Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Killybegs in Donegal -- a boater's haven


On approach to Killybegs

Lighthouse on Rotten Island
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.



The fishing fleet
We made our way into Killybegs, nosed around the deep natural harbour, then decided to anchor overnight directly across from the town in a peaceful deep water anchorage in Walker's Bay.  It is sheltered, out of the way of ship's traffic (the big fishing vessels go out at all hours), and with great views of the town, the ships, and the sunset. In the morning, a lobster fisherman was out pulling up his pots.

We received a text message from Mooney Boats that we should proceed to the Bay as scheduled at 0930. There was no activity on shore so we called in as we were approaching. Darron the foreman responded and asked us to hold off until 1000.  He had looked at where the tide was at 930 and made the call that it wasn't yet high enough for our draft of 8.5 feet.

Mooney Boats and the inner harbour
Finally it was time to go and the slings were lowered into the water. The foreman, Darron, was there to help us.  He had his remote control keyboard attached to him like another appendage. At the appointed time we entered the well below the travel lift bow first. Unfortunately 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, and bow thrusters – in your dream.  Using the prop walk we spun her about. Then using dock lines we were able to spring in and align perfectly.  Phew!

The 75-ton travel lift did the job just fine. The facilities are very clean and top notch. The staff couldn’t be nicer or 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. 
Beautiful sunset seen from Walker's Bay

The location is quite sheltered but the winds can come down the mountains we have heard. 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, and a canteen. There is also a new marina 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 checked into the Tara Hotel and were given a lovely room overlooking the harbour. It has a shared terrace with tables where you can sit and enjoy the view. We had lunch at the pub restaurant  which has large windows overlooking the harbour. The food was fine.

In the slings with Darron at the controls

75-ton Travelhoist lifts Aleria out
We went exploring the town and in search of a good restaurant for dinner. We found it at The Fleet Inn. Owned by a graduate of the local hoteliers tourism school and his young and cheerful wife, the Inn specializes in local seafood. Our meals were prepared to perfection. Steak was cooked exactly to order, the monkfish and scallops in mussel and crab sauce were divine. We will definitely be back.

As we plan to return often during the winter to work on the boat, we researched the town and the amenities it offers.  There are two hotels, several B&Bs, and several nice restaurants. There are two smaller supermarkets within walking distance of the harbour -- Centra and Londis. A newsagent and convenience store is right across from the Tara Hotel. There is a Supervalu supermarket about a kilometer out of town on the Donegal Road. We won't be found wanting.We will report what we learn as we go along.

Downtown Killybegs

Aleria and her neighbors
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.

Hotels & B&Bs in Killybegs (all have free wifi):
Tara Hotel
Bay View Hotel (has a pool)
The Ritz B&B (parking)
Seawinds B&B
The Fleet Inn B&B (great restaurant, no parking)

Looking good

A Wharram design in the harbour

Swan Net Gundry Chandlery

Centra supermarket and newsagent on the main street

Bay View Hotel

Lovely deli and butcher near the waterfront

Just about every Irish bank is represented here

Carpetmaking and fishing were the lifeblood

The chandlery at Mooney Boats

Mooney Boats Chandlery

View from our room at the Tara Hotel across the harbour

Colourful fishing fleet coming and going all the time

The Fleet Inn offers rooms and delicious seafood




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