Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Galway Bay Can Make it Happen While Other Places Wait for Development to Come to Them

1st August 2017
Vision of Connemara and Galway Bay cruising. Lunchtime stopover for Drascombes on passage from Kilkieran towards Roundstone Vision of Connemara and Galway Bay cruising. Lunchtime stopover for Drascombes on passage from Kilkieran towards Roundstone Photo: Jack O’Keeffe

Irish sailors don’t need their attention mesmerized by the horses and people clattering around the Galway Races Week to be well aware that in sailing matters too, it’s not a question of whether or not the West’s awake writes W M Nixon. On the contrary, you’d wonder do the hyper-energetic sailors around Galway Bay ever sleep as they implement one bright new idea after another, for these days the coastal facilities are being developed at a pace which few other popular sailing areas can match.

drascombes kilronan2Just a week after the WIORA fleet had been in town, the Drascombe flotilla were one of the first cruising groups to use the new pontoons at Kilronan on Inishmore. Photo: Jack O’Keeffe

Until recently in southeast Connmemara, Rosamhil (or Rossaveal as the East Coast might know it) was mainly thought of as a busy fishing port and the ferry port for the Aran Islands. But a while back, it acquired a 34-berth marina which has proven so popular that in October this year the Harbour Master, Captain John Donnelly, will be overseeing the official opening of a brand new facility, a fully-serviced 160-berth marina which will be attractive both to locals and those from further afield and abroad who are taken with the notion of berthing their boats on the threshold of some of the most enchanting sailing waters in the world.

wiora kilronan3Packing them in. A week before the Drascombes arrived, the WIORA fleet had landed in on Kilronan big time

Rosamhil marinaMeanwhile across on the mainland, the new marina at Rossaveal is nearing completion

But while this is now almost completely in place, towards the head of Galway Bay the port of Galway itself is contemplating another expansion with marina facilities, while across the bay at Renville, as we’ve mentioned on Afloat.ie, Galway Bay SC has recently made a very clever job of improving its clubhouse, and it is surely only a matter of time before developments in waterfront berthing take place there too.

But the extra-special breakthrough which has best expressed the Spirit of the West has been the installation of the long L-shaped pontoon in the much-extended Kilronan Harbour on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. This was planned to be done in time for the mighty successful West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association Championship just over three weeks ago, and the new setup accommodated the 44-strong fleet in such style that a casual observer might gave though that this was all a permanent new fixture.

Certainly the way that the WIORA sailors partied for their après sailing there and in downtown Kilronan would if anything have reinforced such a view. Yet in theory those pontoons are just a temporary arrangement. And they were put there in a shared voluntary effort which would put some of our more hidebound maritime communities to shame for its sheer enthusiasm and energy.

Those who were promoting the Kilronan Berthing Project - not least WIORA Championship Organiser Cormac Mac Donncha – argued that with all of the new berthing capacity in the city and in Rossaveal, those boat owners would need somewhere to visit and berth safely. This is where the pontoon in Kilronan comes in, with the benefits going well beyond recreational sailing. The users will include the small ‘pot haulers’ owned by the local fishermen, commercial angling boats, commercial charter sailing yachts, visiting motor vessels, and yachts.

Galway County Council were very supportive of the project. Patrick McDonagh, Kilronan Harbour Master, provided supervision and advice throughout. Ciarán Wynne, Harbours Engineer, Galway Co Co, provided the promoters with the various permissions to go ahead with the project. The pontoon was installed by the voluntary effort of local business men and volunteers, in a heartening community spirit.

kilronan pontoon5As soon as it was very competently installed, the new Kilronan pontoon had a fleet in port to show it at its best.

The pontoons themselves were supplied on loan by Inland & Coastal Marinas, based in Banagher on the Shannon. Iggy Madden Transport of Galway, provided the transport without charge. Galway Harbour Board supported the storage and crane operations at Galway Docks and Lasta Mara Teo transported the cargo to the Islands and dropped 16 mooring blocks. LM Keating installed the pier beams, and OceanCrest Marine supplied the special pontoon to H-Beam bracketry. ThermoKing, the Beatty family and Club Seoltóireacht Árainn provided the skilled crew to install the pontoons and make them safe.

Inland & Coastal has extended the loan of the pontoons so that the local committee can attempt to put a plan together to purchase and upgrade them to form a permanent facility. A very significant proportion of the project’s cost lies in the selection, transportation and installation of the pier beams and pontoons. Galway Co Co are working with the committee to try to find a funding solution to upgrade the existing ‘marina’. It has been recognised that, if the pontoons are returned to Inland & Coastal at this stage, then a large percentage of the cost will need to be duplicated in order to reinstate the marina at a later stage.

kilronan pontoon6A touch of the Med in Kilronan. WIORA even had St Pat’s Brass Band (left) to welcome them in.

So efforts to seek funding are currently underway. You just can’t see it not happening, and a longer term objective might be the installation of an access bridge, as the 5 metre tidal range can make that quay wall seem very high. Once the sportsmen and revellers of WIORA had gone on their way, there was ample and much-valued space for local boats of all type, and then a week later the Drascombe Association of Ireland arrived in a fleet from Roundstone in the midst of their week-long Galway Bay Cruise-in-Company. Even though a Drascombe can be hauled up a beach if need be, every last one of them was delighted with the convenience and comfort which the new pontoon provided.

drascombes kilronan7Drascombes and other boats at Kilronan pontoon – as convenient as possible for the pub. Photo: Jack O’Keeffe

Seen from a go-anywhere Drascombe, Galway Bay becomes the cruising paradise its advocates have always insisted is there, waiting to be discovered. The Drascombes, co-ordinated by Jack OKeeffe of Cork and Brian Park of Limerick, had mustered at Kilkieran, and then cruised along the coast to Finnish Island before heading for Roundstone. Mac Dara’s island came up on the programme, and then there was an open water passage out to Kilronan and the luxury of a secure marina berth at the end of it.

They’d hope to cruise among the Aran Islands in detail, but the weather was going to pot and they decided to get on with the next stage of their programme. So as pre-arranged, the open boats headed back to Kilkieran and the cabin Drascombe boats made a passage across to Ballyvaughan in the foothills of The Burren in County Clare, which left them well-placed for detailed exploration to fresh places such as Leenane’s renowned seafood bar at New Quay, followed by the winding waterways of Bell Harbour.

Kinvara was a natural stopover port, and they finally brought it all to a successful conclusion back at Galway Bay SC at Renville, firmly convinced of the unique attractions of the greater Galway Bay area as a cruising ground, and one hundred per cent supportive of the notion that the new pontoons at Kilronan should be a permanent feature.

Leave a comment

Featured Clubs

DBSC
nyc sidebutton flag

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Chandlery

chmarine sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
BSB sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating