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#glenans – A 'financially struggling' Les Glenans association is considering closing the doors on its operation in Ireland, according to president Michael O'Meara who signalled the potential move to members in a letter last Friday. No decision has been made yet, but it looks likely at least one of two Irish bases will close at the end of the year. 

The popular sail training club has been one of the largest such organisations in the country over the past 44 years, training up to an estimated 40,000 in that period, O'Meara told Afloat.ie.

The association currently has 1,500 members in Ireland and was reintegrated with its French counterparts in November 2010, a move Les Glenans said at the time would underpin its future.

Its 2013 season brochure was launched with some fanfare in April by Leo Varadkar TD, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in Dun Laoghaire, but a lack of demand for courses since has caused it to review its Irish operation. It is looking at closing bases in Collanmore, County Mayo and Baltimore in West Cork.

 'There are a number of reasons for this, including (but not exclusively) the repayment of GISC [Glenans Irish Sailing Club] debt and the current economic situation in Ireland as well as in France', O'Meara said in his letter last Friday.

Though the total numbers of trainees increased in the immediate year after reintegration this initial increase was in French trainees not in Irish ones, and this has not been sustained.

Despite large investment, the 'Secteur' has continued to make a loss, O'Meara said:

Some of the reasons cited for the decline include:

· Economic crisis in Ireland and across the EU

· Very poor summer weather since 2009 - people preferring to travel abroad. This has added to the continued decline in adult dinghy and catamaran sailing.

· Prohibition on paid advertising and marketing since the integration

· Website and translation issues

The total Glénans association has also experienced poor financial performance in recent years. 2010 was the last year in which the association made a positive result.

Unfortunately,a large fraction of this cost and loss is pertaining to the Irish Secteur. The poor performance and financial results are not sustainable and if not significantly improved (i.e. increase in trainees and course sales) will jeopardise the future of the overall organisation.

As a result, there are a number of solutions presently being discussed by management and the board of directors. Whilst no decisions have yet been made, it is likely that one of the Irish bases (Collanmore) will close permanently at the end of the 2013 season.

There is also the possibility that without a swift major upturn in Irish activity Baltimore will also close at the end of the current season - thus ending the Glénans activity and presence in Ireland.

There are a number of external factors to be taken into account before any further discussion by the Les Glénans board (Conseil) can take place and before any decision can be made.

Meanwhile, the Secteur Committee has formed a working group to explore all solutions to the situation and to formulate a proposal to the board in order to ensure the continuation of operations in Ireland.

O'Meara has urged members to give their 'continued support' for the association. 'Booking in for courses and raising the profile by word of mouth and other means will increase our activity level, provide tangible support to our proposal and may have an influence in the decision making process'.

In 2009, the Irish club raised in excess of €80,000 from members and supporters. The fundraising, undertaken to help secure the clubs future, and allowed Glenans to upgrade its fleet and continue to offer high quality RYA and ISA approved sail training at its bases in Baltimore in west Cork and Collanmore in Clew Bay.

But in November 2010, members of Ireland's biggest sail training organisation, Glenans Irish Sailing Club voted unanimously to reintegrate with the French-based sailing association Les Glenans as a means of stemming losses.

The decision was designed to allow the Glenans sailing school activity to continue in Ireland at both bases in Collanmore and Baltimore, and it secured the financial future of the Irish organisation which has experienced an increasingly difficult trading environment

It was thought at the time the reintegration would reunite the two associations which share the common aim of bringing people together through a love of sailing and the sea. The idea was to give the Irish members access to Les Glenans' Europe wide sailing activities and allow Les Glenans to offer a unique Irish sailing experience to its 14,000 members.

Under the 2010 agreement Les Glenans took over the assets and liabilities of Glenans Irish Sailing Club. The Club's two Irish sail training bases at Baltimore, County Cork and at Collanmore Island, in Clew Bay, County Mayo continued to operate .

The Irish bases become part of Les Glenans network of sailing bases across France and Italy. Ireland formed one of Les Glenans five administrative sectors, with Irish members having full voting rights in the enlarged association.

Published in News Update

#RNLI - It was a busy June bank holiday weekend around the country for RNLI lifeboats in West Cork, Mayo and the Midlands.

On Sunday afternoon, Baltimore RNLI assisted four people after their yacht got into difficulty a mile south of Mizen Head.

The 32ft yacht with four people on board had been propped by a pot buoy immobilising her in the water. The alarm was raised at 10.41am and lifeboat the Alan Massey was launched minutes later.

