Although our hope was always to circumnavigate Ireland, when at the whims of weather and winds, it’s best to avoid solid plans and be prepared for flexibility. If the weather remains favorable to continue North, we’ll slowly become committed to a clockwise circumnavigation. If weather is more favorable for anti clockwise, we can always work our way back around the other. In either case, we don’t need to think too hard on the decision so long as weather remains in our favor.
After a wonderful time in Dingle, it becomes time to continue our journey. With favorable winds from the south, we departed Smerwick Harbour on the North side of the Dingle Peninsula bound for Inishmore in the Aran Islands.
We had a memorable sail with strong winds, rain, fog, and large seas. Although challenging, with the winds from behind us, the run was fast, exciting, and pretty comfortable. After 60 miles we ripped through Gregory Sound which divides Inishmore form Irishmaan and rounded up to anchor in Killeany Bay.
The Aran Islands have been inhabited for in excess of 3,000 years and show the incredible resilience of those people to scratch an existence out of barren rock. With no natural soil, fields were created by outlining tiny areas with stone walls and creating soil from seaweed and sand to support crops and livestock.
We rented E-bikes for a wonderful tour around the island.
With weather on the way that would make the bay at Inishmore unsuitable for us, we headed directly north across Galway Bay to the town of Rossaveel which offered excellent protection and a bus to Galway City.
We only had a morning and afternoon in Galway as the bus schedule was not convenient to visit longer. Sorry we missed the evening music and pub scene, but enjoyed a walk around the city. The city center is definitely vibrant.
While walking around we noticed a duck doing a maneuver we use often with the boat. The technique is called a “ferry” where you hold the vessel at an angle to current (or wind) and let the water slide you directly sideways as needed.
It very impressive when it works, and this duck has it down!
One of the joys of the sailing life is the ability to make plans on the go. In a chance encounter at the chandlery in Galway we had 2 experiences that helped form our plans. First, someone recommended that we visit Roundstone so this promptly became our next destination. Second, Mary found a copy of the cruising guide for the north half of Ireland which we would need to circumnavigate the Island.
We set sail from Rossaveel for the short hop west to Roundstone.
The town is in a small bay about 50 miles west of Galway City. We headed in and dropped anchor off the town.
Soon after arrival, Mary received a text from her cousin Caitlín asking if we were in Roundstone. Turns out that Caitlín had seen our arrival on the tracker and had friends Leo and Angela Ganter just across the bay. Caitlín had called Leo and they could actually see Echo from their cottage! Further connection is that it turns out Mary had actually met Leo and Angela previously. Numbers were exchanged and we were invited for a visit.
Leo and Angela’s cottage is on a small island across the bay from Roundstone so we arranged to dinghy over from Echo for a visit. As Mary compared notes with Leo and Angela they all realized that they had met 50 years previously when Mary and her friend Denise traveled through this area with Mary’s cousin Caitlín. They all had camped together on the beach.
We had an excellent visit and tea with Leo and Angela. They have a beautiful cottage on Inishnee which is a small island connected by causeway to the mainland. Angela’s sister Phil has the cottage next door and also dropped by. After lunch, Leo and Angela took us on a drive around the area where we explored the village and visited the camping spot at Gurteen Bay where they met years ago.
After returning to Inishnee, Mary and I took a loop hike around the island to return to our dinghy. Alas, we had been away far too long and found the dinghy high and dry on the falling tide. Luckily, with help from a bystander, we were able to drag her out to the water and return to Echo.
Leo and Angela are avid sailors and came out to see Echo the following day. A wonderful visit with no dinghy grounding drama.
We would have loved to stay longer, but with excellent weather we decided to press on towards the north. After visiting Gurteen bay via car with Leo and Angela, we swung by for a visit via water and decided it far to beautiful to not stay the night. We hiked all around the area and Mary finished up with a dip in the ocean. She never neglects to mention she was the only Echo crew member to venture into the chilly North Atlantic waters!
So far our journey had included counties Cork, Kerry, Clare, and Galway. With fair weather continuing, we decided make for the island of Inishbofin at the northern edge of county Galway.
Inishbofin has a wonderful natural harbor with excellent protection from the ocean waves. We were very lucky to be able to pick up an unused mooring ball that provided a safe and convenient home for a few days.
We spent a couple of throughly enjoyable days on island hiking, dining, drinking, socializing, and learning. One highlight was meeting the local ferry captain Dermot Concannon and his son Dillon. We learned from Dermot much about the island including the effects of the Cleggan Bay Disater and it’s long lasting mark on the island.
More photos of our walks and experiences on Inishbofin including another dinghy grounding!
Good weather continues to lure us north as we set sail for Mayo and Donegal. As we were expecting a change in the conditions and would need a safe harbor, we spent just one quick night at anchor in Mayo at Broadhaven and then continued on across Donegal Bay.
On the way from Broadhaven in Mayo to Teelin in Donegal we had the most amazing dolphin encounter of our lives. Seas were calm and water gin clear as pods of dolphins came to play. Truly awesome!
To be continued….