As a citizen of an island nation, John Latham long had the desire to sail around this country, headland by headland. With that in mind, co-owner John McQuaid and he were determined to carry out such a voyage in their Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349, Scoundrel, from their home port Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay.
Scoundrel was purchased early in 2017 and we had a good shakedown cruise to West Cork during that first summer…Baltimore, Schull, Crookhaven, Cape Clear and around the Fastnet. She proved a comfortable and seaworthy yacht excelling on a beat back to Baltimore from Fastnet in a force 6 gusting 7 … twin rudders and hard chine give her a stiffness and control which surpasses our expectation.
The cruise of 2018 beckoned with the lure of more Westerly and Northerly ambitions.
We decided to have 2 parts to this voyage and conduct a clockwise circumnavigation:
- A non-stop passage of about 250NM from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle in Co. Kerry on the S.W. Coast during the last weekend of June.
- Join the boat again in Dingle on 15th July and continue our venture in daily passages up the Atlantic coast and around the North of Ireland and back into the North Channel and the Irish sea to home. We had 2 weeks for this part, each owner requiring to be back at work on the 30th July. A rather tight schedule you might agree.
All of this would be dependant on the weather and the performance of boat and crew as well as the occurrence of the unexpected in the way of natural or man-made emergencies, misadventures or calamities. But that uncertainty and anxiety are partly why we go cruising!
For most of the circumnavigation, we would be a crew of 3 …the 2 owners and John McQuaid’s son Eoin. Time on his hands and a certain sense of adventure attracted Eoin to this escapade but we knew that at some stage along the West Coast he planned to jump ship for social and romantic reasons. We were confident that 2 would then handle Scoundrel comfortably.
28 June. We were still in that prolonged period of high pressure and little wind. This first passage included the leg south from Dublin Bay to Carnsore Point inside the banks and the Tuskar Rock. Then followed the long trek westwards along the South Coast, passing at a distance off our usual West Cork cruising grounds and nudging north into the Atlantic coast to Dingle in Co. Kerry. The only wind of note was a northerly force 4, on our nose as we crossed Dingle Bay from Valencia Island.
This long, windless, non-stop passage from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle was 275 NM and we were underway for almost exactly 48 hours. All of this was under engine at 2,500 revs at an average speed of 5.7 knots. Diesel and factor 50 sunblock was at a premium!
The only crisis of this passage was the tangling of the propeller with a lobster pot line close to the Conningbeg light off the Saltee Islands. Instantly volunteering, Eoin donned a wetsuit, dived below the boat and with a diver’s knife freed us from this unwelcome tether.
The famous and aged dolphin Funghi welcomed us in the channel at Dingle harbour where the excellent Marina and extremely helpful staff supplied a safe berth for 2 weeks as well as green diesel in cans.
Sunday 15 July. We continued our cruise and left Dingle at 07.20 towards Fenit in Tralee Bay. We experienced a S.W. breeze force 3 to 4 and sailed for 6 ½ hours, motor-sailing for 2 ½. The log showed 50.7 NM in 9 hours. A highlight of this passage was passing through the Blasket Sound. Newly restored houses on the Great Blasket Island gleamed white as we kept well off Slea Head and its rocky dangers. Crossing Brandon Bay we encountered a very playful pod of at least 10 dolphins who accompanied us for several miles. It was decided to pass outside the Maharee Islands as rain and poor visibility had set in. Fenit, on the northern side of Tralee bay, was gained after a brisk reach to Great Samphire Island to which the excellent marina is attached.
Monday 16th. Our 35-mile passage was towards Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary. We beat out of Tralee Bay and then maintaining a broad reach up to the Estuary we ran eastwards towards Scattery Island which lies off Kilrush on the Northern shore. The famous pod of Shannon Dolphins accompanied us for 4 or 5 miles. Kilrush Marina, in County Clare, is approached through a lock which maintains depth at all tides. More like inland waterway than sea marina this was a very comfortable berth.
Tuesday 17th. A lovely 60-mile passage towards Kilronan on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. But first we had a slog under engine out of the Shannon Estuary to Loop Head. This was followed by a favourable westerly force 3 and 4 bringing us past the coast of County Clare and the dramatic Cliffs of Moher. Kilronan on the N.E. of Inishmore is approached from the south via Gregory Sound with Inishmaan to starboard. On our approach to the Sound, a very large swordfish jumped high out of the water with a bright flash of silver. A visitors mooring at Kilronan proved very comfortable with a dinghy trip of about half a cable to a sandy beach and slip.
Wednesday 18th. A day on the Island. The only place where we spent a full day exploring; Inishmore provided us with a sunny day of walking and visiting Dun Aengus the Bronze Age promontory fort. We enjoyed the hospitality of the islanders. A swim in the harbour off the back of the boat proved very refreshing.
Thursday 19th. Commencing at 06.30 this was a passage from Inishmore to Clare Island, 62 miles in 12 hours. The highlight for me was the remarkable view of the Maamturk Mountains of North Connemara which were in view to the East, shimmering smoke grey peaks and ridges …tempting lures for future mountaineering expeditions. The Atlantic coast cannot be surpassed for dramatic scenery, high cliffs, mountains and mighty headlands. Islands are a special feature of this most western part of Europe and we were sorry that we had only time to visit three. This passage took us south of the extensive maze of rocks which guard South Connemara and Roundstone, then around Slyne Head, inside High Island and then a course of 060 M brought us inside Inishbofin and Inishturk islands. Our arrival at Clare Island Harbour at 18.30 coincided with mist and drizzle as we took a visitors mooring overlooked by Gráinne Ní Mháille’s Castle. Also known as Grace O’Malley, she was the famous 16th century “pirate queen”. We enjoyed a splendid fish dinner and Guinness at the Sailor’s Inn.
