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Displaying items by tag: Isle of Man

#ISORA – The Offshore Racing Weekend, a higlhight of the 2014 ISORA calendar, started with a fast and furious 'midnight' race from Liverpool to Douglas with a fantastic spinnaker leg for the entire 75 mile voyage.  Results are available to download below. The first boat in was Jackknife who finished approximately 0200hrs on Saturday morning followed rapidly by the rest of the fleet and the last boat finishing approximately 0630hrs.

Bada Bing (Andy Napper, Andy and Annie Farrell) were overall winners again this year. Baba Bing, a Humphreys 30, was previously known as Men Behaving Badly, and subsequently Hot Rats and was built at Firmhelm in Pwllheli.

Published in ISORA

#isora – ISORA sailors are in bullish form after a strong turnout last night for the 97th race from  Liverpool to Douglas in the Isle of Man. Organisers of the Offshore Racing Weekend are hoping hoping that the 25–boat fleet for the first race to Douglas will increase for the Douglas to Dún Laoghaire race tomorrow, Sunday.

The 75–mile race started last night at 18.30 and is sailed under the burgees of Tranmere Sailing Club and Liverpool Yacht Club.

The second offshore race starts on Sunday morning at 0900hrs from Douglas to Dun Lagohaire, a distance of approximately 80 miles. 

The offshore weekend is a new Irish Sea initiative bringing together boats from across Northern Ireland,  the Isle of Man, England, Wales and Ireland. The venture has  won the support of Hudson Wight who are providing prizes for the weekend offshore series.

This race is also a feeder race for the ICRA championships in Dun Lagohaire next weekend.

Published in ISORA

The Peel Traditional Boat Weekend at the hospitable port on the west coast of the Isle of Man has been developing steadily since its inception in 1991. Located in the middle of the Irish Sea, the Peel gathering has become a magnet for boat enthusiasts of all kinds from Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland. W M Nixon sampled it for the first time in August 2013, and found that it deserves its hospitable reputation.

#peel – Cruising around the Isle of Man is dictated by its extraordinary tides. We may not be talking of the exceptional ranges of the Bay of Fundy, but you're right up with the North Coast of Brittany in the island's huge rise and fall. As for the ports, there are only two which have been fitted with automatic gate flaps that retain enough water in their harbours for civilised berthing at marina pontoons when the tide has receded.

These are the island's capital of Douglas on the east coast, and the ancient fishing stronghold of Peel on the west. At other ports such as Ramsey, Laxey and Castletown, you have to be prepared to dry out alongside. There are anchorages of sorts available at the main sailing centre of Port St Mary on the south coast (where it is also possible to lie afloat alongside at low water, but it's an unbelievably long way down), at Derbyhaven in behind the island's southeast corner of Langness, and at Port Erin towards the southwest corner, but they don't really provide the restful berths which cruising folk hope to find at the end of a day's sail.

We'd hoped to round out our two year sailing celebration of the centenary of Dickie Gomes' 36ft yawl J B Kearney Ainmara by an easygoing circuit cruise of the Isle of Man (the old girl won the Round Isle of Man Race in 1964, when she was but a stripling of fifty-two summers), and conclude it with participation in the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend 2013, in its turn the concluding event in the Irish Sea of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Old Gaffers Association, in which we'd already been much involved in Dublin and Belfast. But it was a programme which just couldn't be made to integrate.

While the Isle of Man would be attractive to cruise round if the harbours at Ramsey, Castletown and Port St Mary provided floating berths, the fact that only Peel and Douglas have marinas enclosed within gate flaps makes it very tempting to keep your boat at one of these two ports, and see the rest of the island by other means.

Though I haven't seen it stated in any relevant cruising directions (perhaps because it's so bleeding obvious), the sensible time for a three or four day cruise around the Isle of Man is when high water is morning and evening. That means you can arrive off your chosen port for the night at a civilised hour, and go in immediately. Even if you've had to dry out overnight, you can still depart at your leisure in the morning on the new tide, and though you may have to push tidal streams to the next port, the tides are much smaller when high water is morning and evening rather than noon and midnight, so you have a chance of overcoming any adverse streams. Then too, the weaker tide means there's less likelihood of rough water, which in certain areas of the Isle of Man is something of a speciality.

