It’s Been a Long Time Baby

It’s been 8 months since I wrote anything here? Golly.

So, I bought a boat in the end. An eleven year old wooden GP14. Daniel came on board and we spent the summer and Autumn trying not to be last in the club racing at Sutton Dinghy Club. We managed second from last once or twice and were bloody happy with that!

Mark, Daniel and a GP14 called Kaya

In all seriousness, sailing is an incredible sport. There’s so much to learn technically, yet someone with very little experience can get out there for a Sunday afternoon of seriously exhilarating racing. On a sunny day with a 15 to 20 knot breeze, it can’t be beaten.

Late in October, the Hot Toddy GP14 meet at Sutton was definitely the highlight of the whole season. Force 4-5 winds, 4 races offshore and 20+ GP14 crews made for a real taste of what serious dinghy racing is all about. We won ourselves a “good effort for a newcomer” trophy, but after Hugh Gill talked me through some photos of the event I’m only itching for the new season to start and make a better effort to keep up with the fleet this year.

In late August we spent a week trekking the northern half of the GR20 in Corsica, organised by UTracks. It’s a pity I didn’t do a proper day-by-day blog of the trek, but anyway …

The GR20 is known as the “toughest long distance trek in Europe” and I can see why now. Sure, there’s a lot of ascent and descent on the stages, but then you have to factor in the serious heat and the fact that it’s not a nice Alpine footpath, but a series of boulder field and bone-jarring scrambles. We really enjoyed the week, and the scenery was incredible, but we’re very glad we didn’t sign up for the full two week GR20 trek.

The most famous part of the GR20 is the Cirque de la Solitude. Basically, you get up to a col and find that the path becomes a very exposed, near vertical, 200m drop followed by a near vertical 200m ascent. Our guide book claimed the section is completely over-hyped, but honestly we were surprised that thousands of people go through there every year. In the Alps, this would be via ferrata, you’d wear a harness and helmet and you’d be cliped safely into iron rails. Here, you just had a ladder or two and some rusty old iron chains. Me abiding memory is of Catherine climbing up a slab behind me and thinking “if she slips now, she’s gone”.

In this photo, the route starts at the bottom of the photo and ends at the col at the top. One of the little specks up the top is a person.

Cirque de la Solitude

In October, I went along to Dublin Marathon and helped out in the baggage area to give a bit back after running it last year. After running with her a fair bit over the summer, it was brilliant to meet Maura after she had gotten over the line in under four hours.

In November, Paula and I entered in the Cooley Raid adventure race. The 8 hours kayaking, mountain running, mountain biking, more mountain running  and more mount biking was a tough day out, but great fun. We didn’t push ourselves too hard during the day, since we wanted to make sure we finished. We did actually do the bonus run section and got to every checkpoint, which we were very proud of. Apparently it’s unusual to sit in the middle of the race and stuff your face with pasta, judging by the chuckles we got!

Paula and Mark at the Cooley Raid – taken by maryd0502

My running took a bit of a nose dive after adventure race as my good friend, shin splits, paid me an extended visit over the last few months. I’m back comfortably running 10-15k again, and looking forward to some good running over the next year. The IMRA season kicked off in Howth again this year, but with a much more interesting route. It was nice to go along and run a reasonably time without pushing too hard.

Up the mountains

Over the winter, Catherine and I surprised ourselves by getting out in the mountains fairly regularly. We got up Lugnaquilla, Glendalough/Camaderry, Glendalough/Mullacor/Derrybawn, Crone/Lough Tay/Djouce, Coumshingaun in the Comeraghs, the Knockmealdown and Galtymore. Some of the days out have been magical – cold, dry and sunny with the mountain tops covered in snow and ice. We can definitely recommend winter hiking in Ireland!

Cathy on Djouce

But there’s more adventuring to come yet! At the end of February, the two of us are off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, then to chill on the beach in Zanzibar before going on safari in Kenya. Let’s see if I can get around to writing some decent blogs on that trip …


Buying a Boat, Step One

Step one – fit a towbar to your car.

If I’m to buy a boat, I’m going to need to be able to tow it back from wherever I buy it. So, after getting a €615 quote from Finglas Ford, I decided to buy a Bosal detachable towbar (€180) and wiring kit (€60) from and fit it myself.

Well … “myself” might be a slight exaggeration … I actually went down to Waterford yesterday to my ould fella, made him cancel his Saturday morning golf and spent the entire day with him figuring it out.

Here’s a rough summary of the steps it took to fit it to me ’06 Ford Focus:

  1. Jack up the back of the car and remove both back wheels for easier access. Otherwise you’ll have to just work around the wheels.
  2. Remove most of the panels from the inside of the boot – the carpet, spare wheel, panel at the back of the car and soft panels on either side.
  3. Next remove the bumper – there are two screws underneath the car, another couple either side of the boot opening, a couple of torx screws in the rear wheel housing and, finally, behind the wheel housing cover there’s a small bolt. With all them removed, you should be able to pop off the bumper and detach it from the cables for the reverse and fog lights.
  4. Now detach the “bumper insert” – a big chunk of metal held on by three nuts underneath on each. You won’t need this again.
  5. In its place, slide in the towbar frame and fasten it with the four nuts and bolts supplied.

