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David Beattie enthusiastically follows many maritime interests. But it was a special blessing for the Irish Cruising Club, that he should become their Commodore as the Pandemic began to tighten its grip, for he has been willing to serve as Commodore for four years instead of the usual already demanding two years in the top role. Very ably supported by his wife Aoife, despite much of her time being taken up as a front-line health service specialist fighter of the scourge, this extension of a role which is extremely challenging at the best of times provided continuity and a lead in going cruising whenever localised regulation relaxation permitted it.

Their diligence in representing Irish cruising in events near and far was much appreciated by the world cruising community, and this was well demonstrated last weekend in Sligo when the ICC’s first truly post-pandemic Annual Dinner was attended by 230 seafarers, including the Commodores of all the leading international clubs.

One of them, Chris Otorowski of the Cruising Club of America, which celebrated its Centenary in 2022 with David and Aoife Beattie in attendance, has already spoken for all in his April 2023 newsletter to his many members, which reports on Sligo: “These Irish are a great bunch, and they value the CCA, as we value them”.

Published in Sailor of the Month

The 1929-founded Irish Cruising Club occasionally brings its members and their boats together for Cruises-in-Company and Rallies in home waters and abroad. Yet although there's an AGM in Dublin early in the year, and specialist Sub-Committees meet from time to time to work on key activities such as the up-dating of the publicly-sold Sailing Directions for the Irish coast, the reality is that much of the club's activities consist of boats on their own, on solitary voyaging near and far in the time-honoured manner of classic cruising.

Thus over time, an additional gathering has evolved, whereby members and some special guests can gather and socialise with a nautical flavour for a weekend of activities built around a choice venue, and this past weekend saw 230 cruising enthusiasts getting together at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sligo, with guests including Commodores or Flag Oficers from the Royal Cruising Club, the Cruising Club of America, the Clyde Cruising Club, and the Ocean Cruising Club.

In a prodigious yet seemingly effortless team effort very ably led by ICC Commodore David Beattie and his wife Aoife, everything went with exemplary smoothness. But while there were many activities on offer, the highlight has to have been an extended and very hospitable visit to nearby Lissadell House. It may be known to most for its associations with W B Yeats and Constance Markievicz (nee Gore-Booth), but is equally well-known to cruising people as the home of Henry Gore-Booth, who was so enthusiastic about High Latitude cruising that he spent seventeen summers in the latter half of the 19th Century cruising the Arctic in the ketch Kara, which had been built very much to his personal concepts and specifications.

After seeing the inspiring and very detailed model of Kara in Lissadell, it was back to more everyday cruising under sail with the Saturday night dinner, which - after fraternal greetings exchanged between the great and the good of the distinguishd cruising clubs - was concluded with the presentation of the occasionally-awarded Fastnet Trophy for special services and achievement in cruising and sailing. It went to's W M Nixon, who has somehow managed to survive sixty-three years of writing about sailing, and sixty years of membership of the Irish Cruising Club, without yet being found out.

Published in Cruising
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“The Freedom of the Seas” is a grand hifalutin notion altogether, particularly when you try to explain the special joys of cruising to a sailing enthusiast who can only measure pleasure afloat through successful racing results. But as the exchanges of information at last night’s Annual General Meeting of the 1929-founded Irish Cruising Club in Dun Laoghaire’s National Yacht Club tended to agree, the Freedom of the Seas has its limits when a worldwide pandemic is creating different barriers and restrictions under the various legislatures that are controlling the shores at those distant places you hope to visit at the end of a freedom-loving voyage.

For although the lone boats sailing the high seas and flying the ICC burgee will frequently be doing so without another boat in sight for days on end, when they do get to port their first thoughts will include plans of socialising with like-minded souls. But with social-distancing or indeed total non-meeting regulations in place ashore at various times during the past two years, successful clubs – for all their venerable history in many Irish cases – have had to display a youthful flair for innovative thought and nimble action in order to continue functioning in some meaningful way.

Thus while Honorary Editor Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan has continued to produce the much-admired ICC Annual on time despite the changing scenario of permitted activity, the club has now reached the stage that if some members never hear the word Zoom again, it will be too soon. The lack of straightforward personal gatherings - afloat during the summer, and ashore during the winter - had become irksome, and even with activity returning, the fact is that those who were serving the club in the various officer roles were necessarily doing so like people with one arm tied behind their backs.

The ICC Foredeck Quintet at work on composing their latest piece, “The Sea Air”, on board Mick Brogan’s Gaway Hooker Mac Duach, while also providing an appropriate cover for the latest ICC Annual. Photo: Micheal McLoughlinThe ICC Foredeck Quintet at work on composing their latest piece, “The Sea Air”, on board Mick Brogan’s Galway Hooker Mac Duach, while also providing an appropriate cover for the latest ICC Annual. Photo: Micheal McLoughlin

It simply wasn’t fair to those devoting their time and energy in the key positions, so at last year’s totally on-line AGM, former Commodore Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough proposed that, as far as “officer churn” was concerned, 2020 simply would not exist in terms of ICC positional rotation. It was a brilliant idea of breath-taking simplicity, and it means that popular current Commodore David Beattie of Lough Ree and Dun Laoghaire and his supporting officers will have an extra year of normal sociable activity to compensate for the two years in which they have gallantly given of their enthusiasm, despite functioning in effect behind a screen, while jumping hurdles at the same time.


But although the structured clubbable activities have been a no-go for a couple of years now, cruising has continued for those prepared to negotiate the various regulations and constricted means of travel, as was revealed in the adjudication on the various ICC awards delivered last night by highly-experienced cruising skipper John Duggan, originally of Malahide but now Portuguese-based and renowned for his stylish cruises to the Azores and round Biscay from his Cascais base.

The special and often challenging circumstances of cruising in 2021 are underlined by his award of the Round Ireland Cup - one of the club’s defining trophies - to Ed Wheeler of Strangford Lough. Ed made an entertaining circuit – some of it single-handed - in the robust Contessa 35 Witchcraft, but the title of his winning log says just about everything about cruising in home waters in 2021 that needed to be said – it is titled “Round Ireland With the Pubs Shut”.

Thirsty work. The Doug Peterson-designed Contessa 35 Witchcraft conveyed Ed Wheeler on an award-winning circuit of Ireland, but failed to find a single open pub. Photo: Kevin DwyerThirsty work. The Doug Peterson-designed Contessa 35 Witchcraft conveyed Ed Wheeler on an award-winning circuit of Ireland, but failed to find a single open pub. Photo: Kevin Dwyer

On a more serious note, two of the premier trophies – the senior award of the 1931-inaugurated Faulkner Cup, and the self-explaining Atlantic Cup for ocean voyaging, go to Rob Henshall of Fermanagh. He has extraordinary seagoing credentials, for in the early 1990s he went round Ireland twice totally unaccompanied on firstly, a Bic windsurfer, and then secondly, a year or two later, in a Laser.


In a subsequent year, when the US dollar was down through the floor, he reckoned it was his economic duty to nip across to America and buy a hefty big bargain-basement ketch. In order to maintain the frugal nature of the enterprise, he then had to sail his new ship back to Ireland immediately despite it being Autumn with the last of the hurricanes still rumbling about, but he did the job with exemplary efficiency single-handed.

However, in 2021 his luck ran out, for although he’d sensibly down-sized to the well-maintained vintage Contessa 32 Maria based in Portimao in southern Portugal, a rough homeward voyage via the Azores revealed a potential weakness known to some Contessa 32 owners. In the manner of the time in which they were built, the shroud-supporting chainplates of the Contessa 32 simply consist of some hefty stainless steel rod bent into a “U” shape and threaded at each end in order to facilitate easy installation through the reinforced deck abeam of the mast.

The very fact of creating the U-bend weakens the steel, but the overweight nature of the fitting is intended to compensate for this. Yet high quality stainless steel can further hide any hidden weakness and developing fatigue simply by being shiny and cleaning up well. The result of all this in Maria’s case was that the chainplate supporting the port-side cap shroud simply gave way at the apex of its curve while Maria was bashing into heavy winds while still at some distance from Ireland. The mast came down, and after Rob had failed – after much exhausting effort - to get the engine to re-start when he’d had to re-fill the fuel tank in heavy seas, he’d to make a mobile phone call to get a tow into Courtmacsherry.

You win some, you lose some. But when the wheels come off, Courtmacsherry is a good place to beYou win some, you lose some. But when the wheels come off, Courtmacsherry is a good place to be

“Courtmac” is one of those places where the whole village seems to turn out to aid distressed mariners in the most understanding ways possible. Consequently, Rob Henshall was inspired to write a heartfelt and sometimes painfully honest account of his experiences, and he has done so in such a way that he receives both the Faulkner Cup for best log and the Atlantic Cup for an ocean voyage. 


