Irish Lives: Two young brothers who sailed around Ireland

Nathaniel and Fergus Ogden set off in June in a boat not much bigger than a dinghy

When brothers Nathaniel and Fergus Ogden set off from Baltimore in June to sail around Ireland in a small boat not much bigger than a dinghy, two sun-filled summers had left them feeling optimistic about the weather.

Instead, this summer has been one of the windiest in decades, with air temperatures also several degrees below average.

"The west and southwest coasts got the worst of it," says Met Éireann head of forecasting Gerald Fleming, "with Shannon Airport's mean windspeed being the highest for the month of July for 41 years".

The Ogdens got their first taste of it soon after they left Baltimore, in west Cork.


They had a 10-hour beat against headwinds up the Clare coast, and their tiny open boat was tossed about in 10m waves off Connemara’s Slyne Head, forcing them to seek refuge in Clifden.

They hit 10 knots navigating Mayo’s Achill Sound.

"Trapped at the northwest edge of the world," was their social media log posting when they were weather-bound in Erris. RNLI volunteers, who were tracking them all the way around, offered them hospitality while they were there.

They tried to make up for lost time with an overnight passage of 77 nautical miles across Donegal Bay to Arranmore.

Conditions were no better after they rounded the island, but the sunny southeast “lived up to its name”.

They made it back to Baltimore last Wednesday, ahead of another low-pressure front, but after an exhausting 10-hour stint the day before in squalls of up to 30 knots.

They never set out to make any records, says Nathaniel, but he reckons they could be either the youngest or the slowest circumnavigators in this type of craft.

Their 1,900km passage took eight weeks instead of four.

They cooked, ate and slept under a tarpaulin across the 2sqm deck space they shared.

By the end, they were “still speaking to each other”, too tired to argue at sea and too busy to be scared.

Sporadic escorts by pods of dolphins provided welcome distractions.

Nathaniel (23) and Fergus (16) first learned to sail as small boys in a 5.4m Drascombe Lugger, named Lughnasa.

From Co Kildare, they spent holidays in the southwest and were inspired to sail to raise funds for the work of the RNLI after a retired teacher, Douglas Perrin, died when his larger Drascombe Lugger capsized off Schull last August.

The brothers - Nathaniel a final-year geology student, Fergus going into fifth-year in secondary school - set a target of raising €5,000 for the RNLI.


Watching the weather with similar obsession, a group of cyclists set out from Glasgow earlier this week on a 385km cycle involving three trips by sea.

Saddle-sore companions Pat Bonar, Peadar Rodgers, Scott MacDowell, Paul MacDowell, Eoin Boyle, Patrick Rodgers and Ciaran Bonar pedalled out of Glasgow's George's Square just as the Ogdens were recording their last few nautical miles.

The group are due to catch their last of three ferries today when they complete their trip to Arranmore island, off Donegal.

Their aim is to raise awareness and funds for the Katie Rose Foundation, a charity set up in memory of Katie Rose Rodgers, who was diagnosed with a mitochondrial condition called Leigh's Syndrome when she was 19-months-old.

Her parents, Fiona and Sean Rodgers, who were in Vancouver at the time, came home to Arranmore, and their daughter died on December 12th last year.

The foundation supports families with children with a similar condition and raises funds for research.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times