Tag Archives: Orca

Passing Roche's Point

Sailing from Crosshaven & Cork Harbour to Dungarvan

I recently had the opportunity to spend the day on Clare’s Orcasailing from her over-wintering berth in Crosshaven (on the west side of Cork Harbour) back to Dungarvan. (Thanks Clare). Click all pics for larger sizes.

Leaving Crosshaven

Crosshaven is the home of the world’s oldest sailing club, RCYC.

Outside Crosshaven
Outside Crosshaven

Cork Harbour itself is considered the finest natural harbour in the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. Winston Churchill made a speech after  WWII telling the Irish people we were lucky he didn’t just take Cork Harbour. (Yeah, that’s one of the Churchill speeches that gets less publicity).

The Skipper
The Skipper

Each side of Cork Harbour is protected by old Forts.

Fort on west side of Cork Harbour

The day started out beautiful, sunny, blue skies and flat water. And no wind.

Approaching Roche's Point from inside Cork Harbour

Roche’s Point Lighthouse is famous as a Sea Area Weather Forecast location, and is situated on the east headland at the entry to Cork Harbour.

Spike island & Cobh

Cobh (pronounced cove) used to be known as Queenstown, famously the last port of the Titanic (Titanic 100 week there this week). Spike Island was a prison and is now one the three Triple Crown Of Prison Swims (Spike, Alcatraz, Robben) which only Ned Denison and Mike Harris of Sandycove and Gary Emich of San Francisco have completed.) The harbour is so large there are a few islands within it.

Exiting Cork Harbour

The water always seems to be choppy around the harbour entrance with strong currents running.

Roche’s Point Light is very pretty on a nice day.

In 2008, Danny Walsh, Eddie Irwin, Ned Denison, myself and Niall O’Cruallaich swam from Roche’s Point to Power Head, from a boat drop. Niall and myself swam most of the way back before the tide stopped us.

Roche's Point to Power Head (Power Head is the furthest away headland in the photo), Roche's Point is just behind)

Ballycroneen, home of Channel swimmers Liam Maher and Eddie Irwin, is on the next stretch of coast after Power Head.


The Magnificent Seven did a 5 hour swim here on the first week of Ned’s Distance Week in 2010. We started 3 hours before all the remaining campers arrived, and finished an hour afterwards, with an hour of unscheduled racing in between. (I just remembered that was another time I fell foul of Finbarr on a buoy turn and Rob ran me into a canoe).

Ballycotton island in the distance

The next headland is Ballycotton village with Ballycotton Island and Lighthouse just off the coast, home to Carol Cashell’s late summer great Ballycotton 4k swim, for advanced open water swimmers only. (I also just remembered I never wrote up that swim last year). Tough conditions. Great swim.

Ballycotton Lighthouse

Ballycotton Lifeboatis one of the most famous of RNLI stations for its multiple famous rescues, especially the 19365 Daunt Lightship rescue, having received multiple RNLI medals, two Gold, seven Silver, eight Bronze. After passing Ballycotton there’s the long flat sweep of Garryvoe, before the coast turns past Capel island across Youghal bay, a long sail north-east before reaching Ram Head and Ardmore, site of Ireland’s oldest Round Tower and possibly the oldest Monastery in the country. With a large telephoto lens the photos are just too dull and the coast too far away.

Traditional fishing boat off Youghal

After Ardmore, the coast changes to the beautiful rugged sandstone cliffs of the Copper Coast I showed you so much of last year. The next landmark is Mine Head, Ireland’s highest lighthouse, also a radio call station for the Coast Guard, and well-known to everyone who’s listened to an Irish sea area forecast.

Approaching Mine Head

 By this stage the sunshine had long departed but the wind never picked up past low Force Three.

Looking back at Mine Head

From Mine Head it’s a quick run to Helvick Head at the end of the Ring peninsula, the entrance to Dungarvan Bay.

Approaching Helvick Head with the Comeragh mountains behind Dungarvan. Bracken burning high on the mountains

We were outside Dungarvan Bay a bit early, and Clare needed to wait an hour for more tide and draft for the boat. So we sailed past Carricknamoan rock, one of my turning points for swims, but just a rock so not very exciting. Then a tack left us facing Helvick Head with Mine Head jutting out in the distance.

And back past Ballinacourty Lighthouse on the other side of the bay.

In the bay we saw flight of Mallards returning to the Back Bay tidal lagoon behind the long Cunnigar spit of land that stretches out from the Ring peninsula.

Fight of Mallards
Helvick Head, Pier and Ring

Across the bay was Helvick Pier, destination for the Helvick swim. (Study the photo to get a good line if you are swimming this year).

East (town) end of Cunnigar, behind stretches out the flat calm expanse of the Back Bay.