Nevertheless the “Maria event” is not something which anyone would want to experience personally, but the Irish Cruising Club is renowned for the variety of its activities, and if it’s a sense of enjoyment and achievement which you want to savour, then the intrepid Paddy Barry provides it with his account of an island-hopping and mountain climbing expedition to the islands and remoter areas of Scotland, places where regulations were different to Ireland, and anyway officialdom was seldom to be found.

“The Conor O’Brien Of Our Times” – the ever-enthusiastic Paddy Barry continues to sail the seas and climb the mountains a very long time after being awarded the Free Bus Pass.“The Conor O’Brien Of Our Times” – the ever-enthusiastic Paddy Barry continues to sail the seas and climb the mountains a very long time after being awarded the Free Bus Pass.

“Time was when you’d have this place to yourself”. The veteran ketch Iroise with company in Village Bay, St Kilda. Photo: Paddy Barry“Time was when you’d have this place to yourself”. The veteran ketch Iroise with company in Village Bay, St Kilda. Photo: Paddy Barry

With his mountaineering and voyaging, Paddy Barry is the Conor O’Brien of our times, but despite the fact that he has now long outlived O’Brien, he is still at it. In 2021 he availed of his partnership interest in the curious French-built ketch Iroise – an Irish-based relic of the early days of Glenans in West Cork – and took off for an award-winning and energetic programme which took in St Kilda and the Orkneys. Admittedly they did find themselves returning south via the civilized route of the Caledonian Canal, but the rugged theme of the venture was maintained, for when they found themselves berthed in the canal beside Ben Nevis, they just had to climb the great big thing to add to many other peaks achieved.


Other noted long-distance cruisers making the best of changing regulations included Annual editor Maire Breathnach and husband Andrew Wilkes, who were awarded the Fingal Cup for the log the adjudicator most enjoyed with their mighty 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J.

Having already been forced to spend one entire season confined to the Canary Islands (where Andrew passed the time by restoring an abandoned Nicholson 43), they came back north to work their way under sail through changing vax requirements in Britain and Ireland, such that at one stage – while bound for Kircudbright in southwest Scotland - they found themselves anchored off Piel Island near the super-secret nuclear submarine-building port of Barrow-in-Furness under the Cumbrian Mountains of England’s Lake District.

A haven of sanity beside the nuclear madness of Barrow-in-Furness – Piel Island off the coast of Cumbria.A haven of sanity beside the nuclear madness of Barrow-in-Furness – Piel Island off the coast of Cumbria

That the first recorded ICC visit to peculiar Piel Island should be made by a massive gaff cutter of deep draft like Annabel J is all of a piece with ICC activity in 2021. But then Piel, in particular, is bound to be peculiar, as Barrow-in-Furness is one decidedly odd place.

Perhaps it’s in line with the intention to keep it hyper-secret, but they build the various bits and pieces of the nuclear submarines in different compartmentalised areas of the yard, and then assemble them in one uber-secret main workshop. Thus in 1988 in that ultimate workshop, they managed to add and firmly attach an entire hull section of a new nuclear submarine upside-down. No wonder the damn things cost so much…..


Such is the charm of the ICC Annual that it provides entertainment in itself, and leads on to other thoughts. Thus one of the pleasantest logs is by noted Dun Laoghaire sailor Dick Lovegrove, who admits he was somewhat nervous in resuming cruising with his successfully-raced Sigma 33 Rupert. So to make sure all the bits and pieces – both boat and crew - were still working properly after a two-year layoff, he made do with a modest venture to Rathlin Island from Dublin Bay, thereby taking advantage of less stringent regulations in the north.

Rathlin Island makes for a perfect destination, as it’s definitely very much an island, yet the harbour with its marina is much improved over the primitive shallow berthing of times past, while the pub is now palatial by comparison with the tiny place familiar to anyone visiting Rathlin three decades ago.

Rathlin Island – renowned for its replacing of licensed premises……..Rathlin Island – renowned for its replacing of licensed premises…

Back in the day when the new pub was being built, the Irish Lights Commissioners made their annual visit, as Rathlin has three very important lighthouses. After they’d made their inspection and their launch was quietly pulling away from the pier, Commissioner Patrick Jameson made a final attempt at conversation with a typically taciturn islander up on the pier:

“I say” called Patrick, “what’s that building going up over there?”

“It’s the new pub”.

“Oh really. That’s absolutely fascinating. And what happened to the old pub?”

“It got wore out”. 


  • Faulkner Cup & Atlantic Cup: Rob Henshall (Maria, Contessa 32)
  • Strangford Cup: Daragh Nagle (Canadian-based, British Columbia cruise with Moody 376 Chantey V).
  • Round Ireland Cup: Ed Wheeler, Contessa 35 Witchcraft
  • Fingal Cup: Maire Breathnach (Annabel J, 64ft gaff cutter)
  • Wybrant Cup: Paddy Barry (Iroise, vintage ketch)
  • Wild Goose Cup (log of literary merit): Bob Fannin Jnr (Nich 31 Capa III, Netherlands to Dun Laoghaire)
  • Marie Trophy (under 30ft LOA): Conor O’Byrne (Galway to West Coast Scotland in Sadler 26.
  • Glengarriff Trophy (cruising in Ireland): Jim O’Meara, Jeanneau 37 Second Chance
  • Perry Greer Bowl (First log by new member): Vincent Guenebaut, Cork to Connemara in Oceanis 321
  • John B Kearney Cup for Services to Sailing: Hal Sisk for numerous world-standard restoration projects

Hal Sisk on Dublin Bay aboard the 36ft 1894 cutter Peggy Bawn, one of his many successful restoration projects, back in 2003 when the Jeanie Johnston still occasionally put to sea under sail. Photo: W M NixonHal Sisk on Dublin Bay aboard the 36ft 1894 cutter Peggy Bawn, one of his many successful restoration projects, back in 2003 when the Jeanie Johnston still occasionally put to sea under sail. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon
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The Irish Cruising Club celebrated the completion of its successful 90th year at its Annual General Meeting in the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire last night and saw a significant change of the watch with Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough retiring after his three-year tenure as Commodore. His successor is David Beattie of Lough Ree, who may live on the shores of one of the great Shannon lakes, but he has strong sailing links with Dublin Bay and the open sea.

Having started his seafaring career as a youthful trainee with the Asgard programme, he has since sailed and voyaged the waters of Europe extensively in command of his vessel Reespray, an interesting steel-built take on the design of Joshua Slocum’s pioneering world-girdling 36ft Spray, which went round solo in 1895-1898. While cruising Reespray, David Beattie’s involvement with the complexities of running the truly all-Ireland ICC has increased steadily to bring him into the demanding role of Commodore.

David Beattie Joshua SlocumDavid Beattie (left), the new Commodore of the Irish Cruising Club, has cruised extensively with his Bermudan cutter-rigged steel-built version of Joshua Slocum’s world-girdling 36ft Spray. Joshua Slocum (right) was Canadian born, but became American and wrote his name forever into world sailing history with his solo global circumnavigation with Spray in 1895-1898

beattie reespray4New ICC Commodore David Beattie aboard his 36ft steel cutter Reespray whose hull is based on the design of Slocum’s global circumnavigating Spray, which in turn was a rebuild in 1894 of a 1790s oyster boat, giving Reespray hull design origins more than 225 years old. Photo: Peter Redden

Demanding it may be, but it is a challenge which Stanton Adair relished and with the enthusiastic support of his wife Pat he has been an encouraging presence at ICC events afloat and ashore throughout Ireland and in ICC Cruise-in-Company ventures overseas. Then in winter, he and Pat very ably represented the Club on the international stage at official events of sister clubs and associations which have been linked with the ICC since its modest but inspirational foundation at a gathering of five Irish cruising yachts at Glengarriff in West Cork in July 1929.

The highlight of Stanton Adair’s Commodoreship would be difficult to pinpoint in the cascade of achievement during the last three years, but it certainly put activity onto a new level in 2017 when 60 boats gathered in Galicia in northwest Spain for a Cruise-in-Company organised in style by Peter Haden, whose home port is Ballyaughan on Galway Bay.

celtic spirit5Michael Holland’s 70ft ketch Celtic Spirit revelling in perfect sailing conditions in Galicia during the Irish Cruising Club’s Cruise-in-Company in July 2017, a highlight of Stanton Adare’s three-year tenure as ICC Commodore. Photo: Trish Phelan

Among those taking part in the Spanish venture were Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan from Courtmacsherry in West Cork. Their able Warrior 40 Coire Uisge is usually a much more familiar sight on remote parts of the Irish coast as they pursue their role as Honorary Editors of the ICC’s invaluable Sailing Directions. But even out in Spain they couldn’t take a complete holiday and made detailed and very useful surveys of a couple of tricky channels which until then had been only partially surveyed by established guides.

