One of the great successes of the 2019 season was the Galway-Lorient Cruise-in-Company in July to celebrate the ancient seaborn links between the City of the Tribes and the historic port and Celtic centre of South Brittany on France's Biscay coast writes W M Nixon
Put together in precise detail by serial organiser Cormac MacDonncha of Galway Bay SC, it attracted an impressive fleet of 27 boats drawn mostly from Ireland's Atlantic seaboard, but also including the key ingredient of three fine boats which had come over from Brittany.
They were led by Lorient YC President Jean-Gab (Jean-Gabriel) Samzun with his handsome Peterson 46 Trilogy, which once upon a time was Robin Aisher's Yeoman XXI, a finisher in the storm-battered 1979 Fastnet Race with the crew including the owner's daughter Sally, who these days is Mrs O'Leary of Crosshaven.
The Lorient sailors are so enamoured of Connacht that they're returning in a reciprocal visit to Galway port in June of next year. But meanwhile the Galway and West Coast sailors - having successfully taken on the intricate waters of west and south Brittany in 2019 - have decided that later in 2020 they should make a point of some detailed navigation and pilotage in the cruising paradise which is on their doorstep, and much cherished by visiting cruising boats – particularly those from France.
Because of course, that's the problem with being based in Galway. The wondrously intricate and mysterious coast of Connemara – "The Land of the Sea" – is only about twenty miles to the westward. Getting there isn't thought of as any big deal by Galway sailors. Yet such is the place's enchantment that sailors from all over Europe and further afield will voyage for many miles just to savour the joys of this unique coastline, which has rightly been described as more of a personality than place.
So the latest Mac Donncha project is a detailed August Bank Holiday weekend cruise-in-company for West Coast sailors in the hope of experiencing the Connemara coast as visitors see it. They'll be busy in the city in June with the hospitality for the boats from France, but by July the seemingly continuous city Festival Season is underway, and it gets beyond all reason at the end of the month with the Galway Races.
That is when it's reckoned the GBSC cruising sailors and their friends from up and down the west coast can be reasonably excused for being out of Galway City and in Connemara and places adjacent, so the programme being mapped out is:
- Thursday, July 30th: Depart Galway Docks for Rosamhil (Rossaveal) Marina.
- Friday, July 31st: Rosamhil to Kilronan (Aran Islands)
- Saturday, August 1st: Kilronan to Inishbofin
- Sunday, August 2nd: Inishbofin to Roundstone
- Monday, August 3rd (Bank Holiday) Roundstone to Rosamhil.
- Monday, August 3rd Cruise-in-Company concludes at Rosamihil.
Those who know the coast of Connemara will realise that the passages from Galway Bay to and from Inishbofin involve negotiating Slyne Head, and for the more quirky cruising brethren and sisterhood, negotiating Slyne Head means contemplating the use of the inner passage through the narrow gap known either as the Joyce Sound or Joyce's Pass, or indeed the Joyce Sound Pass.
Whatever name you choose for this tricky channel, it can be something of a challenge. But the rewards in distance saved and the avoidance of the often lumpy seas off Slyne Head make it an attractive proposition, though a careful reading of the Irish Cruising Club directions as compiled by Honorary Editor Norman Kean shows that this is not a short-cut to be trifled with.
But whatever way you go in negotiating Slyne Head, this is a wonderful away-from-it-all area, a true holiday coast. As ever, the Galway hospitality goes the extra distance – the word is that if you don't see yourself having the time to get involved with your own boat, the GBSC welcome machine will try to facilitate you with a berth on a locally-based boat.
And as a taster of what being with the Galway fleet can offer, here's the vid from the summer's cruise to Lorient.