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10 go to Dingle - Sept 2003

Sat 13th - The 1st day (+ a bit before!)

The planning was done. The months of waiting were finally over. Don’t know about the others, but Joy & I had really been looking forward to this holiday.

Last year’s trip to Brandon Bay was abruptly terminated for Ian & Neroli a month or so before the appointed date, by Neroli’s unfortunate sideslide followed by non-sustainable pirouette dismount… from her bike. For the rest of us who made it, an otherwise fantastic week was reduced to merely very good by the total absence of both wind and waves. A pity really, as we’d booked to do a wavesailing class with Guy Cribb (you can still read that trip report here).

photo of group at Swansea docksSo when the 10 of us arrived – present & correct – in the marshalling yards of the non-too-salubrious Swansea to Cork ferry, with a very promising wind forecast for the Southwest coast of Ireland, things were definitely going to be better this time. In truly magnificent style, Steve & Viv cracked open a bottle of bubbly, handed out the champagne flutes (ok – they were plastic cups, but hey! Who’s complaining?) and we all toasted the week ahead.

The ferry crossing itself went pretty much according to plan: Eating on board was plain and – thankfully, this time – unpunctuated by burning hot plates. We also took the opportunity of getting to grips with the first of many frothy, black, mildly alcoholic beverages.

The crossing was slightly more “up & down” than I would have liked, but I probably got a couple of hours sleep. Joy’s always lucky in that this respect – once her head hits a pillow, that’s it!

Dawn saw us pulling into Ringaskiddy harbour, Cork, but she kept it a secret. As the assembled throng awaited Tony’s attempts to awaken the bureau-de-change, Joy & I took the opportunity to forge ahead, confident in the belief that – towing the trailer, the others would all soon catch up with us.

We arrived at the Spar car park, Castlegregory, some time ahead of everyone else, so perhaps Tony hadn’t been knocking hard enough? After a leisurely lunch whilst waitingPhoto of Dumps for the others, we decided to make our way to Dumps – a W-facing beach on Brandon Bay – having noticed that there seemed to be decent breeze blowing.

Pausing only to narrowly avoid getting bogged down in the soft sand that forms the Dumps car park, there was a rigging frenzy, and by 12:00, I was on the water with 78l. JP wave board & 5.5m2 sail. Tony & Al were also out at Dumps. Brian, Steve, Viv & Danny had gone round to Scraganne (I think!), and Ian & Neroli were very conscientious and went to check out the cottage (!!??)*, thus missing some great sailing.

With the SSW wind (cross-on from the left) & a small swell, I had a fantastic time – certainly the best sail I’ve ever had on that board. Getting good jumps on the way out & some nice easy rides on the way back in. There were some serious holes in the wind, but as I’d rigged on the larger side, I was pretty much planing most of the time.

After about 2 hrs, the wind had picked-up a little & I was thinking about changing-down when – landing from a small jump on the way back to the beach – I guess I was a little too broad to the wind, got suddenly overpowered and still hooked-in, got flung over the handlebars. The resulting collision between my chest and the boom is something I would never wish upon my worst enemy. I was lying on top of the rig, unable to breath, certain I’d suffered broken ribs & a punctured lung.

On the verge of passing-out, I managed to cling to the board & eventually got enough breath to shout down another sailor. He stopped & came by but – there’s very little he could do, being on a tiny board himself. He shouted down Jamie Knox who was sailing by. Jamie’s solution that I just drift in didn’t sound too good to me at the time, as I was about 300yds out and the wind would have taken me onto the rocks at Mossie’s. Retrospectively, there probably wasn’t much else they could have done.

Still in absolute agony, I drifted for a while until everything fell in the right position for an easy waterstart. I sailed back to the beach and really don’t remember much thereafter. Ian – who’d just arrived – carried my kit back up to the trailer (Many thanks, Ian – I owe you). A local sailor – John (real name Sean O’Hairt) provided comfort, healing hands, and a map showing how to get to Tralee General Hospital (Sean – you’re a star!). Tony derigged my kit, stashed it away, & towed my trailer back to the cottage (!!??)* whilst Joy drove me to Tralee (Thanks, Tony. I owe you, too).

[I probably don’t need to say this, but I will, anyway: Special thanks to Joy, for whom my injury had definitely not been part of the plan, and who consequently had to ferry me around for the rest of the week & put up with my moaning.]

Not much more to add, really: The rest of the day was spent lying on a trolley in A&E, waiting alternately for doctors, radiologists, nurses, doctors again. I was there so long, the pain in my bum from sitting-up on the rock-hard trolley was almost worse than the pain in my chest! The X-rays confirmed that nothing was broken. Soundings of my chest revealed normal (??) lung function (ie: no perforations or collapses). I’d come off lightly.

Eventually returning to the cottage (!!??)*, everyone had their stories of how well the day had gone for them in the various locations. Neroli being particularly pleased as she’d now got to sail her brand new, as yet unused, indeterminate – but very low - volume K-Bay custom board.

Everyone had conspired to construct a plan for that evening comprising a trip to Spillane’s – perchance to eat, drink & be merry. All the sorts of things I felt particularly unable to do at that time. So while they were all off making merry, Joy managed to throw together a little something back at the ranch, and washed it down with copious amounts of muscle relaxant, whilst setting the world to rights.

