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Displaying items by tag: Tall ship

Listening to a seafarer describe how colleagues from his native town left port on a night of very bad weather, when their Skipper was advised not to go by other Skippers, I thought of how there can be a very narrow margin between life and death.

Those men and their vessel never made it from the British coastline to Youghal in East Cork, which was once the biggest and busiest seaport in the Republic.

Youghal is a seaside town which has suffered heavily in recent years from recessionary impact and decline of industry in the area. Hundreds of jobs have been lost. It is a seaside town which, before the advent of cheap air travel to foreign locations, was a dominant holiday resort. It is where the famous ‘Moby Dick’ film was shot, chosen because of its maritime appearance. It is a town which is legendary for its schooners and schoonermen, trading from Ireland across the Irish Sea to the UK.

It is also where I present THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme on the town’s community radio station, CRY104FM, every Monday night ad from where it is also transmitted to other stations in Dublin, Dundalk, Athlone, Galway, Clare and Cork and here to the Afloat website. It is introduced with the theme music which caught the attention of listeners during my 20 years presenting SEASCAPES on RTE Radio, ‘Sailing By.’ This is the version of that tune played by another sailor, Ronnie Aldrich from the Isle of Man and his orchestra on his LP, ‘Sea Dreams.’ RTE dropped it as the programme’s theme tune after I left, but it is indelibly associated with the maritime sector, another version being used by BBC Radio for its late night sea area weather forecast, played by Ronald Binge and the BBC Light Orchestra. So I resurrected it for my new programme and it has again attracted considerable attention around the nation and abroad, where the programme is also transmitted through Mixcloud and Tune In Radio.

Listening to the interview of Pa Ahern, then an Able Seaman on another legendary Youghal vessel, the Kathleen and May, as we transmitted it, I heard him tell his story of sailing on that ship and how, when he went on board for the first time, he knelt down and kissed the wood of the ship: “I don’t know why I did it, I had it done before I knew it,” he told the interviewer, Noel Cronin, in a recording from the station’s archives. Pa is deceased but, through my headphones, his voice brought alive the scene he described on a night of very bad weather, when another Youghal schooner, the Nellie Fleming, sailed that fateful night and the five men crewing her, all from Youghal, died. Pa described how the Skipper of the Kathleen and May which he was aboard, also decided to sail, but the weather was so bad that a crewman told him he would kill them all and the Skipper turned the ship around and they headed back into port, which was a “tough struggle against the conditions”. Pa been put to watching for navigation lights and described how he saw a ship in the distance in high seas driven by gale force winds, with lashing rain. “It had lost a mast, but I am sure it was the Nellie Fleming…” It was the last sight anyone saw of that vessel, which is the subject of a new book by Youghal historian and author, Mike Hackett, called ‘Lost Without Trace”. The old sailing ships were tough, demanding vessels and could be dangerous in difficult weather. There were some which did not survive. One was the Nellie Fleming, lost coincidentally in the same month of February 1936 when another major maritime event occurred on the East Cork coastline, not far from Youghal.

This was the rescue of the Daunt Rock Lightvesel crew after it broke from its moorings at the entrance to Cork Harbour. This week is the anniversary of that rescue, still regarded as the most famous in Irish lifeboat history. It was carried out by the Ballycotton Life crew under legendary Coxswain Patsy Sliney and they were all awarded medals for their courage. Unusually, so was their boat - the Mary Stanford - now ashore on permanent display in the East Cork coastal village and worth a visit if you are ever in that area.

Mike Hackett’s book tells that the Fleming family which owned the ill-fated Nellie Fleming had lost their original ‘Nellie Fleming’ vessel when it went aground at Ardmore in 1913. All the crew were saved from that shipwreck. Then, in 1916, Fleming’s purchased a vessel named ‘Emily’. It had been built at Carrickfergus in 1884. The name was changed to ‘Nellie Fleming’ and she was registered at Cork.
The Kathleen and May is the last remaining British-built wooden hull three-masted topsail schooner. Registered in Bideford, North Devon, there have been several attempts to restore and preserve her. Last heard of she was based in Liverpool and listed as part of the UK National Historic Fleet.

How did the Kathleen and May get back into port safely that bad February night? Pat Ahern said it had an engine: “Without it we would never have got back.”

These stories underline for me how narrow is the margin between life-and-death.

• Listen above to the programme on the Afloat website

Published in Island Nation

“Behold the turtle who makes progress, but only when it sticks its neck out.”
I like that quotation because I have ‘stuck my neck out” several times in reporting on the marine sphere.
I am doing so again now.
To judge from comments I had received, there was cynicism and doubt about the likelihood of success being achieved by what was previously known as the ‘Pride of Ireland Trust’ and is now the ‘Atlantic Youth Trust,’ in its attempts to build a new Irish tall ship.
I had doubts myself, but at the annual general meeting of the AYT I was impressed by the quality of those present and their commitment to sail training. There was a determination that there will be a new Tall Ship to replace Asgard II, within a target of three years, “to provide opportunities to young people on the island and to meet the forecasted and growing demand” for sail training.
That is what the AYT has decided as its parameters for the new vessel:
* Steel hull
* Under 50 metres
* Less than 500 gross tonnes
* Less than 4m draught
* Low maintenance
* SOLAS Passenger Ship regulations, Load Line, MARPOL and MLC to be complied with
* 7/8 permanent crew, 4/5 volunteers (classed as passengers), 40 young trainees (classed as passengers).
Those were the descriptions given to the agm of the Trust held at the offices of Irish Lights in Dun Laoghaire, where I was also pleased to note the close interaction between those who lead Sail Training Ireland and the Atlantic Youth Trust.

NEIL O HAGAN

Neil O'Hagan of the AYT

In my AFLOAT PODCAST (above) this week you can hear my interview with Neil O’Hagan, Director of the Trust, who tells me that, once money committed by the Government is made available, the building programme can be triggered, with a three-year time span to complete.

