Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Delivery in October

Aleria in her cradle in 2008


Clew Bay to Inishbofin - spectacular!

We'd done little sailing since returning from Scotland in August. 'Things' like weather and birthdays and business matters and novels -- the writing of one -- kept getting in the way.  When it came time to put Aleria away for the winter, we were once again confronted with a dilemma. She's a big lady for this part of the world to handle. Our options were to bring her up on shore like we did in the past or haul her out like we did in the spring. Neither option had proven entirely reliable. She just doesn't like to sit on the hard. Alex actually thought she'd be best off on her mooring, which would have given me palpitations all winter long.


Aleria hauled out on  the Quay in Westport in 2013
Then one day I had the thought, "She likes being in the water. Why not leave her in the marina in Galway?" If they had space for us, we could sail her down in the next weather window and then have a floating condo in the middle of one of the great small cities of the world. It would be a wonderful excuse for visiting Galway from time to time. I've always wanted to live in the heart of a city for a time. Why not now? Why not Galway, my favorite small city in the world? And the marina happens to be in the heart of the charming and vibrant historical district. I was liking this thought. We had thought about going South to Spain or Portugal, but Galway is only a couple day's sail and 1.5 hours by car.

Heading out of Clew Bay we could hardly see
the salmon cages off Clare Island. 
As it turned out, our friend Damian, had taken his boat to England for some work and his slip in Galway was vacated for the winter. It was a perfect fit for Aleria.  The cost was hardly different from haul out and as a side benefit we'd have a place to stay in Galway. A quick call to the harbourmaster confirmed the details. The slip was ours from October 1st to the end of March.

We looked up when the tides would be right for sailing Aleria down the coast of Ireland and entering the locked harbour. The harbour gates open for two hours before every high tide. Then we waited for a weather window. This is not a coast to sail cavalierly when storm season is upon us. Our prevailing winds are southwesterly and we were heading south to Galway from Clew Bay. That meant the usual bash down the coast. At least we wanted the tides to be with us and the winds manageable.

Fortunately for us, favourable tides and winds converged the second week in October. And even more amazing, after a gale passed through quickly on Monday, the forecast was for a week of northwesterlies as the Azores high once again settled over Ireland.  That meant we'd be sailing with the wind instead of bashing into it. We got onboard first thing Tuesday morning and headed out on the just-falling tide to get over the oyster bed that creates a shallow between us and the outer bay. The conditions were beautiful - the seas were calm, the winds gentle and from the north as promised. We sailed off across Clew Bay and two tacks got us out to Inishbofin. We planned to island hop down the coast, stopping at Bofin and Inishmore. The northerly brought cooler weather but at least it was relatively dry and not nearly as cold as everyone was predicting. Lucky for us.
Rainbow touching down on Inishbofin

Meanwhile, Galway Harbourmaster, Brian Sheridan, looked up our weather window and texted us that he was coming out to Bofin to bring his boat back to Galway too, so we'd be sailing in company. It's always nice to have company out there.

There were angry clouds all around creating amazing plays of light and shadow. But we only had a brief sprinkle - more like a heavy mist or a low lying cloud. On approach to the harbour a rainbow touched down and kissed the island.

Coming into Bofin is always interesting, as the safe approach that avoids a rock under the surface takes you very close to the lighthouse and the rocks beneath it. We picked a spot off the Cromwellian fort in crystal clear waters and watched our shiny Ultra anchor disappear into the nice hard sand. We thought about going ashore but decided to just chill aboard. We had a celebratory cocktail and settled on deck to read our books. The great thing about being onboard is that there is no television. So we finally get to read books. Lots of them.

It's always disconcerting to enter the
harbour at Inishbofin so close to the rocks. 
The ferry buzzed us to get a look up close and personal. The skipper waved and the passengers smailed and waved. They weren't snapping pictures as usual so they must have been locals. And after that, the only disturbance was the call of the curlew and the painted sky of a setting sun.

It's always disturbing this time of year when the days get shorter so very quickly. Each day gets shaved off more and more until there's only a bit of light to get you through those long winters. Winter is coming, and the Lord of Light may be our salvation. Guess what I am reading? The last book of Game of Thrones and it's too dark to read on deck now. Darn.

We made a nice dinner of spaghetti bolognese, then snuggled under warm blankets until bedtime. Meanwhile, the forecast changed, as it always does. Wednesday was to bring stronger winds and rain in the afternoon as the front that was originally passing over Scotland dipped down, so we decided to stay put on Bofin the next day. Thursday was forecast to be dry and with light NW winds. We thought we'd sail off then and see how far we could get - maybe Roundstone or Cashla would do nicely in a northerly rather than Kilronan Harbour on Inishmore, which tends to be more exposed.

Cromwell's fort and the lighthouse under brilliant blue sky
We took a long walk in the morning along the south shore and up into the hills overlooking Inishshark, the island deserted in October 1960.  The light was magical as the clouds rolled in and sun spots lit up to highlight places of interest. We walked past fields of sheep, abandoned lazy beds, and animal warrens that were major construction sites.  We stopped when we reached the hill overlooking the beautiful white sand beach with water the colour reminiscent of the Caribbean - if only it were warmer. It started to get really windy as the northerlies ripped between Inishbofin and Inishark, whipping up the seas. We'd gone far enough and turned back toward the anchorage just as the first drops of rain fell to earth. Now we were thankful of our decision not to press on that day.

The island is so peaceful and quiet this time of year. Most businesses appeared closed, except for Day's Pub and the hotel. The shop was open and islanders were stopping by for their loaf of bread or milk. We saw Brian's boat tied up to the pier but he was nowhere in evidence. So we returned to Aleria for lunch.  As the afternoon progressed, a cold rain and strong wind made for an uncomfortable day.  It got cold, really bone-chilling cold, and as we do not have heat onboard, blankets and sub-zero sleeping bags kept us from freezing over.

We considered going ashore for a pint and dinner, but it was cold and damp and windy. So we chose to stay onboard.  After a fine dinner of chicken in mushroom sauce with mashed potatoes and fresh garden tomatoes, we read a bit more then both fell sound asleep.  At some point we got up and went to bed and had the deepest most satisfying slumber, once again in Aleria's cradle. I had really missed that.  Being at anchor, gently swaying, after a full day of exertion. There's nothing else like it.


Currachs and ribs tied up to the old pier. A
fisherman drowned there the day we left. 

Bofin Harbour with visitor moorings,
a new ferry pier and the old pier
The anchorage with the ferry coming in

View from the hill near Murray's - spectacular
The barnyard crowd

The warren excavations

Inishark and the white sand beach on Bofin

Abandoned cottage decorated by the school children

A spotlight from heaven

View of the harbour with Connemara in the background

Happy cottage

Breaking wave at low tide shows location of rocks

Murray's not the way it usually looks mid-summer

Gorgeous

The inner harbour 

St. Coleman's church built on earlier monastic ruins

The hotel and spa 

The old pier





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