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Displaying items by tag: Tom MacSweeney

In this digital age, with so many available resources providing sea area weather forecasts, is there still a need for national radio to broadcast these forecasts?

I heard an RTE Radio Presenter asking a Met Eireann meteorologist on-air whether there was any point in broadcasting weather forecasts for the marine sector any more, because there was so much detailed weather information available online.

It reminded me of the battles I had with RTE Radio managers and schedulers when they came up with their idea of ending such weather forecasts altogether, because they took up broadcast time which could better used.

I was Marine Correspondent with RTE then so the conversation a few weeks ago between the RTE Presenter and Met Eireann reawakened my memories of those internal RTE disagreements and underlined for me how badly served the maritime sector is by the national media, both broadcast and print.

It also underlines why the BBC Radio Shipping Forecasts are popular amongst Irish fishermen, mariners, professional, commercial and leisure – because it’s a specialised service to the marine sector that RTE doesn’t provide in the same way.

The coastal radio stations of the Coast Guard give weather forecasts which are available at sea, thankfully, but the mindset of the RTE Presenter showed it was closed to around Dublin and Montrose and unaware of the reality of life, particularly in the maritime sector and the coastal communities, outside of urbanisation.

The Met Eireann Meteorologist told the RTE Presenter that there are coastal areas around the Irish shorelines and at sea where there is no internet access and not even a reliable mobile phone signal and that there is still dependence on the State broadcaster for the forecast.

That is a viewpoint I agree with, but one could add that the ‘independent broadcasters,’ those who are also described as national ‘commercial stations’ should also consider.

There has been a demand from the non-State public service broadcaster for a share of the licence fee, but that should also bring responsibilities, such as a sea area forecast for mariners.

Listen to the Podcast below: 

Published in Tom MacSweeney

There’s increasing concern about cruise ships in the Antarctic and whether people could be rescued should one get into trouble amidst the ice. 300 ships traverse that Polar region, with nearly a quarter-of-a-million tourist visitors aboard from November to March every year. The international search-and-rescue station in the region is operated by the Chilean Navy and named after the first Chilean Head of State and legendary revolutionary leader, Bernardo O’Higgins, whose father was from County Sligo. It’s the only permanent Chilean base on the Antarctic mainland, located on Puerto Covadonga since 1948.

More cruise lines are offering trips there and there is more and more pressure on the area from tourists and from demands for exploration.

Two weeks ago I met the seafarer who took the largest ice-breaking vessel through the ice at the earliest possible time of the year this year. It was a historic journey. So this week on my Podcast, when I bring you a selection of items from my radio programme THIS ISLAND NATION, I’m taking you to the Polar regions and to that unique SAR rescue station.

Also on this PODCAST edition, I was shocked to hear what Dr.Simon Berrow, Chief Science Officer of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, had to tell me about the damage which plastic in the oceans is doing, particularly to whales.

As I walk along the shore at Monkstown in my home village in Cork Harbour I see more marine debris washing in, particularly plastic. Do you see the same in your part of the coast.

What Dr.Berrow has to say should make us all think….

Listen to the Podcast below

Tom MacSweeney presents the maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION

Published in Tom MacSweeney

The International Maritime Organisation, that’s the United Nations agency for safety at sea, has acknowledged, the first time this has been publicised, that a large number of abandoned or no-longer usable fibreglass vessels - including fishing vessels and leisure craft – are being dumped at sea each year, possibly due to a lack of land-based disposal facilities.

The IMO, as it is known, told me so after I enquired, following a previous podcast about the disposal of fibreglass yachts, about the envirornmental aspects of disposing of what are, basically, plastic boats.

When I raised the subject around Irish boating circles, no one seemed to be sure how long plastic boats will last for…

Fibreglass is a highly recyclable material, the IMO told me and said that the technology for recycling fibreglass already exists, but the logistics of handling the large amounts of fibreglass hulls from abandoned or derelict vessels poses a significant challenge.

So, the IMO has decided to carry out a study which it says is “to collate information on the scale of the problem of disposing of fibreglass vessels” and to identify “key knowledge gaps relating to impacts of fibre reinforced plastic vessels dumped or placed in the marine environment.”

It seems that no one realy knows what to do with them at the present time.

Scientific research will be hired to report on whether such vessels could be disposed of in the sea in a safe and environmentally sound manner and whether “guidance” should be developed on the disposal of fibreglass vessels.

Seems like a potential problem is being identified.

Listen to the Podcast below

Tom MacSweeney presents the maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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RNLI Lifeboat crews on the hallowed turf of Croke Park, unfurling huge flags with a message about water safety in front of 67,000 passionate football supporters seems an unlikely activity, but it was achieved just before the teams they were supporting did battle in the All-Ireland semi-final between Mayo and Kerry yesterday.

I am a dedicated supporter of the RNLI and believer in the importance of getting the message of water safety across to the public. Those involved in the marine sphere hear and see the message regularly, but getting it out to the general public is more difficult.

