Stuck in the middle of the Bay and lobster for tea

We had a lobster for supper last night but not before the boat got stuck in the middle of the bay and we had to be rescued by Tommy.
In the morning the black arrow of the barometer moved from rain to change for the first time during the holiday. The waters were still and we decided to motor across the bay to Carberry Island to see if we could see any seals. It took a while to get the engine started but eventually it kicked into life.
It takes about 25 minutes to motor across the bay. As we got closer we could see the grey shape of the seals on the rocks. They flopped into the water as we slowed down and their heads bobbed in the water as we passed watching as if to say – what are you doing here? If we got too close they dived, some of them flicking their tale in the air with quick splash, to reappear and few moments later still watching us.

We turned back with the intention of stopping near Owen Island to try and catch some mackerel for lunch. About halfway across the bay the engine cut out. No matter how hard I pulled and what buttons I pressed there did not seem to be anything to be done to get it started. Some of the sails had been taken off the boat to make for easier motoring so we unshipped the oars and started to row.
We were opposite Kilcrohane Castle and I knew it would take a good few hours to get back. I had seen Tommy’s boat, Freedom, head back to the pier and I guessed he would still be around. So I called up Kristen, who was still in the Cottage, and asked her to speak to Tommy and see if he could pick us up.

Ten minutes later we saw the blue shape of his boat coming out Kitchen Cove. Whilst we waited we threw a line over the side and quickly caught seven mackerel. It took Tommy another few minutes reach us, I was able to get a line to him and he hauled us back to the mooring periodically cheering us up with thumbs up sign.
He took the children back to the pier whilst we tidied up the boat and cleaned away the mackerel blood. Before he’d come out he had passed over to Kristen a monster lobster which she had put in a bucket in the garage.  Later she confeesed that she had been tempted to put it back into the sea.

That evening I cooked the mackerel on the barbeque. I did nothing to them at all apart from gutting them down by the rocks. They were delicious tasting of nothing but themselves.

The lobster was almost too big for the pan and fought to avoid being plunged headfirst into the boiling water. The eating of him was tinged with guilt as we talked of his great age and the number of years that he must have survived hiding amongst the rocks at the head of the bay.

We listened to Exile on Main St.

Lunch in Schull and collecting cheese

The weather was grey and restless again so we decided to go to Schull. In anticipation I had half made an arrangement to pick up a consignment of cheese and sausage from Gubbeen.  As we pulled out of the orchard it started to rain, throwing it down, pelts of water smearing the windscreen.
On the drive up Mount Gabriel the rain got heavier until we reached the road that goes over the top when it seemed we had risen over the level of the rain filled clouds and the weather started to slacken. As we drove into Schull the rain stopped altogether and sun was out over the islands of Roaringwater Bay lighting the white breakers that crashed on their black rocks.

Having been to Hackett’s on our last visit to Schull we were now promised to the Fish’n’Chip Shop on the Pier. Hackett’s looked tempting though and there were empty tables inside when we walked past. I saw my friend with the ginger moustache standing in the doorway of another pub on the Main Street. In the window of the estate agents there were houses for sale. There were bargains to be had “99,000Euros for a two bed- roomed house looking over the sea on an 3 acres of good land. May need some work. All connected”. There was a life for when the children leave home.

Before going down to the pier I went to the fish shop and picked up some prawns and then to the butchers for steak. We would be eating well in the evening.
There was an end of season feel about the Fish’n’Chip Shop. The summer will be coming to an end on the weekend and they would be closing until next year. They were out of rose wine and scampi – which four of us wanted. So we settled for half a dozen oysters and calamari and chips, monkfish and chips and fish and chips. All to be washed down with a bottle of Muscadet.

We sat on tables in the sun and admired a boat that was for sale on the quay. Its merits and those of a ribcraft were debated. I still went with blue boat on the quay. I thought it would look good tied up on the pier and I am sure that with a big enough engine it would go fast enough for the speed freak in the family.

The food came.  Great punnets of chips loaded with whatever fried fish we had ordered.  We wolfed it back watched over by crows that stood patiently on the lines over our heads.

After lunch we drove to Gubbeen along the coast road to Toomore and Golleen. The road passed through green fields before dipping into a small valley and a gathering of trees. There was a sign for Gubbeen House. We drove up the narrow lane to the farmhouse. There was no one about but a troupe of chickens wandered near the front door and the green lawn was bathed in sun.

Eventually someone came out to point us down to the smoke house were my order had been left. There we bumped into Fingel Fergusson, the man behind the smokehouse. We shook hands although I am not sure if he remembered me. He passed over three large boxes, 10 small Gubbeens, two large cheeses – a mature Gubbeen and an Aged Smoked Gubbeen and a box of salami and chorizo from the Smokehouse.

