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Tanera Mor’s round Ireland cruise 2018 In the footsteps of John and Mo..... with grateful thanks to John Smith, for all the invaluable advice and wise counsel, for the lending of books and charts, for the early morning WhatsApps ‘just relax Trevor, you’ll be fine’, but, most of all, for his encyclopaedic, clever, self-deprecating log of the journey he and his wife, Mo, made round Ireland in Lotus in 2011. Sadly, Mo is no longer with us, but her spirit and voice resonate throughout the log. The down- to-earth common sense of John and Mo kept us going when both Trevor and I were not entirely sure that this round Ireland thing had been a great idea. Introduction and planning Our annual potter around the west coast of Scotland has not really done justice to the considerable talents of Tanera Mor, our Vancouver 34 Classic. She is a blue water cruiser, meant for intrepid sailing, covering long distances in hazardous conditions. Time  for the Wilsons to hit the high seas. A circumnavigation of Ireland seemed to fit the bill and our window of two months away from home, a defined cruise with a sense of achievement if completed. The initial plan was for a loose  cruise in company with friends Ian and Caroline on Lady Kate their Halberg Rassy 36, but  this plan unfortunately failed due to prolonged bad weather. Apart from one of our grown up children joining us for a few days at the beginning, the skipper and First Sea Lord was Trevor, and Alison the motley crew. Shore crew, the Lieutenant Colonel and the Memsaab, with their boat-averse collie Talisker, joined us at intervals along the Wild Atlantic Way, their motor home and cheery waves a welcome sight at the end of a long day on the high seas. ‘It’s for the boat’ is a well-known cry in sailing households for unexpected hits on the credit card, but last year’s expenses were on a different scale. Tanera Mor had to be equipped for all eventualities. A Rutland 1200 wind generator and new AGM batteries meant the skipper could sleep easily even when the fridge and Eberspacher were working at full tilt. The purchase of a new life raft could be be put off no longer. Charts, books and those small, inconsequential parcels from chandlers, Jimmy Green and Seascrew arrived almost daily. Our friend John Smith recommended a book by Lin and Larry Pardey, full time cruisers and professional sailers for over 40 years. This  wonderful book* transformed my on-board role, no  longer the motley crew, I was now ‘Officer in Charge of the Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew’. Winter evenings were spent learning about galley requirements for a long voyage and I  learned an infinite amount about prolonged storage of fresh food.  By the time of  departure Tanera Mor was equipped for crossing the Atlantic rather than a cruise around the coast of Ireland, where ,as I discovered, generally there is an Aldi and a Lidl a short taxi ride away. Route planning was a joint effort with Ian and Caroline. Much reading of books and logs of previous trips, poring over charts and endless discussions about ‘which way to go’ resulted in a decision to go anti-clockwise around Ireland. Potential crew pick-up and drop-off points were identified, we had a plan and we were ready to go. Cruise in company, Linnhe Marine to Burtonport, Donegal. 24th April - 13th May  The forecast is for rain and showers and a Force 5 south/south westerly, our careful planning  to head south in the prevailing northerly winds in the early part of the season already scuppered. Classic first day errors. I leave the water  cap off  after filling, a fender is  left hanging over the side and I almost hit a mooring buoy. The First Sea Lord is  not amused. However, we make it to Ardfern unscathed, with lessons learned, including the need to temper the amount of rum in a ‘Dark and Stormy’, planned signature cocktail for the cruise. The 24 hour forecast is  ‘5 - 7 perhaps gale 8 later’. We decide to stay put  for one day, then a second. Lady Kate’s crew Gareth is restive, but less so after seeing the sea state on the walk to Craobh for lunch. The wind drops at last, we leave Ardfern before dawn in glassy calm. Alasdair has arrived in Port Ellen before us, on the early morning ‘best flight ever’ from Glasgow. The crossing of the North Channel is surprisingly straightforward, but once again the wind is on the nose. A warm, professional