JOY AND RELIEF Myles Henaghan (from Louisburgh) and his wife Eithne Sweeney (from Castlebar) are welcomed by their parents JJ and Kathleen Sweeney and Louis and Pat Heneghan as they arrived on the pier at Old Head last Sunday evening. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
15,000 miles to greet familiar smiles
Mayo couple complete amazing sail around the world
MYLES Henaghan and Eithne Sweeney are back on home soil. The adventurous couple arrived at Old Head near Louisburgh pier shortly after 8pm on Sunday last, July 14, ten months after they struck out for the west Mayo shore. The couple left Onehunga, Auckland, New Zealand on September 10, 2012, with the goal of sailing home to Ireland – a journey of over 15,000 nautical miles.
“Position: 53’24°N, 10’28°W. Reporting in from 16 miles south-west of Clifden, 34 miles south-west of Old Head and 10,600 miles north-west of Auckland. Ahead of us we can see the familiar outline of Croagh Patrick as we sail along on a lovely sunny day.”
Their last blog post, early on Sunday morning, came after a long, tough journey through the oceans of the world, the geography of the mind and the terrain of close relationships.
Myles got the bug, when he got a summer job years ago with Martin Joe Needham on his fishing boat. “When the day’s work was ending, I was always looking to the horizon wanting to go farther. We, Eithne and myself, talked about it before we got married, but it wasn’t until after the marriage that we got serious about it.”
“Myles had a dream,” Eithne said, “and I was up for the challenge. We got on great … in the confines of the boat ... I can’t tell a lie. We had our moments but y’know, you just have to talk when it’s only the two of you.”
“You’ve nowhere to go,” Myles said. “You have to talk, and we did. Seriously though, I had the best team mate you could wish for.”
Their parents, JJ and Kathleen Sweeney from Balloor, Castlebar, and Dr Patricia and Louis Henaghan from Old Head, Louisburgh, were among the 300-plus crowd gathered on the pier to welcome home the sea voyagers.
Quoting Brutus from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, JJ Sweeney expressed his feelings about the adventure. “Between the action of a dreadful thing, and the first motion, all the interim is like a phantasma, or a hideous dream.”
Kathleen added that they were not in favour of their eldest daughter embarking on the journey, but they got used to the idea. “It was the thinking about it before the actual event that was worse. We kept hoping that it would be cancelled.” The blog and the emails helped a lot, they said, “but there were sleepless nights.”
“Excitement. This is one of the best days of my life,” said Dr Patricia Henaghan. “I knew Myles had this dream and Eithne embraced it. It’s great to have them back. There were a couple of sleepless nights, but I had faith in them and in ‘Ashling’.” She added that when she heard of the voyage she was ‘impressed’ with the ‘huge idea’, and she is now filled with admiration for them both, but especially for Eithne. “I think they’re bloody great!” added Louis Henaghan.
‘Ashling’, is their 35-foot cruising yacht. Built in France in 1982, she weighs eleven tons and is a slow but strong boat. ‘Ashling’ will stay in Ireland and go up for sale.
Myles and Eithne will take a six-week break in Ireland before returning to Auckland. Eithne works in communications for a dairy company. Myles is a software development manager.
After saving, budgeting, and re-mortgaging their house in Auckland, this couple of accomplished sailors might write a book? “They should, she has a few languages. They’d be well able to write it,” Kathleen Sweeney said.
As the crowd scattered and summer fog and mist closed in on Old Head pier, the two sailors could be seen walking up the hilly field leading to Myles’s childhood home. Alone again. Just the two of them. Walking home. Holding hands.
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