Celtic Mist Sanctuary Tour - The final leg: Glandore to Fenit

7th Aug 2016
The final leg of the Celtic Mist Sanctuary Tour promised fantastic coastal scenery, sheltered bays and inlets, beautiful towns and ….. whales ! It was also a personal test as skipper Finbarr O’Connell and Ollie Switzer were joined by the Berrow family, Rónán, Cuan and Muireann and myself and Frances. Seven on a boat for a week. We mobilised in Glandore, after Celtic Mist had been on anchor for a week watched over by Glandore Bay Yacht Club, a beautiful village on the shore of Glandore Harbour. Bunks were chosen, gear stashed and the boat made ship-shape for the arrival of skipper and first officer from Fenit.

Saturday and Sunday 30-31 August

Two beautiful sunny days taking local IWDG members and volunteers out to look for whales.  Celtic Mist is a solid platform and Wiliam Helps and Calvin Jones, who have both made great contributions to IWDG over the years, bought their young families with them, joined by Padraig Whooley and Lorraine with their young whalewatchers, Reuben and Amber and Daniel Lettice, who resisted bringing his young baby ! (next time Daniel). After less than 2 hours we found two fin whales around 7nmls offshore, and stayed with them for around 30 minutes, the first sighting of this species on the Sanctuary Tour. Common dolphins and minke whales were also sighted but we missed a small group of Risso’s dolphins off Adam and Eve which would have been nice to see and photograph.  While under sail we deployed the hydrophone to show one of the advantages of a sailing vessel, moving quietly through the water and listening for whistles and clicks.


As we came alongside Union Hall in the early afternoon on Sunday (skipper wanted to watch Kerry beat Clare !!) we joined an RNLI  family day and had plenty of visitors to Celtic Mist, interested to see the famous vessel and learn about the work of the IWDG. Finbarr and Ollie are RNLI stalwarts in Fenit, so caught up with many of their colleagues from west Cork. That evening we sailed to Baltimore via Castletownshend, arriving at night, navigating by lights on a calm sea and balmy night, this is what it should be like.

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Bank Holiday Monday …. Rain !!

The rain lashed down outside as we were tied up to Baltimore Harbour, exposing all the leaks in Celtic Mist. Skipper Finbarr had to vacate the skippers cabin as it has the worse leaks ! More jobs to do when Celtic Mist returns to its home berth of Fenit after this 25th Sanctuary Tour. There was no chance to get out to try and photograph humpback whales that were reported off Baltimore the previous day. However we bumped into some, Henry Lupton and Pascal were out training Gavin Henneghan, who is rowing across the Atlantic in December, because .... you can !!

Monday afternoon we sailed to Schull in the pouring rain, it felt like we were on the Arc ! Calves week was starting in Schull with nearly 100 yachts down for the week long racing competition. Celtic Mist managed to get alongside the pier thanks to the generosity of the local fishers.

Calves Week, Schull

What a spectacular sight, a flotilla of yachts heading out to start racing. We watched the start of the first two races before the long sail to Valentia. There was strong winds forecast on Thursday and for the weekend, so if we were going to make Fenit before the latter, we had to make progress and today was the day to break the back of the journey. Around 10 hours was required to make the 50nmls journey, the sea was confused, a swell was building and the passage around Mizen Head not comfortable. Cuan and Muireann lay on their sleeping bags in the wheelhouse sliding back and forth enjoying a temporary slide, and cleaning the floor at the same time.


Small groups of common dolphins bow rode Celtic Mist periodically but no other sightings were made. A brief respite from the rolling seas was had in Dursey Sound as we sailed under the cable car and with the wind know on our side we made an extra knot, bringing Valencia 40 minutes closer.

Wednesday 3 August – Knightstown, Valencia Island

After the pounding from Schull a day’s recovery in Knightstown was welcome. A kids water camp in the harbour was full of screaming, splashing young people who were delighted with the Sanctuary Poster produced by IWDG for the tour. The children and parents visited Celtic Mist together with colleagues from Valencia RNLI and other visitors and locals to this lovely and historic town. Muireann loved having people visiting the boat and happily showed all the younger ones where she slept and the heads (toilet).


Maude Delap lived here in the first half of the last century, studying jellyfish and she would have had a great day as there were many different species seen from the pontoons, including Pelagia noctiluca, the mauve stinger and barrel, blue and the most abundant moon jellies. That evening we were treated to another visit, this time from the “Resistance” as Kerry County Council had organised an outdoor cinema showing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We donned full sailing gear to huddle behind the old church as the wind howled with occasional showers…..

 the (IWDG) Force Awakens .....

4-5 August, Ballydavid, Smerwick Harbour to Fenit

It had been over 20 years since Celtic Mist had visited Ballydavid at the head of Smerwick Harbour, according Sean O’Conhubair of Tigh TP bar on the pier. The journey through Blasket Sound was lovely but no sightings of blubber only seals and seabirds that breed on the islands. Lunch on anchor off Trá Bán ... lovely.


Celtic Mist tied up to the pier as the tide was high for a few hours to let people onboard before we headed out to anchor for the night. Ronan was delighted as he loved running us back and forth to the pier in the small RIB we have onboard as a tender.  The following morning, after an hours fishing for mackerel we headed off under the shadow of Mount Brandon on the short journey (5 hours) to Fenit.​

Celtic Mist off Ballydavid

“Hopefully we will see some bottlenose dolphins in Brandon Bay” I suggested to Finbarr as we had carried out a number of surveys of the area on Celtic Mist in 2013. Finbarr sailed a line between the headland and the Maharees and on cue, 30-40 bottlenose rode the bow for 20 minutes as we crossed the bay giving us plenty of opportunities to photograph and film them. These were Shannon dolphins, who regularly use Brandon and Fenit Bays in the summer.


A fitting end to a lovely week. We didn’t see as many whales and dolphins as we might have hoped but met lots of lovely and interested people who are interested in our work. Celtic Mist is a great ambassador for the IWDG if we can continue to get it out around the coast with members onboard recording and visiting our coastal communities. Big thanks to Finbarr and Ollie for their great company and tolerating the Berrow family through good and bad moments ….


“I love sailing” says Rónán, “so this was a great experience for me especially sailing between the islands as it gives a great sense of adventure”.

Simon Berrow

Images Simon Berrow and Frances Bermingham

the Berrows (- Frances who took the picture)


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