Country: UK - Isle of Man
Town: Peel, IOM
Boat name: Saffron
Length: 8m +
Engine: I/B Diesel 315hp
Join Date: Nov 2000
A trip Round Ireland
A Trip Round Ireland
By Brian Elliott
Well we started on time, which has to be said is unusual for ribsters! As soon as the flap-gate opened in Peel, IOM, at 09.20 on the 24th May 2009, we were off on our (potential) trip around Ireland. The intention was to go clockwise because of the winds. I had been up to the Aran Islands before and “knew the way” that far. From then on it was all of a mystery to me-but an exciting one. My crew, Mark and Martin were also new to this area although Mark has had massive record breaking episodes sailing with Steve Fossetts, Cheyenne.
Martin (L) and Mark (R) in Peel
Thus we were off heading for Howth, just north of Dublin to pick up some fuel and eat our sarnies. Well, we ate our sarnies there, but as the diesel fuel tap leaked, we decided to give it a wide berth and carry on anyway. I carry 500 litres in one tank below deck and as I had fully refuelled before I left Peel, there was small reason to pick up some more. It’s like going to the loo isn’t it. You do it when you can, not when you want.
Anyway we carried on down to Wicklow where an ever increasing wind on our nose suggested we overnight there instead of carrying on to our planned destination of Kilmore Quay. An uneventful night was spent by Mark who can sleep anywhere at any time. But Martin, who had the pub under his bed, was kept awake till 1.00 in the morning by loud “music”. I, fortunately, have a built in filter which blocks out extraneous sound and so spent a comfortable night.
It started well. For the first 5 miles or so the sea was forgiving and progress swift. We then ran into a thick fog bank. If you have ever driven into one you know it is like driving in your refrigerator. You can’t see anything and its blinking cold. This continued virtually down to Kilmore Quay (bottom right hand corner of Ireland). The sun then came out as if to welcome us in. We went into the small harbour and decided to spend the night there. We were not in any hurry. Paid £30 in Euro equivalent to the Harbour Master for the privilege and went to lunch (as you do). Over lunch it was decided to reverse our decision and carry on along the coast. So, after taking advice from a local angling boats skipper, we went on to Cork Harbour where we moored up at Crosshaven. We were then given a right royal tour of the RNLI station and facilities and the crew there organised a local B&B for us. It was probably the only B&B in the area as everything else was shut. We finally found one Chinese that was open and a take-away chippy.
In Kilmore Quay
Days 3 and 4.
After a fitful night (Martin still not sleeping properly, no telly, no makings in the room, tummy still grumbling about last night’s eats, etc) we set of for Kinsale just down the coast. We decided not to go too far as we knew the weather was closing in the next day and we wanted to stay somewhere civilised i.e. somewhere with a comfortable hotel and fuel for the boat. We docked up outside the Trident Hotel where we found both accommodations for ourselves and a home for the boat courtesy of Sail Ireland Charters who own the little marina just below the hotel. The next day was not a good day for going out to sea again. With the wind howling along the coast, inland was a different matter, with only the occasional shower. This allowed us some time on land so we took a side trip up river, looked round Charle’s Fort (magnificent!) and generally chilled out. Martin slept at last.
Top picture Up river in Kinsale
Bottom Charle’s Fort – Kinsale
We thought this might be a tough day but were pleasantly surprised by the relative calmness of the sea. Hugging the coast, we went round first of all to Baltimore. Finding the sea benign we pushed on aiming for Schull, then Dingle and with the sea state being OK, we finally headed in to Fenit Marina near Tralee.
Settling in quickly to our hotel, over a meal we discovered our waitress was a cashier in Tescos. A TESCO’S !! We were ecstatic. And they were still open in Tralee till 10.00 o’clock at night! There being no shops of any description in Fenit itself we quickly organised a taxi to take us into town where we stocked up on bottled water (we had run out by now) and tuck.
Next morning we refuelled the boat during a shrill gale. One very, very surprising thing to me was the cost of diesel in Ireland. We paid between 40 and 50 Euros, less than half the price of the UK. Nearly everything else was expensive though, especially meals.
We set out into the teeth of the wind. We had had wind on the nose the whole way so far. Turning the corner into the south coast we thought it might be on our beam and the turning the corner to head north we thought it might come from behind us. Well you know what the thought did? The wind had veered round to be continually on our nose but after that one day break in Kinsale we could put up with it.