welcome from the harbour master and his team in Port Rush. Shower, change and off to a Saturday night out in the Harbour Bistro, busy and buzzing, our last night in the UK before crossing the border tomorrow. Thankfully for the First Sea Lord’s sanity, the next day we can actually sail. After a rolling, nausea-inducing start when the Officer in Charge of the Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew requires some care herself, we pass  Malin Head heading for Lough Swilly under full main and yankee. There is  even a small race between the two boats. Modesty forbids me from recording which boat  wins or who is helm. We head for Fahan marina at the head of the lough where the day ends  with a  momentary ‘touching of bottom’ at the marina entrance. No  harm done, a dash to the pub before the kitchen closes. Fahan marina is a bit dejected, an apparent victim of the financial crash. However, nearby  Buncrana has supermarkets, an excellent service laundry, wonderful golf courses, good transport links, so the marina is ideally placed for crew changeovers. The forecast still windy, the  skippers plan to head for Burtonport, a fishing village in north-west Donegal, known to be safe in all weathers. Out in the open sea there  is a huge swell. We  are completely unprepared for this, no flasks filled or food prepared and no prospect of a hot drink now. There is a small craft warning, Force 6 and increasing. Burtonport today is out of the question, plan B a mooring off Downings, in Sheephaven Bay. An uncomfortable night on a poor mooring, the  skipper a bit happier after adding a chain, a Herculean effort involving the dinghy after the chain is  caught under the mooring. Cooking  supper is  a challenge, gimbals needed  as if we are still at sea. We stay put on our own boats, dingy transfer would not be fun and nausea has been a problem today for Ian and new crew Thornton.  Next day, tides and forecast point to leaving mid morning and we set off. The conditions are terrifying, huge waves, like being in a washing machine. The  boats stay close together but  Lady Kate slips from view whenever one of us goes into a trough. We both feel at risk in the cockpit so clip on throughout. Flasks filled and food made today but it’s very difficult to make a hot drink down below and the sandwiches in foil blow away in the cockpit.  Both boats motor with bare poles all day,  on reflection better progress and stability would have been gained by hoisting a reefed main. The boat is fantastic, it is clear she was built for conditions like this. Tory Island,  followed by Bloody Foreland, we make slow, crab-like progress. All day, we see only one other boat. The Tory  Island Ferry, Queen of Aran,  appears on the AIS, and shortly afterwards looms out of the spray, the skipper appears from the cockpit to give  us a big  wave and an even bigger boost  to our spirits. We finally arrive In Burtonport at 7pm, the narrow buoyed channel successfully negotiated in spite of  encounters with both  Arranmore Ferries. We raft  up against the harbour wall, enjoy a seafood supper in the Lobster Pot restaurant. The usually calm and unflappable  Skipper is euphoric, ‘I’m so glad to be alive, it was that bad’. Next morning, we are a minor tourist attraction as a succession of cars drive down the pier to check out our yachts. One stops, the window is wound down. ‘I’m Christopher, I fish out of here. None of us will be going out for about a week, until the swell settles after the storm that’s coming. Would you like a lift to the shops?’ And so it proves,10 nights in Burtonport, which include a Force 8 pushing us on to the pier followed two nights later by a Force 9 pushing us off. We hire a car, play golf, eat and drink too much, time passes,  and with it, any possibility of Lady Kate, on a tighter time-frame, completing the circumnavigation. After much thought, we decide to carry on, a decision made easier by a shared reluctance to go back round Bloody Foreland. On our final day  in Burtonport the shore crew arrive  in their motorhome, full of fun, a much needed lift to the spirits. The Wild Atlantic Way, Burtonport to Kinsale 13th May - 31st May  We wave goodbye to Ian and Caroline as they head north. The sea state has changed little in the past ten days, but we are much better prepared for our passage to Church Pool. The wind is on the nose so we will be motoring yet again  but this time we hoist a  2 reefed main and the boat is  more stable. The mooring pickup is more successful but we are both a bit flat, is it going to be like this all the way round?  