Early September 2006 – Kinsale and Cork
We spent nearly a week in Kinsale as the weather was not good, either too much or too little wind, and lots of rain. Herons have made their home in the marina in Kinsale. There were usually three or four stalking around the pontoons, it was quite eerie at night coming back in the dark to see them silhouetted in the pontoon lights. They were quite camera shy and would stalk off to lurk on a finger pontoon, only taking flight when you got too close. They were obviously this years brood as they were dull brown rather than the adult grey, and had little clue on how to hunt. During the day they sat around on moored boats (see right).
We were lucky to be in Kinsale for the Heritage Weekend and Carnival. The morning of the carnival started with continuous rain, but it cleared up for the festivities in the afternoon, before closing in again later in the evening. The main square was full of different acts competing for attention. At one point there was a bagpipe band, a rock group, square dancers and drumming group all playing at the same time. The drummers attracted the largest audience, but whether that was for the addictive beat and cross rhythms, or for the gyrations of the belly dancer (right) is debatable! The entertainers seemed to be having an equally good time, Tim (left) is watching one of the stilt walkers, and a cheeky leprechaun who would accost anyone to ask if they had seen his gold.
Kinsale has two large forts guarding the entrance to the harbour, both within easy walking distance from the town. Charles fort (built in the 1680's) on the eastern side is undergoing extensive renovations after being neglected since the Irish Civil War of 1922. It is a star shaped fort and the bastions are very impressive from the sea. For the heritage weekend a series of reenactments with an Irish flavour were performed. Needless to say the red coats (British) were the baddies even though they were in the uniforms of an old Irish regiment. We were not sure if the upside down union jack was intentional or not. The reenactment plot was that the red coats stormed and ransacked a house and then lined up the innocent (?) Irish in front of a firing squad (right). The heroic Irish Free Army then "discovered" the crime, and there was a battle between the opposing armies (seven a side) with lots of loud bangs and smoke from their guns. It was all hilariously chaotic, and they were cheered on by many small children screaming "kill them" at the tops of the voice (to both sides - they didn't seem to mind as long as some one was shot!).
During our time in Kinsale, we did have success on the pub music front enjoying two good venues (The Spaniard and Dalton's Bar). Throughout our cruise of south west Ireland we have found two types of music, which we labeled 'tourist' and 'locals' music. (It is probably all aimed at tourists, but these seemed good labels). 'Tourist' music tends to be amplified guitar and vocals, it avoids the more controversial fighting ballads, and they always seem to get requests for "Wild Rover" and "Whiskey in the Jar" - always a good sing along. 'Locals' music is a couple of guys in the corner of the pub with anything from accordion to mouth organ and with some sort of guitar like instrument. They prefer to play older classics - anything really except "Wild Rover", "Whiskey in the Jar" and the like. It was also great to see the locals join in and take the floor in singing their on favorites - we heard a wonderful rendition of 'Black is the Colour' by a young woman. In the Spaniard one night, a couple from 'Ron's 59¾th Birthday' gang took over the locals instruments while they had a cigarette (no smoking in Irish Pubs so they have to go outside) and entertained us with 'Summertime' and 'Come up and see me sometime'.
On leaving Kinsale, our trip to Cork was done mostly under radar, we could not see more than a couple of hundred yards all the way. It was not a good day because we could hear the life boat crews talking on the VHF radio. Not far from Kinsale, a couple of people had tried to help another by throwing out a life buoy, but were swept off the beach by a strong undercurrent - very sobering.
We stayed at East Ferry Marina in Cork as there was a racing event in Crosshaven. The marina is in a lovely quiet spot, with an excellent bar. However the nearest shops are in Cobh (pronounced 'Cove') 7 km away. We were there at the full moon (right - view from Innisfree) so there were very strong spring tides flowing through the channel. Cobh is a pretty seaside town with great views over Cork harbour. There is an excellent heritage centre in the old railway station which concentrates on transatlantic travel as Queenstown (next to Cobh) was a port of call in the days of the great liners. The heritage centre has sections on the Titanic, the Lusitania, the convict ships, and an audio visual display of life in the emigration ships. We thought this tableau (left) of life in steerage was a bit too graphic - thankfully it was only visual you could not smell the sea sickness! They would have been better off lying down - it is by far the best relief!
One of the gas ring thermocouples on our cooker went while we were in East Ferry Marina (it turns the gas off if the flame is extinguished for any reason). These are easy to get hold of in the UK and as they had both been replaced at the beginning of the season we didn't have spares on board, but it seems they have to be ordered here in Ireland. A very helpful chap in a tool hire shop in Cobh rang round all the chandlers in Cork for us, but to no avail. So we now have to tax our imaginations to invent meals that only need one ring, a grill and oven. Our plans are to get to Milford Haven after a few short hops along the coast, so hopefully we will not have to be too long without a curry!