Coast of Cork


Coast of Cork by Joleen Cronin

Coast of Cork by Joleen Cronin

Back in June 2008 I took a quick trip to “real” Ireland a.k.a Eire to visit the lovely Joleen Cronin who I first met in Phuket, Thailand. Details of the couple of weeks I spent there can be found elsewhere on this blog. Part of the trip was sponsored, after a fashion, by her employer as she was touring the coastline of Cork taking photographs for a book.


That book came out a short while after I left, but I never got the chance to get hold of a copy – until this week. Apparently it’s on its third print run having sold around 10,000 copies (figures approximate based on my understanding of what Joleen has told me!).

The book is entitled, simply, Coast of Cork – A fascinating journey along the Cork coastline and is published by Echo Publications (Cork) Ltd. The easiest way to get hold of a copy (and it’s follow-up Coast of Kerry… and some cheese while you’re at it) is from the Cronin’s Pub web page. Yes – Joleen is Irish, has red hair and her folks own a pub. Awesome.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and prepare to fork out €30 + p&p. My copy arrived a couple of days after I ordered it and was signed by the author. I had to buy it – I’m on page 253 admiring the Ardnakinna Lighthouse on Bere Island!

I know Joleen’s a friend, but this really is a great book. It means a lot to me as, courtesy of Joleen herself, her family and her friends, I had an incredible stay on the Emerald Isle and the book brought so many of those memories rushing back.

If you’re not sold yet, check out the Evening Echo‘s Coast of Cork website which showcases all of the photos from the book which can be purchased individually. Have a look for the one with me in it!

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Bye-bye Eire!

London Stansted Airport

Nothing much about today to report apart from that I had to leave the gorgeous West Cork and my fantastic hosts. Yes, I got that website going (as a testbed) and with any luck Joleen can get it up and going herself. Yes, I had a great time and yes I really would like to head back sometime if I’m welcome.

As ever, I’m indebted to hosts. So a huge “thank you” to the whole crowd. Everyone I met was great. Friendly, helpful, generous, full of advice, nothing ever too much trouble. If the rest of Ireland can be judged on the small town of Crosshaven then no wonder all the traditional singers miss it so much when they go abroad.

Now as I write this, I’m sat in the Waiting Area of Hell that is Stansted Airport. I bloody hate this place. Nowhere to lie down comfortably, permanently too bright, expensive “food” (and most places are shut at night anyway), overpriced internet access, no way to go to the loo without someone nicking your seat… oh, and they have construction work going on right by the waiting area so chances of sleep are pretty much zero tonight. Fan-flipping-tastic.

I’ll just have to hope I can nod off when they have a tea break and dream of those lovely hills and rivers and fields and… Zzzzzz….

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Boating and beering

I spent most of the day working on stuff for Jolene. She takes and sells photos and needs a website set up to make this as easy as possible. The least I can do in return for all the generosity she and her family (and Mike!) have shown me the last week or so.

I’ll spare you the technical details, though. But I will link to it once she’s got it online, hopefully well in advance of Cork Week.

My main sojourn out was to take another trip on the water. Jolene needed to get some snaps of the boats in the second race of the weekend. Olga drove us both down to the marina where we jumped (OK, Jolene jumped. Olga and I stepped gingerly) aboard the RIB that had been giving our sailboat some engine power the day before. Hugh had kindly loaned her it for an hour or so. Suspicious minds are convinced this is to make her more inclined to buy one of his spare ones!

So we shot out into the blue yonder. Nice and slowly at first and then bouncing off the wave-tops once we’d cleared the harbour limits. We zipped round a few of the sailing vessels as they worked their way round the course in better wind that I’d got the previous day. There was a hope we could nip further along the coast and possibly see some dolphins, but we had to double back and pick up Pat from his ship. He had to be on the pier for the first boats returning. Water-borne taxi to the rescue!

After dropping him off, we headed up the river at a more gentle pace to take in the scenery and for Jolene to have a nosey at the boats parked up along the way. There’s certainly a variety stashed up there, roped up to buoys. Some in great condition, some looking like they get taken out once in a blue moon. Definitely a nice way to waste half an hour, and it makes a change to view the town and surrounds from the water rather than from the pathways like I normally do.

We returned to the marina safe and sound and dry – but my bum hurt like I’d been on a jet-ski. There’s only one double-seat on those things and the ladies had it. I was on the boarded area at the front of the RIB and those waves hurt when they pinch the boards away from under you then return them with a *thud*. Again and again and…. ow.