Here’s what the towbar looks like attached and detached.

Detachable Towbar

That’s the easy part, believe it or not. Now you need to fit up the electronics.

In the wiring kit, you get a black relay box, a length of 7-wire cable with a connector for the relay box and another length of 7-wire cable with a socket at one end which gets fitted to the hitch. The basic idea is that you need to locate 7 wires – left/right indicator, left/right park, brake, fog and reverse – and connect each the wires to first length of cable using snap-on connectors.

However, things are complicated slightly by the fact that the relay box itself needs its own independent power source direct from the batter. So, you need to take a feed from the fuse box, get it out of the engine compartment, through the car and into the boot.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find each of the 7 wires – for the 2 indicators, 2 parking lights, fog, brake and reverse – by tracing the wires back from the bulbs to a convenient place to tap into them. We removed the sets of light holders on either side of the boot and traced the first 4 wires from there. The other three we traced from the bumper connector. Use a digital voltmeter, turn off all lights except the one you’re testing, find the live connector and trace the wire back.
  2. Once you’ve located where you’re going to tap into the wires, decide where you’re going to put the relay box. We put it in back left hand side of the boot, down low, behind the paneling.
  3. If you’re going to tap into wires on both sides of the boot – we took the left indicator and park from the left side and the rest from the right side – strip the first 7 wire cable back, split out the wires for each side, wrap them together in insulation tape and feed from the relay box to your tap-in points. Then use the snap-on connectors to tap into the wires.
  4. Next, bore a hole – above where you’re going to fit the wiring socket to the towbar – into the boot compartment. Fit the grommit to the hole and feed in the other end of the cable from the socket and wire that up to the other side of the relay box.
  5. Now locate somewhere in the fuse box to take a permanent (i.e. still live when the ignition is off) live feed. We took it from a “bus bar” in the auxiliary fuse box in the engine compartment next to the battery.
  6. Connect a wire from this point to the supplied little fuse box and from there feed it back out of the engine compartment all the way through the car to the boot. We removed the battery and were able to pass the wire into the car through the hole where a bunch of other wires went, out above the central fuse box underneath the glove compartment, tucking it under the panels below the doors on the passenger side and into the boot.
  7. Now connect the ground wires from the relay box and the towbar socket to a ground source.
  8. Finally … tidy up all the wires and put back the bumper and all of the panels.

Here’s a shot of where we took a live feed from the auxiliary fuse box.

Live Feed

Other notes:

  1. You need quite a selection of tools for this – spanners and sockets/wrench for 6mm to 19mm, torx screwdrivers, voltmeter, wire strippers etc. etc.
  2. Don’t forget to bring the “lock nut” for removing your wheels if you have one. Yes, I forget mine.
  3. Be careful not to assume that a certain colour wire means the same thing everywhere – you need to physically trace the wire – e.g. the wire in the bumper for my reverse light was green/black, but in the boot compartment it was green/orange whereas green/black there was an indicator.
  4. If you do disconnect the battery, you might need a code to get the stereo working again. Don’t expect to be able to ring your dealership on a Saturday evening and get it.
  5. You might run down your battery with all the messing about. That happened with me and we thought we’d seriously screwed something up when relays in the two fuse boxes started making awful sounds and the ignition often wouldn’t turn and, when it did, the engine wouldn’t start. In other words, have a set of jump leads handy.
  6. The relay box that came with the wiring kit makes a sound when a trailer is hooked up and the indicators are on. Don’t worry, this is just to give you peace of mind that the lights are working. It doesn’t sound when there isn’t a trailer hooked up.

IMRA Leinster League – Hellfire

At Aisling‘s suggestion, I wrote the race report for this one:

Hey, it’s sunny out! That can’t be right, surely?

A beautiful, hazy, sunny Wednesday evening saw a motley crew gather in the South Dublin hills for the third installment of the IMRA Leinster League. This week, the location for the race was the Hell Fire Club forest south of Rathfarnham/Ballyboden.

Runners had to negotiate a 6km course involving no less than four steep climbs and similarly steep descents. Apparently, Jane and Graham can be blamed for this “Hellfire and Brimstone” route.

Fortunately, though, the warm weather, the relatively short course and the wide, dry trails made for a thoroughly enjoyable race … if a little frantic on some of the descents.

Also, runners can be proud to have briefly diverted the local hooligans at the Hell Fire Club ruins from their cider flagons for a few minutes!

I really enjoyed this race – nice and short, frantic descents and … yet another battle with Tommy Galvin.

Me and Tommy – taken by Colleen Robinson

I’ve mentioned Tommy as my “nemesis to be” before, and I’m not kidding. Every race we seem to trade places a few times … and this time, I just managed to get home one place and 13 seconds ahead of him! 🙂