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Galway’s Transatlantic Sailing Family are Safe Home to Aran Islands

30th July 2020
A bit weather-beaten, and some haircuts needed, but the Quinlan-Owens family on Danu are feeling fine and glad to be home A bit weather-beaten, and some haircuts needed, but the Quinlan-Owens family on Danu are feeling fine and glad to be home Photo: Vera Quinlan

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’s Bruce Roberts 43 steel ketch Danu, built in 1993, was much up-graded by Peter and Vera before the voyageThe Quinlan-Owens family’s Bruce Roberts 43 steel ketch Danu, built in 1993, was much up-graded by Peter and Vera before the voyage

Published in Cruising
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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