Sorry, this is going to be a long blog. But there should be enough photos to keep you interested :-).
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Wednesday 24th July ’19
I woke up this morning to a soft rain. It was very peaceful, but at the same time, it was a little worrying. I was scheduled to go out on a boat to the Aran Islands and being that I get seasick, I wasn't looking forward to stormy, heavy oceans.
For those who have never gotten seasick, let me tell you the 3 stages of seasickness:
1: You start feeling a little sick, worried and nervous that IT'S COMING!!
2: You suddenly feel so sick, you're worried you're going to die.
3: And then you're feeling so sick, you're worried you're NOT going to die.
With a bit of nervousness, I pack up my campsite and head out to the Doolin Pier. I find the Doolin2Aran Ferries office and check in. Joan Hamilton and I speak over the phone, and get everything sorted out for my trip. 4 years ago, I went out to the Cliffs of Moher with the same company. They ended up licensing some of my images from that trip for one of their brochures. Just over a year ago, they introduced a new boat to their fleet called the Star of Doolin.
The ship has a 200 seat capacity, is long, sleek and comfortable. It runs quietly, smoothly and fast!! But even with the speed, it is the most environmentally friendly passenger cruise ship to operate on the western seaboard of Ireland.
The following is from their blog:
“Doolin2Aran is run by brothers Eugene, PJ, Joe and Donie. The Star of Doolin ticks all the boxes. It can take more passengers than any other ship operating on the western seaboard and operate at twice the speed. It has also been designed with the environment as a core consideration. We’re operating here out of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and it was a priority for us to get emissions as low as possible and we’ve done that.”
I have been on many boats and ships over the years, and all of the above is reality. Not just marketing hype.
The weather was a little rough, with gray, misty, overcast skies, a touch of rain and wind, and choppy waters. Amazingly, not only was everyone comfortable, no-one got to "enjoy" any of the 3 stages of seasickness. In fact, you hardly felt any of the rough weather in the way the boat handled. Obviously, it's not just the boat itself, but also the way the amazing and competent crew finessed the vessel. With grace and ease.
Doolin2Aran Ferries, You guys ROCK!
The next photo, is one of my creations from my trip 4 years ago. I'd love to know what you think in the comments.
Everyone got on board, with the crew helping a couple of elderly and infirm passengers to their seats. And then off we went. We departed the Doolin Pier and passed to the right of Crab Island, and headed out to Inis Oírr (translates as “Eastern Island”. It's not a large island, only 3km by 2km with a population of approximately 250 people. About 30 minutes later, we pulled up to pier and had to wait for a boat from a company called Murphy Transport to unload it's precious life-giving cargo of fresh water. It turns out that there is no freshwater on the island and it has to be shipped in.
A few minutes later, we pull up at the pier and all the passengers disembark. Just in time for the rain to start falling again.
I immediately start photographing the Star of Doolin as it heads back out, and then I help one of the locals carry his heavy suitcases to the horse and carriage "station".
There are many attractions on Inis Oirr – ancient castles, one of Ireland’s most beautiful beaches, a modern playground and several pubs and cafes. I head over to one of the local bicycle rental spots and rent a bicycle and trailer (for my photography gear) to explore the island's secrets. The 2 main attractions I wanted to visit were the Plassey Shipwreck and the Lighthouse. On opposite ends of the Island.
Being that there's a small airstrip on Inis Oirr, while at the bicycle rental station, "Rothaí Inis Oírr, Bike rental", I ask them about getting permission to fly my drone on the island. They very kindly give me the phone number of the operator for the airstrip. I call them up and ask if I'm allowed to fly my drone, and after asking me the usual questions I get from airport towers, like how high I plan on flying, how far from the airstrip and how long I plan on being in the air, with the caveat that if I see any other aerial vehicles, I am to give way to them immediately, they give me permission to fly!! Yeeehaaaawww!!!
I hooked up the trailer to the bicycle, loaded my camera gear up into the cargo area of the trailer and headed off into the wind and rain. Worried that even with permission, I wouldn't be able to fly my drone.
I cycled up and down the small winding roads, exhilarated by the cold wind in my hair, the tantalizing smells of the ocean, the intriguing sights of the stone walls and yes, even the warm caress of the sun starting to peak through the clouds.
With the rain gone, I arrived at my first destination, the Plassey Shipwreck.