Though indeed, from the number of emergency calls for help necessitating the launching of lifeboats in recent weeks to yachts and other leisure craft, reinforcing that message will be of benefit.

RESPECT THE WATER RNLI AT CROKE PARKThe RNLI 'respect the water' slogan is rolled out at Croke Park

The GAA has been of great assistance to the RNLI in getting the message – Respect the Water - out through its clubs all over the country, in a partnership with the lifeboat service. At the All-Ireland semi-final the opportunity to do so, in front of the huge crowd and big media presence, including television, the GAA provided a marvellous opportunity to convey the message in the widest fashion to the public. I asked Niamh Stephenson, Public Affairs Manager of the RNLI, to describe what happened. Her report will be broadcast this week on my radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION.

In advance, for Afloat.ie readers, this is how she describes what happened:

Published in Tom MacSweeney

A few weeks ago I rounded Ballycotton Island on the East Cork coastline, sailing beneath the iconic, dramatic black lighthouse which towers 195 feet above sea level. It was erected in 1851, the construction led by the renowned engineer George Halpin who, as Inspector of Lighthouses, established 53 of them and modernised another 15.

As the wind died away our Sigma 33, SCRIBBLER, needed the reaching spinnaker hoisted to get across Ballycotton Bay to the finish line off the small harbour’s pier wall. It was the re-establishment of the annual race from the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven to Ballycotton.

That distance is about a nautical mile and, relaxing afterwards over refreshment in the village, I heard the tales of how Lightkeepers on the island, in the days before modern communications, kept in touch with their wives living ashore…. by semaphore, the signalling system invented by Frenchman, Claude Chape, in 1792 as a “visual telegraph,” using crossbars with pivoting arms on top of towers. Napoleon used it to communicate strategy to his armies. The British Royal Navy developed naval flag semaphore which they used to defeat the French at the Battle of Trafalgar.

But it is unlikely that either Chape, Napoleon or the British, envisaged semaphore helping a Lightkeeper to elope with another Lightkeeper’s daughter…This story I narrated, subsequent to the race, on a documentary about Ballycotton Lighthouse and its Keepers produced by Community Radio Youghal Programme Director, Justin Maher, in which Ballycotton Historian, Derry Keogh, a guide with the community project, Ballycotton Lighthouse Tours, revealed another use for semaphore:

Listen to the PODCAST below.

• Tom MacSweeney presents THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Back in June I asked if there was sufficient joined-up thinking about the project for a new Irish tall ship – and why the Naval Service hasn’t taken a more active role in Irish sail training over the years, with advantages to itself, comparable to what the Royal Navy does in Britain…you can read that story here.

Neil O’Hagan, Executive Director of the Atlantic Youth Trust, organisers of a new national tall ship project, sent me an email saying that it is good to see discussion about the project so that it gets attention… but that “there is more going on than meets the eye…”

On this week’s Podcast, I indicate that I am glad to hear that, but I have reservations and will be convinced about actual Government support when I see it delivered…

Listen to the Podcast below…

Published in Tom MacSweeney

A ”Truism” is defined as a self-evident truth. That underlines the accuracy of the descriptive saying “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” and the application nof it to the attitude of the Irish Government towards seafarers.

Every day Ireland’s ports are depended upon by the public, all of us who live ashore. But those ports would not operate without ships and the ships would not operate without seafarers. Neither the Government, nor the great majority of the public, fully appreciate seafarers.

In an island nation, which we are, our economy would die without them. 95 per cent of our exports and imports move by sea.

So how much value is placed upon seafarers and the fishing industry by the general public?

These thoughts come to mind as the INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANISATION, which is the United Nations body dealing with marine affairs, has announced that Sunday, June 25, will be WORLD DAY OF THE SEAFARER.

The theme is to be that “SEAFARERS MATTER”.

The President of the worldwide Nautical Institute, the international representative body for maritime professionals involved in the control of sea-going ships, Capt. David ‘Duke’ Snider told me: “There is never a day when there aren’t ships moving cargo and people across the oceans, thousands of seafarers in hundreds of ships on seas all over the world, every day of every year, but they are out-of-sight, out-of-mind, to those who need them most and that’s everyone who lives on land. World trade couldn’t be carried on without them. There would be no oil to fuel transport, to power industries, to generate electricity, to heat homes. There is so much the world would not have if seafarers didn’t bring the supplies that those who live ashore need for their lives.”

The INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANISATION is encouraging Governments to recognise the “unique contribution” made by seafarers all over the word to international trade and the world economy.

The Irish Government has not recognised or celebrated World Day of the Seafarer in past years.

It would be encouraging if it did so, but on past performance I will not hold my breath that it will do so.