Friday 20th. The postmaster Páiric O’Malley sold us some provisions and lent us the key to the remarkable 14th-century abbey with residual painted frescoes still extant. Eoin took the ferry to Roonah Quay on the mainland and the two Johns continued the venture. Leaving our mooring at 11.08, a 50-mile passage towards Broad Haven, an anchorage on the southern shore of Donegal Bay was our aim. Being a dull day with drizzle and fog and light westerly breeze we motored, firstly N.W. to make Achill Head and then west of the Inishkea Islands and many other rocky protuberances guarding the Mullet Peninsula. During this rather tedious passage, we passed only 2 other vessels, a trawler fishing and a yacht heading South, neither of which were transmitting AIS. On the West Coast, we rarely met other yachts; fishing vessels showing AIS were in a minority! At 20.20 we entered the narrow inlet on the South of Broad Haven Bay and anchored N of the fishing pier at Ballyglass. A very comfortable night with only one Scottish yacht nearby.
Saturday 21st. We weighed at 06.20 to commence a 54-mile passage across the mouth of Donegal Bay towards Teelin Harbour on its Northern Shore. There were no hazards or navigational challenges during this passage…which concluded in a very thick fog and a dead run in a force 3 to 4 SW breeze. Teelin Harbour on the N.W. of Donegal Bay is hidden within steep surrounding cliffs at the best of times but with visibility down to 100yds, the small lighthouse at the entrance was a welcome sight as we rounded up and took a temporary berth at a fishing boat pontoon. Paddy Byrne, a local boatman kindly lent us his hose for filling our water tank. A visitors mooring provided a very comfortable night and a pub called the Rusty Mackerel provided an excellent dinner.
Sunday 22nd July. This passage from Teelin towards Tory Island, 55 miles was delayed until 10.30 when the thick fog lifted slightly giving us some visibility of the bulk of Donegal to the north as we motor-sailed out beyond Rathlin O’Beirne Island and headed NNE towards Aran Island. Most of the passage was a dead run in a force 4 under main alone. ..not having a spinnaker or a pole for goose-winging the jib … the wind was too far aft for our asymmetrical chute. This fairly uneventful passage became more dramatic as we approached Tory Harbour from the south with the wind piping up to 25 Kts. Choppy seas were manageable but on approaching the high harbour pier, fenders to the ready on the starboard side, sidling at dusk into a nice berth next to a ladder, our cruise nearly ended in disaster! Scoundrel came to an abrupt and sickening, clanging halt as a hydraulic crane jib, protruding 90 degrees out from the pier engaged with our mast about two-thirds up. My heart sank as I imagined the rig coming down around our ears. A gust blew off the pier and we disengaged from this aerial hazard. Mast and rigging survived unscathed, not so our nerves! This most remote of the Irish Islands deserves a prolonged visit but we needed to press on. Gales were being forecast in the Irish Sea from mid-week onwards.
Monday 23 July. This passage towards Portrush in Co. Antrim began at 07.00 in drizzle and turned out to be a lovely 85 miles 13-hour sail across the top of Ireland. Initially an easterly (078deg M) fetch to Malin Head and then S.E. towards Portrush. However some miles off our destination, on radioing Portrush Harbour Master we were informed that we could not enter as a stone barge was blocking the harbour. The evening was fair and, undismayed we altered course for Ballycastle some 15 miles further East. At 20.15 we entered this beautiful marina to a splendid welcome from staff and local boat owners; we no longer felt rejected. On the South of Rathlin Sound (famous for that dramatic tide race), Ballycastle is a lovely town with very clear views of the Mull of Kintyre.
Tuesday 24 July. A 45-mile passage from Ballycastle to Bangor in Belfast Lough. With a flat calm but a favourable tide, we shot out of Rathlin Sound into the North Channel with the beautiful hills of Antrim as our backdrop on the starboard side and Scotland to Port. A lovely, sunny evening landfall at Bangor’s Large and delightful Marina completed our penultimate passage. Celebrating with spaghetti Bolognese and accepting freshly picked tomatoes from my Belfast brother in law Eddie, John and I turned in early.
Wednesday 25 July. Starting at 04.25 This southerly homeward passage was 102 miles mostly under engine with a light southerly breeze. Highlights were views of the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland and the Cooley Mountains on the southern side of Carlingford Lough. In good visibility, the Isle of Man was clearly in sight for much of this passage. On arriving north of Howth Head which guards Dublin Bay, we were hard on the wind with a foul flood tide impeding progress. Here I made a tactical error and took a tack to leeward of Lambay Island. This left us with a hard 2-hour slog against wind and tide to round Howth Head and the final fetch across the bay to Dun Laoghaire. We were on our marina berth at 22.10 having passed lines to our adoring wives.
Time underway: 158 hours … 124 motor-sailing, 34 under sail alone.
Total Distance Logged: 858 NM
Average speed: 5.4 kts
Diesel consumption: 250 L at approx 2,500 revs. Consumption approximately 2L per Hour
John Latham, 25 September 2018
Ross O'Leary of MGM Boats adds: The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349 is currently the most successful and best-selling production sailing cruiser in Ireland. Perfect size for our shores - it offers great comfort, space and stability. Modern chined hull design with twin rudders give unrivalled seakeeping performance that suits all levels of sailing experience.