The Wild West… of Ireland

They do call it the “Wild Atlantic Way”… but we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into!

When the locals said “Oh, you must sail the West Coast, it’s beautiful,” we should have done a bit more research about the sailing conditions. Yes, it’s a truly beautiful place, but I thought it would be more popular with cruisers.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is a stunningly, desolate place. We were often very much alone out there. Additionally, the Northern Atlantic Ocean produces huge rolling waves we call a swell. We should have noted that there is no protection between that swell, the wind-driven waves on top of that swell and the beautiful rocks and sheer cliffs into which those waves smash themselves and everything they carry with them. Oh, and on top of that, the swell and waves bounce off of the beautiful sheer cliffs and produce another set of waves that make the boat bounce up and down twice as fast. We were nearly seasick on two different days because of this action. But wait, there is more. There is a phenomenon called an “overfall,” where the tidal stream rips around a picturesque, jagged point and creates a whitewater rafting experience. We were very careful to make sure the stream was running WITH us. We don’t think we would have been able to motor AGAINST one of those overfalls without nose-diving the boat into steep, stacked up waves.

We, well at least I, expected to see other cruising sailboats each day as we sailed down the coastline. Nope… almost none. We saw some near the towns, but no cruisers moving from one peninsula to another, until we were more than halfway down the coastline to Donnegal, and that was just one.

It became a joke to claim there were no other boats around when there were, but I only counted 10 in total, until we were officially in Southwestern Ireland.

27-July 2018

28-July

29-July

We met our friends, Carlos and Kathy, during our participation in the ARC Europe Atlantic crossing (Bermuda to The Azores). Like Tadd, as US citizens, they are only allowed 90 days total in any of the Schengen countries of Europe within any six month period. And so, running low on days, they decided to come join us for a week of sailing in Ireland (non-Schengen).

29-July The singing barman

1-August This video has bad audio, because the wind was so strong it drownned out most of my voice. It was a beautiful Irish summer day, with loads of low clouds, some rain and lots of wind. The wind was gusting to 48 knots and luckily we already had two reefs in the mainsail. Lindsay used to get concerned with gusts to 36 knots but now that we’ve felt 48 knots from ahead of us, we don’t mind 36 knots anymore!

2-August:

3-August Common dolphins again.

8-August After sitting out a gale we experienced rougher seas that we had hoped. It was a long day. When we had to motorsail due to large waves slowing us down, we then had to be very diligent to avoid the lobster traps. The traps could be in anywhere from 20 feet to 220 feet of water, and they usually had very long lines on the surface. Generally, we steer to the downwind side of the marker buoy to leave the extra floating line on the other side. This is the best way to safely avoid getting the line wrapped around the propeller shafts. The real trouble was that sometimes the current was running upwind or across the wind and the marker buoys would run downstream with the current, not the wind. This means we sometimes did the opposite of what we should have and passed on the dangerous side of the trap line. Luckily, if we spotted the line on the surface, we could stop the engines and put the transmission in reverse which caused the folding propellers to close, thus avoiding the lines getting twisted around the shafts. Then we would curse the fisherman, put the transmission back into neutral to start the engines and get going faster again.

Beautiful cliffs, big seas and some mysterious sea creatures visit us.

Here’s another aspect of the waves we were going over, it was too dangerous to move forward on the boat so this is shot from the stern. If you look closely at the horizon, you will see a large flock of white birds that may be terns flying downwind. The low pressure system has them on the move, apparently, because we never saw that many together at one time again. We saw lots of birds flying away from where we were sailing, which had us slightly doubting our judgment.

10-Aug Sailing into Crosshaven

So after two weeks of rough and tumble sailing, we made it back to the beloved Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven!