Just as I was washing the dishes

The day began early, as I was woken around 3.00am by the disturbed movement of the boat. We were anchored in the bay in the Sound of Aran, sheltered in all directions except the southeast. The wind had crept round overnight as was blowing rather wildly up the sound. While Coal was secure on her anchor, she was blown down on her anchor chain close a reef off Calf Island. After our long sail from Broadhaven across Donegal Bay the previous day, I had promised Susi and Dave a quiet day, so I felt guilty waking them at 7.00.

“This is neither comfortable nor very safe,” I told them as I handed them their cups of tea, “We need to move into Burtonport.”

Burtonport is a fishing harbour that is reached through a narrow but well-lit and well-marked channel. I showed Dave and Susi on the chart where I was planning to go and where the marks were, and once the anchor was up we set off across the windy bay, spray flying every where. It was not easy to identify the marks, and later Dave told me he had been confused by my instructions, but nevertheless we found our way safely into and along the channel and with the help of a local boatman tied up awkwardly alongside the fishing pier. These piers are not designed for yachts, and we had to dangle fenders sideways to keep Coral away from the metal piles and run long lines fore and aft as springs to accommodate the dropping tide.

While I was left on board, filling up the water tank and topping up the diesel, Dave and Susi went for a long walk to find the supermarket. The long walk clearly involved a long talk, as when they came back and we reviewed our plans for the rest of our passage, it became clear that for many reasons they didn’t want to continue. After a difficult conversation with a lot of heartsearching we agreed, I think mutually and amicably, that it would be best if they caught the bus from Burtonport back to the UK, while I continued on my own.

Since I didn’t want to spend a night alongside the pier I set off as soon as they had disembarked, back down the channel (already familiar) and across the bay. The forecast was that the wind would veer west later that afternoon and overnight, so the anchorage would now be snug. As I started across the bay, the wind blew up yet again, still mainly southerly, bringing hard rain into my face. Was I mistaken in believing that the anchorage would be out of the wind? As I was about half way across and beginning to make out the landmarks on Aran, the rain suddenly hammered down, the wind increased and in a matter of minutes moved, almost flipped round, from southwest to nearly northwest. As I entered the anchorage the water was relatively calm, the wind offshore; it wet and windy but still safe and snug. Even through it carried on raining hard, soon I was securely anchored.

Now I was on my own, I felt it would be good to make a fresh start. So after tidying the cabin and putting away the boots and lifejackets the Susi and Dave had used, I stripped off, washed and shaved, and put on clean clothes. I went through my charts and set waypoints for the next leg of the journey. Elizabeth called, and we had a long conversation full of the intimate mutuality of 50 years of relationship. I then created quite ritual of making myself potato cakes, boiling up the potatoes with carrot and parsnip, mashing them up with fried onion and the frying the cakes in butter. Outside the rain stopped, the wind dropped back to nothing at all.

I was just washing the dishes after my supper, stowing everything in its place, when I was startled and arrested as the sky in the northwest over the hills of Aran suddenly–in a matter of seconds–turned bright orange. The brightness enveloped the land and sea in a warm glow. It felt as if this complicated day was being given a blessing.

With thanks to Susi and Dave for their companionship so far.


  1. Wow!! Just WOW!! On so many levels.
    Best of everything with your continuing journey. It’s been a weird week. I’ve learned about the death of both a close friend who I’d fallen out of touch with and my first husband, who I also had fallen out of touch with. But somehow the news of their passing (both at age 51) makes me clearer about the importance of following one’s heart to wherever it leads.
    Go well Peter, Donna

  2. Christine Bone says:

    Thank you for leaving us with the warm glow, a new start, so atmospheric and so scary! Such an adventure but please look after yourself. x

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