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#islandnation – A great maritime show in Galway, controversy after the Round Ireland in Wicklow, honouring the community of Union Hall, tougher inspection of cruise ships visiting Irish ports, hogging moorings on the inland waterways, aliens in the Royal Canal, a new fleet of currachs in Killybegs, the wearing of lifejackets and Cork Week, seafood and seaweed sausage and a Howth Lifeboat retirement - it is a busy time on the marine scene!


in unionhall

You could feel emotion in the fish auction hall on the quayside in Killybegs when the dark days of last January were recalled on Friday morning as Bill Deasy, one of the West Cork fishing village's community leaders, stood in front of compatriots from coastal areas all around Ireland. A few tears were quietly shed as the tragedy of the Tit Bonhomme trawler was recalled, but shining above it all was the memory of how the people of Union Hall rallied around those families from Ireland and Egypt in the search for bodies and showed what a maritime community can do.

The occasion was the presentation of the first 'Spirit of the Sea' Award, recognition of the "inspiration and selfless commitment" of the people of Union Hall in the dark days of the Tit Bonhomme trawler last January.

"Grief and sadness was palpable across the country with the tragedy resonating amongst the coastal communities. The inspiration provided by the people of Union Hall in pursuing the search to a successful conclusion was something that we should all be proud of," said the Editor of the national fishing paper, The Marine Times, when he presented the award to Bill Deasy at the Fish Ireland Exhibition who accepted it on behalf of Union Hall.

"The dedication and compassion of the community inspired the creation of the award for which there was unanimous support from fishing ports all over Ireland," said Mark McCarthy. "It is not only dedicated to them but was inspired by them."

Later this month the Union Hall community are to unveil their own memorial in the village to all who have died at sea.

The concept of national awards in the maritime sphere is, I think, worth pursuing to raise public awareness of marine matters. It was good to see the Union Hall community honoured.



The people of Galway have once again shown that their city deserves to be a maritime capital. It would have been hard to imagine that they could surpass what they did the last time the Volvo Ocean Race called, but they did. Despite the bad weather which has dogged Ireland this summer 20,000 people was the number put on those who, in the early hours of the morning, welcomed the Volvo Race fleet. It can be truly said that no other city has shown the backing to this event as has the City of the Tribes.

I am delighted that the mainstream general media has at last recognised Damian Foxall from Kerry as an international sporting icon. After fifteen years and four attempts in the Volvo Race, he has earned the overall winners' podium on the crew of the French yacht, Groupama. It was appropriate that his colleagues stood back to let him take the plaudits from the attendance in Galway.

Let us also not forget our other Irish sailing icon, Justin Slattery from Cork, also an overall Volvo winner as bowman on the Dutch entry ABN Amro One which was the overall victor in 2005-2006.

It is time that there was public appreciation in Ireland of these sailing stars who are far more deserving, in my view, than the approbation given to overseas footballers' and who are also far more approachable, courteous and personable. Well done to Damian, to Justin, to all the sailors in the Volvo Race and all those behind the great show in Galway.



in carrickbridge

Driving back from Killybegs I stopped in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday afternoon, which was a revelation of how busy the maritime sphere can be inland. It was throbbing, busy, boats moving, lots of people around strolling along the riverbank on what was, for once, a nice sunny afternoon which would make you want to be on the water. It was good to see. Carrick-on-Shannon is a town which has paid attention to its maritime resources and is benefiting from that.

I hired a boat a few years ago there for a week on the inland waterways and thoroughly enjoyed. In most weather conditions you could move and the riverside towns and villages were always welcoming.

However, sometimes boat people are not welcoming to others and this is a disappointment. Waterways Ireland is getting tougher about "mooring hoggers" who have blocked up harbours and denied visitors access. It has been successful in prosecutions for breaches of a 48-hour mooring Bye-law in Lough Erne. I was told in Carrick-on-Shannon of instances where visiting boats at different locations along the waterways had alleged they had been denied the facility of mooring alongside boats already in harbour and that some had thereby felt forced back out into unsuitable weather. That this should happen is appalling and creates a potentially dangerous situation.



Galway added to its sailing prowess when the Clifden Boat Club was declared overall winner of the Round Ireland Race in which members had sailed a Ker 39, Inis Mor. With the students of NUI Galway winning Class 1 that made a dual success for the West in the week in which Galway has taken centre place in the sailing world.

There is controversy about other aspects of the race, though it will not affect the overall winners. This will have to be resolved at a hearing after the organising race committee from Wicklow Sailing Club lodged a protest against Green Dragon, the former Irish entry in the Volvo Race, under sailing's Rule 47. This requires a yacht to start and finish with the same number of crew.