For me, the rest of the week was spent digesting a cocktail of Vallium, Voltarol, Tramadol, Paracetamol, Guinness, Wickwar’s BOB, Bath Ales Gem, and definitely not windsurfing. All that way for 2 hrs sailing (‘though it may have been the best 2 hrs of the week!).

Writing this, a fortnight later, I don’t feel I’ve come off lightly at all! Although my liver’s recovered from the drug & alcohol abuse, my back is still incredibly sore – I guess the shock on the front of the rib cage transferred through to the back resulting in all sorts of internal unpleasantness in that area. But don’t count me out yet! “I’ll be back” [A. Schwarzenegger].

[PS: When I saw my physiotherapist a week after returning, she reckoned I'd 2, possibly 3 broken ribs (Apparently fairly common not to spot them on an x-ray), several torn muscles down chest & back, and significant ligament & cartilege damage. Oh well - could have been worse!]

Photo of the "Cottage"Martin Farrimond

* Cottage(!!??). Not an adequate word to describe the palatial accommodation we had to endure! A fantastic place.



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Day 2 Sun 14th September.

At 10am Brian, Tony, Ian, Neroli and myself went for a walk down to Kilcummin beach to check out the conditions. We walked along the beach towards Gowlane and I measured winds of force 3 (around 10mph) from the south west (cross-offshore). We had earlier spotted a lone windsurfer riding the well-formed waves of height three feet or so. He was still going well as we arrived at the beach, with a sail something around 5.8 or 6m.

We walked back up the lane from Gowlane beach and noticed the incredible sight of a newish Vauxhall Astra being used to round up a flock of sheep, up a fairly steep field, with the farmer repeatedly tooting the horn as he weaved from side to side! If only I’d had a camera with me.

When we returned, the others, not too impressed by the prospects of windsurfing that morning, decided to head off on bikes towards Castlegregory. I think Ian and Danny went further on, out to Scraganne area. I decided to head back down to Gowlane, as there were still some nice waves coming in, so all it needed was a slight increase in wind strength.

When I arrived there were a few others getting rigged, although the wind still hadn’t increased beyond force 3 cross-offshore. Perhaps they knew something I didn’t! Anyway I rigged up a 6m sail, this being the biggest size I would use on my (recently acquired) 85litre F2 wave board.

Just as I was launching (at about midday) the wind suddenly picked up, well into force four, and I was actually well powered up by the time I got out there. The conditions were basically flat water (i.e. no chop) but with a very nice well-spaced swell rolling in, absolutely ideal for small jumps (mostly landed!).

Coming back in the wind direction was perfect for catching the swell and then nearer the shore, for down the line wave-riding on waves of around 3 to 4 feet high. This was my first real taste of wave-riding on such clean waves using a wave board, and I was surprised at how instinctive it was to do bottom turns and top turns. I suppose the hours spent watching wave-sailing videos was paying dividends at last! I just had to imagine my own heavy metal soundtrack, which seems to be essential for wave-sailing!

The sense of power with the wave urging you forward is awesome and very addictive. Just when you think windsurfing has no more surprises to offer after all these years, then it delivers again and this was what I would call real wind - surfing (at last!).

After about an hour and a half I came ashore for lunch and to change down to a 5.5m sail, which would be more comfortable. I discovered that you don’t want to be too well powered up whilst wave-riding, indeed slightly under-powered is probably ideal as you generate wind-speed as you catch the wave and also the wind accelerates as it moves up the wave face. This explains how the earlier “lone windsurfer” was able to sail in such light winds.

I had been so engrossed that I had forgotten that the others hadn’t joined me on the water, so thought I’d try phoning them. I tried Ian/Neroli’s phone and spoke to Neroli, who seemed surprised when I said Gowlane was “going off” (or words to that effect!). They were all back at the cottage having lunch so I suggested that they come down to the beach asap!

About half an hour later the others arrived and some had to carry kit down to the beach owing to the number of cars parked at the bottom of the lane. Ian and Neroli were especially pleased I’d previously told them what sail I was using, so they saved themselves a trip to the water and back again. Brian and Tony also rigged and went out. Steve, Viv and Danny had a look but decided to head off to Scraggane in search of some flat water.

Unfortunately Martin was still incapacitated and stayed at the cottage so he didn’t even know what he was missing!

The water was quite busy by now with some surfers also joining in the fun. There was also someone in the shorebreak using a video camera, but he often seemed to be getting in the way! Apparently he was going to show the footage later in Spillannes but we had already planned to eat in that night.

I eventually had to stop at about 4.30pm due to sheer exhaustion, but my last run in was the most enjoyable of the day as I managed to catch a large swell from well offshore and rode it all the way in, putting in a couple of bottom turns and cut-backs on the wave face and then riding the white water all the way to the beach.

At the end of my notes scribbled down later that evening it says “Best windsurfing day ever!”. Reflecting back now I see no reason to change that, and I think that the novel combination of riding a wave board in perfect “down the line“ conditions in beautiful surroundings on a warm sunny day, was indeed the most enjoyable windsurfing I’ve done in 22 years, (and that’s saying something!).

