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9  Sept 2020

Last week, the instructors from this summer (minus Sarah who had just begun her placement in Brussels, plus Mike who was working out in Kilrush for the summer) embarked upon our first September Cruise, kindly organised and skippered by Jim. We had a lovely few days exploring the Southwest coast of Cork from Tuesday to Friday.

We arrived down to Kinsale on Monday night to our lovely 40ft boat; ‘Kyachtic’. Upon inspection of the galley we realised we had enough food to last 10 people a fortnight and decided the best course of action was to dig in straight away, so we helped ourselves to some delicious fajitas prepared by Áine. Although we barely made a dent in the entire block of cheese she had grated for the occasion. We stayed up for a while longer to plan the week ahead before heading off to bed.

We rose at 9 on Tuesday and after a quick breakfast and one last use of the facilities on land, we embarked on our journey. We headed out past Chares Fort, and no sooner had we left the harbour behind than we ran into a familiar face in Tom McHugh out on his own boat. We got our sails up then and began our long beat down to Baltimore. A few of us felt a bit worse for wear with the engine going against the swell, but things improved once we were under sail, except for poor Aoife who kept us appraised of the time with her hourly trips to the stern. We saw a few schools of porpoises to our delight, and enjoyed what was the first long sailing excursion for some of us. Jim braved going down below to make us a few lovely sandwiches for lunch. The rain cleared off after the morning and after 7 or 8 hours of sailing the Stags came into view, followed by Lot’s Wife and we passed through and into Baltimore. My excellent parking skills came into their own as we moored up to the pontoon for the night. Aoife rustled us up some pasta, which we thoroughly enjoyed after our day’s sailing, before heading off to the pub only to discover it was closed.

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We slept in on Wednesday, with the plan of waiting until the weather cleared up to sail through the North Passage and on to Oileán Chléire. Aoife, our skipper for the day, made out a pilotage plan as we had our breakfast. The elements, however, were not in our favour and a dense fog that appeared in the morning proved immovable for the day. We made the most of our day on land with a walk up to Lot’s Wife, which was just about visible given it’s similar colouring to the fog itself. Upon our return to the boat we played a game of 30 Seconds in which Aoife and I proved victorious. After lunch, the fog still hadn’t cleared and so we engaged in some pontoon bashing for the afternoon, honing our parking skills for our adventure the next day. After some teething problems with interesting distance judgements from those at the bow, everyone got a successful mooring completed. We moored up again, then, and headed off to the bar for dinner and a few drinks.

We awoke at 8 on Thursday determined to make the best of the day after our previous day of landlubbing. Iarlaith welcomed us all to the morning, with his first words to each of us being that there had been ‘bioluminescence in the toilet last night’. With this lovely thought in mind, some of us enjoyed some morning yoga on deck before having breakfast and setting off. Aoife skippered us through the beautiful North Passage.

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On our way we passed a few fishermen setting lobster pots, and some seals enjoying the early morning sun. Once through we started to head up towards Fastnet, with both the swell and the wind increasing in strength as we emerged from the shelter provided by Mizen head. A few hefty waves managed to knock Aoife’s earrings out of her ear, and very nearly my ankle out of its socket. With speeds of around 17 knots we had a great time sailing over the waves, a novel experience for us lake sailors. The sun was shining and so our course toward Fastnet was slightly altered to allow for maximum time in the sun for the crew. We rounded the island, and got the obligatory selfie with the lighthouse looming behind us. After that we headed over toward the beautiful Crookhaven, enjoying many cups of tea and gingernuts along the way.

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After an a while we turned into the beautiful harbour, and came across a foiling windsurfer who seemed to be flying along over and back. While the swell dissipated hugely in the sheltered harbour, the westerly breeze seemed to have been funnelled through as it only increased in intensity, leaving us with sub-optimal mooring conditions, and so we decided to motor on out again having admired the views. Once out of the harbour, we sailed on over towards Oileán Chléire, with the sun still shining. Mike guided us expertly into a very tight parking spot upon arrival, and we got changed into our swimming gear. Having been reliably informed by two women already in the water that it was ‘lovely and warm’, we all jumped in to discover that their description was not quite accurate. We had a lovely swim nonetheless with the sun setting behind us, and enjoyed some excellent diving displays. We spoke a bit of Gaeilge to fit in with the locals, and went on a walk over to the other side of the island, snacking on blackberries as we went. After some beautiful views and lovely blackberries, we returned to the boat where Mike served us up a delicious stew which we enjoyed on deck. After some chocolate fudge cake for dessert, the crumbs of which were a pain to remove from the deck the next day, we went down below for another game of 30 Seconds to decide who should do the wash up. Unfortunately, Luke and I came in last and so we cleaned up after dinner, before we all headed to bed in advance of our early rise the next morning.

 

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On Friday morning, we woke at 6, and set sail as quickly as we could, with the aim of being on the water for sunrise at 6.56. We needn’t have worried as the sun remained in hiding until well into the afternoon. The early morning light was still lovely over the land to the East, and we set off through the Gascane Sound, composing a Sea Shanty that can only be described as a work of lyrical and musical genius. Jim put on a fry down below for us as we sailed on back towards Kinsale. We managed to leave the rain behind us for the entirety of the passage leaving us with pleasant weather which was appreciated given our tired states. As usual we enjoyed many cups of tea and biscuits, and had a lovely day’s sailing despite the relatively light winds.

 We did some more yoga up at the bow, which proved a lot more difficult with the swell beneath the boat – we were glad of the wire railings. The sun made an appearance around 2pm, and so the last few hours of our journey were lovely as the winds also picked up a bit. The King, as usual, provided us with tunes the whole way. After 8 or so hours of sailing, we eventually passed the Old head of Kinsale, and headed back into the harbour, passing another foiling windsurfer on the way.

We arrived in, and divvied up the sizable amount of food still remaining despite our best efforts. After a clean-up, we headed back home, wrecked and weather beaten, but happy after a lovely week.

It was a really, really lovely few days, and something I’m so glad I got to experience.

Thanks again to Jim who made it all possible, and of course to Mike for fixing everything.

 

Roisin Fallon

 

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