Saturday, 31 July 2010

Broad Haven

Howling wind, banging halyards, and heavy rain may have done something to dampen our enthusiasm for our early start. But there we were in damp sailing boots and wet-gear bracing ourselves for the long haul across Donegal Bay, when our routine barometer check revealed a very sharp drop in the space of an hour. This seemed sufficient justification to hang up the wet gear and console ourselves with a little snooze.

At eight o'clock we looked out and saw a break in the clouds and a lull in the wind. Thankfully Martyn pointed to the barometer again and counselled caution. As it turned out this was wise. The wind and rain were back in their stride before long and we were happy to have a day in the well-named Broad Haven.

Perhaps it is a sign of dwindling supplies, or maybe some form of mariners' mania, but instead of clutching hastily constructed and disintegrating sandwiches washed down by either salt spray or rain, we found ourselves almost enjoying our sophisticated lunchtime aperitif of cider and olives. (Don't try this at home.)

We now have re-read the pilot books, consulted the tide tables, pored over the charts, and read Wallace Clark, Andrew Phelan, and Alistair Scott. So we have a tentative plan for the next few days. It is very unlikely that things will turn out quite like that, but as the rain starts pattering on the spray-hood again, at least we have a plan.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Time and tides

It is probably unnecessary and certainly embarrassing to dwell on the reasons why our departure was not quite as early as planned. However we were on our way by 08:00 in the rain and minimal visibility. As we left Clare and rounded the eastern tip, the submarines turned out to be fish farms, and the rocks turned out to be rocks.

We ploughed into unpleasant seas all the way to Achill Head, but once round the head we found kinder seas and more helpful winds. The original plan to anchor off Inishkea was dropped as the weather was not sufficiently settled, and we thought we were heading for Black Sod Bay until Martyn had the bright idea of pressing on to Broadhaven. It turned out to be a great idea as we had a superb sail outside Inishkea and round Erris Head.

We picked up an industrial size mooring by 18:00. It could probably secure a modest supertanker, so we should be OK.

We must record our increasing respect for the little yacht - a 28ft Twister - which is absolutely reassuring even in horrible seas, but also sails beautifully, showing a delightful turn of speed. On top of that, the conscientious previous owners (notably Don Henley) have made sure that all the fittings and equipment are of the highest standard. Even the outboard for the tender starts first time!

Tides were puzzling today. The tidal atlas prepared us for adverse tides for most of the leg north from Achill. In fact they were generally favourable. We are beginning to suspect that West coast tidal streams and eddies are mysteries yet to be revealed to us.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Clare Island

We said goodbye to Galway Bay on Wednesday when we rounded Slyne Head on the way to Inishbofin. This evening we said hello to Clew Bay when we arrived at the little harbour at the SE corner of Clare Island.

This is where Granuaile, or Grace O'Malley had her base, and we can see the remains of her castle overlooking the harbour.

Tomorrow looks like another early start to catch the tide round Achill Head. The sound of the wind outside our cosy cabin makes us wonder if we will be able to go. Nonetheless, the alarm must be set!


Departure for Inishbofin was delayed by a search on Inishmore for some essential supplies. Bread and water were easy but diesel was trickier.

The pilot book said it might be available from the fishermen's co-operative. We asked where this was to be found. The first conversation was along the lines of:
"where would we find the co-op?"
"Oh it's a long way"
"How far?"
"Oh a long long way."
"Half a mile, or a mile?"
"Yes. Past the pub."

We met the most bleary-eyed and dishevilled pub landlord ever. As we walked in search of the co-op, he staggered out of his front door. We asked about diesel and the co-op, he looked thoughtful, repeated the words several times as though he was sure he had heard them somewhere before but couldn't quite focus on them. He fed the hens as he thought, then was rescued by Tom walking by. "Tom, can you help these lads?"

Shortly afterwards we saw a large tanker driving up the road -the size that delivers domestic oil. We flagged it down and had two 10 litre cans filled at the side of the road.

The late departure meant a late arrival at Inishbofin. But it was a great relief to be in after the malevolent seas around Slyne Head. We dropped anchor at 22:00 in the perfectly sheltered harbour after skimming in past Cromwell's Fort and Bishop's Rock.

A lazy start to Thursday definitely required.

St Colman's Abbey, Inishbofin

Twice blessed?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Aran Islands

05:00 visibility check combined with last night's forecast encouraged us to get going. We could almost see the Three Sisters rocks as we left Smerwick but not quite. At least we could see roughly where they should be.