The race committee told me that the listed Skipper, well-known sailor Enda O'Coineen left the yacht at the Fastnet. It was first back to Wicklow, followed by the Dutch entry Tonnerre de Breskens, sailed by Piet Vroon who was defending his title. Explanations given by Green Dragon for the departure of the Skipper during racing didn't satisfy the race committee. There are provisions for a crew member to leave and I am told that Enda O'Coineen has indicated he will be defending his situation. A protest date has not yet been set.



in barryhurley

Amidst all the coverage of the Volvo Race in Galway, another great achievement by Cobh sailor Barry Hurley did not get a lot of attention. Sailing alone in his JOD 35 Dinah, the accomplished single-hander won the first Round Rockall race from Galway. It was a tough 750-mile voyage to be on your own. Barry who takes pride in his native 'Holy Ground' in Cork Harbour sent this self-portrait from Dinah having rounded Rockall. Two years ago he won the transAtlantic OSTAR Race to America.



in launchingcurraghs

The most unusual thing I have been asked to do as a Marine Correspondent is to bless boats! This happened at Killybegs on Saturday afternoon when I was handed a bottle of holy water to bless the boats and wish them a safe future as the fleet was launched from the pier in the fishing town. Built in a community project they are very impressive. As I have been writing in this column, the currach is a superbly designed boat. Neily Gallagher who ran the project told me all about it and I also met the great builder and expert on currachs Owny Diver from Gola Island. A lovely occasion to be involved with.



Cruise ship visits are an important economic tourism boost to several ports including Cork, but there are indications that operating companies are examining what effects will result from the statement by the Maritime Safety Office that safety checks on their vessels are to be intensified when they call to Irish ports. This is in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster. According to reports this week checks of safety and crew ability to handle evacuation will be stepped up. They are already regarded as quite tough here. While there should be no compromise on safety, it is to be hoped that there will not be an over-zealous approach which might damage this valuable shipping business.

An inquiry report into the Costa Concordia disaster is due in the middle of this month. There are unconfirmed reports about equipment not being in proper working order aboard the ship, including the 'black box' which should record conservations amongst officers on the bridge and navigational equipment, as well as suggestions that safety doors were left open rather than being closed at sea. The company has denied the Italian newspaper reports, so the release of the investigation report will be interesting to see.



As I watched the photographs of trawlers which had sunk with loss of life, washed up on rocks, or just disappeared, I looked at the faces of others watching the screen display, fishermen who go to sea in this most dangerous and challenging of occupations and women and children of fishing families. It was a reminder that the sea can never be taken casually.

John Leech Chief Executive of the Irish Water Safety Association was making a compelling, thought-provoking presentation at the FISH IRELAND exhibition in Killybegs where I interviewed him as part of a public series. He showed slides of the various fishing accidents and spoke about the subsequent loss of life over recent years. Very direct in pointing out to fishermen and their families the tragic consequences of not wearing lifejackets, he stressed how much more user-friendly they are these days. John's message, for all leisure boat users as well as fishermen is - be safe on the water - think of the family and wear a lifejacket. There are reminders of fishing tragedies all over the coast.



The overall entry for Cork Week is smaller than in previous years, 105 boats at the time of writing, an indicator of the economic times. The RCYC organisers have responded with some new courses, a new layout for the Race Village and say the entry may be smaller but the quality is good.

Next Friday will provide a nice public spectator opportunity for the "Cobh race" as it is known during Cork Week. All classes taking part will be combined to race around a turning mark off Cobh which, allowing always for the weather, will be a good opportunity for spectators to see sail racing and, hopefully, lots of spinnakers being raised to add colour to the spectacle.



in seafoodsausages

This week I ate my first seafood sausages of salmon and haddock which came from Kilmore Quay and were bought on their first delivery to a Cork supermarket! Very tasty. Four big sausages for €4.99 and well worth the price. I am told, if ever I get the chance, to try seaweed sausages that are

"amazing" and are in some shops, though I haven't seen them yet.



The maritime community in Howth have paid tribute to George Duffy who has retired after 44 years with the RNLI where he was Mechanic for 25 years and also had been Deputy Coxswain to his younger brother, Robert. There is a strong family involvement with the Howth lifeboat. His youngest brother, Michael, is also an RNLI volunteer.



The UK Government has done an about-turn on its decision not to provide funding for an emergency towing vessel in Scotland after pressure from the Scottish Parliament. Under new arrangements a Scottish ETV will work with the UK Coastguard. The Scottish are really pushing forward the maritime aspect of their governmental responsibilities. They have also made big advances in getting back some of their fisheries controls. The provision of emergency towing vessel facilities in Ireland does not bear comparison, nor does the approach to protecting and developing our own fisheries. The UK Government in London may be taking an example from the Scottish in maritime initiatives. It has pressured the EU Commission into examining funding support for the development of British inland waterways for use by commercial freight traffic.



Inland Fisheries Ireland has removed a turtle from the Royal Canal near Mullingar in County Westmeath. It seems the 30 cm. red-eared slider turtle may have been around for some time and been a nuisance to anglers by persistently taking their bait! This species is native to southern USA waters apparently and how it got to Mullingar is unknown so far, but there is suspicion that it may have become an unwanted pet that was dumped.