I think everyone else enjoyed the conditions as well, and we were lucky as it was very nearly the one that got away!!Photo of Al at Dumps

Unfortunately we don’t have a picture of this day, but the picture here was taken on Tuesday at the same venue when the wind eventually became a bit stronger, but the waves were slightly smaller. Here I’m on the Axxis with a 5.0m sail. (Thanks to Martin for taking the picture!).

In the evening Steve cooked a spaghetti bolognaise for the carnivores, whilst the veggies (Joy and myself) had a tomato/bean sauce with the spaghetti, washed down with a couple of bottles of wine and the beer!

Al Donald

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Mon 15th September

Monday did not see us racing off to the strand to revel in the surf at the crack of dawn, but for Steve and me at least, an untroubled wending towards the Castlegregory Spar without noticeable head or tail wind. Said village mourns not its castle incidentally, and generally rates the Spar which now stands on the site, a vast improvement. As far as architecture goes, I couldn't possibly comment, but when it comes to a good cheap full Irish breakfast, it's the biz.

Back at the ranch much planning of alternative activity was afoot, with the possible exception of Danny, who was probably not interceding much at that hour. The majority, including Adrian & Jackie, who had now appeared, opted to case Inch Strand; a magnificent beach on the South of the peninsula, with reputably the longest peeling wave in Europe.

I, however, had an appointment with a dolphin, and had encumbered the company car with certain exhibits from my personal windsurfing museum for the porpoise. (sorry about that!). An hour later saw me wafting off in the direction of a worried looking Fungie on my plastic replica of Moby Dick. Actually, I think he may have thought it more of a Big Willie, as the deck of a Fanatic Ultra Cat is distinctly black and white.

The wind had by now settled into a gentle North Westerly, which was wandering around in all directions in the lee of the headland which forms the entrance to Dingle Bay. It is in this deep channel that Fungie hangs out waiting for a tourist boat from Dingle to show off to; just like me, only it was just no contest.

It was a beautiful sunny morning, and as we waited for a boat, he sussed me out from beneath, gradually getting bolder. The water was gin clear, and he did a couple of deep high speed passes under the board, then a shallower one, upside down. As I failed to respond each time (how does a half ton dolphin doing 40 knots expect one react when doing 1-2 knots anyway? I thought these things were supposed to be intelligent) he probably ruled out the Orca connection.

A boat approached, and he began jumping - very close, inches away in fact, and within a dozen yard of the boat. Celluloid was being exposed at yards/second - not to mention gigapixels - and best of all - women were screaming, which clearly stimulates the animal. He really is an incorrigible show off, and apparently never misses a boat: the best thing to ever happen commercially to Dingle, and a very special experience for me.Photo of Dingle Harbour

Just for the record, I then wandered off for a scenic tour of Dingle Bay, which is what the Ultra Willie does best. I did return to the entrance channel in the afternoon, but Fungie had returned to cautious mode, so I called it a day.

Meanwhile, Ian, Neoroli and Al were cycling around the Slea Head scenic route (well, it all is, but this is super scenic, and I know because my bike stayed on the car as I rested a fatigued foot on the accelerator; next time I cycle.).

Atmospheric photo of Slea HeadI have to say that I was in a quandary as to whether to even take the old race board to, of all places.Western Ireland!! It was certainly a challenge to keep the overall height of the car to the 78" required by the ferry, but I think the weight helped. I also used it on another couple of low wind days to sail out from Scraggane around the islands (see the stone hut settlement, crawl through the souterrain), and I'd never have got there on a daggerless board- so well worth the effort.

Tony Low

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Tue 16th September

Civilised start to the day – checking the wind at various venues round the coast from the lounge window – completely mirror calm around the peninsula but waves coming in on the nearby beaches.

Set off to Gowlane for a spot of boogie boarding – Al bravely rigged his 6.0 on a 93lt board and went for a wallow in surf. He successfully managed to catch a few waves but spent a long time waiting for them. Neroli and I spent three quarters of an hour on the boogie boards, probably the easiest boogie boarding I have ever done – you just dived in front of the waves and they would take you in.

Everyone else started arriving (Tony, Brian, Joy, Martin) and we all sat down for a spot of lunch on the beach. During the course of lunch impatience got the better of me and I decided to rig up a 6.0m and take the Screamer2 out into the surf. While unsuccessful at catching waves, I did suddenly start to find some wind and spent the majority of my time planing. Why is it that you can always have wind or waves but very rarely both together? In my case I launched just as low tide was approaching, so the waves that had been coming in had dropped significantly.

With the waves dropping away significantly, Gowlane (and the rest of Brandon Bay) became a lovely blasting ground, offering great port tack chop hopping conditions to keep you amused on the way out, then on the way back you spent the time trying to ensure you headed back to the launch point while still looking for the hint of a wave forming on the approach to the beach.

During the next twenty minutes or so the wind continued to build, making control an elusive quantity, particularly on the gusts. Time for a smaller board and a bit more downhaul on the sail. I came ashore around the time that Al came in to change down to his 5.0m. Neroli was busy rigging her 5.3 and Tony and Brian were also putting sails to masts. Neroli had taken a phone call from Adrian who was over the other side or the peninsula and was quickly abandoning a boat trip round the Blasket Islands in favour of coming for a quick sail.

