Ahoy me Hearties 😀
It’s been a while since my last Mini-Adventure (Errigal) and I have had the idea of an Island Camp mulling about in my head for well over three years so, this was going to be the year to give that idea an airing!
My thoughts of Island Camping all began during my winter project of 2012 when I restored an old Canadian Canoe (Full project can be viewed here), but alas, I just never seemed to find the time to get an island camp squeezed in.
I still have the canoe, and have enjoyed many great days out on various loughs, lakes and rivers including the River Blackwater, Lagan, Bann, Quoile, Strangford Lough and Lough Neagh, but I have since acquired something a bit bigger than the canoe and there was no way I was letting another year slip by with my idea of camping on an island remaining a pipe-dream!
My new vessel is a small open top speed boat which became my “Spring Project” of 2016. After a bit of tidying up, this was the craft that was going to help me achieve my goal of camping on a remote island like a castaway:
The island that I planned to call home for an evening was, as the title suggests, Dunnyneil Island in Strangford Lough. It is one of the most exposed islands situated in the middle of the lough but close enough to the Portaferry/Strangford Narrows to be subject to quite a rip-tide around its shores.
This is how it looks in Google Earth and you can see its exact location in Google Maps by clicking here:
For a bit of historic information about the island you can have a read of this BBC Article entitled Dogs, booze and bling: Northern Ireland’s medieval shopping mall:
Or, if your feeling a bit Nerdy and Archaeology or Palaeoecology is your thing, then you can peruse this 136 page QUB Study of the island at you leisure 😉
I set off from the harbour slipway in the town of Strangford on Friday evening. It was the hottest evening of the year but unfortunately with the heat came strong winds, with gust of up to 35mph. Not ideal when planning on tying a boat off an island all night but there was no way I was shying off before I had even got the boat wet. My plan was to launch, and get a better feel for the conditions away from the shelter of the harbour before deciding whether to throw the towel in until another time.
I set off around 19:00, which was later than I would have liked, but I had to wait for the tide to come in a bit so that I could get the boat off the trailer without too much fuss.
Once launched I did a final check of my kit, made sure I had the bungs in, and away I went to explore the unforgiving sea:
Out on the lough the sea was choppy, and I could feel the full force of the 35mph gusts, but there were very few white horses around and the boat was steady so I was happy to continue further towards the island. My plan was to get close to the island, find a suitable spot for landing later on in the evening, and then head back out to sea to do a spot of fishing and catch a starter for my dinner.
It didn’t take long to track down a few Mackerel and then heading back to the island I was met with the awesome sight of it being framed with a rainbow, and I knew the night was going to be one to remember:
After catching my starter, I motored back to the island and began the challenge of tying the boat up for the evening in what had become quite strong gale force winds. The problem was that the wind was blowing along the shore, rather than offshore, so I couldn’t anchor to the beach only, as the boat would have been blown onto the shore sideways and it could have gotten badly damaged.
What I had to do was use two anchors. One was chucked as far as possible out to sea and tied to the bow of the boat so that the boat was held offshore facing the wind, and then the second anchor rope was tied to the stern of the boat and anchored on a very long line to the shore so that I could use this line to retrieve the boat if I needed too at any point in the night.
The result was as follows:
I was never going to be able to keep it from drying out on the beach later in the evening, but the forecast was for the wind to drop by about 23:00 and without the strong winds I was happy for her to dry out on the beach safely.
While the tide was dropping and the boat was settling onto her resting place I was busy setting up my own resting place, getting my camp organised and getting a fire started for cooking my dinner.
For dinner I had a Mackerel Starter, followed by a Steak Sandwich, all washed down with a fine bottle of Rioja and Bulgarian Captain Fred Rum ::)
The rest of the evening was spent exploring the island, collecting firewood, reading, enjoying the company of Captain Fred by the fire and sleeping:
The strong winds early the night before had settled by morning but the tide wasn’t due back in until 11:00. This gave me plenty of time to get my fire going again for a bit of breakfast and still leave time for a proper look around the island in daylight.
After breakfast, I had a good wander around the island shores in daylight and dandered up to the island summit, which is about 15 metres elevated. There are some great panoramic views of Strangford Lough to be had, and there’s also numerous spots for setting up camp with one in particular that would be awesome for a Bivvy.
I also found some weird holes dotted all over the place and couldn’t work out what caused them, some cool stones with interesting erosion patterns, eggs shells from hatchlings earlier in the year, and some crackin’ fossils which were the icing on the cake for me.
The Erosion Stones
This stone had a picture of the island grouping on it 😀
The Fossil Stones
The Hatched Eggs
After my exploration of the island, I had myself a wee snooze while dying my clothes from the previous evenings soaking on the trip over and waited for the tide to lift the boat off the beach:
Once the tide lifted the boat I got my kit all packed away and headed back to sea for a bit more fishing and a few final photos of the island before heading back to Strangford. The first picture below shows the island with our usual haunt, the Mourne Mountains, on the horizon:
Shiver me timbers me hearties… that be the end of me trip report.
As always, I hope I’ve inspired you to try something new and if you’ve any questions feel free to stick up a post or pm me. This is my first draft of this and I am too tired to proof read it over tonight, so apologies for bad spelling and grammar for now. I will try and tidy it up a bit better tomorrow.