Displaying items by tag: Cruising
The Sailor of the Month contest has been running for nearly a quarter of a century now, but this may well be the first time the award has gone to a single seagoing family. Vera Quinlan, her husband Peter Owens, and their children Lillian (now 12) and Ruairi (10) departed their home near Kinvara in the southeast corner of Galway Bay with their 43ft steel ketch Danu in June 2019 in anticipation of a comprehensive Atlantic circuit cruise to South America and the Caribbean, concluding back in Galway Bay at the end of August 2020.
Despite their plans being battered by the massive international effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Danu and her crew have managed to finish a very complete voyage of remarkable variety, and they thoroughly deserved the warm welcome and congratulations they received from family and friends when they arrived back into Kilronan in the Aran Islands on Wednesday 29th July.
After spending much of the past two months on her own in the Atlantic making her way home from the Caribbean via the Azores, the Quinlan-Owens family’s 43ft ketch Danu found her crew being swept up into a socially-controlled welcome home party last in Kilronan. The Galway Bay Sailing Club flotilla co-ordinated by Cormac Mac Donncha in the “Lambs Weekend” cruise-in-company arrived in on a busy programme which had already taken them to Rossaveal and is today (Saturday) taking some on round Slyne Head to Inishbofin, while others will either stay on in Kilronan through Saturday night or else make the passage today to Roundstone, where tomorrow night (Sunday) sees the "Grand Gathering” as the boats return from Bofin.
It’s a programme which will see quite a few collective sea miles being logged along Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard. But meanwhile in Kilronan, where Vera Quinlan and Peter Owens and their family had been relaxing since their post-Azores arrival on Wednesday night with Vera’s father Fergus and his wife Kay on their world-girdling 12m cutter Pylades, and friends Conor and Breda Minogue on their Bownan 40 Golden Harvest, the social pace was allowed to go up a carefully-monitored notch or two in the best Aran Islands style.
Last night (Wednesday) the 43ft steel ketch Danu made her way round the end of the breakwater at Kilronan in the Aran Islands in the evening light, with the day’s rain clearing away to the northeast. The Quinlan-Owens family of Kinvara had returned safely to home waters after a Transatlantic circuit cruise in which they had achieved much, despite some of their plans being curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In keeping with current circumstances, they returned to a warm but subdued numbers-limited welcome. It was a very special occasion nevertheless, as in port in Kilronan to greet them were Vera Quinlan’s father Fergus with his wife Kay on their world-girdling 12 metre cutter Pylades, whose home base is at Bell Harbour in North Clare close west of Kinvara, while from their own anchorage in the approaches to Kinvara were Conor and Breda Minogue with their young sons Micheal (11) and Tomas (8) on their classic Bowman 40 Golden Harvest, another veteran of transoceanic passages.
With their daughter Lilian (now 12) and son Ruairi (10), the Quinlan-Owens family make for a formidable voyaging and shoreside exploration team, as Vera is a scientist with the Marine Institute, while Peter’s speciality is the exploration of rugged and out-of-the-way places ashore. Thus before they’d even left the eastern side of the Atlantic for the hop across to South America from the Cape Verde islands, they’d had detailed expeditions into the Picos de Europa in northern Spain, and the Atlas mountains in Morocco.
After Christmas spent in a jungle river in Guyana, they started making their way up the chain of the Caribbean Islands in the New Year, but then had to plan carefully in order to avoid being trapped by the rising COVID-19 pandemic. The French islands were being particularly strict in imposing total lockdown which stopped all movement, but by getting themselves to Antigua where - with tests done and clearance provided to sail for some parts of Europe – they departed on the first stage of the long haul home. Their best hopes lay in reaching the forward-looking administration in the Azores, where the authorities were making every effort to accommodate long-distance cruisers, while still adhering to their own guidelines.
