Irish Boating

First published in several Maryland newspapers, 3/17/89

Erin go boating

by Tom Dove

You might think that Ireland, an island the size of South Carolina, would have its hundreds of beautiful harbors crowded with pleasure boats. It isn’t that way.

Certainly, there is boating around the Emerald Isle, but it is localized in a few centers and the rest of the country’s fine cruising areas are unspoiled and waiting to be discovered. When we explored Ireland by car, staying at the Bed and Breakfast inns that abound, we followed the coastline and saw enough to make us want to come back and see the country from the deck of a boat.

It is a rugged coast, much more like Maine than Maryland, with high cliffs rising from deep inlets that lead to the Irish Sea on the east or the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Cruising here calls for the sort of vessel you might find in the Pacific northwest, Canadian maritimes or Scandanavia.

Except on the River Shannon there are few pleasure powerboats, as the cost of fuel is high. There is nearly always plenty of wind on the coasts so a seaworthy sailboat or motorsailer is better suited to these waters.

The town of Howth (rhymes with “both”) north of Dublin is a major sailing center and most pleasure vessels from the metropolitan area are berthed there rather than in the busy commercial harbor of the city.

From Howth, a cruise southward down the Irish Sea coast and around the southern tip of the island would be a fascinating way to see this gorgeous and friendly country. About 60 miles down the coast is Wexford and a bit farther is Waterford. A side trip to the famous Waterford glassworks is definitely in order.

Farther south at Crosshaven and Cork is another major sailing center including the world’s oldest yacht club: the Royal Cork Yacht Club. Here you can see fine vessels from around the world sailing through spectacular scenery. Cork is a manufacturing city in the Irish sense of the term. Apple and Digital computer companies have factories here where they produce equipment for the European market, but the place is a far cry from Baltimore.

Baltimore, a pretty town at the southern tip of Ireland is a far cry from Baltimore, Chesapeake Bay, too. It has an active sailing club with a fleet of Mirror class dinghies and a junior sailing program. At Baltimore, Ireland I received a large dose of Irish hospitality when a local physician offered me the use of his sailing dinghy, suggesting I sail over to a nearby small island and explore it. After I returned, he treated me to a shandy at the local pub and we became instant friends. Would you lend your boat to (foreigner you had known only 15 minutes?

The southwest coast is made of rugged peninsulas cut with =deep bays. This is the region of Cape Clear, Mizen Head and Fastnet Rock. The climate of this part of the country is noticeably milder than it is farther north and tropical plants grow here. Both are products of the warm Gulf Stream.

The River Shannon on the west coast offers a long canal-like route to the interior of Ireland, drifting past Shannon and Limerick Band through rolling farmland. This area could be explored easily  with a small cruising powerboat.

North of Galway the coastline is forbidding and barren with incredible bleak beauty. A sailor in County Mayo told me the average wind velocity there was 40 knots. Even allowing a large Blarney Factor for his claim, it’s a breezy place.

All the harbors are picturesque in Ireland, of course, and you can see traditional curraghs (“curr-icks”) as well as fishing vessels and a few sailing yachts. It’s a delight to go somewhere in the world where Americans are openly welcomed.

For information, contact the Irish Tourist Board, P.O. Box 7728, Woodside, NY 11377 or call 1-800-SHAMROCK. Really.

— The End —