Since then, Coire Uisge has been active back in Irish waters (she has been awarded the Round Ireland Cup for 2019), and with the busy use of drone photography, her crew have been able to accelerate the process of researching detailed anchorages and channels, such that the new 15th Edition of the already excellent ICC Sailing Directions for the South & West Coasts of Ireland has just been published.

norman kean geraldine derrynane6At their work – Norman Keane and Geraldine Hennigan doing some sea level surveying at Derrynane in Kerry in the summer of 2019.
tra gheall inishbofin7It could be the South Seas. Active drone work reveals hidden secrets of the Irish coast with ICC Survey Yacht Coire Uisge anchored off Tra Gheall at Inishbofin in County Galway. Photo: Geraldine Hennigan

As much of this work is done voluntarily, the income from the sale of the Directions helps to swell the ICC coffers, and the Club puts this to good use by funding bursaries in sail training. This is something which has been going on for some years now, but last night it seemed particularly appropriate, for not only is incoming Commodore David Beattie a seasoned sailor who honed his voyaging skills when young in Ireland’s Asgard Sail Training Programme, but so too is the skipper who was awarded the Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup.

This has gone for the second time in four years to Daragh Nagle, who originally hails from Portmarnock, but has long since been based in Victoria on Vancouver Island in Western Canada, where he and Cathy venture into the Pacific with their Moody 376 Chantey V. She’s a sensibly-sized boat of 1987 vintage which rounded out extensive ocean cruising in Hawaii to take the Faulkner Cup in 2016, and has done it again with a fascinating cruise to Alaska in 2019.

Adjudicating between high-achiever logs of widely disparate type is – as 2019’s judge John Clementson of Strangford Lough puts it – “like comparing an apple with an orange. Each has its best bits, but they are quite unlike each other”.

By being another of the ICC’s double-jobbers – for he also runs the Club’s website – John Clementson is no stranger to daunting tasks, and he set himself the target of reading each of more than two dozen submitted logs at least four times, which gives you some idea of the standards this unique Club sets itself.

All the awarded logs and many others appeared in timely fashion at year’s end in the ICC Annual, which is edited by several-times-award-winner Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan. Except that, during this arduous production process in late 2019, she wasn’t in Dungarvan - she was at sea bound eventually for the Canaries in the 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J which she and her husband Andrew Wilkes cruise extensively, often with just the two of them on board. 

annabel j waterford8Editorial Office. The 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J in Waterford City before departing south for another ocean voyage Photo: Norman Kean

They personify a remarkable aspect of some contemporary cruising folk who are at the top of their game. They are so completely au fait with modern communications technology that they can create a hard copy 200-page profusely-illustrated professional-standard book while living aboard and sailing along across seaways wide and narrow. Yet they do that sailing in a boat which is basically rigged out authentically in a labour-intensive style which was at its height much more than a hundred years ago.

Yet while a comparison of Annabel J with Michael Holland’s Celtic Spirit displayed earlier gives some idea of the variety of craft within the ICC fleet, the members are united in their shared affection for an organisation which at times seems the only good deed in an otherwise wicked world. Regular followers of will have received some idea of this mood in last weekend’s early taster of the ICC awards, as it was new member Frank O’Beirne’s account of his cruise to the Hebrides with the 1963 classic Nicolson 36 Samphire.

For that, he received the Perry Greer Bowl for the best first log by a new member. But it was only when he and his shipmates first brought Samphire into Dun Laoghaire from her longtime sojourn on the Solent that they really found he had struck gold, for Samphire was an ICC treasure. Having originally been built for then ICC Honorary Secretary Peter Morck of the Royal St George YC all of 57 years ago, she was to go on to provide the first taste of seafaring for several current though now rather senior Dun Laoghaire-based ICC members. Yet when Frank and his mates made their very sensible purchase of a beautifully-restored boat, they’d no idea at all of her historic links with their adopted home port.

Thus the sense of being one big family is irresistible, albeit a family of some widely disparate types. For while some members live for sociability and regular Cruises-in-Company and Meets such as several leading Cork members organized in Glengarriff on July 13th 2019 to mark the exact 90th anniversary of the Club’s foundation (Seamus O’Connor received the Waterford Harbour Cup for that successful celebration), there’s no doubting others prefer the wide-open spaces and maybe the lure of the Arctic to seek nature in the raw and sailing fulfilment.

ilen squaresail9Unusual yet very convenient rig for some points of sailing. Ilen sailing into a Greenland fjord and going well despite setting just her squaresail with the Salmon's Wake logo, and the jib topsail. Photo: Paddy Barry

Chantey V’s voyage to the awe-inspiring coast of Alaska was undoubtedly on those lines, as too was the venture awarded the Strangford Cup, which is for an alternative best cruise and was put up many years ago by an adjudicator faced with two magnificent voyages of equal merit. Thus it was just the job for the deservedly famous voyage to Greenland from Limerick by the restored 56ft Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage.

It was a venture in which several ICC members were involved, but it was Paddy Barry who was aboard for the entire cruise, and his account of it is vintage Barry material, as he has his own entertaining writing style, and unlike some log-keepers, he does tell you something about the people and places visited outside of the actual boat on which the cruise is taking place, while revealing that, for convenience, at times Ilen sailed under some unusual sail combinations

ilen greenland10Big country. Up in the mountains of West Greenland, with Ilen the dot far below at the exact centre of this photo. Photo: Paddy Barry

As for interacting with people ashore, it is a fact that some of the most entertaining logs centre around things going wrong. Your dyed-in-the-wool cruising person aspires to everything running so smoothly that all goes according to plan. This may be very satisfying for them, but it can lead to minimal interaction with people along the way. We are reminded of the noted Victorian explorer who, on being greeted by a female admirer who gushed: “You must have had hundreds of adventures!”, he coldly replied: “Madam, I would regard having adventures as evidence of incompetence”.

Be that as it may, there’s an endearingly frank account by Daria Blackwell (awarded the Wild Goose Cup) of Clew Bay in Mayo about the problems encountered with her husband Alex as they brought their Bowman 57 Aleria back to Ireland from northwest Spain.

Aleria is a lot of boat for two people to handle, yet they’ve done remarkable cruises with her. But in July 2019 in crossing the Bay of Biscay homeward bound, the wheels came off – or at least came loose – when they lost auxiliary engine power through what turned out to be a disintegrated flexible coupling.

aleria sailing11The Bowman 57 ketch Aleria (Alex & Daria Blackwell) was quite a challenge for two to sail in safety after engine failure in light wind conditions close to shipping lanes

In the days when many vessels were still sail-powered, you could cruise in reasonable safety without an engine, and that great offshore racer Denis Doyle of Cork somehow did without an engine in his Robert Clark-designed and Crosshaven-built 47ft Moonduster from 1965 until 1978. But in these days of ever-busier shipping lanes needing to be avoided, being without an engine leaves you like a sitting duck in calm, and Aleria experienced much calm and scary moments in struggling to get to Ireland under sail only.

Yet they did it, they got to Crosshaven, and in getting things sorted it meant they met up with interesting local characters, something shared by anyone who has arrived into somewhere other than their home port aboard a boat with problems. In Crosshaven, their experience was classic after they’d been docked at the boatyard marina in exemplary style:

“Within minutes,” recounts Daria, “a man arrived driving full speed down the docks on a snazzy motor scooter and screeched to a halt at our doorstep. It was Hugh, the mechanic. Within minutes, he had the problem diagnosed, a plan of action in place, and instructions on how to proceed. Hugh explained his pricing system to us:

* Normal price if owner stays off the boat

* Double the price if owner stays on the boat

* Triple the price if owner insists on helping

We booked into the B&B for the duration….and (having been well entertained by local ICC members) were on our way to the west coast within a week”.

The variety of craft featured in the ICC awards is remarkable. Some years ago, Cork member Stephen Hyde took a long sabbatical from his work as an architect to make a three-year cruise round the world in his Oyster 56 cutter A Lady. But more recently, he has been focusing on the 29ft 1896-built Scottish Loch Fyne type gaff cutter Cruachan, with which at least two generations of his family have been linked since 1963.

