Castletownbere, West Cork, Tues June 16th
We left on saturday morning for the shorty 3 hour hop to Greystones. There were headwinds coming in later so we elected to leave early on the tide to make sure we made the most of the conditions. It was a lovely flat calm sail close to the wind most of the way, a great way of starting a trip. The last 2 miles the winds did indeed follow the forecast and come onto the nose but Anne and I enjopyed the trip nonetheless. Shortly after We were joined by Eoin, Brian and Noel heading in different directions after.
I for one was glad the first spin was reliatively short as I was very tired before leaving. Getting organised for the end of work and all the reports is tiring. Add in the jobs to do on the boat and you need a few easy days to start to allow you to recharge the batteries. Anyway, we had a social night in the beach bar before heading south to Arklow the next day. We initially had a beam reach with gusts from 12 to 18 knots, but the sailing was good with Suckin' Diesel looking after us. When we pased Wicklow Head we found the wind came closer to the nose, gusted a bit more, and we reefed in to keep on truckin south. We even had to tack into shore to keep on sailing. Approaching Arklow the winds eased a bit and soon we were in the channel only to be pleasantly surprised by the fact that the commercial harbour now has pontoons installed and had been dredged to 2.5 metres. Even better, the pontoons were only 10 euros a night !!! We knew that we were going to be in Arklow for at least two nights so not having to raft off trawlers was great.
There was a strong blow forecast with gusts over 50 knots and then the wind coming round to the southwest. This meant that we knew we would be in Arklow for a few days. The other boats we were sailing with were trying to head south as well
but their next destination was Milford Haven which meant that a southwest wind would do them, but it would have to ease and the seas go down. Anne and I would need to wait longer for the wind to come from a more northerly direction for us to consider setting off for the Scillies. We had to wait which was a welcome rest for us after the rush to get ready over the last weeks. But in Anne's case, she was so run down that she got a bad cold which travelled down into her chest and she was bed ridden for 3-4 days. I got a touch of it as well but Lemsip more or less stopped it for me. We ended up a week in Arklow out of Anne's precious 2 week holiday. But in the end the weather eased and we had a better forecast of northeasterly winds so we set off for Kilmore Quay to be ready for stepping off for the Scillies. By now Anne was fed up understandably of being sick and was anxious to get moving.
The winds were light but sailable for the first 2 hours but evantually eased away and we motorsailed for an hour before giving up and putting the engine on. We motored past Rosslare and around Carnsore Point where we found foul tide, something which we didn't expect. We had found the same after a crossing from Milford Haven two years ago. That was something we would have to get local advice on later. But we got into Kilmore Quay at 9.30pm and had a quick bite before heading to bed early ready for the off the next day. Anne was still weak but improving and excited for the off.
The next day we looked at the weather grib files and saw lightish favorable winds near Ireland but increasing to 20+ knots 40 miles out and staying like that all the way to the Scillies. In the Scillies themselves the forecast was for strong winds (force 5-7) for the next few days. I knew that if we could comfortably get there, we could ride out a blow in the islands but I was nervous of a long windy passage to get there. So I decided to wait a day in Kilmore for an improvement in passage conditions 24 hours later. Anne was not pleased. She is more gung ho than me and better able to put up with hardship so she was not pleased to be hanging around. The following day the forecast had not improved and didn't look like improving for the forseeable days. We couldn't hang around Kilmore any longer as it was a waste of Anne's valuable holidays, so we decided to abandon the Scillies plan and head to West Cork instead. The forecast gave lighter northeasterlies along the Irish South coast, ideal for downwind sailing.
We left Kilmore at 3pm using the newfound knowledge of the local tidal streams for best effect. The wind was 12-15 knots behind us and we were determined to do some real sailing after our disappointment. In glorious sunshine we poled out the headsail in a goosewing and found that setup really stable. We were able to keep the main powering us along and the yankee staying filled meant we didn't roll too much. We sailed like this past Hook Head, heading 50 miles for Youghal. We saw a lot of fishermens pot buoys along the way, many of them with flags fitted, something you do not see very often in Ireland. We hoped they would stop before the sun set as we knew we would be ariving into Youghal in the dark. The winds eased as we passed Mine Head and we motorsailed for an hour before losing the wind completely. Anne did a great job keeping us lined up for the entry into Youghal. We saw no pot buoys luckily and the Lighthouse guided us in reassuringly. The street lights of the town gave us enough to identify where moorings and other boats were so we found an anchoring spot easily. After dropping the hook we were off to bed, tired after the long day but glad to be moving.
The next morning was sunny with a light northeasterly breeze which we took past Ballycotton on pleasant seas. Before Cork harbour the winds died completely and we motored in to find a sailing breeze inside for an hour before we approached East Ferry on the eastern side of Big Island. We decided to avoid marinas if at all possible so we went past East Ferry Marina to anchor in the large pool to the north of the island. It was a lovely spot, surrounded on all sides by land and nature. We chilled out before having a big feed, a game of Dominoes and then bed.
The next morning was overcast with a little more wind forecast. We sailed down the harbour in 10 knots and once outside the wind eased a bit before returning from astern at 15 knots or so. We again poled out the yankee and we were off towards the Old Head of Kinsale. The seas quickly produced 1.5 metres of fetch, making steering difficult as the swells passed under the boat. We set Harry the Hydrovane to try to save battery consumption, and Harry managed really well. We did swing a little but Harry brought us back on course each time. Anne was learning lots about the merits of poling out headsails and how to make Harry work. Approaching the Head we found the wind was now gusting to over 20 knots so we double reefed the main and took in a little headsail. This made the boat more controllable and easier for Harry to keep us on course. After rounding the Head we found the seas eased a little but we were sailing well in the moderate downwind conditions, very glad that we had got the skinnaker poles as they made the boat so well balanced.
We entered Glandore slowly looking out for the Adam and Eve rocks and once inside we found a lot more moorings than I remember. We had to hunt around for a spot to drop the hook but found one away from the channel the trawlers use. Again we decided not to go ashore. We just ate some grub with a glass or two and got to bed early. The next day forecast light winds and seas. We sailed on a poled out headsail again towards Baltimore before losing the wind and motoring the rest of the way to South Harbour on Clear Island. Once settled, this time we decided to go ashore after not having been off the boat in 3 days. We wandered down to the Ferry harbour on the north side of the island, before finding a marked loop trail map and we went off to explore. We got to see lots and really enjoyed the sights all around the island at different stages on the trail. Initially our legs definitely felt jellyish from lack of exercise, but they loosened up after an hour or so.
The next morning we had very little wind for the trip out 4 miles to the famous Fastnet Rock and Lighthouse. The seas were like glass and perfect for getting close to the famous rock. On rounding we found the light winds were just about sailable close hauled on the way to round Mizen Head on smooth seas. After the head, the wind came more from astern and too light to use so we motored up Dunmanus Bay taking in the savage beauty of the landscape on both sides of us. We anchored in Kitchen Cove at Ahkista, just in time to have a couple of pints in the pub overlooking the anchorage. That was why we had come to West Cork.
From there it was a motor back down the Bay before rounding into Bantry Bay. Anne wanted to go to Glengarriff and Garinish Island with its famous gardens. Even me, a gardening averse person, could appreciate the beauty and imagination it took to bring hundreds of tons of soil to the island and then lay out such a marvel. After a brief wander ashore we decided there were too many tourists and so headed the short distance to Bantry for Anne's last night. We had a lovely stroll around the town before eating out to celebrate the end of a great week's sailing. Just a pity the previous week wasn't what you would want on your holidays.......