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Aran Islands RNLI’s volunteers were called twice in succession to aid two people in need of medical attention in the Galway Bay islands yesterday morning, Monday 19 October.

The lifeboat crew were tasked to launch their all-weather vessel David Kirkaldy from Kilronan on Inis Mór at 11.31am, to assist an elderly man on the neighbouring island of Inis Meáin.

A second call came in quick succession when a woman on Inis Mór also required medical evacuation.

This second patient was attended to first and safely secured on board before the lifeboat launched for Inis Meáin under coxswain John O’Donnell and a full crew.

Weather conditions at the time of launching were moderate with poor visibility, but with calm seas and a south-east wind blowing Force 4–5.

Once alongside the pier at Inis Meáin, the male patient was transferred safely aboard and under the supervision of the volunteer crew, observing all coronavirus safety guidelines.

The lifeboat then headed straight for Rossaveal Harbour on the mainland and an awaiting ambulance.

Speaking later, O’Donnell said: “A double callout to start the week — the volunteer crew members train regularly to make the minutes count and get to the incident and patient as fast as possible.

“We would like to wish both patients a speedy recovery.

“Never hesitate to call 999 or 112 if you see someone in trouble and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

University College Dublin have been set to deploy an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) off Inis Mór in the Aran Islands between today, Thursday 15 October, and next Wednesday 21 October as part of the Highwave project.

The university previously deployed an ADCP in February as par of the same ocean wave data modelling project.

Thos latest deployment, from the MV Chateau-Thierry (callsign EIHK6), will be some 0.6 nautical miles from Rock Island lighthouse — at 53°08’57.4” N, 009°52’23.4” W. The vessel will display appropriate lights and signals.

Map showing the area of the ADCP deployment off Inis Mór

Navigational warnings will be issued by radio when the deployment of the marker buoys takes place. These buoys will be yellow spherical markers, 40cm in diameter and flashing yellow every five seconds.

Published in Coastal Notes

Aran Islands RNLI’s volunteer crew launched their all-weather lifeboat at 4.43pm yesterday (Thursday 8 October) to assist a 38ft fishing vessel that was drifting “dangerously close” to Eagle Rock, just off Golam Head in Co Galway.

Under coxswain John O'Donnell and with a full crew, the lifeboat headed straight for the fishing vessel amid moderate conditions, with a two-metre sea swell.

Once on scene, lifeboat crew found that both people aboard the fishing vessel were in good health and observing coronavirus guidelines.

A tow line was set up and the lifeboat brought the casualty vessel to the safety of Rossaveal Harbour in Connemara.

Speaking after the callout, O’Donnell said: “This was a good outcome as the vessel was drifting dangerously close to Eagle Rock after losing the use of their engines.

“Our volunteer crew members never hesitate to get to the call as quickly as possible. If you see someone in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Tagged under

Aran Islands RNLI has encouraged the public to always call for help when they believe they’ve seen someone in distress at sea.

The message follows a callout across Galway Bay to Rossaveal in Connemara last night (Monday 5 October) that turned out to be a false alarm with good intent.

The volunteer crew launched their all-weather lifeboat at 7.45pm to reports of a flare sighting near Great Mans’ Bay, amid choppy seas with a two-metre swell and 22-knot northwesterly winds.

The crew were joined in the search by Costello Bay Coast Guard and the Shannon-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 115.

But after an extensive search of the area by all three rescue services working together, the operation was stood down.

“Thankfully the call out was a false alarm with good intent,” said Aran Islands RNLI press officer Lena O’Connell.

“It is always better to be safe than sorry. The volunteer crew members didn't hesitate to get the lifeboat to the search area as quickly as possible.

“We would remind everyone if you see someone in trouble or see a distress signal, don’t hesitate to call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A new ferry will be Ireland's largest domestic passenger ferry when the 40-metre 'Saoirse na Farraige' arrives in Galway Bay this October.

As Independent.ie writes the ferry constructed in Hong Kong with a capacity of 400, is expected to enter service next April with Aran Island Ferries.

It will operate from Rossaveel, Co Galway to all three Aran Islands, taking 45-minutes to reach Inis Mór, 50 minutes to Inis Meáin and 55 minutes to Inis Oírr, the company says.

'Saoirse na Farraige' is the sixth ship for a company owned by the O'Brien family of Connemara, who first began carrying passengers to the Aran Islands on a Galway Hooker, under sail, decades ago.