Out came the Electron and the 6.0m got downhauled to within an inch of its life and back out I went to continue the blasting. Brandon Bay is a lovely place to blast in. All around the huge bay you can see mountains leading down to the shoreline where they form mile after mile of sandy beach. Alas I made the mistake of having far too much fun while I was out on the water, so I was awarded the honour of “Scribe of the day”.

On one of my trips back into the beach I was blasting along nicely, fully powered up with the sail locked down. Found a nice wave that was forming in front of me and had plenty of speed to catch up with it and drop down the front. So I duly caught up with it and Another photo of Al at Dumpsdropped down the front, then unhooked and carved into a bottom turn only to find there was absolutely no wind. I turned back into the wave but then had nothing left in the sail to help my top turn. I felt the board rise up as the wave came underneath me and then I felt the board drop back down the back of the wave, absolutely powerless to do anything about it – the wind had just disappeared completely. I then spent the next five minutes trying to find some wind to waterstart or drift me into the beach without any of the other waves crashing down on my sail. While I was becalmed I could see Neroli slightly further out suffering from an equal lack of wind.

That spelt the end of the day's sailing for me – I didn’t fancy sailing a sinker in cross off shore conditions when the wind can drop completely at the drop of a hat. The others hadn’t had so much time while the wind was up, so kept their kit rigged and were rewarded a couple of hours later with some more 6.0m wave sailing conditions as the tide returned, bringing proper waves with it.

While the rest of us had been off sailing, Viv had been dropped with bicycle at one of the riding stables on the peninsula. She had an excellent afternoon cantering up and down the beach through the surf. Unfortunately for her, the bicycle ride back from the stables was uphill and upwind so having started off tired, by the time she was back at the cottage she was stiff from horse riding and totally knackered – a great way to spend a holiday.

Ian Long

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Wed 17th September

It has been really windy overnight. Our Motorhome was parked at Sandy Bay and had been rocking enough to keep me awake, part with anticipation but also to an extent that made it seem possible that we might be blown off the water. Our van is 21’ 6” long and 7’7” wide so parking at some of the beaches in Brandon Bay can be a challenge.

After a quick call to the Big Nomad house had discovered that no one had been evicted that morning to check for best beach I headed to Gowlane. It was wild but it looked to ooffshore and I could see a sail ripping at Stradbally. The sailors already at Gowlane were all of the opinion that it should be Stradbally so desperate to secure a parking slot I shot off after leaving a message at Nomad central.

At Stradbally a Swiss couple were just going out on 4.0’s and I got out my Fanatic Fly with the intention of rigging a 4.0. The early local then came in and it transpired he was on a 4.5 and claimed never to have been overpowered. Decision change time saw me rigging a 4.7.

By now there was a steady stream of Nomads arriving and everyone was into the agony of kit choice. What had started with everyone relaxed thinking it was going to blow it socks off all day and hence no hurry had now dropped to about a force 6 but was not really giving any clue as to what was going to happen during the day. It was also not clear if we should stay at Stradbally or go to Gowlane. All the other sailors arriving from Gowlane did however convince us we were at the correct beach especially as this included some locals.

Eventually we all hit the water including Steve and Viv, which I think, made it the only day all the Nomads sailed together. Frankly the day was a big disappointment for Brandon bay. We had flat water with South coast chop and despite many sailors changing up we all spent most of the time underpowered except when we were overpowered!

It was very gusty with big holes and we spent the morning believing we should have sailed at Gowlane despite the fact that it was obviously the same there. The problem was that you only look elsewhere when you are not planing and, as the wind seemed to be coming through in pulses that meant that it was always windy elsewhere in the bay when we did not have wind. Paying close attention revealed that the opposite was also true. I think most only sailed for a couple of hours before packing up for the day as the wind dropped.

Kit choices ranged from Neroli on her new baby K-Bay on a 4.2 then 4.6 up to Steve on a 6? at the end. Combinations of small board big sail and big board small sail were tried as we struggled to make it an epic day. Sailor of the day was Neroli who was probably the only person who did not have to walk back upwind at some stage despite being on the smallest waveboard.

Special mention should go to Martin who seemed to have recovered enough to carry everyone’s kit back up the beach including complete strangers. (Everyone but mine – but Photo of the group in Ned Natterjack's pubdon’t worry Martin I have forgotten already)!

Evening meal at Ned Natterjack’s that evening.

Adrian Johnson


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Thurs 18th Septemberphoto of Brandon Pier & Brandon Bay

Brandon Pier, as it’s labelled on the map, is not a pier in the normal sense of the word, (Clevedon, Bournmouth etc…). Its actually a harbour and quay that you turn into from a small road that runs the length of the hillside. The harbour is quite small, allowing fishing and perhaps some private boats to be launched and retrieved one at a time up its slipway. The harbour wall is solid stone and an obvious vantage point for local fishermen. Its main attraction though is a pub. At the top of the slip, built from the same stone, is a large building, 2 storey and fairly long. This is Murphy’s Bar and you can tell it's popular by the worn track in the photo of Nora Murphy's Bar, Brandonstone leading up to the bar door.

