Showing posts from 2015

Season's Greetings

Wishing everyone a peaceful yet exciting New Year!

Christmas Lunch in Kinvara with ICC West

During winter in Ireland we take the opportunity to explore places we might not get to otherwise by boat.  The exception is when the western contingent of Irish Cruising Club, of which Alex is a member,  hosts a Christmas luncheon in some lovely seaside location that gives us a chance to scout it out by land before coming by boat.

Top ten gifts for boaters in 2015

By Daria Blackwell
Stuck for a last minute gift idea? There’s still time to order these items and have them delivered in time for Christmas. Of course you can always order a copy of Happy Hooking - The Art of Anchoring by yours truly.But as so many people already have it, we thought we’d give you a few more ideas.
10. Dry Bag($14.95-209) Every sailor needs a dry bag for those dinghy rides to shore with laptop in tow. SealLine Dry Bags are the best, but I have to say that the ones we bought at Lidl for €10 have lasted for years.They come in different colours, sizes and purposes so everyone aboard can choose a different one to keep them straight.

Sailing and mental health in children

Lack of unsupervised play is hurting our children
An article in Psychology Today caught my attention. Dr. Peter Gray, commenting on a study which showed that anxiety and depression have been steadily increasing among our youth, suggested that the absence of play in childhood is at the root. This thought resonated with me. It took me back to an article I wrote a few months ago about the sailing programs driving kids out of sailing. 

Killybegs in Donegal -- a boater's haven

We needed to haul Aleria this year for several maintenance chores and bottom paint. The best option was to sail north to Killybegs in Donegal, one of the most important fishing ports in all of Europe.The quote we received for haul out and storage from the boatyard there was quite reasonable. Our only concern was that we had heard that Killybegs might not be yacht friendly. 

We had stopped in Teelin along the way then set sail for the short passage to Killybegs. It's only about 18 km or 10 nautical miles between the two. The approach is straightforward. The coastline is very interesting. The weather was cooperating. We noted the marine farm in Bruckless Harbour on the approach. The lighthouse on Rotten Island was where expected and we turned to port to enter the harbour surrounded by hills.

Fall Cruise from Mayo to Donegal. Part 2: Inishkeas to Teelin

We left the anchorage in the Inishkeas rather late, thinking we would stop in Broadhaven or Killala for the night. But then we came up with the brilliant idea of pushing to get to Teelin and having a another day off to visit Slieve League while we were there. The seas had calmed but there wasn't enough wind to propel Aleria, so we motor sailed up the Mayo coast. 

Fall cruise from Mayo to Donegal. Part 1: Clew Bay to the Inishkeas

On a beautiful Thursday morning in mid-October, we departed from Clew Bay on the outgoing tide. High tide was at 8 am and we needed to get out early to make the 50-mile trip to the Inishkeas. The sky turned an amazing purple, with the morning sunrise breaking through heavily overcast skies. The weather in Ireland had been miserable all summer, but October proved spectacular.Very little rain, not too windy, and not too cold. This morning, the forecast was for clearing skies and light winds in the morning, with wind dying out in the afternoon.

I lost my sole in the Inishkeas

You might have read the title and thought, “How could she allow such a major typographical error, and in the title no less?” Indeed, it is probable that I lost my soul among those enchanted deserted islands as well. But, no, this time it was indeed my sole and before it was all over, both soles were given over to the islands, though only figuratively as I did not leave them behind.

Aleria spends winter with the big boys in Killybegs

Aleria, at 57 feet long, is often one of the larger yachts in a marina. For the last few years, she spent the winters in the water in Galway Harbour. Not a bad place to be as the marina is smack in the middle of the old city. It’s great to have an apartment right in the heart of town. Unfortunately Galway does not yet have the facilities to haul vessels of Aleria’s size, but when the new marina comes in, hopefully it will. 

Apps for sailing

What on earth did we do with ourselves in the days before apps came into our lives?  Can I even remember?  Let's see. We read books. We navigated by dead reckoning. We waited until landfall to call people. Now it's all immediate. I once joked with a reported who was interviewing me that I learned to scuba dive so I could go on holiday where clients couldn't reach me -- underwater.  Yet, it's a bit too true that today we are forever accessible. This cannot be good. However, even I find myself caught up in the app collection craze. When one considers that more than half of responders to a survey of blue water sailors say they have 4 or more devices with GPS on board, you can reckon that dead reckoning is indeed dead.