IFI is monitoring the stretch of the canal involved, though it is hoped this may be a one-off instance. If not there could be other repercussions for marine life there. The turtle has been removed to "another suitable location."



After the Volvo and Cork Week, young sailors will dominate the sport at Dun Laoghaire from July 12-21 at the International Sailing Federation's Youth World Championships and the Fastnet International Schools' Regatta will follow at Schull in West Cork from July 23 to 26.

Also in West Cork young people will take centre stage in Bantry from July 21-29 at the Atlantic Challenge.

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#islandnation – THIS WEEK : Smelly humans, the pace picks up in Galway, pirates in Baltimore, the response of fishermen to the condescending RNLI and a Cork beauty are amongst my topics this week, read on .....


There is an increasing buzz of excitement in Galway where the pace has picked up notably this week with work well underway on constructing the Volvo Ocean Race Village and increasing hope that Damian Foxall could be representing Ireland on the overall Volvo winners' podium in the City of the Tribes. It is still disappointing that the general media is not focussing attention on Ireland's two top international sailors in the race - Damian from Kerry and a member of Kinsale Yacht Club who is aboard the French entry Groupama and Justin Slattery from Cork who is with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.


The boat hook on Achill lifeboat


Dick Robinson, former lifeboat crewman from Valentia Island and author of several books about the lifeboat service, has written to me about my visit to the Achill Island lifeboat when I said I had learned that the two boat hooks on modern lifeboats are the only items remains as a tradition from the past."

Dick confirms that this is a reminder of the rowing lifeboat days:

"The RNLI at that time issued a rather condescending circular that white oars were to be used to starboard and blue to port, as 'the orthodox terms, starboard and port are rarely used in lifeboat work since many lifeboatmen are unaccustomed to nautical phraseology.' The Penlee crew reversed the placings as a protest against the tone of that circular.

"The orders from the Coxswain would be 'Forward the white, Back the blue' or reverse as appropriate. The boats would have no steerage way working in close, so the rudder would not be effective and so oars had to be worked all the time. The oars were the subject of considerable research as oars breaking during beaching or launching operations could be fatal. In 1866 trials were carried out involving 38 different types of wood. The best oars were found to be made from young trees in Norwegian and Baltic Wood, followed by oars made from planks of the same woods. Oregon Pine was also good. A balance had to be struck between oars which would break under ordinary conditions and ones which would not break if the lifeboat struck bottom in shallow waters and thereby might capsize her. Later oars were balanced with lead inside."

Thanks Dick for this information on a fascinating topic.


The sacking of Baltimore village, a very popular sailing destination in West Cork, is the topic of a 'PIRATE SEMINAR' – an unusual addition to the list of maritime events this summer. It will be held next weekend, starting on Friday night, June 29 and running until Sunday, July 1, including events for all the family.


The Schull – Baltimore – Cape Clear ferry departs Baltimore

Des Ekin, Assistant Editor with the Sunday World and author of the book – 'The Stolen Village' will discuss the 'Sack of Baltimore' in 1631 when inhabitants were taken off to slavery in Algiers. Connie Kelleher, Underwater Archaeologist with the Dept. of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht's Underwater Unit will discuss piracy in southwest Ireland in the seventeenth century.

New to Baltimore is a permanent 'piratical exhibition' at Dún na Séad castle, with details of the raid on the village and copies of rare graphics from the seventeenth century depicting the story of the Baltimore captives who were taken into a life of slavery. Details are also shown of the activities of the O'Driscoll clan and their notorious involvement with the men of Waterford during the middle ages. A depiction of Thomas Crooke, the English 'pirate/planter' is also featured. An accompanying feature of the exhibition is a new book by Bernie McCarthy called 'Pirates of Baltimore,' containing images of lifestyles and events associated with the piratical history of the village. Did you ever imagine the respectable Baltimore of today to have such a history!

The exhibition is open daily 11am – 6 pm.


There is a great beauty in traditional boats and the one pictured here, the Peel Castle, was for me the star of this year's Crosshaven Traditional Boats Gathering. She is owned by Graham Bailey and deservedly won the top prize at the event. A fishing lugger she was built back in 1929 at Porthleven in Cornwall, carvel, pitch pine planking on oak frames and her original engine power was 2 x 25 hp Alphas - currently 120hp Ford D series.

peel castle sailing in cork harbour

The Peel Caslte racing off Crosshaven

She was registered PZ17 at Penzance, later BM17 Brixham, Devon. She also fished out of Fleetwood from1968 and finished fishing in 1977 when she was de-registered. Re-registered in Skibbereen in 2008, she has sailed extensively in European waters. Restoration work was done at Hegarty's Old Court Boatyard and is impressive. Graham, a shipwright, also restored her internally. Visitors aboard were very impressed.


Human-produced gas emissions are a significant cause of ocean warming!

