A paddle around Dursey Island needs a little bit of thought, but not too much organization, or at least that was the plan.
So I decided the organisation would be social media and posted up that I wanted to go to the Calf rock, I have always been intrigued by that cast iron lighthouse structure and the story of the men stranded for a week or so after it was knocked over by a “Tidal Wave”. After half an hour on the web I had a bite from a certain cheesy fellow from the neighbouring village of Eyeries, Quinlan Steele who from then on in my mind was Jasper Steele as was I Richie Winn… Quinlan runs the successful cheese business which is Milleens “by order of….” but more importantly a local volunteer to the Castletownbere Coast Guard (We would be saved in the event of a miss hap) we decided to meet up at ten in the morning to paddle our way not only to the Calf Rock but at the same time around Dursey Island, rather that just up and down its south coast.
A day later I had been thinking, thanks to Jasper Winn and his book about paddling around Ireland that maybe we needed to work with the tides and worked out that hopefully setting off two hours before low tide would see a favourable tide going out and then with the turn of the tide the same coming back. IT WORKED, so we left at half two rather than 10 and I have to thank my dive buddy Jason Sheehan for letting me know that “well yes, yee should be OK with that plan but watch out at the end of Dursey Island”
So we were off, I was concerned firstly about going through the Sound, so many local “shtories” about what a trouble that could be, but it was very calm and the current was virtually non existent until we got to the corner where I could certainly feel a pull on the boat, but when around the corner all was good and we paddled, sometimes together often alone along the northern side of the island. Quinlan had been explaining to me when we first met at the pier that it was often nice to paddle alone so that you did not have to talk to your partner, I took him at his word and left him alone, for fek sake in any case what the f..k do I know about cheese, apart from liking eating the stuff. find out here
After a short while we found ourselves at the end of the Dursey, but the end of Dursey Island in a Kayak is not the same as on foot and we had to paddle around what to me was a non existent “end” of the Island, bumping into Tim Murphy who told us the time of day and watched a sailing boat go around towards Sneem or Castlecove. We finally set sight on the Calf Rock, my destination and paddled past the temporary lighthouse station on the very end of Dursey Island.
We set our “bearing” for the Calf, the sea now felt different and to me menacing, I certainly felt that I was in the Ocean and not just paddling along the coast line, there were whirlpools and I could feel the effect of the energy of the sea on my Kayak. I was “intimidated” by being here and thought about the people who paddle across great expanses of water on their own. With only a waterproof radio to get help if needed, I had a mobile phone (which you can’t use with a wet finger) but I also had the local coast guard volunteer. We got to the Rock and it is the tiniest piece of Rock I ever imagine had a manned Lighthouse built on it.
The poor men who were trapped here for over a week after the lighthouse was “knocked” must of been scared shitless waiting for their rescue, the Rock has steps cut into it at many points. Unfortunately and despite the fine day I certainly did not feel like taking the risk of getting out of my kayak to land. I really wanted to visit the Calf but we were there on a low tide and there seemed to be nowhere safe to get out and I did not want to take a dip. Next time maybe. On top of that the big seal on the rock that slipped into the water worried me and Quinlan did not help with his Jaws like stories of dangerous seals humping Kayaks in the water and biting people with dirty teeth that leave infected wounds. I think he had his mark on me by now and was just trying to scare me, and me telling him that I had heard stories about seals scaring divers just helped him to wind me up a bit more on our way back to the mainland “Dursey Island”
Now we were on the homeward leg and I was starving, having not been able to land I had to ask Quinlan to open my rear hatch (oooo errrr) and get my banana and biscuits out which I managed to scoff down fairly quickly. The sea was very calm and we made easy progress towards the villages of Dursey Island getting to the tiny Island slightly separated from Dursey to take a snap of the old Coast Guard station.
We finally got back to the shore after 3.5 hours of paddling, I knew my ankles would be sore but the biggest problem was getting out without falling into the sea as the concrete slipway runs out and everything is slimy green, we made it though with a few laughs and drove back to Allihies for a pint in the aptly ,named Lighthouse bar.
Thanks to Quinlan for coming with me it truly was a “great day out”
I also have stuff on tomyboo.com and balooz.com
An account of the Calf Rock disaster here
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