But the format of the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend scuppered this fine plan of a leisurely island circuit. The Weekend is staged when high water is pushing towards lunchtime, as the waterborne highlights of what is really a five day boatfest are Parades of Sail on the Friday and the Sunday. On those days, everyone is expected to head seawards just as soon as the automatic gate flap goes down, then they tear around on the Irish Sea for a couple of hours with all sail set, showing off big time, and then they scuttle back into port before the gate comes up again.

It works very well, but it means that you're totally Peel-focused for the berthing of your boat while the festival is in full swing. So we reckoned the only solution was to give in gracefully. Ainmara secured a marina berth handily off the Creek Inn, and there we were every night from Wednesday August 7th until Sunday August 11th, absorbing Manx culture by the bucket-load, and taking on board nautical ideas, rig designs, and boat layouts of every imaginable type, plus a few totally unimaginable as well.


Ainmara manoeuvring into her convenient berth in Peel Marina off the Creek Inn. Photo: W M Nixon


High summer in the Isle of Man. Looking seaward down the inner harbour at Peel towards the castle. Photo: W M Nixon

It was the ideal scenario for a plague-like outbreak of harbour rot, but as already reported here on August 24th, we made an immediate point of visiting the world's oldest yacht, at her abode in the characterful old port of Castletown before contemplating anything else. And then between the jig and the reels we saw a lot of this fascinating island by many different means of transport, only drawing the line at the ancient tram which runs between Douglas and Ramsey, because even for the most easy-going cruising man, it is just too slow.

Perhaps it's there to offset a central part of Manx culture, the TT motorcycle jamboree. The tram may well be a deliberate reminder of the slow and safe life, but the TT is all about fast and dangerous, and it's almost a religious cult. With the quaint little winding roads, the Isle of Man is probably the only place in the world where the tourism authorities will object if the road engineers want to straighten out a particularly dangerous corner.

One of our ship's complement of three, Brian Law, is a mad keen biker, so he really was in seventh heaven, but we kept him grounded with more sedate ways of travel such as the little old very smoky narrow gauge steam railway which runs from Douglas eventually to Port Erin - and don't forget to start your journey with the fireman's breakfast off a shovel in Douglas station.

The only way to start the journey – the Fireman's Breakfast in Douglas Station, served on a shovel. Photo: W M Nixon


The Peel to Port Erin Express. Needless to say, each vintage compartment had a No Smoking sign. Photo: W M Nixon

But having done the island from end to end, the crew of Ainmara would like it to be known that the best way to cruise the Isle of Man is up front on top of a double-decker bus. Much of the island scenery is a sort of miniaturised Ireland or Scotland, so at first it seems completely bizarre that urban double-deckers run on many of the routes. And up top, it has to be admitted that at times the old bus gets a mighty wallop from a tree branch. But the views are marvellous, you get to meet a fascinating array of the locals, the bus will take you scenically to an extraordinary variety of towns and villages, and at day's end you return to Peel, the most characterful place of all, and there sits your boat serenely off the inn, and the party just getting going. It's cruising perfection.

And for anyone into traditional or classic or just interesting boats, Peel is paradise. We'd got the flavour of it as we'd arrived in the sunshine of a perfect summer's day on the Wednesday, going through the narrow entrance with Mike Clark's Manx nobby White Heather – traditionally rigged with huge lug mainsail – to starboard, while to port beside the harbour office was the superbly restored varnished Ray Hunt-designed 57ft Drumbeat, originally built for Max Aitken with twin centreboards – one for each tack – back in 1957, and newly arrived as an Isle of Man resident after her second total restoration.

Mike Clark's restored Manx nobby White Heather sets the classic lug rig.

