British Isles cruise offers insight on area’s rich history


By Dick Daybell

Back in August 2013, my wife, Lois, and I took a cruise around the English Isles with stops in Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Le Havre, France.

We left Southampton on August 4 and proceeded to St. Peter Port in the Guernsey Islands, the only land in Great Britain occupied by the Germans in World War II. We walked around the marina and looked at the boats, which sat about 25 feet below street level at low tide.

We went by a yacht club while visiting Castle Cornet, a Norman-era castle in the harbor fortified with German gun emplacements. Because of the extreme tidal change, small sailboats practiced in a little enclosed pond in front of the yacht club. At a marine supply store next door,

I picked up an English flag to fly onboard the ship. On our way back, several boats and a working barge sat on the mud at low tide. They would all be floating once the tide came in.

At our next stop, Cobh, Ireland, we again saw boats sitting in the mud at low tide in the small local marina. Cobh was the last port visited by the Titanic before leaving on its only voyage. You can visit a memorial to the local residents who sailed on the Titanic, which includes photographs by a priest who got off the ship before it left Cobh.

From Cobh, we traveled to Dublin. At the city’s large port, we saw three cruise ships during our visit. A yacht club and marina sat across the channel from our dock.

My son-in-law, grandson, and I did the obligatory pub tour in Dublin where we verified the existence of Guinness.

Overnight, we cruised to Scotland, where we docked in Greenock. During the day we toured the town before departing on a bus to Edinburgh for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a special ceremonial event held each August by military units and bands next to Edinburgh Castle. After returning to the ship, we headed across the Irish Sea to Belfast, Northern Ireland.

From Belfast, we toured the Northern Ireland coast to visit the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site on very rugged (for Europe) coastline.

We had lunch along the way and saw a small marina surrounded by large rock walls to protect the boats in the marina. Boats again were sitting in the mud at low tide.

From there, we headed to the Orkney Islands. We docked near Kirkwall, the largest town on the main island, and took a tour to Scapa Flow and the Italian Chapel. Scapa Flow is where the British Navy kept its fleet in WWI and WWII. At the end of WWI, the German Navy Fleet was impounded in Scapa Flow. Before the British could take over the fleet, the German caretakers scuttled many of their cruisers, battleships and destroyers. Several of the ships were raised and salvaged for scrap.

At the start of WWII, a German submarine sunk the battleship Royal Oak anchored in Scapa Flow. Royal Oak is a sacred memorial to the 833 men lost when the ship was sunk. To protect the remaining fleet, Winston Churchill ordered the construction of causeways to block access into Scapa Flow. The causeways were built by Italian prisoners of war, who also built a small, colorful chapel using two surplus Nissen huts. Scapa Flow is now a popular diving destination.

We spent two nights at sea as we traveled to Le Havre, France. We took a bus to see what turned out to be a limited view of the Normandy Beach landing areas. If you go to Normandy, try staying overnight so you have sufficient time to stop and view the different locations. We had a brief stop at the Normandy American Cemetery next to Omaha Beach and would have liked to have had more time to spend in the visitors center and the general memorial site.

We concluded our cruise the next morning in Southampton, where five cruise ships were preparing for their next sail.

A licensed 50-ton captain, Dick Daybell is a past rear commander of the Environmental Committee for United States Power Squadrons. In 1999, he joined Alamitos Sail & Power Squadron/13, where he was an active member until 2016, when he transferred to Peace River Sail & Power Squadron/22 after moving to Florida. He lives at Burnt Store Marina.

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