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.

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