Teelin to Inishkeel – 51kms
Our longest time off the water so far – 3 days. Although it’s very frustrating not being able to make progress it is probably these times of forced rest that we’ll look back on as the essence of the trip. Desi, Paddy Byrne, Jack and the rest of the musical powerboat guys – Hudwink, Robert (owner) and Dempna (manager) and all the staff at The Rusty Mackerel will live in our memories long after the hours of pulling ourselves through lumpy seas with aching limbs and blistered hands have faded.
The night of free accommodation at The Rusty Mackerel was most welcome. Our boats were almost fully ready with our dry gear packed in and we were showered and well rested as we set off down the road at 5.30 this morning to walk the mile to the small harbour. I had chatted to Paddy in the bar last night and he was optimistic that he’d be getting his tour boats out today after only half a day’s work in the last four – not good considering it has been a bank holiday weekend here in Ireland.
That Teelin Feelin’
As we pulled out of the harbour the conditions did indeed seem good. The winds were light but we had been concerned that there would still be a large swell crashing into the Slieve League (Sliabh Liab) cliffs making the paddle difficult. It was not the case, and we were able to make good progress north west along the foot of the impressive cliffs (billed as the highest sea cliffs in Europe – though I’m sure there are others that also claim this title).
We turned north as we passed between Malin Beg and Rathlin O’Birne and the atlantic swell started to exert more of an influence. Paddling conditions were still good though and we decided to push on past the possible rest spots at Malin More and Glencolumbkille. The broken and crumbling cliffs of Slieve League gave way to the impressive grey cliffs of Slieve Tooey quartzite. The large stacks sitting off this coast are huge steep sided impenetrable looking lumps of rock. Though there are apparently a small group of local climbers who make it their business to find routes up them. We took a route between one of these monsters and the mainland but after a rather bumpy ride decided it more prudent to continue on the seaward side of the rest.
We again passed by another rest spot at Port but soon afterwards it became apparent that David was taking aboard more water in his cockpit than would be considered normal. It took a couple of stops to pump out water before the problem was diagnosed as a wardrobe malfunction – his cag was no longer sitting over the tube of his spraydeck and water was running down inside. We rafted up and got him sorted.
By now the wind was picking up and progress into the north easterly was slowing down. We crawled on to Inishbarnog and made our first stop of the day onto a nice sheltered beach on the SE side. Here we took a bite to eat and considered our options for the rest of the day. The forecast for the next day meant we’d likely be off the water again so we didn’t really want to be camping anywhere too remote. We decided a shortish 10kms further to the shelter of Portnoo to the east was our best option. This short paddle still took us a further two and a half hours as we had to battle our way round the rough waters off Dawros Head and then onwards with winds against us. It was almost 12 hours after setting off from Teelin that we pulled up on the calm beach of Inishkeel just across from Portnoo. Tents were put up in the steady rain and that was us holed up for the night (and quite likely the next day too as rain appears the one certainty of the varying forecasts). One of those “why are we doing this?” times.