Malahide, 30th June

John Joe and Brendan arrived after a mammoth trip from Letterkenny in Donegal as far as Castletownbere. It had been drizzly and foggy all day while I prepared for their arrival. After Anne's departure there was cleaning to be done and a launderette to be found as well as the usual mechanical checks. Anne and I had used the spinaker poles a lot and found them not up to the task. I had damaged one and broken the other. I got out the angle grinder and reshaped the mast ends of the poles to make a shackle fit them and we were back in business.

Naturally I spent some time with Donal and Maisie who I have known for a long time. Donal has been a father figure to me and I had been a bad son, losing touch for a bit so I had to make amends. We ate out in the Old Bakery and enjoyed good conversation and fish. It was great to see them again and see that they were still doing well. When the lads arrived we all had coffee and Donal was able to compare maritime stories with the Donegal connection. But all too soon it was over and we headed out past Bere Island into the fog. On the way out, we were followed by Carmona, the family trawler which was heading south towards the north west of Spain to fish for tuna. I was able to chat to Liam on the radio and bid him adieu as out courses separated. We found 2 metre swell and fog with 12-15 knots of wind which is unusual as fog is usually found when there is no wind. We were horsing along well towards Sheep Head before turning up into Dunmanus Bay with less than a quarter mile of visibility. As we went further up the bay with the headsail poled out, the swell eased and we started looking out for the land to guide us into Kitchen Cove where I had been with Anne only a few days earlier. As we approached the visibility was about 100-200 metres but that was enough to feel our way into the anchorage. and we anchored in the same spot as last time.

We had a jaunt ashore to stretch the legs. After not sailing for a while, the lads found the movement of the boat took getting used to. But after a pint in each of the pubs, they soon settled as we discussed the plans for the coming days. The next morning the wind had eased and we motored down the bay enjoying the scenery we had not been able to see the previous day. Approaching the end of the bay the wind got up enough for us to sail and we had fine conditions to round Mizen head and up to Crookhaven. There we found plenty of breeze coming off the hills to the north of it. We went for a spin to Rock Island, a peninsula with the lighthouse and coastguard cottages at the entrance to the bay. From there we had great views of the Crookhaven and its approaches. On the way back across the bay we found the wind chop made for plenty of splashing as we pushed against it and we were pretty damp by the time we arrived at the pub overlooking the anchorage. But at least it was sunny and the gear dried well in the breeze.

The next morning winds had eased as we left heading 8 miles through Long Island Sound to Schull. The initially fluky winds settled in behind us and gave good conditions for downwind sailing all the way to the entrance. Schull was fairly full of moorings and chosing a spot to anchor was tricky. Initially we dropped the hook but found we drifted back into the approach channel to the pier so we had to up anchor and move to different spot where we would not be in the way. After lunch we went ashore to do some shopping and get a shower. By now the lads had slowed down to cruising pace and were quite chilled pottering around, even allowing themselves a pint or two before dinner. After dinner onboard, we headed ashore to sample the nightlife but found things very quiet, even though it was Friday evening. But we found some nice wee pubs to sample in and all was good with the world as we returned on board.

Overcast drizzly skies greeted us the next day for our 6 mile spin out to Clear Island. Once past Long Island we again had thich fog with visibility down to less than 100 metres at times, but again unusually, with wind. It was so thick we had to put the radar on at one stage, but approaching the island it lifted enough for us to clearly make out the coast and approach the anchorage without any worry. We wandered ashore and people watched in the harbour as the day trippers prepared to head back. Then we did a long road walk to the eastern end and circuited back to South Harbour. After a bit of grub we went ashore seeking culture and maybe a pint. Danny mikes was not open but Cotters was and it was buzzing with locals and visitors alike.

That night was a bit blowy and a slight roll came into the anchorage. At 6 am the roll got more pronounced but that only lasted an hour or two. After breakfast things had eased somewhat and we headed out into gusty conditions from astern. We put a double reef in the main and rolled away a bit of the headsail and Suckin' Diesel was very under control for the short hop over to Baltimore and Sherkin Island. We decided to anchor off Sherkin at first and go for a stroll ashore. We went to the north end to look at the channel north out of Baltimore which is meant to pass under power lines. The guide said they were now underwater but the lines seemed to me not to be so that is a route I would be reluctant to investigate.