That financial commitment was contained in the Government’s Capital Programme and the Northern Ireland Government has also committed funding to this All-Ireland project, the total cost of which is likely to top out at around €16m.
I am a wary person where politicians and their promises are concerned, but inclusion in the Capital Programme is a statement of intent which, even post-General Election should be honoured. Beware however, the influence of the Civil Service which has often not shown itself to be a true maritime friend. But the Government owes €3.8m. at least in the insurance compensation it pocketed for Asgard, due to that Limerickman, Willie O’Dea, who showed no understanding of the importance of Asgard. In my view he dishonoured the name and legend of history of the maritime association with the foundation of this State. In this centenary year of commemoration indeed, would there have been an Easter Rising without the contribution to the resources of the Volunteers by Asgard 1’s historic involvement?
I have not seen any politician so far refer to that in the commemorations up to now.
I stuck my neck out before in support for the Jeanie Johnston, a project much-criticised by people ignorant of the achievements of that cross-Border project; of how it united young people and, built from scratch in Ireland, sailed successfully throughout Europe, to the U.S.A., Canada and Newfoundland as an impressive ambassador for Ireland.
There is more hope now for a new Tall Ship for Ireland…….
As surely as the turtle makes progress, even if slowly, so will this project for which I, like the turtle, am sticking my neck out in support.

More on the new Tall Ship from WM Nixon here

Published in Island Nation
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The governments in both jurisdictions in Ireland have included an all-Ireland sail training ship for the Atlantic Youth Trust in their long term capital expenditure proposals. And the movement in favour of support for this project has become so strong that the nationwide team involved in promoting it are confident that the ship’s future is now secured.

They continue to hold this view even with general elections and possible major changes in administrative direction taking place, north and south, within the next four months. Thus this week’s 2016 Annual General Meeting of the Atlantic Youth Trust in Irish Lights Headquarters in Dun Laoghaire found itself reviewing a remarkable year of progress and achievement, while giving pointers and reassurances for the successful way ahead. W M Nixon was there to take on board an evening of multiple messages.

It could well be that some time in the future, we will come to the sad but inescapable conclusion that the foundering of the Republic of Ireland’s national 84–ft sail training brigantine Asgard II in September 1908, followed within two years by the sinking of the Northern Ireland 70ft training ketch Lord Rank, were necessary disasters for the progress towards the ultimately more healthy ideal of a Class A 40-metre sail training barquentine.

The proposed ship - determinedly and enthusiastically serving all Ireland – will be initially funded through donations, and by government grants from both sides of the border. But the vessel is to be run independently by a cross-border trust rather than by some obscure unit of a government department.

September 2008 saw Ireland on the edge of the financial abyss. For a government under enormous pressure from all sides, a government, moreover, in which the minister responsible for the Asgard II took little or no interest in the ship and what she did, this sinking was a blessing in disguise.

The hull of Asgard II, completed in 1981, had long passed its sell-by date. When she sank, she took with her the magnificent rig which had been totally replaced only a couple of years earlier. Yet a properly involved government would surely have taken on board the advice that her timber hull urgently needed replacing, preferably with one built in steel. For although in 2008 the ship looked better than ever thanks to the devotion of her crew in working way over and above the call of duty in painting, varnishing and routine maintenance, there was no escaping the fact that the basic hull and its original fittings were living on borrowed time.

Ironically, the visit to La Rochelle, which she was nearing when she sank, included plans for a three-week stopover for a complete survey and some necessary repairs. Whether or not this would have revealed the fracturing seacock which many reckon to have caused the unstoppable ingress of water can only be a matter of speculation. The fact of the matter is the ship sank, and in an exemplary display of seamanship, the captain and crew ensured that their full quota of young trainees got safely away.

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Flying the flag for Ireland – Asgard II in fine form, seen from another tall ship

But although Asgard II remained stubbornly intact and upright for some weeks on the Bay of Biscay seabed off Belle Ile, a government with financial Armageddon crashing down around its ears was glad enough to be shot of a unique project which some of them had never really understood or supported in the first place. Thus they refused to consider multiple suggests as to how best Asgard II could be salvaged. And frankly, it was for the best that they did so. For like it or not, while she was much-loved by the maritime community, the vessel had lost public confidence.

The subsequent loss of the Lord Rank in July 2010 after striking a rock likewise resulted in a merciful absence of casualties. But with Ireland north and south now in the utter depths of economic recession with no governmental enthusiasm whatsoever for non-essential projects, it was time to re-group for a few years and re-think the entire sail training ideal. It became almost an underground movement, with Coiste an Asgard being re-structured as Sail Training Ireland, and diligently setting about placing Irish trainees on the ships of other nations. It’s an ongoing programme which has been notably successful in providing both sea-going experience and a guaranteed international dimension for young people from all over Ireland, city and country alike.

Meanwhile there were rumblings from the west of Ireland where Enda O'Coineen and John Killeen were building on the can-do attitude of Galway, and from this there gradually emerged the Atlantic Youth Trust. It’s a determinedly all-Ireland group in which the Chairman is former Winter Olympics Gold Medallist Lord Glentoran from Northern Ireland, with the unstoppable unsinkable O Coineen as President. Supporting them is one very impressive list of seriously heavy hitters in the maritime and big business sphere from all over Ireland on its board, and perhaps most importantly of all, at an early stage they secured Neil O’Hagan as Executive Director.

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Neil O’Hagan, Executive Director of the Atlantic Youth Trust

This sounds an impressive title, but at the moment he heads up a minimal staff. You can get the flavour of it all by taking a look at the Sailing on Saturdays conversation I had with him, reported here on 4th April 2015. The amount of work he puts in is prodigious, and though the Trust’s founding General Meeting was held in Belfast in the Harbour Commission’s historic building on September 10th 2014, they’d to forego a General Meeting during 2015 while various elements and agreements were being finally edged into place.

