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Day Sailing to Connemara.

February 1st, 2008 · 4 Comments

Summer cruise 2004 to the West Coast of Ireland aboard our X332 – Madog

I was looking for pictures of Mary and thought you might like to see the whole story.

Mary wrote this for the cruising log competion. This won the Millenium Quaich at Port Edgar Yacht Club.

So this is the beginning of our 784.2mile adventure. The lockers are full; water tanks full; diesel still to come and we are both shattered. Well that’s what happens when you try to leave home, all sorts of things have to be done before you go. The outlook is going to be good – well, after night’s sleep it is.

The plan is to enjoy the west coast of Ireland. Sailing in sight of the Twelve Pins in the Connemara National Park would be great. Sailing by days only would mean that we could sail together. The question is can we achieve both.

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Sunday 18th July.

David, the dog, Bhreacan, and myself drop the mooring (well we didn’t all drop the mooring I dropped the buoy on my own) around 9am and set sail towards Oban. SW6 and we are entering Oban Bay to collect some fuel from Kerrera. When around Oban you always hear MacBraynes or CalMac announcing their arrival on the radio. How often I’ve wanted to announce our arrival to them! Quite a number of Classic Malt Cruise boats up on their ear making passage to Tobermory. Anyway we dropped sails, tied up at Kerrera, collected fuel, sails up on our way again to one of our favourite anchorages although now it’s always busy – Puilladobhrain. Anchor down and time to pump up the dinghy to go ashore, well the dog needs a walk to the pub.

Monday 19th July

Now we’re off a 6.30am start in the general direction of Colonsay. Good SW4 wind and anchor goes down at Balnahard Bay. Off ashore to collect cowrie shells these are lovely little pink shells and there is always competion to find the most David’s excuse he had to look after the dog! Back on board for a leisurely lunch, only to find that the wind drops and we drift along until giving in to the engine. But not for long up the wind gets now in the SE to 5.We drop the hook off Nave Island, West Islay watched by seals not the quietest anchorage but a good place if your hoping to go to Ireland.

Tuesday 20th July

IMG_0033.jpgAt 0550 there is a fantastic sunrise over Islay and Jura. Today the plan is to sail to Sheep Haven, Ireland. Hence the early start to keep to the plan of arriving in daylight. Good idea to sail in the dry but that’s not going to happen today, its grey and misty. David has the course planned out so that we avoid the overfalls that are dotted around the chart, just have to follow the compass there’s nothing else to see. Well there are accounts that there is a floating log 3 ft wide by 20 foot long so that’s something to look out for. A lovely quiet sail with the SE winds helping us making good progress at least that’s the comments from the cockpit but its cosy down below and what is better than dozing in your bunk on a sailing boat. That is until you need a reef in the main and then its more exciting to be up on deck all-be-it in the rain. Average speed 6.5 and 80 miles on the log not that speed is everything! 1750hrs we are looking for the buoys in Downings Bay, Sheep Haven as described in the pilot book, well there aren’t any. Anchor down with trip line in case the remains are on the seabed. Dinghy out, the dog needs ashore, we just happen to pass a pub, rude not to stop quite smart place so thought it polite to ask if we could take the dog in our reply yes as long as he doesn’t smoke, I think some folk find the no smoking law in bars difficult and if they were not allowed then the dog certainly wasn’t.

Wednesday 21st July

Not such an early start today, David sorts a small diesel leak. then we lift the anchor. Now we are working our way westward along the coast towards Bunbeg and Gweedore harbour. Good SW5. Both of us on deck the dog prefers it down below when its windy and we’re sailing away from the coast (no good land smells) after an hour the wind has increased, after another IMG_0043.jpghour it is up to SW 7 to 8. The sea is like my Christmas cake decoration, white frothy peaks all over the place. The only fishing boat out is coming quite close, we inspect for nets. Good no nets. One less thing to worry about he’s obviously tidying decks. Now he’s cutting through the waves. We tack and end up sailing parallel to him matching his full throttle speed. A good five minutes we watch him closely then he abruptly stops and puts out nets. At 1458hrs we take the shelter of Gola Island. Oh, the joy of picking the correct anchorage with a flat sea and little or no wind. Selecting the right place to stop within the anchorage often involves going round in circles checking depths; this must look strange from the shore. We needn’t have worried there was no one on the shore when we had our daily shore inspection. There were however lots of derelict properties many of then with planning applications posted outside. We wandered along to one of the leading line posts on the shore, good sandy shoreline here, which Bhreacan enjoys.

