Thanks to all parents and friends for your warm wishes as we begin cruise B! Today we set off for training to commence just a few miles off port in Cobh, in the (for now) calm Irish sea. Once we embark, the cadets will begin “man overboard drills,” which the less experienced sailors among us are certainly looking forward to. In the past, they involved a dummy nicknamed “Oscar,” who was unfortunately lost at sea.
The less sea-worthy among us are a bit sad to leave Cobh, but we definitely made the most of our time in port. Today, I ran into a number of our cadets en route to Blarney Castle, a short train and bus ride away from Cobh. As history goes, the foundations of the castle were laid by Cormac MacCarthy in 1446, but it was actually Queen Elizabeth I who introduced the word “blarney” into the English language. Although her emissary, Sir George Carew, tried his best to persuade the MacCarthy chieftain to accept the authority of the English throne, his efforts were met with professions of loyalty and flattery of the Queen, but with little agreement to English rule. In response, Queen Elizabeth I is said to have cried “This is all Blarney. What he says he never means,” and the castle from then on became known as Blarney Castle. Legend has it that smooching the stone at its summit will give its kisser the gift of eloquence, making them smooth at flattering speech and storytelling.
While a number of our cadets now possess the “gift of gab,” some of us preferred to wander the grounds around the castle, where you can find the historic “Rock Close” built by the Jeffereyes family in 1703. Between its walls are homes built by the first Irish cave dwellers, perhaps still mystically inhabited, as well as an ancient Druid stone circle, and a number of caves. A hundred meters or so above this lies the wishing steps, a place where all your wishes are sure to be granted - provided that you can walk up and down them with your eyes shut without falling and breaking your neck.
My wishing done, we returned to the immediate grounds around the castle, where we explored the “Poison Garden” and met some rehabilitated owls on view from the local “Animal Magic Wildlife Rescue Center.” More about their stories can be found at www.animalmagic.ie. And speaking of rescues, I will need to locate my lifeboat before the drills begin. Can someone tell me - again - which side is port?