BELFAST AND THE VISIT TO DESERTMARTIN

I had exchanged a number of emails with Victoria when arranging the berth and she had been very helpful. The Marina staff at Bangor were excellent. We noticed that many marinas in Europe were less than full because of the economic downturn which meant it was easy to find a berth and most were offering generous discounts to winter over with them. Bangor has great facilities and the town is adjacent to the Marina.

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After completing formalities on the morning of Wednesday 4 June we gave Meg a good scrub down and tidy up. In Peel there was no water or power supplied and we were rafted up to fishing vessels. Paul went off and got a UK SIM card for his phone with data on it and started searching for a venue to watch the All Blacks playing England in the first test. Big problem as the game started at 0835hrs on Sky but pubs are not allowed to open before 1030hrs!!

I had bought a number of marine pilot books and charts from Todd Navigation in Bangor and after a long distance conversation with William Todd I agreed to swing by and ‘tip the hat’.

He told me that one of his forefathers of the same name had fought the last duel in Ireland around 1820. We bought more charts and a pilot for the Baltic from William. Even though we have a Raymarine chart plotter, Radar, Depthsounder, and A.I.S. on board with very detailed electronic information we could lose it all with a big wave which could douse the electronics.

Therefore we always carry paper charts on board and always strike a course line and do regular position plots which provides a reference point for ‘dead reckoning’ if we lost our GPS system.

It also allows for double checking of obstacles such as rocks, wrecks etc, before committing to the course. Rory had noticed that the Rabbit Restaurant was advertising half price spare ribs on a Wednesday and so we were in there like robber’s dogs to check the quality of the ribs. Rory gave them the big thumbs up as he is the expert on ribs. The sauce also met with his approval!

Garth McGuigan was to arrive in Belfast at 11am after a direct flight from Christchurch to London. We told him to catch a taxi to the Titanic Quarter where we would meet up.

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A visitor to our B&B (Alex and Pauline Cole) in Akaroa had told us that the Titanic Museum was in Belfast where the great ship was built and that it was a ‘must see’. We did not regret the visit as it was excellent. We walked on the slipway from where she was launched into the Victoria channel. At the time Belfast was a very prosperous city with shipbuilding and a huge flax and linen trade.

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With Garth in tow we took a taxi into the centre of Belfast and rented a car for the trip to the Bushmills Distillery and the Giants Causeway in the north and of course the following day was the family visit to Desertmartin the home of our ancestors. There are three ‘Laura’s’ at Enterprise Car Rentals and they all want to be known as LAURA 1. Anyway our Laura upsold us on a new Volvo 4×4 for our two day gallivant.

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Bushmills Distillery (1608) is about 1.5 hours north from Bangor on the M2. We did the full tour learning about the process and finished at the tasting room where we were given 5 different malts to try.
Key differences are achieved by the ageing process in barrels of different backgrounds.e.g. Bourbon, Sherry and even Muscat barrels. Minimum period to even call it ‘whiskey'(Ireland) is 3 years but it is at least 10 years before a single malt becomes respectable and often much longer.

We were surprised to see them bottling Jamiesons whiskey at the plant as we walked through but apparently bulk trucks bring it in from the Jamiesons Distillery.

We are lucky to have Graham aboard who drinks very little alcohol and has the largest portfolio aboard Roaring Meg which now includes Batman/Driver! Good on ya mate!!

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From Bushmills to the Giants Causeway which is an unusual landscape/seascape with rock formations that look like they were cast in column shapes. Along the walkway are snippets of the story of Finn McCool which was told to me as a child and a story which I have often told since to my children and grandchildren. The rocks out to sea were put there by Finn McCool as stepping stones for him to reach Scotland without getting his feet wet!!

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We stopped in to a pub at Rope Bridge on the way back along the scenic highway for a pint and there in the fire place they were burning the peat turf that is so famous in Ireland. The atmosphere was great with lots of old photos in sepia around the walls all of which made the pint of Guinness even more tasty. It was late by the time we got back to the yacht and knowing that we had a big day coming up the crew retired immediately.

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