The superstar of 1957. The restored Drumbeat with her varnished hull is a new resident of the Isle of Man. This view is looking seaward towards the Outer Breakwater over the footbridge and gate flap at the entrance to Peel Inner Harbour with its marina. Photo: W M Nixon

Peel's marina has revitalised this former fishing port. Photo: W M Nixon

Peel has always had something special, and since it got its gate flap in 2005 and the 124-berth marina three years later, the harbour area has been on the up and up, and the maritime community spirit in the town is a real tonic. We got our first taste of it that night in the Peel Sailing and Cruising Club where there was a merry buzz and a sense of anticipation with greetings for many old friends already there, and more on the way with the clubhouse affording a fine view of the outer breakwater, above which the upper rigs of gaffers could be seen as they headed for port in the last of the evening light, providing an entertaining guessing game as to which boat would be revealed as they swept past the outer end.

In the morning the harbour was sunlit and lively with more boats which had come in on the midnight tide. We finalised our entry and found that as were to do our duty by making a holy show of ourselves during the Parades of Sail for the delectation of the public, our hosts in turn would feed and water us in port, with the makings of breakfast put aboard each morning, and a fine feed for all crews each night in the Masonic Hall, the only place in Peel big enough to cater for the crowd.

All this hospitality at the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend involved many people and several organizations with a raft of sponsors, so it was a bit difficult to keep track, but as the two days of sport afloat had their timing dictated by the opening of the gate-flap, it was literally a case of going with the flow and enjoying yourself.

The basics of the weekend's administration were provided by Mike Clark of the traditional Manx Nobby White Heather and his PL 2013 team, but while they with their access to the Masonic Hall had the space for the crowd scenes, Andy Hall the Commodore of Peel S & Cr C and his many volunteers provided an additional key focal point in their fine clubhouse. So we'd all these delightful folk making a massive and very effective voluntary input to our enjoyment, and that was before we acknowledged the contribution of the top honchos of the various Old Gaffer Associations from all round the Irish Sea.


Mike Clark of White Heather heads up a remarkable squad of volunteers to make the Peel Festival a success. Photo: W M Nixon

Peel is a natural centre to draw in boats from Scotland, Ireland north and south, North Wales, and northwest England, so much so we had to stop ourselves thinking it was like a conference of Sub-Saharan African states, as the gathering was eventually to include Their Excellencies the Presidents or Senior Plenipotentiaries of Nioga, Dboga, Nwoga and Soga. More boats came in on every tide with more than 70 finally in the fleet, and as they wouldn't be able to get out across the gate-flap until late morning next day (Friday August 9th) for the first Parade of Sail, there was ample time in the sunshine to inspect the gathering in its glorious variety.

Stu Spence's 1875-vintage Pilot Cutter Madcap from Strangford Lough was in, recently back the Isles of Scilly where they'd renewed the rudder stock after breaking it west of Brittany, and steering themselves unaided by the cunning use of trailed buckets all the way to Scilly, where with considerable ingenuity they fixed the rudder. The crew for this remarkable feat included noted Isle of Man sailor Joe Pennington whose own restored Manx longliner Master Frank was another of the stars of Peel.

"Dock probes". Bowsprits were everywhere – these are on Mona, Vilma and (foreground) Madcap Photo: W M Nixon

The sterns came in all shapes and sizes – these are (left to right) Madcap, Vilma and Mona Photo: W M Nixon

The Bisquine-rigged Peel Castle from West Cork, and outside her the Warington-Smyth cutter Dreva from North Wales. Photo: W M Nixon

We still await a photo which does justice to the West Cork-based Bisquine-rigged Peel Castle under sail (it would need to be in a lot of wind). Meanwhile, this one of her setting up her spars gives some idea of the eccentric rig which Graham Bailey has installed. Photo: W M Nixon

Ingenuity on a massive scale had also been involved in the creation of Graham Bailey's lugger Peel Castle from West Cork, which despite her name was originally a 50ft Penzance fishing boat built in Cornwall in 1929, but had been so named because Peel Castle was a familiar landmark for the roving Penzance fleet, and it is also the title of a much-loved fishermen's hymn. Though built as a motorized vessel, this fine vessel effectively had a sailing hull, thus when Graham bought her in 1999 he was acquiring a traditional sailing hull just as new as he could get. He spent nine years restoring and converting her at Oldcourt on the Ilen River, rigging her as an eye-catching French bisquine. With three masts in a fan configuration, she certainly looks unusual, but her sailing record speaks for itself, as she has cruised the length of the Mediterranean to Greece, and was in Peel in the latter stages of a three-month round Ireland cruise with extras which had already included a detailed cruise of the Hebrides and a passage out to St Kilda.

The Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan was built in Clondalkin, West Dublin, by a co-operative which still functions successfully after 15 years. Photo: W M Nixon

The Albert Strange yawl Emerald sailed south by Scottish owner Roger Clark was one of many smaller craft taking part in Peel 2013. Photo: Carol Laird

Joe Pennington's Manx longliner Master Frank is the sole survivor of a once numerous Ramsey-based sailing fishing fleet. Photo: W M Nixon

Irish traditional boats were flagshipped by the big Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan, which has been built and kept going for a remarkable 15 years by a co-operative based in Clondalkin in West Dublin, while the long story of Welsh slate schooners was represented by Scott Metcalfe's Vilma from the Menai Straits. She may have started life in 1934 as a ketch-rigged Danish sailing fishing boat, but when Scott and his wife Ruth restored the hull at their boatyard in Port Penrhyn on the Straits, they fitted her with a classic Welsh schooner rig, with the square sails aloft on the foremast mainly handled from deck. The hull certainly shows Vilma's Baltic origins but her rig, as we were to see when the Parade got going, is very much Welsh schooner, and apparently easy to handle, though that may have been the skill of the crew.

Vilma was one of the stars of the show. Photo: Carol Laird

Finally the gate-flap opened later than expected on the Friday morning, and those who were up for the Parade – not everyone by any means – went out onto a lively sea with the sun coming and going and a good breeze sweeping in from the west. Provided we didn't have to go to windward, Ainmara could carry full main, and so long as we kept reaching, she could carry jib tops'l too. So with Brian on the helm, she reached up and down in all her finery, and though we had to throw the outer tack a couple of miles out in a rumbly seaway each time we shaped up to parade back towards Peel, when nearing the shore on the inward track we asked our helmsman to tack as far up the outer harbour as he could at the inner turn in order to provide the smoothest possible water for elderly gentlemen hopping about the deck to clear sheets.

Zapping along – Ainmara at full speed as she shapes her course in towards Peel Castle and the circuit of the Outer Harbour. Photo: W M Nixon

Being a biker, Brian is an ace close quarters helmsman, and each time coming in he brought Ainmara right into the upper reaches of the outer harbour as though he expected to go straight on up the main street. Then a long elegant curving tack, and out we went again with everything setting to perfection before open water was reached, and the old girl outsailing everything else large and small, all great fun.

We'd more of the hospitality that evening with a substantial supper in the Masonic Hall and a great session in the sailing club with Adrian Spence and Joe Pennington in fine form as they detailed their experiences in getting the rudderless Madcap in to Hughtown from somewhere off Ushant, and then a blow-by-blow account of the re-installation of the re-built rudder.

Everybody has a right to their opinion....Joe Pennington, Dickie Gomes and Adrian "Stu" Spence in conference in Peel S & Cr C. Photo: W M Nixon

The Peel people were as good as their word in putting the makings of breakfast on board each morning, but they had started gently enough with standard bacon and egg and the usual extras on the Friday. Then Saturday started the grown-up breakfasts, with a bag of magnificent Manx kippers placed into the cockpit. Our captain became the kipper skipper. We were pleasantly surprised at how much of a dab hand our master and commander was in cooking them lightly to perfection, and by the time we got back from the island, it was difficult to imagine starting the day any other way.

That Saturday (August 10th) was a sort of public interaction day, and included a "dirty boatbuilding" competition beside the harbour, with each team being given enough material to build a small boat – well, not so much a boat, more something that would just about float - then they were given a time limit to finish. The whistle blew to start, it blew again to signal time up, and the winners were the first team whose crewed boat managed to get across the harbour. They had all the teams they needed, though few enough old gaffer owners took part, as they reckoned most of their winters were spent like this, and they'd prefer to do just about anything else, while for Ainmara's crew, it was the day of the great steam train ride.