As reported in Afloat ie, Danu’s crew timed their Azores arrival to near-perfection, with a minimum time in quarantine, while – as Vera admits – a bit of the “Galway gab” ensured that they were the first visiting cruising yacht to be given pratique to sail at will among the pandemic-free islands. Thus although their hopes of some cruising on the US eastern seaboard had to be abandoned, they had a wonderful time cruising the Azores in some detail before gathering themselves for the 1,100 mile passage home to Galway Bay in a period when the North Atlantic is in a decidedly restless mood.
Despite that, last night saw Danu safely in Kilronan, very much within reach of home and gradually adjusting to a different style of life, with everyone wondering just when Ruairi will decide to get a haircut.
The Quinlan-Owens family of Kinvara are expected home in Galway Bay within the next day or so with their 39ft steel ketch Danu of Galway, a 1993-built ocean voyager which Marine Institute scientist Vera Quinlan and her husband Peter Owens brought up to superb seagoing condition to take their two children Lillian and Ruairi on a 15-month dream cruise circuiting the North Atlantic.
They departed from Ireland in June 2019, and all was going to plan with the sailing paradise of the Caribbean reached by the New Year (after spending Christmas in the highly unusual setting of a remote jungle river in Guyana) when the remorseless spread of COVID-19 started to impact on the plans for the second half of their voyage. In the end they managed to get themselves well located in Antigua for an exit via the eastbound Transatlantic hop to the Azores, and while the ocean crossing was a frustrating business with more than their fair share of headwinds and calms, they arrived at Horta in the Azores just as those welcoming Portuguese islands were leading the world in emerging from the Pandemic.
In fact, so fortuitously had they timed their arrival in Horta that Danu was the first visiting cruising yacht to be certified COVID-free and entitled to cruise at will in that loveliest of archipelagos. The precious few weeks of cruising in the Azores have done much to offset the frustrations of the later period in the Caribbean. But they knew that in due course they’d have to prepare themselves for the 1,100 mile passage home to Galway, knowing that the further north they got, the more restless would be the Atlantic, while temperatures would plummet.
But Danu has ploughed on through those increasingly cold and restless seas, and as of 10.32 GMT today (Tuesday) she was 110 miles west of the Blasket Islands, and making five knots on course for home.
Seven yachts rounded the Kish of which five lay alongside the Royal Irish overnight, sailing back to Howth, Malahide and Carlingford the next day.
This was the first outing in ten months for the association but the summer is far from over, according to CAI Honorary Secretary John Leahy, and the cruising group has several events planned including a cruise to Belfast Lough as Afloat previously reported here. Further events include the Liffey Rally on September 19/20.
The pressures of assembling an ocean-going crew on-line in the highly-constrained times of Coronavirus may have been a factor in experienced Arctic voyager Nick Kats’ decision to cut short what would have been his third cruise from Ireland to East Greenland in his 39ft steel ketch Teddy. Having left Clifden last week, Teddy was making reasonably good progress in the Atlantic and was approaching the halfway stage to Iceland, but the skipper – who has overcome deafness from birth to make some extraordinary voyages – had the feeling that things weren’t working out to create a sufficiently experienced seagoing team among his three new shipmates.
Over the years, he has drawn on the experience and teachability of a total of 35 widely-varied crewmates for long voyages, recruiting them through the Internet. But that was in periods of less pressure, and without limitations on the ports he could visit. However, during this past week, while sailing north, he has reckoned there was insufficient time and space available to have a properly seaworthy setup in place as Teddy sailed into the really demanding seas and weather of the high latitudes.
So the decision was taken to head back, stopping for a rest at St Kilda, and then heading on for an Irish port at Tory island so that the crew could disperse in an amicable fashion. “They were very disappointed but were graceful about it, and we parted on decent terms” the American skipper messaged to Afloat.ie. “These are three great people, and I hope to stay in contact with them. Getting solid crew is the hardest part of my trips. I had not met any of them before, but that has been the case with most of the 35 total that I’ve taken on my trips. Which isn’t ideal but it is reality, yet in this case it just wasn’t to be.”
