2002 Ireland, England, and Away
We last wrote as we were sailing to Ireland, and we'll pick up the
thread there. We docked the boat in the Dun Laoghaire (that's pronounced
Dun Leery -- we had heard of it from other cruisers, and had a heck
of a time finding it on the chart!), just east of Dublin, rented a
car and did a whirlwind tour of the Republic. As usual for us this
summer, the weather didn't cooperate; it was rain and fog, and more
rain and fog. Consequently, we did not get to see some of the western
peninsulas and their wild beauty. Impressions and highlights:
is clearly prospering. There are lots of new, large houses everywhere.
It seemed strange out in the countryside to see big new suburban
houses replacing the more traditional farmhouses. The cost of living
is second highest in Europe; first is Finland.
had expected Ireland to be green, and weren't disappointed. It was
as green as Scotland, with almost as many sheep, but much friendlier
people. For example, we went to a tiny pub in an equally tiny village
(Castletownshend) in County Cork, which has a single street running
down a steep hill to a tiny harbor. A typical Irish pub with low
ceilings and a gorgeous back bar, its décor included a plaque
listing its owners since it opened in the early 1800's. As soon
as other customers discovered we were Americans (and cruisers),
they started buying us beer! The pub was sponsoring a game of "Weakest
Link" where the players were local notables who had raised
money (over 5,000 euros!) for charity. We drank Murphy's (County
Cork's answer to Guinness and pronounced More-fees) and closed the
of accents, we had expected to hear a strong brogue that we would
have trouble understanding. This was not the case at all -- compared
to Cornwall, Scotland, Wales, and even south-central England, Irish
English was the easiest for us to understand. Of course, it may
have helped that we grew up in New York, the land of "Dese,
Dems, and Dose", but we wondered if maybe the American accent
has been affected more than we knew by the massive immigrations
of Irishmen in the last 3 centuries. Even the expressions are more
similar: where the English say "lovely" or "brilliant"
to express a positive reaction, we heard the Irish say "cool"
or "great", as we do.
the lovely harbor town of Kinsale, we took to heart the sign on
the Royal Kinsale Yacht Club that said "welcome visiting Yachtsmen"
and went in for a pint. Some members were clearly getting ready
for evening racing, so we asked a gentleman at the bar about it.
After his explanation, he asked what area of America we were from.
"The Chesapeake Bay," we responded, it being the easiest
reference for a sailor. "I have a daughter," he began,
and we thought, "oh no, not another story of someone in Maine
that we ought to know." But he continued, "who runs a
sailing school on the Chesapeake Bay." Well, we know only one
person who runs a Sailing School: our Irish friend Arabella, with
whom Andi has raced. "Is her first name Arabella?" Andi
asked. "Why yes," said her dad. Amazing.
we were smiling about this small world phenomenon, 2 American couples
from Annapolis came in for a pint with their Irish friends. Like
us, they had come across the Atlantic this spring, and of course
we all had to tell each other about our experiences and our boats.
We mentioned that we had crossed the Atlantic in our Rival 41 'Mehitabel'
almost 20 years ago, and one of the women said "Really? I used
to sell Rivals, and I love them!" We looked at her a little
closer and realized it was she who had brokered Mehitabel when we
sold her, 18 years ago. Admittedly, sailing is small world, but
this seemed almost scary.
doubt, one of the greatest of Irish inventions is the Irish Bed
and Breakfast. Unlike their American counterparts, Irish B&B's
are much less expensive than hotels, and feature HUGE breakfasts:
Rather than ask if you want bacon, ham, or whatever, the owners
simply serve at least 3 kinds of meat with the eggs -- bacon, ham,
sausage, and "pudding", a kind of spicy sausage, which
comes in black (blood sausage) and/or brown (normal). This is in
addition to the cereal, yogurt, Irish brown bread (made with baking
soda, not yeast -- in itself a great invention), butter, jam, honey,
and coffee or tea. Laden with this breakfast, we really had no need
for lunch, but never turned that down, either, as lunches are served
in delightful old pubs and feature such delicacies as fish stew
and mussels with garlic. And of course one must have dinner ...
We reckon we'll have to do some serious dieting to get back to our
are literally thousands of these B&B's scattered all over Ireland.
Most have one or two rooms, and are really nothing but private homes
with extra rooms. Several times, we drove out into the countryside
to find a place to stay, rather than going into a town. One of the
places we found was a couple of miles up a one-lane road, on a ridge
overlooking acres of farmland, sheep pasture, and woods. The next
morning, the owner suggested that instead of returning to the main
road we should continue along the one-track road over the top of
the ridge and down the other side; so we did. On the way, we encountered
a Land Rover, for which we had to back down for about 100 meters,
once almost sliding into the ditch. The driver, a young woman, told
us we'd never make it over the top, because it was so steep, but
make it we did, and along the way saw countryside every bit as wild
and beautiful as anything we'd seen before.
effect of visiting foreign countries is that it gives us a reason
for studying the local culture and history, and we were particularly
impressed with what the Irish have gone through at the hands of
the British, and each other. We went to museums describing the aborted
French Armada invasion in the mid 18th Century, the general uprising
in 1796-7, and the Famine in 1846-9. So, go ahead: Ask us anything!
returned to Dun Laoghaire in time to sail across the Irish Sea and
visit our dear friends Peter and Marie Gilbert near Aberystwyth,
Wales, then down to Falmouth to get our mainsail slightly re-cut
and spend an evening with Sally and Barry Kidson, and finally to
Lymington, England, where Rob umpired a team race regatta between
New York Yacht Club and one of the few organizations even more upper-crust
than they are, the Royal Thames YC. This also gave us the opportunity
to spend an evening with Suzie Jardine, who had been aboard Akka
with us in the Caribbean two winters ago.
in all, for a relaxing cruising summer, this has been pretty hectic.
But we've loved every minute of it! Now we're off to the Channel
Isles, France, Spain, Gibraltar, and Spain again, planning (hoping)
to get to Barcelona by mid-October.