It may be the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend, but walkies are still expected. Photo: W M Nixon

Back in Peel for the Saturday night festivities, Andy Hall, Commodore of the Peel S & Cr C (which is twinned with Down Cr C) had told us not to eat ourselves silly early on, as the real feasting would take place in his club from 9.0 pm onwards. It was a masterwork of voluntary enthusiasm. His members threw themselves into preparing a mountain of queenies (the succulent Manx queen scallops) cooked six different ways, and a very eclectic clientele (for this seems to be one of the highlights of the Manx social calendar) threw themselves into a massive over-consumption in which all pretences at dining delicacy went by the board. We ate ourselves to a standstill with strangers now the best of friends, but it wasn't an exceedingly late night, for with a week's supply of protein taken aboard in one go, we'd to go back to the boat at a reasonably early hour to sleep it off.

It must have all been cooked to perfection, for there were no ill effects in the morning (Sunday August 11th) and we could breakfast off the skipper's kippers with relish. But while our guts were well settled, the weather was anything but. Though a passage home was a possible if rugged proposition for that Sunday with a fresh to strong sou'wester expected, strong west to nor'wester forecast for the Monday would have meant a dead beat, and no go at all for ancient craft.

We were all three on a three-line whip to be back by Monday night. So instead of taking part in Sunday's Parade of Sail, Ainmara returned across the Irish Sea while we could. Even if it did involve a demanding slug of a passage, it was a shrewd move, for anyone from the east cost of Ireland who stayed until Monday didn't get back until Tuesday.

It was a couple of weeks before news of the awards filtered through. Not surprisingly, both Vilma and Peel Castle received major trophies. But as we'd been a no show in the second Parade of Sail, it was a complete surprise that Ainmara had been awarded the Creek Inn Trophy for Best in Show for her one appearance on the Friday. It was the jib tops'l wot done it. All credit to Mike Sanderson of Sketrick Sails for making the old girl a very elegant set of threads. It was a sweet ending to two seasons of centenary celebration.

"It was the jib tops'l wot done it......" Ainmara in fine form, on her way to winning the Creek Inn Trophy for 'Best in Show'. Photo: Carol Laird

Published in W M Nixon

#RNLI - Douglas RNLI lifeboat on the Isle of Man was launched last night (4 September) at the request of Douglas Coastguard following the report of two kayakers stranded on the seaward side of Douglas Breakwater.

The RNLI all-weather lifeboat Sir William Hillary was launched under the command of volunteer deputy second coxswain Graeme Cushnie, to assist the coastguards by illuminating the scene from seaward, allowing coastguard rescue officers to negotiate their way down the sea defence wall and bring the kayakers to safety.

Both kayakers having been reported as safe and well the lifeboat was able to recover both kayaks from the Irish Sea to the visitors’ pontoon at the Battery Pier.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#oldestyacht – Serenely she sits, with all the heightened elegance of a still beautiful grand dame who, despite a hectic youth, has lived long and well to take her place in a position of respect, verging on reverence, within the community. But then anyone, whatever the life they may have led, would be deserving of some sort of special appreciation if they'd managed to reach the age of 224 still in reasonably good order, still looking much as they did more than two centuries ago. Yet that is the case with the 26ft schooner yacht Peggy. When you attend upon her in her home in Castletown in the Isle of Man, it's as if time has stood still since the 1790s.

We sailed over to the Isle of Man recently for the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend. As it had been expanded to include the final Irish Sea gathering for the Old Gaffers Association Golden Jubilee, it was felt that the least we could do, before the revels began, was to pay our respects to the ultimate old gaffer of them all, across at her home port on the south coast of the island. And if the Peggy of Castletown isn't the oldest yacht in the world in more or less intact order, then we'll be fascinated to hear of any vessel having a better claim. For by any standards, the Peggy is extraordinary.

Thus we'll leave an account of the fantastic party in Peel for another day. It will be ideal for the depths of winter when such memories of enjoyment deserve to be savoured at leisure. But the Peggy deserves to be highlighted right now. For the fact is that if you're into boats and those who sailed them and their history, then the Peggy blows your mind. The story of her origins, of her adventures in sailing, and of how she has survived for more than 200 years, would the stuff of legend if it didn't happen to be completely true.