After a restoration job by Liam Hegarty in Oldcourt near Baltimore, Cruachan is in fine fettle, and she proved it in mixed weather in 2019 with an anti-clockwise round Ireland cruise which included an extensive visit to Scotland (they got to Inverness) and her birthplace at Ardrishaig on the Crinan Canal to meet descendants of the original builders, a fascinating cruise of many aspects which deservedly is awarded both the Glengarriff Trophy for a special cruise in Irish Waters, and the Fingal Cup for the log which the adjudicator most enjoyed.

cruachan racing12 The Hyde family’s 1896-built Loch Fyne-type gaff cutter Cruachan racing in Cork Harbour more than fifty years ago

cruachan fenit13Cruachan in Fenit Marina as she heads south, homeward to Cork via Ireland’s west coast after visiting her birthplace of Ardrishaig on Scotland’s Crinan Canal. Photo: Stephen Hyde

Scotland as usual featured significantly in many logs, including Frank O’Beirne’s account of the 57-year-old Samphire’s cruise to the Inner Hebrides which won the Perry Greer Bowl for best first log, while the Wybrants Cup for cruising Scotland went to global circumnavigator Fergus Quinlan of Bell Harbour in County Clare with his 12m steel own-build cutter Pylades finding her way to all sorts of offbeat places including the remote Fair Isle between Orkney and Shetland.

fair isle pylades14Fergus & Kay Quinlan’s Pylades in the harbour at Fair Isle. The little port may look reasonably sheltered, but conditions can be such that the island ferry Good Shepherd is brought ashore into a “rock nest” (right) Photo: Fergus Quinlan

Quick visits to the Mediterranean were achieved by both Jim Houston and Peter Fernie, with the former bringing back a magic image of local sails at Cesenatico on Italy’s Adriatic coast, while the latter secured a memorable night-time image of the mighty bridge at Istanbul which is named in honour of Selim the Grim, the severe Ottoman Sultan in 1512-1520.

They certainly don’t mess around with calling a spade a spade in remembering their rulers around the Mediterranean. Last autumn there was much attention on Malizia, the Monaco-based IMOCA 60 which transported climate activist Greta Thunberg to New York. As you might guess, the word “Malizia” has its roots in “malice”, and Malizia or “The Cunning One” was the first Grimaldi to rule Monaco a very long time ago, well before Selim the Grim was making everyone’s life a misery.

sails at sesenatico15In the harbour at Sesenatico on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Photo: Jim Houston
selim the grim bridge16 Telling it like it was – the bridge commemorating the Ottoman Sultan known as Selim the Grim at Istanbul. Photo: Peter Fernie

In home waters, it’s clear that round Ireland cruises are more frequent than ever, whereas for a while as cheap flights made sunshine bases more attractive, they almost became a rarity. Maybe it’s global warming, or maybe the Med has simply become too crowded, or maybe Dublin Airport’s dense crowds and ludicrous walking distances have become too much, but round Ireland cruising is now all the rage.

Donal Walsh of Dungarvan (he’s Maire Breathnach’s brother) likes circling Ireland so much he did it three times in 2019 with his very clever lifting keel Ovni 385 Lady Belle, taking in visits to Scotland while also exploring those places where the water gets very thin yet they’re enticing to visit if you can, such as Barrow Harbour close north of Tralee Bay. Lady Belle did that and more in such a busy and complete and competent season that Donal Walsh has been awarded the Rockabill Trophy for Seamanship.

lady belle eigg17A very clever and able cruising boat – Donal Walsh’s lift-keel Ovni 385 at Eigg in the Hebrides, with the conspicuous Sgurr dominating the skyline. Photo: Donal Walsh
lady belle barrow harbour18 Getting in where the water is thin – with keel raised, Lady Belle and Donal Walsh explore the shallow Barrow Harbour close north of Tralee Bay. Photo: Clare Morrissey

Certainly sailing round Ireland can always be challenging in our wayward weather, and even more challenging is another cruising special, the passage to remote St Kilda well out in the Atlantic a hundred miles westward of the Scottish mainland.

Yet it’s a challenge which was seen off by Galway Bay’s Conor O’Byrne in exemplary style with his little Sadler 26 Calico Jack. He used the sensible model of going as fast as he could when the going was good to reach his ultimate objective of St Kilda, and then cruised back in more leisurely style with all the Hebrides at his disposal.

calico jack cruise19An excellent example of good cruise planning – the Sadler 26 Calico Jack’s three-week cruise from Galway to St Kilda and the Hebrides used the proven technique of going as quickly as possible to the main objective and then having the time to explore on the way home.calico jack st kilda20 Little boat, remote place – Calico Jack at St Kilda. Photo: Conor O’Byrne

Admittedly he still had to make his way back past Malin Head and Bloody Foreland and the coast of Connacht to return to GBSC at Renville, but it was all done in such style that he swept the board for the Marie Trophy for the best cruise by a boat under 30ft, and had the Marie Trophy not been available, he would surely have been well in line for one of the major awards.

From another of the Atlantic seaboard home ports, Paul McSorley of Lough Swilly took part in the two-handed AZAB from Falmouth, and while his vintage Westerly Falcon 35 Viking Lord wasn’t among the silverware in either direction, by the time you add in the passages to and from Lough Swilly it becomes a major project, and he well deserves The Atlantic Trophy.

The ICC having been an increasingly significant part of the Irish sailing scene during the past 90 years, it interacts with growing relevance with other major organisations, and this was reflected last night in two awards, both to members.

clayton love21Clayton Love Jnr when Admiral of the Royal Cork YC – he receives the ICC’s John B Kearney Award for Services to Sailing

The John B Kearney Cup for Services to Sailing went to Clayton Love Jnr, who fifty years ago brought the Royal Cork YC at Cobh and the more active Royal Munster YC at Crosshaven together to ensure that the Royal Cork YC would be in good health to celebrate its 250th Anniversary in 1969-70, which it duly did to such good effect that this year it celebrates its Tricentenary, for which the Irish Cruising Club is awarding it the seldom-allocated but very special Fastnet Trophy.

Clayton Love Jnr’s services to sailing do of course extend far beyond Cork Harbour, as in the early 1960s he played a key role in setting the Irish Dinghy Racing Association on the path which sees it today as Irish Sailing, the National Authority, and he was also on the founding committee of Coiste an Asgard whose achievements were reflected last night in both the new ICC Commodore in in the award of the Faulkner Cup.

Another major player in the organisation and improvement of Irish sailing is Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire, whose enormous contribution to the healthy development of our sport was recognised last night by the ICC’s Eastern Committee which awarded him the Donegan Memorial Cup “for giving a lifetime to the sport of sailing in all its forms both on and off the water”. It’s a citation perhaps of admirable brevity, but it only gives a hint of what Brian Craig has achieved, almost invariably in quiet style and behind the scenes. And as for cruising, he’s no slouch at that either – he has taken his Dufour 455 which he co-owns with his wife Anne to Iceland and many interesting places in between.

brian craig22Brian Craig of Dun Laoghaire, awarded the ICC’s Donegan Memorial Cup “for giving a lifetime to the sport of sailing on and off the water”. He has notable cruising credentials himself, having voyaged from Ireland to Iceland and many places in between.

Published in W M Nixon
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For 90 years, the Irish Cruising Club’s Sailing Directions have been the standard text on small-craft pilotage of the Irish coast.

As Afloat contributor Lorna Siggins wrote in her review for The Irish Times: “Approach any port without these navigational directions on deck at one’s peril.”

And now the latest editions for 2020 make spectacular use of drone photography to add a new dimension.

Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan went cruising around Ireland in 2019 gathering information on many recent changes, and taking 1,400 stunning drone pictures.

Norman will present some of his remarkable photography at the upcoming Irish Sailing Cruising Conference, where three lucky delegates will each receive a copy of either the East & North or South & West guide or the Cruising Ireland companion guide as spot prizes.

The new editions are available now from ICC Publications or your local chandlery.

Published in Cruising

When the Irish Cruising Club was established in Glengarriff at the head of Bantry Bay on Saturday 13th July 1929, the friendly gathering of the crews from a modest flotilla of five decidedly varied sailing yachts – mostly small craft by today’s standards - had several clearly defined purposes in mind writes W M Nixon.

Certainly, they wanted to engender greater interaction and cohesion among Irish cruising enthusiasts - and greater respect too, as the high-profile racing community tended to look down on them with some disdain, for they saw cruising people as being no more than ordinary sailing folk who simply didn’t race. So in order to give more credence to the organised aspects of their life afloat, they planned to produce an Annual filled with logs of the cruises they’d achieved each year in order to give a more complete picture of the new ICC’s activity.

But for many members, the new club’s most important objective was to be the researching and publication of detailed sailing directions and harbour guides for Ireland’s most popular cruising coasts. Until then, information about the more remote parts could only be found in Admiralty Pilot Books which were aimed at ships rather than smaller craft, or else it was in the realms of that precious commodity “local knowledge”, often jealously guarded by those who had it. In the growing mood of amateur enthusiasm for cruising, self-reliance was a central factor, and that was dependent on having ready access to inside information.

