Decisions leading to the Aran Islands

Sailing past the Blasket Islands - eerie!

The Small Craft Warnings (SCW) were indicating the potential for gale force winds on Thursday,  beginning later Wednesday night. The winds and seas would be higher farther south and the temperatures warmer and the weather fairer farther north.

Our choices were to head out from Valentia and get as far as the Shannon River and pull into Kilrush, a locked marina, which was about 60 NM or head to Inishmore which was about 75 NM distant. Inishmore in the Aran Islands off Galway Bay could be exposed to the east but should be good in southeasterly wind and swell. If Inishmore was too exposed, we could sail across to Cashla Bay and tie up at the small craft harbour in Rossaveal. We could reach the first decision as we approached Loop Head whether to turn up the Shannon. But Kilrush is 20 NM up the river, and 20 NM back down, adding 40 NM to our total trip. Inishmore was a straight shot. We could choose to continue to Cashla if Inishmore proved untenable. We chose to go for Kilronan Harbour on Kileaney Bay in Inishmore. 

However, Alex had slightly miscalculated the distance we would need to cover. It was a total of more than 95 NM, not 75 NM 'as the crow flies'. We sailed out of Dingle Bay past the Blasket Islands, then turned north dead downwind, before jibing northeast for the straight shot to the Aran Islands. We decided it was safer and easier to go outside the Blaskets in mist and fog than threading through Blasket Sound as we've done several times in better visibility. We continued to motor sail to keep the speed up, especially after realizing when we reached the Blaskets that we still had 75 miles to go (MTG). 

We had an amazing trip in fairly settled seas and winds of about 15 knots, motor sailing the entire way doing about 9-10 knots all the way. Whereas some of the shorter trips this week were arduous, yesterday's was long but not uncomfortable. It made all the difference. Nevertheless, we did ask the question about why were we doing this? I read two books and wrote copious notes. We did spot two whales - a spout and a fin - in the distance. Lots of birds but no other sealife. 

After 12.5 hours and 99 NM, we were at anchor in 'our spot' in the Harbour. There were two boats on moorings and the mooring field appears to have expanded substantially. The moorings have significant growth on them so they made not be serviced regularly. Two yachts went into the harbour, one tied up to a fishing vessel the other to the wall. The wind picked up in earnest at about 10 pm as we were having dinner below. We went to bed at about midnight. We had a bouncy, boisterous, and wet night but not too bad.

The morning brought sunshine and fair weather. We noticed that one of the moored boats was anchored on the other side of the harbour near the lighthouse, presumably having decided it was too uncomfortable during the night. The boat that had been inside the harbour on the wall was now tied between two fishing boats. With Aleria's displacement, we were not uncomfortable at all, though going ashore by dinghy would have been challenging. 

Loads of ferries brought hundreds of visitors to the island, disgorging them at the pier. Two planes whizzed overhead causing taxis to scurry along the coast road to the airport. We were taking it slow on board. We had a nice breakfast of pancakes and bacon, then a nice lunch of Iberian ham and bread from Knightstown. We wondered if it was worth pumping up the dinghy for the first time in Ireland to go ashore. 

The forecast was for SCW SE F6 or higher. There was a depression of 991 hP 190 NM west of Valentia bringing humid southeasterly airflow over Ireland. The forecast was for SE F5-7 to veer to SSW F5-7 later. It had already started. The 24h forecast was for fresh to strong southerly winds Friday, decreasing later and a wave height of 2.8 meters.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. We're just glad we left Valentia where the weather remains drizzly, cloudy and cool with winds topping 30 knots. We made the right decision for today. It's bright and sunny in Kilronan.

Blasket Islands
Alex on watch

Approaching Gregory Sound

In Gregory Sound

Checking the charts

In Killeaney Bay


Mooring field

Kilronan Harbour

Visitor moorings

Clearing gale winds

Alex made pancakes for breakfast

First plane

Second plane
Morning light, sailboat anchored out during the night
presumably to reduce the rolling in the swell


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