Wednesday, 27 July 2016


We arrived in the west and moved east along the coast.

The Wild Atlantic Way. Massive rugged storm lashed cliffs fall dark and broken into  white foamy sea which claws at them relentlessly from  murky grey depths. Treacherous jagged rocky post glacial remnants lurk off their perilous fringes, decorated with the treasures of countless wrecks, old and new. Watchtowers, falling down and tired remnants of the Napoleonic period struggle to attention on every hilltop. Cleaved to the cliffs, various ruined castles cast a baleful eye over us as we make our way along the southern Irish coastline through sun and rain, mist and fog, marveling at the beauty, power and history.
Some of the fishing vessels in Castletownbere.
Farmers fishermen and summer revelers frequent the quaint little villages on their various business. Castletownbere sits snug in a tiny dredged harbor, home to the whitefish fleet numbering over 80 ships, some from EU countries, Spain and France predominantly. The biggest whitefish fleet in Europe.
We dined in Castletownbere for Sunday lunch at Murphys, of course! The fare was simple, well cooked and followed by one of the many delicious deserts available. Patrick O'Sullivan was fated to have us accompany him during our lunch as the restaurant was understandably full. He obliged by regaling us with the local stories, gossip and legends as well as some useful facts about the life and times in the area. He then walked with us and pointed out the various places of interest. I had the best Irish coffee in Ireland at the local Pub later before we all returned to Taipan on the anchor in the small harbor.

Monday involved a quick trip to the local Fisherman's coop to pick up a few bits n pieces for the boat. Always a cheaper option than the Marine Chandlers. 

Next stop was Crookhaven. The deeply indented coastline topped by Ballyroon Mountain form a stunning backdrop as we sail across Bantry Bay, around Sheeps Head, Three Castle Head, Mizen Head and Brow Head. The famous Fastnet Rock just 10 nm to our south as we head into the very sheltered and pretty Crookshaven anchorage. 

The weather hasn't been great with constant mist and poor visibility. We did spot the Three Castles for which the head is named. They were apparently a folly built by some noble lord in the period past when castles were the architectural fashion. They are now ruins but are apparently a popular walking destination being set upon a pretty little lake in among dramatic rocky countryside, and of course with an outstanding view.
Crookshaven, probably named for the crooks who frequented the area in times past as pirates and wreckers. The coastline was notoriously dangerous and to add insult to injury it wasn't unknown for wreckers to be active in the area, luring unsuspecting ships onto the rocks to slaughter crews and passengers and to steal their cargoes. 

Today however it's a pretty town, albeit shrouded in mist, set on a narrow promontory and forming a fairly deep and well protected anchorage. The last port for most ships bound for the New World. The two and a half million immigrants headed to the Americas would have fare welled Europe here and headed to the vast beyond with hope in their hearts and dread in their eyes. Marconi was based in town while he experimented with radio telegraph for sending and receiving Morse Code. We saw the small cottage he was living in at that time. He abandoned Crookhaven in favor of Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford After discovering that the copper rich rocks in the mountains were interfering with his signals.
While exploring the little village we met a gentleman with two small boys who were heading out fishing. Later we met them again and were presented with six big fat mackerel along with instructions for catching the same. Armed with this new knowledge and eager to put it into practice, Captain Dave rigged the line and promptly pulled in another 6 fat mackerel  even managing a triple header! So we were assured of another dinner as we set out for Schull the following morning.
Navigating the narrow Long Island Channel the short distance to Schull was very scenic with pretty farms dotting the small fields on the islands and mainland. We were treated to a rare delight as the sun shone through the clouds for most of the afternoon making for excellent exploring weather in Schull. Here we met Deirdre Crowley, an exuberant artist currently exhibiting in Schull.  She was fascinated by our story and took a great photo of the three of us in front of one of her works. Schull is a reasonably large village for the area and we spent several hours walking the streets checking the pubs and just getting exercise.
Next stop Baltimore was a mere 8nm away, through narrow convoluted channels and around numerous rocky islands. Low and pastured they too are small farms. Heaven knows how they get their stock to market but we did see some trailers which look like they go on local barges. 

