Monday, November 25, 2019

Islay to Cork - Days 16 to 17 - Voyage to Crosshaven

September 21 was an overcast, gray, Dingle day. After breakfast all but one of the ropes were released, and then Mark used it to expertly warp us away from the dock. 

Dingle - a parting view
Unlike our sunny arrival two days before, low clouds hung over the iron lighthouse at the mouth of Dingle Harbour. As we were leaving a dozen dolphins rode our bow wave for a while.

Two hours later a sea change hit as we rounded the tip of Valentia Island. We were 'turning the corner' of Ireland, our course now tending to the southeast. The mainland was under heavy cloud, and the Skelligs, eight miles to the south, barely visible on the horizon. Gannets foraging out from Little Skellig were everywhere, plunging deep into the roiling sea. 

I have no photos of what we went through for the next five hours. Due to the wild condition we could not safely go out on deck. The best seat to be had in conditions like this is the wheelhouse, and so I spent a lot of time there, hanging on to the bench seat as we plowed through wave after wave. Bits of blue paint, scraped from the bow by the continual anchor scrapes, occasionally landing on the wheelhouse windows before being washed away by the rain. 

Three hours later we threaded the narrow channel between Dursey Island and the mainland. As we did we motored beneath the cable car that connects Dursey to the mainland - the only cable car in Europe that crosses open seawater. Taking advantage of the relative shelter, Mark slowed the ship for a while to give us a chance to have a quick lunch.

The cable car has been in operation since 1969. Although there are only two full-time residents on the island, due to the tens of thousands of tourist who visit in the summer, the wait to ride across can be more than two hours. Plans are afoot to put in a new cable-car that can transport 200 to 300 people per hour in each direction. Sounds a bit busy for me.

Here are four views of our rainy passage under the Dursey Island cable car. 

Leaving Dursey behind we headed back into open sea. Conditions were again so lumpy we could not go out on deck - so bouncy that I decided to lay in my bunk for a while. But it was not very restful; the porthole alternately rising high above a swell, and then plunging underwater. Each time this happened the anchor made a racket as the sea banged it into the bow, scraping off more paint with every bang. After two hours of this I went back topside in time to see us round Mizen Head.

After another two hours of wave-bashing we nosed into shallow Baltimore Harbour; famous as a port-of-call for Barbary pirates in the 1600s. The most famous incident was the Sack of Baltimore in 1631, and in memory of that history one of the town's pubs is called the Algiers Inn.

The harbour is a mile across, but only some 25 feet at its deepest. We traversed the harbour three times trying to find a good anchorage. The swell was rolling directly into the harbour, so wherever we ended up would not be ideal. Not only was the swell and shallowness a problem, but the harbour was filled with hundreds of creels.

Baltimore in the twilight
One place we searched unsuccessfully for an anchorage was off the ruin of the Sherkin Island Franciscan Priory. Founded in the 15th century, it operated until 1796. I would have loved to visit it, but we did not have time for any shore leave. We finally settled for a rolling anchorage just inside the harbour mouth.

Sherkin Island seen from Baltimore Bay
In the morning the dual diesels fired up, the anchor lifted, and we motored out of Baltimore. The weather was a bit brighter, but a southeasterly gale was due the next day, so we needed to make it to our final destination, Crosshaven Marina. It would take us six hours to get there, and as we cleared the harbour we passed below the Baltimore Beacon. Painted white, it looked like a missile about to launch. It is better known to mariners as Lot's Wife.

Lot's Wife
As we headed out to sea we were delighted to find better conditions than the previous day. A three hour steam took us past the Galley Head lighthouse, where it was calm enough to go out on deck.

Another two hours saw us passing the Old Head of Kinsale. We were now only twenty miles from Cork. But before we left the sea to head into sheltered inland waters, Chris tried a bit of chumming, hoping to lure in some seabirds. But it was to no avail (aside from a few hungry gulls and one skua). I'm not sure what special formula Chris used for his chum, but it smelled like a fish market late on a very hot summer day.

Old Head of Kinsale
Two hours east of Kinsale we set a course north into the narrow entrance of Cork Harbour.

A  more heavily defended harbour entrance would be hard to find. Flanking the eastern side of the entrance, the Fort Davis cannons looked ready to blow us out of the water. Built in 1800, it was originally called Carlisle Fort, but was renamed when it was turned over to the Irish government in 1938. It had some massive firepower in its day: twenty guns, including eight land batteries.

Fort Davis
Once past the fort a turn to port led us up the busy Owenbue River to Crosshaven Boatyard.

We were soon ensconced in our berth at the marina: the engines shutting down signalled the end of our 650 mile expedition.

Hjalmar Bjorge at Crosshaven Marina
The sky filled with noisy rooks as we dined that Sunday evening. Since we'd made it to Crosshaven a day early to beat the gales, we had all of Monday to explore the area. Everyone was making their plans for what to do. I knew exactly what I was going to do - I'd visit an island, of course. 

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