Ardbear anchorage2Local knowledge at its best. Thanks to the ICC Sailing Directions, anyone cruising Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard will know there’s this perfectly-sheltered anchorage hidden at Ardbear at the head of Clifden Bay. Photo: W M Nixon

Founding member Harry Donegan of Cork, who more accurately could be described as the leading ICC inspirer, had been one of the seven entrants in the inaugural Fastnet Race of 1925 with his 15-ton cutter when he’d finished third overall. But as a sailing polymath with much cruising experience, he’d been creating Sailing Directions for southwest Ireland since 1912, when he had also first aired the idea of an Irish Cruising Club. However, the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 put that notion on hold until 1922 when he was developing the idea further with his fellow cruising friend Billy Mooney of Howth. But the War of Independence followed by Partition and the Civil War had created little space for such ideals, so it was 1929 by the time the club finally came into being.

Yet through all the delays, the aspiration for the production of reliable cruising guides to Ireland by voluntary effort for general publication remained high on the list of priorities, and today with the entire coast covered in two comprehensive volumes edited by Norman Kean of Courtmacsherry with his wife Geraldine Hennigan providing invaluable backroom support, the two books have gone through more than a dozen editions, and they continue to give great service for visitors and locals alike.

Indeed, such a steady role is played by these Directions that there’s a danger we take them for granted, so it needs an outside view to puts their importance in perspective. We’ve received that twice already this year in the accounts, by leading Inland Waterways enthusiasts Paul Scannell and Mary Healy of Galway, of their first venture round Ireland last year in the 1977-vintage Broom Ocean 37 motor-cruiser Arthur - normally a boat associated with the Shannon, but one which is capable of a round Ireland cruise if you’re careful with reading the weather.

They told of their experiences at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference at Lough Ree YC in February, making the point that having the ICC Directions is essential. And then in the recently-published Spring 2019 edition of the IWAI’s Inland Waterways News, with Paul’s fascinating account of their very thorough preparation, planning and execution of this voyage, there are again several references to the indispensable assistance they found in the ICC Directions.

ARTHUR OFFSHOREICC beneficiaries – inland waterways cruisers Paul Scannell and Mary Healy with their vintage 37-footer Arthur found the ICC Sailing Directions to be “indispensable” during their round Ireland cruise last summer.

That of course was the intention of those founding fathers 90 years ago in 1929. But in an era when the ICC has acquired a considerable extra glamour with the recent organisation by western member Peter Haden (he’s from Ballyvaughan in County Clare) of an extremely well-supported Cruise-in-Company in northwest Spain, it is timely to be reminded that the very useful work put in train by the club from the start is still being maintained. So much so, in fact, that as Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan were with the fleet in Galicia with their Warrior 40 Coire Uisge, while they were out there they did a spot of local surveying in order to provide better information about some previously under-utilised channels.

norman kean copper coast4Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan’s 40-footer Coire Uisge on a detailed pilotage study of Waterford’s Copper Coast. When in northwest Spain during the ICC’s recent Cruise-in-Company, they found themselves surveying local under-utilised channels for the benefit of fellow-cruisers. Photo: Norman Kean

In an era of centralisation and the seemingly inevitable spread of professional administration, the ICC is the very model of a de-centralised, all-Ireland organization based on voluntary effort. The office of Commodore rotates around the four regions, and is currently held by Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough, but both the Honorary Secretary Alan Markey and the Vice Commodore Tom Fitzpatrick are based in Howth, while other flag offices and committee places are spread throughout the four provinces in a way which partially reflects the membership distribution, yet also encourages the growth of membership numbers where previously they’d been sparse.

But it is the specialist positions which are the engines of the club, and best reflect its countrywide nature. The all-important Annual is currently edited by Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan, and she has raised it to a quality which comfortably rivals many professional publications, despite being for a membership of just 550.

As for communication with members, the ICC Web Editor is John Clementson who lives on the shores of Strangford Lough, but the editorship of the cherished quarterly newsletter – again of magazine standard – is done by Alex Blackwell, who is likewise a shoreside dweller, but this time on the Atlantic seaboard at Clew Bay in Mayo.

Maire breathnach5Editor at large…..Maire Breathnach at the helm off Cape Horn

All these tasks successfully maintain communication among a membership who still tend mostly to do their cruising in summertime in the northern hemisphere, but there are always some others somewhere on longer voyages. In other words, most of the activity of ICC members would be invisible were it not for the fact that they’re highlighted with the annual awards, presented each year at the AGM, which is the only event where ICC members are obliged to be in Dublin.

While fellowship, conviviality and a shared love of boats and sailing across oceans, or along coastlines familiar or new, is enough to bind the club in remarkable ties of friendship, there is one occasion every year when they get together simply to have a party, meet new members, and welcome flag officers from the international matrix of cruising clubs.

That occasion is the Annual Dinner, whose organisation rotates round the ICC’s four regions, and for 2019 it fell to the Southern Committee and Rear Commodore Lonan Lardner of Waterford to take on the mantle. It’s quite a challenge, but the cruising folk of the south have the advantage of having Killarney in their region, and there’s little that the smooth-running hospitality industry of Killarney didn’t know last weekend about looking after a dinner for 247 people.

In the midst of an active weekend of multi-activities which saw some ICC members disappear up mountains (don’t worry, they came back down again), others went on historical tours. As for our little group of special friends – with more years of combined membership between us than we care to count – we went off on a tour of the Ring of Kerry – mercifully uncrowded for it was the weekend after St Patrick’s Day – and took in harbours and happy watering holes, and saw the incomparable Derrynane at its pristine best (not one boat of any kind in the anchorage, first time I’ve ever seen it like that), and then relaxed in the history-laden comfort of Parknasilla.

derrynane summer6Derrynane in high summer. This tiny anchorage in West Kerry is unrivalled for its links with notable sailors, as those connected with it include Daniel O’Connell, Lord Dunraven of America’s Cup fame, pioneering world circumnavigator Conor O’Brien, and current Irish international offshore superstar Damian Foxall.
That set us up nicely for the scenic route back to Killarney from Sneem up to Moll’s Gap, and then it was into the scrum of the dinner. With 247 present and on top form, you’re going to meet and greet an impressive number of folk, but – when anything resembling conversation is possible - is never quite going to take the course expected.

Thus I found myself sharing an enthusiasm for rudders which fit neatly under the hull for maximum endplate effect with the charming Brad Willaur, Commodore of the Cruising Club of America, a line of thought inspired by my very high regard for the classic Jim McCurdy-designed 48-footer Carina aboard which Brad has raced with current successful owner Rives Potts.

carina 2011 fastnet7Carina rounds the Fastnet in the race of 2011, when she won her class. It’s indicative of the changeable nature of Ireland’s weather that this photo was taken just nine hours after Rambler 100 had lost her keel in much more rugged conditions in the same location. Photo Rolex/Daniel Forstercarina hull profile8Still looking good after 50 years – the 48ft Carina’s hull may look completely different from today’s offshore racers, but she’s still very much in the frame, and can even provide her crew with some on-board comfort whole continuing to win races. Photo: Rives Potts

When Carina first came to Ireland brand new in 1969, she was in the Transatlantic Race to Cork as part of the buildup to the Royal Cork’s Quarter Millennium, and she then went on to do the Fastnet of that year. The word is that she’s coming back for this year’s Fastnet as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations, but meanwhile I recalled that one of her crew for that 1969 Transatlantic passage was a very youthful Ron Cudmore, and sure enough there was Ron in Killarney, like us all not quite as young as he used to be, yet still very definitely Ron Cudmore.

But in terms of age defiance the total star of the show was his brother, sailing superstar Harold Cudmore, who was there to mark an extraordinary number of years as an ICC member, for in the days of his youth the ICC had a strong Crosshaven and family bias, and Harold got in as a mere lad. But nevertheless, he has defied the years so well that he looks about ten years younger than the number of years he has been in the club.

icc multiple membership10Kerrymen for the day. This quartet in Killarney last weekend could muster 229 years of ICC membership between them. They are (left to right) Dickie Gomes, Harold Cudmore, Jack Wolfe and Winkie Nixon. Photo: Alex Blackwell
jack wolfe11Senior of the seniors – at 95, Jack Wolfe is the ICC’s most senior member, and is probably the only person today who was with Conor O’Brien on the Saoirse in the 1930s. Photo: Rose Michael

He was celebrating with Jack Wolfe, who at 95 is the ICC’s senior member, with a unique direct link of having been aboard Saoirse with Conor O’Brien in 1938. That saw the conversation swing into the unlikely associations which the ICC membership brings up. Who would have thought, for instance, that rugged Arctic voyager and Irish traditional boat enthusiast Paddy Barry would have started sailing with fellow UCD engineering student and subsequent International Dragon and superyacht owner Mick Cotter?

