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Displaying items by tag: Cruising

A cruising issue that has been bubbling away for some time is the change in access rules for UK citizens travelling in the EU after the completion of our exit scheduled for the end of this year.

At present, the UK is offering EU citizens visa free travel for six months out of twelve. The EU is offering only 90 days in 180, the standard Schengen arrangement. This would be an unwelcome restriction to cruising in EU countries. The UK government, having previously indicated they would seek parity are now saying that they don't expect the EU to offer more and that they don't intend to make this part of the negotiations.

The Cruising Association's RATS (Regulations and Technical Services) committee is prepared to investigate what individual countries might offer in terms of longer stay visas, and the CA is now activating a lobbying campaign that it had planned to begin when the COVID-19 virus struck.

Now that there are signs that the peak in the UK seems to have passed, and Brexit negotiations are continuing, the CA feels the time is right to make what representations it can.

The CA's President, Julian Dussek, has written to his MP and to Wendy Morton, Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas, as well as a range of organisations with similar interests, including the

The CA is galvanising its UK members to write to their own MPs to ask for help in pressing for equal treatment. General points being highlighted include:

  • the UK is offering EU citizen's a better deal on visa free entry than they plan to offer in return
  • the UK government has said it does not intend to challenge the unfairness and has given no reason
  • a wide range of people in the UK will be affected, including those with family or property in the EU as well as those wishing to continue extended travelling.
  • family crises can arise outside the 90-day allowance and for people cruising in their own small boats, even the most careful planning can go awry with weather or mechanical problems.
  • the penalties for overstaying for any reason can be draconian.

The CA is also contacting those members who live in the EU to ask them to put pressure on their local parliamentarians to try and effect a change from within the EU. If the restrictions are imposed next year it will have a detrimental effect on tourism, an important part of many EU countries' economy.

Published in Cruising
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Garry Crothers of Lough Swilly YC, who voyages extensively with his 2003-built aluminium Ovni 435 cutter Kind of Blue despite having only one arm as the result of a particularly catastrophic car accident in 2007, was facing a severe problem in the Caribbean last month as reported in

Normally he voyages in the substantial Kind of Blue with a crew of two. But when he stopped off in the Dutch Caribbean island of Sint Maarten for a crew change which would have been effected through the island’s famously beach-hopping airport, while his shipmates were able to get away, his replacement crew were unable to join him as the Caribbean Islands suddenly introduced very stringent closures to keep COVID-19 at bay.

Kind of Blue in total calm as the sun rises over a peaceful anchorage. For the next few weeksKind of Blue in total calm as the sun rises over a peaceful anchorage. For the next few weeks, the Ovni 435 will be in constant movement as she voyages home to Lough Foyle

With some very pessimistic prediction being made as to how long the COVID-19 pandemic would last in its worldwide effects, Garry reckoned that his best plan was to sail home as soon as possible to the port of Derry, very much his home town for when he’s there he plays a leading role in the Foyle Sailability Project for ability-impaired boat fans.

Garry Crothers at home in the Foyle on Kind of Blue, taking part in a Foyle Sailability Project.Garry Crothers at home in the Foyle on Kind of Blue, taking part in a Foyle Sailability Project

He had though there might be a chance of recruiting at least one crew from among the small fleet quarantined in Sint Maarten. But all the boats were dealing with personnel problems, many of them acute, and he gradually became resigned to the idea of having to sail the 3,600 miles home all-too-literally single-handed.

So although he admits to being at least 64 and thus in an at-risk cohort as regards COVID-19 in addition to his other problems, he drew on experience gained in his one single-handed voyage - a passage of five days – and prepared the boat and himself to make the 3,600 mile Transatlantic crossing to Lough Foyle in one hop, as he reckons that even thinking of diverting to the Azores on the way – as most others do - would only distract him from the single-mindedness needed for this extreme challenge.

Kind of Blue and her lone skipper took their departure on Monday, and progress has been good, but it’s still one very long way to go, and patience will be needed among those following this very special voyage.

Vera Quinlan & Peter Owens on Ketch Danu

The Quinlan-Owens family’s 39ft ketch Danu in the CaribbeanThe Quinlan-Owens family’s 39ft ketch Danu in the Caribbean. With their dreams of further Caribbean cruising curtailed by the severe COVID-19 restrictions in the islands, Danu headed for the Azores in the first and longest stage of her voyage home to Kinvara on Galway Bay, and is expected in Horta in the next few days

Meanwhile, Vera Quinlan and Peter Owens and their children Lillian and Ruari from Kinvara on Galway Bay with the 39ft ketch Duna are now within a few days of the Azores, after a month of voyaging homewards from Antigua. But as the famous Azores High Pressure is keeping wind strengths down in the approaches to the islands, a specific ETA is on hold until the weekend.

