A few weeks after celebrating our crossing of the North Atlantic to Ireland it was time to leave our initial landfall at West Cork and make way for Dublin. We put in just to the south of Dublin at Dun Laoghaire marina (Gaelic - pronounced dun leery).
The Dun Laoghaire marina is big with 900 slips but only 30% are occupied by a scattering of power and sail boats. It appeared mysteriously empty and later we learned that many of the boats that were there had their propellers removed! This is the height of the boating season. What's going on?
In 2009, at the peak of the Celtic Tiger Irish economy there was a 3 year waiting list to get into the marina. This extraordinary demand even extended to ferry pontoons. Every boater knows that ferry pontoons are a real pain because you can't just get on and off your boat from the dock. You have to take a ferry (launch) from the dock into the harbor to the pontoon where your boat is tied up. It's like having a moat in front of the door to your home and having to be ferried across the moat to get inside. So something must have gone terribly wrong to flip this intense demand for boat slips around. And it did.
It's the economy stupid! Although this is a boating blog you can't visit Ireland, meet its people and hang out here if you don't get the economy. It's the number one topic in the pubs and that's how you know it's serious - so a wee bit about finance.
In the early 2000's Ireland was the envy of the economic world because of its booming economy and it became admirably known as the Celtic Tiger. But since 2009 the Irish have suffered the classic economic Greek tragedyincidentally so have the Greeks! Years of unsound economic growth fueled by too easy credit and inept government regulation fed the Celtic Tiger a diet that choked it.
The economic plummet was widespread and drastically reduced the standard of living. Then the already culpable government doubled down on its incompetence by guaranteeing the debt of the Irish banks. This made the Irish people responsible for the debts of the reckless financial risk takers. A nice gig if you can get it you as the risk taker borrows from the bank, invests, gets all the gain, but someone else pays your debt off if you "f up". Sweet!
This is why the marina is nearly empty? The risk taker's boats were repossessed by the banks in an attempt to recover some of the boat loans with the balance being paid by the Irish people. Do you know how to get a red haired Irishman to set his Guinness on the bar so he can jump up and down in a rage? Ask him about paying off the loan on a boat he never owned and didn't even get to go fishing on!
You may soothe him a little if you tell him that some of the boats are still in the marina and so they were paid off by the borrower. But the economic bloodletting doesn't stop there. Remember that many of these boats don't have propellers? That's because the props were removed by the marina due to non payment of fees. It's hard to move a boat without a prop.
Today, beneath the grimaces of the financial news some commentators dare suggest there are the first hints of recovery, and Ireland is one of the few bailed out countries in the EU beginning to hit its fiscal targets. Despite the economic troubles the real Ireland are still here. The landscape is ancient, vast and breathtakingly beautiful. The culture, history, drama, music and fondness for the written word (think James Joyce, Oscar Wildeto name a few) are all here. The people are fantastic.
We spent some time off the boat staying in Dublin's center city a few miles away. Dublin is one of Europe's oldest cities and retains its historical culture and charm. It is also wonderfully cosmopolitan and offers trendy bars, elegant restaurants, stylish shops and hotels with super spas. Just what a girl needs after crossing an ocean!
~ Popular Temple Bar district ~
~ Beautiful gardens at The Merrion Hotel, Dublin ~
~ Oh yea, and the people - here's what they do to raise money for cancer research - dust themselves with colored powder and run through tthe streets, collecting at the pubs afterwards. And who sponsers the run? Stain remover Vanish! ~
~ More work for Vanish! ~
~ My little Leprechan :-) ~
Back in Dun Laoghaire, we became friends with Alan Keane, Rear Commodore of The Royal Irish Yacht Club. The RIYC, founded in 1831 is touted to have the first purpose built yacht clubhouse in the world. The club is very elegant and very active. Naturally, we exchanged burgees trading Alan a pennant from the historic Alexandria, Virginia Old Dominion Boat Club!
~ The exchanging of the burgees ~
~ Early photographs of the Royal Irish Yacht Club circa 1835 ~
~ The RIYC today ~
~ The Joneses...and the ODB burgee (upper right) hung in the esteemed RIYC! ~
We bid farewell to Pat and Wayne Davis who valiantly and competently were on board since leaving Newfoundland. They were off to tour Western Ireland before returning home to Houston, TX. We can't thank them enough for their contribution and for sharing in the OP adventures!
~ Wayne and Pat Davis ~
Next to come on board were friends Andy and Carole Keenan who arrived in Dublin from Massachusetts. They own a 54' Formosa sailboat, 'Ob La De', with a dingy named; you guessed it, 'Ob La Da'! They helped us out on the Med Bound trip from Bermuda in 2007 and, more recently moving the boat south to Florida last winter. They are great pub crawlers.