Yet they did that by buying an oldish 505 dinghy and using it for camping cruising, one of their more noted ventures being a fast unaccompanied sail from Roundstone in Connemara out to Kilronan in the Aran Islands. On this being mentioned to Harold, he immediately recalled that the boat in question had originally been Joe Woodward’s Dotie Pet, one of the most successful of the Crosshaven fleet of 505s, and then almost exactly on cue, Joe Woodward himself emerged from the ICC Killarney melee with a request.

For a long time now, he has been a summer fixture of the Galician coast with his Salar 40 Moshulu III. But when he was clearing out the boat last season, he found a rather special Irish ensign. It seems that when Moshulu first arrived in northwest Spain many years ago, his first anchorage to get his breath before entering port was the Iles des Cies off Vigo. Having crossed Biscay, suddenly his little Irish ensign seemed totally inadequate. But it so happened that our beloved Sail Training Brigantine Asgard II was anchored nearby. So Joe hopped in his dinghy and went over and asked if by any chance they had a spare ensign of decent size. They had and more, and they lent him one. So though Asgard II may now be gone, Joe Woodward of Cork has one of her ensigns, and he’d very much like to see it being used for some useful and preferably charitable purpose.

In a hectic weekend like this, there’s bound to be the occasional hiccup, and I managed a beauty by crashing a flying boat. We were travelling down to Killarney in convoy with the legendary Dickie Gomes, voyager extraordinaire, and when a boring rainbelt moved in, my mother-in-law’s daughter cleverly suggested we let it pass through by visiting the Flying Boat Museum at Foynes. She knew that Dickie’s father used to be General Manager of Short Brothers & Harland in Belfast where they’d built the famous Sunderland Flying Boats after the company had been moved lock, stock and barrel from Kent from 1938 onwards in order to locate it further away from the Hitler unpleasantness.

short sunderland12Cruising boat with a difference – Short Sunderland flying boat getting airborneIt’s a fascinating setup, that Foynes museum, complete with a full-size replica Boeing B314 flying boat, aka the Pan Am Clipper, but there are also flight simulators in which you could be in any type, and we decided we were on which Dickie had flown from Belfast Lough.

Well, having been an ace Tiger Moth pilot in his youth, he made a lovely job of flying the simulator. But I crashed, and had to admit so in after dinner chat with Henry Clay, the Commodore of the Royal Cruising Club, whose family hails from Kent. He was interested. “Did you know” he asked, “that Short Brothers were also builders of Thames sailing barges?”

Neither of us did. Nobody in Killarney did except Henry. But the sailing barge Lady Daphne was built by Short Brothers of Rochester, Kent in 1923 at a time when demand for flying boats was very limited. The thought that the Short Sunderland Flying Boat is a relative - however remote - of the classic Thames sailing barges is something that takes a bit of getting used to.

thames barge lady daphne13The Thames Sailing Barge Lady Dahne was built in 1923 by Short Brothers at Rochester in Kent. She has been restored and is now a popular entertainment venue in London

Yet it was just one of many ideas you have to take aboard in short order at an ICC Dinner. However, an underlying theme is that everyone is thinking of the Tricentenary of the Royal Cork Yacht Club next year. The word is that at least 17 significant American boats are coming across. Heaven only knows how many will join from Europe for the Great Gathering. Most of us still can’t grasp just what 300 years really means. But there’s no doubt many people are determined to get their heads the very idea, for it is going to be something extra special in 2020.

cork 300 symbol14It’s increasingly in everyone’s thoughts, even if many of us still can’t really grasp the full meaning of 300 years of sailing history

Published in W M Nixon

The sixty-boat twelve-day Irish Cruising Club Cruise-in-Company in northwest Spain comes to a conclusion in Bayona tonight after an impressive display of well-planned logistics by lead organiser Peter Haden and his team writes W M Nixon. This saw the many participants provided with a reasonable number of options in organised events afloat and ashore, yet at the same time there was plenty of scope for “cruises-within-the-cruise” for smaller groups of buddy-boats in the fleet.

Rally chartlet2This chartlet indicates the broad movement southward of the 60-boat fleet – there were many options available for private ventures by smaller numbers of boats. In addition, with a significant Ocean Cruising Club contingent within the ICC membership, a joint meet with raft-up possibilities was organised with the OCC on Tuesday of this week at Ensenada de Barra. This produced a notable array of renowned cruising vessels, many of which have voyaged tens of thousands of miles.

rally at caraminal3The ICC fleet used both marinas and anchorages – this was one of the early overnights at Caraminal. Photo: Tansey Millerick

While the early days of the rally saw some fog and even a spot of rain, as the fleet has progressed southward from Portosin towards Bayona the conditions have steadily improved, and they are now well clear of the unsettled weather which has been developing beyond the northern areas of the Bay of Biscay.

In fact, it is currently Galicia at its very best, and the organisers who calmly kept at the job despite numbers involved soaring through all expectations, and the many boats which voyaged both from Ireland and other places to share the ethos of this remarkable club in a very special setting, deserve much credit for a combined effort which well expresses the spirit of the Irish Cruising Club.

beach anchorage de barra4Galicia at its best – a daytime beach anchorage off Ensenada de Barra. Photo: Tansey Millerick

Published in Cruising

The Irish Cruising Club’s 2017 Rally in northwest Spain begins its stately progress southwards today from the fleet assembly point of Portosin writes W M Nixon With its organisation ably led by experienced Galician cruiser Peter Haden (whose home port is Ballyvaughan on Galway Bay), the event has far exceeded expected fleet numbers in reaching the 60 mark for a very diverse assembly of cruising yachts.

This has meant that although the notably talented ICC team running the event have put together a formidable information package and programme for those taking part, the sheer numbers mean that they’ve had to very definitely restrict participation in the carefully rationed special shore event and anchorage assemblies only to those who have officially signed up.

Rally chartlet2One of Europe’s most attractive cruising areas is being put to good use for the ICC’s 60-boat Galician Rally, which starts heading southward this morning on a ten day programme

A successful cruise-in-company is a decidedly finely-judged affair, as you have to organize sufficient specific events to give the fleet movement a sense of coherence, yet at the same time you have to allow for the fact that genuine cruising enthusiasts will want time to themselves, while others will want to form small mini-groups having their own cruises-within-the-cruise.

With the rally making full use of one of Europe’s finest cruising areas, the experiences of the next ten days should provide a unique opportunity for those new to Galicia to get to know one of the most interesting corners of Europe. And as for the local people who live there in the many and varied coastal villages and small towns, quite what they’ll make of 60 Irish boats and their enthusiastic crews making their way along their fine coast remains to be seen. But we’ve no doubt that many new and enduring friendships will emerge.

rally flag3Far into the future, the 2017 Galician Rally flag will be a treasured souvenir

Published in Cruising

Daragh Nagle, an ex-Pat Dub who live and sails from Victoria on the west coast of Canada, is the “Sailor of the Month” for February in honour of his award of the Irish Cruising Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup, for a notably varied voyage in the Pacific from Mexico to Hawaii and then eastward back to Canada.

Although this was island-hopping in what was only a part of the Pacific, for anyone accustomed to the smaller scale of the Atlantic, the distances seem enormous. By the time Daragh’s 29-year-old Moody 346 Chantey V returned to her home port, she’d logged a total of 7,858 miles during 2016 as part of a three year venture which has seen a total of more than 25,000 miles sailed.

It was a challenging programme. But with his skillfully-updated veteran 37-footer, and well-thought-through crew changes which saw his wife Cathy sailing many of the stages involved, Daragh made a real dream cruise which has been deservedly rewarded by his home club, more recently by the Irish Cruising Club, and now by the “Sailor of the Month” award for February 2017.

daragh nagle2The 29-year-old Moody 376 Chantey V in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico shortly before departing for the long haul direct to Hawaii

Published in Sailor of the Month

Cruising is the side of sailing which sometimes finds it difficult to make its voice heard. Its essence is in the quiet enjoyment of seafaring and the peace of secluded anchorages. Unlike the absolute clarity of racing results, which create their own noise and are energised by a sense of competition with others, cruising folk are in competition mainly with themselves, and with their own self-reliant ability to see a voyaging venture brought to a successful conclusion. W M Nixon takes us through a weekend which is cruising-oriented, and concludes tomorrow with a celebration at the home port of Irish cruising’s most legendary figure.

In previewing the prospects for the sailing season of 2017 a couple of months ago, we suggested that it would be The Year of the Everyday Sailor. For inevitably, 2016 was a year of the high profile happenings featuring superstars, events such as the Volvo Round Ireland Race from Wicklow, the KBC Laser Radial Youth Worlds in Dun Laoghaire, and the absolute peak in Rio de Janeiro, Annalise Murphy’s Olympic Silver Medal.

