We are beginning to have some difficulty planning our onward journey to Oban without including any overnight sailing. The weather forecast is giving us a good sailing direction today, with a south easterly, which will get us the 50 miles to Broadhaven in good time. The forecast for the next day, Thursday, is for a strong North Easterly, exactly the direction we will need to go to get up the top corner of Ireland, around Bloody Foreland and Malin Head.
The sail to Broadhaven was good while it lasted, and we even managed to get the cruising chute up in a SE force 4. Our speed increased dramatically to over 7 knots. The wind carried on round, however, and an hour later we had to get the cruising chute down, all the sails in and turn the motor on for the next three hours to get us into Broadhaven. The scenery along this coast is very dramatic, with steep, sheer cliffs and rocky outcrops. We had routed ourselves around Achill Head, inside Black Rock and then out around the uninhabited Inishkea and Inishglora Islands. We had planned to go outside Eagle Island between Annagh Head and Erris Head, but the conditions were so benign, with no wind and full sun, that we decided to cut inside and save a mile or so. The weather is so changeable here, and no sooner had we cut through than a huge rainstorm completely blotted out the land ahead. We luckily escaped the worst of it, and were able to anchor in a shallow bay on the western shore.
Broadhaven is what is says it is, a broad haven, a wide bay with sheltered bays for anchoring on each side. The anchorage near the pier seemed to be rather shallower than indicated in the books. We did not go ashore, as there seemed to be only a pier and associated industrial buildings. We kept the echo sounder on while we had dinner, and finally decided that we would not sleep easy where we were. We are on full spring tides, and the depth was dropping faster than we were comfortable with, so we had to up anchor and move across to deeper, but still sheltered water, across the bay.
We have seen no other sailing vessel today, and only a handful of small fishing boats. It feels very remote, and is I believe one of the most sparsely populated corners of Ireland. Mobile phone signals are intermittent, and for the first time I have not been able to pick up a wireless signal at all. This is great, as I will not now spend the evening in a fruitless attempt to get one of the weak signals I can pick up to work.
We have spent the evening working out how we are going to continue our passage. We are still faced with a stiff North Easter tomorrow, but that is where we need to go. Telin, a recommended anchorage, is not far enough, so Aran Island seems to be the only suitable anchorage for the night, but even this has its difficulties. There are anchorages on the south of the island, but the Irish Cruising Club sailing directions are so complicated, and the soundings look so shallow, that we can’t work out how a yacht of our draft can get in. The other alternative is to travel the extra four miles to take us round the top of the island, and anchor in safety on the East side. However, when we consulted the Navionics chart on John’s Ipad, it was in such good detail, that we could see how we could in fact navigate fairly easily into the southern anchorage, particularly as we would be on a rising tide. The next weather forecast however, warned of gale force winds coming in from the west, which was a new development. As our only way out would be by going west through shallow shoal water, we have decided that we must simply do the extra miles and anchor safely sheltered from any possible storm coming from that direction. Our plan is to get going at about 5.00 a.m. to take advantage of the gentle winds in order to get some miles under our belt before the stronger NE winds set in.