Aleria returns home (photo album)
25 June 2012 | West of Ireland
A photo album of our delivery trip has been posted in a Picasa album on Google+. Link here: https://plus.google.com/photos/112806994818733095263/albums/5757312464719428177
Aleria returns home
23 June 2012 | Kilrush, Co. Clare to Rosnakilly, Co. Mayo
In 2010, when Aleria returned to Ireland, she was struck by a fishing vessel amidships while anchored in Glandore Harbour. She spent the next 18 months in Kilrush on the Shannon River being repaired, restored, and refit. Overseen by Steve Morris, a truly skilled Kiwi shipwright and overall nice guy, she is now good as new, and in some cases better than new. With a new paint job and several new pieces of gear, Aleria is ready to take us on the next adventure. But first, we had to bring her home. And this weekend, a weather window opened up that looked very good indeed.
So our nephew Cillian, Alex and I drove down to Kilrush on Friday 8 June, car loaded with supplies and gear. We had emptied Aleria of all contents before delivering her to Kilrush. So now, to do a coastal passage in these waters safely, we had to bring a selection of critical gear back. Sails, electronics, lifejackets and jack lines, anchors, ropes, dinghy and engine, foul weather gear, cushions, pots and pans, dishes, cutlery, food, bedding and so on. I was wedged into the back of our car with what I hoped was everything we would need. After all, it would take a minimum of two days, and most likely three to get home along this treacherous coast along the Cliffs of Moher.
As Cillian and I unloaded the car, Alex got to work installing the final electronics. It was windy and threatening rain at the tail end of the storm that had passed through. Just before dark, it settled down enough for us to bend on the sails. Yahoo. We celebrated with a nice dinner at Crotty's Pub for the last time.
Our first stop would be the Aran Islands where we are familiar with the anchorage in Kilronan Harbour on Inis Mor (or Inishmore in English). It's more than 50 miles away so at 6 knots max it would take over 8 hours, and with light winds as predicted, it was likely to take more than 10.
The depth in Kilrush Creek where the marina is is maintained constant via a lock system. They open the lock periodically to let boats in and out. We wanted to be out on the first opening at 9:30 am and found Steve and friends sailing out with us on the wooden boat they just completed building.
We entered the lock. The gates closed behind us. The water level dropped. The gates opened in front of us and we were off. We were sailing for the first time in almost two years. It felt so good. Unbelievably good. Of course, we'd forgotten how to do everything. Which is the halyard? How do the sheets run on deck? What's the combination to the lock? Eventually, we figured it out. Da.
The wind was on the nose coming out of the Shannon River so we bashed motorsailing in confused waters as the tide and wind collided. But the sky was blue, the sun was hot and the air cool, and we really didn't mind. Especially when a pod of four bottlenose dolphins came along to see us off. I even managed to shoot a video of them. My first, as dolphins are notoriously difficult to photograph.
We had an uneventful motor sail to Inis Mor where we dropped anchor and celebrated with a beer and a cider. Cillian went for a swim (hardy young lad). And we heated up our lasagna dinner to have onboard while watching the sunset and making polite conversation. Our first night onboard was amazing. Magical. Slept a deeper sleep than any day in the past two years.
Morning was glorious, with a cloud street playing with the light. The sea beckoned and we answered. We arose early and decided to try to make it all the way home if the tide and wind stayed with us. We had to make it around Slyne Head with the tide or we'd lose too much time. Well, the luck of the Irish with with us that day. The wind was with us, the tide was with us, the weather was with us, and we sailed into our local waters in time to get in on the rising tide before darkness.
I cannot express how beautiful it was. To pass by the dramatic fjord of Killary Harbour. To see Croagh Patrick from the water again. To be hailed on Channel by our friends on Rub-A-Dub, "Large ketch to my port." "This is Aleria, switch to working channel." "Hi Alex, I thought it was you. Welcome home Aleria!"
As we tied up to our mooring, we were were already planning the next foray. In a couple of weeks, we head back to Galway for the Volvo Ocean Race Finale. More to come...