I popped home for a short while to get on with more work, then Mike and I decided we were hungry. Mike after eating a huge bowl of pasta. That guy can really shovel it away! The pub was doing a BBQ so we walked down, only for me to find that it was all seafood. Ick. Mike had a piece of salmon which by all accounts was rather lovely, while I cheated and walked round to the chippy for a sausage and chips. Not too impressive – the sausage was about the size of my middle finger (but tastes nice) and the chips had no salt or vinegar! I do wish I liked seafood, but no matter what I’ve tried so far I just can’t stand the stuff.

So after a couple of pints, we walked back to the house and – yes I got on with more work. Hey, I have to pay back this hospitality somehow! Jolene’s folks had gone away for a couple of days so she and her brother stayed overnight at the pub. It really is a family business (a collection of them, in fact) and there’s always something to do.

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Avast, me hearties!

Arr! Pieces of rum and bottles of eight! Klingons off the starboard bow! I’ll bilge-haul ye, ye naval cur!

And other piratical rantings.

I lucked out a little with the dates for my visit to Ireland. My last weekend here coincided with the Crosshaven Traditional Sail event, an annual gathering of traditional sailing vessels. A couple of races are put on over the weekend, all in fun, and an excuse for people to show off their boats and their skills. Oh, and of course to get drunk and dance a lot.

Joleen suggested it would be “fun” for me to join in the racing, which is a giggle as I don’t think I’ve ever been on a sailing vessel in my life. Also, I was queasy to vomity on almost every boat I boarded in the last two years. But then, I know she’s got a cruel streak. And she was dressed as a pirate. And she had a gun which made *KKKCCCPPPWWW* noises and everything. Not to be argued with. Arr, indeed.

market stall (guarding it from everyone but myself, and the cute children who all wanted samples) she walked me over to the pier where a couple of dozen sailing vessels were moored about 6 deep. Sailors seem to be more polite than car drivers. I can’t imagine someone being particularly happy if you had to climb over their Range Rover or Peugot 205 to drop into the sun roof of your Megane in a crowded car park.

Joleen sorted me out with a crew who were short desparate generous enough to allow me to hop aboard. Me, a complete landlubber, and one with no sea legs or stable stomach. But they had beer. And head-scarves with skulls and crossbones on. And plastic swords. Who was I to argue? I’d been press-ganged. Which has to beat being keel-hauled.

We sat for about an hour waiting for the other boats to get ready, and the race to begin. This involved chatting to my skipper/captain/boat owner, his mate/friend/skurvy dog and two cabin-boys. I hate to admit that I can’t recall their names, but perhaps Joleen can enlighten me when she reads this post! I should be made to walk the plank.

Eventually, we set off under diesel power to get away from the dock and made our way up to the start buoy. Quite a crowd of boats gathered and it was some sight to see. Some vessels were more “traditional” than others, looking like they’d been carved from fallen trees only a few days before the race. One in particular, owned by a chap called Pat who I believe helps organise the race, was a beauty. The mast could have been felled that very morning, before having its branches ripped off, being varnished and screwed into the hull. Absolutely gorgeous.

Around 15 minutes later, the foghorn (referred to the in the rules as a “gun”) went off and… we kind of started to crawl forwards a bit. Now, here’s the problem. Sailing involves wind. And it wasn’t windy. This is problematical when you’re in a race but at least everyone’s in the same boat (so to speak).

Well, they are until a local photographer comes by in a RIB piloted by one of her neighbours and starts pushing random boats forward! That’d Be Joleen and Hugh (who I had dinner with on my first night in Crosshaven) trying to liven the party up. We got a shove a good few metres/yards/fathoms/whatever up the course before our ride veered off and the wind began to pick up a little.

This is where I realised that, like IT, sailing has a language of its own. I was utterly baffled by the words being slung back and forth between the skipper and the first mate. I mean, I know my port from my starboard and I now know the difference between up/down and above/below (it’s to do with the side of another object you’re guiding your boat – I think), but the rest of it… blimey. I know how people feel when I start talking about work now. All of a sudden I can sympathise with the glazed expression and the change of subject.

“Splice the gib and turn us tak-wards!”

“Hard fast the gunwal around the binnacle!”

And so on. Nautical talk is fun but pretty much incomprehensible to folk like me.

I also discovered that sailors hate motorboats. We’d just got some speed up when a motorboat went by quite a distance in front of us. However, the wash from its passing eventually reached us as a series of waves. These completely kill your speed and by the time the fourth or fifth had passed us by, we were stationary again as the wind had dropped.

Then another thing – tides. We began to drift entirely the wrong way, almost backwards, as our competitors further behind caught up due to the wind reaching them and not us. And we had to negotiate the end-point buoy by judging the difference between what forward momentum we were now getting with the cross speed we’d get if we “changed tak” and the drift of the tide.

This is why I stick to cars and computers.

