A Stormy Tale!

This is an account of a sea crossing made by Martin Lennox in an Interceptor 33, written in his own words.

            On 12 November 1999 I took delivery of the Interceptor 33 demonstration boat from Poole in Dorset . Crewed by Alan Esprey and                                   

myself for  a 3-4 day / night passage to Bangor, Co Down. The 48hr forecast when we left was force 3-4.  After leaving Poole Bay

we  soon  realised the change to a following tide and wind in a force 4-5, soon to become force 5-6 and followed latter by a coastguard warning “gale imminent”   We were now running with a heavy following sea sometimes surfing at 22-23kts when a particularly large and steep wave would pick us up, initially we considered seeking shelter but as the boat was handling these conditions brilliantly with no tendency whatsoever to broach or be upset we continued on. At 10pm we berthed at Plymouth .

                Two days latter minus Alan, but crewed by Mike Kitt, (a retired lifeboat member) we made Newlyn mostly in a force 4-5 but lastly in a 6.  Next morning we left Newlyn at 6am for Arklow , Ireland , but this was not to be!. At sunrise we passed Lands End / Longships in a calm sea which soon changed to a N.N.W. head wind in a force 5-6. We decided to change course and make for Dunmore East, on the Irish south coast where we arrived some ten hours latter and 505 litres of diesel less (11 gallons per hour in these conditions at 15-16 kts). We stayed here two days and Mike had to fly home from Cork . I then gained a member of Dunmore East lifeboat crew who was going to visit a friend in Dublin . We left Dunmore East at 7am for an early lunch in Arklow and dinner in Dun Laoghaire . With a forecast again of a force 3-4 we left port. All was well until we passed “Tusker Rock” when things worsened. Soon we were in a force 6-7 and decided to shelter in Rosslare Harbour as best we could for over two hours. A lull appeared and we set off again for Arklow. Unfortunately this lull was only the calm     before the storm, with the weather soon deteriated to a force 9 gale and to make matters worse the tide turned giving us wind over tide  conditions.

With speed reduced by now to 5 kts, the heavy existing swell soon built up and by the evening we were facing waves that were the size of houses, we both estimated the size of the largest waves as at least 20-25ft. On two occasions, the boat was hit by exceptionally large waves that struck the boat with such force that she was literally stopped, driven backwards only to fall off the top of the wave and crash down into the trougth. Before the boat could recover herself the following wave broke clean over the cabin and the boat was buried under a weight of water that left the aft cockpit awash up to the level of the gunwale. To give an idea of the depth the boat submerged, throughout the trip the two forward  windows had been leaking, proving only an irritation but on these occasions water spurted in through the leaking window with tremendous force as if the whole boat was under water. For a long time neither of us spoke, after been hit by these large waves I thought “This is it” but each time she shook her head, cleared the sea and eventually at 10pm we entered Arklow.

              After a good nights rest, the next morning we headed for Dun Laoghaire where we arrived late afternoon, conditions during the trip where better than the day before but still blowing 5 – 6. We rested up for two days and were rejoined by Alan. We left early Sunday morning (21st Nov) on passage to Bangor, Co Down. Easier conditions this time with winds 3-4 we arrived late Sunday afternoon. The next day, my son Stephen arrived and crewed with me on the final leg of the journey, passage to Coleraine marina. Weather was fine until we passed the “Maidens” when a N/W  force 4-5 blew up. Closer to home conditions deteriorated rapidly and once again the sea tried to test this boat. As we passed Fair Head and into Rathlin Sound we were met by huge Atlantic breakers and a NNW wind, both head on. A reduced speed of 5 knots we carried on, the boat handled the conditions admirably, it was well uncomfortable with no chance to rest, and at times pretty hairy, with the wind up to force seven and facing those great Atlantic rollers, but conditions eased as we passed the “Giants Causeway” and the “Skerries”. As we entered the bar mouth of the river Bann we surfed in to the river at full throttle, and were well glad to see the marina. A 3-4 day crossing took 11 days, the only damage- two leaking windows.

This is some boat and a credit to its designer and builder Frank Kowalski, of Safehaven Marine LTD, Cobh Co Cork. Anyone wishing a demo come and see me at Portrush Harbour , April – Sept.             Martin Lennox