An Old Friend

From Baltimore to Mizzen Head is a little paradise of islands , intricate channels and sheltered anchorages . All of it is within easy sight of the Fastnet rock , and even easier reach of any number of friendly Irish pubs where the craic goes on ‘ til the wee hours . Turn east to Cork or West to Dingle and you have several weeks worth of similarly beautiful places to explore , so why anyone would want to thrash all the way to the Fastnet rock , then turn round and go back again beats me.
Hmm, I hear you say – isn’t that what you are proposing to do later on in the year? Yes…. well……., that is to say …..OK , I suppose all I can say in my defence is that we are at least making use of this magnificent cruising ground now!
Mr Grib has relented and given us 3 days of sunny NW winds ,which in this area tend to go light SW under the influence of the sun in the middle of the day. We have had 11 anchorages in 9 days , but the best so far was in the lee of Castle Island , Roaring Water Bay. Many of the bigger islands hereabouts are still inhabited , but Castle island is now only home to sheep. Before the famine it supported 86 souls and the ruins still dot the Island , along with evidence of decent plots of land for arable farming , several good natural harbours for light boats for the fishing and a quay on the sheltered north side , all watched over by the remains of the 14th century Tower. As we explored this seeming paradise in the warm evening sunshine I tried to ask the ghosts if it was a good life back then, or was it just hard and brutal. There was no reply.

Right now we are tied up in Dingle with a NW gale roaring in the rigging. There were a few hours of SW wind which we used to get up here , accompanied most of the time by small families of common dolphin , sailing through seas literally littered with guillemots , razor bills , shags and of course , puffin whilst all the while platoons of Gannets flew past . We spent some time examining the remarkable Skellig Michael with its 4th century monastery clinging precariously to the vertiginous cliff sides , and nearby on the Little Skellig the biggest Gannetry in the world. Thence we altered course to revisit the anchorage in the Blaskets before heading back into Dingle bay in time for the gale.
A long days sail then , and on the way in I must have dozed in an awkward position and tweaked my back , and so was feeling my age as we passed through the harbour entrance. Remarkably , 17 years after he first greeted us , there was Fungie the bottle nosed dolphin , ignoring the tripper boats and escorting us for about a mile as he has done every time we have been here. He too is probably feeling his age as there were none of the spectacular leaps that he entertained us with before , but instead a sedate and dignified pilotage of the narrows to make sure we went the right way. He is now a seriously big animal but retains his seraphic smile, and our hearts went out to him as an old friend.
From now on , the seas to the north are unfamiliar territory. The next 60 miles are somewhat inhospitable so we hope to make it to the coast of Galway in one hop , or even all the way to our other old friends in Clew bay. By all accounts its even nicer up there than here , which seems hardly possible but we will let you know. Meanwhile greetings from Festina , all snug in the shelter of Dingle harbour .

Leave a Reply