Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kinsale adventure by bicycle

I got up early to do laundry. Yep, on a Sunday morning in Kinsale. They upgraded their facilities at the KYC including laundry. When I got there, there were clothes piled everywhere and I thought I'd never get in. But the nice young man in the bar came down and unloaded everything. I bought coins for the washer and dryer (€4 wash and $3 dry - €7 per load compared with €16 for one load washed dried and folded in Dingle) and got myself in before anyone else! Yes! That's cruising experience at work. Doing laundry in exotic places.

We made breakfast while the first load got done. Then I brought my laptop to the club and did online stuff in between. By the time my three loads were done, there was a queue of at least three people waiting to get theirs done. A simple lunch on board, and bikes were ready to go to Charles Fort.

The trip was mostly downhill and I pushed a lot of the way. By the time we got there, the wind had really picked up and the promised gale was in full swing. It was a beautiful sunny day otherwise, and we enjoyed the visit, scrambling through history.

Charles Fort (Irish: DĂșn Chathail) is a star fort located on a promontory overlooking Kinsale harbour, at the southern end of the village of Summer Cove in County Cork, Ireland. James' Fort is located on the other side of the harbour.

Charles Fort, which is named after Charles II, is built on the site of an earlier stronghold known as Ringcurran Castle, which featured prominently during the Siege of Kinsale in 1601. The fort was designed by Sir William Robinson, architect of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. The fort was built in the 1670s and 1680s to a star fortification design, a layout specifically designed to resist attack by cannon and facilitate defense in any direction.

The fort however is overlooked by higher ground, which put it at risk of attack from on high.
The fort was in fact besieged in 1690 during the Williamite War. It was repaired after the siege and  remained in use as a British Army barracks for two hundred years.

On the far side of the harbour are the ruins of James’s Fort, which was built in 1607 to deter any further incursions by the Spaniards into Kinsale. It too was captured by Williamite Forces in 1690.

There are several lovely walks in Kinsale. One begins in the car park at Charles Fort. The well-made path heads southwards towards Middle Cove which is now occupied by a boatyard but was once a settlement of native Irish seafarers. The path continues on to Lower Cove from where the harbour pilots set out to board ships entering the port channel.

On the way back, we noticed an alternate trail, the Scilly Walk. The Scilly Walk is a signposted pedestrian path along the sea that runs from Scilly, the area across the harbor from Kinsale, all the way to Summer Cove and Charles Fort. It is a paved path and suitable for bicycles. Except for the very steep beginning, the rest was level with lovely views across the harbour.
Our French neighbours set out in the opposite direction along the popular and easy walk from Kinsale is to Castlepark, James Fort and the Dock Beach. The headed out of town toward the Bandon River, over the bridge and then turned left down to Castlepark. They said it was approximately 7 km (4 miles) to Dock Beach and back and unusually for Kinsale no hills! We';ll have to try that one next time.

We got a call from Flor Long that he and Brenda were coming to the yacht club and invited us to join them for a pint, which we gladly did. It was lovely to catch up with them. Flor is the OCC Port Officer for Kinsale and a member of ICC.

We had reservations for dinner at the Steakhouse.  When we arrived, we realized it was the same place we had eaten once before in Kinsale but then it was a Polish-Irish fusion restaurant. The new iteration has been there for two years and is rated top of the list in Kinsale on Trip Advisor. We both ordered ribeye steak, but I chose the Dexter and Alex chose the regular beef so we could compare. It came with a choice of steak sauce on the side, both of which were amazing. There we found another malbec, a Zuccardi Q 2013 from the Uco Valley. It was more acidic than the Alta Vista 2011 Terroir Selection. Our servers turned out to be the owners, Gwen and Allister, and they were delightful.

So another great experience overall, and another super day on the Costa del Cork. Thank you Kinsale!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kinsale...foodie heaven

Is that a sun trying to shine through?

We got up early to get to Kinsale before the wind started to pick up into the high 20s gusting well into the 30s by 1400h per WindGuru forecast.  Met Eireann was forecasting a gale overnight and into the next day for our area and strong gale, possibly storm, north of us.

