Barrow-In-Furness in the Lake District has a historical link to steel and ship building. In the late 19th Century it possessed the largest steelworks in the world and the ready abundance of steel resulted in the formation of a significant shipyard. The shipyard grew to replace the steel yards and became the world leader in submarine manufacture during World war 1. After the war the shipyard became the world leader in submarine manufacturing and to this day is still the maker of all British submarines.
The harbour and entrance at Barrow contains four islands. Piel Island, Sheep Island, Headin Haw and Dova Haw. Piel Island is featured in the Week 20 Blog where you can find all about becoming a knight of Piel! The other three islands of the day are less significant in size and have low key histories. Sheep island was so named because sheep were kept on the island – pretty obvious I guess! It once had an isolation hospital on it from 1892-1922 for returning sailors ,but other than that there’s nothing remarkable about this 15 acre island. Headen Haw is a small tidal island approximately 200 metres off the coast where the Melfort Gunpowder Company built a powder magazine here in 1853.The magazine was last used in April 1876.
Launching from the very helpful Roa Island boating club the first island of the day was Piel Island. It was a quick reach across to the island and then as I went round the far side of the island progress became slow as I fought against the incoming tide. The advantage of the slow and choppy progress was a great view of the ruins of Piel Castle. Once round the far side of the island I turned back in to the wind, but the tide was now pushing me in the right direction. Finding sheep island was tricky as I was without my GPS for the first time, but luckily all the staring at maps had ingrained the picture of Walney Harbour in my brain. Sheep Island (so named because the local farmer used to leave his sheep on the island) was fairly low lying and the only way of identifying it was by all the birds on it. Rounding the island with plenty of clearance was a sensible plan as I knew the water levels here were low.
Continuing north towards Headin Haw I knew this was going to be the hardest island to reach due to the obstructions and shallow depth. Heading towards the harbour wall I weaved my way through the obstruction poles and desperately scanned the horizon for the island. At last what looked like a pile of white bags emerged from the water surface so I headed in that direction – everything else looked the same! As I got closer the white turned out to be a flock of seagulls residing safely on the island and to the lee of it. Again giving a wide berth to avoid shallows, I could clearly see the remains of the store that once held the Navy’s ammunition whilst ships were in the port. Looks a bit like there may have been an explosion at some time in the past!
Setting course for the final island of the day, Dova Haw, I’m now starting to fight the tide a little and whilst avoiding a dredger working in the harbour I fail to notice the two poles I’m sailing between. With an abrupt thud I’m brought to a rapid halt and it’s all hands on board to lift the daggerboard and see what the damage is. Luckily it’s only a small crack, but not having the GPS in waters like these is not a great place to be. Tacking up the main channel past the dredger I can see the last island of the day, Dova Haw. Rounding the last and smallest island of the day it’s good news because now I’m sailing downwind – for the first time today! Following the channel southwards I’ve a couple of big shipping movements to avoid before I can slip across the channel towards Roa Island. The tide is starting to rip out now so I aim above the landing slope at the boating club and the tide pushes me in the right direction. After 2.5 hours and 21km of sailing that’s islands 73,74,75 and 76 in the bag and with the majestic backdrop of the Lakeland hills it’s been a stunning days sailing – even if a lot of it has been upwind!
Here’s some great drone footage of my launching point on Roa Island and the majestic Piel Island….