A local RIB, which had commenced towing, passed the tow to the lifeboat and the yacht was then taken to the safety of Crookhaven Pier.

This was the second call out this week for Baltimore RNLI. On Thursday last three men were rescued when their punt overturned near Horse Island.

Later on Sunday, Achill Island RNLI in Co Mayo brought a distressed fishing vessel with seven people on board to safety.

The volunteer lifeboat crew was requested to launch at 4.50pm to assist a small fishing vessel in the vicinity of Clew Bay and close to Clare Island. The vessel had encountered engine problems and was unable to return to port.

The boat and its crew of seven were subsequently towed safely to Curraun harbour by the Achill Island RNLI lifeboat.

Speaking after, Achill Island RNLI lifeboat operations manager Tom Honeyman said: "The presence of thick fog surrounding the vessel meant that great care was needed in the rescue and the fishing party of the vessel were delighted to return empty handed for a change."

Meanwhile in the Midlands, Lough Ree RNLI brought five people to safety in two call-outs over the weekend.

On Friday 31 May the volunteer crew was requested to launch around 5pm following a report that a cruiser had ran aground north of Quaker Island.

A local fisherman raised the alarm after spotting the cruiser on the rocks at the island located in the north end of Lough Ree raised the alarm.

The lifeboat crew managed to establish contact with the person on board the cruiser via mobile phone and he had confirmed that he had got lost and had ran aground. He reported that there was no water entering his boat. He was on his own but not injured.

The inshore lifeboat was launched and the crew was on scene at 5.30pm. It took the lifeboat 10 minutes to safely navigate its way through the rocky area to reach the casualty. The person on board the cruiser was taken to shore and arrangements were made for a specialist company to attend the scene to recover the cruiser.

Lough Ree RNLI was then launched on Sunday evening to assist a 26ft cruiser which had ran aground east of Green Island after sustaining engine failure.

The small cruiser with a family of four on board had lost engine power and had ran aground on the south east side of Lough Ree.

A crew launched the lifeboat at 8.40pm and arrived on scene 10 minutes later. After one of the lifeboat crew had carried out an assessment of the causality vessel, the decision was made to make an attempt to pull the vessel from the rocks, which the lifeboat was successfully able to complete.

Once the lifeboat had the vessel in deep water, a tow was set up and the casualty vessel was taken to Quigleys Marina in Athlone.

It marked the continuation of a dramatic week for the Lough Ree crew, after six were rescued from a sinking cruiser on the lough last Tuesday 28 May.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Both Baltimore RNLI lifeboats responded to an emergency in the Ballydehob area last evening. The alarm was raised at 17.45 and both the all-weather and inshore Lifeboats responded immediately.

A kayaker had reported persons in the water between Horse Island and Audley cove.

The ILB helmed by Michael Cottrell was first on the scene and was directed by the kayaker towards persons in the water. Assisted by crew Gerald O Brien and Pat O Driscoll two casualties were recovered from the water.

One was a good swimmer and was keeping his friend's head above water, both desperately hanging on and near exhaustion. Pat O Driscoll entered the water to help keep the distressed casualty afloat and both were recovered to the ILB.

The ALB and Schull Lifeboat arrived on scene minutes later and both casualties were transferred to Baltimore lifeboat for first aid. The ALB made best speed to Schull Harbour where medical resources had been requested to attend.

Goleen Coastguard were at the pier to assist with landing the casualty and doctor and ambulance arrived soon after.

A 3rd survivor who had been rescued and brought to safety by the kayaker was transferred from Audley Cove by the ILB to join his friends in Schull.

Concern centered around the condition of the most distressed casualty. He was hypothermic and had swallowed a considerable amount of seawater.

The Coastguard rescue helicopter from Shannon arrived on scene, landed in adjacent playing fields and airlifted him to hospital.

None of the survivors were wearing life-jackets and all were lightly clad. Their small craft had capsized and they were attempting to swim to shore.

The evening was fine and warm but with a stiff Northerly breeze. A strong flood tide was sweeping through the sound between Horse Island and the shore.

Baltimore Lifeboat was crewed by Coxswain, Kieran Cotter, Mechanic, Sean McCarthy along with Jim Griffiths, Ger Sheehy, Ronnie Carthy, John O Flynn and Eoin Ryan

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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A temporary floating pontoon for visiting boats is present during the summer season that makes it easier for boaters to enjoy this extensive harbour with good anchorage. The pontoon is suitable for up to seven or eight boats and is used by a mix of cruising boats, ribs and local fishing boats.

