Late August 2006 – Bantry Bay to Kinsale via Roaringwater Bay. Innisfree to the rescue AGAIN...
We started our exploration of Bantry Bay with a long beat up the bay from Bear Island to Glengarriff through heavy squalls. Glengarriff, a tourist trap, is set in woodland and offered some good walks. However, we were not so lucky with the mid week music in one of the pubs. The Ireland soccer team had just lost to Holland 4-0 so the atmosphere was not too good to start with. To this was added an America inspired hill billy band with assorted ancient instruments like a old hurdy-gurdy which was flat. Oh well, you can't win them all................
After Glengarriff, we made for Bantry. Bantry House was well worth the visit, although this is not the decor (right) we'd choose for a breakfast room - a bit too bright for that time in the morning! We were lucky to be in Bantry on market day which had excellent fresh veg and a french style meat/cheese stall. Very tasty sausages...
The visitors mooring buoys in Bantry were quite a row from the sailing club slip and the water was quite lumpy with the north westerly winds so we did not go ashore in the evening to see if the music was any better. We only stayed one night and then moved onto Crookhaven.
At Crookhaven (the bay to the left in the photo below) we tied up to a visitors mooring buoy and then rowed ashore to continue our quest for interesting live music in the local bars. Again we were in for a bit of a surprise, this time it was a four piece band of young lads from Bantry who were playing a selection of 70's and 90's rock. Despite the proficiency of the lead guitarist, who was excellent, the bar emptied rather rapidly, and we joined the exodus after finishing our drinks.
It was dark when we decided to head back for the boat. We had neglected to leave on the anchor light so finding a blue hulled boat on a dark breezy night was a bit nerve wracking. When we arrived at our stern boarding ladder we were shocked to find a large ketch (about 48ft) tied onto our stern with an old bit of halyard, with only about 8ft between us and it's bow! The mooring buoys are only designed to hold 15 tonnes, and we are about 5 tonnes loaded, and the ketch itself must have been well over 15 tonnes. We were muttering all sorts of uncomplimentary things like why couldn't they go and anchor etc, when the owners appeared in their dinghy. They were as surprised as we were, they had left the yacht on their own permanent mooring buoy upstream and returned to find it had gone. A few minutes later after much head scratching, another dinghy appeared. This time, a french couple from a yacht on the adjacent mooring. It turns out that the chain from the ketch's mooring had broken, the yacht had then drifted gently down onto the french yacht. The french couple were on board, but the ketch had drifted off before they could catch it. They had their dinghy inflated, so when it drifted down onto Innisfree they came over and managed to secure it to our stern. The owners of the ketch got their engine started, we released the lines and they went off into the dark. This time we had very little damage, just a few light abrasions on our teak toe rail. So that was the second runaway yacht that Innisfree has caught in less than a fortnight!
After leaving Crookhaven, we took a week to explore Roaringwater Bay - the name comes from the Roaringwater River that feeds it rather than being a reflection of its waters. Our route was Crookhaven - Schull - Baltimore (& Skibbereen by bus), Sherkin Island and finally Cape Clear Island. The view of the bay (above) is from Mount Gabriel near Schull - the very same morning we walked up here could not even see the top from the boat so variable was the weather!
The islands of Sherkin and Cape Clear we found to be very different, with Sherkin appearing less populated despite being only a short ferry ride from Baltimore - there was distinctly less new build housing than we have found in the rest of south west Ireland. This has sadly brought about the planned closure from the end of August 2006 of the only remaining local shop cum post office on the island. We got chatting to the proprietor, and she was saying the SuperValu in Skibbereen delivers direct onto the ferry. They obviously have a greater choice than she is able to provide, and the shop is no longer viable.
A friendly dog (see left) decided to accompany us on our walk to visit the standing stone and megalithic tomb on the western extremity of Sherkin. She started off nice and clean, but by the time she decided to leave us after a couple of hours she had been swimming in this stagnant rock pool, run shoulder deep though a bog and rolled in a (thankfully, dry) cow pat. We could imagine her reception when she arrived back home!
Cape Clear Island was much more vibrant. We anchored in the south harbour. This is exposed to winds from the south, but we had north westerlies so it was very calm. Strangely the north harbour was very busy with yachts - both motor and sailing. The north harbour is much smaller, tricky to enter, a tangle of quays and lumpy in winds from the north. The only conclusion we came to was that you had to anchor and needed a dinghy to get ashore where we were, whereas the north harbour you can moor alongside the harbour wall. As with most other areas we have been there are no real footpaths, the only walking is along minor roads or cross country. A short walk through fields from the north harbour is the spectacular Doonanore castle. All the walking this summer has made Judith's feet a striking striped pattern (even after a wash!). Tim's are not half as interesting as he favours boots rather than sandals.
From Cape Clear Island we made two stops on route to Kinsale. The first was to Castletownshend where we made another cross country expedition was to find this stone row near Knockdrum fort. We negotiated a couple of electric fences, a field with a sign "beware of the bull" and some small gorse bushes but it was worth it. There was a fourth stone to the three (see left) but this was removed in the 19th Century to a garden in a nearby castle.
Our other port of call was Glandore which we shall always remember as the place of the gas saga. We had been for a walk to see the Dromberg stone circle and returned via the village of Union Hall where we bought a nice piece of fresh haddock to make into fish pie for dinner. Judith was part way through cooking this when the gas ran out - not a problem, we have a spare bottle. However something was wrong with the gas as it would not stay alight. So there we were with a half cooked tasty dinner and no gas. There are no shops in Glandore but gas is available at the supermarket in Union Hall. This however is a good 45 minutes walk (plus dinghy row) or a long row up river. We opted for the long row up river. We arrived at about 15 minutes before closing time. Unfortunately they had no full gas bottles available, only empties bottles, they had been expecting a delivery that day. Humph! So we had the long dispirited row back. We had cooked the fish on a plate on top of a saucepan boiling water (in this case for the potatoes). We had left this when we went rowing, and we found that not only was it now cooked, but also still warm, so we had the most unusual dinner of the summer - delicious poached fresh haddock, hard boiled eggs and biscuits!
We had been intending to visit Courtmacsherry next, but the pilot book said that there was no gas available in the town. This, coupled with bad weather forecast meaning our next port of call would likely be a stop of several days, made us change our plans and head straight to Kinsale.