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.