An account of the ‘Dalriada Voyage 2008’ undertaken by the Portrush based Causeway Coast Maritime Heritage Group, using their 38ft Curragh named the ‘Colmcille’.
The curragh left Ballycastle on July 5th and made for Rathlin where weather demanded a 2 day layover. From here the curragh was rowed to Sanda, a small island off the tip of the Mull of Kintyre which took approximately 10hrs and where weather forced an anchorage on the south end of the island. It was here that the crew enjoyed a wild camp, in a beautiful remote spot. From Sanda they made for Campbeltown on the Mull of Kintyre, where they were very warmly received by the Campbeltown Sailing Club who provided the crew with accommodation at their club. From here they set off to the sound of the bagpipes being played by a group of well wishers and headed for Loch Ranza on the north end of Arran. Unfortunately, bad weather forced them to make an unscheduled stop in Catacol where it was necessary to beach the boat and drag her out of the water. Local people kindly helped the crew as they had endured 36 hrs of rainfall. The boat was moved round to Loch Ranza where again bad weather persisted. This was made more bearable by the efforts of local people where the crew were very happy to exchange wet tents for the comfort of a dry community hall. The crew then made for Tarbert, a journey of 12 sea miles along the Mull of Kintyre on July 11th where they were met by some replacement crew for those who needed to return home.
Again due to unfavourable winds the crew had to stay in Tarbert for 2 days where thanks needs to be given to local people again facilitating the crew with the use of their church hall. From Tarbert it was an 11 mile row to Ardishaig at the eastern end of the Crinan Canal. The journey continued into the canal where the crew had an overnight camp at Cairnbaanand the following day and 11 lockgates later they arrived at the end of the canal on the western side of the Mull of Kintyre ready for the return journey home. However, strong winds meant staying in Crinan for 3 days before conditions were right to make the row across to Jura, a 20 mile row to Craighouse on the southern end of Jura. The intention was to then head for Port Ellen on Islay before moving on to Rathlin and then back to Ballycastle. Unfortunately, the crew again had to wait for a number of days on Jura as the wind was too strong to continue the journey. The crew were not completely upset by this as the welcome bgy the islanders helped make their enforced stay a more comfortable and enjoyable one in the community hall.
The decision was taken to leave the boat on Jura and return home by fast RIB from Ballycastle operated by Aquasports. The Colmcille will stay on Jura for 1 week as she will be taken back to Iona to take part in a BBC documentary on July 29th hosted by David Dimbelby on the introduction of Christianity to Scotland from Ireland.
Causeway Coast Maritime Heritage Group
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