Average ocean temperatures have been rising by 0.045 degrees per decade for the past half-century and natural fluctuations alone "do not explain warming in the upper layers of the planet's oceans," according to the Lawrence Livermore National USA National Laboratory. "Human greenhouse gas emissions are an added ingredient and strengthen the conclusion that most of the global ocean warming over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities," according to Livermore climate scientist Peter Gleckler.

The Californian Laboratory which made these findings in a desktop computer modelling study of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans also researches protection against weapons of mass destruction!

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In this week's column: Safety in sailing; ocean wealth in Galway; the US Navy going green; increased shipping in the Arctic Circle; Denis Noonan and the Round Ireland Race; Australia's world ocean reserve and the UK Coastguard suggests offshore sailors use satellite phones.


Rain was lashing against the bridge windows of the Irish Lights' vessel Granuaile in Galway Docks, the wind was howling. Most definitely, it was not a nice day to be on the water when I told the audience listening to me that we Irish people are fortunate to live on an island. I was launching the Ocean Wealth Showcase with Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights. It will take place at the Volvo Ocean Race Festival from June 30 to July 8 and will be well worth a visit.


Yvonne Shileds with the new Twitter buoy off Galway yesterday

Driving into Galway you can see that the city has embraced the Volvo Race and, talking to that great member of Galway Bay Sailing Club and one of the men whose determination brought the race to the City of the Tribes, John Killeen, we agreed that the overall result will be decided in the city. Eamonn Conneely, who sailed Patches to international success and Enda O'Coineen, were the other members of the trio which led the Galway Volvo campaign. Well done to them and all those involved, including hundreds of volunteers, who have established Galway on the world maritime map.

State agencies and commercial companies and organisations have put together the Ocean Wealth Showcase. Throughout the week there will be a wide range of exhibits demonstrating the scale and diversity of Ireland's ocean resources and their economic, social and environmental value to our island nation. In addition there will be a range of business and family events throughout the week.

It was a pleasure to launch the Showcase and to see how much commitment is being given to it.

The launch coincided with the placing of the Galway 'Twitter' Buoy in the Bay which will Tweet information about the Showcase as well as navigation and metocean information about the Volvo Race and Galway Bay. Look it up on


There has been a lot of heavy weather around to test the ability of sailors. Not surprisingly, the issue of how safe is the sport and in what state of bad weather racing should be held, has arisen. I did not finish the first race of the Union Chandlery evening league at the RCYC in Crosshaven due to prevailing heavy weather conditions. The forecast was not encouraging but it seemed a reasonable assumption that the race could be held before a strong front arrived. Shortly after it began, though, the very heavy weather arrived. Wind strength was 27 knots, with gusts of 34 according to meteorological reports recorded at Roche's Point. With a reef in the main, two rolls of the headsail taken in on the furling jib, the boat still taking a pounding while reaching speeds of 8 to 9 knots at times, I decided it was better and safer for my 33ft. Sigma and crew not to continue to race and withdrew. In Class 3 in which I was competing, six of the seven boats taking part retired. Class 1 and 2 boats raced on to their finish.

Afterwards there was quite a bit of discussion about the conditions. Views ranged from those who thought them too heavy, to others exhilarated by what they had encountered, underlining that individual views differ about conditions. For those who ask when racing should or should not be held, the decision on whether or not to race and responsibility for it must be taken by the Skipper. Clubs will provide racing, but do state in their regulations that the decision to sail is that of the Skipper. Therefore the crew who go with him or her are presumed to support that decision. Insurance companies are careful about stating their position, but my understanding is that they regard the responsible person as the one who has insured the boat.

Experience of heavy weather is necessary for sailors because weather patterns can change quickly in these waters. Leisure sailing, to which I am referring in this regard, is different to professional racing such as the Volvo Round the World Race where conditions far different to club racing are experienced and sailors must be capable of dealing with them.

The second race of the league was cancelled this week because of the very heavy weather conditions, quite rightly in my view. I would be interested to hear views from readers.


I like the comment which Galway Harbour Master Capt.Brian Sheridan made to me about the new view the people of Galway have of the city docks:

"The people of Galway no longer refer to the 'docks' as a dirty, disliked place. It is now 'the harbour,' a positive part of the life of the city and it will be even more important, because the West of Ireland deserves to have a strong, vibrant port as a major economic contributor to the city and the western region."

He is one of the driving forces in the successful staging of the race. It is on his shoulders that arrangements for the berthing of the race fleet and visitors falls.


"There were those who thought we wouldn't make it, but again we have," Dennis Noonan told me from Wicklow Sailing Club in that quiet but determined voice of his when we talked about this year's Round Ireland Race which will start on Sunday, June 24 and for which there are 38 entries as I write. The number includes more British than Irish. There are 18 from the UK, just 12 from Ireland, with several other countries represented. Dennis is a legend who has devoted huge energy to the staging of the Round Ireland. 'Fair Sailing' to all competitors.

