Saturday 10 June Weather dictates
My favourite plan to start a trip to West Ireland is to dedicate 20-30 hours overnight on a westward thrust to get a good number of miles under the belt and avoid the trap of arriving in the south-east and then having to hack down the south-west trending coast. So Jon flew into Bristol from Amsterdam on Friday, was picked up by Phil and would have headed straight over to Pembroke Dock ready for a start around midday Saturday. However, westerly gales occupied the whole screen on the mobie, so I put the boys off for at least a day, and they sauntered up later on Saturday. We made the best of it with a curry and pub, not needing to hold back as the chances of sailing on Sunday seemed pretty hopeless.
Sunday 11 June Pembroke Dock – Dale 8.3nm
A slow start to the day and much poring over very uninviting weather forecasts. The chances of the favourite plan working even on Monday were scotched by a predominantly west wind, so with the urge to get on with what we were all here for we decided to get the beat down the haven over with today before starting out on Monday when the wind was due to moderate a bit. There was quite a sea running even at the Hobbs Point pontoon which had Leonore bucking wildly as we loaded up with some foreboding. Off we set late afternoon with just a scrap of genoa, tack tack tack got the winch monkeys sweating with the wind in the early 30s and a max of 42kts (force 9). One spot of luck with this plan was that high tide enabled us to tie up on the land pontoon at Dale and have a good drink and meal at the Griffin without getting wet.
Monday 12 June Dale – Kilmore Quay 73.1nm
The wind howled all night, which was expected, but I was not happy with the way it continued into the early light hours and so was pessimistic about the viability of starting out today. However by about 10 o’clock there was a definite moderation and we had breakfast to check it was really going to stay that way. Unfortunately the late moderation meant the sea was still up and we prepared for a bashing whilst the plan against the westerly was to head south west on starboard, and hope for a backing to allow port tack to take us somewhere west, perhaps Dungarvan...in my dreams! We stuck a couple of hours out on starboard and took such a bashing that we couldn’t see ourselves putting up with it through the night and so switched to port tack and settled for Kilmore Quay. Having some westing under our belts this looked possible and we seemed to be making west of Grassholm, but in the end couldn’t manage that and grazed as close as we dared to the east coast, holding our noses grimly against the stench of guano.
At first we made course for Kilmore, but tide pulled us away and we ended up well down on course but we weren’t going to tack again and at the point of running into shallows east of Kilmore resorted to the engine to climb back up to St Patrick’s Bridge. It was well dark by now and after some scary moments getting the main down over rocky areas the crew were impressed and very grateful that the skipper was familiar with the way in! It was 2 am time we were pontooned and settled with a whisky, quite exhausted.
Tuesday 13 June Kilmore Quay – Dunmore East 20.1nm
We already knew that the tide would be going east all morning, so a lay in was declared and we gradually rehabilitated with showers and breakfast before making ready to leave around midday. Out in the daylight the channel leading marks made sense to the crew and once safe we headed across Ballyteighe Bay tacking towards Hook Head in a nicely moderate southwesterly.
Rounding the head closely we bore off to the north across Waterford Harbour entrance to the harbour at Dunmore East. Here we discovered the massive new (to us) pontoon and selected a spot to circle into, with some help from the big aluminium boat we pulled up in front of. We were in time to catch the Harbourmaster and were shown around his well-appointed new domain whilst paying our dues. A quick call to my old local friend Tom Kennedy and we fixed to meet him at Powers Bar after dinner, which we had at the excellent Azzuro – Italian, but with Guinness for us who wanted! A very congenial night followed in the bar with Tom.
Wednesday 14 June Dunmore East – Ballycotton 48.3nm
An early start and a much friendlier wind now nearly south allowed a close reach on port tack to catch us up a bit and we slipped past Dungarvan and Youghal to wind up in Ballycotton, where we picked up the nearest buoy to the harbour. Rowing ashore we had a quick couple in the Harbour pub before rolling in to the posh Bayview Hotel for a very civilised meal, kindly paid for by Phil. Before the recession rough sailors such as ourselves were never allowed in here, but now anything goes! To bunk, satisfied with a decent day’s run at last.
Thursday 15 June Ballycotton – Crosshaven 32.8nm
Wind was up again today knocking on 30 knots as we tacked out around Ballycotton Island and out to sea. We tacked back into land, arriving close to Cork entrance, then tacked out beyond the Daunt rock and out further to clear the Sovereigns and make for Kinsale. However the wind was getting up and on reefing the genoa a second time we suffered a jam wrapping in the spinnaker halyard, which we only got out of with some luck before continuing under double reef and No.3 genoa, but still getting a bashing hard on the wind as we were. I wasn’t happy as the steady wind crept over 30kt and when it reached 34 I decided we should turn back for Cork as it was likely to continue rising. The crew complimented the call and we shot back to the Daunt rock and on into Cork’s entrance, and then into the Owenboy river up to Crosshaven. Now I’ve never really liked the Royal Cork marina with the river flowing so hard through it, so opted to pull in at the closer Salve marina which has a long outer pontoon in line with the flow. It turned out to be a lot friendlier, informal and cheaper too, so now Crosshaven is back on my list! Down in town is the bit I’ve always liked with the Oar and Cronin’s firm favourites and now that Paul had joined us (re-directed by mobie as we came back to Daunt) we had a bit of a crawl, signing a visitors oar at the first and having a meal at the second.
