What a place to stop for lunch

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The Inner Passage runs between the off-lying rocks and the little islands that run along the southern coast of Connemara. It is not a particularly difficult passage, but as always when piloting a yacht in new waters that, as the pilot book says, are “strewn with rocks”, I feel particularly alert. On my toes, you might say. There is one transit line running through the passage, and once on it I ticked off the islands as I passed: Birmore, Inishmuskerry, Duck, Mason and St Macdara’s. The wind was from the south, with moderate waves, so Coral was rolling more than I was used to. As I passed the Carrickaview breakers I had a choice: carry on, or take the hint from the pilot book, which says that it was possible with care to divert through Macdara Sound and anchor in a pretty little bay by the sixth century chapel. The sun had come out after the early rain, clearing the air so the views were sparkling. Who could resist?

So here I am, sitting looking north into a little bay. Scarcely a bay really, just a reef between St Macdara’s and its off-lyer, which itself is no more than a pile of big stones with a thatch of grass on top. The shelter will be gone come high tide. Terns are flying around the boat, little delicate creatures that swoop low over the water as they look for fish, then half dive and half flop into the water to make a catch. Even when I can’t see them I can hear their high-pitched tweets.

Granite boulders are piled along the waterline, a tiny white beach, grassy slopes that lead up to the chapel. A small stone building, it stands a little way up the slope, surrounded by a half broken-down wall and ruins of some kind. The whole building is quite plain. Most notable is the roof, which rises sharply to a high apex with a rather extravagant decoration at the top of each gable. The roof tiles are covered in golden yellow lichen.

When I turn to look north, I can see beyond the low coastline the mountains of central Connemara. I don’t know their names, nor do I need to. They seem to march, smoky blue, along the line of the horizon, collecting regular lines of cumulus clouds mingled with low stratus, dark below but rising puffily toward patches of open sky.

I hurry to inflate the dinghy, put on waterproofs and boots, lower the outboard into place, climb in with camera. But the outboard won’t start, a recurrence of an old problem I need to attend to. And the tide is now nearly at the top of the reef, and heavy rainclouds are blowing in from the south. Even as I write the rain is hammering on the spray hood. Landing will have to wait for another day. Or maybe again, just to be here was enough.

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Comments

  1. Hi dear Peter, as usual a delightful piece. Am enjoying the subjectiveness of your latest writings. So good to hear you!

  2. stephenreneaux@aol.com says:

    Sounds quite amazing Peter, you ‘ll have to go ashore and explore the chapel though!

    Thinking of you,

    Best wishes,

    Steve

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