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.
In our mid-50s, Alex and I decided to leave our respective lives in New York and New Jersey behind and move to Ireland, the country of Alex's youth and where Alex had always found life to be more 'real'. What we discovered in the process was 'home'.
In undertaking this work, we realized that we have a perspective that has not been previously represented. As we did sail here from America, we have an outsider's view of what visitors need to know when coming here the first time. We had no clew how to interpret the weather forecast (where is Loop Head?), how to understand the sailing directions (what on earth is a cable?), where to get food, fuel and water if there are few marinas, or how to store your boat in the winter. The list goes on. These things we learned slowly over the years since we've been here.
Yet, we also have an insider's view as Clew Bay, smack in the middle of the west, is now our home, and it's where Alex grew up and had an oyster hatchery before heading off to America as so many did in those times. We've been sailing along the west coast north and south from here since we arrived in 2008. So we know what it's like to sail here under all kinds of conditions and times of year and can speak from personal experience about what to find in many of the ports, harbours and destinations. Moreover, we know what it means to live here not just to pass through. We know where the hidden gems are.
Aside from the sheer natural and unspoiled beauty, the endless history, the rich culture, evolving cuisine, and creative soul of the people, the people are genuinely welcoming and nice. There is so much going on we'll never run out of things to do. Festivals, book readings, lectures, concerts, ceilis, bicycle paths, hiking trails -- the possibilities are endless.
Crime, a concern to visitors in many parts of the world, is rarely an issue. Oh, of course, you'll come across the occasional thug, but that's the exception in our part of the world. Most people don't lock their doors, and you'll be hard pressed to find a dinghy locked to the pier.
What makes me feel that Ireland is 'home'? It's the place where I feel most comfortable, like I belong here. When I leave, my heart longs to return. Its the place where the mountains come down to the sea. It's the place that changes its mood every minute of every day. The light plays on the land and sea, and it inspires me to think creatively and feel emotionally. That's what I was searching for my entire life. I drove both coasts of America from Maine to Florida and Washington to California searching for 'home'. I didn't find it there. I had to cross an ocean to return to my European roots to find home here. Who would have thought?
Whenever we have left for a time, we always wondered what ever possessed us to leave this glorious place upon our return home. It's hard to leave when you're fortunate enough to live in paradise at the edge of the world. I am grateful for every moment.