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Galway Sailors Will Give Their Own Connemara the Visitor Treatment

10th December 2019
Derryinver in Connemara – the Land of the Sea. Connemara is planned as the 2020 setting for a Galway Bay SC Cruise-in-Company, following their successful visit to South Brittany in July 2019 Derryinver in Connemara – the Land of the Sea. Connemara is planned as the 2020 setting for a Galway Bay SC Cruise-in-Company, following their successful visit to South Brittany in July 2019 Photo: W M Nixon

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.

jack roy mac donncha2Irish Sailing President Jack Roy with "serial organiser" Cormac Mac Donncha at Kilronan in the Aran Islands when the latter made it the venue for the WIORA Championship in 2017.
trilogy hooker3Peter Connolly's City-built Galway Hooker with Jean-Gab Samzun's Peterson 46 Trilogy (ex-Yeoman XXI) off Galway port before the start of the Galway-Lorient Cruise-in-Company

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.

innishboffin quayHigh water for an intriguing selection of cruisers at the quay at Inishbofin, a destination for next year's GBSC long weekend cruise-in-company. Photo ICC.
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.

map of connemara5An intriguing pilotage and navigational challenge – the Connemara coastline between the Aran Islands (bottom) and Inishbofin (top left)

Joyce sound pass 6The Joyce Sound Pass is a useful short-cut inside Slyne Head, but complete information is needed for a safe passage through. Photo ICCslyne head7Slyne Head is the most seaward of a line of rocky islands.
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.

Published in Galway Harbour
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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