It came as a bit of a surprise therefore that the pub that four intrepid cyclists (Ian, Neroli, Martin & Al) watered at was 100 yards back up the road. Called O’Shea’s Bar or Mullallys depending upon which window or wall you look at. Also, as this is Ireland these two support barely 20 houses. Lovely!

I am told Martin’s gears demanded some attention and it rained on the way back but all in all the ride, which went all the way to Brandon point, was a success.

We, (Viv, Danny and myself), went to Tralee. The weather was providing no inspiration for windsurfing so retail therapy was in order. I suspect others will have mentioned Irish roads so we got there after 25 minutes of pounding and found a pay & display to leave the car. Tralee town centre is 2 or 3 main shop filled roads with at least one small market square set off to one side. There is a large Tesco’s if you need familiarity but it only takes Euro’s and plastic – no GBP’s here.

Our main task for the visit was to find a Hoody for Dan but on the way we found a small windsurfing shop. By small I mean a counter in a car repair shop….very small. They did have harnesses, the odd board, sail and pulleys and things for other sailors in boats. Not really useful.

On the way back from Tralee we diverted to Scrag End (Scraggane) to have lunch at the very end of the spit. From here we could look back at the beach and spotted Brian and Tony setting up. Quickly driving round to the beach we found these Nomads about to attempt a trip to one of the islands to check out the archaic beehives, despite the appalling lack of wind. After a small snappy rope problem Brian had his 7 metre rig and AHD ready to go. Tony had his Cat (with large dagger board attached) and 7.5 metre sail and both set off for the island. Later we learned that Brian did not quite make it but Tony got a big buzz from the beehives…..

photo of Brian & Tony's meal

A short time later and back at the house we found that Joy went for a walk down the beach and came back after some time a little damp but refreshed. Brian & Tony excelled themselves in the preparation, serving & subsequent demolishing of an excellent rendition of an Irish stew.

As it was our wedding anniversary, Viv and I had a meal at Ned Natterjacks (we were here last night). If you ever come here, try the fish platter: Its enormous and brilliant. We had dessert at Spillanes and wandered back to the house. The Brian & Tony feeding frenzy was over and the card games ongoing, the meal having done the trick. Bed called, the end of another nearly windless day.

Steve Powell.

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Friday 19th September

The day started with a surprise, Dan up and more-or-less coherent before 09:30. Dan takes after his mother in the getting out of bed department, obviously with the typical teenager's (sorry Dan - that should be 'adult') flare for exaggeration, he is worse than I am! Since he finished his 'A' Levels in June we have rarely seen him before 11:00 am.

Sadly, though Dan was up early, the wind was not and breakfast was a very relaxed affair. We came back to a conversation, started by Brian, about how much windsurfing kit we had each brought with us on holiday. This conversation ended up with us spending some time unloading all our boards and sails and arranging them on the grass in front of the cottage for a mega photo shoot.

This activity was not as straightforward as it sounds; there was a surprising amount of kit there, especially when we included surfboards and body boards. The Powell contribution, 4 boards and 6 sails, between three of us, was relatively modest in comparison with some of the others. Another difficulty was hundreds of midges, each and every one determined to eat all of us alive; I didn't think to bring bug spray, usually reserved for places like Egypt.

photo of People and kit
photo of Nerds Anonymous

Photo Shoot!

NA Meeting in the Dining Room

The mammoth photo shoot was then followed by an NA (Nerds Anonymous) meeting, in the cottage dining room. This involved 3 PCs and the discovery of complete incompatibility between USB connectors and software for the same brand of camera (I'd like to say this was unexpected, but not even I am that naive when it comes to computers). Finally data transfer of 100's (I exaggerate, perhaps 10's) of photos was complete between all PCs, with CDs for those who'd carelessly forgotten to bring them. I'll spare you the details but, as is usual with computers, it involved lots of juggling with all sorts of technology, including flash memory cards, a USB memory stick, a CD rewriter and numerous cups of tea and coffee.

Eventually we got around to going out for the day, going off in several different directions to start with, but all eventually ending up at Gowlane. Al, Martin and Joy went to Jamie Knox's 'Internet Café', not necessarily simultaneously. Al got the promise of wind on Sunday and Monday from both Theyr and Windguru and decided to join Brian and Tony and stay a little longer.

We three departed for Scraggane to checkout the wind there; local conditions can vary a great deal around Brandon Bay so it is always worth a look. Sadly we were greeted by smooth water and a beautiful day, so gave up thoughts of windsurfing went to join the others.

When we reached Gowlane Ian, Neroli, Tony, Brian and Joy were already surfing so Danny joined them, the surf was up even if the wind was not. Martin snoozed in the car, Steve and I went for a stroll down the beach as far as Kilcummin and Al went in the opposite direction as far as Stradbally. On our stroll we saw gliders at the end of the beach waiting for the tide. They were still there a while later, when we drove to Brandon point. It was late afternoon and we were back at the cottage before we finally saw them taking off and flying around the local area. Circuits and bumps over water, hairy, I'd rather them than me!!

We rounded off the day with tea at Spillanes bar and later back to the cottage for a valiant attempt to finish off the three polypins of beer before our last day: we failed!

Viv Powell

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Saturday 20th September - the quitters
The Final Day For some!

