Cruising to the Isle of Man from the Fleet Estuary, Scotland
by Martin Bywater
I'm fairly new to RIBs but have taken to it with an addiction. My boat is a Valiant 4.5 metre Vanguard with a 50hp Mercury 50hp outboard which was purchased from Ron Hale Marine as a ready to use package.
An early morning start with the sun rising behind us
I bought the RIB in mid July and had clocked up around 20 hours without any other mishap other than a loose earth cable on the engine which was easily remedied. Wanting to venture a bit further I planned a trip to the Isle of Man from Gatehouse of Fleet on the Solway coast in Scotland, with my friend Tony West as crew.
We picked the 27th of August for our voyage as the tides were ideal, with high tide in the morning at 09.00 and the tide for the return journey at 20.30. On the day the weather forecast was for smooth or slight seas, light winds, good visibility for around 36 hours with the pressure increasing. Perfect!
With this forecast we felt fairly confident about a 37 mile crossing to Ramsey. The RIB was well prepared, with a Garmin hand held GPS, depth finder/fish finder, Richie Compass, Marine VHF radio, coastal flares, mobile phones, charts and a Johnson 3hp outboard as backup. We had spoken to Gary Mc Alister, a local coast guard officer who we had met on a previous trip, and he considered that it would be quite feasible in such a small boat subject to a good weather window.
As we set of at 07.15 the sun was trying to break through a slight mist, but the mountains on the Isle of Man were quite visible. Pretty good when you consider that according to the locals, the island is only visible around 60 days a year!
The Isle of Man on the horizon
The sea was like a mirror with hardly a ripple, and we were quickly up on the plane and cruising at our most economical speed, around 28 mph. We soon passed the Isle of Whithorn, and the tip of the mull of Kintyre was visible in the distance as the mist lifted. About 40 minutes into the journey we decided to refuel the main tank from the two 5 litre cans we carried as extra. This nearly replenished the 25 litre main tank, and we also took the opportunity to take some pictures and have a coffee break. We were visited by a group of porpoises cavorting around us, but by the time I had retrieved my camera they had gone.
Arriving at Ramsey harbour
After that it was quite a simple matter to carry on to Ramsey Harbour which you enter between two harbour walls then around a half a mile into the Marina, which is a very picturesque sight. We radioed in to the Harbour Master and then tied up near a swing Bridge at 09.10.
We spent a very enjoyable day looking around Ramsey and finally made our way back to the Harbour at around 16.30. Water already appearing around the boat, so we settled on 17.30 for our departure, by which time there was plenty of depth.
On the mud, waiting for the tide
When we cleared the harbour entrance we were a bit surprised to find waves of around 4ft and the wind around 20 mph, but as we got to deeper water the waves reduced to a more manageable swell. When nearing Whithorn we took the opportunity to change to the auxiliary fuel tank, another 25 litres and enough to see us home.
We arrived back on the beach in the Fleet Estuary at 19.10, feeling very satisfied and deciding the next trip will be to Northern Ireland -- but this will have to wait till next year.
In hindsight it all appeared so easy but I'm sure this was because we took every precaution possible. I that this is no great achievement compared to some other RIB cruises, but it shows what can be done with budget equipment and limited experience.
As a final note, the nicest bit of advice we got from the local coast guard officer was that if we did get into problems "just be polite when you call the rescue services, and they won't mind a bit"!