This segment of the Kincsem Viking Cruise - Kilrush to Sligo - was an experiment for me: For the first time since Kincsem was new I was joined by individuals whom I did not know and had not sailed with before. It was very hard to fill this segment since the people who had committed for it dropped out just a few weeks before the start. After countless emails and phone calls to sailors I know, in the end, there were only three alternatives: find people over one of the several crew sites on the internet, sail the segment singlehanded or cancel the entire plan for this year! I went with the first alternative and I'm very glad I did. Using Ocean Crewlink, I found two terrific crewmates: Don from Dublin, an Yachtmaster Ocean who is himself the owner of a large cruising boat, and Volker, a German who lives on Tenerife with significant passage experience and a penchant for shooting video - nicknamed (by Don) Steven (Spielberg).

After a significant shopping run, we departed on the 20th into the face of 20-25 knots from the West. Our departure was helped by a 3 knot ebb current, but as we found out, current against strong wind in the mouth of the River Shannon can serve up some punishing conditions. With some 5 hours of upwind sailing to Loop Head ahead of us and then another 35 miles to our destination, Kilronan on Inishmaan in the Aran Islands, I decided that we would wait for more suitable conditions and we anchored in a small bay just North of the mouth of the river, by Carrigolt castle. Although it was a rolly night, this was a good decision since conditions were much better the next day with a fetch to Loop Head and a downwind wing to wing run in what Don would term "tropical conditions" - Irish for the sun is shining - with sea a deep turquoise!

Enjoying the tropical conditions!

The next day commenced with a long hike to an old fortress on the dramatic cliffs of Inishmaan's SW facing coast, Dun Anghas and a well-deserved lunch in the local pub.

After a "light dusting" (with rain) on the way to Dun Anghas

But we did not linger and left the harbor in the afternoon for a spirited sail to Roundstone on the mainland under staysail, reefed main and mizzen - my new favorite sail plan for upwind sailing above 18 knots. Roundstone was a bit tricky since it was not clear from the charts that we would have enough water in the anchorage close to town. But we felt ourselves in using the forward looking sonar and found there was more water than expected. We spent a quiet night in beautiful surroundings.

Roundstone and hike

The next day saw us on yet another long hike along the coast with an after-lunch departure for our next stop, the island of Inishboffin. There is both a set of leading day markers for the entrance to Inishboffin island and also a range light - and these two range lines are different! We took the range light because the handbook said that it would get us in a bit farther from the rocks on both sides - which still wasn't much more than 10 meters! Inside we anchored underneath ruins of Cromwell's barracks - not sure what they are. Looking at the harbor fortifications, however, it is clear that all hell breaks loose in this harbor in a SW storm.


To keep up with tradition, we did the third hike in as many days - around half the island - and parked ourselves in the sun on the porch of Murray's Bar for lunch afterwards. It is here where Don introduced Volker and me to the secrets of Guinness - how long to wait for the head to form and the bubbling to stop. I was very surprised how good it was! Again, we lifted anchor in the afternoon and headed to our next destination, Killary Harbor, the one and only fjord in Ireland. We managed to sail all the way to the end of the fjord, which is surrounded by highish mountains on both sides. We anchored just off the pier of Leeaun, the town at the end of the fjord which did not look inviting. The night was a bit sporty with 20-30 knots blowing down the fjord at times, and a nasty chop developing. But Kincsem is a big lady and the 55 kg Spade anchor is beyond doubt.

Killary Harbor

In the morning, we found the disadvantage of sailing down long fjords - no way to sail back out without the iron gennaker! Once outside, we were greeted by 20 knots on the nose - time for the staysail combo again! But we soon could fall off a bit and the last 10 miles to Rosmoney were a lovely wing to wing run with Kincsem tracking like a steam locomotive.

Westport on the horizon

Rosmoney is the best harbor for the town of Westport and the site of the Mayo Sailing Club. We anchored on the West side of the harbor and took the dinghy in to the docks of the club - very convenient if wet since the fresh Westerlies generate significant chop in the harbor. Westport is the home of Daria and Alex Blackwell, who used to be members of American Yacht Club in Rye. Daria is now the Vice Commodore of the Ocean Cruising Club and Alex is the OCC port officer for Westport. We were delighted to learn that Kincsem was the first OCC boat of the season to put into Westport and the first boat from AYC ever to visit the town! We had a great dinner in town followed by drinks at a local pub with traditional Irish music where we met a man who has sailed the Northwest passage - twice! The next day, Alex outdid himself showing us around the town and helping with logistics like shopping. Again, tradition made us walk from downtown Westport to Rosmoney - a hike that I would not recommend because it's mainly on busy roads. Our stay in Rosmoney ended with a lovely dinner at the MSC and a few Guinnesses to boot.


Next stop was Inishkea North Island, a deserted island with some prehistoric rubble and some deserted houses on it. We were glad the weather pattern had changed and the ever- present Westerly swells had subsided so we enjoyed a quiet night at anchor in beautiful surroundings. Our daily hike here was a bit more modest then on previous days but nonetheless fun in the "tropical" conditions.


There are no harbors between Iniskea and Sligo that are protected from the Northerly winds we were now experiencing. The coast consists of high cliffs including the famous Cliffs of Moher. In the conditions, we had to stay off the coast and did not see much. Sligo is wedged between two odd shaped table mountains and the harbor - a single floating dock - can only be reached through a 7 mile long channel that Kincsem can only pass 2 hours either side of high water. It was a bit tricky to navigate and at one point we had only 20 cm under the keel. The issue was that the channel markers are not quite in the right position ....

We got to the harbor at 7 at night and found that all the space was occupied by smaller boats. We ended up mooring alongside as the fourth boat from the dock on a 40 footer and tied some long lines to the dock as well. But then we started talking to another boat and they suggested that we check whether there was enough water so far away from the dock as the ground apparently slopes up from the dock. The harbor master had assured me that there was enough water but he wasn't there on a Sunday .... Sure enough, we had 2.9 meters under the keel - at high tide - and low tide was projected on our C Map charts to be 3.7 meters lower! So at low tide, we would be sitting in the mud by 80 cm - likely leaning over to one side or the other and maybe crushing some smaller boat! So, a quick departure was called and off we were down the river in search for a suitable anchorage. The problem was that the river runs at 4 - 5 knots at max ebb or flood tide so anchoring in the river would have been very difficult. So we ended up anchoring some 8 miles downriver behind a headland protecting us from the westerly winds. The next day the harbor master cleared the front of the dock for us so we could come in again and dock properly.

Channel marker showing the way to the Sligo dock

Arrived in Sligo. One table mountain in the background.


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