MV Plassy, or Plassey, was built as HMS Juliet, a Shakespearian-class naval trawler of the Royal Navy at the start of the Second World War, was launched on October 2nd, 1940 as a mine sweeper, and was sold into merchant service at the end of the war. It operated during the 1950's as a cargo vessel in the Irish Merchant Service.
On 8 March 1960, while carrying a cargo of whiskey, stained glass, biscuits, cookies, modern day toilets and yarn, it was caught in a severe storm and ran onto Finnis Rock, Inisheer, Aran Islands.
Amazingly, and heroically, a group of local Islanders called the Inisheer Rocket Crew, rescued the entire crew from the stricken vessel, an event captured in a pictorial display at the National Maritime Museum in Dún Laoghaire.
Showing the strength of the sea and weather, several weeks later, a second storm washed the ship off the rock and drove it ashore on the island. Different pieces, wheels, compasses, and various parts of the ship were taken by many as souvenirs and reminders of the rare event.
After flying my drone here, and being warned off by the one of the horse and carriage drivers for potentially spooking the horses, I carried on to the next location on my planned agenda, the Inis Oirr Lighthouse, which is a sea light on the southernmost extremity of the chain of Aran Islands and guides ships and boats into the southern entrance of Galway Bay. In 1978 it became automated and the lighthouse attendant lives in a cottage about 2km from the lighthouse.
I headed back to the Inis Oirr Pier with very little time to spare to catch my return boat back to Doolin, with a side trip to the Cliffs of Moher. By the time I returned the bicycle and trailer, and thanked the young lady who kindly gave me the airstrip information number, I almost missed my ride back. I was the last person back on board, and about 15 seconds later, we cast off. Whew!
Needless to say, the views from the base of the Cliffs of Moher were awe-inspiring, and made me feel so small and insignificant in nature's whole scheme. I was enthralled watching the puffins as they literally ran on the top of the water to get away from the boat, I delighted at the waves teasing the rocky shore, and soared with the seagulls as they floated effortlessly in the thermal air currents.
After spending awhile under the spell of the dizzying 700' heights of the Cliffs, we headed back to Doolin Pier.
I was again able to get my drone in the air and capture video and photographic footage of the amazing Star of Doolin as it headed back out, steaming (not literally, just a literary license) on to it's next voyage and port of call.
I managed to get the drone down about 15 seconds before the heavens opened up in a roaring deluge of stormy wetness.
I left Doolin Pier and Doolin2Aran Ferries with mixed feelings. I had a heavy heart, leaving such beauty, but also with excitement for my future travels. Knowing that one day, hopefully soon, I will be back to visit again.
So, off I went to my next destination. On the way, I went up and past Doonagore Castle, which at present is a private holiday home, inaccessible to the public. It was likely built around 1570, and was owned by Sir Donald (or Donnell) O'Brien of the O'Brien dynasty.
After spending some time flying my drone and photographing the Castle, I pushed on to the top of the Cliffs of Moher, and got to cycle around the top, photographing the Cliffs, sea stacks, and the cave from the 6th book in the Harry Potter series, The Half Blood Prince. And then, I look down, and what do I see? I see the Star of Doolin in the ocean below me and at the foot of the cliffs. So I guess I was right, I got to "visit" them again, soon, even if it was from up on high. Unfortunately, it is illegal to fly drones at the Cliffs of Moher. So, other than the first image below which was taken from the Doolin Pier, there's no aerial footage.
Another photo creation of mine from a few years ago. This is a composite of the Cliffs of Moher photographed 4 years ago, and a squire riding a horse that I photographed at a Renaissance Faire in Florida about 3 years ago.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
After a heavy day of boating, cycling, and being rained on, I got back on the road, and headed off to Galway to a friends house for supper. It was so good to have a delicious home-cooked meal. I left their house at around 8:00pm, journeyed on past Galway and after calling every campsite in the area with no luck at finding a spot, I finally managed to find a camp ground called Spiddal Mobile Home Park. Even though it was very late, and they had closed their office, they very kindly told me to just find a spot, and camp for the night. I could settle up in the morning. So, in the pouring rain, I set up camp, and a little wetter than I wanted to be, but way too tired to care, I finally climbed into my sleeping bag, put my head down on my pillow, and was asleep before I closed my eyes.