Early on Monday morning, with the girls still sleeping, we motored down the river to La Palue to take on fuel and water, and to prepare for a longer passage, although we as yet hadn’t decided where. There was laundry to be done and showers to be had so, as soon as breakfast was over, I stepped onto the pontoon to go make use of the marina facilities. I immediately saw a boat arriving, flying an Irish flag.
‘Do ye want a hand with the ropes?’ I shouted, as I dropped the laundry and washing bags. It was then I realised I was being filmed by a cameraman standing in the bow, slightly in front of the man holding the bow line. I tied them on to a shout of ‘Good girl’, and off I went to have my shower.
Twenty minutes later as I returned to the boat, I looked out over the sea and, to my surprise, saw four men rowing a curragh into port, it too bearing an Irish flag. A curragh is a traditional Irish four-man row boat, made of wood covered in tarred canvas, and rowed using flat blade oars. The men from the Irish yacht were all standing on the pontoon, shouting directions to the rowers as to where best to land the curragh along the pontoon, while the cameraman and sound man recorded proceedings for RTE, the national Irish broadcaster.
For the next two days we got to know these men a little bit, and they got to know us. They had departed St. James Gate in Dublin in May, and were following the Camino de Santiago by curragh! Dublin, Ireland to Santiago de Compostella, Spain in the Naomh Gobnait. The voyage may take up to three summers to complete, but already this summer they have advanced farther than expected. An Seachrán is their support vessel, and everywhere they go the crew of both vessels bring traditional Irish music with them, and the hostelries of La Palue were treated to music and song as the crew waited for some fair weather and light winds to complete the next leg of their journey.
It was a real treat for us to meet them, and it reminded me of some other crazy places where I’ve met fellow Irish people. I’ve met the niece of my Nana’s parish priest in Japan, bumped into an old university friend in a pub on the Isle of Skye, hung out with an interesting Cork woman in Bangkok. The oddest such meeting was in 2003 in Arviat in the Canadian Arctic. One day someone told me that a couple of Irish men were staying at the B&B. So I wandered over to The Bayside and discovered that not only were they Irish, but they were from the same county as me – Kildare – and one of them was a postman who delivered the post to Mammy at her place of work. The two were brothers, and had travelled to Arviat to see the northern lights.
I knew at least one person in common with the crew of An Seachrán. I hail from a small island with a relatively small population, some of whom are crazy dreamers who do things like rowing to Spain, just because they can. It’s always fun to meet people from home. Who knows where we’ll next meet the Irish abroad!