The cottages are stone and nestle down in valleys sheltered, I imagine, from the howling, freezing winter gales. Today though the kids are out in small sailboats racing around the relatively protected waters off Skelkin Island, undeterred by the misty threatening weather. It is after all, summer in Ireland and they are taking their summer holidays seriously. Baltimore was much smaller than it looked on the map but a pleasant spot to walk the legs and reestablish acquaintance with the he blood supply to them. 

Photos from Crookhaven Castletownber Baltimore and Schull 

45nm east is Kinsale, a delightful small village built 5 miles upstream on the river Bandon. The weather was awful. Windy, wet and cold with a fair following sea. At least the wind was behind the beam. With one reef we managed good time and rounded Old Head of Kinsale, one if Ireland's oldest light houses, early in the afternoon.  The Lusitania was lost just 11 miles off this headland when it was torpedoed by German  U Boat. U20 in 1916. There was significant loss of life and a third of the passengers were American. This attack on a civilian vessel contributed to the American decision to enter the war with Britain against Germany. 
Old Head Lighthouse. One of the oldest lights in Ireland
During the passage we were followed for a while by an Irish Navy patrol boat P42, and then they called us for details of vessel and crew. We encountered them as we entered Brandon River mouth where they were anchored up out of the weather.

Charles Fort stands guard on the East side and James Fort on the west. They provide a startling reminder of the history of British rule and the intermittent Spanish and French involvement in Irish affairs over the centuries. Charles Fort was to provide us with an interesting and informative adventure in the coming days. James Fort, long abandoned and now a ruin, was also visited. 
Charles Fort. Kinsale.
 Kinsale is a gorgeous town. Busy with the hum of tourists from all points of the compass, eagerly enjoying the history, spectacular scenery and neighboring castles and coastline. The anchorage was good and we were greeted by the local yacht club manager in a small boat, come to ask if we were happy to anchor or would like to enter the marina. We declined his offer and secured the anchor in the river, an easy dingy ride to the Marina dock where we were provided with a key card and a very friendly welcome.
We spent 3 nights in Kinsale and should have stayed longer. There is much to see with an excellent bus service between Kinsale and Cork. 
A very ancient Celtic religious site now the site of Church of St Mutose Whilst the building is 850 years old, it has been a site of continuous Christian worship for of worship for over 1300 years. 
Lovely little shops and a small castle in town kept us busy on our feet all day each day. Shopping for provisions was easily achieved with several supermarkets right on the waterfront.

On day two we dinged downriver to Summer Cove and walked to Charles Fort where we spent an entertaining morning being further educated in confusing and convoluted Irish history. The first fortification was built of earth and timber on the site of an earlier fortification called  Ringcurren Castle. This was followed by a more substantial construction of a Star shape fort in1670's and 80's. It was besieged in 1690 in the Williamite War. In a combined land and sea operation, Williamite commander Marlborough, took the city and captured 5,000 Jacobite prisoners. Repairs were made after the seige and the  and the British used it as an army barracks for over 200 years.
Charles Fort
In the afternoon we watched the charity fun raft race on the river and then took the dingy to James Fort. A more leisurely pace with no guides or entrance fee. The main fort structure is walled off and gated as it is unsafe to enter. A short climb down to the river there is a Block House. It was fortified with 2 levels of cannon and a tunnel ran under the hill from the block house to the main fortification. This has been blocked off, much to David and Patrick's chagrin.
James Fort
Kinsale has numerous eateries and many of a fine standard. Patrick, being our resident epicurean maestro, was suitably impressed. There are also visitor moorings here and we could easily have arranged to leave to boat and tour by car for a few days. The hinterland looked very interesting especially to the west with the remnant glacial rocky lakeland and scoured hillsides offering great walking trips and scenic countryside.

All to soon we have to move on again. This time to Cork about 40nm to the east. 

Link to more photos from Kinsale.