• Listen to the comments of the President of the Nautical Institute below:

Published in Island Nation
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This Saturday will be a special one in Cork City when a fleet of boats sails up the River Lee from Cobh to moor at the uppermost navigable point of the river which yachts can reach. Cruisers and dinghies will race the traditional Cobh-to-Blackrock Race from the Promenade on the riverfront at Cobh to the Port of Cork’s marina in the city centre. This is an annual tradition. Once it marked the end of the sailing season, but as that has extended into much later in the year, the race has become also a social gathering when motorboats and non-racers join the fleet and families are on the water for the day out, organised by Cove Sailing Club.
It is, as Aidan McAleavy of the Cove club said, “a truly spectacular sight to see a large fleet race to the city.”
It made me wonder why Cork, my native city, hasn’t done more to develop the maritime location with which it has been favoured. The River Lee is renowned in the city’s anthem - The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee and the river endows Cork with a network of waterways as it breaks into different channels to negotiate the city centre. However, in all the development of Cork, I do not see that a lot has been done to bring the riverscape to the forefront of city planning, nor do all citizens appreciate the beauty of the river, it seems, to judge by debris still dumped into it. With its bridges and river channels Cork should be a city where the riverscape is its dominant aspect. As shipping and the port is moved downriver there is talk, a lot of it, about development, but not a lot about the city’s maritime foundation, which could be further forgotten when shipping is moved away from the city centre.


Other Irish cities still have shipping visible to the citizenry – Dublin in particular but that city’s Council hasn’t done a lot either to focus public facilities on the riverfront which the Liffey has provided them .. Waterford has put in some effort with a marina and quayside public facilities, as well as a memorial to the Conningbeg and Formby, both vessels sunk during World War One, with 68 passengers and crew lost from Waterford and the South East…. However, the movement of shipping out of the city has left derelict sites… Limerick has turned part of its face to the river…. Galway has done a bit, but the culture of the Claddagh could be more focussed upon.
All Irish cities could take lessons from European municipalities like Barcelona and Hamburg where the riverfronts are central to city life……. Wouldn’t it be an advance in maritime appreciation of City Councils held meetings to discuss waterfront enhancement?
• Listen to THIS ISLAND NATION Podcast here

Published in Island Nation

Seamus Butler is, to me, a man who embodies all that is good about sailing. He has a deep love for the sport, he enjoys it and teaches those values to young sailors, building the future of sailing.

I found him after driving to the western shores of Mayo, along the side of beautiful Clew Bay, through Mulrany following the Bangor-Erris Road, Achill Island across the water, to Bellacrogher Boat Club. There I parked, walked around the side of a lake to the Bay of the Plunderer, boarded a rigid inflatable and was taken out to the most unique clubhouse/classroom in Ireland, floating on the lake with its own pontoon and training area.

To tell you more would take from the superb interview which Seamus gave me and which I urge you to listen to below.

He is a man to be admired, as are the club members who have supported the development of this unique club which this Summer hosted Mayo’s first Hobie Cat Championships. They were even listed as one of the European events of the season!

Seamus puts a lot of emphasis on safety in the training of young sailors and the value of that is underlined in another item in the programme, when the Chief Executive of Irish Water Safety criticises – and quite rightly in my opinion – that only one-fifth of the country’s primary schools are teaching swimming and the importance of safety on the water to pupils, evidently because the majority of teachers consider other sports more important. He outlines worrying statistics about the high number of anglers who have drowned and warns about the increased use of kayaks without proper training.

Completing the mix of an interesting programme, you can hear why the national museum favours wheels to support its exhibits, why brides loves the light it provides and about the Round Ireland walker who has raised €25,000 for the RNLI, as well as a bit about the history of shanties.
You’ll enjoy listening.

Published in Island Nation

There are moments and scenes which stand out in your mind. Stamped on mine is the day I went to a coastal village in West Cork and there, on the edge of a cliffside near Barryroe, close to Courtmacsherry Harbour, I saw the remains of a long-abandoned fishing family’s home, where two sons had died in the biggest sea battle of World War One – the Battle of Jutland on the thirty-first of May 1916. A short distance further up the same cliffside from that house, I was shown the home of another family whose son had died in the same battle. And, amazingly, in the parish of Barryroe, six men from the village had died in that sea battle, fought by a hundred thousand sailors in 250 ships of the British and German Navies. Eight thousand of those sailors were killed, including the six men from this village in West Cork. Another 29 sailors from Barryroe survived.

The interest of coastal communities in their history and culture, their pride in their heritage are impressive and are well underlined in this edition of my maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, (click below for podcast) in the process of producing which I am fortunate to meet such communities.

In this edition I meet people from Courtmacsherry and Barryroe on the West Cork coastline and hear how they have researched and, as a result honoured, the amazing linkage between the area and the biggest sea battle of World War One – the Battle of Jutland, which is also described as the biggest sea battle ever. The statistics from it are, in terms of human destruction, terrible.

To walk into Lislevane Cemetery in Barryroe and see the memorial to those who fought and died at the Battle of Jutland is an emotional experience.

Published in Island Nation
Page 2 of 13

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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