Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Back on the water again

Aleria in Galway with her new sail covers. 

After a terrible winter of storms passed through the west of Ireland at an unprecedented rate, we managed to squeeze in a few days of work on board. We had expected to have a nice condo in Galway, one of the great small cities of the world. We'd work by date and eat and play by night. But that was not to be as what seemed like an unrelenting twice weekly procession of very strong storms, several of which were hurricane strength.

We did manage to try a few interesting restaurants, chief of which was Aniar, the only Michelin starred restaurant in the west. Their focus is terroir in foods, bringing to life the flavours defined by where the foods originate much as wine acquires its flavour from the earth and air and rains.  It was an interesting albeit expensive experience. No need to repeat but thoroughly enjoyed and curiosity satisfied.  Then there was the fab lunches at Wa Cafe for truly authentic and delectable sushi and tempura, and Ard Bia at Nimmos serving up extraordinary Iberian influence under the Spanish Arch.  The pubs topped it off, with the pizza place next to Tigh Neachtain earning high marks on the authentic Italian-American front. Thin crust pizza in a true stand-up pizzeria. Finally, my quest for pizza in Ireland was fulfilled, thanks to Joan Mulloy's advice. We even managed to get a seat in a snug at Tigh Neachtain for a post pizza libation. Fun!
Michelin star menu

And although we didn't manage to finish the brightwork, we did get a few jobs done below. And thanks to our friend at Raymarine, Alex even got our autopilot working.

We kept ourselves otherwise occupied with trips with the ICC to the amazing Loch Erne resort in Norhtern Ireland where the G9 met the last time before Russia was thrown out and to London with the OCC for the 60th Anniversary AGM and Awards dinner. Meanwhile, Meike got deathly ill with a flu, then Easter came and went with beautiful weather on the day but the 30-year-old traditional party cancelled at Ross. Our house handled a small feast with close friends.

Flat calm in Kilronan, Inishbofin. 
We finally found a weather window during which to bring Aleria home from Galway just after Easter. We would have light winds the entire way. We knew we'd probably have to motor some of the way, but that was better than getting battered on our first delivery trip of the season up this unforgiving coast.  What would we find? We'd heard that Inishbofin had been battered badly and Kilronan on Inishmore had suffered as well.

We got lucky because the day before the weather window was an Irish Cruising Club lunch in Westport and several sailors from Galway were coming down, including Brian Sheridan, the Harbourmaster of Galway and good friend to us and Aleria. He had watched over her in her slip all winter and sent us text messages during the storms assuring us she was faring well.  The worst was that her sail covers had torn off but as we were having new sailcovers made, we didn't worry too much about that. The docklines as we prepared to depart were like steel bars having been stretched to their limit during all the storms. They were chafed where you wouldn't normally expect to see chafe - around the cleats!  So we'll have to replace those as well.

We exited Galway on the afternoon tide as soon as the gates opened at 3 pm and motored to Kilronan on Inishmore. A dolphin came to say good-bye which was really nice. We dropped anchor and thought about going ashore but it was a lovely evening and just being on board was wonderful.  We'd save our shore leave for Inishbofin.

The next day we awoke to flat calm. We had been really hopeful in Galway and had prepared the sails for sailing. No chance. Flat calm. But we remained hopeful and Alex even rigged the spinnaker. We got a puff and Alex hoisted the spinnaker to fly wing-in-wing with the Mainsail straight downwind. I managed to keep it full long enough to take a few photos, when we gave up as it shifted back and forth.  This is unbelievable on the west coast. We've never been able to fly a spinnaker offshore here. Usually we're reefing way down.

Evening light in Bofin Harbour
But never mind, we were rewarded with a sighting of a Basking Shark off Inishark of course.  He was coming straight at us and all I could say was "Ugh, Ugh" when Alex yelled, "stop of the boat".  By then he was behind us and we were scrambling to get a photo.  Very exciting.

Sunset on Inishbofin
Inishbofin is one of our favourite places.  I must say we were concerned having heard about all the storm damage this winter, but it appeared that most of everything had been at least temporarily fixed. There were signs everywhere of how powerful the sea was. Smashed containers along the shore, rebuilt seawalls and washed out roads. But all now in good repair.  We didn't head over to the other side of the island but residents have set up a donation fund to assist in the reparations.  Dinner at Days did not disappoint -- a fabulous fresh fish woven onto a stick a delicately battered and chips unlike any I've had before.  Yes, we were happy. A short walk along to shore and a gentle sleep swaying in the breeze -- BREEZE!

Bofin Harbour
Breakfast was followed by a brisk and gorgeous sail from Bofin into Clew Bay.  The light was fantastic and it was great to finally hoist the sails and feel them fill with the power of the wind.  That sound when the engine shuts down and all is fine with the world was something I needed to hear.

Our arrival was timed perfectly with the evening tide. We were entering on the incoming tide at half water and I swear the bottom has changed since we were here last year. The oyster bar that prevents our entry at less than half tide didn't seem nearly as pronounced. I wonder if the storms churned it away.

It felt good to tie Aleria up to her mooring and launch the dinghy in our own little inlet. Once again Aleria was home, and so were we.  I'm glad we were able to find our way.
Alex and the helm

Wing in wing with the white seahorse. 

The Holy mountain and home in Clew Bay

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