We leave just after 06.00. Longer days are necessary as we need to make up time. Today is the first day of the skipper’s new departure check list. No more forgetting to close the hatches, take Stugeron or clear the  instruments off the  chart table ( The Portland Plotter didn’t survive an encounter with the crew’s left buttock after a particularly large wave). Today’s destination is Killybegs, a large fishing port with huge pelagic trawlers. It is a day of heads, Dawros Head, Malin More Head, Corrigan Head, occasional fishing boats only. ‘The Stags’ rocks are very dramatic, sighted just before Broadhaven. Although there are very few boats out at sea every place we stop has an all weather RNLI lifeboat, a stark reminder of the risks of sailing in these exposed waters. Every  opportunity taken  to put money in the collection boxes, you just never know when you’ll need them. As the days progress the weather improves, the sea settles, we sail a little. Coffee and bacon rolls in the cockpit. Headed for Achill Island we make better progress than anticipated so  push on to Inishboffin where we raft up next to the ferry. We walk  to  the hostel on the hill for a shower, meeting  the relief district nurse en route, great pub food, a pre-wedding party gets going just as we head off  before  an early start tomorrow. We arrive in Kilronan on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, after an uneventful passage, elated  that a significant way point on the cruise has been reached but the First Sea Lord is weary, time for a snooze. The sun is shining, the crew is restless. A  free shower in a hostel is sourced, the restaurant is booked for our celebratory meal. Gales forecast for the weekend mean a longer stay in the Aran Islands than planned for Tanera Mor. The ‘Happy Hooker’,passenger ferry from Doolin,  is made of sterner stuff. The Lieutenant Colonel, the Memsaab and a terrified Talisker arrive after a wild crossing. Talisker flatly refuses to come on board so we do a  soggy walking  tour with frequent pub stops to dry out. The Iron Age fort, pony trap rides, bike hire and Aran knitwear shops attract hordes of visitors, the island economy is fragile, tourism essential. We leave Inishmore heading for Fenit marina, Tralee, sixty miles away  across Galway Bay.  Schools of bottlenose and common dolphins accompany us for over an hour. The wind is astern today but  the  swell is always with us, worse again today. We arrive to a world very different from the remote communities we have visited so far. Fenit is an active marina and tonight is race night. Black lycra, wrap-around shades and expensive grey sails abound. Friendly, helpful  staff, water and diesel replenished, 3 loads of washing turned around, time for a bar supper.  We make friends in the pub with Bob and Judith, sailing round Britain in their Malö 39, Sea Fox, much skipper and crew bonding.  Dingle is today’s destination, home of great seafood restaurants and Fungie the dolphin. We head along the north coast of the Dingle peninsula and round Dunmore Head  before turning  into Dingle Bay. We have become used to dizzyingly high  cliffs and headlands, and  learned to be wary of the turbulent waters below, but this  extraordinary scenery in  some of Ireland’s  best cruising grounds is absolutely spectacular. We are in Star Wars filming country with dramatic cliffs and mountains. We  pass through Blasket Sound in glorious sunshine, tourist cameras are out in force on the lay-by far above, we spot our shore crew waving frantically, a wild night out in Dingle beckons. We spend several days here,  day trips round the peninsula and evenings in the pubs enjoying live music and traditional Irish dance.The wind continues to be troublesome and we delay our departure by a day.  The Lieutenant Colonel and the Memsaab  plan to spend the night parked on the firm sand of Inch Beach, local surfers’ paradise . The wind howls, the rising tide feels very close, time  to move. The road is difficult to see and the motor home comes to a halt in the soft sand. The local  farmer tows them out in the morning, at a cost of €40. We meet in Knightstown, a short sail across Dingle Bay, linguini carbonara on board comforts the exhausted, shaken shore crew.  