I don’t have an iPad.I have a Samsung android smartphone. They all have GPS now.  Even our camera has GPS. Take a picture and you'll know your exact location. My new android is big enough to see a great deal of detail. I was considering getting a tablet…

The social side of sailing

There is a camaraderie in sailing that I have not found in many other pursuits. For example, it is rare to strike up a conversation with other skiers who are unknown to you on the mountain, even during lunch at large communal tables. Yet put two sailors in a room together and before you know they have become the best of friends.

Voices of the Past in Ireland's Abandoned Islands

There are places where humans once roamed and lived and worked that have been abandoned and are on their way back to natural states. As these places transition between times, walking where people long forgotten once walked can be a rather eerie experience. Voices carry on the wind, children's laughter echoes off the crumbling walls, and shadows pass over the hills playing with your mind's eye. And so it is on many of the deserted islands off the west coast of Ireland.

Achillbeg - the small island next to Ireland's largest island, Achill

It was a strange summer that never happened, with chill winds and rain nonstop. So when the forecast was for moderate winds in the range of 15 knots out of the North, we decided to head off to the Inishkeas. It would be cool but we can handle that. But, as often happens, the forecast was not true to its word and the squalls that blew through with occasional heavy rain, arctic cold, and blasts of wind in the range of 25 knots caused us to divert to Achillbeg to see if the conditions might abate. They did not, which meant we had a lovely day at anchor off Achillbeg.

An annual pilgrimage to Clare Island

Every year, we visit Clare Island primarily because it's an easy sail from our anchorage but also because there is so much to see there.  The Saw Doctors have immortalized the experienced in their song about the place:

Will you meet me on Clare Island Summer stars are in the sky We'll get the ferry out from Roonagh And wave all our cares goodbye And we'll go dancing at the ceili We'll go kissing on the strand Take our clothes off in the moonlight Skinny-dipping hand in hand And we'll start drinking in the twilight Keep it up until the dawn In both the bars Because there's no guards To take our names and send us home.

Lessons in leadership from the sea

Being in charge of your universe by Daria Blackwell

Many people in leadership positions, myself included, assumed their roles by chance. Not thinking of themselves as leaders, they got things done that needed doing. Someone had to step up to keep the ship from foundering. They may not have had all the skills they needed to fulfill their roles effectively at the time, but they had the right attitude. They knew it could be done.

Voyaging with Kids. A guide to family life afloat.

So you made the decision to go cruising with your family to expose them to a richer life at the edge of nature and replete with cultural experience. You just buy a boat, pack up your kids, and shove off, right?  Oh no. How will you provide for their education, feed them in exotic places where the foods are all different, wash diapers and ensure their safety.  Until now, there has been no resource available for families afloat. Thanks to these authors, everything is now about to change.  

Lightning strikes...twice!

by Daria Blackwell

A boat we once owned had the unlikely misfortune of having been struck by lightning twice. She had a dissipator on her mast, her rig was not unusually tall, and she was always moored in a crowded mooring field.  Yet, somehow, the lightning liked her best.

A study published last year in Science (Science 14 November 2014: Vol. 346 no. 6211 pp. 851-854 DOI: 10.1126/science.125910) concluded that lightning strikes are predicted to increase 12 ± 5% per degree Celsius of global warming and about 50% over this century.  With the increase in likelihood of a strike, what do we need to know to protect ourselves and our vessels?

Here are a few things we learned from our experience.

The versatile ketch rig

by Daria Blackwell

When my husband Alex and I decided we wanted to cross oceans, we had certain criteria we wanted to take into account. Chiefly, we wanted a boat that sailed well, was comfortable and safe when crossing oceans and comfortable at anchor as well. After all, we were going to spend more of our time not moving than moving. But when we did move, we might be needing a stable platform in a storm.  That excluded many of the modern production boats, which tend to be beamy and flat. We also decided that we would be looking at ketch rigs. 

Finding a solution for 'Solution'

Our friend, Carter Bacon, had been planning this trip across the Atlantic for years.  His classic yacht, Solution, is a wooden 50 footer built by Nielsen in Maine in 1963.  He entered the Transatlantic Race of 2015 as a means by which to get her across the pond to sail the other side for a while. His wife, Peggy, would join him  in Ireland where her parents had a home; they intended to cruise for a few weeks before bringing her up to Scotland for the winter and next year's cruising.