The story of the Quayle family of Bridge House right on the harbour in the ancient Manx capital of Castletown is long and distinguished. In the 18th Century, John Quayle was a leading figure in the administration of the Isle of Man. But though his son George Quayle (1751-1835) was a member of the Manx parliament, the House of Keys, for 51 years, he was also something of a Renaissance man, his interests as a successful merchant and ship owner including the co-founding of the Isle of Man's first bank, while his inventive talents were such that he won a gold medal of the Society of Arts.


George Quayle (1751-1835)

Despite the challenging nature of the waters around the Isle of Man, he was also an enthusiastic amateur sailor. So when the impressive Bridge House was being completed in 1789, he saw to it that its eastern end included a private dock accessed through an arch from Castletown Harbour, the dock in its turn giving access to a "boat cellar" in which he planned to have slipping facilities for a 26ft sailing boat he was having built nearby.


Bridge House, Castletown, IOM. George Quayle's quarters were on the right hand side of photo, and the blocked-off entrance to the Peggy's dock is at lower right. Photo: W M Nixon

It may well be that, like the J/24 some 174 years later, the size of the new boat Peggy was dictated by the size of the garage available. Whatever, there's no doubt she's a very neat fit in the boat cellar. George Quayle then provided a complete maritime unit around his new boat's berth, as he created his own personal quarters around it independent of the family home, the main feature directly above the Peggy's cellar being a fine living room replicating the Great Cabin of a sailing ship.

The first sight of the Peggy when you descend to the boat cellar is memorable, though it takes some time to grasp that this is a boat built 224 years ago. Photo: W M Nixon

The stern is completely typical of its era Photo: W M Nixon

The sections reveal a hull with real speed potential. Note the original spars stowed on wall on right. Photo: W M Nixon

The interior reveals how the topsides were raised to increase sail carrying power. Photo: W M Nixon

With his new boat comfortably housed, and his own quarters cleverly created to shelter him from the demands of busy family life, most folk would have taken things easy for a while. But George Quayle was a bundle of energy. Although the boat was built in 1789, with the demands of completing the big new house, he doesn't seem to have started sailing the Peggy – named after his mother – until 1791. But once she was in action there was no stopping him, both in spirited sailing, and in re-configuring the boat to improve performance. So although the lower part of the hull of the Peggy is probably much as it as when she was built in 1789, as he increased the sail area of the already massive schooner rig he also raised the topsides in order to carry the extra cloth without having her fill. Even then, he still had extra canvas "boards" to keep the sea at bay.

The construction details and hull lines were taken off in the 1930s after Peggy had been released following a century of entombment


The sail plan is arguably a primitive version of that set by the schooner America 55 years later

The Peggy – complete with miniature yet very real armaments, as French privateers were active in the Irish Sea – was always considered a yacht, and Quayle was keen to race her and further improve performance. Thus he was soon experimenting with "sliding keels" to combat leeway, and the reputation of the Peggy became such that a challenge was set up to sail in a regatta against the only flotilla of other racing yachts within reach, across at Windermere in the English Lake District.

George Quayle was related to a leading figure in Windermere sailing, John Christian Curwen, who had a couple of sailing pleasure boats imported from the Baltic. Also on the lake was a supposedly hot sailing machine owned by one Captain Heywood. So in 1796, Peggy sailed across to Cumbria, and was carted up the half dozen or so miles from the inner reaches of Morecambe Bay to the lake, which is 128ft above sea level.

It was quite an effort, and as yacht racing organisation was only in its infancy in 1796, the results weren't totally clearcut, though it seems that the Peggy outsailed everything else by several country miles. Intriguingly, two other boats from this pioneering regatta have also survived, though not so well as Peggy. These were the two Baltic boats owned by John Christian Curwen. They were still intact until the 20th Century, but then were fire-damaged while in store. The sad remains of both were on display in a corner of the Windermere Steamboat Museum when I was there around twenty years ago, but largely ignored. Much more interesting was the discovery that George Quayle's relation John Christian Curwen was in turn related to Fletcher Christian of Bounty notoriety, who was of course a Cumberland man. Up among the lakes, they were happy to tell us that there's no way Fletcher Christian stayed on Pitcairn until the end of his days – he got home to the lakes some way or other, so it's said.

