On the nose again - our new theme song....

16th August - 29th August.

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Well we know the lyrics are “On the Road Again” but given that we seem to be constantly battling the wind on the nose we have decided that we should change the lyrics to “On The Nose Again”. Sailing to windward, where the boats nose is pointing as high as possible into the direction of the wind whilst sailing inevitably means the boat is healed requiring a certain level of dexterity and gymnastics to manoeuvre about the boat and achieve normally simple tasks like getting to the bathroom or preparing meals. The view from below at times can also be interesting as one feels like you are in a glass bottom boat looking out our windows. Cant always be champagne sailing but a little mix of conditions at this point would probably be appreciated. 

So where are we now. We are on the West Coast of Ireland. 

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We left Tobermory Scotland on Sunday 16th August around 5am in the morning and arrived into our anchorage in Sheeps Haven some 18 hours later having sailed 126nm by straight line and 150nm after tacking to windward. The first noticeable change in Irish waters was the coastguard and weather report. We had been spoilt over recent weeks by the Stornaway Coastguard who spoke slowly and with clarity and even when a Force 9 storm was imminent spread the word with happiness. In sharp contrast the Belfast Coast Guard message came across the radio with such speed and accent all four of us were left trying to figure out what on earth they were trying to report to us. Just as well we have the satellite weather data reporting system that Andrew downloads regularly, sometimes up to four times a day, reducing our reliance on understanding VHF radio weather transmission. 

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The first highlight of Ireland for us was our first real day of sunshine in a long time but unfortunately no wind. Cant have it all. We took a short motor sail out to Tory Island reknowned for its rebellion against Irelands Government in the 1970’s to resettle the citizens to the mainland. The island has its own King elected by the residents and was once a school for primitive artists. Perhaps we do not have very good artistic appreciation but our wander around Tory left us to believe that not a lot is happening in the way of art or development on the island in recent times. Our stay like the streets was very short. 

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Continuing south we arrived into a pretty anchorage off Aran Island (Arranmore). We did not go to shore but enjoyed a beautiful sunset on anchor in picturesque surroundings. Later that evening we were surprised to receive a photo taken from the shore by a local resident via email. It is always nice to see how Katherine looks to others and we very much appreciate when people take the time to share the photos they have taken.

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The sun continued to shine for us on our second day and the sea was like glass. As we motored out of Arramore around Aran Island we saw our first dorsal fin of a Basking Shark. By midday we were enveloped in sea fog. It just rolled in and completely concealed the coastline from view. Then just on que as we approached Slieve League, (recorded as one of the highest cliff faces in Europe) rising 598m from the Atlantic Ocean, the sea fog lifted. We took the opportunity to get the tender out and take some photos of Katherine in front of this natural wonder. Even more of a surprise as we motored on were the hundreds of tourists that were peering down from the viewing point. From the sea where we have seen so few boats it is sometimes hard to remember that we are in popular tourist areas. 

Our evening anchorage was in the another pretty harbour - Teelin. We had read about the local pub - The Rusty Mackerel - and had decided to walk the 2 or so kilometres to enjoy a meal and the local music. Well unfortunately the pub - in the publicans terms - had been smashed the day prior and there was no food in the house. The music by local musicians was due to start at 7pm but in Ireland he advised it never starts on time and never ends to the wee hours of the morning. So knowing we had another early start we took the safe option and headed back to the boat.

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Anchorage in Teelin 

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With poor weather impending we needed to get to Galway some 165nm south. Well thats if you could sail in a straight line - we did around 200nm all up over the next 18 hours. Galway Harbour only opens its lock gates 2 hours prior to High Tide so we had to anchor out for the remainder of the evening. Then on que on the Thursday morning winds and sea continued to build so we were pleased for the early morning lock opening that put us into the safety of Galway Harbour.

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Our home for the next week would be alongside a concrete wall, and a varying tide, thankfully a hole in the wall was strategically placed for ones footing when the water had dropped making clambering up the side wall easier to reach the road. This is when you realise again sailing is not always glamorous!

We had a great stay in Galway - a bustling town where “Shop Street” is overcrowded with tourists, sign holders and buskers.  There are more pubs, sewing shops and hairdressers/barbers then you can count. The restaurants of which we tried had fantastic food and service, and within hours of being in harbour we had nearly every maintenance item required for Katherine ticked off or ordered for quick delivery, even the refilling of our dive tank. 

While sitting out the weather we took the opportunity to hire a car. Leaving Galway we happened upon Aughnanure Castle a 16th Century Irish Tower House before driving into Clifden on the west coast, arriving on one of its busiest days of the year with its Pony Carnival.  We passed the Connemara National Park made up of bog land, lakes and mountains then back along a section of the scenic Wild Atlantic Road catching glimpses of trout fisherman whilst dodging sheep who considered the road their own. 

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The following day we ventured further to Sligo, north of Galway stopping first at Kylemore Abbey. A beautiful lakeside castle built by Mitchell Henry in 1871 as a gift for his wife. The massive home during construction brought much needed work to to around 300 people in an area where they were still endeavouring to recover from The Great Famine. To wander the Abbey really brought an appreciation for Mitchell Henry’s ingenuity as he continued to improve the operation of the estate over the years with installation of its own power supply, heating and a Victorian Walled Garden complete with Hot Houses that provided not only garden retreats for his family and guests during winter but much of the produce for the home. On the estate is a quaint miniature Cathedral and Mausoleum built in honour of his much loved wife after her sudden death in 1910, just 45. In 1903 after Mitchell Henry died the estate was sadly sold to a Duke with a passion for gambling and the estate fell into disrepair before being onsold to the Benedictine Community in 1920. By 1923 the nuns had converted the building from a castle to an Abbey and opened a Boarding School. The school closed in 2010 but the Benedictine nuns remain at Kylemore as directors of the Kylemore Trust and with an aim to protect and promote into the future Kylemore Abbey. The gardens have been restored and the estate was simply a pleasure to wander around - particularly as the sun came out.

We overnighted in the town of Sligo and enjoyed another fantastic meal - seems we are doing a lot of that lately in Ireland. Our drive back to Galway was unfortunately on a more typical Irish day and visibility to say the least was minimal but none the less still most enjoyable.

Now we are on the move again - heading south. Next stop Aran Islands. 



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© SV Katherine 2017      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Faro Portugal with Askari of Australia