Aleria spends winter with the big boys in Killybegs

Overwintering in Galway.
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. 

This year we decided she needed to be hauled. We needed to service the through hulls and paint the bottom. Living in the west of Ireland, we’ve had to be creative when she needs to be hauled.  There are very few cranes or travelifts out here that can handle 29 tons of displacement. 
In her cradle on our shore.

For the first few years, we drove her on a high spring tide into a cradle built on our shore. The tide came in and out happily around her until the high spring tide in March when we would float her back out again. That worked great until one year, a nasty westerly storm drove the water way into the bay and Aleria floated off her slings in the storm surge. When she sat back down, one of the slings had shifted and her prop shaft bent. 

So we had to tow her into Westport and hire two cranes to lift her out onto the quay.  That was a nail biting process. The crane drivers have since decided the liability is too great for them to do so again. There is a crane somewhere in Ireland that is large enough to haul Aleria, but it would be prohibitively expensive to bring it west for that purpose. 

In Kilrush with work scaffolding all around.
So we had two options. Sail south to the marina in Kilrush on the Shannon.  That marina is under new ownership and has introduced massive improvements including dredging of the channel and upgrading of services and facilities.  But, their quote to us was quite expensive, even with the 10% discount now offered to OCC members. 

Haulout took two cranes.
The other option was to sail north to Killybegs in Donegal, one of the most important fishing ports in all of Europe.  For years we had heard that Killybegs was not kind to yachts so we did so with some trepidation.  But the quote we received for haul out and storage was quite reasonable. 

On a beautiful Thursday morning, we departed from Clew Bay on the outgoing tide. The weather in Ireland was miserable all summer, but October proved spectacular.  Very little rain, not too windy, and not too cold.  The benefit of heading north was experiencing the stunning coasts of counties Mayo and Donegal with some of the tallest cliffs in all of Europe.  Plus the lighting and the sunrises and sunsets this time of year are awe inspiring.

On the Quay in Westport --
Poppits and mast secured to the ground.
We stopped in the deserted Inishkea islands and discovered that the barnacle geese, thousands of them, had just returned from their arctic breeding grounds.  We overnighted in beautiful Teelin harbour on the edge of the spectacular Slieve League cliffs and walked up, way up, from the harbour to the summit.  The photos we took, though lovely, don’t quite do nature complete justice. Those images will be nurturing our souls for some time to come.  If you can, go now as it is about to become one of Europe’s biggest tourist attractions. 

We anchored overnight in a small delightful bay directly across from Killybegs town. In the morning, on the high tide, we motored over to Mooney Brothers yard.  The foreman, Darren, was there to instruct us.  Unfortunately, we tried going in bow to but the forestay wouldn’t allow us to get in far enough to position the slings correctly.  So out again, now trying to back in. Aleria doesn’t back very well – at all.  But using the prop walk and dock lines we were able to spring in and align perfectly.  Phew!

Being set down into her hardstand in Killybegs.
The 75-ton travelift did the job just fine. The facilities are very clean and top notch and the staff couldn’t be nicer and more professional.  Lee Mooney supervised the whole thing himself.  They built a nice cradle and offered to drop cement weights next to Aleria with which to secure her from the mast to the ground.  

The location is quite sheltered and, although much of their business involves large fishing trawlers, there is a section for yachts on the hard. They have a chandlery, a machine shop, a canteen, and a new marina is planned for the inner harbour. They are looking to attract the yachting industry in the future, and the town is quite delightful.  So contrary to the rumours we have heard!

We took a bus home along roads we would not have driven.  All in all it was a memorable trip.  I think we have just found a happy new winter home for Aleria.

Barnacle geese wintering in the Inishkeas

Early Christian carved slab
Barnacle geese overhead
Sunset in the Inishkeas

Dolphins in Donegal Bay

At anchor in Teelin.

Walk up to Slieve League

The fishing fleet preparing to head out


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