I hear indications that Green Dragon, Ireland's former Volvo entry may be returning to racing and participate, with plans to use it for offshore training.


The United States Navy is making a move towards going 'green'. In exercises off the coast of Hawaii next month five warships are to make Stateside maritime history when they become the first to use biofuels to power their turbines, as well as jets flying off a carrier's deck and helicopters hovering overhead. The flotilla will be powered by a mixture of cooking grease and algae oil of which 3,400 tonnes was loaded aboard the Naval fleet oiler, Henry J.Kaiser, this week to supply the ships. This is part of the U.S. Navy's efforts to move away from dependence on petroleum.


Australia has created the world's largest network of marine reserves where it will restrict fishing as well as oil and gas exploration to safeguard the environment and access to food the government says. The area covers 1.2 million square miles of ocean, a third of the island continent's territorial waters, which sustain more than 4,000 species of fish.

The environmental group WWF has welcomed the development but the government's conservative opposition has vowed to review the boundaries if it gets into power at elections next year, an outcome that opinion polls indicate is likely!

"I am instinctively against anything that damages the rights of recreational fishing and anything that will further damage the commercial fishing industry and tourism," opposition leader Tony Abbott said. {youtube}KPLvgZa3ltA{/youtube}


Shipping cargoes moving through Arctic waters are set to rise to their highest this year as companies use the route to cut journey times and fuel usage compared with Suez Canal shipments.

Nordic Bulk Carriers A/S plans to transport about six to eight 70,000 metric-ton shipments of iron ore to China from the Russian port of Murmansk starting next month. Using the Northern Sea Route for the journey instead of the canal is saving the company 1,000 tons of fuel, or $650,000 per journey.


It was interesting to see what appears to be a change of approach by the UK Coastguard this week when it suggested that offshore sailors should carry a satellite phone for emergencies,

Following the helicopter rescue of a solo sailor whose 22ft boat had been knocked flat repeatedly in Force 9 conditions, Falmouth coastguard issued a statement: "For offshore voyages leisure sailors are recommended to carry a satellite form of communication."

"It makes life easier for us if we can be in direct touch, because then we can establish what the problem is," said James Instance, Watch Manager at MRCC Falmouth. "An EPIRB is fantastic, but although it indicates position it doesn't say what kind of distress it is."

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#ISLANDNATION – The effect of six-on/six-off hours of watchkeeping on accidents at sea, boat hooks aboard lifeboats, 67 children drowned in 10 years, a traditional beauty in Cork Harbour and the astonishing discovery beneath the Arctic ice are my topics this week.


Seafarer fatigue and tiredness have been blamed as contributory factors in shipping accidents. Though seafarers and accident investigators have regularly drawn attention to the issue, much of this has been anecdotal. The six-on/six-off watch system has come in for criticism as the cause of stress and tiredness. The Nautical Institute, the professional body for seafarers, says that for the first time scientific proof has established that tiredness levels are the "real issue that seafarers and accident investigators have known it to be for years."

The evidence is in the EU-funded Horizon Project co-ordinated by Warsash Maritime Academy, part of Southampton Solent University with partners in Sweden and elsewhere, which measured the effects of different watch-keeping regimes. It provides advice to relevant authorities on how to address the issues and a fatigue projector tool developed for risk mitigation processes.



Stephen McNulty, Achill lifeboat mechanic

"There are two boat hooks on the lifeboat. The starboard one is blue and the port is white and they are the only items on the modern boat which remains as a tradition from the past."

When Stephen McNulty, Achill Lifeboat's Mechanic told me that, I learned something new about maritime tradition. I love visiting lifeboat stations. They are very special places with a strong sense of community spirit, the foundation base for the lifeboat service. I was being shown around the Achill Trent class boat, Sam and Ada Moody, on the pontoon at Cloghmore in Achill Sound, an area of magnificent coastal scenery with the highest cliffs in Ireland. Achill lifeboat crews have received eight awards for gallantry.


Achill lifeboat - white pole on port side

"I saw you looking at the boat hooks and thought you mightn't know their background," Stephen McNulty chuckled as he saw me looking more closely at them and wondering why I hadn't noticed them before on other boats!

"Traditionally on the old rowing lifeboats, when the boats were wood and the men were steel, the oars were blue on the starboard and white on the port side," he said. "It continues the tradition in the way we have them aboard today and they remind us of what those in the past did for the saving of life and the challenges they faced."


The Irish Water Safety Association has drawn attention to the start of summer holidays for primary school children in a few weeks, "many of whom may lack an awareness of how to stay safe when playing near or on the water."

John Leech, CEO of the Association and a former Naval Service Officer, is a man I have known for many years whose dedication to the concept of safety on the water has driven awareness of wearing lifejackets on leisure craft and urging fishermen to wear personal buoyancy at sea.

"Sixty-seven children aged fourteen and under drowned in Ireland in the last ten years. Responsible parental supervision guarantees child safety yet tragic drownings occur every year when children escape the watchful eye of guardians."

