It is early August in Ireland, and the sea area forecast says this: “Fair in the south and east. Patchy rain, drizzle and fog elsewhere. More organised rain developing in the northwest tomorrow morning.” In other words, a typical Irish summer day.
I can remember the first time I sailed into the North Harbour of Cape Clear Island, in West Cork. I was on board Finesse, and we were delivering her to Ford Cork Week. Niall Quinn, owner and skipper, pointed out that you could easily miss the harbour when you approach from the West. It looks pretty obvious in the picture, but the harbour can’t be seen from the sea, and it’s only when you’re due North of the entrance that it reveals itself.
On that particular day, the sky was grey and cloudy, with light drizzle and I suppose fog and rain, somewhere. The typical Irish summer day. The cloud layer was so low, that as we slowly motored in to the quay wall, the top of the hill on the East side of the island (the photographers vantage point above) was obscured. The sea gave way to rock, which quickly gave way to heather, and it in turn was over-ruled by the mist. Beyond that, nothing.
It was the perfect kind of weather for tying up alongside, and either heading for the noise and warmth of a local pub and a creamy pint of Guinness, or stay below with a mug of tea and a good book. We chose the former.
I often think about that trip along the South coast and the sharp right turn in to the harbour. In contrast to island-hopping in the Ionian, the Irish coastline strikes a stronger sense of melancholy (although that’s not the right word for it). The islands in the Ionian Sea seem to leap up out of the azure water, stretching for that inky blue sky. On an overcast day off the West coast of Ireland, the islands seem to form a hesitant peace offering from the grey sea to the equally-grey sky. You feel like they might disappear if you look away. Or a new island might just spring up out of nowhere. Is it any wonder there are legends like Hybrasil.
Some islands, like The Stags near Baltimore, threaten all who pass by, while islands like Cape Clear hide their virtues. Others, like the Blaskets and the Skelligs, seem to beckon you closer. “Stay a while,” they say. “Bring your book.”