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What's the Craic?

Well, the Craic is good! We’re well on route around the Wild West Coast of Ireland reaching the beautiful island of Inishbofin a couple of days ago on 27th July. Leaving Ardrossan, on the Clyde, on 11th July, Jo, Freddie & I spent our first night on anchorage in Campbelltown Loch at the south end of the Mull of Kintyre. It’s a perfect place to time the tide and weather to cross the North Channel over to Northern Ireland.

Conditions were good to go the following morning and after a relatively uneventful sail across to the southern point of Rathlin Island the tide really got a grip and we flew through Rathlin Sound with a speed over the ground of 11.5 knots and a boat speed of 5.7 knots. We now had light winds just off out starboard bow and the counter tide rips off Sheep Island created some large overfalls. These were pretty benign conditions so heaven knows what conditions would be like if on a mistimed passage in strong winds!

A late afternoon arrival at Portrush Harbour meant a delicate entry on a half, but rising, tide. Only 30cm under the keel thanks to the winter sandbank creeping across the entrance. Just enough to allow us to take the last available spot moored against the harbour wall. It was the ‘Glorious’ 12th July, or Orangeman’s Day, so the drum’s sounded and Ulster Protestant marchers filed through the streets. It’s our first experience of an historically secular culture which still prevails, but is thankfully less radicalised than in the not-too-distant past. However, the headlines were reporting that effigies of rival politicians from Alliance Party and Sinn Fein were being featured on one of the traditional bonfires in Carrickfergus! It was great to spend a few days exploring this seaside holiday spot and get ready for a push against the unremitting headwinds around Malin Head.

After leaving Portrush we went into the bay at Culdaff to anchor and wait for the tide to help us round Malin Head. The windlass motor slowed up and then stopped and faced with at least three nights on anchor (and a 44kg anchor with 12mm chain!) we decided to head back east and up 16 miles up the River Foyle to the city marina pontoons in Derry/Londonderry. Serendipidy indeed as the city was building up to the Foyle Maritime Festival the coming weekend and the round the world Clipper Yachts had just arrived from New York on their last ocean crossing leg and the penultimate leg of the race before the finish in London.

The Foyle Harbour Port staff were friendly and helpful and eventually put us on the city pontoon just forward of the Clipper Fleet. George Brewis’s daughter Hannah is the AQP (Additional Qualified Person), or 1st mate, on the Clipper ‘Seattle’. It was brilliant to meet and socialize a bit with Hannah, her Skipper Dave Hartshorn and some of the Clipper crew and team members over the next few days while we sorted out a new windlass motor. It also gave us a chance to delve deeper into the incredible history and culture of Derry/Londonderry, get fully restocked, pick up some gas and rebuild and lube a couple of our winches. Personally, it was the walk around the old city bastion walls and the Bogside district which drove home the power of emotion, continuing depth of feeling and travesties of social justice which these communities have endured, and many in my own lifetime.

These are place names which resonate from my youth in relative ignorance from across the Irish Sea and woefully understated as simply the ‘Troubles’. Passing wall after wall of Bogside Art and the Bloody Sunday Memorial makes the walk in and around Rossville Street one of the most emotive and upsetting experiences. Extraordinary. Injustices unresolved even now, lessons to be learned on many levels and a reminder of the abuses of state power by one of the worlds oldest and well respected democracies. An eye-opener indeed for Freddie. The Maritime Festival kicked off on the Wednesday and the Clipper Race presentations took place on the dock next to the mile long array of foodie, charity and craft stalls. A super evening before a dawn start with the ebbtide the following morning. Round Malin Head and to Gola Island deep along Donegals North West wilderness coastline.

After a quiet, sheltered night in the southern anchorage at Gola Island we made the shorter hop, passing Port Donegal and the spectacular 601m Slieve Liag cliffs, to Teelin. Teelin has a picturesque harbour setting with rolling green hills around the inlet. Gorgeous sunny weather meant we could use the SUP and spend time on the clean sandy beach before heading up to the Rusty Mackerel for slow pour Guinness or two.