The Water Safety Association's "PAWS" programme (Primary Aquatics Water Safety) is a component of the primary school curriculum teaching children how to stay safe around water.


The beauty of traditional boats was evident in Cork Harbour when the beautiful craft pictured here sailed past while I was on the water on Bank Holiday Monday. Many more traditional craft will be on the harbour waters next weekend, June 15, 16, 17 when the annual Crosshaven Traditional Sail is held, organised by a local committee in association with Crosshaven Vintners. It is always a great weekend to meet and talk with the owners of traditional boats who are so outgoing with information about their boats, conveying the pride and dedication which are an essential ability of the owners of traditional craft.


The beauty of traditional boats in Cork Harbour

Pat Tanner is the event Co-ordinator with the experienced sailor, Dave Hennessy, as Officer of the Day. Boats can register on arrival at Crosshaven Pier. For everyone who turns up, afloat and ashore, adults and children, they are running a "Mad Fish Headgear Competition" – 'Let everything nautical go to your head.'


Scientists from Stanford's School of Earth Sciences in the USA have reported the discovery of a massive bloom of phytoplankton beneath the ice of the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic, which they say challenges long-held assumptions about the Arctic's ecology. The scientists from Stanford's School of Earth Sciences in the USA were researching aboard a Coast Guard icebreaker 200 miles west of the Alaskan coast. It seems the phytoplankton, seen for an estimated 60 miles, are thriving because the Arctic sea ice has been thinning for years, a result of global climate change. Phytoplankton are the crucial diet for many marine organisms. They make up the base of the entire Arctic food chain, supporting fish, walrus, seabirds and more. The ice was between two-and-a-half and four feet thick where the phytoplankton cells were growing and at least four times greater than in open water.


This NASA Aqua satellite image from 2003 shows clouds of phytoplankton off of Greenland's eastern coast (AFP/NASA/File)

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#MARITIME – From Friday, May 4 I will be writing a new weekly page for the website, covering the maritime sphere in its widest application – marine, shipping, fishing, leisure, research and development.

This will be accompanied by a monthly newsletter which will be circulated to readers of

Sign-up detais will issue on May 4.

We have further plans for development of maritime coverage through the website, providing the widest coverage of the marine sphere.

I look forward to your interest in this new approach and you can also follow this coverage on Afloat Twitter and Facebook and on Twitter @TomMacSweeney and on my Facebook page.

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Last month AIB pulled the plug on sailing club fees for staff. Next month the Irish Sailing Association aims to rejig the annual fee it charges to clubs at an egm. They are signs that the necklace of over 70 yacht clubs around the coast and on inland waters are under financial pressure. No wonder as the cost of going sailing, as well as many other sports in Ireland, proves too much to bear for many families.

In his recent column (below) in the Evening Echo Marine Correspondent Tom MacSweeney highlighted the need for Sailing Clubs around the coast to do all they can to help struggling memberships. 

Membership is becoming an issue for sailing clubs to judge from what club officers around the coast have been telling me. It is a sign of the economic times. Families and individuals have to examine closely what to do with the money they have left after the government has raided their incomes.

I have been told that club members and particularly those holding family memberships are looking at how much they pay for an inclusive membership and reducing it to just one individual membership. Others have told me that they are faced with deferring payments or foregoing membership altogether.

Clubs are responding to the situation in different ways.

While the more realistic are taking steps to deal with the issue, there are indications that others are ignoring a situation that, it appears, could affect the popularity of the sport. This may be from an entrenched position or snobbish attitude where they don't want to admit difficulties in public. An inadvisable situation when income is being squeezed and the future challenged.

Payment systems such as monthly standing orders, direct debits, concessions for early payments, have been introduced by those clubs realistically dealing with the situation. Sailing is not the only sporting activity being affected, I hear of golf, rugby, soccer and other clubs feeling the pinch of reduced incomes, soaring taxes and charges levied on household incomes by the government. Something has to give because there is a limit to the amount of money people have. Government politicians seem incapable of understanding that people have not got enough money or sufficient disposable incomes because of the State raping their salaries.

Another aspect of the impact of deteriorating income levels appears to be the demand for marina spaces, with boat owners not as active as they had been in seeking berths and telling me frankly they cannot stretch incomes to afford prices during high season. Some boatyards are feeling the effects also around the country, as are yacht sales. A lot of boats are for sale and replacement plans by sailors who had planned to upgrade have been put on hold.

The oldest yacht club in the world, the Royal Cork at Crosshaven, has been responding to the challenging times. Last season it introduced a monthly membership scheme and a crew membership system as an innovative response to the challenge which the sport faces.

When he took over as the club's new Admiral at its annual general meeting last Monday night in the Crosshaven clubhouse, Peter Deasy acted immediately, announcing that the club would take further steps to address the issue.

