Seafield is a tolerable anchorage that is protected from the west and southwest by Mutton Island and the reefs that extend to it from the point. A vessel in duress may even find temporary protection here if caught out in a southwest gale. In a big seaway, it is exposed to a heavy cross sea at high water, and it is entirely open to winds with a northerly component which send in a bad swell into Seafield making the pier unsafe even to effect a landing. Attentive navigation is required for access as the island and bay are fringed by dangers on all sides and there are no supporting marks or lights. Hence a stranger should only approach Seafield with the benefit of very good visibility or with sound local knowledge.
Keyfacts for Seafield (Quilty)
SummaryA tolerable location with attentive navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position52° 48.615' N, 009° 29.318' W
This is the head of Seafield pier located immediately east of Seafield of Lurga Point.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
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How to get in?
Image: Tom Bourke
The Seafield anchorage is to the east of the island and off Seafield pier, otherwise known as Quilty after the nearby village. It is best approached from a north by northeast direction and the Seafield initial fix is set about 1.2 miles out from the head of the pier – the head of the mark on Admiralty 3338. From here proceed in on a bearing of 196°(T) towards the head of Seafield pier.
Caution: Helmsmen should be careful to avoid overrunning or drifting to the east of the waypoint or the recommended track. The inshore coast between Seafield Point and Caherrush Point, two miles to the northeast, on the east side of the approach is fringed by rocks and sunken ledges that extend more than a mile offshore.
Image: Tom Bourke
Formidable dangers surround Mutton Island and it is essential that the Coastal Overview is read in conjunction with a good chart prior to approaching this area.
The recommended anchorage is in a depth of 4.6 metres, a mile in from the initial fix and about 400 metres out from the pierhead. It is between Carrigeen Rock and the extensive Downe’s Rock that is situated to the east of the pier. A good mark for the anchoring position is to await the 266° T alignment of the watchtower on the west side of Mutton Island, with a bluff on the east side of the island.
Although the anchoring location is best tracked into on the line of bearing of 196°(T), with a fair wind and clear visibility of Carrigeen Rock, that dries to 1.2 metres, it may also be approached on the opposite side of the rock. Depths of 3.7 to 4 metres may be found at a distance of 200 metres from Carrigeen Rock on all sides.
Image: Tom Bourke
Landing is available at Seafield Quay or at the slip on the south side of the old pier. The reverse ‘L’ shaped pier has an old entirely drying section that extends eastward for 60 metres; this then turns abruptly north with a newer deeper 50-metre extension. The bottom for the entire quay is rock. A depth of 1.8 metres will be found alongside the east side of the newer and north lying section’s outer two thirds. A corresponding 1.8 metres deep and 27-metre wide channel is situated alongside the outer lengths of the pier. It leads between drying rocks on either side of the approach for a distance of about 100 metres to the north of the jetty where the depths increase.
Vessels can come alongside at high water or land at the slip located alongside the southern side of the pier. The landing may be difficult in any developed swell especially with a northern component.
Why visit here?Quilty, historically known as Killty, is thought to have derived its name from the Irish Coillte meaning "woods". The woods it referred to are probably an underwood of hazel or holly or alternatively tree stumps that indicated the existence of large woods here in ancient times. The same word coillte could also refer to "ruined or destroyed". This could be a reference to this coast’s 804 tragedy when an earthquake and tidal wave separated Mutton Island from the mainland whilst drowning more than a thousand people in the process.
A further dramatic moment occurred in Quilty’s history on 2 October 1907 when a raging equinoctial storm hit the Clare coast. After completing her journey from America, with a cargo of wheat, the three-masted French barque Leon XIII lost her rudder near Mutton Island. The helpless ship was then swept in towards Quilty where it reared up on a reef and split in two. Huge waves crashed over the side of the vessel and all seemed lost for the ship and crew. Then the fearless Quilty fishermen went out to sea in their small open currachs risking the storm and mountainous breakers. They reached the wreck but the seaway made a rescue attempt impossible and it was postponed until the following morning. At first light, with the storm still raging, the fishermen commenced the dangerous operation and succeeded in bringing thirteen of the twenty-two sailors safely ashore on the 3rd of October. The following day the British steamer H.M. Arrogant chanced to come into the bay and the wind abated slightly allowing them to rescue the remaining crew. All were brought to safety to scenes of great jubilation in the small village. The First Mate, Louis Boutin, described the experience "I have been all over the world, but never, never, in my life have I seen any action more heroic than the conduct of the Clare fishermen". Newspaper reports lauded the bravery of the fishermen and a fund was established. This was partly for the needs of the fishermen but the remainder was used for the building of a church in remembrance of the Leon XIII rescue. It was opened on October 9th, 1911 and was named "Stella Maris" - Star of the Sea.
Today the Church is the most prominent building in the village with its distinctive round tower visible for miles around the flat countryside. The church porch contains a replica of the Leon XIII in a glass bottle, and the ship's bell stands in front of the altar. The village continues its association with fishing. In past times the fishing fleet landed ling, haddock, cod and mackerel here and the local women cured fish for export to America. Nowadays, Quilty fishermen also bring in lobster, salmon, bass, and herring when in season.
Tourism has also come to play an important role in the area. Set in picturesque surroundings with the Aran Islands on one side, Connemara behind, the Cliffs of Moher on another side plus the Kerry Mountains visible in the distance, it has magnificent scenery. Holiday homes, mobile home parks, picnic areas and indoor facilities have all been developed to cater for the visitors. However, the Quilty locals have managed to safeguard the areas natural local charm.
What facilities are available?The small village of Quilty has the basic facilities to serve its population of 250 but no specific yachting facilities other than a slipway. Though situated on the extreme westerly seaboard, it is easily accessible by road being located midway between Kilrush and Galway on the N67.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored off Seafield.
With thanks to:Anthony Lucey, Area Officer, Irish Coast Guard Kilkee.
An essential aerial overview with thanks to Tom Burke
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