Since April 2015 we’ve had snippets of news about the governments north and south starting to provide what are essentially government letters of intent in support of the project. However, politics on this island being a snakelike progression notwithstanding the best efforts of St Patrick, with every twist and turn of the political machines the AYT have been at pains to ensure that gains supposedly agreed by one administrative decision-maker are carried through into the remit of the next when the inevitable political wheel of fortune turns yet again at the individual level.

But now, with two general elections in the offing and a rapidly improving situation developing in the AYT’s prospects, it was essential for a properly-convened AGM to be held on Thursday January 21st, staged this time in the impressive board-room of the Irish Lights Commissioners in Dun Laoghaire.

Atlantic youth trust4
The boardroom at Irish Lights HQ is an impressive venue for any meeting, and it suited the Atlantic Youth Trust’s 2016 AGM very well

enda O coineenThe maritime evangelist……Enda O'Coineen in full flight at this weeks AGM of the Atlantc Youth Trust

Ironically, although one of the main lines of thought in the AYT’s thinking is that the ship they’ll provide will be more of a floating multi-discipline schoolship of many projects, both afloat and ashore, rather than a traditional sail training ship, it emerged at the AGM that it was the traditional Tall Ships visit and Parade of Sail in Belfast and on Belfast Lough last July which gave them their greatest boost.

They’d a significant presence there, and thanks to one of the Trust Board Members, they’d the use of a fine big motor vessel aboard which visiting politicos and other heavy hitters could be taken on a sociable yet instructive tour of the harbour and the Tall Ships fleet. For many of these decision makers and opinion formers, it was a transformative experience, turning them into supporters of the Atlantic Youth Trust’s way of thinking.

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The Tall Ships in Belfast, July 2015

ay7She’s not a tall ship, she doesn’t even set sails, but the availability of the fine motor-yacht Evolution as a tour boat was a game changer for the Atlantic Youth Trust at Belfast’s Tall Ships Festival. Photo: W M Nixon

This opened doors north and south, and they rapidly increased their already formidable knowledge of how to work the corridors of power. The meeting on Thursday in Irish Lights was chaired by Peter Cooke from the north, and his affable presence made the running of business very smooth indeed. But as each specialist on the board revealed the progress they’d made during the past year and more in their particular task, it was to realize that here were people who were utterly professional in their approach, yet went at the job with the total enthusiasm of dedicated amateurs.

But what most impressed was the synergy of the high octane talents on the board which, in addition to Lord Glentoran, Enda O Coineen and Peter Cooke, can draw on the talents of people of the calibre of Dr Gerard O’Hare, Roger Courtney, Sean Lemass, David Beattie and John Killeen – with Neil O’Hagan as the key conduit, they’ve turned themselves into a formidable lobbying organisation.

It’s a fact of life in all Irish political administration, and particularly in Dublin, that each separate government department much prefers to function independently within its own little bubble, with nothing whatever to do with any other department while avoiding overlaps if at all possible. This is especially so in the neglected area of maritime activity, which is overseen by several departments, and is further warped by the reality that the government is in Dublin - which is also the biggest port - yet the real scene of the maritime action and the true hotbed of ideas is Cork.

So our shrewd operators in the AYT stood back and concluded that the politician they should most directly target was of course Minister for the Marine (and many other matters) Simon Coveney TD of Cork, but that in Dublin the departments to be wooed were Finance and the Office of the Taoiseach.

With increasing support at official level in the north and enthusiasm from key decision makers in the Republic, things were going grand when the President of the AYT suddenly went off in December 2015 to race single-handed across the Atlantic from the Caribbean to Brittany in his IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager. Enda O’Coineen’s big boat has been very much part of the AYT awareness programme for the past year, taking trainee crews to sea. But this was something else altogether, and it made many supporters of the new training ship ideal distinctly nervous.

ay8Enda O Coineen’s IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager was used in Belfast for AYT work, but then in December he went and raced her single-handed across the Atlantic from the Caribbean to France. Photo W M Nixon

Racing across the Atlantic in as rough a December as anyone could remember may have been a personal challenge, but inevitably it was a high risk venture with which the AYT was inevitably associated, whether it liked it or not. The sailing community in Ireland is small, and nothing can happen in isolation. But to everyone’s enormous relief, not only did the boy do it, but he did it well, sailing across in style and securing a podium place with third at the finish.

This was quietly acknowledged as something which had been on everyone’s mind in a graceful little speech by the Deputy Chairman of the Irish Lights Commissioners congratulating the President on his Transatlantic success. So with everything in place as regards where AYT now stands in relation to both governments, the formal part of the meeting concluded with some commitments as to the way ahead, and the news that the Atlantic Youth Trust’s next public gathering of significance will be in Galway on March 12th, when more precise details of the new ship and the building programme will be revealed.

However, with an ethos in which going the extra mile is part of the DNA, the AYT then laid on a hugely entertaining dinner in the neighbouring Royal Irish YC with fascinating shows by the Gardai Siochana’s Conor O’Byrne, who played a central on-board co-ordination role in rescuing a crewman who had gone overboard in mid-Pacific from the Clipper yacht Derry-Londonderry-Doire, and from Stewart Hosford from Cork, who is CEO of the organisation Five Degrees West whose main project is the designing, building and management of the Imoca 60 boats raced under the Hugo Boss campaign by Alex Thompson.

ay9May The Force Be With You – the two faces of the Garda Siochana’s Conor O’Byrne, who gave the AYT and its supporters a fascinating insight into the successful rescue of a crewmember who went overboard from Derry/Londonderry/Doire in mid-Pacific.

ay10Suits you, Sir…..Alex Thompson on the second Hugo Boss. At Thursday’s meeting, Stewart Hosford of Cork – whose interest in the sea and sailing was inspired by Asgard II – gave the inside story on his job as CEO of the Hugo Boss sailing challenges.

