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Merry Yule-tide: a first Christmas on the high seas

December 25th, 2019 11:55 AM

By Emma Connolly

Eoin, Paul, Damien and Gerald will spend Christmas in Indonesia

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A GROUP of West Cork lads will be spending Christmas surfing in Indonesia as part of their adventure sailing around the world.

But despite being in an exotic location, they’ll still be tucking into traditional turkey and stuffing and might even try and get a Wren going among locals!

Damien Collins (24) from Durrus, Gerald O’Sullivan (24) from Bantry, Eoin Dennehy (36) from Castlehaven and Paul Ryan (25) from Rossmore are part of a group of 10 sailing ‘round the world since, July having hatched their plan in Sydney.

Despite some close calls with high seas and wildlife, the  lads are having the time of their lives and don’t regret for a moment embarking on such an ambitious trip, despite none of them having any major sailing experience beforehand.

The West Cork guys are planning a festive menu for the 25th to recreate a taste of home helped by crew mate Sergio, who was a chef in his home country of Germany.

Damien said: ‘We’ll try and grab a turkey somewhere but failing that, we’ll settle on a chicken. Paul is a flexitarian so we’ll have to do a vegetarian meatloaf or something as well to keep him happy.

‘There’ll be the obligatory roast spuds and veg and a nice onion gravy to top it off. We’ll all have a hand in it, I’d say!’

Damien and Ger say they’ll miss St Stephen’s night in Bantry but will have their own Christmas morning swim in waters slightly more tropical!

Ger added: ‘We might try to get a Wren going too. I can play the accordion, Brendan plays the drums and Paul plays the guitar.’

So far their longest sail was a four-day trip from Tawau, Malaysia to Manado, Indonesia and they’ve notched up a fair few ‘edge of the seat’ stories along the way.

Damien recalls one such hair-raising encounter: ‘We visited Komodo national park where the dragons (world’s largest lizards) are unbelievable. We came across a very aggressive one in a remote part of the park. We had been snorkelling off the end of the beach when it started swimming out to us. We hopped into the dinghy fairly lively and got back to the boat!

‘Another time our engine broke down in Sabah, a heavily pirated area, when a squall with heavy winds came in. Our anchor was dragging and the boat was headed towards rocks so we had to pull it up under sail at night and then reset it. We’d never done that before and it took serious teamwork to pull that off in those rough conditions.’

A lightning strike and wind speeds of 40 knots in the South China Sea isn’t something any of them are going to forget in a hurry, either.

‘We were getting hammered by rain and could barely see where we were going.

‘Another time, on the way down from Thailand back to Malaysia we were sailing through the night and there had been squalls passing by with lightning and thunder fairly regularly, and one of the strikes was scarily close. There was three of us up in the cockpit and we were lucky not to be blinded from the brightness. The thunder was the loudest thing we’ve ever heard,’ recalled Damien.

There have also been plenty of high points, though, that came out of challenges. ‘We smashed the gearbox to bits in Thailand. We were stuck there for a few weeks trying to get it fixed, which was some trek. Interacting with locals was a great experience and challenge at the same time. Because of our need to get jobs done for the boat in remote areas,  we got into some odd situations with Google translate, and there were often misunderstandings which made it tough but hilarious all the same.’

They were also ‘adopted’ by the locals in Ambon, Indonesia while waiting to get visas extended and even got invited to an eight-year-old’s birthday party!

For New Year’s Eve the lads want to mark it in Bali and their plan is to sell the boat there or Lombok by February or March. Until then, it’s full steam ahead.

Follow the lads in their adventure at seanchaiatsea.com

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