But meanwhile the Peggy only just made it home to the Isle of Man after her successful foray to Windermere. She'd a real pasting in the Irish Sea beating back to Castletown, but in typical style George Quayle turned this to best advantage, cheerfully reporting in a letter that the "sliding keels" so improved windward performance that they safely made it back to port.


The sailplan on the model is one interpretation of the abundance of spars available in the boat cellar Photo: W M Nixon

Today, in the boat cellar at Bridge House, you can see the Peggy and all the features which made her such an able flyer. She still has the slots through which George Quayle lowered his primitive centreboards, and on racks on the wall are the original spars she carried when in her racing prime. This indeed was and is a formidable racing machine, and it's no exaggeration to assert that, in her miniature style, she was an early example of the type which reached its supreme development with the schooner America.

And she has survived through a fortuitous miracle of preservation. The exact timing and circumstances in which it all happened are not precisely clear, but we know that after George Quayle died in 1835, the Peggy was entombed in her boat cellar, with the seaward entrance walled up. In time, the little dock was filled in, and the archway through to Castletown harbour closed off. Yet with the pervading salty air, this provided an ideal environment for boat preservation. When it was all opened up again in the 1930s, there was the Peggy, still in remarkably good order, still the same little ship which had successfully completed such a gallant expedition to Windermere in 1796.

Today, George Quayle's quarters in Bridge House accommodate the Manx Nautical Museum, with the Peggy – now formally owned by the Manx nation - the prime exhibit. But with every passing year, she becomes ever more important, so much so that 2014 will see a comprehensive project to conserve her, and in time - let us hope - put her on more accessible display with her full racing rig in place.

With imaginative design, it could possibly be done by putting a clear roof over the little dock. I didn't pace it out when we were there a couple of weeks ago, but guessing from the photos, it should be just about feasible to accommodate her there with all sail set.


The former dock, now filled in, where Peggy was berthed before hauling into the boat cellar - note her stern just visible in doorway, while the windows in the room above reflect sailing ship Great Cabin style. This former dock could be re-configured for use as a covered display area where the newly conserved Peggy could be put on show fully rigged. Photo: W M Nixon

And after 224 years, she surely deserves a proper display. But for now, there are the intriguing challenges of conservation. Most of the timber is in remarkably good order, but the fastenings need replacing, as apparently they are "mineralising". That sounds remarkably like good old-fashioned rust to you and me, but "mineralising" is a word to cherish. So it won't surprise you to learn that, after the earnest piety of our visit to the Peggy, my shipmates then threw themselves into the festivities and fabulous hospitality of the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend with such enthusiasm that we were undoubtedly in a mineralised condition as we slugged our way back home across the Irish Sea.

Published in W M Nixon

#Kayaking - Derry Mayor Martin Reilly offered his congratulations to native son Jake King on taking the surf kayak world title in Australia earlier this month.

As the Derry Journal reports, 18-year-old King was crowned champion after topping three other reigning top dogs in the men's longboat, masters and junior short boat in the final of the competition at Maroochydore beach in Queensland.

According to his father Paddy, Jake King can now add his name to the list of five previous world champions from the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland (CANI) surf kayak club - which includes his brother Corin.

In other kayaking news, a London paddler has broken the record for circumnavigating the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.

BBC News reports on the feat achieved by 39-year-old George Shaw, who completed the 115km route around the island in 11 hours 43 minutes - smashing the previous record by almost an hour.

Published in Kayaking

#coastguard – Liverpool MRCC has called off the search for two missing anglers off the Isle of Man coast after two bodies were recovered from the sea to the North of the island this afternoon.

Liverpool MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) coordinated an air and sea search covering over 360 square miles of sea, involving RNLI lifeboats from Ramsey, Peel, Port Patrick and Port Erin with rescue helicopters from RAF Valley and RNAS Prestwick.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency's fixed wing aircraft was also involved in the search as well as vessels in the area which responded to the Coastguard broadcast.

Published in Coastguard

#MarineWildlife - BBC News reports that whale watchers in the Isle of Man have spotted the first humpback whale in the waters around the island since 2010.

Tom Felce of Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch confirmed the "very rare" sighting in the Irish Sea two miles south of Castletown last week.