This was our final morning at Primrose Cottage which had served us Nomads very well over the past week. An early start was called for, as we needed to be out by 10am with all possessions packed and, in some cases, crammed back into the associated vehicles. However, having packed most of Ian and my possessions the previous evening, we could both enjoy the luxury of tea and coffee in bed, unlike the others. Even Danny was seen downstairs by 8:30… a first I think!

Unfortunately we were not to be blessed with wind for our last day, although the surf was up at Gowlane. However this wasn’t that appealing in misty drizzle and we decided to head for Inch, hoping that the weather was better on the other side of Dingle peninsula.

We left Tony, Brian and Al at Gowlane contemplating how they were going to fill their day. They would not be returning with us on the ferry, instead they had all decided to extend their holiday until Wednesday – mutter, mutter, mutter… I’m not jealous at all… much! Tony and Brian had logged on to the wind guru web site the night before and seen that wind was predicted for late Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. As a result the three of them promptly booked themselves into a B&B right next to Spillanes, so no prizes for guessing where they will be spending their evenings!

We also parted company with Martin and Joy as they were heading for Dublin to meet up with friends. This left only the Powell clan to keep us company on the ferry. The nomad numbers would be halved for the return crossing and the number of vehicles reduced from 6 to 2.

When we got to Inch, the conditions where much the same as at Gowlane except the surf was a lot smaller. We decided instead to take the scenic route to Killarney and do the tourist bit, just as Steve, Viv and Danny planned. However our plans changed on route as the rain cleared up and the cloud level started to rise. Instead, we opted to drive round the Ring of Kerry to the west of Killarney.

We stopped at Waterville and eat our lunch in the van over looking Ballinskeling Bay. After lunch I took over the driving to give Ian a rest and allow him enjoy the views. This ended up bad planning on my behalf as I soon found we were travelling along the narrowest, windiest part of the route. I have only driven the ‘new’ van twice before and it is both longer and wider than its predecessor. I hadn’t travelled more than two miles before I found the roads ‘narrowing’. However the landscape was spectacular… and Ian only had one heart stopping moment, although there wasn’t much room on my side either! We would definitely recommend this circuit as the views were fantastic with plenty of rocky outcrops, a few sandy coves and plenty of hills/mountains, although not very good for launching a windsurfing board.

We eventually arrived at Cork around 5pm, a couple of hours before boarding. At the picnic site we spotted the Powell automobile; they had arrived only a few minutes earlier having just eaten dinner at a Little Chef on the outskirts of Cork. Unfortunately they then had to watch Ian prepare and cook spaghetti bolognaise for our dinner and very nice it was too. We did however manage to ease this situation by providing Steve & Viv with wine glasses and a corkscrew so they could relax with a glass of wine, or two. Steve also spent time pondering where they could fit a kitchen into their already over packed car.

There was one advantage to having no wind on the last day, in that the ferry crossing was very smooth. A fact much appreciated by Ian, although I know he would have dearly sacrificed this for a good days sailing!

In conclusion we had a brilliant holiday, we had wind & wave on 4 days and waves only on a further 2 days. The largest sail I used was a 5.3m and I even got to sail my new purple wave board twice!


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Saturday 20th September - the hanger's-on

After the others had begun their scenic journeys back to the ferryport, Brian, Tony and myself drove around to the B&B which we had arranged the previous evening, right next door to Spillanes, practically crawling distance! We were greeted by our hosts Eleanor and Mossie. We were provided with a cup of tea and a cake, a very nice welcome. Mossie sat with us and we chatted for quite some time about a wide range of topics, including the weather, politics and Tony Blair, the euro and oil usage!

At about midday I noticed that the rain had stopped and the sky was clearing over towards Brandon. So having put the world to rights (!) we set off to do a walk up towards Brandon Mountain, a very scenic walk I did last year. At the small carpark on the lower slopes of the Mountain we had some lunch before beginning the climb. Views back over Brandon Bay soon appeared and a good-sized swell could clearly be seen rolling in. We climbed through some low cloud on the way up. I had thought that we would probably only get as far up the mountain as I had done last year, when I gave up on the final ascent due to a bruised ankle. But as we reached this point again, Tony and Brian seemed keen to carry on to the summit, so after a short rest we went for it. The climbing now was more vertical with some sections quite a scramble, requiring use of hands to hold on, but there was no turning back now!

About 45 minutes later we reached the top of the steep section and could see over the photo of Tony, Brian & Al on top of Brandon Mountainother side, which was quite an amazing sensation. There was then just a short climb along the ridge to the summit, for some truly spectacular views out to the Blasket Islands and across to Brandon Bay, with some incredible cloud formations. It had taken 2 ½ hours to climb to the top and we stopped for a short while for refreshments, before starting the descent.

After we had scrambled down the steeper bit, we looked up to the ridge and noticed that the clouds had started to roll down the mountain, so our timing was spot on! The cloud then caught us up for a while, then we eventually came through it to have the great views restored. We arrived back at the car after a 1 ½ hour descent and we all had very tired legs!

In the evening the energy reserves were replenished with a meal at Ned Natterjacks, where later on a live band was playing.

Al Donald

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Sunday 21st September

The morning forecast was for force 3 of 4 by afternoon, less than previously expected. Brian and Tony took a walk from the B&B out to Scraganne Harbour.