The uniquely compact boats of Ireland’s characterful Drascombe fleet have their own way of doing things. Encouraged by their easily-lowered rigs and extra-shoal-draft-with-centreboard versatility, they’re well able to explore little-known harbours and winding waterways where bridges or overhanging trees might make cruising impossible for more orthodox craft.
Yet they’re also deservedly renowned as able sea boats. Here in Ireland, at least one has made the circuit cruise, with the young Ogden brothers from Baltimore getting round in their Drascombe Lugger in 2015, while others have been to the Outer Hebrides. And of course the American Webb Chiles saw no reason why he shouldn’t sail across the Pacific in a Drascombe, and did so, and subsequently, he has sailed round much of the world using several of these distinctive little craft.
So it’s entirely in keeping with their able boats and individualistic approach that the Irish Drascombe Association should see the history-laden links of the 12th July 2020 - the 330th Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne - as providing the ideal occasion to hold a Boyne Rally using the cruising potential of the partially restored Boyne Navigation, with the fleet made up from the north and the south of Ireland for a cruise-in-company involving sea passages and river transits.
As is expected with the 12th July and the days around it, many flags were flown by a fleet of eleven Drascombes (five from the north and six from the south) along the Boyne water. But it was all in a spirit of the warmest friendship and a shared enthusiasm for special boats and the unique exploration opportunities they provide, with a potentially complex six-day programme involving distant launching points and coastal passage-making, with a growing fleet and stopover ports towards the Boyne.
It was smoothed out by John White from the north shore of Carlingford Lough for the northern division, who launched on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 8th at Greencastle at the entrance to Carlingford Lough, and Jack O’Keeffe of Cork, whose group from the south had their most southerly launch point at Skerries. Others from north and south launched at Port Oriel at Clogherhead where the total fleet was finally assembled on the evening of Friday, July 10th, with those who’d sailed there reporting a variety of seagoing experiences.
The northern group had stopped at Gyles Quay under the Cooley Mountains and enthused about the extraordinary selection of bird-song to be heard in wildfowl-rich Dundalk Bay, while those from the south had seen the most exploration by Jack O’Keeffe, whose passage northward had included a brief diversion up the shallow River Nanny at Laytown, “the only harbour in all County Meath”, which is just the kind of thing you do with a Drascombe.
Port Oriel provided the opportunity to liaise with Sean Flanagan of the RNLI whose local knowledge was invaluable, and then Saturday morning saw the combined fleet sail south round Clogher Head, and into a first river stop in the Boyne estuary at Mornington to see how helpful advice from Drogheda Harbour Master Martin Donnelly helped shape their plans for the day.,
With low water there at 1045, the tide was soon flooding up the history-laden waterway into the heart of Ireland past Drogheda, where the best berth for Drascombes was at anchor off the Coast Guard slip. There, they were made welcome by the Coast Guards, and some took the opportunity to explore the nearest parts of an ancient port city which at one time rivalled and even exceeded the seaborn trade going through Dublin.
Knowing they’d need to lower masts to negotiate bridges on the next stage upstream, some simply did it at anchor in a neat demonstration of Drascombe convenience, while others did it at a handy berth alongside a dredger, and then there were good wishes from the shore and from above from spectators as they negotiated the bridges to reach the sea lock into the Boyne Navigation 2.5 miles upriver of the Coast Guard slip.
The members of the Boyne Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland have been restoring their bit of navigable water for some time now, but as it’s an outlier which does not connect with the main waterways system, it has often been a lonely struggle. The Covid Lockdown had not helped in having the locks in full working order, but as the Drascombe Weekend approached, they put in a heroic effort led by Stephen Early, who was helped on the day by the Boyne IWAI’s Anne Gregory, Willie O’Donnell and Fiachra de Reoise to make sure everything was functioning and undergrowth cleared along this well-wooded waterway.
