Departed Dingle 15.30 on the 11 July 2021 for a sail-training trip.
I decided a few months earlier that it would be good to go North, as that would give me temperatures with winds like the Southern Ocean. I was two weeks later than planned starting, as I was working on something with Limerick, The lovely city where I was born, has not worked out so far but still worth the effort. On this voyage I had many things I would work on:
1. Finding out what sails would work best for the Golden Globe Race, just over a year away.
2. How I can make the boat safer, stronger, more comfortable and faster.
3. To study the Wildlife and Oceans, to log what I come across, and bring the info back to Marine Connection and other interested parties
Sailing out Dingle Bay on the start of this adventure gives the body a nice buzz. There is a tranquil feeling that I can find sailing solo in a good safe little boat like my Saltram Saga 36, even though I have quite a list of jobs to do before the GGR22 she is in great shape now.
Being alone means I am not responsible for others, it’s me and Mother Nature together. A form of escape from the hustle and bustle of life ashore. No post-man can deliver bills. I have all I need to be self-sufficient for months, and more if I want.
It is a bit selfish family wise, but I was lucky in love, and they give me my freedom to sail away from time to time. There is no trial run in our short journey through the life that we are given, you only see that as we get older.
What was unusual for this trip, I did not know where I was going to. My target was the Island of Jan Mayen, but starting late made that unlikely, unless I got good fresh fair winds. All I got was head winds, and light for the first few days, so that was out of reach for now.
On the 15th, I decided to make for the harbour of Heimaey, in the Westman Islands of Iceland, 363 nautical miles away from my position. Westman is the word for the Irish people, in Icelandic language. The Druids / Monks, stopped there, on their way to find the New World between 484 and 577 AD. Mighty Men, on a great quest. Some Irish slaves had a revolt there in more recent times. So, a good place for an Irish boat to stop.
I bought a fishing boat, “BYLGJA” in Akureyri, Iceland in 1992. She was a Westman islands boat originally. I like connections. The Icelandic people have a lot of Irish blood in them, as the wives of the first families to settle there were Irish Slaves. There are plenty of Irish words in Icelandic language from them.
After sailing up the Blasket Sound with head winds in messy seas, I took starboard tack, to the West. I came across two Hump-backed Whales, moving North. After a short time, I saw a few Minke Whales a bit away. When the sea is fine it is easier to see wild life. In tossed messy seas like that day, it is harder to see the whales as they break the surface. They did not seem to be feeding, but traveling. Dolphins turned up from time to time also. Early in the year when the sand-eels are off the Dingle Peninsula and after that when the sprat are there, all kinds of wild-life feed. It was still early for the herring and mackerel, so, move they will. The next whales I came across were 60 nautical miles from the Westman Islands, I was below resting in 25-30 knot head winds, when I smelt whales. it is a strong but good smell. After whales hold their breath for a long time, under the water, they exhale quick, sending their scent up into the air. When I went on deck, I saw two fine big spouts North of me, don’t know the species, but I think quite big mammals, from the height of the spray with their breath.
Ten minutes later. I saw my first pod of pilot whales ever. A special and spectacular sight. The first time is always magic for most things. They followed me for a few minutes, breaking the water’s surface with power, close to the boat.
After a minute I got my camera, but by the time I got back on deck, they had turned back. I could see them feeding together well behind me. As the camera does not have a zoom lens the quality of the clips were poor. Whales and dolphins like to interact with sailing boats for a while, wonder what they think of us, without an engine noise popping out at them. I saw no more whales before I sailed into Heimaey harbour. An interesting place, with old cliffs to the North, and new lava rock to the South. I stopped there for 24hrs and departed on 19th July at 1600hrs. I had two and a half days of fair winds, before they backed to the SE and dropped to 10 knots or less. I had light head-wind all the way to Dublin but with these light winds the sea went calm, so I could see whales away from me from time to time, quite a lot of them seemed to be solitary. Did not get close enough to get good photos, enjoyed seeing them. The closer I got to Ireland the more I saw, and the more dolphins that came to say hello also. I was delighted that the there was no sign of any rubbish floating in the sea on my trip.
The thing that amazed me the most were the birds. They seem to live out in the North Atlantic without going to land. They were over 300 nautical miles from land. When I threw out scraps of bread, they did not go for it. That told me they were not used to feeding from trawlers or ships. There were different species, not sure what type of sea birds they were, but flew close to the water like the stormy petral, but bigger. I will have to get a book about birds that live out on the sea. I have searched on-line and think they may have been; ARTIC JAEGE / PARASPIC JAEGER, SKUA, SHEARWATERS and FULMARS, but not sure.
I look forward to learning more about the birds over the next few years.