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Old 16 May 2011, 11:49   #1
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Irish Sea Crossing - General Questions

I think this could be quite a long one apologies in advance.

The nutshell is that Ive been asked to provide a safety boat cover to a work friend who wants to cross the Irish Sea in a man powered craft; this will be a a charity event which I expect may attract some press attention. I cant yet say much about the craft itself, but the bloke himself has an impeccable track record in extreme / ultra events, and so in some ways hes the least of my worries.

But one key issue is that hell only be capable of averaging around 2 kts.

He is also thinking in terms of the longer route from e.g. Anglesey to Dun Laoghaire (as per the sea kayakers) or perhaps Morfa Nefyn to Wicklow were all still studying charts etc. So this will easily involve a night phase.

Ive already told the guy that that I think we should aim for two RIBs in support, but Ill be honest and say that Im beginning to feel attracted to do this solo if necessary; Im in that once-in-a-lifetime thinking mode. Please feel free to tell me Im bonkers thinking about doing this in a 5.45m boat; all replies will be carefully considered, but might be ignored ;-).

Clearly wed need a very settled weather window, with nil headwind / ideally a light easterly tailwind (for him). It can be done read how lucky these guys were with the sea states: (weve recently also spoken directly to one of them).

IRISH SEA CROSSING

The plan would be to leave my friend (with his craft) over there in Ireland (he will have land support) and return at normal speed in the RIB.

At the minute, Im making upgrades to my RIB, including a better radar reflector, searchlight and decent hailer / fog horn. I already have a DSC radio, VHF hand-helds, Garmin plotter (with all necessary charts), hand-held GPS, decent drysuits and LJs (with lights), nav lights, flares, paper charts, etc. Were also in the middle of fairly formal risk assessments. But with only a 20 gal internal tank, jerry cans will be required. Ive used these successfully before, but Ill need a few more actual cans!

I am also planning on having 3 (total) crew in the RIB subject to certain dates the two others are already known with a decent mix of rough weather, fog and night experience. One to rest, one to drive, and one to keep watch etc, all in rotation. Thoughts on having 3 crew duly welcomed.

Weve got a 'serious' shakedown planned currently for the last week in June. Going for real maybe as early as July if all is well.

Heres some of the points Im not certain about as far as possible well assess these at shakedown time. However, again any thoughts would be welcomed.

Does anyone want to come with us? either one or both ways else perhaps could help with berthing / fuel / etc on the Irish side? (I guess the worst case would involve me leaving the RIB and taking a ferry back to Wales to get the trailer!).

At 2 kts would I be better using the aux (Suzuki DT4) engine? I think I would jury-rig remote steering for this via the main engine.

How best to rig a second battery if Im going to use it to power the electrics (lights, nav and comms) when only the aux engine is running? Nightmare scenario would be to drain the main battery (110 Ah, new last year).

Otherwise the main DF90 is going to be at or close to tickover. Will the DF90s alternator charge ok at tickover? (Im assuming a 4.5A drain otherwise - tbc). Do bigger engines respond ok to long periods at idle? What fuel consumption should I expect on the DF90 at 2kts?
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Old 16 May 2011, 16:06   #2
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Hi Neil,

Your project Interests me

I've done a bit of this cross channel stuff - but without the babysitting
However, I have a friend who has covered a cross channel swimmer from Donegal to Scotland - his RIB is a 5.8m Humber with a 115 Suzi. I'll touch base with him to get advice.

Anyway - I don't have any specific wisdom to offer, but I'll throw a few suggestions at you anyway.

1: Do be worried about your bloke - he's the only reason you'll be there.

2. Go mad - do this run first without him - it's only 60Nm, travel back the same day. You really need to be comfortable out there. You don't sound comfortable - this is not criticism, but you will need to be be able to cope with any crisis out there, his AND your's together.

3. Take a second boat on the actual attempt. You owe him that much.

4. I'd use the main for the whole trip, but be sure the aux is ready to deploy. I don't like the idea of covering a slow boat with an aux that can't be easily slowed/stopped.

5. Given the weather that you need, your boat is not too small, but look carefully at the loading of fuel and supplies. Where will the resting party rest with a load on board? Can you take the bloke on board and tow his whatever in the event of a washout?

I'm sure some of the Dublin wretches (I'm far away) would be happy to assist with fueling, etc. It's not like they've anything else to do. Tonymac might help

You might consider posting on Powerboats.ie too, although I'm not sure if there's anyone home....
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Old 16 May 2011, 16:36   #3
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You seem to be fairly well advanced in planning for the unforseen - I'd also make sure you take support items for the person attempting the challenge, including foul weather gear and hot drinks / self heating can meals in case they have to pull out.

An absolute essential - I can't emphasise this strongly enough - is talk to the Coastguard with details of your plans - you'll probably be asked to arrange reporting points, etc so that assistance can be arranged if you get into trouble. Milford Haven CG cover the south Irish Channel (01646 690909) or Holyhead cover the northern part (01407 762 051). You shouldn't have to do the same for Dublin, as they'll get the details from HMCG.

Otherwise, the two rib option would naturally be better, or dare I say a cabin boat as well.