There should be a hill behind Alex.
The only trouble was we were surrounded by dense fog. Pea soup fog. Maine and worse fog. There were no hills to see around us and certainly no view of the exit from the anchorage at Castle Haven. AIS on. Radar on. Chartplotter on. Foghorn on. Anchor up. Exit slowly by brail following the chartplotter and depth contour until Alex can put away the anchor and get on the instruments.

Where's the exit?
The entire coast was socked in. It kept lifting just a little to tease and then dropping down again. And then we suddenly sailed out of it. The coast was veiled in thick white cloud behind us. I should say we motored out as there was not a breath of wind -- glass calm. Suddenly we saw a disturbance in the water a little distance away. Alex yelled, "Tuna!" and went down for the fishing gear. I thought "Dolphin frenzy!" and went for the camera. But it wasn't easy steering Aleria and focusing the camera.

I was right. It was a school of about 20 common dolphins feeding. Babies and moms from the looks of it. This went on for a long time, maybe 15 minutes or even longer before we went on our way. I got video and stills and Alex got some really good shots. There were some tiny ones among that crowd.

Then a bottlenose dolphin came over for a bit of a bow ride. There were hundreds and hundreds of what I thought might be guillemots sitting on the surface in large swarms just hanging out. Every once in a while they'd dive down or fly away as we approached.
A pod of about 20 dolphins feeding

A pod of dolphins came by but their dorsal fins were different and the skin darker. I thought pilot whales more likely -- maybe ten of them -- but I didn't get close enough for verification. They were sighted off Dunworly Point.

Then I saw a sunfish with its pectoral fin flopping back and forth on the surface. I noticed it late and forgot to slow down so Alex missed it. That was cool. My first sighting of one of those.

There were more dolphins but we stopped recording and soon sailed back into the fog. Back on radar and foghorn as we approached Kinsale. There were a few sailboats heading out as we were coming in. But we really couldn't see anything beyond a short distance from our bow.  I stayed on radar to find the harbour entrance and then went to the bow to spot for vessels as most didn't have AIS or radar reflectors.

Tied up at Kinsale YC Marina
We radioed Kinsale Yacht Club Marina (note the land lines for KYC and Dingle Marina in our book are incorrect but the mobiles phones and VHF channels are correct). They asked us to go to the visitor's dock. Alex had set the docklines and fenders for port side to tie up since our prop walk kicks out to the left.  I was at the helm and there was plenty of room, but I didn't quite account for the hellish amount of current that we picked up as we turned in and I had to abort the attempt. Second time around I did just fine. I nailed it without hitting anything. Hurray! It's good to practice.

Soon the dock was full and boats were rafting up alongside as everyone started to come in to safe harbour to avoid the gale. We had lovely French guys next to us and one of the racing boats from Schull (British boys living in Ireland) tied up next to them. We had our Lucie lights on all night so people could see their way across and everyone loved them. The Brits ordered them online right from their boat.

We walked the town in the filthy weather. Drizzly rain and constant fog. Ugh! but the wind never picked up, at least nothing we could detect from where we were.

We went to the antiquarian bookstore -- Traveler's Friend -- same as in Westport.  Brand new just a few weeks open. Lovely books there. One was rare bible worth €75,000. They had great displays of first editions of Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe. I found a lovely German illustrated book about Columbanus, but at €69 it was a bit much. I'll search online for a copy.

Then we went on to the Customs House, or Desmond Castle as it is better known. We learned all about Kinsale as a trading post in the 1600s, and the wine trade was at the centre. Then there was the flight of the Earls who became the Wild Geese who became winemakers all over Europe, and then the world. Fascinating.

Finally we had pints of Black's Kinsale Pale Ale (KPA) at KYC followed by a great dinner at the Black Pig.  We chose Alta Vista Malbec which I'd read about in Vineyard at the End of the World. We had liver parfait, carpaccio, and crab stuffed ravioli in a fennel creme sauce. Magnificent and I usually don't like fennel. We sat at a tiny table on the terrace under an awning and a heat lamp near a wall covered with moss and water trickling down from above. It was charming. And buzzing.

