Rounding Slyne Head

The last sail of this leg of the voyage took Coral round Slyne Head to Clifden Bay. I had not been expecting to take her so far, but had been unable to find suitable moorings in Galway Bay. However, when I contacted the people at Clifden Bay Sailing Club they were very welcoming, and offered to keep an eye on Coral while she was on a buoy in the bay.

I left Roundstone early in the morning to west along the coast. Although it was drizzling, I found it rather lovely: the green grey sea flecked with the shadows of waves; little white houses dotted along the coast under low cloud; the misty presence of the Connemara Pins and Errisbeg, which dominate the skyline at Roundstone. Visibility was poor, and once I was past the granite outcrop of southern Connemara the landscape flattened out; behind the coast is an area of bogs and small lakes. There was little to see apart from the breakers on the rocky outcrops off the coast, although once past Sunk Bellows and Wild Bellows the course to Slyne passes well outside all of them except the offshore reef Mullauncarrickscoltia.

There was a light southeasterly as I left, but as I sailed down the coast the wind increased and so did the rain, blowing under the spray hood, down into the cabin and even down my neck, until I put my hood up. Sailing downwind with the genoa goose-winged, Coral rolled extravagantly. On each roll, as the main boom rose high in the air, rainwater ran down the sail and poured in little rivulets off the boom. It didn’t feel windy, but when I added the speed of the boat shown on the log to the windspeed shown on the indicator–over six knots of speed added to eighteen knots of wind over the deck–I realised just how much it had actually had got up. Looking over my shoulder I could see white caps to the waves rolling down behind. Yet there was something deeply satisfying about managing Coral on my own in these grey and wild conditions.

Slyne Head itself is at the end of a string of low islands that reach out into the Atlantic, marked by a lighthouse and a second, now disused, tower. It felt very bleak indeed, taking this long route out into the ocean, as apart from lighthouse and the occasional buoy marking a lobster pot, there were no signs of human activities.There is a short cut between the islands, Joyce’s Pass, a difficult passage for a stranger, not to be attempted in these fresh conditions. As I sailed west, the two towers gradually came into line, then opened clear again. The headland was fringed with surf, and the seas took on the feel of open ocean, with a long swell lying under the shorter, wind-driven waves. Gradually the headland fell behind, and in the rain and low cloud I could see no sign of land beyond–it is always a weird feeling to sail beyond the end of a long headland into the open expanse of ocean.

Turning north round the head, as I expected, I felt the full force of the increasing wind. Coral crashed through the waves, heeling so far that water was running down her lee sidedeck. After a few energetic minutes I had the mainsail reefed and half the genoa rolled away, and brought Coral as close to the wind as she would lie. She raced on more comfortably, holding a her course well, heavy spray flying up from her bow as she encountered the waves. Soon the shapes of the coast emerged in vague outline through the rain, and shortly after I could make out distinctive white marker on the rocks outside Clifden. As we closed into the lee of the land, the waves subsided, and it was not difficult to follow the chart and pilot books past the reefs outside Clifden Bay and into its protected waters.

I was welcomed into the Bay and shown to a buoy by Damian Ward, the Commodore of the club who looks after the moorings. He explained about the facilities available, and told me that they were happy to welcome more cruising yachts into the Bay. The bay is well sheltered, and the town attractive. I was very happy to leave her there. I am on my way home to England for a few weeks before starting on the final leg toward Scotland.


  1. Malcolm Parlett says:

    Thank you Peter for all your posts. I have not replied to many of them, but my! I do enjoy them. Today’s brings you and Coral into sharp focus. I can imagine the thrill of it, and the feeling of confidence in the boat and your own expertise: it’s a sure basis for the deep satisfaction you describe, as you cut through the waves and felt the spray and the rain, and the movement of the boat, as it’s wrestling naked with the sea, and it comes through in your writing – a treasure of images for landlubber recipients sweltering and sweating over our laptops. Also, in your writing, the welcome – the ‘well come’ of the good Commodore – and the sense of arrival and calmness and time to relax and rest after the adventures out at sea: this comes across too, and a cause (I imagine) for a beer, a nap, and some good food. But there was quite a bit to do before you couldleave the boat in good order, and get on land, I know. Good traveling back home, dear friend.

  2. Hi Peter,
    It is so wonderful to have some sense of your journey. I concur with Malcolm’s point above, since receiving your posts I may not always write, but I always enjoy reading them. Have a safe trip home and I look forward to reading about the next leg of your adventure in Scotland. Love, Donna

  3. says:

    Hi Peter,
    Ditto the above. Lovely to have had an exciting sail before leaving Coral in a welcoming harbour.
    As ever, your writing takes me aboard Coral.
    I can’t help but wonder; did you use the showers in the yacht club?!
    I hope your journey home to Elizabeth is smooth and trouble free.
    Looking forward to catching up.

    Steve R.

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