Heading into Dungarvan past the end of the Cunnigar.

Approaching Dungarvan

Only two hundred metres or so from Dungarvan, the end of the Cunnigar is a popular beach angling location and subject to extremely strong tidal currents.

Dungarvan Lookout. Clare looks out from her house everyday.

Past Orca’s normal mooring  at the Lookout to go into the town pontoon to pick up a dinghy.

Abbeyside Church

Passing around the old town walls into the inner harbour.

Finally, back in Dungarvan, a fantastic day at sea again, thanks to the Skipper.

Inside the town harbour approaching the pontoon.

Tall Ships 2011. Leaving Dunmore East

If you’re in Ireland, you’ll probably have been bombarded by the coverage of the 2011 Tall Ships Race, which was starting from Waterford, the second time it’s started from the port.

Last time in 2006 I visited the berthed ships, but this time Clare gave me the chance to go out with her on Orca. I met her in Dunmore East yesterday morning, which was glorious.

Dunmore East, yachts and the estuary in the morning

Thinking I’d be early at 9am instead it seemed like half the country had thought the same. And my attempt to outwit the traffic by taking the coast road was a waste of time. Once parked I had to walk about 20 minutes to the fishing pier to meet Clare on the dinghy. Not a long walk … unless you are wearing deck shoes. Bleeding heels by the time I arrived.

Dunmore was very busy. Roads had been closed since 7am and access to much of the low cliffs between Counsellor’s (the strand) and the harbour had been closed.

Blue sky and warm, it was one of those brief Irish summer periods, when the whole country takes advantage of some sunshine. There were tens of thousands in town, with thousands in the park and on the road looking down.

Crowds in Dunmore

There were a few helicopters around, including the Coast Guard. Since I was late arriving, it wasn’t long after we got out on Orca and came off the mooring that the first ship arrived out from the estuary, the largest ship in the fleet, the Russian sail training vessel Mir.

Mir passing Dunmore

Mir was followed by Gloria while the CG Helicopter flew overhead.

Mir & CG Heli passing LE Aoife

Gloria passed the Irish Navy’s L.E. Aoife and the crew lined up on the bow for the three gun salute that each of the first few ships received. With almost no wind, Clare iron-sailed out with the fleet. Tall ships, traditional fishing vessels, large yachts, old sail trawlers, pleasure crafts, modern yachts, ribs, pleasure cruisers and kayaks. (And a couple of those jet skis that practically every other marine person hates).

Europa with backed sails


Of the tall ships only Europa had sails raised, but with a very slight Force One onshore they were backed so she was sailing under power against the wind.




Orca from the bow


The line for the race start was actually five miles offshore and quite long. Clare has some problems with barnacles in the engine intake of Orca, so we had to stop twice to sort it out.




At that stage it realised we weren’t go to got the full way out the start line. And with almost no wind the start itself was delayed anyway.



By now we were about three or four miles out from Dunmore, past Hook Head and the lighthouse. The Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operational lighthouse in the world.

The Hook Light

We were well east of Tramore Bay. About six miles from the Metalman and three from Brownstown Head which were quite hazy.

Brownstown Head from the east

By now the revised start time had been announced, 3.30 pm. Because of the poor wind and forecast, the fleet hove around to sail up the east coast instead.

Orca heading out of Dunmore

We were well on our back by this stage, and indeed most of the inshore fleet had already returned.

Clare dropped me off on the pier so she could sail back to Dungarvan.

Dunmore strand

Dunmore still had lots of people enjoying the remainder afternoon and the weather. It’s Ireland. It might rain for weeks from tomorrow. The VW camper van cost me a lot to arrange to be there just at that time for the photo.

From above, the estuary looked great in the sunshine.

I’m always happy to sacrifice a day’s swimming for a day’s sailing. But this day was the best of both, as I still had time to get across to the Guillamene for my first warm swim of the year there, as the water in the cove had warmed up in the low tide and sun to 13.5 °C. Outside it was about 13 °C. Even the previous day it had only been 12 °C.

I swam around the headland again, and into the entrance of another of the sea caves, the largest one, first time I’ve been into that one for some time. A couple of guys on an outcrop on the cliffs about three-quarters of the way out seemed astonished to see someone swim past because I could see them silhouetted against the sky as I went around Seal Rock, still watching me. (Seal Rock is what I call the rock outside and below the Metalman because of the shape of two rocks on the top of it. I’ve no idea what it’s actually called, but this is Ireland so every rock has a name. (Pictures if ever I can afford a waterproof camera.)

I picked up my first proper sting of the year, right across the nose, (which to be honest I’d forgotten about until I wrote this).

A good day messing about on and in the water.