The sea across the Shannon entrance was a potent mixture of Atlantic swell and river exit tide. We were glad to be past Loop Head and into more settled swell. The only negative was the time taken to pass Loop Head - from 05:30 to 11:00. Most normal activities were transformed into a malevolent fairground ride. Going below to make the usual second breakfast was a nightmare of wayward ingredients. When I removed the grillpan from under the red hot grill, a knife, the Marmite, a wayward bottle of shampoo and the previously completed plate with toast disappeared into the empty space. Luckily Martyn did not observe the unhygienic chaos from which his breakfast emerged.

The rest of the day was spent on a glorious sail a long way off the coast past Kilkee and Lahinch towards Inishmore. Sidewinder lived up to her reputation in shrugging off the Atlantic swell and charged along under full main and genoa long after we should have reefed. Very reassuring.

Eventually good sense persuaded us to reduce sail but we still made good time northwards.

The Aran Islands look incredibly forbidding and barrenly rocky from the sea. Spray from breakers at the base of the cliffs was blowing up and over the cliff-tops to blight the land above. There was one small fertile-looking field visible near the Eastern end of Inishmore as we charged through Gregory Channel between the main island and Inishmaan.

An unusual feature of the day was the absence of emergencies on the VHF. Yesterday had three including two helicopter rescues. Every day there have been callouts for emergencies such as lost swimmers; boats with engine failures; a yacht drifting onto rocks; a medical emergency on Innishmore; or Coastguard responses to Mayday calls. Most of these obviously don't make the news, but it is interesting to note how many there are.

So we are sitting peacefully in the Aran Islands, smelling the peat burning, and celebrating being more than half way round.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Smerwick Harbour

Monday 05:30- ready to roll - but a visibility check sent us back (reluctantly of course) to our bunks. The latest sensible time to leave was 07:00, so a further check at 06:30 confirmed this was a day of rest. We really didn't want to be crossing the mouth of the Shannon without being able to see, or be seen by, the commercial shipping.

The jib was changed for the larger genoa, as we hope that some days of moderate winds are ahead. The waterline was scrubbed, a fraying rope whipped, routine engine maintenance completed, and tidal maps endlessly studied as part of the plan for the next leg. The tides are complicated around the mouth of the Shannon, so departure time needs to be right. Having toyed with an overnight passage the continued visibility problem forced a decision to wait for an 05:00 departure on Tuesday.

We contented ourselves with a sail around the open expanse of Smerwick Harbour, checking that the genoa did indeed increase our speed. The childish delight of the day was weighing anchor and re-anchoring across the bay under sail alone. Who needs a garden shed with fun like this to be had.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Shore leave

The economy in Caherciveen had a substantial boost from the crew of Sidewinder and the associated shoreparty. Laundry, diesel, provisioning, lunch, showers, dinner, and the occasional pint of Guinness all left the town considerably richer.

For anyone passing through Cahirciveen and looking for good food, Kate and Andrew Cooke's seafood restaurant "QC's" can be enthusiastically recommended.

We did have one minor mishap on Friday evening when we returned to the Marina to find we had been given a key for the showers rather than for the pontoon access. Just as well at least one member of the party was well practised in climbing fences (a mis-spent youth).

Sunday morning departure for the Blaskets was leisurely thanks to the tide times. However the river mist quickly became dense sea fog and we found ourselves navigating through the Blasket Sound without being able to see either the island or the mainland. The carefully plotted course on the chartplotter saw us through, but the combination of a tense lookout for other boats and some very nastily confused seas made it a far from relaxing day.

We made it to Smerwick Harbour and anchored near a little slip where the dedicated shore crew were waiting again. This time we were whisked off for something to eat before returning to move Sidewinder to a more sheltered anchorage off Ballydavid.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Crookhaven anchorage

Castlehaven / Castletownshend

Galley Head(s)

Old Head(s) of Kinsale

Early morning departure from Crosshaven


With mainsail already hoisted we slipped the mooring in a still-sleeping Crookhaven anchorage and pottered gently out past the Alderman Rocks. Mizen Head was only about 6 miles distant so we were able to celebrate our turn northwards before our second breakfast, having passed the south-western tip of Ireland.

Early morning departures usually involve a quick cup of tea and slice of bread and honey - consumed hurriedly and blearily while thinking about weather forecasts, engine checks, and practicalities of departure. So it is a necessary indulgence to have a more relaxed cup of tea and toast after the first couple of hours of the journey. This is of course followed by an endless succession of energy top-ups through the day, notably supplied by Jane's flapjacks or Maire's fruitcake.