Each compact yet thought-provoking show would have made for a worthy topic on its own in most clubs’ entertainment programme. But it was special to include both on this night of all nights, as each speaker had been enthused in their youth by sailing on Asgard II, and each would do anything to ensure that the upcoming generations get a similar opportunity and inspiration.

It was that kind of night, with the congenial attendance including Seamus McLoughlin and Michael Byrne from Sail Training Ireland, and Oliver Hart whose 70ft schooner Spirit of Oysterhaven continues gallantly to fulfill the role of Ireland’s premier sail training vessel from her base on the Cork coast.

In all, it’s a busy few days for Irish sail training, which is definitely no longer an underground movement. Today, Sail Training Ireland hold their 4th Annual Prize Giving and Programme Launch in the Mansion House in Dublin, looking back on a season in which the number of funded trainees sent on sailing ships abroad and at home came in at just under 300, while in all they arranged berths for more than 500.

The plan for 2016 includes a formal twinning of Dublin and Liverpool for maritime festivals, while on the training front, STI are aiming for a target of 350 funded trainees. And as for Ireland eventually returning to having her own sail training ship, no sooner was Thursday night’s remarkable series of events brought to a close than Neil O’Hagan had to gather his thoughts and head off for New York to meet the Ireland Fund. They are taking a serious and very positive interest in the plans of the Atlantic Youth Trust.

ay11The Dutch Tall Ship Morgenster, seen here on Belfast Lough in July 2015, is one of the vessels used by Sail Training Ireland to send more than 500 young people every year out onto the high seas. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

Tall Ship The Hermione, the authentic replica of the 18th century ship the Marquis de Lafayette, makes the ideal subject for this aerial video shot by Nautimages during the replica's stopover in Brest, four months ago.

The French 12-pounder frigate Hermione was famous for her support of America during the Revolutionary War. She sailed to the America’s with news of full French support for the cause.

Her 1997-built replica is famous for being a gorgeously-built copy of an archetypal combatant during the Age of Sail.

Last year, the replica lead a Parade of private and commercial ships up the Hudson River on July 4th. More on her here

 

Published in Tall Ships
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Frequent visitor to Ireland, the Gorch Fock tall ship of the German Navy (Deutsche Marine) had a mishap coming into berth as the vid by youtuber Manfred Thoms shows.

Gorch Fock is the second ship of that name and a sister ship of the Gorch Fock built in 1933. Both ships are named in honour of the German writer Johann Kinau who wrote under the pseudonym "Gorch Fock" and died in the battle of Jutland/Skagerrak in 1916.

Published in Tall Ships
Tagged under

#tallship – The visit of the Tall Ships to Belfast from July 2nd to 5th was anticipated with an enthusiasm which was fully justified by the numbers which became involved. Sixty vessels of all sizes assembled on both sides of the River Lagan in the rejuvenated docklands area and the Titanic Quarter, with a goodly sprinkling of the Class A full-rigged ships dominating the scene. And in a well-organised shoreside transport scheme involving Park & Ride centres in the suburbs, the people were able to get to the clean new quaysides in their thousands, in their tens of thousands, in their hundreds of thousands – indeed, it's reckoned that when those who clustered along the shores of Belfast Lough to watch yesterday's departing Parade of Sail are added in, well over half a million people were involved.

At the many events in Belfast Docks, organisers Sail Training International reported that the number of people making a point of personally going aboard one of the Tall Ships was unprecedented at any port since the international programme was launched way back in 1956, underlining the great interest there is in these ships, and what they do. In future discussions on Afloat.ie, we'll be looking at how the success of this event will affect the re-development of a proper sail training programme in Ireland north and south. But for now, with the Sail Training Races 2015 started this afternoon off Portrush on the north coast after the fleet had sailed there from yesterday's departure from Belfast Lough, W M Nixon recalls some memories from the Parade of Sail.

It's something of a triumph of hope over experience expecting to see fleets of Tall Ships becoming veritable Cathedrals of Sail when they're proceeding seaward for their first race after several days of assembling and partying like crazy in some hospitable port. Even with the ten or so miles of open water which Belfast Lough provided before the boats headed into the North Channel yesterday afternoon to proceed to today's start of the Tall Ships first race of the 2015 programme to Alesund in Norway, there's little enough room for the biggest ships to start shaking out the canvas and engaging in anything approaching close quarters manoeuvring.

Then too, in some cases Belfast will have seen crew changes, and the ship's officers – who may themselves just be ever so slightly partied out – will be reluctant to put fresh untested crewmen through all their paces in the first day out, and all of it under observation from boats large and small tearing about the lough on spectator missions.

But even without sail set, the best-looking big ships really are astonishingly handsome. As two of the ports for this year's programme are in Norway, the Norwegians were putting on the style with the presence of three famous full-rigged ships – the Christian Radich, the Sorlandet, and the Statsraad Lehmkuhl. They'll have left Norway in pristine condition, and clearly their crews were determined to keep them that way for the return home, as their square sails remained resolutely neat, tightly furled as a stockbroker's umbrella, with the ships setting only two or three staysails as they proceeded primly down the laugh.

t2.jpgSuperbly presented....but setting no square sails – two of the Norwegian biggies, with Sorlandet in the foreground. Photo: W M Nixon

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The elegant stern of the Statsraad Lehmkuhl was a joy to behold Photo: W M Nixon

Fortunately we'd the people's choice star of the show to brighten things, the Ecuadorian ship Guayas, game for anything with all sail eventually set, and the usual vast Latin American ensign flying from the mizzen. Guayas is on her first round the world cruise, and she must have been away from home for quite some time already. Let's put that another way. If any international marine paint manufacturer happens to be reading this, may we suggest that you could do yourself a lot of good in worldwide PR by donating many gallons of fresh white paint to the good ship Guayas. Nevertheless if there was an award for party spirit, Guayas would have won it easily.