Thursday 22nd July

Still windy out at sea the icing is being broken by the jaws of the rocks that lie between Tory Island and us. So we decide that having a day in Bunbeg would be a good idea, timing is all important as the channel dries or at least has less water in it than we need. Following the channel and the directions in the pilot book we weave our way up the river and for anyone going, you do have to follow the curve of the rock before the Bluff (mind you next year the sands will have moved). Picking up a ring on the Bluff rock is an option in the book but we reject that in favour of picking up a buoy in the pool just above the entrance to Bunbeg. For now its flat calm in the sheltered river and David decides it’s a good place to go up the mast and do something fiddling sorry something technical. Three local boys on the rocks are watching and trying to have a conversation with us; we’re rather preoccupied getting all the bits for fiddling up the mast together. Just when I’m ready to heave the boys go. The temptation to tie David off at the top and go and make a cup of tea is very strong but we still have a couple of weeks alone together and he might get his own back so I wait till the OK let me down comes.

Friday 23rd July

IMG_0062.jpgNow the tide and wind are such that the boat without a mast on the buoy downstream from us is lying to the wind and we are lying to the tide, the result, we have to fend off, not what you want to do before breakfast in your night attire. The tide soon slackens and we both lie to the wind. Good I can get dressed now. David does the advance shore party only to find that the harbour has been dredged and there is room for us to lie along side the wall. In we go, tie up along side a couple of fishing boats have the official inspection from the locals, end up drinking whisky and putting crab tails in the cold box. It’s a small world they say, we met Calum from Sligo Yacht Club who keeps in contact with a Canadian 28ft boat cruising in Europe with father and two daughters on board who David met in St Kilda earlier in the year. Calum has been stuck in Bunbeg for a few days whether it was the weather or the whisky I’m not sure.

Saturday 24th July

Ferry and fishing boats are staying in today and so are we – well I said I was. We thought a walk up into the town to inspect the urban sprawl close up and perhaps have a meal in the pub would be a good idea. NW corner of Ireland, Bloody Foreland, has lots of houses strung out along the coast like a string of pearls. No housing estates just good size houses each with its own long unmade drive. Found a bookshop with lots of Irish books thought it best to stick to the English. The pub on the quay does reasonable food for a reasonable price. It’s proud that its mentioned in McCartney’s Round Ireland with a Fridge book (his challenge was to hitch hike around Ireland carrying a mini bar sized fridge) . There was a good walk from the harbour. Up the hill at the harbour entrance from here it was easy to see the deep-water channel especially at low water. The only disadvantage was there were lots of ticks but that provided us with something to do when we got back to the boat. Planning to move on tomorrow we hope the weather improves.

Sunday 25th July

1100hrs Left Gweedore Harbour punching into the last of the tide and confident we were in the channel was having seen it from the hill. Not sad to leave – we were both itching to get on our way again. With the westerly wind, we made good progress towards Aran Sound and found the mooring buoys at Aranmore. Unfortunately they were all taken by fishing boats or their catch in wooden boxes. But using the anchor is not a problem for the skipper. He positions the boat and then instructs the other crew member to drop the anchor. This time there was life on the island with shop and café and of course a pub or two. David takes the dinghy back to the boat or so I think and I walk a bit further along the coast with the dog. I’m going to be picked up at the old quay further along. Well the skipper finds someone to talk to. Lola is a classic boat based in Eigg. After my waving from the shore he comes to pick me up and we go back to Lola for him to finish his beer. Simon from Eigg and Robb from Portree are on their way back from the classic boat event at Douarnenez, France. They’ve had a fast passage with the strong winds from the Aran Islands, SW of Galway.

