2009 Back to the Kingdom

Back to the Kingdom 2009.

(subsequently renamed ‘To Wherever and Beyond”)which started from the Roundstone Maritime Festival in Connemara, but thanks to contrary winds ended up nowhere near the Kingdom of Kerry, instead voyaging via Clare Island and Inishboffin to Mayo.)

A report for the Inisboffin Times;

Ar Ais Chun na Ríochta

The trip organised for 2009 had intended to make the Blasket Islands as its destination after taking part in the Roundstone Festival on July 18th and 19th. The title(above) chosen for this year’s trip reflected two things: the return to Kerry where the boat was originally built by Eddie Hutch in Dingle and also to reflects the spiritual side of things and the Spirit of St Colmcille which has significance for individuals on the crew.

However, prevailing and persistent winds from the south-west meant that going south to Kerry via the Aran Islands would be a tough row and the decision was made to go with the wind which turned out to be a very good decision. Once over the disappointment of not getting to where we hoped to get we enjoyed several days of fantastic sailing which is somewhat of a rarity on the boat as most times the wind is not suitable. The currach can only really sail if the wind is astern of her and from Roundstone to Inisboffin we certainly had that.

The boat performs very well under the two square sails which drive her along and we sailed at 7.5 knots in a fresh breeze which is exhilarating in such a boat. The decision to go north with the wind was a good one not only because of the sailing but also because we got to see islands that we might not necessarily get to see. Normally on trips we are committed to being somewhere at a certain time and we are not at liberty to do as we please. This year we were not constrained and enjoyed the opportunity to get to Inisboffin, Clare Island and Inisshark( which we visited to have lunch on). The only downside to the trip was that we only had a week to enjoy the hospitality of the island around the Galway and Mayo coast and we sailed into Westport across Clew Bay at 5.5 knots on Friday 24th July.

The crew genuinely loved the chance to go from island to island and we much prefer to go into small places where local people are always helpful and accommodating. The Colmcille can draw a lot of interest and has always done so no matter where she goes or whatever country we go to but it was a special trip for us to be on the West Coast of Ireland where the Currach so known and appreciated. The boat had circumnavigated Ireland in 2003 with a boat from the Basque Country in Spain but we did not have the opportunity to take our time and call into the islands.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for their hospitality and assistance especially to Hugh’s taxi on Inisboffin and Charlie and Martin on Clare Island for the use of their vehicles to transport all the gear to the campsites on the islands.

To give some idea of what she has done these are the trips and expeditions which she has undertaken;

Built in 1997 to commemorate the 1400 anniversary of St Colmcille she was blessed at the Cathedral in Derry and launched on the Foyle.

1997-Her maiden voyage was a trip to Tory Island and then she was taken to Iona in Scotland

2000 – She crossed the English Channel in 36 hours from Cornwall to Brittany and took part in the Brest Traditional boat festival

2001 – after wintering in Brittany she accompanied a Breton leather boat all the way down France through the Bay of Biscay to the Basque Country where the two boats were joined by a Basque boat and all three travelled across the North of Spain to Vigo on the Portugese border. Altogether the trip took 8 weeks.

2003 – the Colmcille was taken to Iona again to re-enact St Colmcille’s voyage

2003 – the Basques came to Ireland and both boats left Portrush on the Antrim coast and heading west circumnavigated Ireland in approx 40 days in a trip which was entitled ‘ Navigating Peace’. The Basques returned to Dublin in November for a meeting with the President Mary McAleese in Uras Na Uachtarain(pardon the spelling).

2005 – we transported the Colmcille back to Spain to travel across the north of the country with the Basques where we planted an Irish Yew tree in the town of Guernica.

2008 – we travelled to Scotland for the Dalriada Voyage which took in some Scottish islands and the Mull on Kintyre.

After returning to N.Ireland we had to get the boat back to Iona to take part in a BBC programme with David Dimbelby.

2009 – after a major refit and re-skinning the Colmcille undertook the trip to Galway

She is now ready for more journeys and suggestions are being made about taking her to America, Norway and even Morocco. So in the words of newspaper speak – watch this space.

We will be updating our website later in the year but you can read more about our group and our aims there.

Frank Mongan


Causeway Coast Maritime Heritage Group


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