I got a paper and went up to Scraganne beach to wait for the wind. The others arrived and Tony started rigging a 7.5m sail, with the intention of sailing out to the Maharee islands. The wind was only force 2, but I decided to rig my big kit and join him. Tony sailed to the nearest smallest island, and then I think he planned to go on to the large island some distance beyond. However with such a light wind I didn’t want to head off too far downwind so I aimed for Illauntannig, the island which has the ancient monastic site on it. I was able to sail directly into the small beach there on a close reach.

After a brief look around I set off again to see where Tony had got to. As I sailed clear of the island there was no sign of Tony, and the wind was beginning to drop so I decided to head back to Scraganne. I then noticed Tony appear from behind the far side of Illauntannig. The wind then almost completely died and I only just made it back to the end of the beach at Scraganne. However Tony was struggling to get back and he eventually washed up at the harbour slipway. Brian drove round to collect him and return him to his car. Tony then drove round to collect his kit.

Dinner was at Spillanes, and an early night taken, with the expectation of strong winds the next day.

Al Donald

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BIG Monday, the 22nd.

Big Monday - Brian’s view

Never seen, in real life - let alone sailed in such huge waves - some up to mast high. No good thinking too much about what can go wrong - just go for it.

How you could have managed to get out, if the wind was too much on or off shore I don’t know. Cross shore wind was the only direction that made getting out possible for us mere mortals, giving you maximum power in the sail and a board pointing directly at the mass of white water.

And what a mass of white water. Sometimes you timed it right and managed to get though the broken waves and get to the outside. Sometimes you cocked up trying to negotiate your way through the white water and sometimes you just plain got wiped out as one reared up right in front. Yes I know that you should spend time and watch for the pattern and select a quieter time to get out – but I couldn’t pick out any real pattern out there, so bugger it, just trust to luck, sometimes it worked, others (the majority) it was wipeout time.

Firing out through the breakers was pure adrenaline. But my lasting memory will be lying in the water on the outside (having fluffed yet another gybe) in the middle of these huge house sized swells that filled the horizon. Swooping towards the beach at motorway speed, welling up as they came towards you to form these huge house sized waves that lifted you up like an express lift as they passed beneath, charging towards the breaker line further in.

Trying to catch the waves coming in proved difficult, probably just as well as my wave riding skills are not that great at Weston in 3-4ft stuff, let alone attempting bottom turns beneath a 12 foot breaking monster. Caught a few of the smaller stuff, but in truth the sailing was short on skill and strong in effort, hope and luck.

The memories are of a special day, probably a once in a lifetime experience. Pure enjoyment – well perhaps not , but for pure adrenaline and excitement and sailing on the edge – YES.

And of course one of those days that will last in the memory and can only improve with time and the telling. Cos I was there and I survived the mast high waves of Big Monday.


Big Monday – Al’s rather different experience!

We left the B&B at about 10.00am and headed for Dumps. As we passed Mossies, we noticed a group rigging up, believed to be Peter Hart’s wave course, however there are several rocks in that area so Dumps seemed the best option.

The wind on the beach was 18-20mph NNW (cross-on) with very large waves rolling in and loads of white water. I decided to rig a 5.0m sail on the F2 Wave, whilst Brian rigged 5.4m on his Fanatic Cross 110 (clearly an inspired decision!) and Tony went with a 5.3m on AHD Wave.

Upon launching the magnitude of the task of getting out the back became all too clear, not helped by a very severe side rip. My first attempt to break through the surf ended in an uncontrolled jump followed by a fall, then the realisation that there was no wind in the shore-break because of the waves shielding the wind. There was no chance of waterstarting and so I was left at the mercy of huge crashing waves, which were much larger than I had ever experienced, and eventually washed me up the beach.

Brian and Tony had more success and managed to punch through and get out to what looked like some awesome conditions, with the waves breaking even well offshore. I had another attempt with very similar (and wet) results.

Some time later, Tony came ashore having put a rip in his sail. He decided to de-rig and go back to the B&B to try to repair it, not having a suitable alternative sail for the conditions. Whilst washing off the sail before applying some repair tape, Tony got into another rather long conversation with the landlord, Mossie, involving various topics including the late Princess Diana! The task of repairing the sail therefore took a little longer than expected!

I made the possibly risky decision to change up to a 5.5m, in the hope of a bit more power to get through the shore-break. I waited for a set of smaller waves to come through and quickly jumped on, hooked in, got feet in straps and went for it. Suddenly a huge wall of water appeared out of nowhere and I had no time to slow down, so I was launched skywards and then fell into the void on the other side and landed the board tail first but with no chance of staying on. I was then once again at the mercy of the next wave as it broke on top of me. The kit was wrenched from my grasp, after the wave had passed I managed to catch up with it and grabbed the rear footstrap. Then almost immediately the next wave crashed on top of me and I was held under for what seemed an eternity but was probably about 4 seconds. My relief at having survived the pummelling was then tempered when I noticed that the mast had broken, so that was game over. A few more rinse cycles later I washed up ashore and then saw that the sail luff was also ripped and the mast was sticking through.

