Displaying items by tag: Ilen
The restored 1926-built Conor O'Brien-designed 56ft ketch Ilen of Limerick found the Atlantic in a challenging mood last week as she undertook a combined educational, cultural, and commercial cargo voyage. Yet despite the vagaries of the Irish weather and the demands of the ocean, Project Director and skipper Gary Mac Mahon and his crew completed a complex series of coastal and open sea passages to an intriguing variety of ports.
The programme included educational events in both Kilrush in County Clare and Foynes in County Limerick along the Shannon Estuary, and additional calls to Kilronan in the Aran Islands and Dingle in West Kerry to leave off special cargoes of food and drink consignments of quality items from artisan producers in southwest Ireland and Limerick.
The voyage got underway from Baltimore in West Cork, with noted local brands such as Red Strand Coffee, West Cork Whiskey and Cape Clear Gin being shipped for delivery northwards. Some of it was unloaded at Kilrush to various noted outlets, but once that was done, for three days the Ilen presence was being used with an entirely different emphasis, as she became one of the centre-pieces for the Scait na hOige Youth Festival which staged events in both Kilrush and Foynes.
As already reported in Afloat.ie, this was the first berthing call to Foynes – Conor O'Brien's home port – since Ilen was restored. So what with meeting O'Brien relatives, and the Festival and the renowned hospitality of Foynes Yacht Club, it was busy.
But with the local products such as Thomond Red Ale from Limerick and Rigney's famous ham and bacon from Curragh Chase being added to the cargo, it was soon time to be back in the delivery business. The weather was closing in, and Ilen's crew hoped to have made their call north to Kilronan and be south of Blasket Sound before the top really came off.
As ever, Ilen did the business, though it was a close enough call. In Kilronan it was Cape Clear Gin and best jam from Kilrush which was taken off by Aonghus Mullen of the Spar group, and then the ship headed south into a clear enough night which concluded with a spectacular dawn as they entered the Blasket Sound.
It was a dawn which would have any seafarer on high alert, and as Conor O'Brien said of Blasket Sound, it always seems to be flat calm or wind over tide with steep and breaking seas. In 2020, his 1926 ketch seems to have managed both, with the south end of the Sound seeing her in bucking bronco mode – she'd dipped her entire bowsprit at least twenty times by the time they could square off for the welcome shelter of Dingle.
While all this was going on, little did they know that far away in California, retired Fastnet Rock lighthouse keeper Richard Cummins was busy with a project inspired by the Ilen Model contest which fascinated an international selection of schoolchildren during the strictest parts of the Lockdown. But where they were making mini-Ilens out of tetrapaks, the former Fastnet man was putting an Ilen model in a bottle, so now a little bit of California is forever Limerick and West Cork.
The Ilen's crew were safely in Kinsale, neatly ahead of the next bit of meteorological mayhem, when they heard the story from California as they prepared for the final discharge of cargo from this part of the voyage, with Limerick ham and bacon heading for the Barrett family's friendly Dunmore House Hotel near Clonakilty.
Ilen continues in Kinsale with diversions to Cork Harbour through September, but towards the end of the month, she heads for Dublin on another cargo cruise, and is due in Howth Marina on September 27th.
The 56ft Trading Ketch Ilen has had a busy couple of days of cultural and educational activities in Kilrush during her current two-week cargo cruise, with performances including shows and workshops with noted Limerick Boy and contemporary dancer Tobi Omoteso. The next stage on her programme came up yesterday (Friday) evening with the epochal visit across the Shannon Estuary to Foynes for her first time berthed there in 94 years.
The Shannon Estuary had been in a lively mood earlier in the day with at least one waterspout seen whirling its way up past Tarbert. But things had quietened down when Ilen made her short but historic passage to bring her to a berth just across the channel at Foynes from the little house of Barneen on the island where Conor O’Brien designed both Saoirse in 1921-22, and Ilen in 1925-26. It is also where he lived out his last days in 1952, and his graveyard is on the mainland in the churchyard near Foynes Yacht Club. The programme with Ilen today (Saturday) in Foynes includes tours of the vessel, a DJ set in Foynes Yacht Club, stories from Foynes island with the O’Brien family, and a Sea Shanty Workshop with William Howard.