He has taken office for a two-year period in succession to Paddy McGlade, a post which follows his successful leadership of the last Cork Week two years ago when he was Chairman. Cork Week will be held again this year, from July 7 to 13.

"There is a membership challenge, it is one facing all clubs in these times and it will be addressed by this club," he said. He stressed the importance of encouraging more people into sailing. The club is to carry out a review of its membership system, amongst other steps. On Monday night members approved an increase in subscription levels for those over 65, who pay a reduced rate as 'seniors,' as is the situation in many clubs.

The RCYC is taking a realistic, determined approach toward what is an issue born of these difficult national economic times. Peter Deasy also emphasised the importance of encouraging young sailors and keeping them within the sport.

This is a topic I have addressed before. Not every young sailor will reach the top competitively, but all are needed to remain in the sport in this island nation. When they emerge from dinghies there is a difficulty, experienced in many clubs around the coast, of maintaining their involvement.


Published in Island Nation
Plans are afoot to bring powerboat racing's Harmsworth Trophy event to Cork in 2014 - over 100 years since Cork Harbour hosted the first ever edition of the race.
Regarded as the powerboat version of yachting's America's Cup, the first Harmsworth Trophy was won in July 1903 by Napier, which was allegedly piloted by women's world land speed record holder Dorothy Lewitt.
According to the Tom MacSweeney in the Evening Echo, a consortium is hard at work to bring the race back to its birthplace - coinciding with the Round Ireland Powerboat Race, which will also be held out of Cork in 2014.
Denis Dillon of the Irish Sailing Association commented: "There is a group of Cork enthusiasts interested and is trying to put a consortium together that would also bring back one of the original 1903 boats still is existance which is in the USA.
"It came first in its class and second overall in the race in 1903 and they hope to bring it back for the 2014 race."

Plans are afoot to bring powerboat racing's Harmsworth Trophy event to Cork in 2014 - over 100 years since Cork Harbour hosted the first ever edition of the race. SCROLL DOWN FOR ARCHIVE Footage.

Regarded as the powerboat version of yachting's America's Cup, the first Harmsworth Trophy was won in July 1903 by Napier, which was allegedly piloted by women's world land speed record holder Dorothy Lewitt.

According to the Tom MacSweeney column in the Evening Echo, a consortium is hard at work to bring the race back to its birthplace - coinciding with the Round Ireland Powerboat Race, which will also be held out of Cork in 2014.

Denis Dillon of the Irish Sailing Association commented: "There is a group of Cork enthusiasts interested and is trying to put a consortium together that would also bring back one of the original 1903 boats still is existance which is in the USA.

"It came first in its class and second overall in the race in 1903 and they hope to bring it back for the 2014 race."

Published in Powerboat Racing
The wind was whistling in from the Shannon, kicking the estuary into a lively stretch of water where I wouldn't have liked to be hauling a spinnaker. That comparison sprang to mind while sitting under the canopy in the yard of the lifeboat station where I was about to name the new Kilrush Atlantic 85 lifeboat.

I have been at many naming and launching ceremonies but never before had the honour of being invited to perform a naming ceremony. The spirit of friendship, of commitment to helping others, which is the hallmark of the RNLI, made it a very pleasant occasion.


Kilrush has a strong maritime tradition, Steamers operated from there in the 19th century, towing lighters carrying cattle and other goods upriver to Limerick. A fleet of sailing boats, known as turf barges also carried various goods and vast amounts of turf to the Treaty City. Cappa, nearby, provided the pilot station for vessels entering the Shannon Estuary from the sea. The Royal Western Yacht Club was established in Kilrush in 1828.

The town is the base of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. Whale and dolphin watching is one of the boating attractions of Kilrush.

In recent years a marina built at Kilrush caused major controversy when it over-ran its budget.

"The manner in which the marina project was carried out may have justified criticism, but there was a predictability about it, coming from the national media, from political circles, from urbanites in Dublin and elsewhere who have no understanding of coastal areas," one of the men who campaigned for and defended the marina project, told me. "There are people who don't want the coastal areas to be better than urban centres, who don't want the rural areas to be more attractive than the urban jungles. There are benefits from maritime development, the marina is justifying itself, the yacht club has been revived, young people are taking up water sports, the leisure sector brings money into the town, the boat trips attract tourists."

Kilrush lifeboat station was established in 1996 to provide additional cover on the west coast, particularly on the Shannon Estuary. The boathouse and launching slipway were built facing Scattery Island, with access to the deepwater channel, providing housing for the lifeboat and launching vehicle, a workshop, fuel store and crew facilities.

The new boat is named Edith Louise Eastwick, in memory of the mother of the late Baroness Marjorie Von Schlippenbach. It was built at a cost of €185,000 and has a number of improvements from the Atlantic 75, Kilrush's former lifeboat, including a faster top speed of 35 knots, radar, provision for a fourth crew member and more space for survivors. It can operate safely in daylight in up to force seven conditions and at night up to force six. There is no greater gift that anybody can give than that of saving life.