As a result, a milestone was smoothly passed with the Drascombes providing the largest number of boats to transit the restored lock at once, in fact numbers were such that it had to be done in two batches of six each. Once through and above the salt water, they were into such a different world, with trees and meadowland and rural aromas, that it was difficult to remember that only that morning they’d been in been in sea-dominated, fishing-boat-flavoured Port Oriel.
And the transformation was made even more complete by their overnight fleet stop at Staleen which was total country – kingfishers and other waterfowl, quietly evocative rural sounds, atmospheric sunset, and everyone dining on board their little boats in a shared mood of bliss.
Morning came early on their central target date of Sunday12th July, with the dawn chorus at full strength by 0500 hrs as the sun emerged through the mist. It was a busy day with a morning stroll along the Boyne Footpath to meet Claidbh Gibney at the Boyne Currach centre with its fascinating demonstration of ancient boat-building, with the bonus of his encyclopaedic knowledge of much local coastal and river lore.
This included an enthusiastic outline of the “lost” medieval harbour of St Denis close west of Port Oriel, which resulted in a typically easily-made Drascombe change of plan, as they agreed they’d spend that last night at St Denis rather than Port Oriel, persuaded by Claidbh by his assurance that he’d be there to guide them in.
But there was much to be done before they reached that mysterious place, for by lunchtime they’d made their way along the short haul on the waterway to Oldbridge and the gardens of the Battle of the Boyne centre, where the arrival of a mini-fleet proudly displaying flags of north and south in a spirit of warm friendship on the 12th July really was something very special indeed, even if the Covid-restrictions mean that Oldbridge House itself is closed until July 20th.
In fact, this meant that the Drascombes – who are more accustomed to doing their own thing quietly under the radar – were akin to being the main event at the site on the 330th Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne on July 12th 2020. But they took it in their stride with the usual mixture of banter and boat talk which soon took on an extra purpose as the turn of the tide was approaching, so it was back to seafaring business as they headed down through the sea lock with their two transits, and then with a fine fair ebb, made short work of negotiating Drogheda’s bridges and the lengthy stretch along the estuary to Mornington, accompanied all the way by the folk from Boyne IWAI and the Boyne Currach centre.
Mornington was a hive of activity afloat with boats being made ready for sea, as the introduction of the ultra-ancient harbour of St Denis into their cruise-in-company plan gave an added urgency. But by 1800 hrs they were emerging on time into the Irish Sea at Boyne Mouth, and a crisp two hour passage northward around rugged little Clogher Head took them past Port Oriel and on towards that barely-visible indentation of the coast where the remains of the medieval harbour that used to serve the sacred St Denis’s Well were to be found.
Claidhbh (Clive) Gibney was there, ready on the shore to guide them in, his readiness and enthusiasm being such that he promptly waded in chest deep to make sure they found the channel, and then provided the additional service of “walking the seabed” where each boat chose to anchor to ensure that they wouldn’t be settling on a boulder at low water.
This was purest Drascombe territory. An elusive wraith of a forgotten port being brought briefly back to life for the fleet’s last overnight together, with few if any lights visible from the nearby shore as the summer night closed in. Yet again, there was enormous effort needed to realise that their day had started in a very different place, deep in the heart of the country as the dawn chorus grew in strength over the mists of the Boyne on the anniversary of the history-changing battle.
Their final morning together provided the time for an exploration of the remains of the forgotten St-Denis harbour’s walls before the new tide floated them off and the fleet dispersed – some north to Carlingford and Greencastle, and others swiftly south towards Skerries along the now-familiar coast of County Louth, all making good progress – whether headed north or south – in a healthy west wind off the land – “off the grass” as the crewmen in Irish Lights fondly describe it – to find their road trailers and the way home.
