Darkness into light 2024: the night that never came

16 May 2024
Darkness into light 2024: the night that never came

Darkness into Light was an earlier rendezvous than most, particularly after the northern lights, as an enthused crowd gathered on HYC hardstand from 04:00 with the vividness of the aurora in their eyes.

The morning itself was stunningly beautiful with herring bones rippling the water, light zephyrs of wind and little clouds to colour the sunrise. Conditions could not have been more favourable for all the activities that we organised to mark the dawn of hope this year.

While feeling as one in the intensity of the gathering moment, we sorted ourselves out into groups... but not before a group photo with the colourful banners that Paul Foley and his designers at DPI had prepared to mark the occasion.

First to get afloat in aid of the work of Pieta House were more than 50 sailors. The boats slid quietly out of their berths led by the fleet of HYC J80s skippered by volunteers in HYC Cruising Group Members and crewed by families and friends. Several yachts joined in leaving Howth Marina dressed up in lighting garlands. The last views of the northern lights were clearly visible as they headed east pointing the place where the sun was anticipated. As the light filled in on a calm, clear morning, everyone was happy that they had made the effort to get up… or stay up to be part of a memorable shared experience. A blood-red sun inched above the clouds and several porpoises were spotted circling playfully the boats anchored off Ireland’s Eye.

Motor cruisers, including Ireland’s Eye Ferries orange beauty The Pinalia, graciously skippered by Harry Mc Cormack and crewed by cadet in training Maggi O’Shea, moved from the fishing harbour and shadowed the sailing fleet with a dawn chorus of select atmospheric tunes from the on board hi-fi. Destination: the rocky side of Ireland’s Eye, where everyone stared at the rising sun disk in contemplation and awe listening to the song of birds announcing that the daylight was there once again.

Karen Thompson and Shane O’Doherty of Howth Adventures led the group of 20 hikers towards Balscadden, up Cowbooter Lane, searching for bats, and out over Upper Cliff Road to the viewing benches at the Eire 06 sign. In response to our community call, the party included both HYC Members and non-members who joined in and donated for those who are in the darkness of their minds. That community spirit became even more intense as our group merged with the 100-strong team from Ben Eadair GAA, and all-as-one remained in private contemplation until the sun rimmed the horizon at 05:31 and rose graciously into the eastern sky.

The 30-strong SUP crew representing HYC and the wider community (including Harry, the SUPer dog) was the last one to emerge from the darkness of Howth Marina and into the open sea behind East Pier, enthusiastically led by Eoin Kernan and Karolina Badz from Discover SUP. With the help of the retreating tide, the SUPers paddled easily but steadily to Balscadden Bay, staring around at bunches of seaweed surfacing in a slow dance and schools of fish emerging to salute the incoming day. As the dawn finally came, the group gathered in a close circle of hearts, minds and boards to perform a traditional Irish ritual of letting a stone drop in the depth of the sea while wishing well to someone in need of positive vibes and compassioned thoughts.

The way back was serene in body and soul for all participants. The hikers descended through Casana sharing the lower cliff path with the noisy kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills who have moved in for the summer again. The fleet of boats and flock of paddleboarders also making their way back to Howth Harbour spread out like eiderdowns on the water. The yachts manoeuvred in a large evenly separated squadron in the light airs from the Stack via The Thulla up the sound, and the boarders looked like a collective scene from an Avatar movie in the mercurial salmon sea.

Everybody got back to HYC about the same time, and the Clubhouse was bustling with energy and brightly spirited people talking northern lights, sunrise, heartwarming scones and hot drinks that Aideen, Carol and the team had prepared for the adventurers.

Over €2,000 has been raised already to help Pieta in their quest to bring many more new dawns, and further donations can be made via the DONATE button on the HYC website or on the HYC Darkness into Light fundraising page.

Huge thanks to everyone who volunteered and participated to make Waves of Hope in support of Darkness into Light 2024. Stay hopeful!


Storytelling by: Shane O’Doherty, Susan Kavanagh, Eoin Kernan

Photos: Rebecca MacQuarrie, Kevin Monks, Susan Kavanagh, Sarah Toomey Malcolm, Karolina Badz