INTO THE WIND

The weather started to catch up with us just as we wanted to make progress and turn a corner out of the huge Donegal Bay. However it seemed to be possible only in small steps. Why not, in the end, the good thing about small steps is, we get to see a bit more landscape inland.

We left Portulin hoping that the cliffs will provide us with enough shelter from the south easterly wind to round the corner into the Broad Haven Bay. No such luck, and after a short paddle and strong gusts of wind, we landed in Portacloy.

The plan was to wait for few hours, when according to the forecast the wind should drop down a bit. The wait was great, sun was warm, the beach beautiful. Only the wind seemed to want to stay and blow. When it was time to go on the water, we took one look out on the sea, and it just didn’t feel good, to me at least. So we all decided to stay, but move from the beach to the pier for easier haul of the boats above high water mark.

The pier itself was constructed in such a way to attract fairly strong dumping side wave on the slipway, the kind that likes to play with heavy loaded kayaks. Our solution was to tie one kayak to the side of the pier, then have two of us available to get each kayak up the slip. Great plan. I clipped my kayak on the tow line, helped Zoe, then Lindsey to land. Every time I looked, the kayak was there bobbing happily by the side. It was there when I caught Lindsey’s boat landing. It wasn’t there when I looked having pulled Lindsey’s boat two metres up the slip. Where was my boat?

Well, to cut a long story short, my boat was on its way to Broad Haven. Oh dear, so we launched Zoe’s boat with Zoe in it, and after short while she brought the unruly craft back again. Sadly no photos as the camera was just bobbing on my deck. A fairly uneventful afternoon followed, but we found a shop in the neighbouring village, where Lindsey was allowed to keep Thurrock’s waffles with expiry date in 2012 for free. We also found a rather eccentric pub, but we couldn’t stay too long, as for the following day we planned early departure hoping to squeeze the journey to Belmullet before the headwind picks up to beyond our ability to paddle against it.

Despite the shaking tent at five in the morning telling us that the wind was ready and waiting, the sea looked very calm, so we decided to give it a go. The first few kilometres were very pleasant. We paddled past several headlands with stacks, caves, and tunnels. The view of the Broad Haven stacks was amazing. We managed to hop between shelter and headwind and hide close to cliffs.

Until we came to Doonanierin Point, where our first crossing into the headwind was to start, an unpleasant hour of hard work towards Brandy Point, then another shorter one to the lighthouse at Gubacashel. The wind was increasing, we took it step by step, as we really really wanted to get to Belmullet. Zoe wanted to get through the canal from Broad Haven Bay to Black Sod Bay, Lindsey wanted to get to supermarket, I just wanted to get somewhere and stop.

Belmullet, according to sources the origin of the name is unknown, but might mean ‘mouth of the ismuth’, and that’s great, as I like ismuthes or isthmi. The town history is quite short, but in 16th century an admiral was chasing pirates in around that area. He made it into Broadhaven Bay, made his boat to be portaged across the isthmus and caught up with them near the islands on the south west side of the peninsula. The canal we were aiming for was conveniently built for us during the 18th century by Sir Arthur Shaen, who decided to develop the town, and to gain better access to the area had the canal excavated. It’s not used anymore, but was perfect for us. We found a place at the northern side of the Black Sod Bay to stay to wait out the few following non-paddling days. Belmullet has not been an old historic town, and long had its heyday, but for us it had all what we needed: cafe, pubs, supermarket, swimming pool, and tidal pool for Lindsey.

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