Published in Cruising
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The Hanse 455 Saoirse, with which Wolfgang Bee-Fenix and his Irish-German family have been making a Transatlantic circuit cruise, is expected back in Malahide later on Sunday, after a warm welcome home to Irish waters from both the Customs and the Naval Service off the coast of West Cork this (Saturday) morning.

The messages from on board say it all, with the posting from 10 o’clock today setting the mood of the day:

“Just had the Guys from Customs and Immigration come alongside to ask us how the trip has been. They have been following our blog!! Very cool. All smiles, friendly and helpful. Gave us a few forms to fill out and wished us safe passage back to Malahide. Oh how happy we are to be home.”

 Irish Customs welcomed Saoirse back to Irish watersIt’s difficult to give a friendly smile when you’re wearing a facemask, but somehow the Irish Customs managed it this morning as their RIB welcomed Saoirse back to Irish waters.

The Customs Service RIB returns to the mothership FaireThe Customs Service RIB returns to the mothership Faire after providing Saoirse with clearance in the open Atlantic.

Then an hour later there was a broader capturing of the scene:

“After 9 days on passage from the Azores, we saw the South West Coast of Ireland come into view this morning. What a glorious sight, and decked in sunshine and blue skies to boot!! We have already had the guys from Customs and Immigration come alongside, giving us a good Irish welcome. They have been following our blog and knew all about us. They gave us some forms to fill out and wished us safe onward passage to Malahide. We hope to make the evening tidal window tomorrow for Malahide Marina. Can’t wait to get our feet on Terra Firma now after over a month at sea, between our passage to the Azores, the time there on board and now this final leg home”.

Naval Service RIB sets out to return to her ship after a further check on SaoirseWelcome Number 2 – the Naval Service RIB sets out to return to her ship after a further check on Saoirse

And then most recently early this afternoon, with Saoirse two miles off the Old Head of Kinsale and making 6 knots on a close reach with 12 knots of SSE wind:

“What an exciting morning. After a month all on our lonesome we have had two visits in one day. This time from the Irish Navy. Again all smiles, general questions and we were sent on our way wishing us safe passage home.”

Bee-Fenix family on Saoirse

Looking forward to returning to dry land – the Bee-Fenix family on Saoirse.

Published in Cruising
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When your name is Wolfgang Bee and your boat is a top-of-the-line Hanse 455, the smart money would say you’re German. But when your wife is a Fenix from a family with roots in Tippperary and a couple of other Irish counties, and your beloved family boat is called Saoirse, then the smart money would also say that Ireland is never far from your thoughts.

Saoirse’s approaching arrival from the Azores in Ireland, with an ultimate destination in Malahide, is just one of the many voyages being tracked by the Ocean Cruising Club’s Vice Commodore Daria Blackwell from her base at Port Aleria on Clew Bay in Mayo. There, her husband Alex Blackwell (incidentally an OCC Rear Commodore, there’s a right nest of them at Port Aleria) is the whizz on the technology side as they work to provide a support service for the hundreds of OCC yachts worldwide that went off for long carefree dream cruises, but now find almost every potential port choice deeply affected by the Covid-19 restrictions.

This voluntary assistance has attracted such international attention that Daria recently found herself featuring on the Russian service of the BBC World News. And we well know that - just as the eyes of the Skibbereen Eagle used to be firmly on the doings of the Tsar of Russia - so the Kremlin is now keeping a close eye on (howya Vlad, how’s it goin’, boy?), so here’s the link to show how far the OCC is reaching 

german saoirse crew2The German-Irish Bee-Fenix family on Saoirse are bound for Malahide from the Azores, where they had a restricted but very welcome five day stop in Horta after saioing from the Caribbean

For boats making the almost 4,000 mile hop to Europe from the very closed-down Caribbean, the legendary hospitality of Horta in the Azores has been a godsend. And though crews arriving at Horta have not been allowed ashore, they’re provided with a sheltered berth, and ways have been devised of helping them to re-stock with stores, water, fuel and Peter’s own special Horta-distilled spirits, which will cure anything.

