We have had a wonderful 12 days in Southern Ireland, exploring the coast, bays and islands near Baltimore and the pubs, cafes and galleries of Skibereen and Cork.
After Shirkin Island ( where we anchored opposite Baltimore) we sailed west through the little passages and channels to Schull. There were so many boats on the water; beautiful traditional boats with tan sails, dinghies with fluorescent sails, yachts and loads of RIBS buzzing through. The islands and headlands merge and mingle in a low line of pale rock and grass. It is difficult to know what is mainland and what is island. The channel sweeps through these lands, knocking islands aside, they drift back together in your wake closing the view of the route.
In Schull we met a boat which we had seen in The Gambia! By complete coincidence ‘Moonriver’ with Adele, Sebastian and their two young daughters, had arrived early that morning (24 hours after we had arrived a few miles up the coast). They had sailed direct from New York. It was lovely to see them again. It was our second year wedding anniversary the morning we visited them aboard for coffee, their daughters drew pictures for us. That same day We sailed to Crookhaven, 10 NM south west. The weather was blue and bright. We walked on the beaches and ate in the pub, later there was live music. The next day we cycled a 14 mile loop, swam from a sandy beach then sailed back west to a tiny group of rocks called the ‘Carthy islands’, an out crop of skerries. We anchored in the pool in the middle of the group, disturbing the seagulls, we rowed ashore with Bar-b-que materials and ate on the rock.
From the Carthys we headed to Clear Island, the most southerly part of Ireland, except of course for the Fastnet its self, blinking a few miles out to sea. We rounded Cape Clear and anchored in the narrow South Harbour. The next morning after a walk along the cliff tops we sailed under them and back towards Baltimore, retracing the route we had taken a week before in the dark as we first arrived in Ireland. Today it was bright and hazy. The atmosphere lending a distance and softness to the now recognisable hills and headlands.
We had seen posters in the shop about the Skibereen Arts Festival which was on that week. That evening Martin Stephenson, a musician who plays regularly at a pub at home in Ullapool, was playing as part of the festival. Baltimore is 8 miles south of ‘Skib’ so it was a good place to leave the boat while we headed inland. We got the bikes ready and set off for town. It was great evening and was followed by a wet and dark cycle back at midnight.
We had a couple of nights next in Lough Hyne east of Baltimore. This is a sea loch which narrows to shallow fast tidal rapids and then opens up into a semi-brackish shallow loch, rich in wildlife, and densely wooded nearby. We had a lovely walk through old forest up the hill Knockomagh beside the loch. We could anchor Hestur at the southern end of the loch in a pool protected by Bullock Island. Dan, clad in wet suit and helmet launched himself into the rapids, running at full tilt, one rainy afternoon. He bobbed down stream like jetsam and swirled himself into an eddy at the shore (repeated quite a few times). There were canoeists there and a pale speckled seal also making use of this tidal conveyer belt, for fun. We sat in the dingy by the rapids and watched them change, as the tidal heights evened out on the sea side and the loch side the flow lessened. Still I couldn’t row against it in the dingy. The water was cool and green, rich brown kelp cut the surface and white bubbles of foam from the turbulence circled sideways. Rain fell heavy on the water. Soaked, we headed back for Hestur and hot chocolate. I had a swim in calmer high tide waters from a stoney spit by the boat, a chilly wind ran past. That evening after dinner when the rain clouds rolled back and the raw blue of the evening sky appeared, I rowed us in a loop around Bullock island. Flask aboard we dipped into the caves and between rocks of the coastline, and skimmed across the calm but breathing sea.
We cycled again to Skib, from Lough Hein, to see some more of the festival. Exhibitions, open studios, installations, films and poems. We skipped around the town catching what we could of the last day of the festival, then cycled home in the evening sun light.
We made a longer passage the next day to Kinsale 35 plus NM. We left early to catch the favourable tide east and arrived into Kinsale mid afternoon. It was a busy place. The regatta was on that week. A little boy on the pier was wearing a medal round his neck, which he showed us and told us proudly that he had won it that day at the rowing races ( national championships). There were lots of tourists and holiday makers sauntering about.
The next day ( a calm day) we motored from Kinsale to Cork, another early start to catch the tides, this time up river. The trip up the river Lee took about 3 hours . It was a fascinating trip past historic forts and old dockyards, modern oil refineries and wind turbines, shipping container ports, villages, a cathedral, castles and and lighthouses. There is a little pontoon right in the centre of Cork City where we could moor, and we stayed for a couple of days. It is right beside the customs dock and the main headquarters of Cork Harbour.
We loved Cork. It is a very lively city. Seeing it from the water we were very aware of the industrial heritage and on going activity of the place. Big ware-houses and cranes on the dock, a few streets from the centre. There were so many great pubs to visit, and a lot with live music, we heard some great stuff. Really interesting cafes and coffee shops, the ‘English Market’ a big old food market in the center, with lots of local produce, breads, meats, veg, cheese. And lots of arts venues, galleries and theatres, independent cinemas etc. we saw an enjoyable exhibition ‘Feildworks’ Animal habitats in Contemporary Art, at the university gallery The Glucksman gallery.
We left on the tide at 3 pm on the 6th and headed back down stream passing the industry and heritage of the banks of the River Lee a second time. And off to sea. We were leaving Ireland for Wales. We sailed north east along the coast over night and the next day and made our way towards the North Welsh coast, arriving this morning on the 8th of August at 10 am. We are anchored off Porth Dinllaen on the Lleyn peninsula, 174 NM from Cork City. We are waiting for the tide this evening to take us up into the Menia Straights.