Caribbean Ireland


France has had almost constant rain and floods , the North sea has shivered under cold damp Northerly gales , but over here in Ireland it has been “shorts and tee shirt” temperatures and gentle winds , and as if that wasn’t enough the wildlife has been spectacular. From Fastnet round to Galway the sea has been a-splash with dolphins racing hither and thither as they gorge themselves on some sort of prey species or other. East of the Dingle peninsular they are accompanied in their feeding by large groups of Gannets plummeting into the sea all around , whilst North of there the birds tend to be Shearwaters, skittering along the surface and suggesting perhaps a smaller kind of prey providing the feast.
A humpback whale was sighted breaching repeatedly off Ventry , deep inside Dingle bay , and we were advised that we would be sure to see some if we ventured 5 miles West of the Blasket islands . Off we went in high excitement , but to no avail , at least as far as humpbacks were concerned. Nonetheless there was more or less constant dolphin activity and to our delight we passed no less than 6 Mincke whales loloping sedately south .
The gentle weather makes it much easier to see all these animals , but there is little doubt that the complex ocean ecosystem has shifted somehow to bring animals to this coast in numbers unprecedented in recent years. Let us hope it is a sign of a return of health to our seas.
This time last year we were dressed in 5 fleeces and the heater had been going flat out for days on end , but this year we have been seeking out shade and have turned the colour of deep mahogany. Nobody can believe their luck , least of all a young French cycle tourist whom we met in our favourite music pub in Dingle. He had been told it was going to rain tomorrow and was seeking a second opinion , thinking that as sailors we might be better informed . I was able to reassure him he had at least another week of stonking weather , and explained that in Ireland you could normally say “it would rain tomorrow “ and be right 95% of the time – but not this year!
In the real Caribbean , the sunshine is accompanied by good fresh winds – but hereabouts we get excited if it gets up to ten knots. Passage making has thus been relaxed and fairly slow , with most progress being made between 11 and 1800 under gentle sea breezes. We sail if it is 4 knots or over and can usually get up to hull speed when the breeze reaches 8 knots . Festina’s ability to make progress in these light airs has been a delight and we are probably using less diesel than last year despite using the engine more often , simply because the heater has remained resolutely inactive.
Our destination is the wonderful Clew bay and our friends the Blackwell’s on the NW coast but we are taking our cue from the weather and gently pottering along, marvelling at the wildlife and revisiting favourite haunts discovered on previous cruises.

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