Killala Bay, North Mayo

Saturday, 19th July

Well, after Anne left, Suckin' Diesel was naturally much cleaner and looking more like a boat than a shed. I had a day to my self before Aoife and James arrived for a few days to hopefully visit the islands between Clifden and Westport. After stocking up with food and doing a safety inspection, I headed off on the bike along the sky road which visits the peninsula to the northwest of Clifden. It was great to be a different type of tourist for a day. Evantually the visitors arrived tired after a long drive from Dublin. Phrases like "M50 tailbacks" are distant memories to me now, you understand! The following morning we headed out for the 15 mile spin to Inisbofin. It started out great but after coming out from the islands which guard Clifden, we had wind on the nose and had to punch into the seas under motor for a couple of hours. But fair dues, Aoife coped well and snoozed her way to Bofin. There was 15 knots of breeze in the anchorage which made anchoring in the small lagoon precise. The first time we dragged on weed but the second time with lots of chain out, we were set and ready to explore. We were going to have 2 nights on the island as the following days forecast was not great, but since James had his trusty camera, he had no complaints. We did some lovely walks on the island and James did indeed manage to capture some incredible shots but soon enough we had to leave, heading north for Clare Island, with a lunch stop off on Inisturk.

Well that was the plan !!! It was Aoife's turn to steer in light breezes and did a great job. But the lunchtime forecast brought a change in forecast winds overnight, making Clare Island an uncomfortable place to anchor. So we decided to stay on Inisturk for the night. We had heard they had a new pier which we visited to fill up with water before going out to a visitors mooring buoy. By this stage the weather had dramatically cleared and we had fantastic views all along the coast and even as far as the cliffs on Achill island 20 miles away. We did a walking tour of the island which is much more rugged than Bofin and much smaller. It has a feel of one of the remote Scottish Islands with one B&B, a pub/community centre, no hotel and a little shop in a shed behind someone's house. Nevertheless, they made us feel very welcome and encouraged us to visit their playing field where the annual sports day was being played. Coming back down the mountain Aoife and I passed it (James had gone walkabout in search of "the picture") and everyone on the island seemed to be there. Judging from the photos of previous years events in the community centre, it is a big social event on the island. Anyway, after a couple of pints, James turned up and we all relaxed over another overlooking the incredible vista of the coastal islands and hills.

That night we went to bed with glassy seas and a faint breeze from the west but during the night the wind got up from the south and the anchorage became uncomfortable. In the morning I decided to leave without waking the crew as I felt that they would be better able to sleep under sail than if we stayed on in the anchorage. We had a lovely 15 knot breeze from the south and with us sailing north east, the passage prooved so comfortable that one crewmember didn't get up until we were passing the lighthouse at the entrance to Westport. You can decide who that might be !!!!!! In a flash we were moored up to a visitors buoy in Collan More harbour, and then I was off on the bike to Westport, 5 miles away to hitch to Clifden to get Aoife's car. On my return, we all celebrated with a wander around Westport and a good feed. Then it was all over and Aoife and James were heading back. It was their first trip on board and I hope they do it again sometime.

They left on a misty morning with visibility of less than a mile but favorable winds. But I had distance to cover to meet Arturo in a few days. I motored out into the murk with light winds almost on the nose which freed up once I rounded the southern point of Achill Island. But I couldn't see those lovely cliffs as I slowly sailed past. The winds died for a time near Achill Head only to rise up from the stern on the last 10 miles into Blacksod Bay, bringing the sun thankfully with it. But the winds rose so much that I was caught out with too much sail up. The result of this was a tear across the width of the mainsail. Oh shit ! Well all I could do was take as much of the pressure off the sail that I could and wait until I got into the sheltered waters of Blacksod BaY. As I was about to drop the sail, the mist came in again and visibility went down to 400 metres. But the navigation wasn't tricky and soon enough I was anchored off the Uisce Adventure Centre, where Cyril used to work. I had dropped in on my last sail around Ireland and met Ciaran the boss, who used to be in the Air Corps with Tom Kelly, Cyril and Randall. I spoke to Ciaran who kindly arranged for me to have access to a workspace to do my sail repair the next day. So I was able to lay out the whole sail in the rock climbing room to check it out and plan the repair. I sewed a large patch across the torn canvas and reinforced the area around it. The whole job took six hours and had to be done by hand. I felt that the repair was as good as I could do for now so here's hoping it lasts the rest of the summer. But if it fails, I have the original mainsail aboard.

As it turned out, I was to stay three nights in Blacksod Bay with strong winds. I certainly didn't want to leave until conditions were mild with a sail repair to test out. But evantaully I did get away with a forecast for westerly 3-4. I creamed down the sheltered waters of Blacksod but outside the seas were lumpy until I went in behind the shelter of the Iniskeagh Islands. Outside them again to round Erris Head I was into confused seas of 2-3 metres. No doubt left over form the few days of wind we had just had. On approaching te Broadhaven anchorage I got a shock when the engine which I had just turned on suddenly spluttered to a halt. Imagine the heart attack I got. As it turned out, when I did my engine service in Blacksod, I must have accidentally loosened a fuel pipe which had come off with the bouncing rounding Erris Head. Phew, problem sorted. Now all I had to do was clean up all that spilt diesel!

I was tired after the sail and the clean up so I didn't even bother going ashore and just rested aboard for the evening. The following morning again had force 3-4 winds. I awoke at 5.30 and had hoped to get to Sligo but the winds in the afternoon were forecast to rise to 4-6 so I altered course for Kilcummin, near Killala, 30 miles away. Outside the anchorage, the wind was up to the top end of force 4 and gusty, but dead on our stern as we passed the cliffs of North Mayo shrouded in mist and occasional drizzle. We goose winged along with a bit of a roll but after 6 hours were safely tied to a visitors buoy off the small quay of Kilcummin which doesn't have much to offer except a pub. But at least I would have the chance to clean up before my next visitors, Colm and Anne who arrive tomorrow. At least the forecast for their stay looks more promising.