The Shannon Estuary is king size and clearly defined. Where some other great rivers gradually broaden as they near the sea, sometimes dissipating further into a delta, the Shannon Estuary affirms its individuality with a rapid change as it emerges between mountains and hills from river to sea in Limerick. And yet that first taste of real sea is still a very long way from the open ocean, for the geography between the counties of Limerick and Kerry on the south shore and Clare on the north is such that a majestic waterway – a superhighway of the sea – is developed to such an extent that the distance from river to ocean is almost one hundred kilometres.
It comes tantalising close, at 97 kilometres. But that figure hasn’t registered really registered with the city and its area’s schoolchildren, for down the centuries they’ve had it drummed into their minds that the Shannon Estuary is sixty miles long, and that’s it. But even at sixty miles, it makes it seem so enormous that they can scarcely grasp what it means, and its full significance in the economy and ecology of the region. So for the next four days, the restored 56ft trading ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage is the focus of Scairt na hOige, a Creative Youth Festival around the Shannon Estuary.
Currently, Ilen is in County Clare where - as reported in Afloat.ie - she had very efficiently delivered a cargo of West Cork produce from Baltimore for discharge on Monday morning in the ancient but now up-dated port of Kilrush. But for now and until Sunday afternoon, she is being re-focused as an educational centre, and on Saturday she’ll have crossed the estuary to Foynes and a berth at Foynes Yacht Club to continue the work, while adding a further very significant historical element. For this is her first stopover visit since her restoration to Foynes, which was the home port of Conor O’Brien, designer and skipper of Ilen and of the world-girdling Saoirse before her, and though the official versions of the voyages of Saoirse and Ilen would have it that they started in some other major ports, as far as Conor O’Brien was concerned, the voyages were properly underway once he sailed each vessel away from Foynes.
From Foynes, Ilen will sail to Limerick for a two-day visit to take on cargo and a ceremony on September 1st in the Hunt Museum (the former Limerick Customs House) finalising her registry in that historic port, and then she resumes her trading activities with the delivery of a cargo to Kilronan in the Aran island on a working voyage which will eventually see the main part of her cargo discharged in Cork.
When - on August 4th - we previewed the planned eco-friendly "cargo cruise" by the restored Limerick trading ketch Ilen on Afloat.ie, it was emphasised that speed would not be of the essence as the 1926 Conor O'Brien-designed and Oldcourt West Cork-built 56ft traditional ship carried a variety of special cargoes between Baltimore, Kilrush, Foynes, Limerick, Kilronan in the Aran Islands, Dingle and Cork City.
Yet in Sunday's welcome sunshine at noon in Baltimore, the West Cork and Cape Clear section of the cargo was taken on board, and this morning (Monday) at Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary, there was Ilen, already in her first port, and ready to discharge the ordered consignment of Red Strand Coffee, expertly roasted in West Cork.
If it had been sent by road with a courier, it probably wouldn't have got to Kilrush any sooner. But nevertheless, Gary Mac Mahon of the Ilen Project is keen to emphasise that speed is not what it's all about, rather it's about reminding people of how big a role an environmentally-friendly sailing-based delivery system used to play in Ireland's commerce, and for four days this week between Kilrush and Foynes, Ilen will be the focal point of an Education Programme for schoolchildren from Limerick and Clare.
From Foynes, she goes on to Limerick for cargo deliveries, and formal registration with her historic home port, then it's northward to Kilronan for more discharging and loading of cargo before taking in Dingle on the way to the main delivery at Port of Cork.
Beyond that, it is planned that the cargo voyage be extended to Dublin by the third week of September. But for now, on this Monday morning, it's good to know that Ilen is securely in Kilrush well ahead of the latest forecast storm, and the first delivery of this unusual project has already taken place.
When the restored 56ft ketch Ilen of Limerick gets worthwhile wind conditions, she can give a good account of herself in terms of sailing speed. Yet no-one would claim that her rate of knots on passage afloat remotely compares to the speed and raw efficiency of pollution-emitting lorries ashore, buzzing along Ireland’s roads.