Friday 16 June Crosshaven – Kinsale 24.0nm
An early start got us showered and breakfasted in time to pack Jon and Phil off by bus to Cork and on to the ferry back to Pembroke Dock, whilst Paul and I made ready for sea with again a strong wind, though not as bad as yesterday.
Déjà vu as we tacked out to Daunt and on along the coast, well reefed. Once we got to the Sovereigns we opted to go inside for a bit of shelter and tacked our way up to the Bulman buoy. From there we could relax and bear away up the river to Kinsale and take a place on the visitor pontoon. David had contacted us and was on his way down by bus so I took time to refuel etc. Racing boats were arriving for next week and it became a bit crowded. After meeting up with David we had a tour of pubs and a fish and chip dinner before seeking out some music with indifferent results.
Saturday 17 June Kinsale – Baltimore 47.0nm
Wind had really dropped this morning and after ablutions etc, we took a single tack southwards out to the Old Head of Kinsale not making great progress, and soon a fog descended but thanks to GPS we rounded the head without seeing it. As the day went on we passed Seven Heads, Galley Head and then the spectacular Stags, the wind dropping all the while.
I was determined to make Baltimore and so asked the galley (Paul) to rustle up dinner on the way, and excellently done it was. As we approached the Kedge rock with failing wind I decided to save time by going inside as I had seen a yacht do it years ago and now with chart plotter it was going to be possible. Wow! It is pretty tight and there was quite a stream (against) which made steering a bit wobbly and I was really glad to see the forward speed pick up on the other side as we made our way towards Baltimore harbour. The ‘marina’ was full (Pirate weekend) so we took a nearby buoy and rowed ashore for a couple of pints before turning in, well satisfied to be here.
Sunday 18 June Fastnet Rock round trip 23.4nm
Now we’re in the playground but the poor start this week and some easterly winds upcoming in the forecast would make the return difficult if we went beyond the Mizen, so realistically we’d have to restrict ourselves to stay this side of it. The wind was very light so the obvious ‘tourist trip’ was to round the Fastnet Rock and come back through Roaringwater Bay to another port of call, although in our case Baltimore was favourite again, as we had to take Andy on board tomorrow morning.
Motoring out of Baltimore harbour we managed to sail on and off between spells of motoring and as we came alongside Cape Clear Island there must have been a glut of baitfish as we were treated to a fantastic feeding frenzy of about 100 dolphins and loads of dive-bombing gannets. This lasted a good half hour and after that we began to notice some of the mammal shapes were bigger and sure enough out there were several whales, Minkes, involved as well. As the excitement dwindled, the wind picked up a bit and we managed to sail up to the outstandingly handsome Fastnet
Rock and creep round it as dictated by chart plotter, heading back into Roaringwater Bay with the wind behind. Now sailing on the north side of Cape Clear Island we passed the tiny North Harbour and then tacked through the Gascanane Sound, to find the tide was seriously against and many tacks were required before we got safely out in the open sea again. Another spell of wind failure meant we motored in to Baltimore again, this time securing a place on the marina, rafted three boats out thanks to the obliging Diarmuid. Having a bit more time tonight we had a shower at Bushes Bar and then walked to Casey’s at the far end of the town for good beer and a steak dinner. Back in town we visited the Algerian and then back to busy Bushes Bar to finish off the evening in nautical surroundings.
Monday 19 June Baltimore – Glandore 19.4nm
A call from Andy early on confirmed that he would be on the 10 o’clock bus from Skibbereen where he had seen in his birthday at a B&B. The rest of us got cleaned up and breakfasted so that we could take off on his arrival. On exiting the harbour we set sail in a light easterly, tacking out to sea first, way out past the Kedge Rock and here we were treated to about a dozen close sightings of Minke whales obligingly spouting noisily to warn us of their impending full emergence. Unusually they seemed to make regular and predictable repeat appearances. Once the shows were over we tacked back towards land to come inside the Stag Rocks and back out again before coming in to the west side of Adam Island then motored in alongside Eve Island and on to Glandore. At the moorings we had to take a grotty old thing as several decent visitor moorings were taken by local small boats, still not to worry with no wind and beer calling. We had a typically lovely evening in the village overlooking the harbour – a beautiful setting.
