Howth to Arklow, via Dun Laoghaire and Wicklow.

Day 143, Weds 24 May

A new record was set today. My latest morning departure. Facing the discovery of a flat rear tyre whilst loading up on a full fat Irish breakfast isn’t the best start. A little later, discovering a shared interest with the Howth Lifeboat Cox’n/Mech led to lengthy nostalgic reminiscences of aircraft and famous aviators. Taking turns describing the spine-tingling effects of watching and hearing a full-throttled Vulcan, or any Merlin-engined WW2 aircraft climbing out of a low pass…  But Ian’s passion kicked my RAF past into the long grass, way outside any airfield perimeter track. Naming his children after aircraft engines and aviation heroes is just one indicator of the depth of his passion. Ian wasn’t sure I was convinced, so within minutes his wife and daughter were summoned and I was introduced to the delightful young Emilia Guy herself (yes, after Miss Earhart and Wing Commander Gibson).

I was so nearly tempted to accept the invitation to stay another day but… after some analysis of unidentified aircraft twin throttle levers and a few photos on board the Howth Trent Class All-weather Lifeboat (with Fondo on board), it was time to tear myself away and get rolling. Many thanks to Ian Sheridan, a most engaging, enthusiastic character and modest Lifeboat hero who, like most RNLI crew members, do not waste time blowing their own trumpets but just get on with the job when the call comes. Take a look at Howth Lifeboat History, with a particular focus on 1996.

So, why was I suddenly picking up regular punctures on the same wheel? Allowing the pressure to drop makes a tyre much less puncture resistant. Regular pressure checks usually prevent this. The most common cause for another puncture on the same tyre soon after a replacement inner tube would be the failure to remove the offending thorn/nail/pin/shard of glass from the tyre itself. Having checked carefully and removed the previous objects (the first was a sharp piece of wire, the second a very small flint-like shard, then what looked like a headless nail or brad). Each was definitely a different cause, in a different place. Conclusion? After many thousands of miles, the Gatorskin Hardshell tyre had worn too thin to offer protection to the tube. Thanks again to Ian (Howth 2nd Cox’n/Mech) for the guidance and advice on locating a proper bike shop on the next leg of the ride.  360 Cycles Ltd on Clontarf Road did not disappoint. A great shop, with a good range of bikes, parts & accessories and a fine team of at least four busy, knowledgeable and friendly staff. No exact replacement tyre in stock (but who’d really want an equally worn Gatorskin Hardshell anyway?). Before I’d finished the free coffee & biscuits (sorry about my apparent greed, it’s just essential fuel), Fondo was out of the work-stand and ready to roll with a meaty but slick new Bontrager AW1 Hard Case Lite road tyre, which, as you no-doubt know, is the bee’s knees. (If anyone can explain the origin of bee’s knees, I’d be grateful).

Back on course, around Dublin Bay and on to Dun Laoghaire, once an important ferry port, where another Trent Class ALB and a D Class ILB stand by, covering the busy Dublin Bay and a large area of the Irish Sea. Another station with a long and distinguished history, including one of the most tragic incidents, when in 1895, fifteen Dun Laoghaire volunteer crew members were lost in an attempt to save the lives of others. Many thanks to current crew members Kieran (Station Mech), Paul, Laura and Sean, plus visitors Kevin (Wicklow A/ILB), James & Ben (Technical Surveyors) and Vinnie (Fundraiser) for an enjoyable visit and the onward journey advice and contacts.

A sea fret had descended on this corner of Dublin Bay by the time the pedals were spinning once more, adding to the atmosphere around Killiney Hill, where multi-million-Euro homes are inhabited by the likes of Bono and Enya.

Pausing for a moment in Bray, to refill the nose bag (and me) with fig rolls, I was approached by a kind stranger, now known as Liam McKenna, a fellow Wheeler, who paid me the highest compliment, bestowing upon me the title of Real Cyclist, plus a generous donation to the RNLI. The combined absorption of sugar and praise boosted my power output sufficiently to get over the next two big hills en route to Wicklow with ease. A very pretty coast road, but a punishing, bone-shaking surface for most of the way.

Wicklow ALB was quite a contrast with the two previous Dublin Bay Lifeboat Stations. Calm, tranquil, picturesque …  quite befitting the home of the only remaining Tyne Class All-weather Lifeboat in Ireland. The first “fast” slipway-launched lifeboat in the RNLI Fleet. If you’re interested in more information on the various types of Lifeboats, click here. Back in 1911, Wicklow took delivery of the first engine-powered Lifeboat in Ireland. Thanks Brendan (Stn Mech), John (LPO) and Dean (crew/Asst.Mech) for the tea & tour.

Still heading south, another 16 pretty (and pretty bumpy) miles of coast road to Arklow. By now, heading for the latest (and latest) evening arrival at a Lifeboat Station. But not too late to meet the half a dozen RNLI crew still on-site following this evening’s First Aid training session. A hearty welcome from Michael (Stat Mech), John (LOM), Mark (LPO), Brendan (2nd Cox’n), and Craig & Jimmy (Crew). Within minutes, Michael had phoned The Bridge Hotel/Inn and secured a room for me and (having discovered it was too late to order food there) I had to submit to Brendan’s kind insistence that he was nipping out to get a fish & chips supper!

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Contrary to claims from a few other very old Lifeboat Stations, Arklow’s really is, according to the RNLI itself, THE OLDEST and therefore THE FIRST in Ireland! Particular thanks again to Michael and Brendan for sorting all my needs so quickly and kindly, and for the fascinating tour of the Ger Tigchelaar Trent Class Lifeboat. A poignant tale of the purchase of the boat, in memory of Ger, the beloved wife of the benefactor, Fritz Oppenheim. He also presented the Station with his and his wife’s wedding rings, set into the brass plaque now mounted in the Lifeboat.20170524_202025

On the Arklow Lifeboat Station’s History page, the 1955 entry caught my attention. Amongst all the awards and medals was this:

“Awarded a case of rum by the Sugar Manufacturers Association (of Jamaica) for longest winter service 1955-1956 for service of 22/23 December 1955.”


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