Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hot summer days on Clare Island

T-shirts and shorts for the first time in years

Leaving the inner bay past Inishoo and Croagh Patrick
The Met Eireann office released its climate report for May which was confirmed to be the dryest, sunniest month in years. People were flocking to the Blue Flag beaches and coastal islands in droves. Compared with last year, the year that summer never arrived, we've had our fill of summer already with little brown bodies tanned for the first time in the absence of the need for wetsuits. Long may it last.

We sailed out in beautiful weather though not much wind. In fact it was glass calm. So we motored most of the way to Clare Island, our destination for the June Bank Holiday weekend.




Hazy, hot and humid view toward Clare Island

Our first night's feast
We had brought our boat back down from Donegal early in May in benign conditions which have lasted well into June already. Unheard of! This weekend we were joining the Mayo Sailing Club fleet for a bank holiday weekend sojourn to Clare Island in the mouth of Clew Bay. We didn't have a long sail as it's only about 15 miles all told. We picked up a mooring a day in advance of the fleet's arrival and just hung out on the boat in perfect weather. We noticed that our friends Ian and Ann were on a mooring closer in.

We decided dinner on board would be ideal for our first major cruise of the season. I had brought along a lobster and it made for a festive first meal. A bit of harbour watching and reading afterwards, then off to bed in the rocking cradle.

Beachgoers on Clare Island's Blue Flag beach
The morning brought more of the same. Blue skies, sunshine, and warmth. The beach was crowded with families and beach blankets and people swimming in the crystal clear aqua waters. As it hadn't rained in weeks, there was no runoff to bring silt into the water. It was Clarebbean Blue. So inviting and not too cold, warmer than it had been in years.  I dipped in up to my knees, but didn't swim even though I was truly tempted.


We did an 8 km walk from the harbour in the East to the tower in the West
The next morning we decided a walk was in order. We haven't walked Clare Island in two years and we had never gone out to the Napoleonic Tower. So that was the plan. We came across Ian and Ann having coffee in front of the house they've been renting with friends on the June bank holiday weekend for more than 25 years. They too were going to walk the island. So dressed in T shirts and shorts we headed out in the blazing hot weather.

Spectacular views toward Inishturk, Caher, and Bofin
We walked to the end of the island where the Napoleonic signal tower sat in ruins. Lovely spot. Ian and Ann came along shortly afterwards, and then a young girl on her own and another couple. It was a busy place up there.

We ate our apples and granola bars and drank our water before returning back the way we came while Ian and Ann made their way up over the mountain. We watched what looked like five eagles soaring high above and Alex almost stepped on a skylark fledgling trying hard to be invisible.

Walking along the base of Knochmore
Back at the village, there was a record number of campers and it appeared a scout troop had descended on the Island. Campers were overflowing the designated campground area. Ferries kept shuttling people back and forth all weekend long. There was a big funeral -- O'Malley -- with people returning from all over the world to pay respects and the Community Centre was not serving any food to outsiders, only brews so that was fine. We ordered a pint to relieve the powerful thirst our walk had induced.

No dinner ashore that day. The Sailors Bar was booked out. We'd be back the next day for a MSC BBQ and prize giving. So back to Aleria and our favourite boat meal, spaghetti bolognase. 

The next morning we watched the fleet arrive and start preparations for the Around Clare Island Race in light air. Crew was arriving on the morning ferry, which was jam packed with tourists once again. And before long they were off!  It was lovely to see them sail off and lovely to see them return to fill the harbour with sailboats. We were content to stay behind and document the event with photography without even stirring from the boat. Heaven on earth, that's what it's like on a boat anchored in a pretty place. 

Before long we were all heading home on our own schedules. We tried to sail but it was no use. We gave in and motored over to check out Mulranny while we awaited the turn of the tide so we could get to our mooring in Ross. It was a wonderful summer's holiday and we're now looking forward to many more. 


The ruined signal tower

Ann and Ian explaining how they first met

On top of the world


Mayo Sailing Club fleet in the annual Around Clare Island Race

MSC fleet moored in the harbour

Heading home


Jarlath Cunnane's beautiful new schooner, Mac Lir







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