Tuesday 20 June Glandore – Union Hall, Day off 1.4nm
A strong easterly wind had set up overnight and was forecast to stay all day, so we decided on a day off and swapped our mooring for a better one out of the wind in Union Hall, a short motor across the harbour. This was a first for me, as Glandore is so attractive and Union Hall is usually described as a commercial fishing village where yachts are tolerated rather than welcomed. Such a description ignores the charm of the village which we very much enjoyed in the windy sunshine. Later on although we failed at the fishermen’s showers (closed) we got a very passable meal in Moloney’s Bar.
Wednesday 21 June Union Hall – Crosshaven 40.5nm
At last a reaching wind, southerly, was forecast and off we set, albeit having to motor against the wind to get out to sea, where we set sails to pass the dreaded partially submerged Doolic Rock, but we only just managed it as the course was considerably south and after that we still had to tack out to sea to clear Galley Head from where we could truly reach along the coast. Again we saw several whales reasonably close by.
Beyond Galley the wind picked up as we made the long reach to the faint shape of the Old Head of Kinsale. On approaching the head we had a fair wind and at first opted to go close-in but the race was quite lumpy and so we moved out to sea to avoid the worst of it. Continuing on to pass Kinsale and several racing fleets on different courses which provided a bit of entertainment. Somewhere out there was Maverick but we weren’t close enough to her class to see. As Kinsale would be full of racers we went on to Cork and opted for our newfound alternative, Salve marina in Crosshaven once more. Another great night in Crosshaven, calling at the Oar, then up to the Anchor Inn as I had found out on a previous trip that it was once owned by the Crean family and as Andy is a massive fan of Tom Crean, one of Shackleton’s crew, we just had to go. Unfortunately they didn’t have any Tom Crean Ale beer mats so from my previous trip I’m one up on Andy there! A good chat with the staff held us there for a few pints before we made for fish and chips on our way to Cronin’s to round the evening off.
Thursday 22 June Crosshaven – Dunmore East 54.1 nm
Forecast gave a westsouthwest wind, force3 and rising to 7. Paul was determined to honour his commitment to run the BBQ at the PHYC regatta on Saturday, so left us to go by bus to the ferry home. So the remaining three of us motored out of Cork, now helpfully on the tide, and turned towards the east. First we raised aspinnaker and did well but soon it seemed likely to get out of hand so we doused it. As the wind built we set a poled genoa and goosewinged with a reef in the main. Dave did a creditable job learning to sail the goosewing but after a couple of accidental gybes he was happy to retire and myself and Andy took turns for the remaining journey as we romped along – the best day’s sailing of the cruise! There was a big wind coming tomorrow, so we determined to make it a long trip today and aim for Dunmore East, which we managed by 8pm, but I was dreading getting the pole in as it was unlikely we could get any shelter from the land. We rehearsed it in our minds and out loud then executed the moves perfectly and safely - I was really proud. Rounding up we made our way into harbour and tied up on the pontoon. Being relatively late we scuttled up to Power’s Bar for a well earned drink. It was music night and we had already decided to take tomorrow off for strong wind, so no holding back – bliss. When we headed back it was late, but we still managed to get in a very fair Chinese on the way back to the boat.
Friday 23 June Day off
A windy day, and we started with a good cafe breakfast although we couldn’t get a forecast as the cafe proudly boasted ‘Don’t ask for our WiFi code..we like to talk to each other here!’ We lazed about and explored the area, meeting up for fish and chips at the cove in Lower Dunmore, eaten on the sea wall.
Then it was off to Powers bar to meet Tom Kennedy again with Leonore’s new crew. A fabulous night of cameraderie had to end early so as not to affect tomorrow’s start.
Saturday 24 June Dunmore East – Pembroke Dock 85.6 nm
Maybe we should have gone yesterday! Up at 0400 and straight off. Motoring out from the pontoon we had to keep motoring to Hook Head as there was barely any wind. Setting sail at this point, the wind was below 7 knots to the Coningbeg Rock and beyond. Not till 2pm did we get anything to work with, and then it came behind so we set a spinnaker and also the Sea Feather self-steering as we were getting tired. The set-up worked well hands-off and we got good sleep in turn, all the way to Grassholm. Shortly afterwards we downed spinnaker before deciding whether we were going to go for Broad Sound or go around Skokholm. The tide was going well for us, but would soon turn, and it was a biggie, 7.3m. We decided we could hold it past Skokholm, but alas no, and we were nailed by desperate tide-against as we crawled pathetically past the island, and then ran into a really bad case of St Ann’s race, shipping the odd wave. Once out of the race we put the spinnaker up again to try and improve our speed, only dropping it as the light failed at Carr 2. Dropping the main we had to go downtide for a few minutes and lose precious ground before motoring onto our buoy and blowing up the cruise dinghy to get ashore with a minimum of kit. Anyway we were home! We hadn’t got all that far but six of us did have a great time in 500 odd miles trying to.