But Ilen Project Director Gary Mac Mahon – current holder of the Irish Sailing Presidential Award for his unflinching determination in restoring the Conor O’Brien-designed, Oldcourt West Cork 1926-built ketch to full seagoing conditions – reckons that the steady global movement in slow food and local artisan products makes for a good fit with Ilen’s ability to carry cargo to remote little quays - or indeed quays of any kind – at a leisurely but environmentally-friendly pace.
In this he is partially inspired by the example of the last Shannon sail-only cargo vessel, the trading cutter Alzina, owned and sailed by Captain John Davis of Labasheeda, that useful little port on the Clare coast midway between Limerick and the open Atlantic.
Alizina was working under sail until the 1950s, and Gary’s father Joe got some photos of this intriguing vessel and her activities in the mighty estuary. In those days, when “Just In Time” was an unimaginable concept in the deep heart of rural and coastal Ireland, there were enough consignments and cargoes and harvested crops coming in from the west at a leisurely pace to keep Alzina in business.
However, an element of urgency came into it all when she was docked in Limerick and gradually taking on board outward-bound cargo and goods, for the ideal was to have everything together and destined for Labasheeda for a single unloading at the quay there, as John Davis prided himself on being able to do the Limerick-Labasheeds passage on one good ebb tide.
So to emphasise the extra urgency - even in the already bustling atmosphere of Limerick - Alzina carried a ship’s bicycle, and it was the task of the ship’s boy – or whoever happened to be available – to hop aboard this iron steed as high water approached, and race round any shops where they knew specific personal orders for folk downriver were being put together at the last moment.
Despite the inevitable bicycle race, it all suggests an environmentally-friendly way of doings things which increasingly chimes with some of today’s mood, and Ilen in turn can become part of that.
When she made her first voyage in restored form last year to West Greenland – a voyage which in itself garnered several awards – the theme was Salmons Wake, as 2019 was the Year of the Atlantic Salmon, and any cargo carried on Ilen was cultural and creative material to strengthen links with schools and communities in Greenland.
But for 2020’s necessarily shortened season, a project has been devised which gives an acknowledgement of Ilen’s first sixty-five years of life as the freight and passenger vessel for the Falkland Islands, and combines it with the central concept one of her 2020 roles – four days as a youth educational vessel with the Limerick & Clare Education & Training Board.
The concept that’s emerging is the Ilen Community and Cargo Voyage 2020, whose final form is still taking shape. Currently, Ilen is back with builder Liam Hegarty in Oldcourt near Baltimore for her annual refit and some adjustments. But on August 24th she’ll head west with a first call at North Harbour on Cape Clear, home port of Conor O’Brien’s 1926 Ireland-Falklands crew of Con and Denis Cadogan, where she’ll take on board her first consignment, Cape Clear Gin.
Then it’s on for a long hop to Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary (August 26th), followed by a crossing to Foynes (August 29th) for the first time berthed there since 1926, Kilrush and Foynes being among the focal points for the Education & Training Board involvement, and Foynes Island being home for Conor O’Brien, who died there in 1952.
Then from Foynes it’s upriver to Limerick itself, where some of the Cape Clear Gin will be discharged, while additional products taken on board will include Ishka Spring Water, Limerick Beer, and Thomond Gate Distillery Whiskey, while other specialist quality products will doubtless be added as the voyage plan develops.
The Limerick visit has an added significance as it is hoped that on September 1st in a ceremony in the Hunt Museum (originally the Customs House), the official registration of Ilen (No 146843) will see the Port of Registry formally transferred from Skibbereen to Limerick.
The business done and cargo stowed away, Ilen heads down the estuary and then sails north around Loop Head for Kilronan in the Aran Islands, where more of the Cape Clear Gin will be unloaded. The course is then shaped south for Dingle where the spirit of Cape Clear is awaited, and then if time serves there’ll be a call to historic Derrynane, much associated with Conor O’Brien and last visited by Ilen in 1926. However, the primary purpose of the second half of the voyage is the delivery - under sail - of cargo from Cape Clear and primarily Limerick to Cork City, and the date set for the completion of that at the Cork quays is September 7th.
Conor O’Brien used to say that he always preferred to have a purpose over and above the pleasure of simply sailing when he went to sea, and it looks as though the Ilen Community and cargo Voyage 2020 is going to be fully in line with his philosophy. Meanwhile, dare we suggest that the manufacturer or distributor of a handy little transport bicycle might find a promotional opportunity in Ilen’s Community and Cargo Voyage 2020…….