Monday 26th July

Aranmore towards Broad Haven crossing Donegal Bay requires an early start so that’s what happened. 0607hrs and we were off. Winds from the west 3s and 4s relaxing sailing although there’s always the Atlantic swell. No land to be seen for a long time, David keeps careful log readings then at last land, or is it, sometimes when you want to see land you think you can only to find it’s a cloud that moves. Eventually there was definite land there was also definite fishing boat shapes and not just one. Why am I so obsessed with spotting fishing boats, well here in Ireland they put out floating salmon nets that can be a mile long. Usually they come away from the headlands. There is no large buoy marking the beginning or the end. The only indication of where the net is, is the fishing boat moving up and down alongside his net. So we decide to detour outside of the boats, then the last boat suddenly starts full steam ahead towards us, OK so we’re heading for his net. He escorts us around and while all this is happening a school of common dolphins arrive and escort us too. They are fantastic creatures they swish in and out of the water under our bow and up again going at the same speed as us having a great time playing. It’s so good to see them. Well here in Broad Haven we find some IMG_0091v2.jpgvisitor buoys and we loop our rope on. It’s been a long day now 2045hrs, 85 miles should have been 73 so I guess the current was against us all the way in addition to some tacking at the end!

Tuesday 27th July

Broad Haven towards Blacksod Bay. Good clear morning light winds. After the famous Erris Head we weaved in and around the rocks inside Eagle Island. The heavy swell breaks dramatically on the rocks close to the surface. Sun cream required in double dose, we always put some on in the morning but today more required I’m just trying to rub it in that the sun was out today. Too nice a day to stop, so onwards past Blacksod bay. Wind dropped to nothing for a while then rose enough to put the spinnaker up once we turned Achill Head. Creaming along with the gentle breeze time for a mid afternoon or perhaps early evening aperitif, with olives. Clare Island very clearly ahead of us, nobody on the horizon. Pilot book required on deck, good anchorage in the middle of the east side of Clare Island, excellent time for a refill. Somehow its now 2030 arrived at anchor site, no they can’t mean here, no must mean further along, off we go 400yds no that’s is definitely the old slip must be back there. Neither of us liked the look of the very rocky shore no sign of sand or mud. Right, lets go somewhere else, experience tells us you never get a good night sleep if your not happy with the anchor – so charts out. We decide that the islands guarding the entrance to Westport is a good option. If we motor flat out through the calm sea we’ll be there as the IMG_0146.jpgsun sets, there is going to clear skies and a big moon. All we need is careful reading of pilot book to be certain we know where exactly we’re going and what lines to follow. Engine humming, buoys spotted and ticked off, sunset fantastic behind us, light is fading, lighthouse is getting closer, now past, round behind the first island, over to the next, anchor down in Dorinish More and time to take the dog ashore and have supper. Tins again tonight. What a super day.

Wednesday 28th July

Another good day – a trip up to Westport threading our way past lots of islands in the dinghy (they claim there are as many islands as the days in a year!). We walk around Westport and have a shop for fresh food. Then back to the boat. Planning to stay in this area another night but move round to Collan More north of Rosmoney Hill where the Mayo Sailing Club has a brand new sailing clubhouse. We follow the channel and though the narrow gap. This is the first time on our trip that we’ve seen lots of sailing boats together. Most days we only see perhaps one boat on the horizon and a couple of fishing boats and that’s it. But here there are 30 or so all in neat trots. David is hoping to get fuel, but no facilities at the club for diesel however one friendly sailor, John Lambe offers to take our cans fill them up and deliver them back in the morning. How good was that.

Thursday 29th July

Discover that we’re on the local X 332 mooring – Roxanne. No wonder it was comfortable here last night. The once empty cans now full on quay as arranged. At 1245 we release the buoy and swoosh out of the gut. Out of the shelter we’re in a force 4 westerly so we’re beating and off we go towards Inishbofin. Tacking backwards and forwards we make good progress. Life is never dull when your beating always something to pull in my case often David’s leg. Past Roonah Quay and on towards Inishturk and then round into the harbour at Inishbofin. IMG_0168v2.jpgThe channel into the harbour has a leading line, which takes you close to the rocks once in there is plenty of space to drop the anchor. We find a lovely little restaurant for our supper in Connemara and a pub down the road for the local banter.

