Achill Island fast..again!
After circumnavigating Achill Island in 2014 with Tim Healy I was really keen to go back and have a go at a solo mission. I have been watching the weather all summer and it looked like it was't going to happen this year. Luckily we finally got decent high pressure over Ireland for the last few days of September. I had one free day in the diary and I knew it was my absolute last chance to have a crack for 2015.
The forecast was near perfect, a very light breeze and small swell exactly what you want. The only concern was the tide window had me starting late in the day and I knew I would have to be bang on target to get back to the start before darkness descended around 8pm.
Last year we had similar conditions but bigger tides and a bit of an epic portage at the end of the trip so I wanted to make some changes to the plan. I was not going to stop at all and intended to take very short breaks for gels and fluids.
Setting off from Achill Sound I was relieved to be on the water. The ebbing tide gave some good assistance as I steamed towards the Bulls Mouth where the tide really picks up. 21kmph was my max speed thorough here, but this easy ride only lasts a few minutes and then its time to get to work and drive the boat on.
As I passed East of Doogort I spotted fins in the water a few hundred yards ahead of me. A big school of Dolphins cruised across my path but didn't hang around to play. I wasn't hanging about myself. I was pushing on towards Saddle Head and the most committing section of the trip. The boat was running well but, I was finding it difficult to find the tidal streams that can give you a nice boost.
After I rounded Saddle Head the swell picked up. It was deep, uniformed ground swell that would make beautiful waves when it reached a beach or reef on the West coast. The cliffs looked amazing in the afternoon sun, towering into the sky. Another school of dolphins passed in front on me.
The halfway point and crux lay in the distance- I could see breaking waves as I approached Achill Head. I wanted to go through the cut to save time and a longer paddle outside. I slowed up to see a set roll through and check it I was going to make it. Edging closer I made a break for it, whitewater left and right I threaded the line and emerged into some bumpy clapatis and glorious sunshine.
I cleared the head and found some settled water. Time for a quick break and a picture before the long paddle East to the finish.
At 7.30pm I closed the circle at my starting point in Achill Sound 6 hours 41 minutes after leaving. 11 minutes off our previous time and a new record.
I am delighted to finish the season with this trip ticked off. Now its time to pack for two weeks sea kayaking in Cornwall.
Kayak- Zegul Sea Rocket
Paddles- Orka Outter
PFD- Kokatat Orbit Tour
Kayak instructor, athlete, business owner and outdoor enthusiast from the west coast of Ireland.
Paddle & Pedal Blog HERE