Friday, September 20, 2013

Winter is coming!

Aleria being hauled onto the Quay in Westport last spring


Preparing to haul Aleria

Aleria is a rather big handfull of boat. At 57 feet and 27 tons, it takes a bit of effort to lift her, not to mention move her.  She also needs a bit of space around her, which isn't always easy to find. This was her lift in this past spring.  It took two cranes and lots of prayers. I am already biting my nails about the lift out this Fall. Oh, woe is me. We need to move south like to Spain where she can stay in the water all winter. Now there's an idea.

So here we are searching for one crane big enough that can haul her alone, or two that can do it together. Logistically, it has to be done only at high tide or we'll be stuck in the mud careened at the Quay in Westport. Not the best thing for her to do.

So we're calling around to see who is going to be in the vicinity at the time we need. Let's hope we find someone soon.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blowing stink


The cyclonic system affecting our weather today.


Weather, the ever challenging concern for the blue water sailor

Our sailing club cancelled racing for today several days ago when it became clear that we would be experiencing gale force conditions with periods of storm force winds from the wee hours of Sunday into the late hours of Monday.  Right now, we have driving rain and we've already had 23 mm of it.  There are sunny spells in between but the wind is relentless. I worry about Aleria out on her mooring. But she's been through worse out there on her own.

The cyclonic system causing our weather is actually passing over Iceland so we are getting the southern portion of its rotation. We had westerlies yesterday and are now into southwesterlies so a big chunk has already passed by. No sailing this weekend.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Off to the Inishkeas

Heading out to the Inishkeas, or so we thought.



A typical cruiser's change of plans

Fog in Clew Bay
We were heading to the Inishkeas, a group of deserted islands off the Mullet peninsula in County Mayo, Ireland. The weather was supposed to be settled, with light northwesterly winds and patchy fog clearing by late morning. The anchorage is completely exposed to any easterly winds, so the forecast was perfect for a simple overnight stay. Our destination is only about 45 miles away and high tide was at 0820. Perfect. We could leave at 8 am and be there by late afternoon. Then we could return on the evening tide the next day.

I was really looking forward to exploring the deserted Inishkea homes, the ancient monastic settlement with beehive huts, and the remains of a whaling station. We hadn't done enough of that kind of thing this summer. And I was sure we'd be the only ones there on a Monday. The best thing about working for yourself is that

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Planning an overnight getaway


Alex working away, with Onyx the Edider keeping a close watch. 

Before the novel hits the virtual shelves...


We had been working hard for more than a year to get Alex's new novel completed. He started it last September when his mother broke her leg and we moved into her house to care for her, the house, and the farm. One day, Alex started writing. He wrote much and more, and then some more again. He was crazed, like a madman compelled to get every last word out of him. It was fascinating to watch. He didn't know where it came from or where it was heading, only that it had to come out.

Alex was doing research online for historical tidbits to weave in. He was delving into our personal experiences with and around 9/11, as we had been living nearby and had many friends affected by the tragedy. He was conjuring up characters that cobbled together bits and pieces of people he'd known in his life.  It was all a fascinating adventure.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 1 August 2013: Clew Bay, Ireland



Moytura doing launch duty between Aleria and home
  

There and back again – there's no place like home!



Low clouds in front of Croagh Patrick
Once again, we marvelled at the beauty of Clew Bay as we prepared to bring Aleria back to her mooring. Every time we have left, we have REALLY felt good about coming home. This time was even more poignant. The west coast of Ireland has no match.

The house was immaculate. It hadn't been that clean since it was built. Our friend Siobhan who was house and kitty sitting for us did an amazing thing. We were afraid to touch anything as our fingerprints would be telltale!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 31 July 2013, Broad Haven to Clew Bay, Ireland

Mackeral sky and mares tails, soon will be time to shorten sails.


Making our way home to Clew Bay, bypassing the Inishkeas


The wind was < 2 knots on the nose, so motor boat we were once again. We left Broad Haven early, shortly after sunrise, as it would be a long day rounding Erris Head and Achill Head and high tide was mid-afternoon. We have a 15-foot tidal variation and need a minimum of half tide to get across a shellfish bed to our mooring.

The weather turned miserable.
Welcome home!
We made it to the Inishkeas around 1130 and poked our nose into the anchorage. The Inishkeas are relatively flat and said to be much like the Outer Hebrides, which we had not made it to in Scotland. There is a wide expanse of sandy beach, abandoned houses, some being restored as summer holiday cottages, and lots of ruins. Another of St. Columba’s monastic settlements – the guy was like George Washington, he slept around – and the remains of a whaling station.  We toyed with anchoring and going ashore until we heard the weather forecast.