Learning to maneuver in tight spaces

We're just getting ready to  spend a little time in marinas, which is always a source of consternation for us. We have a 40-year-old, 57-foot classic ketch with no bow thruster. She's got a modified fin keel and heavy displacement. In other words, Aleria doesn't maneuver very well in tight spaces. She is meant to be crossing oceans. That's one of the reasons we really like to anchor out.  But in reality eventually we're going to have to get to a dock for fuel, water, or overnight in the absence of a safe anchorage. So we have had to learn how to use what we have to get ourselves into tight spaces. Here are several techniques that we've found very useful.

The weather in the West of Ireland was filthy, but we couldn’t not sail!

Summer Sailstice, a global celebration of sailing on the longest day of the year We sailed out of our inlet in Clew Bay at half tide. That’s when we can make it over the shellfish bed that runs across the entrance.We had about a foot of water beneath our keel at the shallowest.But that was not so much the issue. The issue was that the morning was cold, dark, damp and just miserable. Oh, and it was flat calm. 
When we got out into Clew Bay, there was not a boat in sight.Then, a really dark cloud came by and it started to rain. Alex and I looked at each other and knew what we were thinking. Should we turn back and get back in while the tide is still with us?Nah, we kept going in the shadow of the Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick.

Top 10+ Cookbooks for Boaters

Recipes to keep your crew from jumping ship

Anyone who has done any extensive cruising will have had to deal with provisioning and stowing food, cooking while underway in rough conditions, keeping a diversity of crew happy, dealing with unfamiliar ingredients, having either too much (fish) or too little (fresh veg) food available, substituting ingredients, the art of the pot luck dinner, and disposing of packaging. There are plenty of other elements to deal with, like cramped quarters and availability of gas, so voyaging by boat can be a tricky thing, and getting ideas from other people doing the same thing is always helpful.  
I decided to compile a list of cookbooks for boaters and was surprised to find there were so many new ones on the market. Most are available in both print and electronic formats, so you can have your preferred edition and access an electronic version from anywhere with an internet connection. 
Some of the books cover the full range of issues, which can make the …

The meaning of home

Where the mountains come down to the sea along the Wild Atlantic Way
Home is a question I've been contemplating my entire life. So on this day, my birthday, I will begin to try to answer that question. I published a post recently about having found home along the wild Atlantic way in Ireland. Today, I want to explore the meaning of home and ask a new question: how did I know it when I found it?

When you ask people what 'home' means to them, you'll get a variety of different answers. Some of them are dependant on culture, others on circumstance. Home to many is the place you live. For some it's where you came from. For others it's where they are heading to. For some it is the house they grew up in. For others it is the house they built.

For me a house never equates with the concept of home. A house can be an empty place. Home is warm and inviting. The place you feel safe and content. The place you want to be. I have been searching for home for a lifetime.

Taking care of business

To write or not to write is never the question
Almost a month ago now, we released Cruising the Wild Atlantic Way. It's been an interesting few weeks and we are now awaiting a shipment of books to take to book stores around the country to see if we might sell a few in the local shops in towns mentioned in the book.  We know we won't be getting wealthy from this effort, but it is quite rewarding to get a positive review and know that today, you made someone smile.

Finding Paradise along the Wild Atlantic Way

Having sailed the entire west coast of Ireland and calling Clew Bay home, we've been blogging about this most impressive sailing territory for years. We have an amazing collection of photos that captures the remarkable and stunning beauty. Some time ago, I started to organize my blog posts and photos and work on a book long before it actually began to take on a life of its own. So when Failte Ireland decided to focus on the Wild Atlantic Way, it was a natural to collect what we already had into a resource that could tie in to that effort. Cruising the Wild Atlantic Way was born to help those following in our wake.

Cruising the Wild Atlantic Way was released this week

We did it!  Elation, exhaustion, amazement.

To hold a book you have written in your own hands, to flip through the pages and see your treasured photos, and to read words that sound too good to be yours, but they can't be anyone else's, is just short of miraculous. I am very pleased with the outcome.

The creative process of self-publishing

Books are fun to write, for me at least. I love to get wrapped up in a subject and look at it from the perspective of my prospective audience. What are they looking to learn from me?  What will entice them to spend their precious time with me?  How can I share my knowledge and entertain a little, too. These are the kinds of questions I ask myself throughout the process. I don't want to let them down, and yet I know I cannot satisfy them all.

Getting more women to sail

It's an interesting thing that there are more men than women who take up sailing.