By Tuesday night, all were safely back in their home ports, which in many cases means on the road trailer in the front drive. Yet as the Boyne 12th July Long Weekend had well shown, if it’s a Drascombe on that trailer, your home port will give ready access to some truly intriguing cruising grounds very remote indeed from modern suburbia.
The Cruising Association of Ireland says there is a lot of interest being shown in their first event of the season which is a sail around the Kish Bank at the entrance to Dublin Bay in a Cruise-in-Company on 25th July.
A gathering of boats at the Kish lighthouse will arrive mainly from locations on the east coast of Ireland.
From the Kish, the members will sail to Dun Laoghaire Harbour. There, they will join the Royal Irish Yacht Club for their BBQ to which they have kindly invited the CAI. The meeting of boats at the Kish is planned for 14:00hrs to be followed by the RIYC BBQ starting at 16:00hrs. Some boats may layover in Dun Laoghaire while others will have time to sail home before dusk.
Summer cruise to Belfast
The CAI had planned a summer cruise to Scotland in June, but this has been replaced by a cruise to the loughs of Carlingford and Belfast. The itinerary will include three primary locations, namely, Malahide, Carlingford and Bangor where the catering and social arrangements have been prepared in advance. In between the primary locations, boats may free sail, visiting places like Ardglass, Portaferry, Belfast, Carrickfergus and more. As Afloat previously reported, the cruise will be from the 12th to 23rd August.
It is just over three years since the Cruising Association of Ireland fleet visited Belfast Lough. And now another trip north is planned for the middle week of August. The CAI has managed to keep active through the COVID 19 Lockdown with virtual meetings and online talks, during which time the membership has satisfyingly increased by 10%, including several new members from the North.
Commodore Vincent Lundy said “It has been an incredibly difficult year for us all but the bottom line is that we need to go cruising. Needless to say, we are bound to remain compliant with all restrictions imposed and these same conditions will dictate the levels of social interaction for the safety of our membership. Indeed is our duty to do so”.
This year the cruise-in-company is based around key locations where a greater number of boats may be accommodated within the safety of a marina able to berth reasonable numbers.
After a muster in Malahide on 12th August, the fleet will head north to Carlingford Lough, that spectacular fiord like stretch of water with the Mourne Mountains on the north and the Cooley Mountains to the south. Then on north to Belfast Harbour Marina, right in the centre of the city close to Titanic Belfast, followed by the option of moving on to the historic town of Carrickfergus with its Norman castle or heading east down the Lough to Bangor. From 21st August its free sailing home with the possibility of a visit to another fiord like sea inlet, the island-studded Strangford Lough.
The catering arrangements at each location is under continual review with respect to the current COVID guidelines
When long-distance American sailor Nick Kats – now 62 - arrived into Clifden in far west Connemara nearly ten years ago with his 39ft steel Bermudan ketch Teddy, it started a fascinating new chapter in an already interesting life. For although his vocational training had turned him into a skilled carpenter and shipwright, his aptitude was as a sailor, he was also a doctor specialising in natural medicines, and in the exceptionally-varied environment of this part of Ireland’s always fascinating Atlantic seaboard, he was to find an area rich in possibilities, and his lifelong interest in foraging acquired new dimensions.
So although since 2012 he has had a longterm plan of sailing back to his home territory in the US’s Pacific northwest - ideally by using the Northwest Passage – events and changing circumstances have managed to prevent it, or at least put it on a very long finger. Certainly, he has made exploratory voyages to the High Arctic. But as often as not, he seems to have intentionally ended up well east of Greenland’s southern tip of Cape Farewell, way up around Iceland and Jan Mayen and East Greenland, and then Teddy invariably returns to her familiar winter berth, comfortably drying out at low water against the picturesque quayside in Clifden.