The Quinlan-Owens family on the Galway Bay-based 39ft ketch Danu are still in the midst of the Antigua to Horta stage, but the departure a couple of days ago from the Azores of a loose flotilla of six boats included at least two bound for Ireland, with Saoirse well-followed thanks to her regular Facebook postings  However, all that is known of the other, a boat called Vibe, is that she is heading for Cork.

Time was when wandering about the oceans with only the occasional contact with anyone was what sea-voyaging escapism under sail was all about. But what with the increasing spread of AIS, and the all-involving effect of Covid-19, the crew of the good ship Vibe – which seems to lack AIS – will find themselves shaken out of their solitary little world of voyaging with something of a culture shock when they finally reach Cork

Published in Cruising
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At Port Aleria on Clew Bay in Mayo, Alex and Daria Blackwell can see their Bowman 57 ketch Aleria when she’s on her moorings off their house. But at the moment, their minds are often elsewhere, as Daria is Vice Commodore of the Ocean Cruising Club, whose many voyaging members worldwide have sometimes been finding themselves on the wrong side of local Covid-19 Lockdowns.

Helping them to plot a route home, or at least to a more friendly environment, has been entrusted to the Vice Commodore and her husband-shipmate. Thus Port Aleria has become a nerve-centre for passage planning and monitoring for a wide variety of craft from many nationalities in a large number of locations. And one of them has been Danu, the Kinvara-based 39ft steel ketch which is currently on a Transatlantic circuit cruise with Vera Quinlan, her husband Peter Owens, and their two children Lillian (12) and Ruari (10).

Their dream cruise was beginning to take on several aspects of a nightmare, as some of the Caribbean islands imposed local hyper-strict lockdowns. But the crew of Danu are a notably resourceful and good-humoured foursome, and even in situations which others might have found maddeningly frustrating, they managed to make the best of it to add to their rich store of experiences. Eventually, they found their way to Antigua, which was one of the assembly points for a flotilla of OCC boats due to leave for Europe at much the same time from several islands.

There was further frustration with a lack of wind for some days, and with the need to conserve fuel and use sail as much as possible over what might be a 4,000 mile voyage - though with the possibility of a pit stop at the Azores – patience was need until the breeze filled in. When it did, they finally got away on Saturday in company with Peter Whatley’s La Boheme. Their patience is rewarded, as Danu is currently making good progress under sail in the right direction three days after departure.

Meanwhile, ocean voyagers everywhere are either trying to do the same thing, or are watching to keep an eye on how others are doing, and a couple from Northern Ireland, Kevin & Susie Harris with the 1993 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 47 Temptress of Down (originally Laragh based at Crosshaven), have been negotiating tricky waters as they draw towards the final stages of their global circumnavigation, which started in 2013.

TemptressThe much-travelled Sun Odyssey 47 Temptress of Down was Crosshaven-based when new in 1993.
“Final stages” is a very relative term when you’re cruising round the world, for in the case for Temptress and her crew, it has involved how best to get from Sri Lanka into European waters. The situation in the Middle East is so volatile that the Ocean Cruising Club are reluctant to advise going there, but the prospect of the long haul down round South Africa seemed equally unappealing, so Kevin and Susie kept with their plan of simply going for it through the notoriously windy Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

From time to time, yacht convoys get formed to transit these potentially hazardous areas in the hope of finding safety in numbers. But like circumnavigators Pat and Oliva Murphy of Howth with Aldebaran in 2007, the Harrises found themselves on their own, and just went for it despite the added problems of the spread of Covid-19.

Fortune favoured the brave, and they were through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean by May 2nd. After replenishing stores and resting up in Crete, where they were provided with generous supplies of welcome fresh produce by the neighbourhood farmers, Temptress and her crew are now in mainland Greece at Missolonghi (yes, Byron’s Missolonghi) with the country and its minimal Coronavirus infection rate rapidly emerging from lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Ocean Cruising Club’s support network is a reminder that the club was founded in 1954 by Humphrey Barton (1900-1980), who was very active in the Irish Cruising Club when he was working in Belfast as a consulting engineer in the 1930s. He continued to maintain these ICC links, and today the OCC has a significant Irish membership, with the Vice Commodore Daria Blackwell based in Clew Bay, while the OCC Roving Rear Commodore (Baltic) is Andrew Curtain of the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire.

The OCC Atlantic Fleet are in this Wind Prediction Tracker here

Published in Cruising

Today, all being well, a flotilla of eight boats will be leaving Antigua, bound Transatlantic for Europe in the hope of being well clear of the Caribbean before the hurricane season sets in. Included in the group will be the Galway Bay 39ft ketch Danu with Marine Institute scientist Vera Quinlan, her husband Peter Owens and their two children Lillian (12) and Ruari (10).

