Sailing in Ireland & St Patrick's Day | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Sailing in Ireland & St Patrick's Day

March 17 is St. Patrick's Day so I've been thinking about last summer's cruise to Ireland.

My maternal grandparents immigrated to Canada from Ireland before my mother was born. I still have relatives in Northern Ireland, who we keep in touch with, and Paul and I had nice visits with them while we were in Bangor, near Belfast. They were quite surprised that their Canadian cousin sailed over in a 49-foot sailboat to see them!

Sheryl with cousins, Drew, Mary and Robin Carlisle

Arriving by sailboat was a very special way to visit the homeland of my grandparents. They lived and worked in many different places in both the north and south of Ireland so it was fun to travel along the coast of the Irish Sea and stop by to see those places and imagine my grandparents as young people with hopes and dreams for the future.

Paul at the helm in the estuary at Waterford on the southeast coast of Ireland

Although Nana and Papa embraced their new life in Canada they never lost their love of “the old country” and my childhood with them was filled with Irish stories and songs as well as good Irish food. So in celebration of St. Patrick's Day (when everyone can be Irish for a day!) I'm sharing my grandmother's recipe for Traditional Irish Stew. It's not only a great meal to enjoy on St. Patrick's Day, but good anytime you need a simple comforting warm meal. It's especially good on the boat when cold weather cruising!

Traditional Irish Stew

Ireland's national dish is traditionally made with mutton (less tender sheep over two years of age which has a stronger flavour than lamb) but lamb is what Nana always used. You can also make this recipe with beef if you don't like lamb or it's not available. Nana also added carrots and onions and occasionally parsnips or barley but the true traditional recipe is said to be with mutton (probably neck bones, shanks and trimmings) and potatoes only. I think this hearty peasant dish was made with whatever affordable local ingredients were available at the time so feel free to be creative. Root vegetables add flavour and nutrition plus thickens the stew as well.

  • 1-2 tablespoons of oil for browning meat.
  • 2 lbs boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces or as you prefer.
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped.
  • 2 carrots peeled and cut into large chunks.
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into large chunks (optional).
  • 3- 4 potatoes depending on size and preference.
  • 3-4 cups of water or beef stock, enough to cover meat and vegetables while simmering.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Herbs of your liking such as thyme, rosemary, etc.
  • Fresh parsley chopped for garnish
Heat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4
  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan or Dutch oven. Add half the lamb pieces and cook, stirring gently, until evenly browned all over. Season with salt and pepper. Remove, repeat with remaining half of meat. If using a frying pan move half the cooked meat into a casserole dish and layer with half the vegetables. If using a Dutch Over return meat to the Dutch Oven in the same fashion layering with the vegetables.
  2. Stir in enough water or broth to cover the meat and vegetables saving any additional liquid to add to the stew while cooking to keep it covered. Cover the casserole or Dutch Oven with a tight fitting lid and cook for about 2 hours or more in the oven or until meat is tender. If using a Dutch Oven you can also cook this on the stove top by bringing to a boil then simmering at low temperature for an hour or more which is faster. A pressure cooker speeds up the process even more if cooking onboard. At home you can simmer it all day in a slow-cooker. Just make sure the meat and vegetables are cooked through. If you don’t like your vegetables mushy, you can add them half-way through cooking.
  3. When everything’s cooked but if stew seems too liquidy, leave lid off for a while and continue simmering.
  4. Serve piping hot in bowls garnished with fresh parsley.

Our cruise of Ireland

Paul and I began our cruise in Ireland on the southeast coast in Waterford and New Ross where we received a warm welcome from harbourmaster, John Dimond, and the New Ross Boat Club, and explored some of the Barrow Navigation with local power boater, Marty Murphy. Click here to see a Sneak Peek video clip of this from episode #92.

Here is an excerpt from the new Season 8 where we started north from England and sailed to Ireland. At New Ross we were befriended by local boaters and did a day trip on the Barrow. Then some good “craic” at the boat club!

Travelling the Barrow Navigation, one of Ireland’s inland waterways, with local boater, Marty Murphy

Hook Lighthouse at the entrance to Waterford Harbour, one of the world’s oldest lighthouses.

We then sailed north to Kilmore Quay and into the Irish Sea sailing to Arklow before arriving in Dublin where we stayed at the Dun Laoghaire Marina in Dublin Bay, our base while exploring Ireland's the capital city of Dublin. We were held up there for a week at the end of May during the worst gale of the summer.

Sheryl exploring the old district of Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland’s capital city.

While we were in Dublin waiting out a gale Queen Elizabeth and USA President Obama came to town so security was high.

Next we sailed to Carlingford Lough, a large sea inlet or fjord, a former Viking harbour, which marks the border with Northern Ireland which is one of the four countries of the U.K along with Scotland, Wales, and England. The Republic of Ireland is a separate sovereign nation not part of the UK.

A chilly summer. Sheryl at the helm in Carlingford Lough in Ireland in June.

Carlingford Lough is a mini-cruising ground and we had great fun with local boaters from the Carlingford Marina and Carlingford Sailing Club who included us in pub crawls, hillwalking and club suppers.

From there we continued north to Northern Ireland where we stayed at the marina in Bangor near Belfast for family reunions and a visit to the Titanic Exhibition at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum The ship was built in Belfast and, as the locals say, “She was all right when she left here!” April 15, 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic. As a legacy many of the safety regulations brought in after the disaster such as the required monitoring of specific VHF radio channels allow us to have safe experiences while travelling the high seas.

More family get-togethers with the Hobson cousins Evan, Robin & Simon

Paul also made many posts about this cruise on the Distant Shores TV show Facebook page throughout the summer.

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In parting we wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day and
For sunlight after showers―
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours―
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!
Irish Wish for a Friend

Sheryl and Paul Shard
SV Distant Shores II
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