Taylor Swift lyrics and shooting stars kept Ellen and Sara company

The two girls were swept out to sea while paddle boarding. 
Taylor Swift lyrics and shooting stars kept Ellen and Sara company
Ellen Glynn, age 17 ,landing safely at Galway Hospital after she was rescued from the sea.File picture: Hany Marzouk

Taylor Swift may have made a hit out of singing "You Need to Calm Down" but for cousins Ellen Glynn and Sara Feeney, it was a case of trying to keep calm during their 15-hour paddleboard ordeal in Galway Bay.

Ellen says she is glad she knows the lyrics of the US hitmaker. She and Sara sang many of hitmaker's songs while they waited to be found.

“I think I sang just about every single one,”she told The Irish Examiner.

That, and a shower of shooting stars, lifted spirits as they resolved to remain positive — all the time “confident” they would be found after being swept by a 20 knot north-easterly some 17 nautical miles out to sea.

Wearing only bikinis and buoyancy aids while on their paddleboards, she recalled how “we would each talk about what we’d do when we get home”.

“So I would say I was really looking forward to a hot shower and getting into comfy pyjamas,” she said. 

“Then it began lashing rain and it was freezing cold and we lay down on the boards, which we had strapped together early on, and we saw shooting stars which were really amazing."

Ellen had taken up paddle boarding a year ago and took part in several instruction camps in Rusheen Bay. Her cousin Sara had only taken it up the activity last week but was “well able”, she said.

Both had been out several nights during good weather off Silver Strand, several miles from their Knocknacarra homes.

When Silver Strand beach was closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, they opted for Furbo beach several miles west on the Cois Fharraige road to Spiddal.

“We were only out a few minutes when we realised we were out quite far, and tried to paddle in, but then we couldn’t,” she said.

They screamed to Sara’s mother, her aunt Helen Feeney, who had been walking the dog on the beach, but the northerly breeze carried both their inflated boards and their voices south. 

“It was a really unlucky coincidence that it was my first time out without my mobile phone in a waterproof bag,” she said.

At that point, Ellen suggested strapping the two boards together, using straps and safety leashes, a type of ankle strapping to link the board to the paddler. 

“I had read about doing this somewhere,” she said.

“We linked our ankle leashes round each other, and thought if we paddled to stay in one spot opposite Furbo beach someone would eventually find us. We would also keep busy spotting the lights onshore to recognise Furbo and Spiddal. But then it got dark and the lights went out.” 

Ellen said that both a helicopter and a vessel were close enough to light up the sea around them. There was lightning and heavy rain, and they were “shivering uncontrollably”, she said.

They tried taking short naps in turns, and when the sun came out visibility was poor — but as the fog lifted, they realised just how much trouble they were in, with the Cliffs of Mother just south of them, the Aran island of Inis Oirr to the north, and the Atlantic to the west.

“It was then that we found these angels from heaven, as in two buoys, and we interwove the rope attached to the buoys into the webbing on the paddle boards,” she said.

When Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan on the 7m potting boat, Johnny Ó, threw a rope to them, Ellen lost the power of her legs and knocked Sara off her board as she tried to stand up.

“We were thanking them and saying we thought no one was searching and they asked us if we knew how many people were looking for us!” she said.

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