Monday, August 12, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 5 July 2013 Killala

A glorious sail around Erris Head and under Downpatrick Head to Killala in North Mayo, Ireland

Downpatrick Head

The Stags 
The seas were much less ferocious as we left Black Sod Bay than they had been the day before, which was encouraging, and Onyx was feeling much better. It's funny when you're sailing how one day can be stressful and terrifying and the next day you can't remember what the fuss was all about. It's just beautiful and awe inspiring. 
As we passed the Black Sod Coast Guard station, we hailed them to do a radio check.  They heard us loud and clear and confirmed seeing us on AIS. How encouraging!  Two more of Alex’s projects were a success – the VHF antenna and the AIS which shows you which ships are in your vicinity, as well as their heading, speed, and distance.  What an amazing device.

The stack

We still had about 20 knots of wind and the seas were still active but not forbidding, so we put up our sails and had a glorious sail broad reaching in sunshine around Erris Head to North Mayo. No engine, silence except for the rush of water. Yesssssssssss!  We were pressing on while we still had wind to make the Ocean Cruising Club Rally starting from Croabh (pronounced Croove) in Scotland. 

Ireland is divided along the coast into sea regions that reach from one promontory or head to another. It's how you know the right weather forecast for your area or identify where a calamity is taking place. It's important because sailing this coast is forbidding. High cliffs, rocks in the sea, a lee shore, storms that come by with predicted unpredictability, and all manner of other hazards can make you have a really bad day.  It is very remote. There are no marinas, few harbours of refuge, and little boat traffic. You are basically on your own. 

A beautiful day
It is also majestic, magnificent and awe inspiring. The conditions abated and the sun came out just as we approached the Stags and Downpatrick Head near the famous millenia old  Ceide Fields prehistoric structure.  Downpatrick Head is a spectacular cliff face of stacked rock of varying colours among which round stacks and blowholes that spout water high up the cliffs provide entertainment. We've been on top but never below. We ghosted along right under the cliffs. Two men were standing at the edge of the precipice fishing peacefully with no awareness that the cliff below them was an overhang worn away by years of crashing surf. We waved joyfully and they waved back, as we wondered how on earth they would manage to reel in a fish if they caught it from up there. Another image indelibly etched.

Getting ready to anchor,
sails down
We anchored in protected Killala Harbour near Ballina just after 8 pm.  After a lovely dinner of lamb curry, we once again fell deeply to sleep. We were making some progress. Time was running out to make it to Scotland in time for the OCC Rally, or so we thought.

See how the round stack stands alone
When we awoke in the morning, I suddenly had this strange suspicion that I had my dates wrong. That the cruise with OCC in Scotland was not this coming week but the following week.  I tore the whole boat upside down searching for the cruise document Simon had thoughtfully prepared and I had printed out and brought along.  I could not find it anywhere.  Not in the document bags, nor with the computers, not with the books, nor in the chart table.  I was frantic. So finally, since we were still in Ireland, I decided to try to use my android as a mobile internet supplier to my computer.  We had excellent signal here and presto bingo, I got online, checked the dates and sure enough, we were a week early. I was afraid to tell Alex, but I had to confess. We laughed and laughed, but were grateful to have pushed this far as the wind was now gone for good.
The closest we came to seeing
the green flash in Ireland.

The historic village of Killala, which we did not visit on this trip

Fisherman on the edge of the world

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