Heading for Baltimore, into the wind

The prevailing wind direction is from the south-west, so it was no surprise that the sunshine and easterly tailwinds of the first week or so came to an end. It has been a trying week paddling into south-west or westerly headwinds every day.

The weekend gale which saw me stuck at Helvick Head for several days finally moderated with only a F4-5 forecast for Tuesday. I said goodbye to John, who’d been looking after my kayak in the lifeboat station and headed west. It was tough going into the wind immediately the head was rounded, but I was aiming only to do 20km or so to Ardmore, which seemed manageable. It got rougher at Mine Head, as John and the fisherman in who’s B&B I’d been staying said it would, with steep, cresting waves. The wind hadn’t dropped as forecast. I battled on for the best part of 4 hours and eventually made it to Ballyquin Beach, a few kilometres short if Ardmore. I was exhausted and had enough for the day.

John Condon (RNLI), Helvick Head lifeboat station

The camping, on the other hand, turned out to be very pleasang at the back of the beach, a tad windy, but warm, sunny and perfect for drying gear. Just as well, because there seemed to be water in every hatch on the boat. Not good. Used to be dry.

Ballyquin Beach. Ardmore is close, but out of reach today!
The Clangers gave us music trees. These are sock trees!

Learning from the previous days experience and noticing that the wind seemed to be lighter early in the morning, I got up really early (5am) and just about left by 7.30am in near calm conditions. By mid-morning the wind was picking up again and the final crossing to The Cow slip at Ballycotton, short as it was, was rather hard work. Although the forecast was better than previously, I wasn’t about to go any further today. I hung around for a while eating lunch and wondering where to camp when by chance a friendly woman came past, asked a few questions and then offered me camping in her back garden. It was probably the best spot in Ballycotton, less than 100m from a choice of three pubs and with a view over the bay! How could I refuse?

Back garden camping in Ballycotton, overlooking the bay!
Ballycotton resident Melissa let me camp in her garden!

Ballycotton is a lovely place for a walk about. The view of the lighthouse island at the top of this missive is from the head, just above the harbour. Around the corner is  the 1931 vintage Mary Standford lifeboat, restored and on free display. Look up the impressive story of the rescue of the crew from the Daunt Lightship in 1936, during the storm of the century!

The Mary Stanford lifeboat, rescued the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship in hurricane force winds, 11th February 1936

The pattern of early calm followed by increasing wind from mid-morning continued all week. Slowly but surely I made it along the south coast, clocking up over 50km on two successive days. The first was prompted by board and lodgings very generously offered chez Jon Hynes (H20 Sea Kayaking), who also circumnavigated Ireland in 2015 with Sean Cahill. I was well looked after by Jon and Elaine and it was great to meet them and their kids.

With Jon Hynes at the Old Head of Kinsale, almost ready to leave.

By Thursday it was clear that Sunday and perhaps Monday would too windy to paddle, with winds moderating and going southerly by mid-week.

Roches Point lighthouse, at the entrance to Cork Harbour

I needed to get to Baltimore by Saturday, before the wind picked up. That left about 70km or so of paddling to do in less than 2 days. Leaving Jon Hynes at the Old Head of Kinsale it was calm, but it didn’t last long. The headwind was up and down all day with waves and F5 for the crossing to Galley Head. Not very pleasant, but I persisted, eventually arriving at Rabbit Island a little before 9pm. It had been another long 54km day, but the camping was perfect in a lovely spot near Unionhall on the Cork coast.

Calm and sunny, early morning at Rabbit Island, near Unionhall.

Next day the wind was forecast to pick up to F5 in the afternoon, a prospect which didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. I got up really early again and paddled the last 20km or so to Baltimore before lunch, arriving in time to see off the Phoenix Kayak Club (Cork) on their outing to Cape Clear. They offered that I should join them. Needing a rest, amongst other things, I politely declined.

So, the past couple of days I’ve been resting, drying kit, buying food and such like and fixing my kayak.

A few nasty blisters after 400km or so

When I eventually turned the boat over for a look, the one rock that I hit had done some damage around the skeg and elsewhere. As ever the locals sprang into action finding me a few tools and a gel-coat repair kit, to go with the sealant Jon arrange for me from CH Marine! The boat is  now fixed and good to go!

Hit one rock in 400km. Not bad, but it did some damage!
Bushe’s Bar, overlooking Baltimore Harbour