Stranraer to Bangor
Following my rather eventful passage to Stranraer I was a bit shaken up. It had been a challenge that had knocked me sideways and now I was once again completely mentally overloaded! All I could think about was the fact that I still had hundreds of miles to go and some of the toughest passages to come. In fact, this was just the start of the tough passages. Of course, the East Coast had plenty of challenges, but for a lot of it the weather was much more stable and the passages weren’t as long on the whole.
After spending the night in Stranraer I headed off again. This time we were crossing the top of the Irish Sea to Bangor, Northern Ireland. It was meant to be a fairly easy short passage of around 35 nm, however after the previous day I really didn’t feel up to it. The devil and the angel were back, bickering away inside my head as usual, and stirring up every emotion in the book… We went anyway, the weather was good and I really wanted to get to Bangor before the next batch of bad weather due to come in the following day.
The passage to Bangor was quite frustrating. The conditions had completely changed since the day before and this time there was no wind! I was doing my best to keep the boat moving but it was horribly slow and it took us over ten hours instead of the predicted seven. This gave me a lot of time to contemplate more than anything. I was struggling to comprehend the fact that I was still so far away from finishing and it was driving me crazy. However, having the time on my windless passage to think it all through hugely helped.
By the time we approached Bangor, the light was beginning to fade. The sky was overcast with promising clouds of rain, dimming the light on the whole scene and creating a fairly eerie atmosphere on the water. Soon though, the warm, welcoming glow of Bangor came into focus and suddenly our world was lit up with an array of colours coming from the shore. It was an almost magical experience… setting the tone for the rest of my time in Bangor too.
By the time I had finished mooring up and packing up the boat it was quite late and the town surrounding the marina was quiet. At that moment I had no idea what an unforgettable time I was going to have in Bangor. I was going to meet an incredible community of people who would all go above and beyond to care for me and give me the absolute best time possible for the duration of my stay there.
It all started when I went to check in at the marina office. Typically, this would be a straightforward exchange about berthing, finding the showers and directions to the nearest fish & chip shop, but when I met Kevin, the marina manager, and his wonderful team at the marina, they greeted me like a long lost friend! Eager to hear all about my trip, they invited me into the office, offered to help with anything I needed and generally made me feel so welcome, even inviting me out for a pizza the next day! Five minutes later I walked out of the marina office with a much bigger grin on my face than when I had entered.
To sum it up, I had never met such a kind and generous bunch of strangers….and little did I know that this was just the beginning, as I was going to meet many more!
The next day the predicted weather came in, so I was in no rush to get up. The previous two legs had really taken it out of me, and I was mentally and physically drained. I rolled out of bed just in time to meet Kevin for lunch which, as far as I was aware, was going to be the highlight of my stay. Knowing that I would be storm-bound for a few days, I had stocked up on tins and pasta and was preparing to hunker down and get a few jobs done on the boat. I’d been in touch with someone called Pete, a fellow Hunter owner, who had been following my trip and offered to come over that afternoon to give me a hand.
Heading back to the boat after lunch, I met Tanya and Gary, fellow sailors who were also stopped in Bangor. They had seen Alchemy so we got chatting and before I knew it, they had invited me to join them on their boat for dinner that evening. Yes please! The tins could wait!
Pete turned up and we immediately got along well. With his help, I could tackle a job that needed doing on the mast, so he prepared to winch me up. Going up the mast is never my favourite thing to do, and I can confidently say that it’s worse straight after consuming a family-sized pizza! I was really grateful for Pete’s help, and it didn’t stop there. Over the next few days, we ticked off several more jobs on the list and he was incredibly supportive of my endeavours and my aspirations in sailing, and still is to this day. The same was the case with Tanya and Gary – we had an evening filled with laughs and by the end of it I had made what I knew were going to be lifelong friends.
The following few days continued with so many unexpected experiences – from having the chance to go paddle boarding at sunrise, to meeting the Mayor of Bangor himself. I had also barely had to cook for myself which meant a much more varied diet and, even better, very little washing up. During my stay I had been spoilt by so many people’s electric kindness, I was lost for words.
Reality certainly came crashing back down on me when, after five days in the comfort of the marina, I headed out again, on the next leg of my journey South. There was a stiff breeze demanding my ultimate concentration and, once again, I was alone.