In terms of square riggers setting the cloth, once again it was the Dutch who set the pace, this time the most enthusiastic being the Morgenster, which is a favourite among Irish trainees. She had her sails up and drawing while still in the Lagan, and looked the part at every stage.

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The popular Morgenster had her square sails set before she cleared the river. Photo: W M Nixon

t5.jpgA Ballyholme Laser sailor takes on the French schooner Etoile – and he kept up with her too.....Photo: W M Nixon

Also quickening many an old salt's heart was the French tops'l schooner Etoile, which with her sister-ship Belle Poule has been sail training French naval cadets for longer than any of us can remember (it's 1932, as it happens) and she continues to be a tidy and manageable size which might be an inspiration for those who think Ireland doesn't absolutely have to have her own Class A vessel.

In terms of vessel numbers, it was of course the smaller fore-and-aft craft which made up the crowd, and observing from aboard the hospitable Peter & Carolyn Minnis's Mitchell 31 powercruiser Blue Echo, our group was particularly taken with the team spirit shown by the cheerful crew on the London-based Oyster 80 Rona II.

As for the presence of the eternal Jolie Brise, those of us who knew that this remarkable vessel was the winner of the first Fastnet Race ninety years ago still find it a wonder to behold the way such a hefty vessel can slip through the water, while those who were seeing the splendid old cutter for the first time were much taken with the Fastnet links.

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The eternal Jolie Brise – this winner of the first Fastnet Race ninety years ago continues to impress with her stylish way through the water. Photo: W M Nixon

t7.jpgBack to life – the superbly restored Huff of Arklow revelling in the sailing on Belfast Lough. Photo: W M Nixon

Equally impressive in her way was the restored Huff of Arklow, the Flying Thirty first built by Jack Tyrrell of Arklow in 1951 to an Uffa Fox design, and now brought back to vigorous new life by Dominic Bridgeman and his group down Plymouth way. She's due back in her first home port of Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday to be an adornment of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2015 and we'll look at her in more detail in the near future, but meanwhile rest assured that she cut a real dash in Belfast Lough on Sunday.

And finally, with the fleet now on their way towards Norway from today's start area off Portrush, it was more than appropriate that the last little boat we diverted towards for have a looksee was the classic Greencastle yawl James Kelly, built by Robin Ruddock and his maritime heritage group in Portrush in honour of the great local boatbuilder who, between 1895 and 1910, built many notable craft including three Dublin Bay 21s and seven Howth 17s. The James Kelly is one jaunty little craft, and she was sailing like a witch.

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Gallant little boat. The Greencastle yawl James Kelly was brought down from Portrush to salute the Tall Ships on Belfast Lough. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Tall Ships

#mexicantallship – Dublin Port Company and the Mexican Embassy in Dublin have announced that one of the world's largest Tall Ships, the 1,800 tonnes, 270 foot long Cuauhtémoc will sail into Dublin Port on Wednesday 17th June for a five day visit to the capital.

In a time honoured naval tradition, the Cuauhtémoc will salute the city just before entering the port with a cannon salute in Dublin Bay. The spectacular vessel will then be met by Dublin Port's tug boats Shackleton and Beaufort as well as a flotilla of yachts from local sailing clubs in a ceremonial escort to mark the ship's arrival at 10am in Dublin Port.

Commanded by Captain Pedro Mata, the Cuauhtémoc is a sail training vessel of the Mexican Navy which travels around the world carrying a message of friendship and goodwill. She will arrive in Dublin with 225 men and women sailors on board - including trainees of different nationalities - who will participate in a five-day programme of engagements in the capital as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Mexico.

Highlights of the itinerary include an accompanied tour of the city for crew, a visit to the vessel by President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina Higgins on Sunday, and a special performance by 'The Buena Vibra Latin Jazz Trio with the Royal Irish Academy of Music Percussion Ensemble' on board, as well as the San Patricio Mariachi Band.

Dubliners and visitors to the city hoping to get a closer insight into life on board this magnificent vessel will be able to visit for free while she is berthed at Sir John Rogerson's Quay. Opening times to the public are Wednesday 17th – Saturday 20th June between 10.00 and 19.00, and on Sunday 21st June from 10.00 to 15.00. During her last visit to Dublin as part of the Tall Ship Races 2012, the Cuauhtémoc welcomed over 23,000 visitors on board.

Built in the Celaya shipyards in Bilbao, Spain, the Cuauhtémoc was launched in July 1982. She was the last of four windjammers built by Bilbao shipyards and is named after the last Aztec emperor who was imprisoned and executed by the conquistador, Herman Cortes, in 1525. This will be her fourth visit to Irish waters.

Eamonn O'Reilly, Chief Executive of Dublin Port Company, said: "Dublin Port Company is delighted to welcome Cuauhtémoc and her entire crew to Dublin for a very special visit in a significant year for Mexican-Irish relations. Her visit serves as an important reminder of our cultural bond and trading links that have grown from strength to strength over the past 40 years. I would encourage everyone in the city to show the Cuauhtémoc a warm Irish welcome during her stay. It's a fantastic opportunity to explore this magnificent vessel up close and experience first-hand Mexican maritime culture on our doorstep."

The Ambassador of Mexico to Ireland, H.E. Carlos Garcia de Alba said: "2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Mexico. This important milestone in our shared history affords both Mexico and Ireland the opportunity to showcase trade, academic and investment partnerships and to share in artistic and cultural exchanges between our countries. The arrival to Dublin of the Mexican Navy's Tall Ship Cuauhtémoc is just one of the many events to take place that reaffirms the commitment to strengthen the excellent ties of friendship and co-operation between our nations."

Published in Tall Ships
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#tallships – The countdown to The Irish Maritime Festival is well and truly on. The ships have set sail from their respective home ports and are fast approaching Drogheda for the Festival from 19-21st June.
In association with Maxol, The Irish Maritime Festival is one of the largest festivals in the North East and attracts visitors from Dublin, Belfast and all across the country. Situated in the historic port of Drogheda, the event is staged by Louth County Council and Drogheda Port Company.
The ships will arrive in a parade of sail up the River Boyne on Friday 19th June beginning at 1.30pm and everyone is welcome to be there. "It is such a wonderful sight to see these magnificent vessels sailing up the river. We invite and encourage everyone to be there. The parade of sail and opening event on Friday is free to attend and children and families are particularly welcome." explained Festival Organiser Mary T. Daly of Louth County Council
This family friendly festival features a huge range of off and on shore activities. The off-shore schedule includes over 250 swimmers competing in the challenging Boyne Swim, a 2.7km long swim finishing in front of cheering audiences. Check out the fleet of vintage lifeboats courtesy of the RNLI and learn about their adventures at sea. Board the beautiful classic ships or marvel at the 100ft long Class A Tall Ship "The Morgenster", so tall that it won't even fit under Drogheda's iconic viaduct. Watch out for the Boyne Regatta and the Howth to Drogheda yacht race.
Seasonal favourites such as the Pirate Battles and Extreme Sports displays will also return to the River Boyne as part of the 2015 Irish Maritime Festival.
Another new challenge this year is the heroic "Battle Across the Boyne" Tug of War taking place on Sunday at noon at the DeLacy Bridge. Teams from the near side and the far side will compete for glory.
On-shore there is lots to do and see. "The Irish Maritime Festival truly allows the local community here in Drogheda and the Boyne Valley to shine" Mary T. Daly continued. "The Festival is made up of so many brilliant community groups and businesses who bring so much to the Festival and are helping to grow it into a truly national event. There will be sand castle competitions, adults and kids cookery demos, maritime themed walking tours, artisan food producers, skills displays by the Scouts and much more. Two live music stages will be going all weekend with singer songwriters and bands from all over the North East. Chill out in the pop up cinema and catch up on some maritime themed family movies. Visit the aquarium. Meet the whale and dolphin experts and see their life sized models. Take part in the art competition in the Art and Photography zone. Compete for the chance to be crowned the East Coast Chowder Champion. And there's more, much more to see and do."

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See the Iron Man in Drogheda

Car lovers won't want to miss the 5th Annual Drogheda Motor Show also taking place at The Irish Maritime Festival. Shiny new cars with beautiful interiors and great sales promotions are the order of the day at the Motor Show. Watch out for the "Design a Car" challenge. This competition is a collaboration between local primary schools, local motor dealers and the team at Drogheda Men's Sheds and the results promise to be some pretty innovative car designs.
It's not too late to volunteer to be part of the Festival. Mary continued "We are expecting 40,000+ visitors to the Festival over the weekend so we are delighted to have such a brilliant team of volunteers on board. Become part of the Festival Volunteer team by visiting www.maritimefestival.ie/volunteer, complete your details and one of the volunteer co-ordinators will be in touch."
Tickets for all this family fun are surprisingly affordable at just €5.00 for 1 adult and up to 2 children or €10 for a family ticket of 2 adults and up to 4 children. Tickets are available at the gate or avail of a 20% saving when you book online at www.MaritimeFestival.ie.
"The long range weather forecast is good and the ships are on their way. We've lots of fun, family friendly activities planned for everyone and we can't wait to welcome you all. Ahoy there – see you at the Irish Maritime Festival!" concluded Mary T. Daly.

Published in Tall Ships
Tagged under

#tallships – The visit today to Dun Laoghaire by the square rigger Kaskelot is the latest appearance here by a ship which has had a very varied career.

She was originally built as a wooden motor ship in Denmark in 1948, but was converted with deckhouse re-configurations and fitting of full rig to become a three-masted barque in 1952.

Over the years her activities have included appearing in a number of noted films and TV series, and she has also achieved something of a reputation as an expedition vessel to Arctic regions. Afloat's W M Nixon came upon her having a major refit in Tomi Nielsen's famous boatyard in the Gloucester old docks on the Upper Severn Estuary in late July 2013.

This complex project was satisfactorily completed in just 8 months, since when Kaskelot has again been busy going about her business afloat under sail and power.

Kaskelot has been touring the British Isles for the summer season, departing Bristol on 14 March with stops in Plymouth, Poole, Weymouth and Fowey before a cross-channel jaunt to the Gulf of Morbihan in Brittany, then back north to Liverpool for the Sound City Music Festival, from where she arrived into Dun Laoghaire into a stiff north–westerly last night.

The boat is berthed at berth number two in Dun Laoghaire on the south shore of Dublin Bay.

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Kaskelot in the Arctic

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Kaskelot details

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Kaskelot in the historic working dry dock in Gloucester in 2013. Photo: W M Nixon

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Work in progress. Despite it being a very complete refit with a significant level of equipment and systems replacement, this project on Kaskelot in Tomi Nielsen's yard in Gloucester in 2013 was completed in 8 months. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Tall Ships
Tagged under

#tallships –  Rugged sailing in romantic tall ships; the camaraderie of the sea; character development. It's an inspiring combination which has gripped maritime nations for more than a century as sail has given way to more utilitarian sources of power. First there was steam. Then steam in turn was superseded by diesel and even nuclear power. And with each stage, there has been a remorseless drive towards reducing manning levels.

So what on earth is there now to occupy people who, in a former era, might have found a meaningful role in life as crew on board a sailing ship? For with each new development in shipping, we realise ever more clearly that large sailing ships were one of the most labour-intensive objects ever created.