To get women to try sailing, the regional sailing authorities make a sailing outing a fund raising event for breast cancer. I don't know about you, but I have my favourite charities and somehow I just don't get how sailing mixes with cancer. Sailing fun. Cancer not fun. My sister died of peritoneal cancer. My mother died of breast cancer. When I go sailing, I don't really want to think about cancer. Nor do I want to be saddled with fundraising for a charity with which I am not familiar. If want to go sailing, then sailing is what I want to do. Period.

When was the last time you heard about men being introduced to sailing by promoting and raising money for prostate cancer?  Never?  Oh right. Men go sailing for sailing's sake. I get it.

Cruising the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland

It's been a very busy month. Spring has sprung and we've been doing boat chores as quickly as we can. Fortunately, the weather has been relatively amazing here, with the Azores High reaching its tendrils up into our latitudes, and we are not complaining.  Perhaps climate change is favourable, for Ireland at least. 

Saving sailing - by keeping the fun in sailing fundamentals

What's wrong with how sailing is taught?  For some reason, the teaching of sailing skills in many countries where sailing is an active pursuit has over the years changed from learning the ropes on a local body of water from an experienced friend to a rigorously structured multi-year racing-based certification process. How did it evolve this way, and who says racing is the only way to acquire the necessary fundamentals?  I say bring back the fun and watch the numbers grow.

Vanuatu and the Solomons need our help

Cyclone Pam left destruction and death behind in the Pacific. It's up to us now to help the gentle people of these remote and vulnerable islands. The Ocean Cruising Club is coordinating efforts among sailors to get things done on the ground. Please do what you can to support those is position to assist.

Information for Immediate Release
Contact: Daria Blackwell OCC Press Officer                                                                      
17th March  2015 Sailors band together to get relief to cyclone stricken Pacific islanders

Beware the tides of March!

Syzygy, aurora, eclipse, meteors and more! The Ides of March has a bad reputation but it passed unnoticed this year; and this month we also had a Friday the 13th, which some people are rather superstitious about. But that came and went without much ado as well. We got lucky with weather overall as St. Patrick's Day was dry and not too cold. The parades, especially in Newport, were great fun, and there were only two ankle injuries during the ritual sunrise climb of Croagh Patrick. No, I did not climb. Done it once.

The highest tides in the spring are always around St. Patrick's, Day and this year they were a couple of days later. We live by the sea so we are used to tidal variation. I suppose that's an understatement in that we live on a one lane road by the sea which is under water during the big spring tides for an hour either side of the high tide mark.

Children's Books about Sailing

Finding good children's books to inspire a love of the sea can be a challenge.  I've been keeping track of good selections for some time.  There is a listing of children's books on our website CoastalBoating. Recently, a graphic novel caught my attention.  Here is my review.

Granuaile: Queen of StormsDave Hendrick and Luca Pizzari, Publication date: 16th February 2015,  ISBN 978-1-84717-671-4 PRICE €12.99/£9.99 PB, Format 259 x 168mm EXTENT 64pp, The O’Brien Press Ltd Tel: +353 1 4923333; Web:, Facebook:, Twitter:

The first graphic novel presenting the story of Granuaile, the Pirate Queen, is set in sixteenth century Ireland, a turbulent time when clans lived and competed under Brehon Law, the British were expanding ever farther from the East, and the Spanish plundered along the west coast.

Top 30+ Sailing Movies

Wow, what a cool collection! Great ideas for a sailing movie club. 
When I started to compile this list, I thought I'd come up with maybe ten movies. But as I got deeper into it, not only did I realize there were more than I consciously remembered over time, but also that the independent film production movement and digital technologies are causing an explosion of very interesting new entries. The work being done by young people is particularly inspiring and impressive, and perhaps signifies that sailing isn't dying after all. No, it's actually becoming the saving grace of a generation pressured as none before it. Because it is just too difficult to rate these movies as each one ticks a different box, I've just listed them in chronological order. Enjoy, and please let me know about any I missed.