The restored Limerick trading ketch Ilen may have already voyaged to Greenland in 2019, but this year the distinctive vessel – or at least a model of her – has also been seen sailing on the Rhine in Germany. For as the Lockdown closed in, Ilen Project Director Gary Mac Mahon came up with the idea of challenging house-bound kids and their families to re-imagine Tetra Pak cartons as the Ilen, complete with the iconic Salmons Wake logo on the squaresail. The response has been both international and impressive, with Gary – no slouch himself when it comes to off-the-wall creativity – very taken by the ingenuity of today’s young people, some of them very young indeed.
And like Gary, they’re thinkers outside the box – one junior boat-builder preferred to work with miniature “planks” re-purposed from flat lollipop sticks. Either way, whoever has made the best was initially going to win a €150 Amazon voucher, and since then the additional prize of their own preference from the sought-after range of Dubarry sailing footwear has been put into the awards-box. The competition closes this Friday, May 22nd, it doesn’t involve getting a model to Limerick, you just send photos, full story here.
Our story last week, about how Gary Mac Mahon of the restored trading ketch Ilen of Limerick has launched a unique ship’s model-making competition to express the Ilen spirit, has rung a bell in Ballinasloe in County Galway, at the headquarters of the international outdoor footwear and clothing company Dubarry of Ireland
The Ilen competition offers a prize of a €150 Amazon Gift Voucher for children (or children and their families) who can create a model which best captures the spirit of Ilen and her original crew with a simplified miniature of the ship based on a very re-purposed Tetra Pak carton, the other materials involved being hopefully available in any contemporary family home.
The idea is to provide the kind of imagination and ingenuity-testing challenge that will help us all get through the National Lockdown. And when the idea was revealed in Afloat.ie last week, Michael Walsh of Dubarry quickly responded: “What a great idea. I’d very much appreciate it if you would pass on to Gary Mac Mahon that Dubarry would very happily pitch in with a pair of Dubarry Boots or Deck Shoes for the winner”.
Now Dubarry of Ireland is Official Partners in the Ilen Project Model Competition, which makes the already good prize into a very worthwhile proposition. So folks young and old, once you’ve finished browsing the Dubarry range to find the Dubarry boot or deck-shoe of your choice, let’s get back to work on those models – the closing date is May 22nd.
Junior and very junior sailors who’d like a special indoor Do-it-Yourself Challenge in these locked-in times will find something of special interest in the latest idea from current Irish Sailing Presidential Award holder Gary MacMahon of Limerick.
Gary received his award for his twenty-years of dedication in getting the 1926-built 56ft ketch Ilen of Conor O’Brien fame restored to such good seagoing order that, last summer, she voyaged to Greenland from Ireland and back, and collected other awards for that achievement.
This year the plan had been to have Ilen busy in and around the Shannon Estuary for the first half of the season, visiting all the local ports as part of her regular “Sailing into Wellness” programme. Then, on July 19th, she was to depart for Madeira to replicate the 1926 voyage Conor O’Brien made there with the ship, on his way to the Falklands, where Ilen was to spend her 40-year working life.
But the COVID-19 lockdown has put that on hold for a year. However, one ray of hope is that if some sailing does resume in August, then Ilen may be able to make her first visit to the Cruinniu na mBad festival in Kinvara on Galway Bay – if it happens, this year’s is scheduled for 14th to 16th August.
Meanwhile, the Ilen team have been prevented from assembling in any way by current regulations in what would normally have been be a very busy time of joint effort for her fit-out programme, and thus the ship is effectively moth-balled in Limerick when she should already be sailing.
So in the meantime, one day Gary was idly observing a Tetrapak and got to thinking how it might be completely re-purposed to be the basis of a kids’ home project and competition for a €150 Amazon Gift Prize to create a pint-sized version of Ilen, complete with Conor O’Brien and the Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear, who crewed with him on the long voyage of 1926.
And yes, we know that a standard Tetrapak actually holds a litre, but for most of us “pint-size” has a much more resonant meaning. Take the basics off this pdf, and then you’ll just need a few little things that “should be readily available in a modern household….”