~ Andy and Carole Keenan in Dustafannage, Scotland ~ Argyll Scotland and the Isles
Time to move along, get out the kilts and head for Scotland. Departing Dublin we headed north up the Irish Sea and eventually turned east into the Scottish Sound of Jura. We thought the North Atlantic could be challenging with weather and seastate and then we sailed the Irish Sea. The tides are 10+ feet and flood in around north Ireland to the south, and flood in around south Ireland to the north. Guess what happens when the flows meet! Now throw in some strong wind which is nearly omnipresent and you have a seaman's nightmare.
The bold (nautical speak for steep, rocky, unapproachable) shores of western Scotland are bathed in topographical grandeur. Cruising up the fjord of Jura Sound we saw through the mist sweeping green slopes below rocky hillsides with an occasional small village dotting the shore. These are made up of white washed cottages clustered along the water's edge, and you can be sure there is a pub nestled amongst them. Then there's the sheeplots of sheep. Sheep where sheep shouldn't be! Grazing along steep ridges and along the jagged rocks of the shore side. Very picturesque!
~ Just a sample of the Scottish scenery, white dots are sheep ~
We stopped at the waterside resort town of Oban, home of one Scotland's fine Malt Whiskey's.
~ Oban, Scotland harbor ~
~ Fishing boats in Oban ~
While Carole & Andy explored the area and surrounding islands, we took a train ride to Edinburgh to meet up with Braun's son, wife Angela and two of our eldest grandchildren Will (15) and Julia (12). The highlight of our stay in Edinburgh was the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo that young Braun was lucky enough to score tickets to. Set against the imposing nighttime backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, the Tattoo had a cast of over 1000 that included the best of talent from the British Armed Services and other organizations. The Tattoo was first staged during the austere years immediately following the Second World War when the Armed Forces were asked to make a contribution to lifting the spirits of the British public. It's the Tattoo's 64th seasonand it's deservedly the hottest ticket in town.
~ The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo ~
~ Visiting Koreans at the Tattoo ~
~ Head soldier in the Tattoo, smile please... ~
~ William Wallace meets The Jones Clan, William Braun Jones, Jr., III, IV..! ~
~ Braun, III & Angela photographed with the largest collection of Scotch Whiskey in the world! ~
~ View of Edinburgh (castle in distance) from the Balmoral Hotel, an old elegant train station hotel. Note the tracks running to the base of the hotel ~
After Edinburgh we snatched the kids and boarded the train north for Oban. Then we set off for the Caledonia Canal. Some stats on the Caledonia Canal - its 60 miles long; 38 miles of which are natural lochs (lakes); 22 miles of manmade canal cuttings; 29 locks and 10 swing bridges all of which are operated by Scottish Lock tenders. The canal is a tourist monument and attracts over a half a million visitors each year. It cuts through Scotland along the Great Glen where we entered and exits to the North Sea. This Great Glen fault runs diagonally (SE to NW) through the highlands of Scotland and was formed when two tectonic plates collided shoving masses of the crust southwest toward the Atlantic Ocean. Over time the rift broadened into a glen, and a thin line of lochs now lie along its seam.
What an outstanding way to get an ocean going boat and our home right into the center of the country. This enabled us to experience the villages, scenery and life of the Scottish people up close and personal!
We ran 16 locks in the canal. This required all six of us to turn to - it's real work to navigate the locks! We went as far as Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, reversed our course and redid all the locks again. Loch Ness, home to the elusive Loch Ness Monster. The kids were extra careful to lock up the boat at night and one morning we found their cabin door was barricaded.
We were warmly received by Lock tenders and the many folks touring the Caledonia Canal who commented it was nice to see "the stars in stripes" flying in their waters and in their canal. Compare this to for security purposes, not flying our flag in parts of the middle east, the Med., and Southeast Asia.
~ Entering the Caledonia Canal, mountains in mist ~
~ The Jones' locking down in the Caledonia Canal, difference in levels apparent. Note the typical Scottish sky ~
~ Granddaughter Julia handling the lines ~
~ Grandson Will handling the lines ~
~ Portions of the canal are quite narrow! ~
~ The OP at rest in the canal ~
~ Locking down in Neptunes Ladder ~
~ Kids working with the Lock tenders ~
~ The Urquhart Castle overlooking Loch Ness ~
~ The Highlander Cow ~
Eventually our Scottish experience came to a memorable end. The kids were returned to Mom & Dad (great to be a grandparent!) and we set off voyaging back to Dublin. Irish sea again, but by now we are used to it.
In Dublin, a few more pub visits and we bid farewell to Andy and Carole after a whirlwind couple of weeks. We so appreciate their help and flexibility! Although we extended our stay in Dublin we'll soon we'll be setting off for SW England.
~ Captain and crew at Finnegan's Pub in Dalkey, Ireland. In June of this year Michelle O'Bama visited here as a guest of Bono. We learned this from a regular patron in Finnegan's. After buying him a pint he loosened up a bit and asked us what the difference was between God and Bono? We had no idea, so he answered for us "God doesn't think he is Bono."
Hope everyone is enjoying a pleasant end of summer.
~ Seals nearby the boat :-) ~
~ Somebody say fish?? ~
London calling next , Over and out ~
Tina & Braun