I left Cork and headed for County Clare on Saturday evening reaching Kilbaha about 9pm. Mark Carmody and Owen Foley were already in place at The Lighthouse Inn and after a couple of pints and a few frames of pool we all hit the hay shortly after 11pm. The others by then were en route, travelling from Dublin, Belfast and Kildare over night to be on the pier in Kilbaha at 5am.
Fortunately I brought a set of earplugs so the all night lock-in at The Lighthouse Inn didn't keep me awake. The same could not be said for Mark and Owen who appeared bleary eyed for breakfast at 4.45am.
We assembled in the dark by Keating's pub at the base of Kilbaha pier, doning our water-proofs and dusting off our bins. By 5.20am we were chugging slowly out of the harbour, after another 10 minutes we were passing along the cliffs below Loop Head as the lighthouse shone its beams out across the open sea.
|5.20am and the boat heads out of Kilbaha|
On we headed as the darkness slowly lifted. In the grey light we could make out the first seabirds, a Fulmar, a single adult Gannet and a Herring Gull. Each inspecting the boat and then moving on.
|6am and the sun shines its first rays|
|European Storm Petrel|
Not long after we were joined by a small pod of Common Dolphin, they joined the boat briefy before getting bored and heading off. Nevermind, as it turned out they were to be another ever present feature of the day. At one stage later in the morning we were joined by huge pod of at least 200 Common Dolphins, wonderful creatures to see so close. At times they were so near you could hear the noise of their blow-holes opening and closing as they broke the surface.
After about 9 miles the skipper announced that we were in about 92 meters of water. The engines were cut and we started chumming. Anthony and Craig had brought a block of frozen chum with them, that was placed in an onion bag and left to drag behind the boat. The skipper also had his own supply. A blue barrel at the back of the boat that contained a vile collection of old rotting fish guts. It smelt like a mix between sewage and chum........."chumage" if you will! But it seemed to appeal to the tubenoses out there. We scooped a good bit into the water and began waiting.
|Mark and Ciaran keep a watchful eye as the chum goes in.|
But at least the birds were there. As I said already very good numbers of Stormies, several Sooty Shears (several of which landed on the surface to inspect our chum slick) and the odd Great Skua also. On the odd occassion a Sooty would make several wide arcs round the boat before not so gracefully crash-landing in amongst a group of Fulmars and helping itself to some chumage.
|A 'graceful' crash-land|
|2nd cy Arctic Skua|
|Chasing a Kittiwake|
|Wilson's Petrel - by Craig Nash|
|All smiles - several of us had just ticked Wilson's Petrel (Front row: Graham Clarke, Craig Nash and Philip Clancy, Back row: Mark Carmody, Anthony McGeehan, Conor Foley, Ciaran Smyth, Steve Millar, Donal Foley, Robert Vaughan and Owen Foley)|
We continued chumming and after several hours had drifted a further 3 miles. At our furthest point we were 12 miles NW of Loop Head. 3 Great Skuas had kept us entertained after the Arctic Skua and Wilson's Petrels. Up close it is clear to see just how bulky and fiercesome they are.
|Bonxie or Great Skua|
|Adult Sabine's Gull|
By now the early start was catching up on us all and the boat was a little quieter as we headed in. But there was still things to see. Apart from the ever present Common Dolphins, a second Minke Whale raised its head briefly as we passed and a Pomarine Skua was seen distantly harassing a raft of floating Manxies.
|Pomarine Skua chases the Manxies|
By about 1pm we docked again at Kilbaha pier, climbing off our boat (Deva) we gathered for a quick group photo to mark the inaugural Kilbaha Pelagic, the first of many we hope.
|The pioneering 'Kilbaha Pelagic' - 13th August 2012|
|Our trusty launch - DEVA|
Thanks to Owen for organsing a great day out and to all the others who made the day so enjoyable!