Lunch at Good Things Cafe music in The Tin Pub

For Galen’s 15th birthday we had lunch at The Good Things Café. Having ordered a cake we were careful with what we ate, sticking to a main course and the cake that came out with five candles on it as we all sang Happy Birthday. Despite our efforts we still came out feeling stuffed, most of the blame for which could be put on the cake. It was almost six inches high and slathered in thick dark brown chocolate. We could not have eaten any more.

Back at the Cottage the clouds had come down and it was grey and restless outside. There was a temptation to settle into one of the chairs and sleep and maybe we did that for a while but there was a need for fresh air so some of us went for the short walk in the hills behind Ahakista to the stone circle. It looked different this year – some of the vegetation had been cut back but the stones were still stuck solid in the landscape overlooking their corner of the bay. I took pictures of the same striations in the stones that I always take when we do the walk.

Walking back past The Tin Pub we saw that Brian & Nicola were going to be playing that evening starting at 7.00pm. In the Cottage I made garlic rich tomato sauce for later and we all trooped back out to The Tin Pub. Cars lined road outside and pushing the door open we had to squeeze past the crush of bodies that filled the place. I made it slowly to the bar and put in the order for cokes and crisps that had been shouted at me by the kids.

Despite it being so busy there was a table free in the corner under the bar with a few empty seats and most of us were able to sit down with me propped up against the bar well placed to put in an order for another pint.

The place was full with faces familiar and others half recognized.  Big men sat at their stools at the bar. Outside in the marquee there was food and more people milled occasionally forcing there way back in to pick up another sound. The place was heavy with deep conversation and laughter.
Nicola & Brian were two young women playing guitars and singing and Brian sat on an amp in the back adding the odd harmony vocal.  They were tucked in the corner under the dartboard and played Proud Mary and a selection of Beatle’s songs.  The played for half an hour or so and then announced that they were making way the O’Donovans.

Brian & Nicola stepped away from their corner to be replaced ten minutes later by a group of five faces that up until then had been part of the crowd and the chat round the bar. They carried tin-whistles and a small recorder, a guitar, an accordion and an electric mandolin and a bodhran. They were squeezed into the corner with the crowd in the bar having swelling to push them back. The woman playing the bodhran and was almost part of the crush, it was difficult to see how she played with her head bent down as people pushed past and around her.
The noise quietened as they started to play. Despite all the instruments they were not loud. The guitar and accordion set up the basis melody and rhythm and thrum whilst the recorder and mandolin flirted over the top. It was difficult to see how many were playing at one time such was the crush and the hands held high carrying cameras. It was  later that we realized that the cameras were held up not by eager tourists but by the cousins, the aunts and uncles of the people playing. An old lady sat rapt at a spare chair by our table.  Tadgh Hegarty stood in front of us shoulders shaking to the music.

After two songs a voice from near the bar called for spoons and a pair were passed over the heads of the crowd to the the bodhran player and their clack and click underscored the next song.
They played for about 45 minutes. The first few songs were instrumental and then one of the women stepped forward to sing. The singing brought about another change in the atmosphere. the songs were familiar and you the tone of the background conversation changed as people started to mouth the words.
They finished with Wild Mountain Thyme the audience now singing words rther than just mouthing them and the Close to Fine an old song I could remember sung by The Indogo Girls and that was it. The crowd relaxed and we were back in a bar again. Brian & Nicola collected their instruments and started to get ready for their second set.
We turned to go back to the Cottage and spoke briefly to Nieve over the bar. They had not played for 18 months and they had got back together for a 50th birthday over the weekend. That had been celebrated the previous night at Arundels  and tonight they were playing again as one of them had come back from the States for the party.
Outside the weather was more restless and a heavy wind flattened the hedges. Rain came as the kids were jumping off the pier in the dark. Whipped by the wind it stung at our faces as we watched them leap from  end into the choppy waters.

The Jack Tobin Cup

Using smoked mackerel to make a kedgeree had a certain logic to it. We had lots of mackerel, a smoker, a bag of basmati rice and three hungry teenagers and an eleven year old who were all enthusiastic when it was suggested.
The mackerel were caught over the course of one of those August afternoons when the sun finally beat back the clouds and the sky was blue and light, clear and impossible, settled over the bay. It was the afternoon of the fishing competition, the Jack Tobin Cup, put off from the weekend of the festival in respect for Jack the old man who would come down to look over the pier, leaning arms against the stone wall, watching whatever was going on and his boat with the fluttering skull and crossbones pendant.
We had lunch on the beach sausages cooked on the fire and then went to the pier to watch the competitors go off.  Cars crowded around the Butter House, smart Land Rovers and Mercedes disgorging eager anglers togged up in bright gear holding expensive rods, and battered indeterminate vehicles held together with gaffer tape down from the hills and brown round the edges out of which climbed old men in green and grey clutching their mackerel lines.