We did make it, eventually, and in good time. As we really caught the wind heading back towards the start line, around 10 boats were all clamouring to get round the buoy. Some made it easily, four came round side by side like a synchronised team. And one hit the thing. Good aim.

Then… the wind… died. And this time it wasn’t in a mood to start blowing again. We sat for around 20 minutes, ate sandwiches, drank beer and finally decided to make our way in using the engine. We were one of the last to hold out in hope of some breezes but time was getting on and the pubs would be getting full.

I sat with my crewmates (remarkably with my stomach contents still right where they should be) and nattered for a while before heading back up to the house. I’m working on some web stuff for Joleen and it’s taking more time than I expected.

The evening, of course, involved beer and this time a trip down to the Anchor Inn where a barn dance was taking place. Without a barn. But with hay-bales. In the street. Which they’d just blocked off. As you do. The bar was heaving, so getting orders in wasn’t easy but the atmosphere was fantastic. There were a couple of hundred people stood in the street jigging away, tripping over hay-bales and having a right old laugh.

I sank a couple of Murphy’s and then Olga (and I’m sure I’m spelling that the wrong way) gave us a lift home. We then did the civilised thing and drank tea. And wolfed Doritos with hot chilli dip. Mmm.

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Dursey Island

Moscow, this wayMy last day of island-hopping started with an 8:00 rise after getting a text message. This was unusual in that the side of the island I was on didn’t have any mobile reception. After mentioning this to Caitriona, she said that when the ferry goes past it often gives a brief period of reception before it passes by. Strange.

For breakfast we finished off the food from the night before and gulped some of that weird pro-biotic yoghurt-y stuff in small bottles. With the car packed, we were about to set off when Joleen decided she wanted a picture of one of the camouflaged chaps outside. She walked up and began polite conversation with one of them.

“I couldn’t take photos of Bere without the FCÁ. It’d not be right.”

“FCÁ? We’re the army!”

Whoops. He still posed, but didn’t smile.

Scary cable carThis time, Joleen reversed onto the ferry like a pro but we were running late as the ferry driver had a lie in, or an extra mug of tea with breakfast. Our aim was to get to Dursey Island and it was only accessible until 11:00 or we’d have to wait till the afternoon.

When we arrived at the crossing point, we were just in time to have a quick look around before sorting tickets. Another of those signposts was by the crossing point, and rather bizarrely featured an arrow pointing in the direction of Moscow. Underneath it was a plaque dedicated to four Luftwaffe pilots who died when their Junkers had crashed nearby in 1942. Testament to Eire’s neutrality during WWII.

So, why the limited access time? High tides? Fuel shortage for the boat? Erm, no. The cable car only operates for a few hours a day.

Yes. Cable car.

A view to the mainlandThe only one in the entire of Eire and it’s used to access an island, effectively carrying its passengers over the Atlantic ocean. It’s also the scruffiest, roughest, most beaten-up cable car you’ve ever seen. This probably has something to do with the fact that it’s used to carry cows. One at a time.

Caitriona noticed that fortunately the car had a new floor in it since the last time she had used it. This is a good thing as you could see through it before. Not good when the only thing separating you from the straits is an inch of rotting timber. I guess this replacement was made after the “bull falling to its death” incident in April. I may have made that last sentence up, but don’t bet on it.

Seat with a viewDursey is pretty small. You could walk around the periphery in less than two hours, which is a pity as we’d had to catch the last morning cable car over. So we were marooned there for 3 1/2 hours. Thankfully the weather was good and the scenery gorgeous, so we strolled for a bit taking pictures.

Then we sat down next to the road somewhere comfy and chatted and played word games.

Then we fell asleep. For two hours.

Well, it was warm and there was the sunshine and the fresh air and we’d done a lot of walking. I think we had enough excuses.

Old cottageWe woke in time to plod down to the cable car for the first return trip of the afternoon. Only there seemed to be a problem. A man on the roof of the car. Carrying a broom. Weird. The car got halfway across as the man brushed away at the cables, then returned to the mainland.

By the time the car got to us, laden with tourists, it was almost half an hour late. This was not a good thing as we’d had no lunch and Joleen had to get back to Crosshaven to work the evening shift at the pub. We dropped Caitriona off at the Pontoon to get her car and she followed us along to a nice bar where we all had fajitas. And pudding. Great stuff.

Spot the Leprechaun!Then the race was on as Joleen had to be at the pub in 90 minutes or so, and it was at least that long to drive. This was the first time in the last few days I’d seen her drive at any real speed or with any noticeable urgency. I don’t think I squealed once, which is good.

She did end up being a little late, but that’s the way things go in Ireland. I spent the night catching up on email. Sometimes it can be a lot of work being popular!

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