Our route takes us past more Star Wars locations. The Skelligs are not to be missed, Skellig Michael with its five ancient monastic beehive huts, and Little Skellig, a nature reserve with one of the largest gannet colonies in the world. So many tour boats, but also so much wildlife, the highlight two separate spots of  minke whale, pods of dolphins, puffins, guillemots, razor bills, and infinite numbers of  gannets. For the crew, the sight of huge rocks in the middle of the Atlantic is beginning to pall and I am very happy to leave. Tonight’s destination is the tranquil Bunaw on the Kenmare river, our mooring a short dinghy row  from Helen’s pub and B&B, mussels and chips,  crab on the best soda bread, Guinness, families enjoying a summer evening out. We wake to a beautiful morning with real  warmth in the sun, light winds and the promise of a great day. Sailing with full main and jenny, tricky pilotage through the narrow channel under Dursey Sound cable car, heading for  Lawrence Cove .Family owned marina,  friendly,  efficient young couple, improvements in progress with new piles and pontoons being moved in the next few days. Communication with our shore crew is, at best, intermittent, but we have an outline plan to meet in Schull. At the end of another  wonderful day’s sailing with  2 minke whales and a basking shark spotted we pick up a visitors’ mooring in Schull. And then it all goes downhill. The crew of Tanera Mor fail  completely to find the shore crew after rowing ashore almost a mile from the village, and in fine grumpy form decide  to eat in the first restaurant that will take them. Meanwhile, shore crew have  pitched for the night at the harbour and have  gone to great efforts to prepare  a barbecue. Not our finest hour. We  eventually locate  each other late in the evening, profuse  apologies are  made, wine is drunk and all is well. Next day our destination is Glandore, with an important detour round the Fastnet Rock. Day overcast, little wind but lots of swell. The sadness of  all those deaths in 1979 is  overwhelming, the rock itself intimidating. I reach the limit of my sailing bravery and completely lose it, ‘I’ve had enough, I want to go home’. Neither practical or rational, but heartfelt. We  motor sail for the rest of the day, Riso’s dolphins and minke whales en route. Delightful village, rowing crews out training, children in wetsuits, supper outside overlooking our boat on a visitors mooring in the bay. Tomorrow we head to Kinsale, a farewell dinner in ‘Fishy Fishy’ with our friends, and then we will begin the journey home. Kinsale to Linnhe.  3rd - 19th June Skipper and crew are well rested after a few days in Kinsale, keen to get going again. The weather is wonderful, shorts and T-shirts for the gentle sail to Crosshaven and the very welcoming  Royal Cork Yacht Club. Our next few days are comparatively straightforward, a  mooring in Helvik, a tight berth in Kilmore Quays, then round Carnsore Point heading up the east coast. The sandbanks off Rosslare are not as difficult as the pilot book suggests, we spend the night in Arklow. There are many more yachts now, we  sail in company and socialise in the evenings. Houth, a  busy, fun seaside town, is our base for visiting Dublin over the next few days. Great seafood, friendly, professional marina, our last stop in Eire. The weather is beginning to break, Storm Hector is approaching. We need to be in Bangor soon as Alasdair plans to join us for the weekend to explore Belfast. Greencastle, Carlingford Lough, Ardglass, then the excellent Bangor marina. A great weekend in Belfast rounds off our trip. Father’s Day brunch before we leave for Gigha. We are both so ready to get home that we ignore our boat rule ‘we don’t go out with a 7 in the forecast’ and meet the 7 in the Sound of Jura. We run for cover to Tayvallich, both a bit distracted by the conditions and the boat sustains an accidental gybe, the main sheet hitting the skipper’s arm. No fracture but significant soft tissue injury, much learning. After a peaceful night we leave late to catch the flood, and finally reach Linnhe at 22.00.  We’ve done it, not pretty at times, but no major disasters or problems with the boat, time to celebrate. And next season? We will be found, where the wind takes us, pottering around our beloved home waters. Alison Wilson Tanera Mor * The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew Lin Pardey with Larry Pardey Fourth Edition 2014