Dingle to Burtonport

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Video - Music in Dingle - Brenndán Begley

Video - Clifden & Castle Darcy in the mist

Video - Weighing anchor at Inisgé

Video -The LE Emer

Video - Arranmore



Arrived in Dingle about 3.30pm.

On board before us were Ruaidhri & Deirdre O Tuairisg with Ruaidhri Breathnach and Pádraig. As I went to get my stuff Máire De B. arrived and also Danny & Máire & Orla Mac Síthigh. Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich came with two Russian friends who took a photo! of the proffered Irish ‘vodka’. Other visitors included Tomáisín O Cíobháin and Dr. Brosnihan and family.

In due course Fionbarr Moore, Pat Cunningham and Breandan O Cíobháin arrived.

Sean Mac a tSíthigh came as a one-man TV production crew and spent a surprising amount of time filming specially set up situations. We are informed that these were shown on both TG4 and RTE 1. Brendan Ó Beaglaoich, having earlier left a present of some venison, played a few tunes to speed us on the way.

Dinner served by Ruaidhri B followed by the fresh Mount Callan cheese, both much appreciated

After 10.00pm those of us with least sense of what was going to happen the following day went for a few drinks!

D'fág mé slán ag Treasa agus Máire agus tógadh roinnt snaps.

Don’t think I slept at all, although the boat hardly moved in the water.

(12:30 am 17th May 2011)


16th May 2011.

The plan was ‘bell at ‘6’ Go at ‘7’

Ruaidhri B served breakfast of porridge, with raisins and honey, and  as everyone appeared to be ready in good time, Pádraig had the engine running and had cast off about ten minutes early and, being impatient for action moved off at about 6:55am. Sean Mac a tSithigh was there, on shore with his camera all set up to film the departure. I could see Treasa coming from the guest house and knew that she wouldn’t make it in time.

As we reached the outer harbour, I was on deck watching the progress, when my phone rang – Treasa – I started to explain immediately that we had left a little early when she said that Danny was with her on the shore!! We went back and Treasa, Máire and Máire Ní Shíthigh all got their chance le slán a rá.

‘Fungie’ joined us for a while, as we left the harbour.

The water got decidedly rougher as went out of the bay and by the time we reached Slea Head was severe. We went through the Blasket Sound and Danny made the traditional offering of Tabac don Sean Duine, a rock-headland, where it is traditional to make an offering of tobbaco.

The wind, force 6, was behind us and the head-sail was set and the engine was cut off for the rest of the day. The sea got rougher as we moved off shore. The weather was dry but very misty. For most of the rest of the journey I moved between the bucket and the bed, in the company of others of the less experienced sailors.

At one stage the bucket was in use by someone else so I rushed towards the side of the ship, being on deck. The ship lurched at the same moment and I shot forward, I grabbed the only thing around which was a winch handle, but it turned with me and wasn’t much use, someone pulled me back, but my lovely new woolly hat (€4 in Lidl – but I still have the gloves!) went with the raging main.  Was I glad that I had left Cormac’s furry Russian hat in the bag when packing. God knows when I’ll next be in a place with a shop selling woolly hats? Ruaidhrí B. was particularly helpful to those of us who were sea-sick

During the day the watch rotas were announced: Ruaidhri O T, Danny, Ruaidhri B, and me were for four hours from 2 :00pm, but I just couldn’t do it and headed for the bed.

About 8.00pm we entered Cleggan bay and conditions improved greatly. I was able to go on deck again as we approached the ‘White Lady’ marker at the entrance to Clegan.

We anchored close to a fish farm, underneath the Sky Road and everyone ate dinner of venison, bread, Mt Callan cheese, tinned beans, black and white pudding etc. After the washing up there was general conversation until after midnight.

Sea now very calm, but forecast for tomorrow not great, especially the later part of the day.

In the evening, when attending to his many ‘texts’, Breandán asked me if I had a daughter Nóirín, he was communicating with one Niamh Costigan who knows Nóirín, but I got no more information.

(12:15 am 17th May 2011).


17 May 2011.

Clifden to Inisgé

Rose at 8 – 8.30am and we left Clifden about 9.00. Breakfast of duck eggs which got great praise for Treasa. Ruaidhri B was cook again all day. Motored out to Ard Oilean and had a good look around from the boat but it was too rough to land on the island.