Friday 30th July

Day starts as postcard writing day and then a little shopping in the local shop. Anchor up and back out through the channel, reverse of the leading lines, and this time we’re heading northwards back home. We were so relaxed coming out of the quiet harbour, that it was rather a shock to the system when leaving the shelter of the islands we landed in what can only be described as a most horrendous cross sea. There was little chance of swerving around the waves and we ended up, having to tack downwind. There was no sign of the little squiggly lines on the chart, no hint of any type of overfalls at all. We could not even see the end of it, so grin and bear it we did and the dog went down below disgusted. Finally the sea seemed to improve and back onto our original course – forty miles to the Inishkea islands. IMG_0180.jpgAnchor went down under sail, which always feels better than having to start the engine. The Inishkeas are deserted islands now but in the past was a very busy whaling station. There are lots of derelict houses along the shore. This evening one side of the island has a flat calm sea the other only a few hundred yards away had the Atlantic swell crashing on to the rocks.

Saturday 31st July

Another early start that means David goes ashore 05:30 with Bhreacan and I listen for the forecast switching on the record button on the Dictaphone then drop off to sleep till my alarm buzzes (that is the outboard on the dinghy). Then I leap out of the bunk, put on the kettle, get dressed just in time to supervise the shore party coming back on board. Then down below again to make the coffee, and breakfast is eaten on the way. We have a SW3 spinnaker up and a warm almost hot day, by 10:30 the wind is down to SW2 and by lunch time we’re calm engine is on, books and sun-cream out and George is working overtime. Have I not talked about George before, well he’s like the bank manager we keep him in the locker he’s very useful, doesn’t eat anything doesn’t answer back and nearly always comes out when we taking sails down or we’re becalmed and the engine is on. It’s a long long way across Donegal Bay with no wind. Changing the speed of the motor (gives me another key to hum in) we keep a lookout for boats and floating logs but only see a large seal, he follows us for a short while. With a slight detour we could be quite close to the M4 weather buoy, which on the chart looks like a cruise liner but in fact, is the size of a normal buoy dripping with technology. IMG_0193v2.jpgReading the pilot book again we like the look of Glen Bay provides temporary anchorage if there is no swell with winds from NE through SE to SW. Etc We have no wind and little swell at 1900 we’re there, but we don’t like it. They didn’t talk about the froth on the surface. We don’t propose to sleep on the snowy bubbles looks like the washing machine has a burst pipe. Out of Glen Bay and on to Church Pool. The sun sets as the anchor drops. 83 miles on the log for the day.

Sunday 1st August

Motoring round to Portnoo where the locals line the harbour wall until we get into the dinghy then they all vanish. Trip up to the shop, that’s always the problem arriving by sea, you always have to go up hill when you arrive ashore! Sent David into the shop for the milk and bread and he comes out with three bags all goodies, all necessary. Now this is the sail I enjoyed the most not because we had a good SE5 or because we had scones and jam with our coffee but because the max speed was 9.6knots highest to date and I was helming. Tory Island was upon us in no time this is the island to north and west of Ireland. Recently has had a new pier built (information from the ferryman at Bunbeg). In we went and tied up along side a Trapper 500. Investigated the local hotel stayed a while to take in the atmosphere. Retired to either a much higher harbour wall or was it a lower boat, perhaps it had something to do with the tide or some other liquid.IMG_0208v2.jpg

Monday 2nd August

Decided to stay a 2nd night in Tory Island. We wanted to explore the primitive artwork and the island. After our tour round the art gallery and a walk to the lighthouse we thought we should fill up with water when there was a tap right on the pier used by the ferry. However as I was just about to turn on the tap I was told that the new water supply was no good and I would be better to use the water from the well. The well in the middle of the village had a deluxe pump but was half a mile from the quay maybe we don’t need much water. The Trapper left and in no time a Malo38 was on our outside. Trevor was sailing single-handed round Ireland this year and we enjoyed his company over lunch and a curry supper, Sainsburys best.