The owner came over to chat several times, our waiter was very friendly and the young server was so cute -- she said to keep the bread so we could mop up the sauce, which we did. Fab experience. I gave them 5 stars in Trip Advisor. I don't do that often. And so also began our search for Argentinian Malbecs to try. A very nice experience to date.

We slept well after our first day in Kinsale.

It was nice to see the OCC fish in the marina office.

Really yucky weather the first day.

Nice shops in Kinsale

The Kinsale brewery and bookstore/art gallery.

Colourful streets brighten up dull days.

Desmond castle

All the Irish influenced wines in corks

The old market house

I'd never seen this Guinness poster.

Hahaha. Bookstore number two was really cool. Great reading room upstairs. 

The Black Pig wine and tapas bar

Nice wall 

Lovely outdoor space

Interesting menu, tapas style regional terroir

200 wines by the bottle, 100 by the glass

Good choice: Alta Vista Malbec!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Castle Haven... a look back to the Plantation era.

Lot's Wife, Baltimore entrance

Kids having fun in Baltimore Harbour
The morning after the gale was silent, flat flat calm, and sunny. Yea! Let's dry out and head over to Baltimore. We sailed in past kids having fun below Lot's Wife, the distinctive tower on the approach to Baltimore. We nosed in and realized there wasn't enough depth for us inside -- only 8 feet abd we draw 8.5. Where we'd have to anchor we'd be exposed. So we had a choice: Sherkin Island or on to Castletownsend. We chose the latter as we hadn't been there before.

We motored, then motor sailed the short distance to Castle Haven and anchored in the outer harbour. It was a bit exposed but would do us well for the forecast for the night which was benign. No sooner had we anchored that small sailboats started appearing and sailing out. More and more emerged and we learned that soon we'd be in the middle of a regatta. Oh well. They'd all have to take us into account. We got into our dinghy and headed ashore.

Sherkin Island

The inner harbour was full of moored vessels. We tied up near three gentlemen who were contemplating the installation of a new outboard on a pretty wooden rowing boat. They were still doing so when we returned, but had made good progress.

Sailing into Castle Haven
The town, named for Townsend, an officer in Cromwell's service to whom the land was granted under the plantation scheme, is one street that climbs straight up a steep hill from the harbour. At the first intersection is the original invention of a roundabout with two trees in the middle and a side street coming off to one side. That goes down to the Rowing Club and a second pier. The preserved old architecture is worth studying.

The Castle on the harbour has tea and tapas on the lawn overlooking the harbour. There is a small restaurant up the street. A shop is relatively well stocked. We didn't go to the church, but they have concerts on Thursdays in the summer and friends told us it was well worth a visit for a glimpse into the plantation days. The big house on the bend which is usually open for tours was closed for much of July and August, oh well.

There was a fire hydrant with tap like in Crookhaven on the dock and we tried to fill our water tank but it didn't work. A woman told us that we could find a hose on top of the pier. The fishermen needed water on the pier and the council wouldn't allow two taps so they had to disconnect one. We thanked her and filled up. Once again there was no place to dispose of garbage and recycling. A shame.

We took a dinghy ride way up the river per the recommendation of the ICC pilot guide. It was surprisingly full of boats moored in the deeper part, with a few looking like they'd been abandoned long ago. The lovely tower castle overlooking this area was picturesque and the outcropping was chock full of people camping.

Farther up river, the boats and moorings stopped and nature took over, suggesting that the forested land was still in private estate ownership. We came across a deep hole that would serve well as a hurricane hole if needed. We got back to the boat just as the racers were finishing up.

In the evening, we amused ourselves with the gulls vying for a few scraps of stale bread. "Mine, mine, mine." We had a lovely visit and overnight stay, but we'd be moving on in the morning to find shelter before the next gale.

Regatta in Castle Haven