Weather was fairly OK about force 4 and head-sail was raised once on the high sea, Conditions were foggy but wind was not too bad so we sailed north all day, passing all the Galway and Mayo islands which were only blobs in the fog but it was easy to imagine how beautiful they would be in fine weather.

I felt much more acclimatised to my surroundings today, although a bit nervous about what might happen if the wind got much stronger, but when that did get up a bit, later,  I was all right.

Before we set out Pádraig gave safety instructions

I spent the whole day on deck but most of the others took  a few snoozes during the day.

The seabirds are rather different from what we might usually see around Quilty, Gannets, Manx Shearwater, Guillemots, Fulmars etc. There is great interest in getting the ainm Gaeilge  for everything. Conversation is continuous from early morning with a heavy emphasis on history, language etc. Breandan can give an impromptu lecture on every thing and place we pass. Without doubt this is the most bi-lingual environment, about 80% of the time the language is Irish, which everyone understands but when it changes to English  it very quickly reverts to Irish.

We arrived at Inis Gé about 6:30 and cooking the evening meal began - an excellent stew, with spuds, again by Ruaidhri, who has great enthusiasm for cooking and everything else, except the mechanics of sailing and navigation.

Washing up after a 3 course meal for eight, in these conditions is not any easier than cooking the meal (maybe!) but I managed manfully!

When we set anchor, about 50 yards off the small pier, we noticed that there were some people around the pier with a rib (an extra large rubber dingy). They were there for about an hour, during which they never left the area of the pier Then they moved out and came over alongside us. Pádraig came on deck and saluted them, he explained who we were as a friendly gesture, although I don’t think they asked directly. There were three men in the boat, a smart, tough-looking man at the tiller and two rather dumb looking customers, they had two sheep dogs. Ruaidhri B, who knows all the culturally important people in Ireland, not least around the Belmullet area came on deck and shouted across at them ‘conas tá Máire John Tom and John Mhary Gawkin, (Gaughan)’ –two of the best known characters in the area, acquaintance with whom, should have gained us access to the local elite, but our three customers just looked blankly at him! They were invited to come on board and join us but they refused rather gruffly and motored off, going in circles for a while until they vanished into the fog.

After dinner Pádraig tackled the blocked toilet – very unpleasant – caused by somebody flushing plastic down.

There was an offer to launch the dingy and go ashore to see the islands properly, but it didn’t happen. From where we are – about 50 yards offshore we can clearly see the deserted villages on both islands, and the location of the monastic remains, the whaling station and field systems. I was just about to take some photos when I was called for instruction about setting anchor etc.

There is a constant round of sweets chocolates, Mars bars etc. which starts soon after breakfast and continues all day especially when weather conditions make cooking difficult or impossible.

Mobile phones are on the go all day, some are seldom without one in their hand as long as there is coverage.

In the middle of writing this I had to go to bunk as the seats were required for conversion to bunks and in this little bunk there is not much room for a laptop!

10:45 and everyone is in bed and snoring. The cabin is in darkness except for the light of the laptop and a night-light.

The wind has risen to Gale force. If it continues like this it will make for a very hard day tomorrow.

Plans are to get the boat under way at  6:00 am to sail 105 miles to Tory tomorrow there is virtually no prospect of seeing Inis Glora, again for weather reasons. So that’s the 4 Irish islands we planned to visit all missed!!

Even since they went to sleep the wind has really risen but it doesn’t really affect us except for the noise of the wind and the ropes (halliards!) bashing off the hollow mast.

(23:30 pm 17th May 2011).


18th May 2011

Inis Géto Burtonport

Sleep last night was fitful to say the least – The noise of the wind in the rigging rose to a scream in the squalls and the halliards (what you’d call ropes!!) lashed against the mast. I lay in my bunk listening and wondering how (assuming everyone else was asleep!) I would know if the yacht had pulled anchor – short of hearing the crunch when she was driven on rocks by the squalls – it didn’t!

In the morning as the anchor was being weighed, Pádraig called me to come out and take some photos, he had in mind the yacht straining at anchor against a backdrop of the island and disserted village in the morning light. Ruaidhri and Danny had already a lot of the anchor chain drawn when I got there and the boat was rocking so much and swinging around so  much as to make photography almost impossible. But that got me on deck and I stayed there, but as quickly as I was told to get the camera, I was told to put it away, or it would surely be destroyed by being bashed off something –with oilskins, life-jacket and safety harness there was no possibility of tucking the camera under my jacket when a squally shower came. I put the camera below and returned on deck.

