Hurricane Lorenzo Prep

Weather passing over Kilrush

After we returned from Spain, we spent weeks emptying our personal possessions from Aleria, our Bowman 57, as we had decided to put her up for sale. Fifteen years of accumulated stuff had to come off, ferried by our launch, get washed/cleaned, and stowed somewhere in the house or garage. It was a huge undertaking. Art had to come off the walls, etcetera. Of course, when the art was removed, the walls were discoloured. So we had to paint. I taped and Alex painted. Then I removed the tape and cleaned. All this time, the weather was awful. Wet, windy and cold.

We watch the Atlantic storms, especially late in the season, which October is in Ireland. We were watching hurricanes closely, and then noticed one form in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa and once again, like Ophelia two years ago, start spinning northwards instead of west across the Atlantic. It had never happened before Ophelia and now we had two named storms in two years heading straight up toward us instead of charging toward the American coast. Hurricane Lorenzo was making a beeline for Ireland, brushing past the Azores en route.

Meanwhile, the local weather forecasting had been highly variable, with multiple updates during the day and multiple models disagreeing on the forecasts. We wanted to move Aleria down the coast to Kilrush on the Shannon River where she will be spending the winter. That way, if the hurricane did come directly up the Atlantic, she'd be tied up in a marina or even hauled out and on the hard.

Making way in Clew Bay
We had to do it on the weekends because Alex teaches a self-publishing course on Thursdays and often has Board or Committee meetings on Wednesdays. So if we left on a Friday, we'd get there on Monday or Tuesday, and be able to catch a bus home the following day.

The first weekend we were ready, the forecast was for strong winds in the high 30s on the nose. As we would be heading south, strong southerlies would make it almost impossible. We decided to forego that weekend and head down the following weekend. Lorenzo was now forecast to arrive on Thursday and we could make it home by Tuesday if all worked according to plan.

Departing Clew Bay
As weekend two approached, we watched the forecast on WindGuru and the storm track on Windy. It was clear we needed to get out when Lorenzo reached hurricane Category 5. We couldn't take any chances. We departed on Friday morning at dawn and left our mooring on the outgoing tide with wind gusting in the 30s out of the west. There was a SCW for F6-7 W, decreasing to F4-5 mid-morning. High tide had been at 06:30 and we had to get out over the shallows before half tide. No problem, except the Bay was so churned up by wind against tide that it would be a miserable trip. I looked at WindGuru one more time and suggested that we drop anchor off Inishgowla to await a decrease in wind strength in a couple of hours. That's what we did and it was a good decision.

Anchored at Inishgowla
We tidied up, had tea, and as promised the wind abated two hours later. It was still westerly, but now only about 15 knots, gusting into the low 20s and manageable. We motor sailed to Inishbofin and arrived in good conditions, dropping anchor in our favourite spot. There were no boats anchored or on moorings in the outer harbour.
Anchored in Inishbofin
We decided to go ashore for an early dinner, then early to bed as we'd have a long day to get to Inishmore. As we arrived at Day's Beach Bar, we heard traditional music wafting out. To our surprise, there were more than a dozen musicians playing all manner of instruments, fiddles, guitars, whistles and other wind instruments, a squeezebox and a banjo. Beautiful. And it was only 6 pm. We ordered a couple of pints, a burger, and a steak sandwich and settled in to enjoy the music. It was a traditional music and set dancing weekend on Bofin and musicians from all around the country were there taking part. The trip was already sound.
A trad music session on Inishbofin
The next morning, we got up early and had breakfast, then got underway. The wind was northwesterly and strong but the day was beautiful and sunny. We made it to Inishmore by 1720h and anchored in our favourite spot in Kilronan. There was one boat on a mooring and no others. Could it be? Yes, it was. The boat was Truant of Oamaru, an OCC boat (a Bowman 40) we'd been told to watch for by Mike Hodder, our PO in Crosshaven. The owner was Toby Peyton-Jones. Alex's phone rang and we knew it must be Toby. We invited him and his crew for drinks aboard.
Truant in Kilronan 
Sam, John and Toby 
Toby was sailing with his friend John and his young nephew Sam. They rowed over in their little inflatable. We all hit it off immediately. What fun we had! They had just come from Kilrush where we were heading. We warned them about Hurricane Lorenzo; they were aware that there may be a storm but not cognizant of the potential danger. They were heading for Clew Bay and had flights home from Knock Airport over the weekend. We told them about the moorings at Mayo Sailing Club and our mooring as well. We parted ways in the morning.
Gusty winds along the Cliffs of Moher
We left early in SE wind 15-20 knots and building. I lobbied for a reef in the main, but Alex thought we'd need all of it. It was a long trip - 60 miles, which could take up to 10 hours. Daylight was getting shorter, with nightfall coming at 1930h and sunrise at 0730h. Before we made it out of the harbour, we had two reefs in the main, no yankee, and jib and jigger set, and we were flying. The wind was on Aleria's stern quarter where she likes it. But I must admit, I was scared when the wind kept building and became increasingly gusty. Fortunately, Otto was doing a great job and Aleria was behaving under his steering prowess. Luckily, we were sailing along the Cliffs of Moher, and the SE wind meant that the seas were relatively benign. We had visits by dolphins on several occasions, including 4 common dolphins and 3 porpoises jumping for joy. The rain was now coming down in buckets so we were taking turns on watch on deck. Visibility was occasionally nonexistent so we were watching for ship traffic on radar and AIS below. We made it to Loop Head at the mouth of the Shannon in five hours!
Finally, we could see Loop Head
Then we turned the corner up the Shannon River and it was brutal. We had an incoming tide and the river was very churned up. There were trees and big limbs floating downriver. Alex had decided to cross the mouth of the Shannon then turn into the wind in the lee of the land to take down the sails. But it was 7 miles to anywhere near the other side and we were bashing upwind and unable to make much way. So we picked a time when the wind calmed down in between gusts, which were fairly consistently spaced, and got the sails down and tied, then motored the rest of the 16 miles upriver. We were getting a 4-knot push and so we were doing more than 10 knots over ground but only 5.5 through the water. That cut an hour off our trip.
The locks in Kilrush
At Kilrush, we entered the lock, tied up to the pontoon, and followed the instructions for how to operate the lock. Simon McGibney was away at a funeral, but Darren was on hand to take our lines. They are both such nice guys; it's a great pleasure to be in Kilrush now -- a far cry from the ways things were years ago when we first overwintered there.