Published in Irish Marinas

#MarineWildlife - A juvenile humpback whale sighting off West Cork provided a St Patrick's weekend surprise for cetacean watchers.

Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley writes on the discovery made off the Stags on the afternoon of Monday 18 March, which was verified by IWDG members Simon Duggan, Youen Yacob and Robbie Murphy.

Photo ID images captured at the scene allowed experts to confirm the whale is a newcomer to Irish waters, bringing the known total to 22 and continuing a growing trend.

Whooley also notes the unusual nature of the sighting, coming some months after the busy humpback whale activity in the area previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Those whales weren't seen again after that flurry of breaching and bubble-netting off Baltimore - presumably because being an older group, they were drawn south by their migratory instinct to the tropical feeding grounds.

In contrast, this likely juvenile - named Baltimore - may have opted to winter in higher latitudes to avoid competition with bigger counterparts, something that a group of humpbacks in the Norwegian fjords have also chosen to do this year.

The IWDG has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Check out this wonderful video - via the Baltimore Photos Facebook page - of two male humpback whales fighting over a prospective female partner off West Cork late last year.

Richard O'Flynn, who posted the footage to YouTube, says: "We were following two humpbacks for about 30 minutes when a third one turned up.

"What you're seeing here is the female to the right of the shot and her partner between her and the third humpback trying to keep him away from her. It went on for about one-and-a-half hours!"

O'Flynn said it was only his second time using the video camera "so please forgive the shake... and I was driving the boat at the same time!"

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The Sunday Independent reports on the recent visits by humpback whales to Baltimore that have taken the West Cork village by storm.

"The familiar vocabularies of fishing and sailing, which normally permeate worthwhile conversation in the village, have been temporarily relegated," writes Louis Jacob.

"Bubble-netting, breaching, pectoral-slapping and tail-fluking are just a few of the terms driving the discourse in the village now."

The humpback pod was captured on video a fortnight ago feeding on "the abundance of Atlantic sprat" shoaling along the coast - and their arrival has "triggered an epidemic of humpback-mania in Baltimore", lighting a spark of life during the slow December weeks.

Jacob also spoke to local photographer Simon Duggan, who was lucky enough to capture some stunning images of the breaching whales - which has in turn aided the sightings records of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Meanwhile, Niamh Naughton of veterinary X-ray firm BCF Technology was delighted to hand over a cheque for £2,000 (€2,480) on behalf of the BCF Foundation to Pádraig Whooley of the IWDG recently to support its cetacean conservation work.

Whooley commented: “We are so grateful for the support from BCF. This money will go into supporting us help people record sightings and strandings around the coastline of Ireland.

"Last year there were about 1,500 sightings of whales and dolphins in our waters.”

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - The carcass of the fin whale that died after being trapped in Baltimore Harbour two months ago has been towed out to sea after its presence in a conservation area attracted complaints.

According to the Irish Examiner, disappointment has been expressed by a local group in Baltimore who hoped to salvage the skeleton of the 65ft female fin whale, the remains of which have now been towed out beyond Fastnet Rock for disposal.

Last week Afloat.ie reported on claims from local resident Tom McCarthy, among others from the Schull area, that the whale carcass was creating a "rancid oil slick" with a "horrendous smell" in Roaringwater Bay, a Special Area of Conservation for marine wildlife that houses a grey seal breeding ground.

However, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) - which was working with Baltimore residents on their plan to retrieve the bones with a view to displaying the skeleton in the town - criticised the decision by Cork County Council to dump the remains.

IWDG sightings co-ordinator Pádraig Whooley pointed the finger at "vested interests" exaggerating claims about health hazards, arguing that "towing it out to sea raises the very real possibility that [it] could simply wash up on the coast again."

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#BALTIMORE WHALE - Nine weeks after the tragic demise of the Baltimore Harbour fin whale, its carcass is still afloat off West Cork, creating a “rancid oil slick” in a special conservation area, according to a local resident.

Tom McCarthy contacted Afloat.ie with the above image of the 65ft whale carcass, which was towed out to the grey seal breeding ground off the Carthys Islands in Roaringwater Bay and has apparently been left to rot.

“It has been left here since the middle of August to decay,” says Tom. “The rancid oil slick is clearly visible and extends for over 1km on relatively still days, the smell is horrendous."

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, plans were afoot to sink the fin whale carcass that was trapped in Baltimore Harbour in mid-August and endured a harrowing few days trapped in Baltimore Harbour before it died from what's presumed to be a combination of illness and injury.

