Anyway, as I sat there, feeling uncharacteristically nervous I realised one thing. If I make this crossing, the hardest part of the swim would surely be over. With that I got into my wetsuit and we sailed over to my start point which was a few hundred meters off shore and jumped in.
We started to make progress in stages. The northerly tide was strong but didn’t take me any closer to Ireland. The southerly tide got me closer to Ireland but took me south. The going was slow but on day two I managed my biggest session to date - 18 miles. I was shattered but felt strong nevertheless.
Night 3 was one of my favourite swimming experiences to date though. To get a good tide I needed to swim from 8pm to midnight. This meant some swimming in the dark. I was excited and nervous. I jumped in at 8pm as the sun was setting and before I knew it, it was pitch black. Then the most amazing thing happened. With every stroke, a shower of sparks would run off my fingertips. Initially I thought they were my bubbles lighting up from Em’s head torch in the kayak next to me but then soon realised what they really were – phosphorescence. My pace dropped but I didn’t care. I fell into an imaginary world of underwater Avatar. It was incredible. I was falling deeper and deeper into a trance when suddenly I felt a shock to the face and my nose started to sting. Damn it - my first jellyfish sting. It wasn’t too bad and once I wiped the mucus off my face and my crew jokingly offered to pee on me, I carried on and soon fell back into a trance with my sparkly fingers. 10 minutes later I got stung again on the face. There were loads of jellyfish out. This one was a lot worse and I decided to call it a night.
Day 3 and 4 were the hardest. The crew had to take shifts at night to make sure we didn’t drift into one of the many huge ships and cruisers bombing up and down the shipping lanes. We were all sleep deprived and tired but just had to keep going.
We had been at sea with not much sleep, for far too long and were all getting a bit cranky. I was feeling the cold because hadn’t been eating properly and the Irish Sea, which had been relatively tame up to now, decided to kick up a 12ft swell. The going was slow and I had practically no style at all while battling through the waves and bursts of heavenly downpours. I managed 10 miles before we decided to call it a day and make for land as another night at sea wasn’t sensible being in this storm so near a huge shipping lane.
We headed for shore with the sails out full and at times we were keeled over at 45 degrees. We felt like real adventurers smashing our way through huge waves crashing over the deck. The windows on the boat were at times under water. It was brilliant. This is when things got interesting. Firstly we looked into the cabin and saw about 10 cm of water coming through the floor. Jez jumped in and took up the floorboard to see that we were taking on water. Disaster. We immediately started to manually pump the bilge not knowing how fast water was coming it. After a good 15 minutes we got most of the water out and realised that our automatic bilge pump had stopped working. That was a relief. We kept the floorboards up and went back on deck to settle into some more adventurous sailing when we looked behind us and saw the kayak, which we drag behind the boat, was sinking. Jez and I jumped into the rib (which we also drag behind the yacht) and started to haul the kayak in and empty it. It took a while but we eventually got it sorted. We got back on the boat and carried on into the waves. Things were going well until a huge freak wave came out of nowhere and hit us sideways. It was carnage. The table that was clamped up against the wall broke clean off, a reefing point clamp on the boom broke and practically everything on the inside of the boat landed on the floor, including Jez who flew right off his bed. There was a moment of panic but we soon realised all was well and nothing major was broken. We decided to take down the sail a bit and head more into the wind to slow us down. We limped into Rosslare, which took us 5 hours to do 11 miles and moored up in the harbour tired and soaking.
I’ve made it most of the way across the Irish Sea and from where I stopped I will head North slowly making my way towards land. It’s been an incredibly hard few days but I feel I’m on the home straight now. No more big crossings and a good tide up Ireland . . . and some Guinness which as we all know is a meal in a glass.
PS. And before anyone says Ireland is not Britain. I am Irish myself and know this. I am still swimming the length of Britain but wanted to go past Ireland, which happened to be en route :-)