As Covid restrictions gradually improved over the summer we were able to contemplate visiting Ireland in July for the first time since 2019. There were new Borderforce formalities arising from Brexit with respect to leaving and returning to the UK, but apparently nothing required by the Irish authorities. A couple of potential crew members had various problems, and it distilled down to myself and David Hammond. Furthermore a trip in Greece just 10 days before restricted the timespan planned for the trip, but nonetheless we thought it realistically feasible to round the Mizen and visit some new-to-us locations. As has become routine, a trip was made to Front Street a few days before setting off for a bottom scrub to give us maximum sailing speed and distance capability
11/2 July Pembroke Dock – Ballycotton 148nm wind S-SW F0-4
After an early start and substantial breakfast at home we got off the mooring and pulled in at the Hobbs Point pontoon to load up and park away the home dinghy. We then set off down Haven by motor as there was no significant wind. However, going inside Thorn Island we picked up some useful wind from the south, and set the course for a safe point south of The Smalls, with an occasional glimpse at the ETA tomorrow at the Bulman Rock marking the entrance to Kinsale, the ultimate goal for the first leg. The south wind allowed us to comfortably avoid The Smalls , and it wasn’t long before we could ignore them from 5 miles south and aim for the Bulman, dealing first with the Off Smalls TSS and its associated lead-ins, now under spinnaker in a light wind. By late afternoon we lost the wind and motored for a bit compensated for by dolphin accompaniment in the glassy sea. Then in the evening we got some useable wind, and were now close hauled, which is ideal for the operation of the windvane steering. This saw us through the night, as we passed close north of the M5 Irish Met buoy, whilst avoiding a couple of trawlers - at least they stick to a constant course – unlike general fishing boats. By morning the wind went ahead with 40 odd miles still to go, so we had to consider turning inland and after a while as it started to rain it became clear that Ballycotton was the sensible end point for today. In the early afternoon we tied up on a newly serviced visitor buoy for a beer and sleep before venturing out to the town for the evening.
13 July Ballycotton – Glandore 68nm wind E-SW F0-6
Unsure of what the wind would do, we made an early start and rounding Ballycotton Island found a light northerly, prompting a mixture of motoring and spinnaker sailing past Cork to the Old Point of Kinsale, where briefly the decent moderate wind appeared to be south, allowing us to head straight for the next westerly headland (7 Heads) for a short time as we passed Courtmacsherry entrance, our last chance to stop before committing to a very long stretch. Alas we fell gradually into the bay as the wind veered and then struggled again in Clonakilty Bay to reach the next head, Galley Head, which we rounded very close in amongst rocks by GPS. Still, the wind should have allowed us to head down directly to Glandore only 5 miles away, but no, we had to tack there in what was now a force 6 southwest and arrived at dusk to anchor off the beautiful village of Glandore.
Dinghy ashore - too late for dinner, but a few bags of crisps and peanuts with several pints and we were ready to go back to the boat for dinner.
14 July Glandore – Baltimore 18nm wind SW F2-3
A medium early start, as light weather was forecast. Motored out down the river and through the islands at the mouth to catch a westbound tide, though we had to tack our way out beyond the dramatic Stag rocks and coming back in close to the wreck of the Kowloon Bridge (the world’s biggest shipwreck) on the outside of the rocks. Out to sea again, and tacking back to Kedge Rock we finally could sail in directly to Baltimore Harbour, and as Diarmuid’s very limited ‘marina’ was full, we took a convenient buoy. It being mid afternoon and a lovely day we went ashore and walked up to the day beacon for a good view of the harbour entrance.
Back in the town we had an interesting discussion on West Cork weather with a local retired Met Eirann employee in Bushes bar followed by early dinner in the Algiers Inn and later topping up with beer at Bushes again.