Occasionally the sky lifted a bit or even a lot so that, for a while, we had a fine view of Achill mountains to the south

Padraig stayed at the tiller for about the first ten miles, till we reached Eagle Island, after which we turned north-east for the 95 mile journey across Donegal Bay. Ruaidhri O’T., Pat and Danny were on deck also.

It would be quite impossible to explain the sailing experience especially out on the open ocean, after Eagle Head. Padraig went below, slept for a while and worked on the navigation course. The yacht was on autopilot but someone was required to be constantly at the tiller if not Pádraig then Ruaidhrí or Danny. The others were looking on, from under the canvas.

The man on the tiller rarely did anything except enter an occasional course adjustment as shouted up from below. Danny did about three hours.

The sea was like a boiling mass – both wind and tide were from the south west, a little of the head-sail was let out and the engine was cut. The experience was unreal, massive waves would come up behind us blocking out sight of everything else and just when I thought we would go under, for sure, the boat would rise to the top of the wave and I could see way down to the south then the yacht would surf down the ‘back’ of the wave, into the hollow, regularly waves would come from different directions, the boat would dip to the west allowing a wave to crash across and then flip back and dip to a 50Angle to the east the only way to stay on board, for me, was to stay wedged somewhere, and go with the boat.

Occasionally we were joined by porpoises.

About half way across Donegal Bay Ruaidhri spotted an Irish naval vessel on the far west horizon, From viewing it when we got to the top of ‘good’ waves we thought it was heading south, but soon it was obvious they were coming around behind us, for a closer look. I called Pádraig who came on deck with the VHF radio:

“Irish warship, Irish warship, this is the yacht Ar Seachrán on your port bow,This is the yacht Ar Seachrán on your port bow, do you read me?”

“Yacht Seachran, Yacht Seachran This is the LE Emer, This is the LE Emer, we read you.”

“LE Emer, do you wish to change to a working channel?”

Pádraig then switched to another radio channel:

“Yacht Seachran can you please spell the name of your vessel?”

“Alpha, Romeo, space Sierra, Echo, Alpha, Charlie, Hotel, Romeo, Alpha, November”

“Can you please tell me your port of registration?”


“Can you please tell me your destination?”


“Can you please tell me port of origin?”

“We over-nighted off Inis Gé”

“What crew do you have on board?”
“We have 8 crew.”

“Do you need any assistance?”

“No! we are aware of the gale warning issued a while ago.”

“Thank you Ar Seachrán, Good Luck.”

“Same to you, Thank you.”


The LE Emer then ran along inside us for a good look, before resuming her journey southward.

Sometime after 4.00 pm the weather got even worse and the engine was started.

Pádraig was at the tiller with the auto pilot turned off we were approaching Aranmore Island from the outside, because the shorter route to Burtonport , inside the island was treacherous in these conditions.

As we rounded Aranmore we met a small 10’ boat with outboard going out to check his pots!

The weather improved once we got in the shelter of the islands but there was still a good journey between a lot of small islands before reaching Burtonport.

Approaching the harbour the cock-pit canopy was lowered, so the pilot could see where we were going.
“Everybody off deck, except Danny & Ruairi – tell Ruairi B. to get out six fenders”
A bit more progress, then “fenders to port”, This was my excuse to get back on deck and watch the proceedings. The fenders were just position when Padraig reassessed; “fenders to starboard” another re-assessment; “fenders to port” my sympathy for the two crewmen led me to ask if might help them; NO!.

We started to tie up alongside the ferry on the outside of the pier, when the harbour master came to welcome us; “Yiz ‘ill not be having a quiet night there,” he suggested we go to the inside pier and moor alongside the reserve lifeboat, which was tied up there. Padraig was delighted; “Fenders to starboard”!

When we were finally secure for the night Pádraig got word that the coastguard had been making enquiries  about the whereabouts of the boat Ar Seachran? This unsolicited interest by the coastguard remained a mystery until the next day when we found that one Mary Flanagan who had heard Danny’s report on R na G had come down to welcome us and not finding us there, rang the coastguard to enquire.

The forecast for the weekend looked very bad, but no final decision on further progress until tomorrow morning.

Pat’s GPS showed that our highest recorded speed during the day was 26 knots – a normal average would be about 6/7 knots.

Wind speed was noted at force 9, a few times – Strong Gale Force

(20th May 2011. 15:26)