Re: Stormbound Valentia and Dingle

Summer 2022
John Andrews
Wed 27 Jun 2012 08:34
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 8:46 AM
Subject: Stormbound Valentia and Dingle

Darrynane to Valentia


We have had two remarkably contrasting days. The trip from Darrynane to Valentia was spectacular. The sky was clear, the sea sparkling and we whipped along at over 7 knots. The wind direction took us out to the Skelligs, Skellig Michael and Small Skellig, two great pinnacles of rock and the much smaller Washerwoman. There is an abandoned monastery on Skellig Michael, apparently in an extraordinarily good state of repair. It’s not possible to moor up or anchor, and as we approached we saw that the foot of the rock was littered with small boats which had dropped their passangers off to climb the 100 slippery, treacherous steps up the monastery, and were gilling around awaiting their return. Small Skellig is a bird sanctuary and it is not possible to land there at all. From a distance, it is completely white, in contrast to the green of Skellig Michael. At first we thought it was just guano, but as we got closer we could see that it was in fact thousands of birds, gannets and fulmars, perched on the ledges. Looking up, we could see clouds of birds circling over the rock.










We then made our way into Valentia. The marina there is unfinished, but is very safe. Large concrete pontoons provide good shelter from waves and wind, which is just as well, as the next day, we awoke to gale warnings and a rapidly increasing wind. We were planning to leave that morning for Dingle, but got into fascinating conversation with the skipper of a beautiful old wooden cutter called Brega. He knew the waters along the west coast of Ireland and Scotland well, and regaled us with tales of his adventures over the years, both in Brega, but more impressively in his Wayfarer. By the time we had torn ourselves away, the wind was gusting seriously, and waves beginning to break over the pontoon, so instead of setting off, we double up our mooring lines and settled in for the day. The wind continued to increase, and remained at force 7 and 8 for the rest of the day and the rain was torrential. We recorded one gust at 48 knots, and no doubt there were others. There is a car ferry that chugs every few minutes from Valentia Island to the mainland and back again, which impressively kept going all day, despite the horrendous conditions. We invited the skipper of Brega, Paul Calvert, over for dinner, and continued the fascinating conversation. It turned out he had spent part of his childhood in Singapore, as had John. His father was in the RAF and had become a teacher; John’s father had been in the army and had become a teacher. He had worked in India, as had John, and had been driven wild by the same behavioural characteristics that had sent John insane. His brother was that very day, buying an Oyster 45 and it turned out that a younger brother lived in Longnor, a village only a few miles from us in Grindon. It was all getting a bit creepy. We ended the evening with recommendations of any number of anchorages in Scotland in secluded and remote places, plus a long list of recommended reading. A very good evening and we hope to keep in touch.

The weather forecast indicated a small window of opportunity the next day to go the few remaining miles to Dingle, so we slipped our moorings at 7.00 a.m. and had a good sail with reefed main and staysail round to Dingle. We were thrilled to be greeted on arrival in the bay by Fungi the dolphin. He has lived in the harbour for almost 30 years, and apparently greets every boat that comes in and leaves the harbour. He came right alongside and accompanied us up the channel, surfacing and blowing noisily as he went.

In Dingle, we met up with Xav Baker, who we know from sailing in the interbrewery regatta, and who is now the brewer at the recently setup Dingle Brewery. We walked up to the brewery on the outskirts of town, where we were shown round, and given a pint of their Crean’s lager. Quite a flavour punch after the cans of Carling we have been drinking on the boat. Later that evening, Xav drove us out to the South Pole Inn in Annascaul, the pub that Tom Crean, the Antarctic explorer had bought after he left the Navy. It was full of photographs of the various expeditions Tom Crean had been on, which included the extraordinary trip from Elephant Island to South Georgia in the South Atlantic, in a small open  boat.


south pole inn.png






Back to Dingle and a visit to Foxy John’s, a hardware store of the old school, or was it a bar, or was it both? Another pint of the Crean’s lager and then on to an excellent meal at Out of the Blue fish restaurant, strapline ‘No chips’, followed by a visit to the newly refurbished O’Sullivan’s Courthouse bar, where they had a brilliant fiddler and a guitarist playing traditional Irish music, some of the best we’ve heard yet.





The plan was to leave early in the morning to go through the Blasket Sound and up to the Aran Islands. The latest forecast had come in, and warnings of sea state ‘rough to very rough’ made us to decide that much as we wanted to get to Islands, the journey would have to wait. Awoke this morning to rain, wind and very restricted visibility so good decision made. Another day of make do and mend.

Dingle has been an excellent place to re-provision. Irish food and cooking is second to none – it’s not all irish stew and cabbage although that is excellent too. Over the past ten years or so, we have been invited to fish the Blackwater River at Carreysville, owned by the Duke of Devonshire, where we have been treated to the marvellous cooking of Mora, who runs the kitchen at the house. All the ingredients are locally sourced, the vegetables and eggs coming from Lismore Castle, just up the road and the meat from local butchers. A visit to the English Market in Cork, one unfishable day, introduced us to the huge variety of cheeses, meats, vegetables and fish, bread and cakes that are locally available. The market was unfortunately closed on the day we took the boat up to Cork, but we have been frequenting farmers markets all around the coast since and have been delighted by what we have found. Dingle proved no exception. The farmers market provided us with a variety of pates and an interesting rocket pesto. There is a delightful cheese shop in the town called the Little Cheese Shop. In addition to the creamy Gubbeen we had bought in Scholl, we found the sharpest, tastiest cheddar imaginable, and a smoked cheese, shaped like a doughnut, that was stored threaded onto a wooden peg. I finally jettisoned the crackers that I had kept since our Atlantic crossing, and purchased some new biscuits and different varieties of soda bread. These have been providing us with excellent lunches over the past few days.

As we were still in town, we invited Xav on board for a meal. John made his signature Boeuf Bourgignon. He was briefly tempted to cook the beef in Guinness, instead of the usual wine, to add an Irish twist but was concerned that it would end up too bitter and anyway he hates disobeying Delia so wine won the day. We went for a pre-prandial drink, guided by Xav, who took us to yet another extraordinary bar, Dick Macks which doubles up as a shoe shop during the day. No Crean’s lager available here, so I finally succumbed and tried a half pint of Guiness and was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.

We like Dingle, in spite of the hoards of tourists and the stag and hen parties that prowl the streets and bars – the ‘craic’ is good!