Tuesday 3rd August

Tory Island towards Fahan is the plan westerly wind so with the spinnaker up we make good progress until we spot a fishing boat, is it fishing or not, mmm lets take the spinnaker down, as at the moment we’re on a collision course. Well he’s not fishing, just aiming for us or so it seems, we needed to take the spinnaker down anyway we’re changing direction, right. We lay the anchor under sail at Port Salon, watched by Trevor who has got there before us, he invites us to dinner tonight its Marks and Spencer curry and some random leftover tins all tastes good the one thing that never seems to run out is the wine. That was all good too. What a night we had discussing sailing gear, the uses of a spinnaker, the advantage of having a windlass or a wife, and generally winding each other up.

Wednesday 4th August

Still towards Fahan this time we make it to the brand new marina the only one we’ve been in all holiday. New showers, so new that the hole in the tray goes straight down into the ground. I won’t complain the water was hot, no token or timer, so no danger of getting the shampoo on and then having to rinse in freezing water. Luxury. Not only was there an abundance of hot water, we didn’t have to pay, just sign the book. Mind you we were leaving again that night, we wanted another early start the next day and the tides were such that we would not have got out of the marina until mid morning. So that night we spent on a buoy in Macamish Bay

Thursday 5th August

An early start, dog ashore, off the buoy with the recorded forecast by 0610. Recording the forecast was something we started when sailing in France and Denmark. For two reasons one we are not fluent in French or any other language and two we could not guarantee that the three children would remain quiet through the often crackly transmission, not that we wanted to play with their Fisher Price tape recorder no, no. We’re on our way home. David really likes sailing on his own, and I thought that I would be doing him a favour if I stayed out of his way in my bunk .The fact that I slept most of the morning is neither here nor there. He seemed to be coping. He was certainly getting around the overfalls and keeping the boat moving. After lunch I put my head up to find rain and a good wind. By the time we reached the north end of Islay we have two reefs in the main and two rolls on the genoa, visibility is not so good but speed is increasing 9.5 knots hit. Bhreacan comes on deck when he smells land. Thirteen hours and 86miles after leaving Ireland we put the anchor down in Loch Tarbert, Jura.IMG_0237.jpg

Friday 6th August

Surprise, surprise a lazy start to the day. We have a trip onto the raised pebble beaches to find a sleeping adder that we left sleeping. Then away towards Dunstaffnage but as with all good sailing trips just because you start going in one direction doesn’t mean that’s where you go, we spent the night in Loch Spleve Mull. We had no wind and we’re in no hurry to get back to our own mooring in Loch Creran so Loch Spleve it was. Bhreacan who had up until now made very little noise on the boat decided to speak to the sheep on the shore so if you were in Loch Spleve that night the long spooky howling noise at dusk was our dog.

Saturday 7th August

Loch Spleve to Loch Creran via Dunstaffnage was what we actually did. There was next to no wind but at one point we were sailing faster than what wind there was so if anyone out there can explain that to me please do. 784.2 on the log; empty food lockers; little water and some diesel left. We’re both refreshed, it really works this no night sailing and we got to see Connemara. What a trip we’ve had and now we’re back planning the next.IMG_0266.jpg

Tags: Photographs

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Charlene Schroeder // May 28, 2010 at 2:18 am

    You’ve done it again. Great post.

  • 2 Mary // Jun 1, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Glad you enjoyed the post. Are you planning on sailing to Ireland? You can see from our latest blog we are currently in New Zealand and enjoying the delights of The Boat Yard.

  • 3 gary oneill // Jun 11, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Used to sail on madog with hugh alban davies…did many cross channel races on her in the 1990s…great fun….x

  • 4 David // Jun 12, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Yes. Sensed that Madog was sailed a lot. We enjoyed racing her on the east coast around Edinburgh. The X332 makes an excellent cruising boat as well since you can guarantee good daily distances.