Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A day sailing out of Tarbert
on the hottest day of the year

Arriving back at Tarbert Island after an afternoon sailing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

Who can work through the hottest day of the year?

The temperatures soared as high as 28 or 29 in this part of Ireland yesterday [20 June 2017], and more of the same is promised again today, the longest day of the year.

I had been working a long stretch – at least 10 or 12 days in a row without a break. But early on Tuesday a parishioner rang with an offer she knows I was never going to refuse.

Would I like to go sailing?

Three of packed into a car in Askeaton and headed west for Tarbert, where her friend was waiting for us to join him.

I have enjoyed boats ever since I was taken rowing on Lough Ramor at Virginia, Co Cavan, 50 years ago this summer. But I have never been very active about this pleasure. It has been a more passive form of pleasure for me.

In Cambridge, I regularly enjoy walking along the Backs, watching rowers and scullers alike. I keep in touch on Facebook and on Instagram with the exploits of Sidney Sussex Boat Club. Why, even one of my photographs was used in a fundraising drive by Jesus College Boat Club to find corporate sponsors.

In Greece, I love hopping on and off boats on island-hopping trips and I have had similar pleasures in Turkey and Italy. And there have been occasional trips in currachs and on coastguard floats between Achill Island Inishbiggle.

I have often promised myself in Rethymnon – it seems every year, to be honest – that I am going to take up the offer of a one-day introductory lesson in sailing. But, apart from walking around the sailing clubs in places like Bray and Skerries, and the yacht clubs in Dun Laoghaire, I have never managed to get nearer.

All apart from one memorable afternoon sailing on Tagus estuary in Lisbon late in 2014.

Tuesday’s sailing experience in Tarbert was a dream afternoon and a dream come true.

Three on board on the Shannon Estuary (Photograph: Liliana Montoya, 2017)

We sailed out from Tarbert Island Maritime Club, beside the car ferry pier, where the small and basic clubhouse is a valuable resource for local boat owners.

But it was no small experience. Tarbert is well known for its fast-outgoing tides, and we quickly became aware of the tides as we sailed out from the pier and out across the Shannon Estuary to Shannon Fort in Co Clare, and then across Clonderalaw Bay to Knock.

It was an active afternoon, without a moment’s slacking. I got to raise and lower the sails, navigate take the tiller, monitor the tides and learns how the winds and tides can change all our plans without a moment’s notice.

Tarbert Island Maritime Club takes advantage of the natural amenities of Tarbert Bay. The club has a large membership and the range of activities varies from competitive sailing to leisure activities, including sailing, rowing, swimming and angling. Rowing boats can be rented out, complete with life jackets for those who want to row around the bay or even venture to Glin and beyond.

The club also arranges tuition in seamanship, sailing, rowing, canoeing, power boats and swimming. Dolphin Watch Tours operate from Tarbert Pier, but we never got to see any dolphins. Perhaps they too needed a break on the hottest day of the year.

This was an afternoon that gave me all the experiences I dream of when I look at those offers of a day’s sailing in Rethymnon. We ended up celebrating our afternoon’s fun in the Shannon House by the pier.

Thank you to Rose Fitzgerald, Liliana Montoya and Raymond McGibney for a day of real fun. Yes, I’ll be back. And yes, I’m off to Rethymnon next week.

Blades back in Tarbert Island Maritime Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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