In all, there are about 150 Ocean Cruising Club boats spread through the Caribbean, and anxious to get clear of the sometimes extreme Covid-19 lockdown in the islands. Ocean CC Vice Commodore Daria Blackwell has been much involved in advising and coordinating this movement, working from the home on the shores of Clew Bay in Mayo where she lives with husband Alex Blackwell.

danu berthed2The Quinlan-Owens family’s ketch Danu hopes to depart Antigua today for the almost 4,000-mile voyage back to Ireland, possible with a brief stop at the Azores. Photo: Peter Owens
Some of the crews in the Caribbean have experienced decidedly harsh lockdown treatment at the hands of the island authorities, and while many are prepared to sail non-stop until they reach their own home waters, others are encouraged by the fact that the authorities in the Azores have indicated that they will do everything possible within their own restrictions to help the voyagers on their way.

Included among the voyaging hopefuls is Garry Crothers from Derry and Lough Swilly Yacht Club with his 43ft aluminium cruiser Kind of Blue, whose problems are particularly acute as expected crew have been unable to join him, and when he says he may have to sail single-handed, he really means it as he lost an arm in an accident some years ago.

More on this story and others in this account in the Guardian newspaper here and in this interview on the BBC World news here

Published in Cruising
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The family crew of the 13 metre Bruce Roberts steel ketch Danu from Galway Bay hope to start their long Transatlantic voyage home from Antigua this weekend. The oceanic circuit cruise started nearly eleven months ago when Marine Institute scientist Vera Quinlan, her husband Peter Owens and their children Lilian (12) and Ruari (10) departed southward from Kinvara last June.

In a very competent and complete venture, they’ve savoured the total Atlantic experience on the ocean, and on both sides of it too, with detailed inland expeditions ashore – sometimes far inland – and a decidedly unusual Christmas spent up a river in South America in the heart of a dense tropical forest.

danu crew2Here comes the sun…..Danu’s crew as they took their departure from Ireland at the end of June 2019, with Lilian and Ruari (foreground), and their parents Peter Owens and Vera Quinlan. Photo Vera Quinlan
The reward for all this sometimes very muddy exploration was the glorious sailing northward up the islands of the Caribbean across sparkling seas, and though the increasing spread of the Covid-19 restrictions has made passage planning more complex, they have managed to modify their cruise to accommodate the new situation.

Thus when a four week lockdown was imposed, they’d got themselves to Barbuda which, as Vera reports, “is not a bad place to be stuck…..”. Since then they’ve made the 30 mile passage to Antigua where they’ve been in isolation while re-stocking the ship for the Transatlantic voyage back towards Ireland. It’s a passage which is just under 4,000 miles in all, though they hope to have a short break in the Azores if the pandemic situation has sufficiently resolved itself by that time.

danu ruari lilian3 Children of the sea – Danu’s junior crew of Ruari and Lilian are with their parents in facing into a 4,000-mile voyage. Photo: Vera Quinlan

Published in Cruising
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Here at North Sails Ireland, a large portion of our customer base is made up of a wide range of cruising sailors writes Maurice O'Connell.

They range from blue-water sailors who have circumnavigated the globe to coastal sailors who undertake short "hops" with friends and family.

Cruising sailors' requirements can be a little different from our "all-out" racing clients. Here at North Sails, we have an extensive range of cruising products that will deliver fast, reliable cruising for many many years.

Have you ever wondered about, "what should I be looking for in a cruising sail?". Well, here's the answer...North Sails invites all sailors to join our "10 Things To Look For In Cruising Sails" webinar.

This fun and informative webinar will be hosted by our colleagues Bob Meagher, Peter Grimm (North Sails Fort Lauderdale) and Austin Powers (North Sails Annapolis).

Read about them here:-

All are welcome to our webinar...........

With very best wishes from North Sails Ireland.

Please register here

Published in North Sails Ireland

“If you find a good crew, marry her”.

It may sound flippant. But when you think of all the challenges of keeping any ship’s company in a friendly and effectively-functioning form, and add to that all the challenges of a happy marriage in these increasingly long-lived times, then that piece of crisp advice is pure gold.

Yet in the case of Richard Kennedy of Birr in County Offaly – not exactly Ireland’s most nautical town – it was Rita Hopkins of Inishowen in Donegal who introduced him to sailing, and over the years they’ve become a devoted cruising couple in every sense.

