Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A weekend on Inishturk

Approaching the anchorage at Inishturk.

The island of the wild boar

Mayo Sailing Club near Westport in County Mayo Ireland is fortunate to have access to several remarkable islands off the coast within a day's sail out of Clew Bay. There is Clare Island guarding the entrance to Clew Bay, Inishturk just to the South and the uninhabited Inishkeas just to the North. Every bank holiday in the summer, the Club organizes cruises in company to the islands or to Killary Harbour, also within easy reach. This time, for the May Bank Holiday, we were off to Inishturk. Inishturk is inhabited by a small year round population. It is not a touristy island but rather a place where real people live. That makes it truly special.

Young sailors first day out
The forecast for this bank holiday was not good. Winds were expected out of the southeast, the direction that is most exposed for the harbour. Winds were to build and bring rain towards the end of the weekend, but as the forecast kept changing, we decided to head out. In the end, five boats sailed in.  The harbour was just sheltered from the swell and we hoped it might stay that way. Three picked up moorings, we dropped anchor, and one tied up at the pier.

We sailed out ahead of the fleet as we were bound by the tides getting out from our inlet where our mooring is.  It was a brisk sail on a chilly but clearing day. But when we arrived at Inishturk, there were no boats and the harbour appeared exposed. We decided to turn back towards Clare Island where one of our other Club boats had gone. We were already past Caher Island when we saw two other boats sail in to Inishturk and the Commodore rang to tell us he was in the hotel with the fleet of dinghies. So back we went.

The dinghy fleet exposing novices to sailing

Commodore Eoghan Cunningham with  young people from Inishturk

As soon as were settled, the fleet of dinghies sailed out of the harbour. The Commodore had organized a taste of sailing for the island community.  Loads of children and a few adults took advantage of the opportunity.  It was great fun as the dinghies sailed past the cruising boats and the Commodore kept a watchful eye from his rib.

Beautiful artwork in a picnic area overlooking the harbour
We then headed ashore and climbed the hill to the Community Club.  It has the most spectacular views of any pub anywhere I've ever been.  Broad views out over High Island and Caher Island and down over Clew Bay and Killary Harbour.  If that isn't enough, the islanders are welcoming, especially after the winter when it's nice to get some new stories from new people into the mix.

A nice pint and a delicious meal was served up to the visiting sailors while the talk of the day centered around sailing.  Unfortunately, the forecast was for deteriorating conditions over the next 24 hours so the racing and dinner for the second night were cancelled and the decision was made for the fleet to return to safety the following morning. As we had the farthest to go back to Aleria anchored in the harbour and it was a very dark night, we decided to cut the evening short at about 2300.

The pier and the anchorage with the MSC fleet
On the walk down the hill to the harbour we were rewarded with the call of the corncrake. We had never heard it before, but it was unmistakable. It made for a fine finale to a lovely evening.

We awoke to a pronounced but not uncomfortable rocking motion. But when we looked out at the boats on moorings, the smallest was bucking like a bronco.  We were getting seasick just looking at her.  She soon slipped her mooring and headed into the pier for some respite.

After breakfast, we pulled up anchor and decided to head into Clew Bay to drop anchor off Inishgowla and await the rising tide.  It was still on its way out when we ventured in so we spent a lovely day reading and waiting for the tide to turn.  It's one of my favourite anchorages.  The views are magnificent, the holding is good,  protection is afforded from most directions, otters and seals swim by on occasion to check us out, and there is not ever another boat in sight.  It is as remote as any atoll in the middle of the ocean, yet within an hour's motor from our mooring and home.

B&B and Post Office on Inishturk
When the time came, we pulled up our anchor as the wind died and gentle rain started to fall. We made it to our mooring at half tide without a hitch and with a reading of no less than 11 feet coming across the oyster bar. That led us to think that perhaps the severe winter storms had churned away the oyster bed and created a new channel into our little inlet.  We'll have to investigate that another day.

Today, we were getting in just in the nick of time within the calm before the storm. Sometimes it is nice to be lucky. Of course, living out here makes me feel like the luckiest person alive.

The unparalleled view from the Community Club on Inishturk. 
Moody day in Clew Bay
Heading in to the anchorage in the inner Bay past Inishoo

Anchored at Inishgowla

How accurate are our charts?  Not.  Here we are in the channel coming into our inlet at Ross. 

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