Exploring Donegal Bay on the Celtic Mist

Killybegs to Killybegs 

Crew members : Skipper Mick, First mat Laura, Marine biologist Hélène, Anne-Marie, Neasa, Pete & Síofra.

The fourth week of our survey season was an unforgettable journey through the stunning landscapes and rich marine life of Donegal Bay. Our mission carried added significance as we are surveying the area which was identified by IWDG and Fair Seas as a potential Marine Protected Area (MPA), with the aim of ensuring the preservation of its vibrant ecosystem.

This week has been an exhilarating mix of marine exploration, team bonding, and adapting to the ever-changing weather. From the excitement of spotting our first dolphins and elusive Minke whales to navigating the stunning landscapes of Donegal Bay, every day brought new adventures and learning experiences. Despite some weather-related setbacks, our crew made the most of each moment, whether at sea or onshore, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Join us as we look back on a week filled with marine wonders, delicious meals, and the joy of sailing and play board games together.

Day 1

Our diverse crew, which included experienced sailors, a marine biologist, an ecologist and enthusiastic nature lovers arrived full of excitement and anticipation, ready for the thrill of discovery and the team spirit that defines life at sea. Our first task was to gather supplies for the week, ensuring we had everything we needed for our upcoming adventures. Exploring the Celtic Mist was a joy as everyone got familiar with our home for the next several days. To cap off our first day, we dined at an excellent local restaurant, Boathouse restaurant. This provided a perfect setting to relax, discuss our journey ahead, and start bonding as a team.

Day 2

Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse, and we found ourselves stuck in Killybegs due to poor conditions. However, we made the most of it. Mick, our experienced skipper, led the crew on a comprehensive tour of the boat, focusing on safety procedures. Hélène briefed everyone on how our survey would unfold and how to identify various marine mammals that could be seen during the week. Despite the rainy weather, we spent an enjoyable afternoon playing cards. Neasa introduced a part of the team to new card games that quickly became our week addiction. The day concluded with the first of a week full of delightful home cooked dinner, prepared by Anne-Marie and Pete.

Day 3

The weather improved, allowing us to start our survey in Donegal Bay. Although it was windy, it didn’t hinder our enthusiasm. We spotted our first common dolphins of the week, playfully riding the bow waves. The scenery was breath-taking, with majestic mountains and cliffs surrounding us. We anchored for the night in Teelin Bay surrounded by cliffs and mountains, where Hélène was brave enough to take a dip in the chilly water whilst everyone cheered. Dinner was a delicious moussaka cooked by Neasa, a perfect end to a rewarding day.

Day 4

We woke up to a grey sky but were still enchanted by the beauty of the bay. Sailing along the stunning Sliabh Liag cliffs (among the highest sea cliff in Europe), we admired this dramatic landscape rising from the Atlantic Ocean, with the lush green patches, grazing sheep and waterfalls. The day was calm and marked by sightings of common dolphins, including some very young ones. It’s always a delight to spot calves swimming very closely with their mom. We also had a fleeting glimpse of a minke whale (first of the week), and enjoyed watching Manx shearwaters flying above the waves, and adorable Atlantic puffins resting at surface. Returning to Killybegs for the night, we celebrated our successful day with a cheerful evening together.

 Day 5

The weather was perfect—calm seas and no wind. Even before we began our first transect, we were greeted by active common dolphins and a minke whale! We stopped the boat to track the minke, each of us scanning in different directions. The dolphins stayed with us, swimming around the boat. To our amazement, we discovered not one, but two minke whales! We were fortunate to witness these elusive creatures. After another distant sighting, we continued our survey along the southern part of Donegal Bay and sailed around Inishmurray and its abandoned houses. The afternoon was lively with numerous dolphin sightings, fast swimming, leaping and bow-riding. Back in Killybegs, some of us swam at Fintra Beach before enjoying another scrumptious dinner by Síofra. The day ended with a fun game of Qwirkle with the entire crew.


Day 6

The weather unfortunately turned again, keeping us ashore with strong winds. Undeterred, Neasa, Hélène, Laura, and Síofra decided to play tourists, exploring the local area. They visited the Ardara distillery, Hélène and Síofra enjoying a gin and whisky tasting session. The evening was spent at the Fleet Inn pub, where we wrapped up our joyful week with a last round of a long card game called Careoka.

The Weeks Stats!

We sailed close to 30 hours, including 23 on effort (searching for animals), representing more than 215 km. We recorded 40 sightings, large majority of which were common dolphins. The data collected during our surveys will play a crucial role in advocating for the establishment of a Marine Protected Area in Donegal Bay. Protecting this unique ecosystem ensures that the marine life and habitats we’ve enjoyed this week will be preserved for future generations.

As we docked the Celtic Mist for the final time this week, it was clear that our journey through Donegal Bay had been a memorable one. From our initial meeting and preparation to the breathtaking wildlife sightings and unexpected onshore adventures, each day was filled with discovery and camaraderie. Despite the occasional bouts of bad weather, our spirits remained high, buoyed by shared experiences and the thrill of exploration.

The crew left with hearts full of gratitude for the incredible moments we’ve shared: the playful dolphins, the elusive Minke whales, and the majestic landscapes of Donegal Bay. The bonds we’ve formed as a crew, the knowledge we’ve gained about marine life, and the countless laughs and stories exchanged will stay with us long after we’ve left the boat.

Thank you for joining us on this journey!

Hélène Quévreux

Celtic Mist Biologist


𝑇𝑖𝑠 𝑦𝑒𝑎rs s𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑦𝑠 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑟𝑢𝑛 𝑖𝑛 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ Fair Seas. 𝐷𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑛, 𝐶𝑒𝑙𝑡𝑖𝑐 𝑀𝑖𝑠𝑡 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑦𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡𝑒 Northwest, from Fenit to Killybegs, 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑣𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑖𝑛𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑛 𝑡𝑒 𝑚𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑤𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠.