Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: Strangford Lough

The first of the BBC NI Series, The Chronicles of Strangford aired on Monday, 17th January.

The maritime TV series will cover the four seasons on this stunning part of Co Down, beginning with this week's episode on Autumn. It will ultimately follow a year on the almost landlocked sea Lough, the largest in the UK.

Autumn is the time when grey seals visit and use the sheltered Islands to breed and raise their pups before returning to the open sea. It also celebrates the arrival of the migrating Brent Geese, an annual event familiar to many who live and work on the shores of the Lough. The geese travel from arctic Canada and the Lough is a vital stopover when thousands arrive to feed on the shores at low tide.

Brent Geese on Strangford Lough Brent Geese on Strangford Lough Photo: National Trust

The programme also featured songwriter Brigid O’Neill who finds inspiration from the natural surroundings and performs at a gig in a small, converted church. RSPB Ranger Mark McCormick explained how his work looking for endangered species has helped him overcome PTSD which he suffered after seeing the attack on Westminster Bridge. And in Portaferry on the Narrows near the mouth of the Lough former ferry Captain, 84-year-old John Murray was seen hauling out his boat, the St Brendan.

Next week (Monday 24th) on BBC NI at 19.30 will be about Winter on the Lough. National Trust Ranger Hugh Thurgate moves livestock between islands and Ulster Wildlife’s Katy Bell looks after barn owl boxes at Mount Stewart Gardens. Boatyard owner Kenny Smyth winterises his yard near Whiterock and shed to work on his 100-year-old River Class yacht Laragh in which Kenny races regularly.

Published in Maritime TV
Tagged under

It’s nearly two years since the Strangford Ferry was transformed into a Carol Ship in celebration of the Christmas Season, its last transformation being in December 2019 before Covid restrictions were imposed

There has been a ferry crossing the fast-flowing tide in the Strangford Narrows since 1604 when it was manned by ‘four able and efficient ferry men for the transportation of men, horses and other cattle and oxen’.

It has evolved into a busy car and passenger ferry between the two towns on opposite sides of the mouth of the Lough and is said to be the oldest continuous ferry crossing in the world.

Now this weekend, you can join this Christmas musical event on December 3rd, 4th and 5th between 5 pm and 9 pm. It is supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council and the Portaferry and Strangford Trust.

The Strangford ferry will be illuminated and Christmas music, recorded by local schools and choirs, will also amplify across the Lough, creating a magical winter atmosphere, with a backdrop of illuminated buildings and boats - an event the windmill won't be left out of in what is sure to be a warming festive event.

Tagged under

Marine wildlife in Strangford Lough faces a “real risk” from an increase in recreational watersport, as The Irish News reports.

Rangers from the National Trust in Northern Ireland recorded a record number of grey seal pups and a “stable” population of Brent geese in their latest annual survey of the Co Down inlet.

But despite this good news, the Designated Special Area of Conservation could be put under pressure by a marked increase in paddle boarding and kayaking — particularly close to seal pupping areas and bird nesting sites.

Lead ranger Hugh Thurgate says: “There’s work to do to educate outdoor activity leaders about wildlife disturbance, to ensure they are aware of the risks and understand what areas of the lough to avoid during breeding season.”

The Irish News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Last Saturday (16th October) saw the final races of Strangford Lough Yacht Club's Frostie 2021 series. In all over five Saturdays, ten races were completed, with the organisers pleased to have returned to some sort of normality.

The event which Vantage Health and Life sponsored attracted boats from all over Strangford Lough and from Belfast Lough.

Seven firsts assured Peter Thompson and Michael Watson of East Down YC in Alcyone of an emphatic top place in the seven-strong Impala class and in NHC another East Down boat, Frank Petticrew's Magdaleyne had a narrow 1.5 point lead on Mike Stephens Glen day boat, Glenoe. In IRC Mike Spence's AC 35 Le Basculer from Killyleagh, tied on points with SLYC's Peter Holden's Farr 36M Go to Red with the tie broken in favour of Le Basculer.

Le Basculer (Mike Spence) winner of the IRC class in the SLYC Frostie SeriesLe Basculer (Mike Spence) winner of the IRC class in the SLYC Frostie Series

NHC RS was won by Ryan Kelly's Scampi Scampalong with wins in half of the races and in the RS Elite class it was the Gunning, Polly and Kelso trio from Royal Ulster and Ballyholme in Storm who clocked up six wins to top that class. Ian Smyth of the host club in the Sonatas had the most firsts in the whole series with eight wins giving Mouse from top position.

The ten races in all types of conditions produced exciting racing for the 46 boats entered in six classes.

Tagged under

Portaferry RNLI were called out yesterday evening (Thursday 26 August) at 5.44pm after members of the public reported three people in the water after their small punt capsized on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

Helmed by Fergal Glynn and with two crew onboard, the lifeboat was on scene close to the Walter rocks within minutes and the volunteers recovered the casualties from the water one by one.

After ensuring they did not require any medical assistance, the lifeboat crew took the casualties ashore and transferred them into the care of Portaferry coastguard rescue team.

The lifeboat crew then returned to the capsized punt to right it and take it under tow to Cook Street Quay.

Less than 24 hours before, on Wednesday evening (25 August), the lifeboat volunteers were called out to reports of two kayakers thought to be in difficulty off Kilclief in Co Down.

The lifeboat, helmed by Chris Adair and with two crew onboard, launched shortly after 8.30pm and was on scene at the Strangford Narrows within minutes.

However, after a thorough search of the area the volunteer crew found nothing of concern and returned to station at 9.25pm.

Commenting on both callouts, Portaferry RNLI press officer Jordan Conway said: “Our initial callout turned out to be a false alarm with good intent. The second callout was also initiated by a concerned member of the public and we would like to thank all members of the public for being so alert and taking the appropriate action.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Portaferry RNLI launched to the aid of two people early yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 21 July) after their leisure boat broke down and was left adrift at the Narrows on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

The volunteer lifeboat crew’s pagers sounded just after 12.45pm and the inshore lifeboat, helmed by Fergal Glynn and with three crew members onboard, launched immediately.

Reaching the scene within minutes, they assessed the situation and found two women on board the leisure boat were safe and well.

The lifeboat crew then quickly established a towline and the leisure boat was brought into Portaferry Marina in Co Down.

Speaking following the callout, Glynn said: “The casualties made the right decision at the right time when calling for assistance. Their quick thinking and calm actions made the rescue simple and kept them out of harm’s way.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The long-established Narrows Regatta held in that fast-flowing stretch of water between the towns of Portaferry on the east side and Strangford on the west side of Strangford Lough in County Down brought together last weekend over 140 boats for exciting racing in enviable conditions.

It provided perfect viewing of sail racing during the Portaferry Sails and Sounds festival, which was packed with children's activities, exhibitions, crafts, and even foraging.

There was racing for 13 classes, including dinghy handicap, Laser Radials and Toppers.

Tight racing in the Flying Fifteen class at the Narrows RegattaTight racing in the Flying Fifteen class at the Narrows Regatta

Topper and Laser Radial fleets at Strangford SC prepare for the Narrows RegattaTopper and Laser Radial fleets at Strangford SC prepare for the Narrows Regatta

Traditionally the Regatta begins with the Bar Buoy Race on a course which took the fleet, made up of IRC 1and 2, NHC 1, NHC Restricted Sail, and One Designs through the Narrows to the Bar Buoy at the mouth of Lough. The Bar Buoy race, the Strangford Regatta and the two Portaferry Regattas combine their four sets of results to make the Narrows Series which you can find here. The dinghy results are here 

Racing in the Narrows Regatta NHC 2 divisionRacing in the Narrows Regatta NHC 2 division

The Laser Radial put up the largest class at 18 but notable too were the two one-design classes, the Glens and the 100-year-old Rivers, both with a history of migration long ago from Belfast Lough to Strangford Lough Yacht Club and still holding strong at that location.

Adelante was the winner of NHC 2 division of the Narrows Regatta Adelante was the winner of NHC 2 division of the Narrows Regatta

The 2022 Narrows Regatta date has been set for 11th until 14th July.

Tagged under

The 18-foot Waverley open racing yacht has for many years been a Ballyholme Yacht Club class, and those which are still sailing have been berthed in Bangor Marina, which from when it was opened in 1989 proved to be something of a haven for boats traditionally moored in Ballyholme Bay which occasionally over the years were subject to being hurled onto the beach by the big seas of a northerly gale.

But now they are leaving Bangor (albeit for a trial season) for Strangford Lough Yacht Club at Whiterock on the Lough's western shore, as their owners are finding berthing costs more than they feel they want to pay, coupled with the fact that they have no engines and moving in and out is tricky. They will be kept on moorings in Whiterock Bay.

Waverley IvanhoeWaverley Ivanhoe

The Waverley was designed by a complete amateur, John Wylie, who was a technician at Queen's University Belfast and Captain of the newly formed County Antrim YC at Whitehead on the north shore of Belfast Lough. The first three Waverleys were built in Carrickfergus, and first raced in 1903 at the opening of the new clubhouse.

The Centenary Regatta at Ballyholme was held in 2003 with eight boats taking part.

Over the years 18 were built, gunter rigged, and all named after characters and places in Sir Walter Scott novels. By 1907 there was a fleet of eight, two of which two still sailing today, Waverley no 5 and Lilias no 7.

 Waverley launch at Ballyholme YC circa 1973A Waverley launch at Ballyholme YC circa 1973

In 1962 the boats relocated to Ballyholme, by which time the fleet had doubled in size. Those joining the owner of Waverley, Mike Stevens, a former member of Ballyholme YC and now a member of SLYC at Whiterock, are Lilias owned by Jeff Gouk, Ivanhoe (John McCrea), Fair Maid owned by Ben Gouk and Steve and Anne Allen's Durward, which was built with a Bermudan rig in Bertie Slater's Shipyard in Bangor in 1948 and is perhaps the most celebrated of all. For as you can read here as told by WM Nixon in 1961, the MacLaverty brothers of Belfast – Kevin and Colm, both alas no longer with us – sailed around Ireland in Durward crewed by Mick Clarke from Lough Erne Yacht Club.

The Waverley Opening Day at Ballyholme makes headlines in the local newspaperThe Waverley Opening Day at Ballyholme makes headlines in the local newspaper

The then owners of Durward seemed to have a penchant for cross North Channel voyages as well, for in the same year (1961) after Winkie Nixon sold his Skal, and was taking part in the Schools and Universities racing based at McGruers of Clynder on the Clyde, Durward turned up and provided for McLaverty and Nixon the perfect ferry substitute for the trip back to Bangor though it was a beat all the way - a lot of windward work for an 18-footer.

There are now no Waverleys in commission in Ballyholme Yacht Club, and about those leaving the club Commodore Aidan Pounder said, "The Waverley class are very much part of our history, not just at Ballyholme but in Belfast Lough and will be sadly missed. We hope that their departure is temporary and very much look forward to their return to the shores of Bangor in the very near future".

And Kevin Baird, Marina Manager, said, " The Waverly class will always be welcome at Bangor Marina, and we wish those moving to Whiterock fair winds, following seas and a safe voyage".

The River Class is the oldest class racing on Strangford Lough and the past weekend saw a notable celebration of its 100th Anniversary – notable because all 12 boats which first raced at Royal Ulster Yacht Club on Belfast Lough, graced the waters off Whiterock, the whole fleet having eventually moved there.

Designed by legendary naval architect Alfred Mylne, the 29-foot Rivers can trace their origins back to 1919 when Belfast Lough sailors were looking for a simple and elegant one-design class to race. That same twelve turned out on the weekend of 26th /27th and provided for the crews the competitive close racing for which the class is known.

Rivers  racing at their Centenary event on Strangford Lough Photo: Elaine HicksRivers racing at their Centenary event on Strangford Lough Photo: Elaine Hicks

Six windward-leeward races set by Race Officer Peter Gault and his team on the Committee boat, Clara Rose, enjoyed favourable conditions on both days with a northerly wind (which on Belfast Lough was kicking up quite a sea), overcast on the Saturday but sparkling in the sunshine yesterday. (Sunday).

Tight racing in the Rivers for the Centenary races Photo: Patrick HobsonTight racing in the Rivers for the Centenary races Photo: Patrick Hobson

The Smyth brothers, Graham in Enler and Kenny in Laragh, dominated the competition with Graham narrowly beating his brother counting two firsts, two seconds and a third-place to take the Cup presented for the 75th Anniversary of the class in 1996. Kenny posted two firsts, a second and two thirds. In third slot was new owner Peter Burrows who ended his run with a first in Uladh, the only boat not to be named after a River but famous nonetheless for having as its first owner the Lady Londonderry of Mount Stewart on the opposite side of the Lough. The first place in the fifth race went to the trio who own Faughan – James Nixon, John Witchell and David Lindsay.

The Rivers Laragh (left) and Enler Photo: Patrick HobsonThe Rivers Laragh (left) and Enler Photo: Patrick Hobson

The next outing for the Rivers will be the four day Narrows regatta starting 9th July, organised by Portaferry and Strangford on opposite sides of the entrance to the Lough, with its fast-flowing tide sure to make interesting racing.

Enler (Graham Smyth) Photo: Patrick HobsonThe River Enler (Graham Smyth) Photo: Patrick Hobson

Published in Historic Boats

Portaferry RNLI lifeboat crew was called out on 22nd April to a yacht with engine failure at the entrance to Strangford Lough.

The entrance at the southern end of the Ards Peninsula leads to the Strangford Narrows through which the tide flows at about 8 knots, and with an uneven bottom, rough seas can result. Portaferry and its Marina lie on the eastern side of the Narrows, and the Strangford ferry runs between here and the village of Strangford on the western side.

The casualty vessel was sailing towards Portaferry but did the right thing and called for help early, knowing that they would need assistance when coming alongside. The lifeboat took the vessel under tow and ensured their safe arrival at the Portaferry marina.

Commenting on the call-out, helmsman Simon said, "While not in any immediate danger, the men certainly took the right course of action today calling for help once they realised that they had an issue. We were delighted to help and would urge anyone considering going to sea to take all necessary precautions and respect the water".

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Page 3 of 11

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