"We know it’s an extremely difficult time for businesses in many sectors (ours included), but we hope this will brighten up Galwegians’ spirits and that when we travel again, the ferry will have a positive impact on tourism in the west of Ireland," said Sales and Marketing Manager, Áine McLoughlin.

For furthermore on this newbuild ferry click here. 

Published in Ferry

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton has praised the coastguard, Garda and local volunteers for their quick response in the rescue of two missing paddle boarders in Galway Bay today, Thursday 13 August.

As reported earlier on Afloat.ie, the two young women were found clinging to a lobster pot marker off Inis Oírr in the Aran Islands after a major overnight search and rescue operation.

Naughton, the Fine Gael TD for Galway West, said: “I would like to offer my sincere gratitude and thanks to all members of the Irish Coast Guard, An Garda Síochána and local volunteers who worked tirelessly overnight and this morning in the search for the two missing paddle boarders since the alarm was raised last night.

“Their quick thinking and bravery have resulted in the safe return of two young ladies to their families today.

“The appreciation of the work of our emergency services can be heard in the shared sigh of relief not just across Galway, but indeed nationwide, as the good news reached us this afternoon.

“Thankfully this most recent event has had a happy ending; however, it is imperative for us all to be vigilant of the sea and the elements as we enjoy our coastline during the fine weather.

“Just last month I launched the newly updated Safety on the Water website in collaboration between the coastguard, RNLI, Water Safety Ireland, Irish Sailing and BIM. I would invite everyone to familiarise themselves with the guidance that has been provided by those who know our waters the best by visiting www.safetyonthewater.gov.ie

Published in Galway Harbour

Ships come and go and at times sisters can be in Irish Port waters at the same time albeit apart and also serving different owners as in an example of today, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The ship's been the Alsterdiep (2008/2,954grt) which is currently at anchorage in Dublin Bay on the eastern seaboard. Whereas the newer 2009 built but slightly smaller sister, Vitality of 2,984 gross tonnage is located on the opposite west coast while docked in the Port of Galway. (See: related story of Norwegian flagged ship averted from disaster).

Alsterdiep is operated as part of the Hartmann Group with global offices among them a headoffice located in Leer, Germany. The vessel had sailed from Shoreham, an English Channel port and is awaiting in the bay to enter Dublin Port this evening to Alexandra Basin.

The Vitality formerly the Allerdiep, a similar name of the Alsterdiep as suggests had served the same German shipping group until almost a decade ago when renamed in September, 2010. 

Both the ports in Dublin and Galway are almost virtually on the same latitude and just short of 220kms in distance apart based on a route taken on the M6 motorway.

This main national road connecting the capital and the 'City of the Tribes' is from where the coastal cargoship Saoirse Na Mara was also in port. Albeit this former Norwegian flagged vessel uses the Outer Pier exclusively serving the Aran Islands trade of a Government awarded contract to Lasta Mara Teoranta to provide the cargo service.

As for Vitality is operated from waters closer to home compared in the case of Alsterdeip, as the former ship is controlled in the neighbouring UK. This is where Faversham Ships Ltd (coastal town in Kent) operate a fleet. The shipowner is actually based in East Cowes, Isle of Wight with an associate company based in the Netherlands.

Vitality had sailed from Liverpool 'light' (without cargo) to the Irish mid-west port as Afloat confirmed with the City of Galway Shipping Agency, which was established almost a century ago in 1921. The cargoship had been loading limestone and as scheduled departed this evening and is bound for Ayr in south-west Scotland.

Ahead in Galway Bay was the aforementioned Saoirse na Mara (1980/597grt) which this evening is bound for Inishmaan, located between the other two Aran Islands.

A fleetmate of Vatality the smaller Valiant (1993/1,512grt), Afloat spotted back a few years ago while operating on the English Channel as an inter Channel Island routine ship operating on behalf of Channel Seaways, part of Alderney Shipping.

The Poole-Channel Islands operator competes with Channel Island Lines based out of Southampton where the Irish flagged short-sea trader Huelin Dispatch of Dundalk Shipping was chartered but this has ceased. Earlier this year the ship however returned to Irish waters to receive a routine dry-docking in Rushbrooke, Cork Harbour. 