But 2017 sees a total change of emphasis. With a clear two or three years before the 2020 Olympics start to come up the public agenda again, it’s time to savour and enjoy the sort of sailing most of us do all the time. Local events, neighbourhood regattas, regional offshore and club racing, and that most indefinable of all waterborne activities - cruising.

Last night in Dublin, the Irish Cruising Club held its Annual General Meeting and Prize Giving in which the logs of outstanding cruises – activities which usually stay well under the radar – were given full recognition.

Annabelle J 2The rugged power of a seaworthy vessel – Annabelle J on passage from Smerwick Harbour in the Dingle Peninsula to Kilronan in the Aran Islands during her 2016 cruise on Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard Photo: Maire breathnach

Today in Cork, the Irish Sailing Association/Cruising Association of Ireland Annual Cruising Conference is being staged, and it has attracted so much interest that the venue has had to be moved to larger premises than originally planned. As last night’s ICC AGM was a distinctly crowded affair too, clearly the interest in cruising is stronger than ever. But quite how many have managed to attend both events we won’t know until this morning, yet it’s just about possible with a bit of early morning discipline.

Then tomorrow, the focus swings northwestward from Cork to Foynes on the Shannon Estuary, where a Family Day from 2.30pm to 5.30 pm sees a celebration of Foynes Yacht Club becoming the new Volvo ISA Training Centre of the Year, with ISA President David Lovegrove doing the honours for a club which is the very essence of voluntary enthusiasm and community spirit.

Of course, many of the 200 or so young people who emerge from the Foynes Yacht Club Sailing Academy hope to go on to the highest level of racing success. But equally, they will find their talents in sailing much appreciated aboard keenly-sailed cruising boats. And the club has a solid record in offshore racing, with FYC’s Simon McGibney the current Commodore of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association, while father-and-son team Derek and Conor Dillon from Listowel have sailed their Dehler 34 under the Foynes colours to win the two-handed division in the Round Ireland Race.

And then beyond that, Foynes was home port to the great Conor O’Brien (1880-1952) of 1923-1925 Round the World fame. He lived out his final days on Foynes Island, and is buried in the nearby churchyard, but the recently-confirmed plans to build a replica of his famous 40ft ketch Saoirse in her 1922 birthplace of Baltimore will draw further favourable attention to everything that Foynes has done, and is doing, for Irish sailing – racing and cruising alike.

It’s all interconnected, for when the Irish Cruising Club was formed in Glengarriff on Bantry Bay on 13th July 1929, one of the first things they did was make Conor O’Brien an honorary member, and the first time I saw the noted portrait of Conor O’Brien sketched by his wife Kitty Clausen, it was in Foynes YC more than a few years ago..

model of Saoirse in Foynes MuseumAlways remembered. The model of Saoirse in Foynes Museum reminds us that she will soon be re-created full size

portrait of Conor OBrienThe portrait of Conor O’Brien by his wife Kitty Clausen, seen for the first time in Foynes Yacht Cub.

So last night’s ICC post-AGM dinner was well peopled with friendly ghosts, but as well it was a celebration of some really remarkable cruises on every scale. Then too, it marked two significant changes of the watch with Peter Killen of Malahide, who led by example with his Amel Super Maramu 54 ketch Pure Magic seemingly always on the move, retiring as Commodore to see the to post go north to Stanton Adair of Belfast Lough, a long-serving committee member and flag officer who will be leading his members in the ICC Cruise-in-Company to the Galician Rias of Northwest Spain this summer in his well-travelled Beneteau Oceanis 43 Grand Cru.

However, while Commodores and other top officers may be the public face of the ICC, the strength of the club is in its voluntarily-produced publications, with Honorary Editors who between them keep the two volumes of Sailing Directions for the entire Irish coast up to date with notable rigour, and produce an Annual journal of the club’s cruising logs.

Norman Kean of Courtmacsherry is very much in charge of the Sailing Directions which are publicly available, and he’ll be one of the keynote speakers at today’s conference in Cork. But in their way the logs in all their rich variety in the Annual can be every bit as informative, particularly as the club is now so far-ranging that its members can be found cruising on most of the planet’s oceans.

Here, there has been another change of the watch, with Ed Wheeler from he north producing his final and as ever excellent Annual to cover the 2016 season, and after four years he hands over to noted sailor/musician/writer Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan. Or at least she’s from Dungarvan and she spends about a third of her time there, but as she’s married to another formidable voyager, Andrew Wilkes of Lymington on the south coast of England, they spend about a third of their time there, where - with other Irish ex-Pats - they’ve created a sort of West Hampshire Gaeltacht.

Maire Breathnath off Cape Horn 5Maire Breathnach off Cape Horn at the helm of Andrew Wilkes’ Swan 44 King of Hearts during their cruise round South America in 2004. Photo: Andrew Wilkes

Annabelle J 2The new girl in town. Annabelle J as seen recently from Reginalds Tower in Waterford, with the sail training ketch Brian Boru astern. Photo Maire Breathnach

However, the remaining third of their time is maybe most interesting of all, as its spent aboard their gorgeous 55ft gaff cutter Annabelle J, which they bought about 18 months ago to replace their steel gaff yawl Young Larry, with which they’d transitted the Northwest Passage.

The 1996 steel-built Annabelle J first entered Irish maritime consciousness during her previous ownership in 2013, when she was undoubtedly the Queen of the Fleet during the Old Gaffers Golden Jubilee Cruise-in-Company, which took in both Dublin and Belfast. However, if you’ve progressed along the waterfront in Waterford recently, you’ll see her there near Reginald’s Tower, berthed just ahead of the Sail Training ketch Brian Boru, for she’s simply too big to fit into the handy little pool just below the bridge in Dungarvan which Young Larry used to make her winter home.

Although she’s “only” 55ft long in overall hull length, Annabel J is 66ft from nose to tail with spars included, and she speaks “ship” rather than “yacht”. The basic design was by David Cox completed by Gary Mitchell and she was constructed by shipbuilders A & P of Appledore in Devon. Yet while they admit to Bristol Pilot Cutter influence on her design, the original owners made no direct claims for this, but the fact is that she’s such a strikingly handsome vessel that it’s difficult not to see her as the definitive modern version of a pilot cutter, even if she’s larger than most of the original Bristol Channel boats.

For Maire and Andrew, taking on such a vessel was a leap in the dark until they could be confident they could handle her with just the two on board, but a cruise of Ireland’s west coast to Donegal and back in 2016 – including a transit of the Joyce Sound pass inside Slyne Head – showed them they could manage her both in confined waters and at sea, so for 2017 the far horizons call.

However, for 2017 there’s also the additional challenge that Annabel J is now editorial headquarters for the most important annual record of Irish cruising achievement, but her crew being aces in the communications business, they’ll take it all in their stride even if Ed Wheeler has left a very high standard to maintain.

For his final edition of the Annual, the adjudicator for 2016’s logs was former Commodore Cormac McHenry, himself a Transatlantic veteran, and although the ICC now has an enormous selection of trophies to highlight various specialities of achievement, nevertheless he had to by-pass some very notable cruises in order to make his final selection.

The ICC’s premier trophy, dating back to 1931, is the Faulkner Cup, and its latest award is to Daragh Nagle, a member based in Victoria on Canada’s west coast, from where he cruises extensively with his wife Cathy and others in his 1987-built Moody 376 Chantey V.

Cathy Daragh Nagle Chanty V 7Cathy & Daragh Nagle aboard Chantey V in the Sea of Cortez on the west coast of Mexico.

Chantey 8Chantey V is a standard Moody 376, designed by Bill Dixon and built 1986.
Chantey V’s 2016 cruise was from San Salvador on the Pacific Coast of Central America northwest along the Mexican coast to the long inlet of the Sea of Cortez, followed by the big ocean hop to the Hawaii Islands, before heading eastward back to Canada.

For the long haul out to the islands, he recruited Portuguese-based ICC member John Duggan as first mate, a role he filled with added diligence as he also obligingly wrote up the log of that stage of the voyage – other first mates please note. And as his skipper was unable to collect the Faulkner Cup last night in person as he is at a family wedding in Malaysia, John Duggan was in Dublin last night to do it for him.

His views on the Pacific between West Coast America and Hawaii were interesting. He says it may seem Pacific after you’ve battled your way round Cape Horn, but by comparison with his usual Atlantic stomping grounds, it seemed an oddly unsettled area of water, with twitchy little waves patterns running every which way.