There has been an element of compromise. When Rita became Mrs Kennedy, they settled far from the sea in Birr, where Richard is a solicitor and arbitrator. But they soon had boats which they kept on nearby Lough Derg – arguably a proper inland sea – and in time became the proud owners of the characterful steel-built 34ft Bruce Roberts-designed Slocum Spray-type cutter Seachran.

2 seachran connemara2Into the west….Seachran anchored off the silver strand on Dinish in Connemara as the local hookers race in the bay. Photo: Richard Kennedy
3 seachran accommodation3The homely comfort down below – over two seasons, Richard and Rita lived on Seachran for five months. Photo: Richard Kennedy

With their young sons Paul and David they had both inland and sea cruising with this boat, which had become a cherished member of the family. But with the boys growing up and making their own way in life while their parents saw retirement age approaching, the plan began to take place of Richard and Rita making a proper round Ireland cruise, with Richard maybe even writing a book about it

This will sound familiar to readers, for back on September 2nd we ran this preview of the book’s launching. Many readers responded to it, and the book went into a second printing. Yet in these very peculiar times, ‘Round Ireland by Slow Boat’ really does hit the spot, and more folk should know about it.

4 richard kennnedy4With some difficult navigation successfully completed, the skipper is in a good mood as Seacrhan approaches Inishbofin on passage from Connemara. Photo: Rita Kennedy

Cometh the hour, cometh the book…….This is just the kind of reading you need these days, for ultimately it’s all-absorbing escapist literature. For sure, in what became a five-month cruise spread over the two seasons of 2017 and 2018, Richard and Rita’s clockwise circuit of our extraordinary island saw them once or twice in potentially dangerous situations which Richard, with a self-deprecatory candour, admits they shouldn’t have been next or near in the first place.

Yet despite those occasional but very real hazards, you’re with them every mile of the way in a well-spiced read. For at other times when he comes upon a strange and maybe unpleasant aspect of life at some port or other, Richard is not at all backward in coming forth with an adverse opinion. Then too, their passionate interest in traditional music and other areas of Irish culture adds a dimension lacking in many cruising narratives, and through these interests, he introduces us to people well beyond the normal sailing circles.

5 seachran north mayo5Seachran making good progress reaching along the coast of North Mayo, bound for Sligo. Note the system for self-tacking the staysail, with the sheet led upwards to a sheave in the mast. Photo: Richard Kennedy
6 seachran new ross6With the help of family and friends, Seachran was given a fresh coat of anti-fouling in record time at mid-voyage in the boatyard at New Ross in County Wexford. Photo: Richard Kennedy
In time, this special two-season cruise takes on such a strong character of its own that neither the participants nor the reader want it to end. I was reading it at the same time as another longtime cruising shipmate, and as we both neared the ultimately successful conclusion with Seachran back in her home port of Kilgarvan on Lough Derg, we found ourselves exchanging emails about how we were reading it in ever-shorter segments, as it so perfectly removed us from the unimaginable realities of life today.

The core of it all is the clearly very special relationship between Richard and Rita. It’s not impertinent to suggest that in the final analysis, ‘Round Ireland by Slow Boat” is a love story and a refreshingly self-aware one at that. It will do you a world of good to read it in it entirety.

Published by Throughthechair Publishing, it’s on sale for €15 including post and package, details at, or contact Richard Kennedy direct at [email protected]

As for what Richard and Rita might do next? The cruise has been successfully completed. The book has been written and well received. So now they might get together with their seisiun friends in those special little pubs close under the Slieve Blooms, and compose some music of the voyage.

7 seachran kilgarvan7Home again. Her mast having been lowered to negotiate the bridges of Limerick, Seachran has gently made her way under auxiliary engine (a marinised Volkswagen Golf diesel) back to her hidden home port of Kilgarvan on Lough Derg. Photo: Richard Kennedy

Published in Cruising
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The worldwide spread of the Irish Cruising Club membership was in evidence at the AGM in Dun Laoghaire at the end of February when Daragh Nagle was awarded the supreme trophy, the Faulkner Cup.

Originally of Portmarnock but now cruising from Victoria in British Columbia with his wife Cathy O’Neill in their 1987-vintage Moody 376 Chantey V, Daragh’s 2019 venture was a properly-logged 2,500 miles-plus 90 day venture with more than 70 ports and anchorages visited, competently dealing with a mixture of extreme tides and open sea passages in exemplary style.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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Page 5 of 26

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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