15 July Baltimore – Bantry 47nm wind NW 2-WSW F4
Heading out of Baltimore harbour, we got the sails up before turning down the west side of Sherkin Island and taking Gascanane Sound into Roaring Water Bay, which we began under sail, but the conditions didn’t allow a safe passage without engine to keep us away from the rocks. Once in the clear we were tacking in the light wind towards Crookhaven, but we had bigger plans and so at the Alderman rocks we tacked out to sea eventually gaining a position from which we could tack to round Mizen Head in the early afternoon.
It was a beautiful day and the races were inconsequential, so all good. With the wind we had we were not really able to make Dursey Sound (which would have taken us into Kenmare River) so on arriving at Sheeps Head we turned into Bantry Bay, and tacked downwind the 18 miles to Bantry town, a new destination for us. A gingerly nose into the marina was confusing as we couldn’t see where to moor, but circling around outside we came to a straight pontoon which apparently is part of the marina – easy!
Bantry Town turns out to be charming and we had a great night exploring. There’s also a huge supermarket close to the pontoon.
16 July Bantry – Castletownbere 20nm wind E F2-3
In the morning we had to blink to check our eyes as a huge (for the location) cruise ship was anchored close by.
At the dock a workboat was being tested by loading bags of rocks till it had a freeboard of inches and then beyond, so that its deck was swamped.. amazing. Anyhow, after a bit more tourism in the town and a failed attempt to pay for the pontoon stay, we set off to go north of Whiddy island as we had come in the shallow south way. Whiddy still has its fuel tanks (there was a massive explosion and fire in 1979 which ended use of the oil terminal) and there is activity again, with a massive mooring buoy cum oil pipe connection that tankers moor up to. Luckily for us the wind was easterly and so we cruised our way down Bantry Bay (normally a fight in a southwesterly) and took the north passage at Bear Island, passing beautiful Lawrence’s Cove and into Castletownbere as we hadn’t been there in a long time. The harbour is still available for anchoring despite the enormous fishing boats that pass by and there’s even a bit more space as the lifeboat has a smart new boathouse home.
It’s a great place for fish food and many restaurants were fully booked so we ended up in a fish and chip bar. McCarthy’s bar brought back memories but the music unfortunately wasn’t up to much tonight, but we did have a good chat to our boat neighbours who hailed from Tralee.
17 July Castletownbere – Kitchen Cove 32nm wind SSE F2-3
Forecast was for quite strong easterly wind coming in today so we got the anchor up (muddy!) early and motored out down Piper Sound into the mouth of Bantry Bay again. We could just hold course heading for the Mizen but it was a bit slow against waves resulting in us missing the tide at Mizen Head so we turned around and took the tide back up north to the entrance of Dunmanus Bay – a plan which we originally had before the threat of Easterlies, (which our Met man had warned can be fierce in these parts). Anyway we had an easy time of it sailing all the way down Dunmanus Bay in lovely weather and the arriving to anchor in the wonderful Kitchen Cove.. what a place! A waterside pub with great food and a magnificent view over the water, Leonore in prime position.
18 July Kitchen Cove – Crookhaven – Baltimore 36nm wind ENE F2-3
We determined not to miss the tide, so got going at 0500 this morning, drifting down on a light east northeast and out into the Atlantic again at the Three Castles race, the wind now up to 20kt and we went nicely to round the Mizen close in and then took three big tacks to the Alderman rocks and as it was still only mid morning, took a diversion to moor off O’Sullivan’s bar at Crookhaven for a catch-up sleep, and somehow resisted going to the pub.
After some lunch we tacked eastwards through Roaring Water Bay as the wind built up and we struggled to get sail down at Hare Island so as to use the motor for the challenging winding back route into Baltimore harbour, where we took a buoy more or less in the same place as a few days ago.
