Fall cruise from Mayo to Donegal. Part 1: Clew Bay to the Inishkeas
|Departing Clew Bay on the morning tide.|
(Click on photos to enlarge.)
|Confused seas off Achill Head.|
|Sun trying to break through.|
I was at the helm until Achillbeg when I caught a chill and turned the helm over to Alex. He soon started the engine and began motor sailing around the corner while I went below to read and warm up a bit. I started feeling a bit queasy, which is unusual for me. Suddenly, a wave of nausea overtook me and I ran up on deck.
|Westerly swell a good 12 feet high.|
I have said this before and I'll say it again, this is one of the most uncomfortable and treacherous places I've ever had the displeasure of sailing. Alex was turning green as well, so we both took seasickness tablets and let the autopilot do its job. The swell did not subside until we reached the lee of Inishkea South several hours later. Thankfully, the seasickness tabs did their job. Lunch consisted of a granola bar, a banana and Activia, all I could handle 'preparing' down below.
|Geese flying out from behind Inishkea South.|
Our first sighting.
A side benefit of heading north was experiencing the stunning coasts of counties Mayo and Donegal with some of the tallest cliffs in all of Europe. It may be uncomfortable at times, but it is spectacular. At this time of year the lighting and the sunrises and sunsets are awe inspiring. As we anchored in the waters between Rusheen and Inishkea South where the swell was minimal, the skies turned blue and the sun came out, changing the mood dramatically.
|Gorgeous sunset over the Inishkeas.|
|Dinghy landing on the beach.|
The next day, we were greeted by a spectacular sunrise that lit the sky in crimson and orange fire. We donned hiking boots and prepared cameras and a picnic lunch for a field trip. We intended to walk the parts of the island we had not yet explored -- mainly the far western shore. We launched the dinghy and made our way to the beach landing just as a small trawler came in towing a currach. He anchored just off the beach and took the currach ashore with all manner of construction gear. We posited that he was restoring one of the ruined cottages but we didn't want to disturb him.
|Geese on machair landscape. Ducks and a swan on the pond.|
|The smaller gaggle of geese.|
|One of the larger gaggles of geese, estimated at 1000 strong.|
|One of the largest gaggles of barnacle geese we witnessed.|
|A natural fissure on the north island.|
|Alex being inconspicuous.|
We managed to snap a few shots until the shutter click spooked the swan and he took flight. Alex caught his take-off on camera. With his ascent, the geese took off as well. Again, I estimated there were about 1000 in the flock. They flew out and then turned and flew directly overhead. We lay on the ground and clicked as they flew over us.
|Barnacle geese overhead.|
Shortly after that, a third flock again 1000 strong took off from a field at the very tip of the island and did a circle again. As we were able to track the position of the three flocks, we knew they were distinct gaggles. Later that day, we spotted a fourth gaggle about half as large so our estimate for the day for the North Island alone was about 3500 geese. We'd never seen so many birds in one place at one time.
We walked over to a sandy inlet surrounded by a rocky shore and heard a seal lamenting but could not spot him or any of his friends on the rocks. The swan was now swimming in the salt water inlet where a grey heron stalked stranded fish and crabs left behind by the outgoing tide. Tiny sandpipers flitted across the sand as a pair of curlew called overhead. A seal slid into the water and swam out the inlet alongside the swan. What a privilege to witness such a live show.
|Swan taking off.|
We stopped to photograph some of the remarkable archaeological remains of prehistoric, early Christian, and Norse settlements. The light was particularly good for photography. Then we stopped for lunch in the perfect spot with soft raised landscape to sit on facing a stony promontory leading out to sea. The sun was warm on our backs as we feasted on sandwiches, fruit and water.
|Adding a stone to the offerings pile.|
We managed to walk the circumference of the entire island despite both soles of my hiking boots parting from the rest of the shoes. All in all it was a very fine day. One couldn't ask for more.
|Goose feathers everywhere.|
The workman from Inishkea North packed it in at 5 o'clock and soon after the light show began. The sunset punctuated the day with a brilliant display. The night was a most amazingly clear one with stars and galaxies visible in the blackness of a deserted island with no light emission but that glowing from the instruments on our boat that still remained on. The one thing that would have made it even more amazing -- an aurora borealis display -- did not appear that night. We'll save that one for another night in Donegal.
|One of the three Baileys. |
The village is in the distance.
|Carved slab in a church ruin dedicated to Colmcille.|
|Rather flat landscape with stunning views of the Belmullet peninsula.|
|Crosses in what appears to be a graveyard.|
|A dwelling and church ruin attributed to Columcille,|
also known as St. Columba.
|Beautifully carved slab.|
|A cross slab with typical base that incorporates white stone.|
|Lots of flotsam, too.|
|Beautiful sand beaches.|
|Spectacular painted sunrise over Belmullet.|