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When I was a kid, Dad built a Mirror dinghy and painted it red. We spent many holidays in Cleggan, in the west of Ireland, mucking about on the sea. I remember looking over the back (stern?) into the deep dark water, watching the silver flash of a mackerel’s belly suddenly appear from below as it was hooked on the line we had trailing behind. I haven’t sailed in thirty-five years, but those holidays are the reason I came to live in Galway.
Drive south from Galway for many miles and eventually you come to Baltimore, a tiny fishing village in Co. Cork, in the southwest of Ireland, a great spot for Optimist dinghy sailing. It is literally the end of the country, on the tip of the southernmost of those fingers of rock that stick out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the last stop, and it sure feels like that when you’re trying to get there, especially if you are pulling a trailer with two boats on it (and if your navigator isn’t paying attention to the GPS and you take the scenic route). My family and I arrived late on Saturday evening after a seven-hour trip, so that our kids could partake in a week’s sailing camp. The village is very cute, but you can’t help noticing that it’s full of empty houses. “The houses are mostly occupied for just two months of the year,” said Jim, our letting agent. There wouldn’t be much in the way of work in Baltimore: any work, other than fishing, is based on the very short tourist season. Those empty houses seemed like a waste to me: if you were a hardy sort, and just happened to have an interest in urban sketching, it is an absolute paradise…
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