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Wow what a weekend

Well it’s true I am no Roddy Doyle or Sebastian Barry, by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know it would be hard for me or even the best writers in the world to describe what an absolutely amazing cruise we had last weekend.

Not only was this my first September Cruise with Cullaun Sailing club, and a novice Sailor at that, but being someone who is more familiar with the wilds of Connemara than those of West Cork this was always going to be a highly anticipated adventure for me personally. It wasn’t until we set sail out of Baltimore Bay on Friday morning that I could actually let myself believe this adventure was really happening.

One of the two boats that we rented from Con Minihan and Baltimore Yacht Charters.
Before arriving in Baltimore we stopped off at an old boat yard to visit the Ilin Boat. It has been in restoration for some time. Mick was like a child in a sweet shop and very proud of his involvement to date with the restoration project, as I’m sure many more are too. The Skipper, his mentor and the novice ‘Cabin Boy’ were really setting the scene for the weekend ahead and we still hadn’t even reached the boat in Baltimore.
But following some fantastic preparatory work by Jim O’Sullivan to recruit and coordinate the twelve sailors for this cruise, including lining up the booking with Con at Baltimore Yacht Charter , this trip was always going to be a success. It’s no wonder the club have a great relationship with Con and we will no doubt continue with this into the future as attention to detail in the planning of these trips shows the professionalism of the club and not to mention makes the September Cruise a most enjoyable experience for not only the novice sailor like myself but also the more experienced sailors.
With some good planning around balancing the experience within the group the twelve sailors were split into two crews of six with Billy Mahoney and Des McMahon as first-time cruise skippers and ably mentored by Mick Laffan and Jim O’Sullivan. Following a thorough handover from Con to the skippers and their mentors it’s fair to say the two Cullaun Crews would do any club proud sailing out of Baltimore  on the Friday morning with a perfect mix of experience and youth, age and beauty and ready to take on their well-earned adventures that lied ahead.


Whoever the Gods were on this particular weekend they certainly delivered on the weather for this group of Cullaun Sailors. Weather Forecast for the weekend was bang-on accurate with consistently fresh North winds blowing for most of the weekend at speeds of Force 4 and 5 on Friday tailing off to Force 2 or 3 on Saturday and Sunday. This made planning routes easier. On Sunday you could be forgiven for thinking we were on a Greek Islands cruise with swimming in Horse Show Bay under a backdrop of a clear blue sky. The weather made for perfect conditions to progress any wild ideas for the 2nd Annual Jolly Roger Cup.
Sailing out of Baltimore Bay on the Friday morning, having left behind the beautiful setting of the Baltimore Harbour, was an exciting moment for all as we progressed West out of the Bay with Bantry Bay set as our final destination. Both crews opted for the North Passage out of Baltimore which tested the navigation skills of both skippers and their crews. Trying to get a handle on the elements, while the crew settled into their new environment, including distractions from seals having their breakfast on the rocks, and the beautiful scenery of the Sherkin and Clear Islands to the South we ventured North West from Baltimore Bay toward Mizen Head with Fastnet  to the South West. We managed some beautiful sailing as we rotated the role of helm and with Wind speeds of with occasional gusts of 20 knots speed and tidal swells with high waves rounding the Mizen certainly posed a tough challenge at times for both crews.
With both cruiser’s main sails reefed and their jibs tightened for much of the Bantry Bay leg and with Whity Island to the Starboard side and low tide beckoning into the new Bantry Marina on Friday night, the beef stew dinners were a welcome feast after a challenging but most enjoyable ten hours of sailing and this was just day one! Great credit most go to the two skippers, Des and Billy, and to their mentors, Mick and Jim, for the route planning and Navigation as the sailing experience was something that will be hard top and certainly raises the bar for future sailing trips.
Day two Saturday was much of the same as Friday with fantastic sailing weather with both crews well fed and geared up and ready to continue exploring the beautiful coastline of West Cork. Des’s crew took the route into Bare Island for lunch where rumour has it they may have picked up a winning Euro Millions ticket in Murphy’s post office while Billy’s crew aimed to get into Barley Cove before the tide changed at 4pm giving a lovely smooth sail around Mizen Head and into Barley Cove. Leaving Barley Cove we came across a small pod of Dolphins. We weren’t sure were they challenging us to a race or were they just enjoying surfing the waves at the bow of the boat but at 7 knots speed over land they managed to keep up for about 10 minutes or so before giving in to the might of the 40 foot Inis Ceim and heading on their merry way. Great excitement. On board the other boat their were unconfirmed reports of a whale sighting which may or may not have been the effects of a misspent youth or perhaps the shadows of one’s former self from the night before. Ina ny case there was plenty of scenery and wildlife for all sailors alike to observe.
As the night closed in on Saturday evening and with a close eye on the Rainfall Radar over Ireland through most of Saturday and the clouds darkening in the distance as we approached Clear Island we managed to avoid any rainfall while it appears most of the rest of the country were drowned in heavy rainfall for most of the day. Take note Greek Island Sailors. Clear Island pier is currently under construction but we still managed to moor both boats for the night and join in the craic in the local where we surprised the youthful Mr. Mick Lafin with a birthday cake and celebrated the sailing endeavours with many creamy pints and a Hendriks or two for good measure.
The Sunday morning rise at Clear Island Pier under the clear blue sky and a beaming sun rise certainly set us up for our final day with a sweet fresh sea breeze blowing along the cliff face at the pier. Some early-rising sailors managed to stretch their legs by taking a stroll around the island to the South Harbour. This for me will definitely be a place to revisit in the future and clearly already a favourite with some of the more seasoned Cullaun Sailors. Tom Galvin even knew where to pick the rare Clear Island Fushia. Gorgeous.
Sunday brought a visit to Horse Shoe Bay after sailing through the Gascanane Sounds where both boats moored for lunch and the Jolly Roger Cup rules of engagement could be discussed and agreed upon. I could not give justice to The 2017 The Jolly Roger here and hence I am suggesting here that another report be written specifically on the race alone. If not the details will be passed on no doubt in full through no bad ilk from the loosing team as the team building and the level of social skills which the race brings to the September Cruise is an achievement in its own right.
Leaving Horse Shoe Bay we took on some Mackerel Fishing to the background sound of the Mayo v Dublin All-Ireland Final on the radio. and some nice cruising around Sherkin and Clear islands before the return leg of our September Cruise back into Baltimore Bay which was a hive of activity with all kinds of water sports including the Baltimore Sailing Club racing with over 20 boats participating. A beautiful sight on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
I have to say without any doubt and I think all would agree that this Sailing adventure has been unbelievable and for me personally probably one of the most memorable experiences in my life. I have the Cullaun Sailing Club and its fantastic members to thank for this and in particular for this adventure Billy Mahoney, Des McMahon, Jim O’Sullivan and Mick Laffan. The September Cruise is an adventure which I have already put into my diary for next year and the planning permission application is already in train with the planning authority in the Hawkins household in Quin. Well done again to Billy and Des for skippering and a fine job you did.
Looking forward to seeing you all in Cullaun in due course.
Damian Hawkins.

Thanks Damian for your comprehensive report.  Dont Forget cooler sailing is starting this weekend  with junior training taking place from 12:00  all of our pictures are here 
  2017 September Cruise
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