Biscay Challenge Preparation

A volunteer crewmember's perspective written by Tony Aspell ...

04/03/05 - 04/03/07, Douglas - Laxey - Whitehaven - Douglas

I always fancied going on the BT challenge and could never afford it and just by chance I was looking through the Manx newspaper "The Courier" and noticed an article describing a sailing challenge going down to Spain. I looked at the challenge website which seemed very professional. I anticipated that it would end up being too expensive and that I would probably be classified as 'too old'. So imagine my surprise when I phoned up Dave and he seemed helpful and told me I could do weekend sailing to prepare myself.  We set off from Douglas at night which was a bit of an adventure because I have only once before sailed at night offshore. We anchored off Laxey where I have my own boat and then Dave, after listening to the latest weather forecast, suggested we sail to Whitehaven early in the morning.  My eyes lit up - as Whitehaven is a place I always wanted to go to - because I have a small sailing boat myself and have only really sailed locally around the island. I got the opportunity to learn about aspects of planning such a trip, as well as learning something about the approaches to the port. I feel very lucky and hope that I am successful in being selected to sail down to Spain and helping to get donations and sponsorship for the well worthy cause of the Children of Chernobyl.

04/03/27 - 04/03/28, Douglas - Almwych - Moelfre - Douglas

I had a really good weekend sailing - in fact in the last 2 trips I've covered more sea miles than I did in the whole of last summer's trips in my own boat (which I sail out of Laxey in Manx coastal waters). We went to Anglesey to a port named Almwych and in the harbour entrance I saw several dolphins. I took a look around the port and found the locals to be very friendly and helpful. It is quite a busy little port and because we planned to leave early in the morning we decided it would be more convenient to go round the coast and anchor at Moelfre overnight - rather than have to extricate ourselves from a raft of boats at 0530hrs.

It was a funny experience, I was rather tired and when I fell asleep it felt like the boat was rocking me asleep like a baby in a cradle. As for learning, Dave was always explaining things like the collision regulations, lights various types of vessel exhibit at night and how the wind vane steers the boat. I don't have one on my own boat, and it was interesting to see how effective the wind vane was. We had to keep an eye out for debris - spotting a large uprooted tree floating about. Dave is always warning me to keep a good look out - it's not just the shipping but rubbish dumped at sea that can be very hazardous (Editor: we also spotted a number of plastic crates used for packing fish, and several plastic drums and ropes). I am looking forward to my next weekend - every trip is like a mini challenge but most of all I think travelling down to Spain will be the ultimate. Without Dave's help I would just be sailing back and forth from Laxey to Douglas. When I get back from Spain, I feel I will be ready to be a bit more adventurous on my boat.

If anyone should read about my adventures and feel that they would like to learn more about sailing and take up the challenge of sailing down to Spain there could be a couple of places available on the boat - email Dave ! For me it's a fantastic learning experience, and I am looking forward to the 'mini-challenge' over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend

Ed: email address is

04/04/09 Douglas - Arklow

Have been looking forward eagerly to sailing over Easter. Dave & I set sail from Douglas at 0100hrs heading south towards Ireland (Ed: About 101 miles away and the opportunity for Tony to build passage making/watch-keeping experience. About one -sixth of the length of the Biscay Challenge's outward passage to Spain). A South Westerly headwind though forecast expected wind to turn NW'ly during the day and freshen.  I started to read up up the Collision Regulations. As we drew into the Irish coast Dave pointed out to me various things; such as the sand backs running parallel to and a few miles off the coast, cardinal marks (of which they are few in Manx waters), and the wind turbines established on Arklow Bank. We slipped into Arklow's new and compact marina at 2130 hrs. I found Arklow a friendly small town but being Good Friday most of the places were closed but managed to find my traditional fish & chips.

04/04/10 Arklow - Dun Laoghaire

On the Saturday we set off early to catch the north going flood tide towards Dun Laoghaire. It was a good day's sailing tacking bank and forth between the shore and the sand banks. The skipper pointing out cardinal and special marks and testing my understanding of their significance. We arrived in Dun Laoghaire in the evening it was a fantastic sight seeing so many yachts in one place - apparently it's the largest marina in Ireland and due to expand further. I think the Isle Of man Tourism could learn a thing or two from Dun Laoghaire. A large marina development in the Isle Of Man, situated as it is between NW England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, & the Republic of Ireland, could really make the Isle of Man the sailing jewel in the Irish Sea.

04/04/11 Dun Laoghaire - Howth - Lambay Island (Talbot Bay, Harbour anchorage, Saltpan Bay)

In the morning popped round to Howth to get more fuel - it was easier to fill up there (Ed: staff at Dun Laoghaire weren't keen to operate diesel pumps on the Sat evening - though we had indicated that we were making an early start next day). We motored over to the small privately owned Lambay Island about 15 miles north of Howth - where unfortunately landing is not permitted. We spent some time in each of the island's three anchorages. In the second, close to the island's harbour, we could hear and see seals both on the shore and swimming - where they obviously feel at ease. We stayed the night at anchor in Saltpan bay' amidst a large colony of gulls - though a puffin and a heron were spotted. Another boat entered the bay and anchored near us, and I was surprised to find that it was people I'd met in Dun Laoghaire the previous day - who had popped over to Ireland to buy a catamaran. They were planning to sail it to it's new homeport of Whitehaven via a stop in the Isle of Man.

04/04/11 Saltpan Bay Lambay Island to Douglas

We set off early in the morning so that Dave could make an early evening high water bridge lift at Douglas - unfortunately the wind was too light to make the distance required under sail alone - so we had to motor most of the way. I saw a lot of Ireland over the bank holiday and Dave has been teaching me the Collision Regulations (and given me a book to read through as homework) in preparation for sailing down to Spain. Think he is starting to trust me sailing now, ha ha ha, as he is actually sleeping whilst I am on watch !

Ed: Tony forget to mention that a pigeon hitched a lift on the mast head whilst making our way back to the Isle Of Man, whilst a sneaky finch managed to enter the boat via the open fore hatch !

04/04/11 Douglas to Whitehaven

Ed: Tony will be adding narrative soon but as can be seen below this weekends training included a trip to the masthead (Tony: "My family will never believe that I went to the top"), as well as practising the setting and removing of a pole for the genoa or chute, preparing the cruising chute for hoisting, and sailing in dense fog.

Tony - discovers that challenge preparation means trips to other ports and trips to the masthead !

04/05/01 Douglas to Ardglass

Narrative will be posted on site shortly.

04/05/02 Ardglass to Douglas

Narrative will be posted on site shortly.