Carrying on past the Shannon estuary we reached the Cliffs of Moher and the potential run into Galway. Now I had been warned off Galway as the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/9 was on and accommodation etc. Would be difficult to find even if we could enter harbour, which was doubtful. So instead we headed for the Aran Islands just offshore. Stopping for lunch in Inishmore the wind suddenly swung round behind us which was excellent news. I must say the island had changed considerably since I was last there. They are now building what seemed to be a large marina on the island. We shall see!
And so on we went this time bypassing Kilkieren and Clifden and with the sea worryingly mountaining behind us we found ourselves off Inish Bofin. Now the charts say there is safe mooring inside its harbour, but our worry was would we get out again as the seas were crashing directly into the harbour and once in, we were trapped. The entrance was a tricky one with a large rock in the middle of the entrance and with 3 meter waves pushing us in it was imperative to get our entrance right. A quick view of the charts showed nothing else nearby and so we decided to go in. Positioning the boat carefully we shimmied in to safe water. To our amazement, there was a 4-star hotel, nearly empty and the Manager had come down to see us in and offer a lift to the hotel in his mini-bus. Now for an island with only 180 residents, this was something else! During a walk along the foreshore Mark estimated the wind speed to be Force 8 gusting 9. Not waters to be out in-especially a sub-9 metre rib.
Top Rough water mooring in Inish Bofin. Note anchor deployed amidships
Bottom Inish Bofin’s 4-star hotel
Breakfast wasn’t served until 09.00. Crikey, we had hoped to be underway by then. So we persuaded the night-watchman to give us a continental style meal and off we went. We got to the boat, unparked and got going. We were well outside by 09.00-result! Today we were headed for Killybegs-just past Sligo. The sea had eased considerably so we chose to attempt a passage inside Achill Sound. Er, interesting. Very shallow. Barely made it through. Probably added a half hour to our journey that day.
Killybegs, so I had been informed, had a marina and fuel. Well no marina and no fuel. Declan, a local, very friendly and helpful fisherman, busy on repairing his boat, told us we could normally get fuel on 6 days of the week. Unfortunately we had arrived on Saturday at the beginning of a 3-day Bank holiday weekend. So, no fuel till Tuesday. He even rang the two fuel tanker drivers at home, but they were “away at the Volvo” in Galway. So, breaking off from his work he rang his brother who arrived in a pick-up truck with 20 twenty-litre drums of fuel and drove us to a petrol station. We filled some of the drums, brought them back to the boat and, using Declan's funnel, we were able to take on enough fuel for the onward journey.
After thanking the (very) kind fishermen we decided not to overnight in Killybegs but to push on to Portrush in the North, where in a ever decreasing sea, we managed to reach at 09.30 in the evening. Our trouble then started. There was no room in Portrush. The whole town had been booked out by 750 golfers who had descended on the town and taken up every bed. After a long search, on foot and by taxi, we chanced upon a B&B that was turning its sign from “No Vacancies” to “Vacancies”. It turned out to be a “Help the Aged” establishment that was opening the next night but had decided to try one day early for some custom. Result again!
Portrush was also good for fuel. It was 46p per litre. What is it with England? It was a beautiful day. Barely a ripple on the water as we exited Portrush en-route for a couple of very easy days back to Peel. Firstly we entered the bay containing the Giant’s Causeway and photographed the spectacular cliffs in the area. Then onto Ballintoy, a harbour I had vowed to try and enter from the sea ever since I visited it on land. Getting in was relatively easy. Getting back out was not. Reversing out was out of the question as well. This proved to be a nail-biting time trying to do a 3-point turn in a very narrow harbour. Then off to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, a narrow shaking bridge between the mainland and a tiny island. Pulling back out in reverse from there we headed for Rathlin Island and a well deserved coffee and biscuits. After lolling around there for a couple of hours we went down to Portpatrick in brilliant sunshine and a flat sea. Oh joy of joys. Why couldn’t it have been like this off southern Ireland?
Picture 1. Ballintoy Harbour
Picture 2. Rathlin Island
Picture 3. Portpatrick Harbour
Picture 4. Basking sharks off Isle of Man
Up and about at the crack of 09.30 to another glorious day. A brief round of golf at the Portpatrick Hotel high on the cliffs overlooking the area set us up for the day. Lunch and we set off into a glass-smooth sea for the 40 miles or so down to Peel in the Isle of Man, my home port. The flap-gate wasn’t open so we bypassed Peel and went down to the Calf of Man a small island in the south. There we saw several pods of dolphins, lots of Basking sharks (IOM being famous for them) and colony of seals on Kitterland a small rocky outcrop between the island itself and the Calf. Then back to Peel for an arrival in baking sunshine after having circumnavigated Ireland and taken in a bit of Scotland too.