Boats started to pull into the cove and up against the pier. There was a man with a loudhailer taking a note of who was on each boat and making sure that everybody was wearing a life jacket although the old men from the hills did not seem to need them.  People clambered onto the boats clutching their lines and sometime after the due start time of three o’clock the boats streamed out into the bay and the sun with the man on the loudhailer reminding them they needed to be back by six.

We followed sheepishly twenty minutes later with a detour back to shore to get the petrol tank for Montbretia. Out in the bay the boats of the competition fleet had taken up favored positions without there being any great consistency. We could again see gannets circling the air and we motored out until we were under them and they were plummeting down and hitting the water twenty yards off the bow of the boat, so close we could see the scoops of water drifting from their beaks as they rose back into the air.

Two lines were quickly dropped off the back and there was a quiet ten minutes as we pulled them and released them back into the water during which time the gannets had moved on. Then one the kids called out “I’ve got one!”.  I tugged at the line and felt the familiar pull as the fish at the end of it struggled to get back to its place in the shoal.  We pulled the line in and soon there were fish spilling into the bottom of the boat. Ten minutes later all was quiet again and there were ten or so fish in the bucket. Looking out over the back of the boat some of us saw the brief black flash of a fin out of the water and that was it for our view of a porpoise.

We moved back closer to the shore and Owen Island where the gannets had gathered again. A few minutes after the lines were in and we were pulling them out again another rush of fish in the boat. By this time we had been out for an hour so and some of the competition fleet was starting to head back all pausing for their favoured spot off the point from Owen Island. We followed them and caught another line full of mackerel. Over the hour and a bit we had been out we must have caught forty dish altogether, a lot of them were too small to be worth keeping but there still at least twenty in the bottom of the bucket. We decided to come back in so as to avoid the rush of the returning competitors.

Having left the bucket of fish somewhere cool we went back to the pier to watch them come in. The boats were bunched at the pier, people clambering over the sides, buckets and trays of fish being lifted up. Some of the boats, those that had not done so well, held back. C186, the green fishing boat from the pier, with more than ten lines on it had only caught nine fish.

There was a quick counting of fish over the concrete of the pier, 255 for one boat more than 300 for another. The large Pollock were put to one side and a set of scales produced and the biggest weighed. Once the counting had stop people crowded round the crates of mackerel all clutching well used plastic bags and hands slick with shit, blood and scales shoveled the fish into any open bag that was put near.

No sooner was a bag full and it was taken down to the water so the fish could be filleted. The sharp flash of knives being passed around heads bent to the task and the gulls flitting as close as they could to pick at the scraps.

Back at Arundels the small marquee had been moved down close the road and a band started to play in the sun. The crowd moved up from the pier to the pub and an orderly scrum gathered round the bar to get in the pints before the prize giving. Getting a round in the glasses and bottles were handed back through the crowd for the rest of the family.
Outside the band was playing Proud Mary and the people spilled across the road. Passing cars were forced to slow down or come to a stop and bemused started faces looked out as the prize giving started.

As each winner was announced everyone on the boat had to come out before the prize could be hand over and the photographer from The Southern Star took his photo. Willhem won the competition with his boat catching more than 300 fish. He took the cup back into the bar and filled it with whiskey and lemonade and after that each man who walked through the door was obliged to take a mouthful including the irritable gentleman with a beard who was trying to find the owner of the Fiat that was blocking in his car.

Once the prizes had been handed out we drifted back to the Cottage and I filleted the mackerel on the stones at the end of the lawn, set up the smoker and twenty minutes later the fish were smoked. Once they were done I peeled away the skin my fingers slippy with the oil from the fish.

Back in the kitchen I fried off and onion and some garlic in the new pan I had bought from The Good Things Café, whilst cooking a bag of rice. I was able to find some curry powder in the cupboard and stirred in a tablespoon of this into the onion and then stirred in the cooked rice. The pan was full and the rice and onions had to be turned carefully. I added most of the mackerel and stirred this in as well the fillets breaking down as they were turned in the rice. When we were almost ready to eat I laid the remaining fillets over the rice and decorated the dish with quartered hard boiled eggs, sliced lemon and parsley.

We ate it all by the fire on the beach a half moon silvering the water and the noise from the pub a gentle murmur behind us over the bay.