Our route took us across Dunmanus Bay, Bantry Bay, Dursey Island and the wide entrance to Kenmare River. To seaward we left the Bull, Cow, and Calf Rocks. Great and Little Skellig were next and looked forbidding as ever. We sailed close by Puffin Island and saw thousands of the little birds. The highlight of the sailing day was our encounter with a greater number of dolphins than we had ever seen. There were hundreds of them making their way south and busily feeding. The sea in every direction around us was broken by their graceful leaping and diving.

The other highlight of the day was the arrival of the shore-crew in Caherciveen. A welcome sight indeed. Fresh supplies of a few essentials from home and a family catch-up.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Three havens

Crosshaven on Tuesday, Castlehaven on Wednesday, and Crookhaven tonight.

The absence of a blog entry on Wed was in no way connected with our meeting Robert and Freda Salter Townsend in Castletownshend. Robert is South Cork Sailing Club commodore, whose ensign we were flying. As well as entertaining us in Fuschia cottage they insisted that we should join them in Mary Anne's for dinner. We would of course have blogged but mobile phone reception is negligible in the village.

Today we left in a brisk F6 and sailed past the Stags, past Baltimore and through the Gascanane Sound before crossing Roaring Water Bay to Crookhaven. The wind was at times perfect, and occasionally gentle. A superb sail on one tack, including the Sound.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Long day

Up before 05:00 for an early start to catch the tide. A different country today. Lots of blue sky, sunshine, and moderate winds.

The route to Cork passed the impressive sights of The Hook lighthouse, (origin of the phrase 'by hook or by crook'), Minehead lighthouse, the all black Ballycotton lighthouse, and finally Roche's Point. The scenery was glorious with corn ripening in the fields and green farmland right up to the coastal cliffs.

By evening we sailed into the wide entrance of Cork Harbour and found a spare berth at Royal Cork Yacht Club.

A little light maintenance followed by yet another high calorie meal and suddenly it's time for bed before catching another early tide.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Two seasons

Everything they say about the fickle Irish weather was demonstrated today. The morning saw the sky low and blanketing with undifferentiated nimbostratus. The rain was almost incessant, but paused long enough from time to time to tempt the unwary into the open before punishing them wetly. But this evening there is some welcome blue sky and a glimpse of sunshine to lift the spirits.

More discussions with our old friend the harbourmaster confirmed that there was light at the end of this wet tunnel. Tuesday morning looks good for a westward passage and in our enthusiasm we thought of a 04:00 departure. He advised against it. The surprising reason was 'lobster pots'. There are so many off the coast here that it is best to have daylight in order to avoid them. There are 30,000 known to be laid between the Tuskar and Hook Head. Poor old lobsters. Not long for this part of the world.

A walk along the windswept beach, followed by the purchase of two further spare cans of diesel, seemed to fill the day remarkably.

The fishing boats are still tied up but there are signs that they too will be off early.

The rations designed for energetic sea passages are being consumed in harbour. Two very over-fed landlubbers will set sail tomorrow. With luck we will reach Crosshaven in the entrance to Cork Harbour. It would be tempting fate to own up to the optimistic plans beyond there.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Wind, rain and mist.

A planned escape at 06:00 today was abandoned with wind howling even in the shelter of the harbour. A later conversation with the harbourmaster confirmed the decision. "Ye'd be knocked to ****" was the professional opinion. "Do you think all them lobster boats want to be tied up there? When you see them move you'll know the weather's improving.". This seems likely to be a more reliable source of I information than MetEirann, whose belated warnings have become the stuff of wry jokes.

Plans for next stages expand in proportion to the frustration of being stuck. Don't be surprised if the next entry is from New England.

A day of catching up on minor tasks like shaving and rigging Barbour haulers for the jib sheets. It seemed appropriate to sample the pub for a lunchtime pint before feeding ourselves on toasted cheese on wheaten. This became true Sunday lunch with the addition of chips from the local carry-out.

Book reading; tide calculating; course plotting; a little doze; only to waken to find the wind still howling and the rain lashing. Such is Sunday in Kilmore in July.

Friday, 16 July 2010


Finally found the window between the gales and left Arklow at 11:00 Friday morning, pausing only to ring Joanna to wish her Happy Birthday. Niall O'Toole, the helpful Marina manager/ owner was undoubtedly sad to see us go. Virtue, a Dutch X37, left also on a similar southern route.

