Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sailing down from Donegal

A few of the fishing vessels in Killybegs

We got underway right from the Killybegs Sailing Club mooring, having raised our mainsail and mizzen in the harbour. The wind direction made for a perfect line right out of the harbour close hauled. As we unfurled the yankee and Alex raised the staysail, she soared out the channel.



Passing Inishmurray, Cashel in view. 

But there was no one there to see us. It was Sunday and there was no one at work. A lone paddle boarder watched us from the pier as we tore past.

It was supposed to have been a relatively calm day and we were planning to stop at Inishmurray, but it was blowing just a bit too much to chance leaving Aleria in the exposed rocky "harbour".  The anchorage is essentially within a natural rock breakwater on two sides. The cashel with early Christian ruins and beehive huts is clearly visible from the sea. The restored school house on the end of the island reputedly holds many of the carved stone slabs and crosses that once stood all around the island. It's one of the most important early Christian sites in Ireland and even in the world. But we wouldn't get to see it today.

Anchored in Brown Bay with view of Benbulben in Sligo
We took pictures as we sailed by and decided to go only as far as Brown Bay. Sligo town was too shallow, Killala was too exposed, and Broadhaven was too far. As we approached the wide Bay with stunning views of Benbulben, we were glad to be taking a cruising break, the first of the season. It was protected from westerly swell to a degree by the rocky outcropping and from the south and east by land. A long sandy beach flanks the anchorage. There are few houses along the shore.

The wind calmed, the sun came out, and so did the books. It's interesting how much reading we get done while sailing. There are no TV and other distractions. I finished two books in three days. We enjoyed the beautiful hot sun all evening and a lovely sunset.

Lovely sunset
The next day would be long so we rose early, had a quick breakfast and got underway. We left in haze, undulating seas, variable wind. It was almost dead downwind as we were heading due west out of Donegal Bay and the wind was easterly with just a touch of north in it. We decided we would make a decision about how far to go when we reached Broadhaven. Broadhaven wouldn't be great if the wind clocked further north. The Inishkeas were out in easterlies so that left Blacksod Bay as our next choice. We decided to go for it.

We had an on again off again sail and then the wind died and the motor came on. When the wind picked up by Inishglora we turned off the engine and let out the sails again. Alex was lamenting that we hadn't seen any wildlife on this trip -- no whales, no dolphins, no basking sharks, no seals, and few birds.

Just inside the Inishkeas, bottlenose dolphins came streaking toward us from inside the Inishkea North harbour. A pod of about 30 cavorting around us, bow riding for a good 20 minutes. And then they were gone. What great fun. They were huge -- about 10 feet in length with a few juveniles tagging along.

Dophins inside the Inishkeas

The Belmullet peninsula
We sailed around Duvillaun and into Blacksod Bay and dropped anchor beyond Kanfinalta Point. Once again, stunning beauty with the light playing along the Nephin range and the imposing cliffs of Achill juxtaposed against the low lying sandy Mullet peninsula. It was beautiful. And then we were treated to a most stunning sunset. So brilliant we expected to see the green flash, but alas it didn't happen.


After a quiet night we awoke to an eerily hazy morning. No wind again. Who would have thought? So we motored out and stuck our noses into Blacksod Bay to check it out. Very nice little fishing harbour with a solid breakwater near the lighthouse. Plenty of room to anchor outside. We'd be back.

Stunning sunset over the Mullet
Then we motored around Achill Head. It was the closest we'd ever been able to pass and the water was glass calm. Quite a difference from the last time we rounded this corner. The mountains all around were flat and shades of grey, like paper cutouts arranged in sequence. And then, as we entered Clew Bay, more dolphins. They were milling about and feeding and about 20 young spirited animals came alongside to play. One was jumping high in the air doing acrobatics, one was swimming upside down and convinced a friend to try it too. Two dolphins swimming in the bow wake upside down with an eye on us the whole time. Alex got some amazing photos.

This time we were too early for the tide so we dropped anchor just inside Inishoo, tidied up and read some more. When the tide reached the halfway mark, we mosied our way through the inner islands to our mooring. Aleria was home. And so were we. 

But no green flash

Blacksod Harbour

Achill Head

Dolphins in Clew Bay!

Nothing to do but read. 

Amazing bottlenose dolphins again!

Inishoo and Croagh Patrick

Fishing boat going home. 

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