Top Ten Instructional Books on Sailing

Want to acquire an exciting new skill that will last a lifetime? Try sailing.  Sailing can look daunting to people who look up and see all those ropes and poles, and sails. Sailing also suffers from the perception of it being expensive, and it can be, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of people who have boats and need crew and plenty of boats in people's back yards just looking for a new friend to take to sea.  So if you yearn for your own boat to mess around in, take the plunge and learn what it will take to acquire a good one and learn how to sail it.  If you'd rather not deal with the hassle of owning a boat, go down to your local sailing club and ask about learn to sail programs or crewing opportunities.  Chances are, you won't even have to know much to get started. But of course if you can show enthusiasm, pleasant personality, eagerness and some attempt at acquiring the skills, you will be in high demand.  
So here are a few basic instructional manuals…

Top Ten+ Novels Based on Sailing (fiction)

Sailing makes a romantic setting There are few novels with sailing as a background theme, which is surprising given how romantic sailing is considered to be. Images of sailboats appear everywhere and dreams of sailing off to an uncharted island abound, yet stories tend to be real not fictional.  That's curious to me. I've scoured the pages of amazon and Goodreads to find what I could as the question often comes up, "Are there any good novels with sailing themes."  The answer is, yes, but not many.  As I have not read these all yet, I am simply providing the publisher's descriptions here, mostly as they appear on  From Homer's Odyssey to Christine Kling's Circle of Bones, one thing for certain is that this is an eclectic collection, much like the collection of characters one is likely to encounter at sea.

I'm also working on a listing of sailing movies, which of course might have been based on either novels or true stories, so perhaps we&#…

Top 25 or so Reference Books for Offshore Sailing

Fix it, replace it, or do without it.  When we were setting off to cross oceans, we wanted to have access to a library of books that would allow us to fix anything that was essential on board including ourselves, that would help us figure out what we didn't know that we didn't know, and then help us communicate it to someone else if all else failed. My mantra became "If it breaks at sea you have three choices: fix it, replace it or do without it." So we brought along spares for anything we couldn't do without, like an alternator and water pump. We brought spare parts for things we didn't want to do without, like the head. And the rest we figured we could fix, jury rig or learn to live without -- as long as we had someplace to look up what we needed to know.

This is a listing of some of the most valuable books we brought along. It doesn't include cruising guides, only reference or instructional books. I'm certain there are some really great books miss…

Top Ten Books about Sailing (non-fiction)

Ocean adventures inspire the spinning of tall tales Sailing is one of those things in life that so many dream of and few pursue. Those of us who have sailed off across an ocean most often started out in our warm beds absorbed in a book of someone else's adventures on the other side of the world. Their yarns spun our own ambitions and fueled our thirst for the sea. So many authors have been inspired by the sea that there are hundreds of books to choose from.

So why these ten on my list? Because they were the ones that told the stories that I wanted to live or taught me lessons that may one day save a life - my own or a loved one's. And now that I have, I can honestly say that their yarns were well spun. There are few things better in life than reading a good sailing book while sailing! To go off watch, curl up in a secure spot and read about your favourite sailing adventure inspires the next adventure of your own. I always ask, where to next? And there's always someone …

Paraskevidekatriaphobia ... one fear in the sea of superstitions

Last week, we experienced a Friday the 13th.  How many of you experience friggatriskaidekaphobia or a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th or more specifically paraskevidekatriaphobia, fear of traveling on Friday the 13th? The latter term was coined by therapist Dr. Donald Dossey, whose specialty is treating people with irrational fears.  Many sailors refuse to leave port for a long journey on a Friday, much less a Friday the 13th. Triskaidekaphobics, on the other hand, fear the number 13. For their benefit, hotels skip the 13th floor and some airports even skip gate 13.

When the weather is too awful to sail, go skiing!

Skiers and Sailors - a lot in common? Have you ever noticed that many sailors are also skiers?  I suppose it's the allure of water - whether liquid or solid phase - that takes us off into the wild blue/white yonder. Or is it the natural beauty of the earth around us? Or the wild fury of nature that we need to respect and negotiate? Or is it about the adventure? The need to survive either a pitching boat on a wild ocean or a pitched slope on a wild mountain, and thrive out there against the elements and the unknown, could be the impetus.

Oceans on the brink of collapse...need the UN's help urgently.

We could be on the verge of total collapse of ocean life or on the verge of a breakthrough to take the steps necessary to save our oceans before it's too late.

From McCauley DJ et al.
A front page story in the New York Times this week, "Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction," reported on a major study, a review paper for which scientists gathered data from an impressive range of sources. "Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean,"1, published in the journal Science, presents evidence that our oceans are on the edge of a largely human-caused catastrophic extinction event. But there is also good news in the may not be too late to fix it. These scientists believe the oceans still have the resilience to bounce back if we can provide the needed protection. But we have to act fast because the status quo is a path we now know is likely to lead to mass extinctions