Drop me a note if you want to go into further detail.
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Old 16 May 2011, 17:05   #4
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58 degrees 20 minutes North +/- circa 2 miles N/S is the Holyhead< > Dublin track for ferries between the South Stack & the Kish light. It would certainly be advisable to be very radar conspicuous if leaving from Anglesey. Total distance between these points is 47.7 miles & total distance Holyhead breakwater to the Poolbeg breakwater light is 58.6 miles.
The tides off Anglesey need serious consideration & the seas in the Holyhead deep off the Stacks can be very "lumpy".
I assume your friend is rowing, you might get some useful advice from the people at The Ocean Rowing Society International
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Old 16 May 2011, 17:14   #5
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Whilst I have no experience, logic would suggest a 5.4 rib with three people, fuel and provisions, would not then be big enough should the person need recovering half way across. Nowhere to lay him down and give treatment etc. For the duration involved I'd imagine a diesel cabin displacement hull to hold emergency gear, your fuel and your 3rd man resting, together with your rib with two on at any time for driving/spottter close support/shadowing would be ideal.

Despite that, those kayakers did it alone. Better you're there prepared than him go alone! Depends on his "method" of transport. If likely not to make it, are you big enough for four plus gear/fuel etc in a force 4-5 to get back?! I guess that would likely be the worst scenario if you had a good expected weather window.

Only my tuppenth worth.
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Old 16 May 2011, 18:53   #6
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A big window at that speed! There is a great possibility of other vessels/ruddy big ships so coastguard help and radar reflectors essential. You could cross higher up as it is only 20 miles or so from south west Scotland.
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Old 16 May 2011, 19:38   #7
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Hi Neil,

Your event sounds very interesting and I would like to begin by saying well done on your preparation so far, and for seeking advice on best practice.

I have done some similar events in the past and the last was a crossing of the North Channel which took 20hrs and a few more steaming back.

The crossing from Dublin will take much longer and there are a few things to consider. If you are going to use your 5.4m I would suggest having at least another rib with you for support. I would use the main engine; the power is always there if you need it. We found no advantage to using an aux.

You need to carefully plan your weather window, in your risk assessment think about weather triggers, that is what weather conditions, sea state will make your crossing impractical/too dangerous, do not depend on one date, be as flexible as possible so you can go when the weather window is right. If you get tunnel vision into having to go at one particular date it may result in you taking a chance in poor weather. So dont get pressured by weather.

3 in the rib of that size is fine, we had 2 in Zeb (5.8m) for the North Channel but too other vessels in support. Fatigue will be a factor and cold during the night so hot drinks and good under suits are a must.

The Coast Guard are very important, for your info and others on here, HM CG does not run SAR for the whole Irish Sea, Dublin CG take TRs direct on channel 83, the operations room number is 00353 1 7751602 call them and set up a calling schedule every 2 hours.

Would also suggest tx a securtie call on ch 16 with your details every 4 hours or so, to make larger vessels aware of your position, course, speed, type and number of your craft, this would be helpful if you dont have AIS fitted and when operating in the dark. Good Nav lights essential and a signal flash light, (5 short flashes for vessels not taking avoiding action).

Also remember to chat with port traffic if approaching busy ports like Dublin.

Passage plan every hour add in expected drift with tide, at 2 kts this will mean your course made good will not be a direct line across, but will look like a saw tooth so have this worked into your plan as it will add time and distance onto the event.

The last thing I will say is don't be afraid to pull the plug if you feel it is not going as planned or the weather is getting close to your trigger point, bail out for the nearest safe haven. So have a plan if all goes pear shaped.

The best of luck and enjoy every minute of the planning and the voyage its all part of the Journey. Bligh once said "If you want think of the distance we have come, but never let your mind wonder further ahead than your vessel"
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Old 16 May 2011, 20:16   #8
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Out at sea at the moment overnight (its now 0010 )on the cat swilling about on a very dark Irish Sea! I have been in more restful places! My thoughts from the centrally heated wheelhouse with a mug of tea in m'hand and a bacon butty are-
spare outboard portable tanks and a second fuel line from a changeover valve would be better than trying to refill at sea-.
A 5.4m rib with three people on that route is a notable and possibly perilous trip in itself without the complication of somebody in your care.
Who is going to care for him, and you, if you lose both engines- i suppose you could paddle and become two man powered craft.
Are you, or he, going to be sea sick? And thats not meant as a "put down"-I think I might be eventually. Different matter rolling about and being bored than razzing along at 30 knots.
That bit of sea can be rough on a windless day-we delivered a 26ft cygnus cyclone back from holyhead on a windless day but with a big tide and water was sweeping over the length of the boat for the duration of the trip.

Basically I can't think of anything I would rather less do than swill about at two knots for what could be several days in a small boat making myself a hazard to shipping.
We are forever being asked to provide rib safety cover for some crossing to IoM or Ireland. Some schemes are completely hare brained others maybe not but they all ignore the point that the Irish Sea is an unforgiving place for a small boat, never mind whatever the person in care is on.
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Old 17 May 2011, 05:19   #9
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Thanks folks

Thanks v much for the carfeully considered and impressively long responses. Lots of food for thought there - I shall respond properly in slightly slower time when I find a quiet corner at work - I'm away on busness today.
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Old 17 May 2011, 13:46   #10
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We use our rib of SW Scotland every summer and rarely do you get 2 days of settled weather and the sea can really kick up in a short period of time. The Atlantic can pick up as Ireland nips it against the mainland and I would not like to have to carry three and potentially four and whatever contraption that your man is using in what is quite a small rib. The more I think about it the more I would suggest the thoughts of those with great experience, on this board, should be listened to and I don't count myself in that group, but as a user of the Irish sea, I know to treat it with respect having been up a wave front and come down backwards ending with a rib full of water and thank goodness the engine had not failed so I could power on and get the water out through the elephant trunks...and the day started so well and full of optimism. Plan for every eventuality and go with more support.
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