I was told once by a lifeboat man that the gift they get is to see somebody safely ashore after they have rescued them. Isn't it the greatest gift lifeboat people give, saving someone else's life?

Published in Island Nation
31st March 2011

Cheeky Chinese Challenge?

After their foray into the world of international sailing by joining with the Irish in the Green Dragon project for the last Volvo Ocean Race, China has announced it is going to attempt to win the historic America's Cup when it is next sailed for in San Francisco in 2013.

This is an interesting challenge to the present US holders, computer software billionaire Larry Ellison's Oracle Racing team which decided to have the event hosted by the San Francisco Yacht Club, which prides itself as being "the oldest club West of the Mississippi in North America."

It will be the first time the America's Cup has been hosted in the United States since 1995 and it is interesting to speculate whether the Chinese are cheekily challenging the Americans who don't like the Cup going outside of the States.

Racing will be held on the iconic San Francisco City front and be visible from world-renowned tourist destinations such as the Golden Gate Bridge.

"My support for San Francisco hosting the America's Cup goes beyond the opportunity to see our team competing on home waters," said Russell Coutts, CEO, ORACLE Racing. "We are excited to sail for our sport's greatest trophy, on a stretch of water legendary among sailors worldwide."

The China Team has been given the backing of the Chinese Government and has already been designing a boat for the 34th Cup event which will be raced in 72-foot wing-powered catamaran multihulls.

"We have been working with some of the best worldwide designers for hulls and wings for a few months in partnership with top Chinese universities," the Team Leader, Wang Chao Yong, said. "This is an opportunity to showcase Chinese talents at the leading edge in hi-tech areas of both hydrodynamics and aeronautics. Our boat will be built in China."

The Chinese made an unsuccessful attempt on the 2007 America's Cup. While the intention is that most of the sailors on their America's Cup team will be Chinese there is to be, as in the 2007 attempt, a French influence. Thierry Barto has been appointed Chief Executive Officer and given the task of getting top sailors to coach the Chinese team.

It seemed initially that interest might be lacking in the 162-year-old event. However ten teams have signed up to take part in the 34th America's Cup.
Aside from the defender, Oracle, entries include Team New Zealand, Italian syndicate Mascalzone Latino - the official challenger of record - and Artemis of Sweden. Two French teams and the Chinese have also paid their entry fees. America's Cup Racing Management says two other unidentified teams, one of which is believed to be Italy's Venezia Challenge, will take part. Whether all of the existing entries make it to the start line of the challenger elimination series in July of 2013 will be interesting. There was major legal action before the event was re-scheduled for 2013. Oracle and Ellison declared their preference for a defence in San Francisco as the "home club".

Two of the three possible French challengers had talks with the Minister for Sport in Paris last Friday to discuss amalgamation and whether there would be French government support. There is also an "Argo Challenge" from a group of disabled sailors.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website:
Published in Island Nation
Taking my grandson to school in Crosshaven he showed me a page of homework which his teacher had said they would be talking about in class. It demonstrated the effect of debris on the oceans and what can happen when litter is thrown into a river or stream or left on the beach.

It was very topical, because this week the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference is taking place in Hawaii, organised jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Nations Environment Programme. This is an attempt to deal with the increasing problem of debris in the oceans of the world.

A United Nations report revealed some pretty frightening facts to the conference. Just two kinds of rubbish make up more than half the marine debris in the world. One is predictable enough – the horror of plastic choking sea life. The other came as more of a shock. The second most abundant kind of marine litter is smoking-related. Cigarette butts and packing account for nearly half of all sea rubbish in some parts of the world, according to the UN.

About 40 per cent of the litter in the Mediterranean Sea comes from this source. In Ecuador, smoking-related refuse accounted for more than half of coastal rubbish.

Ocean debris is a severe threat to the marine eco system. It kills at least 1 million sea birds and 100, 000 mammals each year, according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The general prognosis at the conference in Hawaii has been pretty grim. Things are getting worse and it is the fault of humans on land using the oceans as rubbish dumps.

As my grandson's homework showed, it takes two weeks for a bit of fruit thrown into a river or the sea to bio-degrade. It will be two months before a piece of cardboard breaks down, three months for a milk carton and matters get worse where a cigarette butt is concerned. That will take ten years to disintegrate, a Styrofoam coffee cup 50 years, a plastic bag over a hundred and the six-pack ring so often tossed overboard from boats 400 years, with the plastic bottle even worse at 450 years.

The threat and impact of marine debris have long been ignored. Perhaps it is the perceived vastness of the ocean and lack of visibility of marine debris, but the teachers in Crosshaven national school, on the edge of Cork Harbour deserve praise for making their young pupils aware of what throwing litter into a river or dumping it on a beach does.

• This article is reprinted by permission of the EVENING ECHO newspaper, Cork, where Tom MacSweeney writes maritime columns twice weekly. Evening Echo website:
Published in Island Nation
Page 10 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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