Taking a shower in the public facilities, I came out to find I had lost my wallet. I checked pockets and rucsac over and again, retraced places I had been at, asking at each place.. nothing. Then back at the steps up to the showers I remembered I had scrabbled for euro coins in my pocket and that must have tipped out my wallet, but no sign. Asking at the shop where the police station was I was told there isn’t one but people take found stuff to Bushes bar. Not really believing I had a chance, I walked into Bushes and before I could ask a woman shouted ‘that’s him!’ and the barman handed me my wallet. Someone took it to the bar where the woman was drinking and she got out my driving licence and memorised my picture to go round town looking when she’d finished her drink! I took a quick look and there was all the money, credit cards untouched. I tried to give her a note but she said it wasn’t her who brought it in, so no!
19 July Baltimore – Glandore 26nm wind SE F0-4
Motored across Baltimore harbour, getting the sails up as before, and headed over to the Kedge Rock with a decent southeast, however we struggled to clear the Stag rocks on the inside in the tide, and had to tack for safety. The wind then improved for a couple of hours and we were well set for our easterly course, but this was spoiled by a small craft warning on the VHF for strong wind this afternoon, so with at least 17 miles to go against, plus dealing with the Old Head of Kinsale, we changed course into good old Glandore to go on anchor again. This time we were plenty early and so did a bit of tidying and maintenance before going ashore for a guaranteed dinner.
20 July Glandore – Cork 50nm wind N F1-6
The wind had blown out and we had to motor down river and then most of the way to the dreaded Doolic Rock (a nasty submerging hazard). Suddenly up came the wind and we were well in control as we cleared the rock and then passed Galley head and 7 heads in quick succession beam reaching in a really decent north wind. The wind got up a bit as we approached the Old Head of Kinsale so we reefed the main and took the head close in, no problem with the race at this time. As it was early afternoon, we took the opportunity to continue east bound rather than pull in to Kinsale. So we took the Daunt Rock on the inside, and romped on to the Cork entrance waypoint. Here we had to tack north into the Owenboy river and then downed sails and motored along to Crosshaven, the yacht centre for Cork. We took our favourite pontoon at the easygoing Salve marina, but unusually we were moved to an inside pontoon where we were helped by an old acquaintance from Dungarvan. The guys at Salve were as mad as ever on their go kart engine development, and I got a lot of great advice about water-cooled 2 strokes to help with my engine mods. The pubs in Crosshaven were as good as ever, but unfortunately the Anchor (great seafood) was closed as it’s Wednesday. Damn!
21 July Cork- Pembroke Dock 137nm wind variable F 0-4
Wind forecast was variable but it was time for the homeward trip, especially since strong winds and rain was forecast for the day after next. We had showers, breakfast in town and generally prepared till early afternoon before heading out of harbour with St Ann’s reading 115 nm at 92T and The Smalls 96 at 93T. We started off close hauled on starboard, to get past The Cow rock but there wasn’t really enough wind and we motored on and off till early evening, taking an age to get away from land as our course was east. Later in the evening we got going and suddenly saw forked lightning ahead under a dark cloud. Despite debating based on David’s considerable meteorological knowledge, we didn’t have enough speed to avoid going under the cloud, so prepared by earthing the mast with our bower chain and reflecting that we both had had longish and fulfilled lives! As it turned out the forked discharges died out before we came under the cloud, just as light faded. Phew! Now we were going well, and set up the wind vane to do the steering overnight. In the early morning we passed the M5 buoy again and we were less than 35 miles from the Smalls, however progress was slow, but weather was good though we had to think about horrible weather due tomorrow. So we stuck to it, across the two TSS lanes, having to call up one ship as she rose from the horizon into our path, but they were very understanding and made a slight change to course. We passed well south of The Smalls and Skokholm where we called in to Border control to announce our arrival then made St Ann’s after dark, and running in up the Haven under engine. We were both tired and struggled at time with the lights, not least the Blue Star 1 Ferry which looked really weird at night reflections in the water making her look like a hydrofoil and her sodium lights looking like giant cylinders along the sides. Late, late, we found our mooring by GPS and torch tying up first time no problem. A quick beer and to bed. Next day was indeed wet and windy justifying our slow but sunny trip home.