Oh yeah? We can see some mums and dads having kittens as they try to get their colour printer to work in order to create the cut-outs on a standard sheet of A4 paper, but not to worry, all will be well in the end. Have a care, though, when applying the specified Super-Glue – a kid-friendly paste from a squeezy tube or painted on with a sponge pen might be safer.
The key thing is to have the square-sail properly printed with the evocative Salmon’s Wake logo which set the tone for the Greenland voyage, and now seems to be the symbol for the entire Ilen project. Get that right, and then it’s Bon Voyage and good luck with the €150 prize. The competition ends on May 22nd.
There were several notable Irish sailing families with their names up in lights more than once at Saturday evening’s virtual awards ceremony for the annual achievements in Irish sailing. But none could match the seaborn diversity of an ancient tribe whose ancestral lands are in south county Clare along the north shore of the Shannon Estuary, where they have developed a long and vibrant association with Limerick city.
Yet like all Irish families of note, these days the Mac Mahons (or MacMahon or McMahon) also have a global presence, their most notable expats being in France. There, a descendent of one of the Wild Geese who left Ireland after the defeats of the wars in the 17th Century was Patrice de MacMahon (1808-1893), 6th Marquess of MacMahon and 1st Duke of Magenta, a noted soldier who rose to become a Marshal of France and then, on going into politics, was President of the French Republic from 1875 to 1879.
Back home meanwhile, the MacMahons who stayed on in Ireland gradually emerged from the years of conquered oppression to re-build their lives over generations, and they have long since been in roles of distinction in many areas of local and national life. But nevertheless Saturday’s awards were something special in the family’s long history, as Gary MacMahon of Limerick received the President’s Award for his many years of devotion to the cause of restoring the 56ft 1926-built Conor O’Brien trading ketch Ilen with such success that she was able to voyage to Greenland in 2019.
In a completely different area of sailing, Eve McMahon of Howth was honoured as Youth Sailor of the Year for taking Gold in the U17 Division in the Laser Youth Worlds in Canada and other successes, while her brother Jamie McMahon was the Junior Sailor of the Month for April on the strength of his victory as Laser Radial overall title-holder in the Irish Youth Championship in Crosshaven.
All these successes are very much of our time. But there was a special salute to the Mac Mahon history as Ilen took her departure from Limerick for Greenland in July 2019. Her final anchorage in the Shannon Estuary before taking on the Atlantic was at Carrigaholt, where the stronghold of Mac Mahons in southwest Clare – Carrigaholt Castle built around 1480s – still stands, now maintained by the office of Public Works as a well-preserved if empty shell which eloquently serves – as does Ilen herself – as a tangible link to times past.
The Limerick ketch Ilen has received the ultimate accolade among classic and traditional boat restorations by being chosen as the cover star for the March/April 2020 issue of WoodenBoat, the American magazine which deservedly has a global reach and reputation in the challenging world of authentic restorations and re-builds.
The striking photograph of the 56ft 1926-built Conor O’Brien trading ketch was taken by Gary Mac Mahon off the mountainous coast of Southwest Greenland last summer, during Ilen’s Salmon’s Wake voyage of 2019 from her home port of Limerick to the Arctic mountains and small ports of West Greenland, and on to the capital city in the port of Nuuk
The sparkling and memorable image was a special reward for the photographer, as it was Gary Mac Mahon’s own unflinching belief in the Ilen Project which saw this unique vessel repatriated from the Falkland Islands to Ireland in 1997, with funds eventually being raised to restore her to full seagoing condition two decades later in a programme shared by the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick and Hegarty’s Boatyard at Oldcourt on the Ilen River near Baltimore in West Cork, Ilen’s birthplace.
The magazine includes an account of Ilen’s restoration by Arista Holden, a traditional boat enthusiast from Maine (Belfast, would you believe), who led a group of fellow devotees last May to the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival, where Ilen had made her restored debut in 2018.
This isn’t the first time that a notable Irish boat restoration has been given the honours in WoodenBoat. The May/June 2008 issue featured Hal Sisk’s 36ft gaff cutter Peggy Bawn, designed by G L Watson of Glasgow, built by John Hilditch of Carrickfergus in 1894, and meticulousy restored under Hal’s overall direction by Michael Kennedy of Dunmore East with input from several noted specialists.