Schull to Darrynane via Castletown Berehaven

Summer 2022
John Andrews
Wed 13 Jun 2012 14:33

We were now on our own, and about to ‘turn the corner’ around the southernmost tip of Ireland. We have been preparing ourselves psychologically for this for months, reading terrifying accounts of the South Westerly gales that bring mountainous seas to this area. Each of the long peninsulas sticking out into the Atlantic face the direction of any oncoming gale, so yield very little shelter. We have pored over the charts identifying bolt holes, should they be needed, and prepared to have our journey up this coast dictated by the vagaries of the weather.

The most southerly of these, Mizen Head brings its own terrors of tide rips and overfalls so we approached it in some trepidation. In the event, we turned out to be motoring yet again into a slight swell, with the tide, what there was of it with us, so the passage went off without incident. We got a magnificent view of the high bridge which spans a gorge, taking the road over to the lighthouse at the end of Mizen Head.

Our destination was Castletown Berehaven, a busy fishing port hidden safely behind Bere Island in Bantry Bay. This is very much a working town, which is refreshing. It does however sport the famous McCarthy’s Bar, a gem of a place, part bar, part grocery with the sweetest little snug you can imagine, screened off from the rest of the pub, just to the right of the front door.



We found the tourist office next to the church, door firmly shut, on account of a huge mink that had wandered into the office the previous week. We were directed to another stone circle, situated just outside the town and were rewarded with an almost complete stone circle, again facing NE SW, and lovely views over the sound to Bear Island.



Our next destination was an enchanting sounding wild anchorage called Darrynane. We had hoped to sail through the Dursey Sound. Dursey Island is separated from the mainland Beara Peninsula by a narrow channel through what is almost a gorge, spanned by a cable car. We visited last year on a car trip around the area and looked down on the swirls and eddies as the tide ripped through. We then watched in awe as a yacht approached from the northerly side at mid tide, where the sailing instructions refer to disturbed seas rebounding from the high cliffs and sudden changes in wind direction. The yacht took all dangers in is stride and motored carefully through the narrow channel emerging no doubt relieved at the Southern end. The sailing instructions say there is 24 metres clearance under the cable, and 21 metres under the cable car itself at High Water Springs – tight to say the least. It was not without a certain sense of relief therefore, that the tides turned out to be wrong for our passage to Darrynane Island. This is not without its own excitements, as you have to pass inland of three off lying rocky islands named respectively The Calf, The Cow and The Bull. The wind was forecast to increase today to force 5 to 6 from the Northwest and we had some splendid sailing along the deserted Beara Peninsula.












We are loving our new cutter rig, and sailed quite comfortably with reefed main and staysail. However the wind seemed to be consistently higher than the forecast maximum and there were some vicious gusts, up to 34 knots. It was therefore with some trepidation that we approached the corner. We even put in the washboards as protection against the unknown horrors that we might meet. In the event, the sea was a bit choppy, but nothing too untoward and we were rewarded with magnificent views of the three deserted islands. I snapped away trying to get the best shots but discovered later that I had been taking videos, and it is beyond me to get still photos from these, so I will not be able to share the moment with you.

Darrynane is a safe little bay, once you have got in, but the approach is narrow and rock strewn. The approach is well marked by beacons however, which brings much needed comfort when passing feet away from jagged rocks. Once in, there is a deep bay to the right. Both visitor’s moorings were taken, so we decided to pick up a spare mooring which looked bigger than the rest. The wind seemed to be even worse in this bay than out at sea, hugh great gusts coming in making the manoeuvring of the boat at low speed really difficult. We managed to approach the pickup buoy aIright , but  John was just pulling the strop aboard to make it fast around the windlass, when the whole thing broke, leaving him with a frayed end in his hand and the buoy bobbing downwind towards the shore. A lesson if ever one was needed in not relying on random moorings. We had to go round again and find somewhere safe to anchor paying out over 30 metres of chain in order to withstand the force of the colossal gusts, still well over 30 knots, which were hitting us with regularity. They reminded us of the horrendous williwaws of the Falklands and the Chilean Channels. We decided to chill out a bit after that, and make absolutely sure the boat was safe before launching the dinghy.

Suilven has this extremely irritating of habit of swinging on a huge arc around the anchor in any wind. We have watched from the boat at anchor from high ground, and while all the other yachts are streaming to the wind Suilven is yawing around in great sweeping arcs. We are beginning to wonder whether we could rig some kind of sail to the back stay which would weather cock her and keep her more on the straight and narrow. An hour or so of swinging around to within feet of neighbouring boats convinced us eventually that she was safe and we were able to launch the dinghy and go ashore where we found t



his fabulous view over the bay.








Just over a low rise at the far end of the bay we found a beautiful beach which John and I recognised from our previous visit here. It was only a short walk up to the pub, which seemed to be a room in someone’s house. A couple of pints of Guinness and then back to the boat to a supper of casseroled chicken which had been bubbling away in the trusty slow cooker. The wind had by this time died away and so to beds and a restful nights sleep.