However, we don't need to look to the sea to find areas of human activity where technological development has made human input redundant, and large sectors of the population largely purposeless. It's the general social malaise of our time. So for many years, the majority of maritime countries have found some sort of solution by an artificial return to the labour-intensive demands of sailing ships.

But in an increasingly complex world with ever more sources of distraction and entertainment, does the established model of sail training still work as well as it once did? W M Nixon meets a man who thinks we need a new vision for best using the sea and sailing ships to meet the needs of modern society's complex demands.

Tall Ships and Sail Training........They're evocative terms for most of us. Yet the buzzwords of one generation can surprisingly quickly become the uncool cliches of the next. That said, "Tall Ships" has stood the test of time. It's arguably sacred, with a special inviolable place in the maritime psyche.

So when we see a plump little motor-sailer bustling past with some scraps of cloth set to present an image of harnessing the wind's timeless power, we may be moved to an ironic quoting of Robert Bridges: "Whither, O splendid ship......" But somehow, citing Masefield's "a tall ship and a star to steer her by" would seem to be beyond the bounds of even the worst possible taste.

There's a simple purity about "Tall Ships". It works at every level. Google it, and you'll find the academics claim that it became official with its use by John Masefield in 1902 and Joseph Conrad in 1903, though Henry David Thoreau used it much earlier in 1849. But Conrad being the benchmark of most things maritime in academia, 1903 seems to be set in stone.

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We all know what is meant by a true Tall Ship, but as these rig profiles indicate, the proliferation of sail training programmes has led to an all-inclusive approach

Yet at the vernacular level, it has been there much longer than any of them. There's a bit of maritime meteorological lore which our academics would probably dismiss as vulgar doggerel, but I've found it still moves me. When far at sea, with the underlying swell increasingly in evidence and the weather conditions which it describes clearly developing overhead, inevitably you'd remember this little couplet:

"Mackerel sky and mare's tails,
Make Tall Ships carry low sails".

It's not Yeats. But when you're on a formerly blue sea now turning grey and far from anywhere in a 25-footer, it's a little thought which can still make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. And it's that mention of "Tall Ships" which gives it the added resonance. So things stand well with the phrase "Tall Ships". But what's the word on the continuing viability of "Sail Training"?

"I'm fed up with the constant use of the term "Sail Training". It's bandied about so much it has become meaningless. And always talking about "Sail Training" limits the scope of what we're trying to do. If we could find some useful phrase to replace "Sail Training", but something which is also more visionary than the very pedestrian "Youth Development" which is sometimes replacing it, then maybe we could go a long way to capture the imagination both of our potential supporters, and of the young people we hope will want to come aboard the ship".

The speaker is Neil O'Hagan, busy Executive Director of the Atlantic Youth Trust, which is actively developing ways and means of building a 40 metre sailing ship which will serve all Ireland in a wide variety of functions. And as he has immersed himself in this challenging project when he is clearly a very able person who could name his price in many roles in high-paying large corporations, it behoves us to pay attention.

We have been skirting the AYT and its project several times here recently. But as we gradually emerge from the recession and see what is still standing, for some reason with every passing week we find it ever more disturbing that the Irish Sail Training Brigantine 84ft Asgard II was lost nearly seven years ago by foundering, and the Northern Ireland Ocean Youth Trust's 60ft ketch Lord Rank was lost after striking a rock five years ago.

Far from being swept under the carpet, it's a double whammy which has to be faced and dealt with as 2015 rolls on with the biggest Tall Ships assembly ever seen in Ireland coming to Belfast, and not an Irish Tall Ship worthy of the name to represent us.

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The popular image of Tall Ships is a crowded port with a fun-filled crowd...............

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.....yet for many old salts, the true image is the lone ship at sea, going about her business. This photo of a four-masted barque was taken from a small cruising boat in the 1930s

But an ideas-laden shooting of the breeze with O'Hagan soon shows that we're going to have to learn to think a long way out of the box before we begin to meet the demanding expectations of this man and his board of trustees and directors, and the much-anticipated presence of the Tall Ships in Belfast is only a trigger to help activate a much more complex vision. Neil O'Hagan hopes not only to be instrumental in the creation of a new Irish sailing ship, but he also hopes to change the way in which we perceive such a vessel, and our expectations of the way she will be used.

In our initial blog on this back on January 17th, we thought we were making a tellingly adverse point in suggesting that the barquentine Spirit of New Zealand - which the AYT reckons will provide the best model for the development of their project – is not so much a sail training tall ship as we know it, but rather, with her large complement of 40 "trainees", she's more of a floating schoolship which happens to set sails.

Far from being blown out of the water by this "damning" criticism which I and others had voiced, O'Hagan was delighted that we'd lit upon this aspect of the plan. "Old-fashioned sail training has had its day" he says. "When education authorities and social service bodies and welfare funds and philanthropic organisations are looking for some way to provide interesting, satisfying and ultimately long-term-beneficial experiences for young people of all backgrounds and varying states of mental health including the very happily normal, they expect a much broader curriculum than is provided by the traditional sail training model".

"And come to that, so do the young people themselves. If sailing is genuinely their great leisure interest, they'll be into it already at a personal level among like-minded friends. But if they're more typical young people of today, they'll have a wide range of interests, and during the ten day cruises which we hope to make the backbone of the new ship's programme, the sailing will only be part of it."

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Away from the day job - Neil O'Hagan helming a Dragon

Its not that O'Hagan is anti-sailing. Far from it – he has been seen in the thick of things in the midst of the International Dragon Class in recent years. But a good liberal education with time in the Smurfit Business School in UCD and extensive family links all along Ireland's eastern seaboard north and south, plus direct business experience in both Dublin and Belfast, give him a breadth of vision to provide the AYT with a real sense of purpose.

The Atlantic Youth Trust has been quietly building itself since it emerged from a representative workshop researching the building of a sailing ship for Ireland, held in Dublin Port in the Spring of 2011. From that, a Steering Group of Lord Glentoran and Dr Gerald O'Hare from the north, and Enda O'Coineen and David Beattie from the south – all of whom had worked together before on other north-south youth sailing projects – was set up, and they commissioned a professional consultancy group – CHL Consulting of Dun Laoghaire – to work with them in producing a Vision & Business Plan, which eventually ran to 96 detailed pages.

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The Chairman Lord Glentoran (Gold Medallist at the 1965 Winter Olympics) at the AGM of the Atlantic Youth Trust with Executive Director Neil O'Hagan (left), Sean Lemass and Director Enda O'Coineen (right)

In due course, the Atlantic Youth Trust emerged with Olympic Gold Medal veteran Lord Glentoran as Chairman. And with Neil O'Hagan as Executive Director, the show was on the road with the detailed worldwide investigation of 25 successful educational schemes involving sailing ships - note we've dropped that "sail training" tag already. And in New Zealand they found something that was really new, something that fell in with their view that the double loss of the Asgard II and the Lord Rank provided an opportunity for a truly fresh look what a national sailing ship might be and do.

It's an extraordinary place, New Zealand - particularly from a maritime point of view. Far from seeing their isolation as a drawback, they use it as an advantage for fresh thinking. And they don't cling to time-hallowed ways brought over from "the old country". On the contrary, being in a new country is seen almost as an imperative for trying new ways and ideas, hence they're at the sharp end of top events like the America's Cup.

And as they were far from the fleets of established tall ships in Europe and America, with the Spirit of New Zealand they had to develop new ways of using a vessel which would spend much of her time cruising their own extensive and very varied coastline on her own, distant from the Tall Ship sailfests which are such a feature of the programme in the more compact and crowded parts of the world.

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Spirit of New Zealand is barquentine-rigged

Thus by geographic necessity. New Zealand is ahead of the curve in developing ways of contemporary validity in the use of large sailing ships. We all hear of what a marvellous party the Tall Ships will activate in Belfast, just as they've done before in Dublin, Cork and Waterford. But hold hard just a moment. Isn't sail training aimed at young people mostly between the ages of 15 and 25? Surely their central involvement in vast open air quayside parties - with the inevitable underage alcohol intake possibilities – is totally at variance with the healthy idealism of the concept?

For sure, the organisers of modern Tall Ships Festivals go to enormous effort to ensure that they're genuinely family-friendly events. But the ancient traditions of sailors in port can be difficult to escape. So when you've a proposed programme which is essentially based on recruitment through continuing contact with secondary schools and similar age cohorts – as is the case with the Atlantic Youth Trust project – then it becomes increasingly desirable to have a ship which is large enough to be self-sufficient, with a viable way of onboard life built around large shared areas, such that the traditional waterfront-oriented harbour visits will no longer be such an important part of the cruise programme.

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Splendid isolation. Spirit of New Zealand in an anchorage remote even by New Zealand standards

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Packing them in....as she carries a crew of 40 trainees, and with space required for extensive communal areas, Spirit of New Zealand's bunks are efficiently planned

Of course the new vessel will take part in Tall Ships Races and Tall Ships Festivals, and of course she'll make the occasional ambassadorial visit, both along the Irish coast and abroad. But with the underlying philosophy of the ship being largely self-sufficient of shoreside distractions other than when they're environmentalist and educational ventures, sometimes with an expeditionary element, then the more gregarious aspects of her yearly routine will be kept well in perspective, and everyone will be the better for it.

As it's essentially a cross-border venture, equal funding from the two governments – each of which it is hoped will put up 30% of the capital expenditure - is anticipated, and with a fresh tranche of Peace Process money on the horizon, the resources are gradually building as people get used to the idea. There has also been much technical background research, and leading naval architects Dykstra of The Netherlands are on the case with an impressive scenario, for as Trustee and Director David Beattie has put it, this one isn't going to be cobbled together, it's going to be a "best in class project".

As the planned use of the vessel is essentially civilian, she will be Ireland's sailing ship without being the national sailing ship. There's more than a slight difference to the Asgard situation. In many other countries, the most impressive tall ships are part of the naval service, but in Ireland we have a Naval Service sailing vessel already, she is the ketch Creidne which was the national sail training vessel between the decommissioning of the first Asgard in 1974 and the commissioning of Asgard II in 1981. In recent years, she has had a major refit and is now actively sailed, but as Ireland's Naval Service is so essentially Cork-based, the Creidne is very much part of the scene in Cork Harbour and the Naval Base at Haulbowline.

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The Naval Service have Creidne for sail training purposes for their own personnel. Photo: Bob Bateman

In fact, although the Atlantic Youth Trust does have a Cork element to it, and advisers include several leading figures in the Cork marine industry, the reality is that it is first and foremost a cross-border enterprise between offices in Dublin and Belfast.

This means that Cork – which is the true capital of maritime development in Ireland, and I mean that in all seriousness – is an associate port to the Atlantic Youth Trust project, rather than a central pillar of it. But I don't think the people of Cork would wish to have it any other way. When I was in the southern capital for the fund-raiser for the new National 18 class development a month or so ago, Class President Dom Long kicked off proceedings by explaining how it was the Corkonian sense of independence which had inspired the mighty leap in National 18 design. He did this by showing a map which neatly illustrated the Cork sailor's view of Ireland.

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The Cork sailor's view of Ireland

It says everything. But I don't think the Atlantic Youth Trust should lose any sleep over the fact that they might be seen as being on a Dublin-Belfast axis from which Cork is as usual going its own sweet way. 'Twas ever thus. And anyway, in the end the Corkmen will probably provide many of the officers for the proposed new vessel to which we wish, on this fine Easter Saturday morning, the very fairest of fair winds.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 2 of 5

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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