There was a small craft advisory warning announcing deteriorating conditions. Increasing wind, heavy rain, and threat of thunderstorms was

Friday, September 6, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 30 July 2013, Broad Haven stopover


Flying across Donegal Bay toward Mayo and home

Flying Across Donegal Bay to Broad Haven Bay


We got up early to make the long trek back home.  Some time during the night, the wind had shifted and we now had quite a swell coming into the harbour.  It made getting out of bed pretty easy.
Bashing doesn't seem to bother Alex

Alex was thinking we could make it all the way home to Clew Bay, but I wasn’t convinced. The sea was much more settled but still messy. And the wind, which was supposed to go west, went southwest. We managed to sail in glorious 15-knot breeze and mostly sunny conditions, with passing showers, all the way across Donegal Bay. It’s the most amazing feeling when you shut off the engine and the wind takes over in silence. Ahhhhh.

Our original destination was all the way to Clew Bay or a stop in Portnafrankagh, but the latter would have been untenable in a westerly. As the wind shifted, veering southerly, we knew we couldn’t make it home, which of course is due south.  We made two tacks around the Stags and sailed into Broad Haven on the North Mayo coast. Broad Haven is a wide open bay the other side of the Belmullet peninsula from Black Sod Bay. The inner Bay is very shallow and subject to shoaling so it is not really navigable.  The outer Bay would be exposed in a northerly but completely sheltered in a southerly.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 29 July 2013, Teelin, on Donegal Bay


Teelin harbour surrounded by lovely hills and homes


Harbour of refuge and the parking lot at the edge of the world


Leaving Gola via the South Sound
We left Gola early through the South Sound. The wind was to go westerly but it was southerly. And of course we wanted to go south all the way to Mayo.  We sailed southeast past Arranmore where we had stopped on the way up, then had to start motoring.  We were not looking forward to 10 hours of motoring while bashing into the wind.

Our goal was to cross Donegal Bay, a wide expanse of water where one shore is not visible from the other. But first we had to sail down the coast of Donegal. The Atlantic can be mighty unforgiving here. It bounces into tall cliffs and bounces back out to cross itself. And it was just awful out there. Bash bash bash. Bash Bash bash. Hour after hour. After a while it got really tedious.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 28 July 2013, Gola Island, Ireland

Stone arch at the end of Gola

Getting Closer to God


The harbour
We woke to a beautiful crisp morning with sunshine and puffy white clouds. We decided to go ashore for a morning exploratory visit. We stopped at the café/tourist information hut on the far side of town and saw photos of inhabitants from around the 1930s before the island was deserted in the 1960s.  This was a special exhibit for the weekend festival.  Decendants are now coming back and restoring the old homesteads.  Very interesting. Marie, the proprietor of the café, told us all about the people, the history and the current happenings.  They’ve laid on water and electricity and built two new piers. Yet, they are having difficulty with conservationists who want everything preserved to protect sensitive species.  The islanders are being forced into making all kinds of concessions to be permitted to restore their ancestral homes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 27 July 2013, Tory Island, Donegal, Ireland

Thunderstorm approaching the coast of Donegal
(click photos to enlarge)


Tory artists and artifacts aplenty, but no King


Leaving Mulroy Bay
Someday we'd like to come tour Mulroy Bay by small boat. It's supposed to be the most wild waterway in Ireland. From what we could see, I'd say that's true. But today we were heading off again.

It was yet another calm day but thunderstorms were forecast.  We hauled our anchor in Mulroy Bay destined for Gola in Donegal, but en route we decided to stop in Tory Island.  We are very glad we did.
Exiting Mulroy Bay
There were squalls and thunderstorms all around us and we kept thinking we’d get caught, but we somehow managed to miss them all except one little one.  There was  a persistent light rain which welcomed us back to Ireland. We’d had little rain in Scotland for almost an entire month.  The clouds made for a beautiful sky and we enjoyed the transit to Tory along the rugged coast of Donegal. 


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Aleria's Jaunt to Scotland: 26 July 2013, Port Ellen, Islay, Scotland to Mulroy Bay, Ireland

Fog in Port Ellen, Islay

Across the North Channel, Heading Home


Seal wishes us farewell
There was heavy rain overnight, but it was generally calm and a gentle swell brought a sweet night of rest.  The ferry boomed us awake in the morning. Thick fog had wiped the world away. We were very glad to be anchored here away from town, rather than closer inside where the ferry turned.  You couldn’t see the boats we knew were anchored there…at least they had been there attached to the bottom the night before.

Typically, you shouldn't be starting a voyage on a Friday.  But this wasn't really starting a voyage; we were completing a circle. And we weren't really sure it was Friday. When you are cruising, you don't always know what day of the week it is. You know the date because you make log entries daily, but the day of the week can be elusive. Sometimes, they include it in the forecast on the VHF radio. Usually, I jot it down then. This time, we thought we might be off by a day or so. The days of the week all soon merge together when there's no scheduled activity to differentiate them. And aboard a boat, every day's routine is pretty much the same as every other. Daily checks of batteries, oil, fuel, water, rigging, and daily maintenance tasks. There's no weekend per se. So, let's assume it's Friday and we're heading home. We have four days to get there before our friend has to leave and we have to resume the feeding of the cats. 
Fog hugs the land