In the afternoon we headed over to Baltimore but the wind was stronger over there. We hadn't realised how much shelter we had on Sherkin so we headed back just before the rain started. We tied up on the pontoon as we needed to get some water and clean out the anchor well as there was a lot of mud in it from all the anchoring we had been doing. The next morning with jobs done we headed out in light airs for Glandore. We couldn't sail so motored all the way, arriving at lunchtime. We went to Union Hall to go to the shop and then the lads walked around by road to Glandore while I took the dinghy back to get a few jobs done. Later we met up in Hayes Bar for a pint overlooking the harbour watching all the boats come in. There weren't many as it was still a little early in the season.

The next day again brought light airs for the sail to Kinsale. We motored all the way in strong sunshine. Along the way Brendan got his cleaning hat on and spruced up the boat which was very appreciated. When we arrived in we found the marina in town was full as there was a regatta on with lots of racing yachts. After a chat with the harbourmaster by phone we anchored out of the channel and went ashore for a stroll around. We ended up having dinner ashore as the lads were probably sick of my cooking by now, and I did appreciate a break from cooking. There was a bit of buzz in town with the regatta but also there was a fair few American tourists. But then Kinsale is a well known foody touristy town.

Wednesday was overcast as we left with hopes for a bit of sailing. Once out of the river the wind was light enough but we set the cruising chute and motorsailed around to the entrance to Cork Harbour on flat calm seas. We were headed for Crosshaven and in the boatyard marina we had our lines taken be Des McWilliam, who had made the sails for Suckin' Diesel a few years ago. It was good to see him even if only for a brief chat. Crosshaven was reasonably busy and had at least 4 pubs, enough to keep the crew entertained. We ended up staying two nights as a bit of a blow was coming through from the south and we had planned to anchor in Youghal which is exposed to the south.

So after a day spent doing a few jobs on the boat, we set off for a long spin to Dunmore East. We had a forecast of force 4 to 5 from behind so we readied the pole on the headsail again. The wind was as forecast and we were doing a comfortable 5+ knots in 1-2 metre seas. As we approached Youghal the wind got up a bit and soon we had a double reef in the main and similar in the headsail. Harry the Hydrovane was steering and we were marching along rolling a little in the swells. By 2 hours out the wind was up more with 25-31 true knots which is force 6 touching 7 and waves of 3 metres at times. Johnjoe saw 9.3 knots on the log at one stage as we surfed down a wave. But with the poled out headsail we were well under control. Nearing Dunmore we had to hand steer to avoid pot buoys which were difficult to see in the swells. Entering Dunmore East we found that there was dredging operation being done so little room to tie up and we were sent out to a mooring outside the harbour. The skipper is known to get grumpy when he has to sleep in rolly conditions, but we were just protected enough and with the flopper stopper put down to dampen the roll we were grand. After a long day of over 50 miles we had some grub, watched a movie and went to bed.

The next day the seas had eased and the wind also. We set off to round Hook Head for the short trip to Kilmore Quay. Initially the wind was gusting over 15 knots but settled to 14 knots on the stern quarter. Suckin' Diesel was sailing along comfortably at 5 knots avoiding the occasional lobster pot buoy. Approaching Kilmore we reduced sail and carefully followed the leading marks between the rocks and shallows into the harbour. We knew a blow was coming through that night and we were glad to see that we didn't have to raft out so the boat would be ok. After a stroll to get gas and do a few jobs we relaxed with a pint followed by dinner. The skipper tried to use rice flour to make Alsace Pizza but the consensus was that the topping was ok but the base too dry. We also had gulten free pasta which was better received.

Sunday morning was sunny and breezy. We pottered onboard and went for a wander around Kilmore, even reading the Sunday Papers while waiting for the right time to catch the tide up the Irish Sea. Shortly after 1 we got organised and headed out into 20+ knots of wind. We motored to St Patrick's Bridge, the narrow gap in the reef which extends from the mainland to the Saltee Islands. Going through the gap we were off on another downwind sail. Wind was on the stern quarter and the sea state a little boisterous but certainly managable. Rounding Carnsore point we had a little shelter from the seas but still plenty of wind. We had a double reef and a reefed poled out headsail in for four hours until the winds eased and we had calm seas for the last 2 hours or so into Arklow. We were pretty tired so didn't even bother going to the pub after our late dinner.

The next day we had force 4-5 from astern for the run home to Malahide. Comfortably reefed we again were making good ground. By now we were getting used to handling the boat in those conditions and we had fun messing a little with the setup to see its effect on the motion of the boat. Johnjoe again helmed most of the way and was getting proficient at it. We tied up at 8.30 pm and after a shower, we had dinner and a couple of glasses of wine before hitting the bed. We were tired, having made it from Cork to Dublin in 4 days, most of it downwind in moderate to fresh conditions. Lots learnt......

So ended the first sail of the summer. It was meant to be the Scillies and France but West Cork was a gem and the sailing great.