Out at sea the winds are near gale force from the north and northeast. Coral and I are holed up again, anchored in a just-sheltered bay in the beautiful Lough Swilly, a few miles west of Malin Head on the north Irish coast.

Yesterday I had a really lovely sail from Aranmore, with interesting bits of close pilotage between islands and mainly calm passages past Bloody Foreland and Horn Head with the rather spectacular Tory Island in the distance. Bloody Foreland has a profile I think is unique among headlands, a long slope down from the peak of Bloody Hill to sea level, where a small, almost inconsequential lightbeacon, marks the end, although reefs extend out to sea. The name comes, not from some historical massacre, but from the much-admired pink hue that the sunset gives to the granite rocks. Tory Island sits askew on the horizon, a chunk of rock thrown up by ancient geological forces at an angle to the sea. As we ambled along the coast I enjoyed watching a flock of gannets hurtling from on high as they dived for fish; fulmars, with their particular stiff-winged flight, chasing each other low over the sea, disappearing in the troughs between waves; and terns with long and slender wings flying delicately as if not wanting to disturb the air around them too much.

I arrived in Lough Swilly yesterday evening before the evening forecast and in good time to make plans for the following day. I examined the charts and the tide times, and decided that the best course would be to sail straight across to Port Ellen on Islay–a long trip but do-able in the fresh north to northwest winds I was expecting. When I checked the shipping forecast at Met Eireann and the UK Met Office before I turned in I became more cautious. Maybe the winds would be more than fresh. And when I checked again at six in the morning it was clear I had to change my plans. A depression was winding itself up and hanging around over the Irish Sea, and near gale-force northeasterly winds were forecast.

The anchorage at Portsalon had been fine overnight, but as the winds veered from northwest and started blowing into the entrance to the Lough, it was clearly going to be untenable, so I moved across to the eastern side where the high rocky promontory of Dunree Head provides shelter from the wind and the immediate impact of the waves. But it doesn’t stop the swell rolling around the corner. Coral swings this way then that, sometime lying to the stream, sometimes to the wind, rocking and pitching. We are safe here, but not very comfortable. If the wind backs northwesterly tomorrow I may have to move back to Portsalon.

It is easy to think I should be doing something. The obvious choice is to motor the ten miles up the Lough to the marina there. But it looks horrible, all concrete breakwaters set in mudflats; and anyway, I hate the prospect of taking Coral single-handed into a marina in high winds.

No, I have to just sit it out. There is nowhere else more sheltered. This is part of sailing, part of being on the edge and so part of why I am here. The Atlantic ocean and its weather systems is doing its thing, and I am obliged to join on its terms. This is, I believe, the kind of humility we all have to learn if we are to live successfully on the planet (I think this is true but I am not sure how to say it without sounding moralistic; and maybe it is OK to be moralistic).

So I am stuck in Lough Swilly for a day or two. I would rather be stuck here than stuck in the 120 car pile up on the Sheppey bridge (today’s Guardian). And looking outside, the world is still beautiful: the evening sunlight throws the cliffs into relief, big fluffy cumulus are chasing across a bright blue sky. I can even enjoy the sight of waves breaking across the Lough beyond the headland, and the restless water around me. Guillemots are swimming around the boat, calling to each other; and, treat of the day, this morning two ravens flew acrobatically along the cliff face just at the moment I was there to see them.



  1. Jane Shemilt says:

    Hi Peter,

    I really enjoyed this post;am struck by all the  decisions which seem such a  constant part of life/survival at sea.So often you are weighing up what and how to make the next move,and so much depends on getting it right.  Work aside,everyday survival in modern  life seems to have edited out the need  for this;at least in the short term.By making the  constant little lifestyle choices(food/exercise) I suppose we are making life and death choices too but not quite the same. I like the “moralising” dont think you should apologise,it adds depth to story you are telling. Will you be around for a meeting in October?

    Would you prefer a reply to the post itself in the space for replies?



    • Hi Jane, thanks fo your mail Funny that you write you “enjoyed” my post–I have just got dressed after a night that felt like being in a washing machine, which was not to be enjoyed!

      But yes, it is these decisions that bring the essence of being alive so close, and this is part of what engages me in this project, uncomfortable though it is at times

      Just now the waves blowing down the Lough beyond the shelter of the headland are breaking right across to the other side. They are not breaking here, but rolling round the corner so Coral lies across both wind and waves, swinging with the tidal stream

      Interested that the moralising didn’t offend you… clearly I though it might (not just you but you are a firm critic of such things at times!)

      I certainly hope to be back by October!!!


      Peter Reason

    • And yes, do please add comment in the space on the blog


      Peter Reason

  2. Ann Gillespie says:

    Hello Peter… thanks for latrest post…. yes I’m sure waiting to fit in with what theAtlantic does is good for you!…. You might also be glad you’re not fitting in with Terminal 5 and National Express, which put a tiring end to my Italian holiday. How dare I complain….. ? all the resy was fantastic awe and wonder every morning on the tower(1492) at sunrise, and such beauty all around me… lots of drawing…. back to my oldtheme….. do you think old sunbleached and cracked doors can count as ‘transcendent ‘as rocks and cliffs at sea? even found myself enjoying chickens and pigeons all cteatures great and small…. oh yes, and lizards of course… I’m bitten to pieces, swollen ankles, really really tired bt I’ve signed on for next year! Eliz coming over tomorrow…. looking forward to seeing you soon, and we can exchange more stories! lots of love XX ANN

  3. says:

    Lovely to read your recent posts Peter. I’ve just returned from a very busy weekend of looking after folk on the water and have sat down to shell peas and read your news of heroics, acceptance and appreciation.
    It all sounds very on the “edge” but full of wonder and excitement, thank you for sharing!
    Take care and please remember I’ll do my best to help crew if needed.

    Best wishes,

    • Hi Steve

      Shelling peas sounds wonderfully domestic!

      Crossed to Scotland yesterday, lovely day, mainly motorsailing in light winds and slight seas. Was very pleased I got the tides right round Malin Head (which apparently can be a beast) but then I went so fast that I hit the foul tide off the S of Islay. With full engine power plus sailing on a reach I got Coral up to 7.5 knots and was still only doing 2 knots over the ground!

      Anyway, got into Port Ellen and went to the pub for dinner. Maybe I will even have a shower.

      I do appreciate your offer to crew. Doing fine for now. Next year sometime, we should do some planning.



      Peter Reason

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Rain on Arrakis

I'm Franklin Ginn, a cultural geographer at the Unviersity of Bristol. My research interests are in multispecies landscapes, plant politics, environment-society relations, Anthroposcenes/ Chthulucenes and philosophical questions concerning the nonhuman.


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