Jess and I toured Belfast like a couple of pros before she would fly home, and Chris and Rich would fly in. Belfast doesn’t offer much in the way of esthetics, however it more than makes up for it through its past history of ship building, i.e. the Titanic, and of course the infamous Catholic vs Protestant struggles that take place even today. We took a 4 hour walking tour that was led for the first half by an IRA member that had spent 12 years in prison for bomb making and harboring weapons for the army. He was now a leader in Sean Fein and a community organizer. His tour was spent in the Irish Catholic neighborhoods and it seemed every person that passed would shake hands or stop to talk with our guide. He was a highly respected member of community.
After two hours of hearing the Catholic point of view he passed us off to the UVA (loyalist) tour guide that would meet us at the border, a huge gate that closes off the Protestants from the Catholics. This gate is still used today, closing everyday at 7pm and opening at 6am providing what was termed their security blanket keeping both sides safe. The neighborhoods were separated by a wall that stood some three stories high. This tour guide gave a completely different point of view than his IRA counterpart. We were led through the Loyalist neighborhoods visiting the sites of atrocities brought about by the IRA, such as the Fish Shop on Shankill road that killed civilian shoppers. Here in Belfast, the children are educated in different schools to this day, only coming to be educated together when they are in college. There is certainly a peace in Belfast but only since the 1990’s and the tension is still palpable. We also visited the Titanic museum and toured the cities trendy neighborhoods.
We also took a wee road trip up to see the Giants Causeway in Northern Northern Ireland. Amazing natural stone structures unlike anything I have ever seen. Strange cylindrical stone formations. Another beautiful place I need to tuck away in the memory bank.
Chris and Rich both arrived in good form and were ready to get a taste of the town. So off we went from pub to pub to pub to pub. Both guys immune to jet lag and capable of imbibing copious amounts of alcohol, we stayed out until the wee hours of the night and then stumbled back to the marina. After Rich’s lost luggage arrived early in the morning we got everything together to depart Belfast with the outgoing tide and make our way north along the coast to land in Ballycastle. We were able to sail right along the coast with a positive current and medium winds with smooth seas making good time we pulled into port before sundown. The scenery along the way was most impressive. Ballycastle was a nice enough small town with a few good pubs. We went out for a nice dinner and then did the pub to pub to pub to pub thing again. We met a couple of locals at one of the finer establishments that was having an open mic night with some halfway talented musicians. It just so happened that I worked with one of girls brother in NYC for 10 years, small world indeed. After a lot of laughs we made the same stumbled march back to Cadence.
The next morning Rich and I woke up and got Cadence under way for another day hop, this time across the Irish sea over to the Firth of Clyde, only about 35 miles. Chris was able to sleep through the commotion and finally got up an hour or so before landfall in time to crack the first of several Guinness’ of the day. With little to no wind we motor sailed the entire way. We took a mooring right at the edge of the town of Lamlash on Arran Island. In a somewhat protected bay we were sandwiched in between two islands. Arran Island is known as Scotland in miniature. There are distilleries, golf courses, highlands and lowlands, castles and magnificent scenery all around. We painted the wee town red our first night out going to the only show in town at the local bar. Around the crack of noon we all got up and nursed our evening wounds then set out on a hike. We ended up somehow getting on the wrong track and our 3 mile hike turned into an almost full day affair. We finally made our way into the town of Brodick. A quick beer before the bus arrived and we were on our way back to Lamlash and decided to eat on the boat and take it somewhat easy.
The next morning the wind had picked up and we were sailing back and forth on the mooring. Rich and I got everything ready for sailing from Lamlash the short 12 mile hop to Ardrossan where he would be catching the train to Glasgow airport. We sailed in choppy seas with gusty winds going from 15 to 30 knots. Cadence was bouncing all over the place in the short steep chop. Somehow Chris was able to sleep the entire way only waking up after we tied up to the fuel dock in the marina. Chis is still able to sleep like a high school kid, Rich and I were both jealous. With Rich gone, Chris and I decided to grab the train into Glasgow and check out the bar/music scene there for the night. We stayed in the center of town at a nice hotel and made the rounds to the popular bars.
I used the next several days on Cadence to start working on my to do list before I would meet my dad in Inverness for our golfing road trip. Then, I drove up to Inverness to meet my father for the beginning of week plus road trip. We played several of his bucket list courses, Nairn, Castle Stuart, Royal Dornoch, Kingsbarnes, and Dunbar. Each course was magnificent and humbling. We would generally stay two nights at each hotel, play two courses and drive the 2-3 hours to our next destination. It was nice to sleep in a non moving bed, take long hot showers and be served every meal we ate. It was very special to be with my dad and enjoying each others company while playing Scotland’s jewels.
I spent the next 5 days finishing up the laundry list of item before putting Cadence to bed for the winter. Being that the weather is so harsh over the winter we opted to put Cadence inside the shed. I caught a flight to New York to Jess and I’s new digs in Greenwich Village. It will be a bit of culture shock going back to the hustle and bustle. We will return to our voyage in May, can’t wait. Tell then…..