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Home \ Sailing \ Wales \ Sailing from Milford Haven, Wales to Arklow, Ireland

Sailing from Milford Haven, Wales to Arklow, Ireland

The weather this year has been troublesome! Since arriving in Wales we had spent approximately 3 weeks riding out rather unpleasant weather in the Cleddau River and the Milford Waterway. We had hoped to explore the coastline of Wales up to Fishguard, in particular the island of Skomer, a significantly important seabird site and home to colonies of Puffins, Shearwater Manx, Guillemot, Razorbills, Gulls and Cormorants to name but a very few, however the weather just wasn’t playing ball. We needed to make our run across the Irish Sea to Ireland and with just a few days of calm weather, before the next blow, we had to reluctantly omit this beautiful stretch of Wales.

Our Passage Plan

For the previous few days we had endured some strong south-westerly winds whilst at anchor in Dale, and despite this supposedly being a protected anchorage in all winds apart from easterlies the swell that came in was pretty rough! We therefore left it a day after the winds dropped for any swell to hopefully subside in the Irish Sea. As we had experienced from the horrible sail up from St Ives, swell is not fun, and it usually seems to take an additional 24 hours after high winds for the sea state to calm down.

We made the decision to go around Jack Sound and Ramsey Sound, two areas that require careful timing and pilotage, and instead head out past Skokholm before making our turn northwards up towards the ‘Bishops’ and subsequently across to Ireland. The estimated distance was 80 nautical miles and based on an average boat speed of 4.5 knots the journey time was coming in at 18 hours. With it being ‘summer’ (I use that term loosely!) we did have the benefit of maximum daylight hours however this was still cutting it fine to reach Arklow before nightfall. As such we penciled in Cahore Point, approximately 15 nautical miles south of Arklow, as an alternative anchorage for the night.

Our waypoints were pretty simple:
WP1 – 51°40.905N 5°19.963W South West of Skokholm
WP2 – 52°30.088N 5°55.960W South East of Cahore Point
WP3 – 52°46.669N 6°8.363W Arklow Courtown Anchorage

And our back up anchorage at Cahore Point at 52°34.358N 6°11.894W

Wind was predicted 9 – 10 knots from the north-east/north in the earlier part of the day, eventually switching to a south-westerly by evening and dropping to around 5 knots. We anticipated a motor for the majority of this ‘sail’.

Our aim was to arrive south of Skokholm for slack as advised by our pilot book ‘Irish Sea Pilot’ by David Rainsbury, which also advises to give Skokholm an offing of at least two miles to avoid the Wild Goose Race which forms to the west and south-west of the island. With slack at Skokholm at approximately 7.00am we set our departure time as 4.30am/5.00am.

The north going tide of around 2 knots would then hopefully assist us for the first part of our passage before going against us at around 1.00pm. The tide going down the Irish Coast was in the region of 2.5 knots so WP2 would be our decision point on whether to stop at Cahore or continue onto Arklow.

HMRC and Border Force would like to know about our voyage!

Before we could depart for Ireland we needed to notify HMRC and Border Force of our intention to sail from the UK. As the UK is no longer part of the EU following Brexit we were required to submit a report detailing the vessel, the voyage, persons onboard and any goods. This is done via the Home Office and can be completed online at https://www.spcr.homeoffice.gov.uk More information can also be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/sailing-a-pleasure-craft-that-is-departing-from-the-uk You will need to set up an account online and submit the information up to 24 hours before departure. The form is quite straightforward however you can only give a two hour window for arrival and departure times and must state your arrival destination. As any sailor knows this could easily change depending on numerous situations! We declared Arklow as our arrival between 8.00pm and 10.00pm, still unsure if this would be the case! If your departure is subsequently delayed or abandoned you must log back in and report it. Alternatively telephone National Yachtline if you cannot get online.

Our Actual Passage

We departed at 04.55 and made our way out of the waterway. The wind was between 6 and 10 knots so we were motor sailing. There was a bit of chop but nothing too uncomfortable.

As we passed the islands of Skokholm and Somer we were fortunate enough to witness quite a number of Puffins and Manx Shearwaters in the water. It was such a shame we didn’t get the opportunity to anchor at these islands but at least we got to see some of the wildlife.

By 08.30 we were sailing in 12 knots of wind from the north, and a pod of dolphins came by to accompany us. There was still a bit of chop but we were sailing so that was positive. Plus our SOG was 6.2 knots so we weren’t complaining!

But by 1.00pm the wind had dropped to around 5 knots and our SOG to 2.8 knots. In position 52°14.290N 5°47.902W in St George’s Channel we had to put the engine on.

The crossing now was very smooth (not what we had anticipated from the Irish Sea!) and we spotted lots of dolphins and birdlife.

Dolphin jumping in the Irish Sea

At 16.15 we were showing an arrival time in Arklow of 21.45/22.00. We were still south of Cahore but made the decision to push on to Arklow. The tide was set to turn again at 19.30 so we were hopefully this would give us a push on the final leg and reduce our estimated arrival.

In position 52°35.474N 6°02.345W at 18.00 our SOG was 4.5 knots. It was feeling like a slow slog! We altered course slightly, going closer in to the coastline. Our thinking being that the tide would possibly be running slower closer in. This seemed to help 🙂

The approach into Arklow was FULL of pots, especially south of the breakwater at Arklow Head. Some of these were quite difficult to spot, either because there were dark grey/black or slightly submerged. A very sharp lookout is required. Fortunately we still had daylight; we would hate to arrive here in the darkness. The yacht in front of us had run quite wide on his approach into the harbour, we now know why!

At 20.25 we dropped the hook in position 52°47.431N 6°8.238W, just south of South Pier, off of the beach. The wind was light, from the west, so we found this to be a very comfortable spot, and holding was good in sand.

Arklow Anchorage

In total our passage across from Milford Haven to Arklow was 81.9nm and had taken 15 hours and 30 minutes.

We had made it to Ireland! 🇮🇪

VIDEO: Sailing across the Irish Sea

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