Chantey V Moody 376Man aloft. Daragh Nagle rigging an emergency inner forestay in mid-Pacific. Photo John Duggan

In fact, the going was so jerky at times that Chantey V broke her baby stay. The word from riggers is that the shorter the stay, the less able it is to absorb sudden snatches in loading. But whatever caused it, Darren Nagle spent a few hours getting well bruised at the lower spreaders before he’s rigged a satsfactory temporary baby stay to the stemhead to keep the rig in place for the rest of the voyage. By the time Chantey V got back to Victoria, this cruise totalled 7,858 miles for 2016, and just under 25,000 miles since they started their North America circuit three years ago.

As it happens, the Strangford Cup for an alterative best cruise goes to a venture which John Duggan has done a couple of times with his own 40-footer Hecuba, from the Iberian peninsula out to the Azores and then cruise in detail before returning to Spain or Portugal. In 2016 this very Atlantic cruise was undertaken by Seamus OConnor with his new Hallberg Rassy 42, and with three weeks in the Azores, he produced a mass of interesting information in addition to obviously enjoying himself, which is really what cruising is supposed to be all about.

Enjoyment takes many forms, yet cruising to northeast Greenland would not be many people’s first choice. But Brian Black of Strangford Lough finds he’s drawn back there seemingly year after year in his fairly standard 1985-built Trident Voyager Seafra. He writes of it in such an unassuming yet elegant way that his cruise first to the Faeroes then eastward of Iceland to Ittoqqortoormiit in northeast Greenland (it’s just south of the latitude of Jan Mayen) wins him the Wild Goose Cup for a log of real literary merit, and in it he finds the time to tell us of gig racing in the Faeroes and a visit to his favourite Arctic anchorage of Jyttes Havn.

Gig racing in the Faroes 10Gig racing in the Faroes as watched by Brian Black while cruising towards northeast Greenland. Photo: Brian Black

Arctic anchorageFavourite Arctic anchorage. Seafra in Jyttes Havn, Greenland. Photo: Brian Black

The sun may have shone for Seafra in Jyttes Havn, but far to the southwest in Labrador, Neil Hegarty and his shipmates on the Dufour 34 Shelduck found the weather classic Grand Banks cold and foggy as they readied their Dufour 34 Shelduck for a rugged but efficient passage to Baltimore in West Cork via Newfoundland to complete a three year Atlantic circuit which has been already been garlanded with awards, and now adds the Atlantic Trophy to its laurels.

Neil Hegarty Ann Kenny 13Cold and foggy. Neil Hegarty’s Shelduck at Red Bay, Labrador. Photo Neil Hegarty

Neil Hegarty Ann Kenny 13Homeward bound. Neil Hegarty (right) with Ann Kenny of Tralee and icebergs off St Anthony, Newfoundland

Even the briefest summary of the other main awards doesnl’t do them justice, but it gives some idea of the ICC’s level of activity:

Fortnight Cup: Best cruise within 16 days, Adrian & Maeve bell of Strangford Lough in the Baltic with their Arcona 430 Oisin Ban.

Round Ireland Cup: Donal Walsh of Dungarvan with his newly-acquired Ovni 385 Lady Belle. Thanks to his new boat’s lifting keel, not only was he able to explore shallow ports seldom visited such as Belmullet and Donegal town, but the fact that an Ovni is well able for seafaring meant he made St Kilda part of a round Ireland cruise while he was at it.

Cathy Daragh Nagle Chanty V 7Donal Walsh’s newly-acquired Ovni 385 Lady Belle showing her versatility by comfortably finding enough water with keel raised to visit Donegal town (above), while she also made the passage out to St Kilda (below) with no bother. Photos Donal Walsh

Cathy Daragh Nagle Chanty V 7

Fingal Cup: for the log which the judge most enjoyed goes most deservedly to Peter Fernie of Galway for a cruise round Ireland with co-owner Dave Whitehead in the Moody 27 Mystic. At least, it was basically round Ireland, but they also took part in the RUYC 150th Anniversary Cruise-in-Company with the ICC and the Clyde Cruising Club to Tobermorey, so through the minimum round Ireland circuit is 704 miles, the little Mystic had logged 1,228 miles by the time she got back to Kinvara.

Despite its many global adventures, the West Coast of Scotland still figures large in ICC activity, and it has its own trophy, the Wybrants Cup, awarded in 2016 to Robin & Denise Wright for a Hebridean jaunt including St Kilda in their 12m Jeanneau Geronimo.

And the charms of the Irish coast aren’t forgotten, they have their own Glengarriff Trophy, and most approoriately for 216 it goes to the new Annual Editor Maire Breathnach for her account of the mighty Annabel J’s stately progress up and down the Atlantic seaboard.

In fact, the Annabel J is the largest of the award winners this time round, and despite her traditional appearance, she’s also one of the newest. So anyone who has an image of the ICC as large glossy new yachts tearing about the ocean is somewhat mistaken, and the club makes a point of honouring its relatively humble origins with the Marie Trophy for the best cruise by any boat under 30ft. It celebrates the little 1893-built gaff cutter Marie which was the first awardee of the Faulkner Cup way back in 1931, and 85 years later, the Marie Trophy goes to Conor O’Byrne for his cruise from Gaway to the cruising paradise of southwest Ireland in the 1986-built Sadler 26 Calico Jack.

It says everything about the ICC’s breadth of achievement that the awards are only the tip of an iceberg of seagoing coasting and island-hopping variety. One particularly notable cruise which didn’t get any nod of special recognition was from Galway Bay to Russia by Fergus and Katherine Quinlan with their own-built van de Stadt 12 metre steel cutter Pylades, a wonderfully detailed account of many countries which contrasts very vividly with their previous big venture, a voyage round the world.

Cathy Daragh Nagle Chanty V 7A long way from Pacific Islands. Dawn beyond the Ijsselmeer in the Netherlands, as seen from Pylades during the cruise to Russia. Photo: Fergus Quinlan.

But then that world circuit saw Pylades being awarded the Faulkner Cup three years on the trot, so maybe there’s room for a new trophy “For A Cruise Which Is As Different As Possible From The Same Vessel’s Previous Award-winning Cruise”.

And then there’s no award for a cruise which provides photos which best capture the sprit of a cruising area, but for 2016 it would have gone to Paul Newport of Howth, whose cruise his wife Fiona to the Hebrides with the Najad 332 Puffin Eile was not only a gem of its type, but he brought back a couple of photos which make the place live for the rest of us.

The more dramatic is taken into the sun at Cragaig Bay on the island of Ulva west of Mull, with the distinctive Dutchman’s Cap island in the distance. In the foreground are four cruising yachts, all lying to their own anchors in the approved manner, all at a distance from each other which is enough for politeness and privacy, yet they’re not so far apart that there can’t be some sociable interchange if it is mutually wished.

Cathy Daragh Nagle Chanty V 7The most perfect small Hebridean island…..Puffin Eile at Eriskay. Photo Paul Newport

The other is simply Puffin Eile lying to the visitor’s mooring in the lovely little island of Eriskay. Eriskay is so perfect that when we first went there, one of my shipmates was so impressed that he duly named his next boat after it. Yet somehow timetables in cruising the Outer Hebrides recently have meant that we’ve missed out on Eriskay while passing south or north through the Sea of the Hebrides, so it’s good to see the little place looking so well.

Getting a special satisfaction out of sailing your own boat to places like Eriskay is part of what cruising is all abut. But there are many other factors which contribute to true enjoyment of this mainstream yet low-profile aspect of sailing, and one of them is good food.

So it’s a brilliant idea that Rachel Allen of Ballymaloe should be another of the key speakers at today’s Cruising Conference in Cork. Only recently she featured here in Afloat as Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy has been doing the intensive 12-week Cookery Course at Ballymaloe, which is definitely not an undertaking for the faint-hearted.

annalise Murphy darina allen Rachel allenDarina Allen, Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy, and Rachel Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
But Ballymaloe’s connections with sailing are much wider than that, for it was windsurfer Rory Allen of Ballymaloe, who started the famous Round Great Island Race in Cork Harbour scheduled at the top of the tide, and it’s now an annual highlight. And Rachel herself is of the O’Neill sailing family, whom we’ve known afloat for many years. It goes back a very long time to when they’d the Nicholson Half Tonner Silver Mite, and we buddy-boated together from West Cork home to Dublin in good company with Denis and Brian O’Neill. The latter very obligingly hauled one of the Nixon kids out of Kinsale Marina when he fell in while being over-enthusiastic about fishing. I’m happy to tell “Disgusted of Dunmanway” that the young fisherman was wearing a lifejacket, but the O’Neill pull-up was very much appreciated nevertheless.

anchorage Cragaig Bay Ulva off Mull19The cruising dream on Scotland’s West Coast. The anchorage at Cragaig Bay on Ulva off the west coast of Mull, with the distinctively-shape Dutchman’s Cap island beyond. Photo Paul Newport

Published in Ilen
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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