Apart from becoming part of the Clifden and west Connemara community, where he now has a shore base with a house set deep in that Land of the Sea, Nick Kats was already in several communications groupings when he arrived thanks to his eclectic range of interests, while he is also in a very special group of sailors in being deaf. Thus internet communications are a Godsend for him in recruiting crew, and the blogs by himself and various crewfolk hint at the diversity of characters that the wanderings of Teddy attract, such as Pierre the French chef who came aboard with rumours of experience in some very famous kitchens.
He’d been met through Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt where he’d been working as a boatbuilder with Liam Hegarty, the restorer of Ilen among many other major projects. Yet somehow Pierre managed to spend a long period sailing on Teddy without cooking a single meal. But as Nick can rustle up superb food, occasionally from some unlikely ingredients, that was no problem.
We learn of this from crewman Josh, a New Zealander who claims with some pride to have no fixed abode, who tells also how they all get along with Nick’s virtually total deafness since his birth in France 62 years ago. It seems they simply take it for granted or forget about it as time passes, learning to face him fully when talking in daylight, while at night there’s something resembling telepathy to keep things moving along.
Not that Teddy is an excessively labour-intensive boat, as she is one of those rare but wonderful craft which can easily be made to steer herself on most points of sailing. Designed and built in steel as one of two in 1988 by Arne Hedlund of Denmark, her design certainly gives a nod to Colin Archer. But she’s very much her own boat, with a transom stern which provides valuable cockpit and deck space right aft, where a classic canoe-sterned Redningsskoyte design from Archer tends to be distinctly cramped.
In fact, Teddy is a boat of moderation in everything, being neither too wide nor too narrow, neither too heavy nor too light, with as much accommodation as can reasonably be fitted without reaching sardine-can territory. Her hull balances easily, and having a ketch rig increases the options for sail combinations to minimize helm load while still providing driving power such that – like Slocum’s Spray – once set in the grove, she just goes effortlessly on steering herself for miles and miles, the ease of it all shortening the apparent distance.
Nick Kats’ pleasure in all this is such that, although he was in East Greenland waters as recently as last year, yesterday (Monday) Teddy departed from the comfort of Clifden, outward bound for his third visit to that remote area beyond Iceland, over towards Greenland, and up to Jan Mayen. There, the ice cover is certainly much less than it was when Lord Dufferin made his pioneering high latitude cruise with the schooner Foam in 1856, as a result of which the charts of that rugged and remote island still show a small cove named Clandeboye Creek on the eastern shore, far indeed from the luxuriant ‘Gold Coast’ of North Down where Dufferin’s ancestral lands were centred around Clandeboye House.
Teddy’s current voyage is limited only by the fact that two of the crew – Dutch finance student Arjan Leuw (24) and Italian architect Piero Favero (33) - have flights booked out of Iceland on 6th September, following which Nick and remaining Irish crewman Aodh O Duinn (29, and a veteran of tall ships) expect to head for home and Clifden double-handed.
But just what some of the remote ports and settlements that they expect to visit will make of a boat coming in from far beyond the seas in this time of COVID-19 remains to be seen. As things are, it is quite an achievement to have assembled an international crew and get free to voyage towards distant horizons and remote snow-covered peaks.
Meanwhile, there is much busy research currently under way among various cruising and long-distance organisations as to just what is or is not possible in the Arctic, where we instinctively feel that the disease will not be so rampant, thanks to sparseness of population and the purity of air.
Whether or not that is the case is a moot point. As it is, we cannot help but notice that, through the month of June, many frustrated Irish sailors were sustained by the wonderful thought of the one-armed voyager Garry Crothers successfully battling alone across 3,500 miles of the Atlantic in order to get home to Derry.
And now, the mantle of our sailing dreams has been taken over by a highly individualistic owner-skipper who has not let profound deafness limit his joy in voyaging and savouring the special nature of the High Arctic cruising grounds. Our thoughts are with the crew of the Teddy, and thanks to Damian Ward of Clifden Boat Club, we have this drone footage of the ketch taking her low-key departure from Clifden Quay, and heading out for other places beyond the northern seas.