The careful tide and speed calculations were thrown out by the rough seas with wind against tide. Poor Sidewinder was hitting waves that almost stopped her in her tracks, so our average speed was less than predicted. Should have thought of that!

By the time we were nearing the inner passage past Tuskar we were seeing 30 kts over the deck and seriously contemplated Rosslare for the night. The anchorage looked unwelcoming and not particularly sheltered so we pressed on past Carnsore to St Patrick's Bridge and Kilmore Quay.

A slow passage west into the strong westerlies meant that diesel was again in demand. However the welcome sight of the channel buoys at St Patrick's Bridge (a very narrow and shallow passage) was enormously cheering.

Tied up at 21:00 on a pontoon in the fishing harbour. Celebrating getting round the bottom right hand corner tonight.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


A day of rain, gale warnings, and pottering. Stuck fast in Arklow until the gales subside.

On the positive side the Maritime Museum has been thoroughly examined (small but interesting - extolling the historical importance of Arklow in shipping and ship-building.); a purse found and returned to its owner; a strip of mahogany found and purchased (thanks to our helpful Marina manager); a higher fiddle screwed to the chart-table (no more charts on the floor on port tack thanks to Martyn's expert joinery); an internet cafe found and every conceivable weather forecast scrutinised for better news; and another pint of Guinness dutifully consumed.

Contemplating changing the blog to "holidays in Arklow", but maybe we will escape before autumn.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Small craft warning; sodden wetgear; human frailty; - all added up to staying in the secure mooring at Arklow.

As luck would have it, the Arklow festival is this week so a little music and Guinness may console us.

Martyn went exploring and met old-timers who had worked in Tyrrell's Boatyard where many famous yachts, including Gypsy Moth and Asgard, were built. The yard is sadly out of business.

Wexford looks as if it is off the itinerary. Our plan for today was met with incredulity by the local experts who regard the shoal entrance as best left to the locals.

So we wait for fair weather and tides to get round Carnsore Point and along to Kilmore and beyond. Delay again breeds impatience, but tides and wind are hard to argue with.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


The Monday night anchorage at Lambay was a treat in terms of wildlife. To add to the porpoises and hundreds of Sheerwaters we saw enroute, the birds on Lambay are amazing: Puffins; Guillemots; Razorbills; Cormorants; Shags; Kittiwakes; and even young Peregrines. They gave us a noisy but fascinating evening.

Morning saw quite a rolling swell which encouraged an early breakfast before a brisk sail inside Lambay and Ireland's Eye to make a quick visit to Howth Marina to top up the diesel.

Away from Howth by 11:30, we planned to reach Courtown by 19:30. We passed close by Belem of Nantes, a 3 masted square rigger which looked bound for Dun Laoghaire.

Rising wind and rough seas by 17:00 forced a change of plan and a challenging entrance to Arklow. Strong Easterlies make the shore unwelcoming and the harbour entrance somewhat daunting. In our efforts to ensure a head-to-rain mooring we discovered how shallow the river becomes. Yet another little learning experience.

Two drowned rats safely tied up in Arklow and preparing to sample Martyn's skill in the Galley.

Monday, 12 July 2010


A gentle first day. Light easterlies required the help of the engine. Sidewinder diverted from the planned route to Howth and anchored at 17:30 in Saltpan Bay on Lambay. A very noisy bird sanctuary. The plan is to pop in to Howth in the morning to top up the diesel before sailing down to Arklow.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


The intrepid sailor walking down Church Road Holywood at 08:00 this morning to buy the Sunday papers was not Allen's double. A discussion at 06:30 concluded that the wind and the morning forecast (F5 - 7 gusty) would lead to a slow and uncomfortable first leg. Delaying until the wind eased would mean that the tide was unfavourable, so the logic was to wait 24 hours. Very disappointing to miss the planned time but the old saying "better to be in wishing you were out, than out wishing you were in" seemed appropriate. Sidewinder fully loaded, provisioned, and itching to go.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Testing the e-mail posting to blog

Allen Young

10 July

Packed, provisioned and almost ready. Off early tomorrow morning and prepared to make it up as we go along. Plan to leave Ardglass at 08:00 Sunday 11th. Wind and weather permitting. If all goes according to plan we might be in Howth for Sunday evening. If not, welcome back to Ardglass.