Afloat today tracked Huelin Dispatch (2012/2,597grt) in UK waters having departed Tees and is bound for Hull also on the North Sea and beforehand of recent months Norway among Scandinavian waters. The short-sea drycargo ship was built by the Dutch Damen shipyard group and to their own Combi Coaster 3850 design which has proven popular for ship-charterers. The design has also favoured Faversham Ships with a quartet in service following the introduction in 2018 of the Ventura which joined the Vedette, Beaumont and Musketie.

Another cargoship docked in Galway and opposite of Vitality in the lead in channel to Dun Aengus Dock proper is Wilson Calais (2001/2,994grt) which has been to Galway before and on one occasion to discharge wind-turbine blades. The current call of the Norwegian ship's operator, Wilson Management of Bergen saw them deploy the vessel make a short coastal passage around Co. Clare from Limerick Docks, a voyage duration taking almost 12 hours.

Scrap metal was loaded onto the Wilson ship which acquired a pair of Arklow Shipping 'R' class dry-cargoships this year. 

Afloat will have more to report on the relationships of such shipping links as highighted to showcase the shipping scene in domestic waters, the Irish Sea and neighbouring waters of the UK and those of the Channel Islands.

Published in Irish Ports

Gales over the weekend have cushioned the impact of full re-opening of offshore islands to visitors as COVID-19-related restrictions are eased.

However, there has been a steady increase in traffic to the Aran islands, served currently by one ferry from Ros-a-Mhíl in Galway to all three islands.

Ros-a-Mhíl company Island Ferries requires passengers to wear masks. However, Comhar Caomhán Teo, the Inis Oírr co-op, has asked the Government to sanction resumption of the subsidised ferry to Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr as this would allow for greater social distancing.

Former Gaeltacht and Island minister Sean Kyne - now a senator - had argued for a phased re-opening of all islands on public health grounds, stating he had received compelling medical advice from island doctors.

He had opposed the advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) which had cleared visits to offshore islands from all parts of Ireland from June 29th.

Several days before the announcement, Inis Oírr said that 92 per cent of its residents and businesses oppose re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

There has been one confirmed case of Covid-19 to date on the largest island of Inis Mór, with a population of 800 people. All three Aran islands have had water rationing over the last couple of months, with night-time restrictions on two islands only eased last week.

Two Co Clare-based ferry companies offering seasonal day trips to the Aran islands and Cliffs of Moher did not sail to the two smaller islands last week due to the residents’ concerns.

Mr Bill O’Brien of Doolin Ferry Company, which has three vessels with capacity for almost 600 passengers in total, said he had received an email from the Inis Oírr co-op after its vote, asking his company to respect the wishes of the islanders.

“We said we’d do that, but we are hoping in a week or two that this might change,” Mr O’Brien said.

Doolin 2 Aran Ferries marketing manager Joan Hamilton said that it was also “respecting the wishes of the people of Inis Oírr” and had decided not to sail to Inis Meáin also as it had limited facilities and “it would not be fair to them”.

Inis Meáin businessman and owner of the internationally successful knitwear company Tarlach de Blacam said he believed the debate over the pressures of tourism on the islands was “now taking place”.

“People including my son [Ruairí de Blacam of the Inis Meáin Restaurant] have invested in quality accommodation on the three islands and that brings in more revenue than day-trippers,” he said. “This debate about sustainable tourism is taking place now all over Europe.”

Inis Mór wedding celebrant Dara Molloy said that effectively there had been a phased re-opening last week, as only one Island Ferries boat was sailing from Ros-a-Mhíl for all three islands and there had been “no big crowds”.

Meanwhile, as The Sunday Times reports today, Aran island residents have expressed anger and disappointment over a social media post – uploaded during a divisive debate over re-opening to visitors without adequate supports - which depicted them as one of the earliest primates in the human evolutionary tree.

The graphic, which has since been removed, compared “the people of Aran” to Australopithecus robustus, an extinct species dating to between 1.5 million and 2 million years old and first identified from fossil remains in South Africa.

Over a caption reading “Minister Sean Kyne says ‘Islanders are nervous about reopening after not seeing any tourists for a long number of months’,” the graphic showed five evolving primates with one arrow for “The people of Aran” pointing to the hunched Australopithecus and another for “People on the Mainland” pointing to upright Homo sapiens.

In the second graphic, a cartoon image of Mr Kyne depicted him as “Minister for Primitive People”.

Mr Kyne said he had been sent the links but had taken no action as he believed the debate had been very heated and such criticism was “part of the cut and thrust of politics”.

Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann/Irish Island Network secretary Rhoda Twombly said she understood the social media graphics posted by Inis Mór’s Óstan Arann owner Keith Madigan had been removed after criticism.

She said she would “deplore anything that denigrates any of the island population”.

Mr Madigan did not respond to requests for comment.

Read more on The Sunday Times report here

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Outgoing Gaeltacht minister Sean Kyne has expressed disappointment at the Government decision to approve early re-opening of offshore islands to visitors from Monday (June 29).

The Attorney General had advised the Cabinet that there could be legal consequences if it did not abide by the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), Mr Kyne confirmed.

Offshore communities had been taken by surprise when NPHET announced a week ago that travel to and from islands could resume from June 29th.

The Government’s “road map” had originally set from August 10th as a date for all but essential travel to and from islands.

Mr Kyne said he contacted Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Cabinet colleagues about the need for a more phased approach, given the lack of time to prepare for anticipated large numbers of domestic visitors.

Mr Kyne confirmed that he had received appeals from Aran island medical professionals urging caution, but had also been contacted by tourism interests seeing an early reopening.

He said that NPHET’s advice to Cabinet was that there was no reason on public health grounds for curtailing visitors to the islands.

“I am disappointed - I expect some businesses will decide against reopening on Monday,” Mr Kyne said.

Two Aran islands – Inis Oírr and Inis Mór – held surveys which voted overwhelmingly against an early reopening.

All three Aran islands are in a declared Irish Water “drought” category, and have had water rationing due to the severe dry spell.

In Inis Oírr’s case, 92 per cent of residents and businesses voted against re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

A number of other islands have limited health facilities, lack of provision for public toilets, and limited scope for social distancing on piers during busy ferry berthing periods.

"The Government seemed to be more afraid about protecting itself against law suits by businesses than our public health," one island resident said.

Earlier this week, the Irish Islands Federation, Comhdháil Oileáin na hEireann called on the Government and NPHET to provide “clear guidance and protocols” on the safe re-opening of islands to visitors.

The federation pointed out it had not received any written reply to submissions to State agencies, "seeking direction and supports for the offshore islands".

Government Covid 19 data suggests that up to six electoral districts with islands had less than five cases of the virus, but the Department of Health would not comment further.

Island representatives are only aware of one case on the largest Aran island of Inis Mór and a very small number on Achill island, Co Mayo, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

The island federation had no comment to make yesterday.

Published in Island News

The Irish Islands Federation has called on the Government to provide “clear guidance and protocols” on the safe re-opening of islands to visitors.

The federation, Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, has also called on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to provide more detail, amid considerable concern about its decision to approve early re-opening from next Monday, as Afloat reported earlier.

In a statement today, the island federation said it had not received any written reply to submissions to State agencies, "seeking direction and supports for the offshore islands".

“The board of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, on behalf of all offshore islands is again urgently seeking clarity and guidance from the Government regarding the safe reopening and required supports,” it said.

The NPHET decision to allow travel to and from islands to resume from June 29th, announced last Friday, threw offshore communities into confusion over the weekend.

Acting Gaeltacht minister Sean Kyne says he opposes the move and believes there should be a phased approach. He says this will be considered at this Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

The Aran Islands, which had one confirmed case of Covid-19, has been on rationed water, and this is adding to residents’ worries if visitors are permitted.

There are also medical concerns about the elderly population’s exposure to the pandemic.

Mr Kyne said that apart from the water issue, local authorities had no time to prepare piers and public facilities and signage for an opening on June 29th.

While there has been a welcome from tourism interests, medical professionals have advised against an early opening, he said.

A survey conducted by the co-op on the Aran island of Inis Óirr last week indicated that 92 per cent of residents and businesses oppose re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

Islands had originally been closed until the beginning of phase five of the Government’s Covid-19 road map and expected to open again to visitors from August 10th.

Mr Kyne said that when phase five was scrapped, he received a large number of communications from island residents and businesses, expressing opposing views about the timing of re-opening.

“I’ve sent recommendations to the Taoiseach, who has been engaging with NPHET on this issue,” Mr Kyne said.

“Unless the islands can come up with an agreed position, however, the NPHET decision is the default one,” he said.

At a special sitting of the Dail Covid-19 committee late last week, Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuiv (FF) proposed a special package of assistance to island businesses if there is later re-opening.

Published in Island News
Tagged under
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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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