Sailing fast through lumpy seas

We arrived in Clifden on late on Monday by bus, to be welcomed by Damian and Simon from the boat club and given a lift down to the landing stage. After supper at the club we took our gear out to Coral and settled down for the night. Over the next couple of days everyone was kind and helpful, making our stay in Clifden truly memorable. Again, I pay grateful tribute to Damian and his colleagues for the generosity of their welcome, and highly recommend the bay to visitors in yachts and on land.

After settling into Coral and having a sail around the by to introduce Susi and Dave to sailing we left on Wednesday for a short trip piloting between the islands and reefs to Inishboffin where we spent Wednesay night. Thursday morning we left early to sail north on a longer passage past Achill Island to Blacksod Bay.

Through most of the day we had a fast sail in a moderate westerly wind. Coral was happy with all plain sail set, plunging over the seas, throwing up water from her bows. The crew was happy as well to start with, but as we approached Achill Head the sea became more and more confused, with no underlying pattern that could be recognized. There was some regular swell from the west, but the shorter waves seemed to come this way then that, making for an uncomfortable ride.

Achill Head sticks out into the Atlantic in a thin sliver of rock, behind which steep cliffs rise nearly 700 metres straight from the sea. The south facing side is folded into a series of ridges and appears lush with vegetation, while the north is bare rock showing signs of landslips. There is a fair weather anchorage close to the point, not appropriate in today’s fresh winds. What we saw from a distance was spectacular enough, one moment bright in sunshine the next disappearing in cloud and mist.

This is true Atlantic sailing, right “on the western edge.” And yet, as ever, I am guided by the pilot book that draws on the experience of generations of sailors, the beacons and towers that have been erected on key points along the way, the large scale charts and of course the electronic navigation systems that locate me in relation to satellites going round the planet. It is not so much an “edge” as an interpenetration of the technology of civilization and with wildness of ocean and coast.

After rounding the head the wind was dead behind us, so after rolling around in the confused seas for a while we decided we didn’t need to be purist sailors and motored the five miles into Blacksod Bay. I could have chosen an anchorage more on the direct route north, but it is forecast to blow up overnight so we are happy to be in a sheltered spot. Depending on how long the blow goes on may be here for two nights.

So today was a typical long distance sailboat cruising: Some exciting sailing and some fabulous scenery all set in within a degree of tedium and discomfort.


  1. Good to hear from you and Coral again. Much love

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