#lugger– In Baltimore yesterday evening, the Ogden brothers of County Cork received a warm welcome home from family and friends as they successfully concluded their circuit of Ireland with their 18ft Drascombe Lugger Lughnasa.
They'd taken eight weeks for an RNLI fund-raising voyage which they'd originally hoped might be completed in just four writes W M Nixon. But in this summer of exceptionally strong winds, it's a fantastic achievement for Nathaniel (now 23) and his brother Fergus (16) to have completed such a voyage at all in an open boat.
The minimum distance you can possibly sail, simply going headland to headland, is 704 miles. But when you add in the course diversions to ports of shelter which a boat like this has had to make to overnight or to ride out gales as a succession wind-bringing depressions followed one another, you can very quickly get to a total of more than a thousand miles.
Small boat, big sea. Approaching the end of her great cruise, in order to enter the harbour at Baltimore Lughnasa's rig has been reduced to the jib and jigger mizzen sailplan, which was all that could be set for much of their Ireland circuit in often strong winds. Photo SailCork
And at the end of each day's sailing, they had to find warmth, comfort and sleep as best they could in a tent rigged over the boat, though they did have help from supporters along the coast, and on two particularly adverse weekends they very sensibly secured Lughnasa in a snug berth and went home to recoup their energies.
As for the speeds they sailed at, four knots is good going for a Drascombe lugger, but it was often much less than that - sometimes very much less. And going to windward is not Lughnasa's strong suit. Yet when it has to be done, it just has to be done, and they particularly remember twelve hours of beating to windward off the Clare coast.
So next time you're on top of the Cliffs of Moher savouring the Wild Atlantic Way on a day of rugged western weather, just imagine what it must have been like for the Ogden brothers to be miles at sea off this unforgiving shore in an 18ft open boat.
The hull and rig profile of the Drascombe Lugger details an able and attractive little boat, but most of them do little more than go day sailing.
But having observed the different sea states off Ireland's four coastlines from the intense close-up view which a Drascombe Lugger provides, the Oden brothers reckon the West Cork coast can sometimes be the most unevenly rough of all. On the West Coast, the Atlantic swell is higher, but it is much longer and more even. However, on Tuesday of this week, bashing their way from Kinsale to Castehaven along the bays and headlands of the West Coast in 25 knots of wind, they found that Lughnasa was struggling to make progress in seas that were more irregularly rough than much of what they'd been through on other supposedly more rugged coastlines.
The experiences of Lughnasa's crew will be invaluable in adding to our knowledge of cruising the Irish coast, and we look forward to analyzing this remarkable voyage in more detail. But for now, the brothers should be catching up on sleep.
Journey's end. The Ogden brothers and Lughnasa berthing yesterday evening at the new pontoon in Baltimore, eight weeks after leaving. Photo SailCork