I derigged and thought I ought to replace the mast so I took a trip to Jamie Knox’s shop. I was planning to upgrade my masts anyway next year, but unfortunately the credit card took a bit of a battering! The shop suggested a sail repairer in Castlegregory, who could repair the sail overnight, so that was worth doing, just in case I needed a 5.5m the next day (optimistic perhaps!).

I had agreed to meet Brian and Tony at Scragganne, as the wind was still howling and I was determined to get some sailing in. The wind was directly onshore at Scragganne and there was still quite a large swell rolling in. We could see waves breaking over the Maharee Islands so they must have been huge waves out there.

Brian was first out on the same kit as earlier and he had a few wipe-outs trying to launch in the heavily dumping shore-break, before getting out. Tony also went out using the now repaired sail.

My new mast was immediately pressed into service with a 5.0m sail and the F2 Axxis, and I finally got back on the water at 3.45pm. With the water quite rough and with the large swell, I found that I was going a bit too fast for comfort (to say the least), so I soon changed over to the wave board and wow, what a difference! I now had excellent control and just the right speed, and felt able to go for some jumps off the swell. These were almost perfect ‘bump and jump’ and ‘maxed’ conditions and in some way compensated for the adventures of the morning.

Later the wind dropped slightly, so I changed back to the Axxis for a bit more blasting and jumping. A few fluffed gybes were a good excuse to practice some clew-first waterstarts, but eventually after getting in a few ‘dry’ gybes I had to go ashore, utterly shattered and I collapsed on the beach to get my breath back. A truly amazing day!

An evening meal at Ned Natterjacks again was followed by a visit to the ‘Green Room’ pub at Scragganne, which as the name implies, consists of a room painted, er, green! (and not much else).

photo of "Big Monday" at Dumps

The photo shows the surf at Dumps, unfortunately taken with a wide angle lens, but if you look closely you can see a windsurfer just to the left of the centre, on a wave of approximately mast height, and there are several other boards beyond and to the right (honest!).



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Tuesday 23rd September

A trip out to Kilcummin beach revealed a light onshore breeze of force 2/3, not quite enough to warrant launching, particularly as the surf was still quite large at about 8 to 10 feet and dumping!

I walked along the beach towards Fermoyle and after a while an air-sea rescue helicopter flew low overhead and then landed near the beach. Two four-wheel drives then came past me along the beach at high speed, and I also noticed a lifeboat in the bay. As I approached I noticed an ambulance and then some people were attempting to retrieve an upturned dinghy from the water. I then saw someone being carried into the ambulance. I decided not to go any closer (not sure why), but walked back. Later in the evening I heard that a fifty year old father-of-three had drowned, having launched his dinghy from Tralee presumably to go fishing, and had capsized in the big swell. A sobering thought.

Some time later we decided to go back to Scraggane, and try to get afloat on big kit. As we parked up, Peter Hart’s group also arrived and proceeded to run through some moves on the beach, including table-top jumps! Brian and Tony were rigged first and went out but almost immediately the wind dropped completely, and so having just rigged I then photo of Stradbally Strandde-rigged again!

Later Brian cycled out to Brandon Point whilst Tony did some surfing at Stradbally. I did another walk along the beach from Stradbally.

Back at the B&B, I had a surprise when who should we meet, but Caroline Radway - Veterans of our Moon Beach trip in 2001 will remember her as she was doing the admin. at Gybemasters. She was also on the Cribby course at Brandon Bay which Martin and myself attended last year. She was there on a two day trip with a friend from Broadhaven. It was amazing how many people from that course last year were in Ireland again this year: we also met Thomas & Andrea (from Switzerland) at various beaches and Tim at the Stradbally day. Dinner was (predictably) at Spillane’s.


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Wednesday 24th September

After saying our goodbyes to our hosts at the B&B we headed to Dumps to take a look, but once again the wind was too light, although there were some very nice waves of 3-4 feet coming in.

We decided to start our journey home, taking a scenic route (I suppose they’re all scenic in that region!). We drove to Killorgin and then on to Kilarney on what is known as the “Ring of Kerry”, and parked at Ross Castle on the shores of Lake Leane.

We unloaded our mountain bikes and took a short ride around the shore-side tracks from where we could see Carrauntohill the highest mountain in Ireland, as well as various views across the lake, and had a brief look around the outside of the castle before loading the bikes back on.

We set off again following a loop round to Kenmare following a very twisty road through dramatic landscapes. We stopped at a viewing point known as “Ladies View” and had refreshments at the café there.

We had planned to stop to refuel before getting on the ferry, so delayed until reaching the last service station just outside Ringaskiddy to make the most of the favourable exchange rate. However there were some roadworks on the last stretch, which meant we were queuing for some time and I was getting very low on petrol. The warning light came on and I was anxiously watching the trip computer telling me how many more miles I could do before running out. Then with much relief I spotted the petrol station ahead. I reckon I only had about another 5 minutes fuel at the crawling speed we were going! A close call indeed!

When we eventually got on the ferry, we had a meal in one of the restaurants, washed down with a couple of bottles of red wine (on special offer!). A smooth crossing (thankfully!) permitted a decent night’s sleep at the end of a fantastic week and a half of windsurfing, cycling, mountain climbing, eating and drinking!


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This page last updated: 3rd Sep, 2021.