Rathmullan Pier near Letterkenny

Saturday, 26th of July

When Colm and Anne arrived, the wind had turned northwest 4-5 which made the anchorage in Kilcummin very rolly so I decided that we would sleep ashore. A B&B in Killala was arranged which gave me a chance to rest since I had just had 2 long unconcomfortable passages followed by a rolly night. On the sunday morning we left with a northwest 4-5 on the beam. Soon we were creaming along at 6+ knots heading for the Sligo coast. Out of the mist Strandhill emerged, followed later by Benbulben. The impressive skyline provided the backdrop for Mullaghmore where we anchored off shortly after lunch after a good first passage for Colm and Anne. The bouncy seas were a good test and helped perople gat their sea legs on the first day. The following day it was a short 10 mile spin into Killybegs to restock with fuel, food and gas. As we approached the pleasant light wind died off and a drizzly haze came down. This meant that our stopover bacame an overnight stop. But Killybegs, like Castletownbere, was quiet as the fishing fleet were not very busy. I certainly was missing the hustle and bustle of work gettin done at the quays that I had seen before. Indeed, this has been a characteristic of the trip as a whole. The bigger trawlers are tied up without quota to fish and the very small vessels which would have been putting out salmon nets are now banned from the EU from doing so. It means that the few boats we have seen this summer are few and mostly small going after prawns, mackrel and lobster. You would have to say that the protests by the fishermen talking of an industry in meltdown do seem justified.

We left Killybegs the next morning with thick drizzly haze and poor visibility to head around towards the westernmost point of Donegal, Rathlin O'Bierne island. But light winds and sloppy seas made us decide to go into Teelin instead after less than 10 miles. This is a small pier in an idylic picturesque location beside Slieve Liag, which sadly was obscured by the mist. Gradually it lifted a bit and then we were joined by Mark and Andrea on Arazar, a Moody 33, from Portsmouth. They had, in a fit of madness, after sailing for a few years, decided to remortgage their flat in London, buy a boat, take a career break and go sailing for 4-6 months. Their shakedown cruise for this, their first boat, was a sail around Ireland, a bit of Scotland and then down to Brittany. God bless their enthusiasm !!! But they were enjoying it and learning loads from the experience so far. Naturally one thing lead to another and we ended up in the pub that night listening to a good local acoustic band talking sailing, mountais bikes and Colm's new religion, "Residents", dedicated it seems to all those poor people who can't get served in the residents lounge in hotels. Well at least that is what is sounded like after a couple of pints !!

The next day we had light winds and leftover low clouds which obscured the top of Sliabh Liag again. So we motored on sloppy seas past the west coast of Donegal as far as Church Pool, an anchorage near Portnoo. It is a sheltered cove off an island connected to the mainland by a causeway. The village is like Brittas Bay for "nordies": every car seems to come from the north, but then again, it is marching season. We had a brief pint before heading back, the "lads" to "potter" (ie find silly little things to fix, move, repair, etc) and Anne to "fooster" (cook, clean, make the inside of the boat pretty, etc). Luckily Anne's work was successful and we dined on a lovely baked sea trout with lots of herbs. The following morning started well as we headed north for Colm's navigation test: taking us through the shallow rock strewn sound between Aranmore and the mainland. This is only passable halfway up the tide or more and demanded careful vigilance to verify all the different beacons. Unluckily for him the rain came down reducing visibility a lot and making his job that bit harder. But he had his serious head on and got us through with no major worries. By this stage the little wind there was died off and we were back motoring again on calm seas north to Tory Island.

Naturally, on berthing in the small harbour, we were greeted by the King, Patsy Dan who is famed for greeting all new arrivals. The island is two miles long with boggy stony soil. The only animals we saw were a few hens and some sheep. Not much else would survive here. Despite this, there is reputed to be a population of 170 people on the island who speak Irish with an accent/dialect that I couldn't understand a word of. The following morning we headed out with 22 knots of wind which died after and hour and we were back on the engine again as the seas turned lumpy for a bit before calming near Fanad Lighthouse at the entrance of the Swilly. Not great sailing but at least we had brought the boat on time to Letterkenny, something which looked doubtful a couple of weeks back when I was stuck in Blacksod. Naturally we celebrated with a beer or two and a meal out in The Bonan Bui restaurant in Rathmullan with John Joe, who I delivered a boat here for at Easter last year. Now all I had to do was persuade John Joe's wife Margaret that going to Scotland on the boat would be great fun !!!!!