As soon as we had tied up securely, the wind died. We thought about removing the headsail but decided against it. And that was good because within minutes the wind had reversed direction and was blowing just as hard as it had before from the opposite direction. So we turned Aleria around using the dock lines and the wind to pivot her. That way, she'd be facing south, the predominant direction for the coming winds of Lorenzo.
Kilrush Marina

Looking out towards the Shannon from the hammerhead
Louis Keating, the owner of the marina, and Simon stopped by in the morning. We had planned to come down Friday after Lorenzo to take down the sails and possibly haul out, but it was looking like the storm wouldn't have passed by then yet. Instead, Simon had his staff remove the sails and stow them in a loft.

Simon dropped us off at the bus stop, but we realised we'd arrived an hour and a half early for the bus to Ennis on that day. So we had a good walk around town and tea and coffee in the new cafe. Things have changed a lot in Kilrush, definitely for the better. It has a vibrant feel now, with several nice restaurants and pubs. I don't know if Doonbeg, which is just down the road, has had a knock-on effect or if they've just recovered from the economic collapse of 2008, but it's quite nice now. We caught the 1215 bus from Kilrush to Ennis, then the next bus to Galway, and from there the 1515 bus to Westport. We were home before 1800 h.

In looking back at the forecasts and conditions, I think what we sailed through what were the remnants of a tropical storm. The winds were cyclonic and variable, there were squalls and heavy rain. Yep, I think that's what it was. But we made it through okay.
Aleria on the hammerhead

Meanwhile, another drama was unfolding. Alex kept Toby up to date on the storm track and the guys were getting concerned. They decided the place to be was on our mooring and off the boat. We usually guide visitors in, but Alex had an Oyster Coop Board meeting and it was his first as Treasurer so he had to be there. They came in to our mooring on Wednesday evening before dark, having found their way on their own without knowing more than where it was roughly on a chart. They opted to stay aboard overnight and Alex would pick them up in the morning in Moytura.

By 9 am, the wind was already building to the high 20s with higher gusts out of the SE. Alex had a hard time getting out to them and holding on to the boat while they climbed aboard. That day we had three happy sailors in our house, though Toby did worry about Truant out there on her own. Cosy and warm, with wifi and a rugby game (Ireland v Russia) on the telly, it was a "Rescue Party" as Toby called it. Now all we had to do was wait out the storm, and hope that the boat was still there in the morning.
The "Rescue Party" in Port Aleria
I made a lovely dinner with lobster bisque, leg of lamb, and courgette cake for dessert. We all drank plenty of wine as we watched the wind climbing on the WindGuru feed on Mayo Sailing Club's website, before retiring for a loud night of screeching wind and shaking walls.


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