Tom McCarthy claims that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has washed its hands of the situation, considering the enormous marine mammal carcass to be a natural occurrence "even though the animal beached and died several miles [away and] was wrapped in a net and towed to its final resting position".

The location is in a Special Area of Conservation - yet according to Tom, no risk assessment appears to have been carried out beforehand.

"Ten minutes on the internet would show that whales are perhaps the most contaminated animals in the world," he says. "Their blubber is contaminated with persistent organic compounds such as PCBs, DDT, dioxins, etc and the internal organs such as the liver and kidneys are 'high', 'very high' or 'staggeringly high' in mercury, cadmium, chromium, etc.

"Some beached whales are found to be so contaminated the whale itself has to be considered as hazardous waste and disposed of as such."

Tom notes that the area is fished extensively for shrimp, crab, lobster and pollock, and that the rotting carcass is in close proximity to several mussel farms.

"It seems inevitable that as the whale continues to decay and is eaten whatever contaminants were present prior to death will re-enter the food chain."

He compares the current situation to a similar whale carcass disposal in Sligo last year, where the flesh was cut off and sent for incineration while the bones were marked for later skeletal recreation and sent for composting.

Regarding the West Cork whale carcass, Tom says: "Some estimates say it will take three years for the whale to completely decay."

Tom adds that he has been in contact with Cork County Council and hopes to hear on Monday about plans for a more appropriate method of disposal for the whale carcass.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#rnli – Baltimore RNLI have officially named the new €3m Tamar class lifeboat Alan Massey at a harbour ceremony yesterday.

The lifeboat was substantially funded by a legacy from Ms Dorothy May Massey in honour of her late brother Alan.  It was named by Mrs Sue Windsor, a close family friend of Ms Massey, before being handed over to Baltimore RNLI.

Mr. Declan Tiernan, Chairperson of the Baltimore Lifeboat Station stated that the lifeboat has already proved its worth.  He told the crowd about a recent callout which involved the new lifeboat and its Y boat (an inflatable boat carried on the deck of the lifeboat).  Last month two teenagers were trapped in a cave and conditions were making it impossible for rescuers to get close, the lifeboat crew deployed the small Y boat from the lifeboat to bring the lifeboat volunteers as far into the narrow cave as they could safely go before a crewmember then swam the rest of the way and brought them to safety.

RNLI Operations Director Michael Vlasto OBE, who travelled to Baltimore to accept the lifeboat into the care of the Institution commented, " Baltimore's lifeboats have a proud history of lifesaving dating back to 1919 and since then have launched 718 times and in so doing have rescued 661 people.  Ten medals have been awarded, the last being voted in 1992 to the current Coxswain Kieran Cotter.

In the RNLI, the safety of our volunteer crew is paramount.  We strive to ensure they have the best lifeboats, excellent training and first class equipment to carry out their often difficult tasks.  This Tamar lifeboat is state of the art and has proven to be a thoroughly reliable and capable lifesaving craft since its arrival here at Baltimore."

Tom Bushe, Baltimore RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager accepted the lifeboat into the care of the Baltimore Lifeboat station.  The new lifeboat has already launched 14 times and rescued 17 people since its arrival in February.  Tom added, " We are very proud to be the custodians of this lifeboat. The crew in Baltimore provide an exceptional service to their community. These are ordinary people who are ready to risk their own lives in the service of others."

The lifeboat was officially named in the traditional way of breaking a bottle of champagne over the bow.Mrs Sue Windsor then named the lifeboat Alan Massey.

Ms Dorothy May Massey was born in 1906 and lived in Watford.  She was the youngest of three children.  It was her wish to fund a lifeboat and she passed away in 2003 aged 97.  The Baltimore Tamar lifeboat has been substantially funded by her legacy together with the generous bequests of Henry and Joan Jermyn, John Noel Harvey Ward and John Heath.

The new Tamar class lifeboat is 16.3 metres in length with a maximum speed of 25 knots compared to the 14.3 metres of Baltimore RNLI's former Tyne class lifeboat, which had a maximum speed of 18 knots.  The lifeboat is self-righting and is fitted with an integrated electronics systems and information management system, which allows the lifeboat crew to monitor, operate and control many of the boats systems from shock mitigating seats.  It has room for 44 survivors.

The event included local school children from Rath National School who sang the lifeboat anthem Home from the Sea and groups and musicians including the Rathmore Church Choir, The Baltimore Singers and HX Brass.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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