with the most almighty explosion). I then rigged two ropes around the bike and took the other ends up to the top of the wall and then hauled the bike up. Worked a treat. I was now mobile.

I took a 6 mile ride up the cliffs towards the Calf Sound (through which I passed on the boat earlier). I paused several times to drink in the awesome views and to wonder at it all. There was the most delightful little village called Cregneash which had loads of old, but thoroughly maintained white washed croft houses. Little paddocks with goats and chickens all over the place. Sometimes these bike rides take you to a different mental state when one takes time to pause in the midst of the magic of this existence. I feel like a small boy discovering the world for the first time. It’s quite rejuvenating.

Day 2 - discovery day

Well, afternoon actually. The morning was thick drizzle. I stayed in (I was late up anyway at 9am having gone to bed at 9pm the right before - I’d had a long day) and cleaned up and planned my remaining passage and arranged to lay the boat up in Holyhead for break number 3. The drizzle stopped for the afternoon.

So it wasn’t until 2:30pm when I got on my bike and set forth. I had discussed route options with the harbour master and I was to go to Peel and he warned me it’s a bit of a stiff climb. I dismissed his concerns with the air of an olympic cyclist. On my way I took a rather unplanned detour (I took a wrong turning) around Port Erin. Another nice seaside town, basically. Onward to Peel. And I have to say the going was tough. It just kept going up hill. At each turn (and as the clouds were getting nearer) I thought that must be it, time to go down. But no. Onward and upward into the clouds. And still up. My God, I was getting knackered and I’d forgotten to fill my water bottle. Another steep bit and I was gasping. I located a little stream and filled my water bottle, looking forward to some fresh highland water. It was slightly green. No matter, I was desperate and took a few gulps. Thus refreshed I continued the gruelling ascent. The sun peeped out and I guessed I must be getting out of the clouds! Eventually the downhill came (as it had to because Peel is on the coast) and the going was better the rest of the way not surprisingly.

By the time I got to Peel I had used up all the energy in my morning porridge and was eating my way through my fat reserves. I needed fuel. I got some in the form of a sausage and egg bap and a diet coke. I walked around the outside of Peel castle (couldn’t go in as it was 5pm and it closed then) and took a gander at the town. Nice; with a big beach. And I saw the harbour I was to have stayed in had I succeeded in sailing across from Belfast 2 days before. For the return journey I took the “longer” but flatter route. It was still a decent climb, mind, but not quite so vertiginous as on the way in. And this route took me to Castletown. Again, too late to see inside the castle (6:30pm by now) but I meandered around the town and I declare Castletown to be the best of the bunch. Lots of little roads, sometimes cobbled with cosy cottage homes.

Coming home, I’d succeeded in pretty much covering the whole of the south end of the Island with 45 miles of cycling under my belt. I was tired but well satisfied for my explorations. It’s lovely, as ever, to experience the countryside and villages as I tour around.

But on my return to the boat I had a job to do. An Isle of Man Sea Fisheries rib had tied up against my boat with long lines to the wall. Not only did this make a nasty slapping noise, but it also made it rather difficult for me to leave in the morning - planned for 7am. So I spent the next hour single handedly extricating myself from “underneath” this rib to put myself further up the wall free for a quick getaway the next morning.

I showered (for the 2nd time today) and made myself a big dinner of beans, sausages and corned beef - a rare departure from standard diet, but I was ravenous.


A decent 10 hour sail (55 miles) across a lumpy Irish sea negotiating Calf Sound at the end. Stayed an extra day and discovered the whole of the South end of the Island on my bike. Time well spent.

Passage 32, Port St Mary to Holyhead