It's an unusual location to spot one of these ocean giants, who are a regular sight off West Cork - but even cetacean spotters there have been surprised by changes in their activity as of late.

The west coasts of Ireland and Scotland lie in the humpback's usual migratory path from the cold polar waters where it feeds in summer to subtropical climes off North Africa where it breeds in winter.

BBC News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#RNLI - The Irish Sea will soon have one of the most advanced lifeboats in service as Douglas RNLI in the Isle of Man has been earmarked to receive one of the new Shannon class.

The new design is 50% faster than the lifeboat it will replace, ensuring that those in need are reached even faster.

The RNLI plans to replace the Tyne class lifeboat at Douglas in 2016, which is reaching the end of its planned 25-year life span. The new lifeboat will cost £2 million (€2.32 million) and the RNLI is currently working to identify whether the funding for the new lifeboat can be raised from legacy gifts or whether fundraising activity is needed. The RNLI will announce this once the funding strategy has been identified.

The Shannon is the first modern RNLI all-weather lifeboat to operate with water jets, not propellers. Capable of 25 knots, the Shannon is 50% faster than the classes it has been designed to replace, which have a lower maximum speed of 17 knots.

The Shannon class will also improve safety for the charity’s volunteer crews, thanks to its shock absorbing seats and on-board computer system, which allows the crews to operate and monitor the lifeboat from the safety of their seats.

Michael Vlasto, RNLI operations director said of the new vessel: "I have had the privilege of being involved with the RNLI for over 38 years. In that time I have witnessed great advances in the charity’s lifeboats and seen many new vessels arrive on station. However, I have never seen our volunteer crews quite as excited as they are about the Shannon.

"This all-weather lifeboat is half as fast again as the lifeboats it has been designed to replace and using water jet propulsion, the manoeuvrability is exceptional. Most importantly though, the Shannon has been carefully developed with the safety of the volunteer crews at the very heart of the design, allowing them to shave life-saving moments off the time it takes to reach those in trouble at sea."

Some of the RNLI Douglas volunteer crew were given the opportunity to experience the Shannon first-hand with a trip around Douglas Bay last weekend as the prototype lifeboat visited the island as part of sea trials that began in January, as previously reported on

Afterwards, Douglas coxswain Neal Corran was asked for his immediate thoughts on the new lifeboat. "I was impressed with the boat’s speed and manoeuvrability and look forward to Douglas receiving theirs when it becomes available," he said.

The Shannon has been developed by the RNLI’s in-house team of naval architects, marine engineers and operators - including Irish naval architect Peter Eyre – to replace the majority of Mersey and some remaining Tyne class lifeboats as they reach the end of their operational life (subject to the RNLI’s five-year rolling review of lifesaving assets).

Once the Shannon is rolled out across the UK and Ireland, this class of lifeboat will make up a third of the RNLI all-weather lifeboat fleet, at which point the RNLI will have reached its aim of a 25 knot all-weather lifeboat fleet.

The majority of the 50-plus Shannon class lifeboats to be stationed throughout the UK and Ireland will be built at the RNLI’s new all-weather Lifeboat Centre in Poole, which is currently under construction. Bringing all-weather lifeboat production in-house will save the charity £3.7m annually – the equivalent of 2.5 Shannon class lifeboats.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Lifeboats - The video above shows off a prototype of the RNLI's new lifeboat class, the Shannon, as it undergoes sea trials to determine how it handles the rough weather all too common to the seas around the UK and Ireland.

As previously reported on, Irish naval architect Peter Eyre has been instrumental in the new lifeboat design, which is nearly 50% faster than the vessels currently in service.

It's also the second RNLI boat to be designed by an Irishman, after the Atlantic 21 developed in the 1970s by Cork-born Rear Admiral Desmond Hoare at the Atlantic College in Wales.

In other RNLI news, tributes were paid in the Isle of Man this week to the founder of the lifeboat institution in an annual ceremony on the Irish Sea island.

As BBC News reports, Sir William Hillary launched an appeal in 1824 that let to the formation of the RNLI, and he went on to serve as a member of the lifeboat crew at Douglas.

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

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