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Displaying items by tag: Shannon Estuary

Wildlife service staff released 21 white-tailed sea eagle chicks to the wild over the weekend at four sites in Munster, including Lough Derg and the Shannon estuary.

Chicks were also released in Waterford and Killarney National Park as part of the second phase of the State’s re-introduction programme.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said the chicks had been kept in purpose-built enclosures at the four locations while they “grew, matured, and developed the feathers and muscles necessary for flight”.

“They were carefully monitored and tagged by NPWS staff leading the collaborative reintroduction programme, which began in 2007,” the NPWS said.

Satellite tagging facilitates monitoring of their progress and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population, it said.

The chicks were collected under licence in June of this year from nests throughout the Trondheim area of west-central Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

The white-tailed sea eagle once bred on the Irish coastline and near large freshwater lakes, living on fish, waterbirds and dead animals, until driven to extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Twenty-one Norwegian-born White Tailed Eagle chicks were released into the wild at the four Munster sites - on the Shannon Estuary, Lough Derg, Waterford and in Killarney National Park (pictured). It is hoped they will bolster Ireland’s existing White-Tailed Eagle population. Overseeing the Release in Killarney National Park, from left, Regional Manager National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dr Allan Mee, Advisor, White Tailed Eagle Project Phase 1, Danny O'Keeffe, National Parks and Wildlife Service district conservation officer, Philip Buckley, Project Site Manager, Shannon Esturary. The chicks have been kept in purpose-built enclosures at the four locations while they grew, matured, and developed the feathers and muscles necessary for flight. They will continue to be carefully monitored and by NPWS staff leading the collaborative reintroduction programme, which began in 2007. The satellite tags will allow the project to monitor their progress and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population. Photo: Valerie O’SullivanOverseeing the Release of the chicks in Killarney National Park, from left, Regional Manager National Parks and Wildlife Service, Dr Allan Mee, Advisor, White Tailed Eagle Project Phase 1, Danny O'Keeffe, National Parks and Wildlife Service district conservation officer, Philip Buckley, Project Site Manager, Shannon Esturary. The chicks have been kept in purpose-built enclosures at the four locations while they grew, matured, and developed the feathers and muscles necessary for flight. They will continue to be carefully monitored and by NPWS staff leading the collaborative reintroduction programme, which began in 2007. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

The birds are particularly vulnerable to illness and poison in winter when they rely more heavily on carrion.

Most of the birds re-introduced to Ireland over the past 13 years – in a programme pioneered by the Golden Eagle Trust - have remained, while some were reported in Northern Ireland and at least seven birds were identified in Britain.

At least ten white-tailed eagle pairs held territory across four counties last year - in Kerry (7 pairs), Galway (1), Tipperary (1) and Cork (1).

A white tailed sea eagle chick Photo: Valerie O'SullivanA white tailed sea eagle chick Photo: Valerie O'Sullivan

The NPWS says at least nine pairs laid eggs in Kerry (6 pairs), Cork (1), Tipperary (1) and Galway (1).

The NPWS says that “restoring this lost flagship species to Irish skies will be a significant step in restoring Ireland’s natural heritage and will bring great benefit to Irish biodiversity”.

It says the project “underlines in practical terms Ireland’s commitment to implementing the UN Convention on Biological Diversity”.

Published in Marine Wildlife

In the decidedly unsettled weather of this 2021 Spring and early Summer, the restored 56ft trading ketch Ilen of Limerick is acquiring the reputation of being a lucky ship in finding gentler conditions when sea work has to be done in periods of storms. Thus although we're currently in three or four days of meteorological mayhem, as recently as Tuesday Ilen found idyllic conditions in her Community & Cargo Programme to get from her berth at Foynes up to Limerick for the collection of barrels of Thomond Gate Distillery's Limerick Whiskey for delivery to Cappa, the all-tide quay for Kilrush in County Clare. And then a sunny evening westerly swept her back up the Estuary to Foynes and further cargo discharging. Skipper Gary Mac Mahon takes up the story.

Westward bound – the whiskey for West Clare on Steamboat Quay. Photo: Ivan O'RiordanWestward bound – the whiskey for West Clare on Steamboat Quay. Photo: Ivan O'Riordan

Focus of attention – Ilen at Steamboat Quay in Limerick. The quay is so called because the passenger & freight steamships serving the Shannon Estuary berthed here at high water to take on people and cargo for prompt departure towards ports down the estuary as the ebb started to make. Limerick's very big tides mean that ships wishing to stay longer have to go through the sea lock into what is now the Ted Russell Dock. Photo: Ivan O'RiordanFocus of attention – Ilen at Steamboat Quay in Limerick. The quay is so called because the passenger & freight steamships serving the Shannon Estuary berthed here at high water to take on people and cargo for prompt departure towards ports down the estuary as the ebb started to make. Limerick's very big tides mean that ships wishing to stay longer have to go through the sea lock into what is now the Ted Russell Dock. Photo: Ivan O'Riordan

"The elemental pull of a favourable tidal current is a motive power source a lively sailor will never let slip by his ship. And on Tuesday, the spritely Ilen on a cargo voyage took the Lower Shannon tidal current of two floods and one ebb to sail east and west for a logged distance of ninety nautical miles.

Tuesday's Lower Shannon Cargo Voyage enjoyed many cultural and historical synchronicities;

  • 100 years since a cargo of whiskey was loaded on a vessel 
in the city to be sent downriver towards a West Clare bonded stores.
  • 50 years since a commercial vessel got loaded at Steamboat Quay, Limerick.
  • 70 years since the last Lower Shannon cargo sailing vessel 'Alzina' sailed west from 
Limerick, never to return.


And it was all done by Ireland's only surviving wooden sailing trading Ketch 'Ilen'. 
In the early morning, Ilen slipped her lines at the Port of Foynes and - with a tidal flood - made her way to Limerick City, arriving at high water-noon. At Steamboat Quay, Limerick City, she firstly discharged her cargo from Foynes - a cultural gift to Limerick.

A pet day and reflections galore….Ilen approaching Limerick from Foynes in the morning calmA pet day and reflections galore….Ilen approaching Limerick from Foynes in the morning calm. Photo: Dermot Lynch  

With the ebb well made at Cappa, an extending forklift was a help in getting the valuable cargo ashore. Photo: Ian Riordan   With the ebb well made at Cappa, an extending forklift was a help in getting the valuable cargo ashore. Photo: Ian Riordan  

Skipper Gary Mac Mahon looking thoughtful – "You'd look thoughtful if you'd seven thousand euros-worth of whiskey swinging around aloft…" Photo: Ian Riordan   Skipper Gary Mac Mahon looking thoughtful – "You'd look thoughtful if you'd seven thousand euros-worth of whiskey swinging around aloft…" Photo: Ian Riordan  

Loading a cask of whiskey and cargo boxes for discharge at Cappa Quay, West Clare, was an efficient process delaying Ilen no more than 20 minutes. 
Soon she was making downriver toward the west on a Lower Shannon ebb - coming alongside Cappa Quay at 4.30 pm. With crew efficiency matching that displayed at Limerick City, the whiskey cask and cargo boxes were soon discharged onto the magnificent 1830 extension to Cappa Quay, a living relic of the great days of the Shannon steamers.


The final run - Cappa to Foynes, some 20 nautical miles, was covered with a soldiers breeze from west, and tide making east, rounding out a gloriously long and fulfilling day concluding with an evening cargo discharge at Foynes.

Published in Ilen
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Most people’s memories of the already pandemic-constricted Bank Holiday Weekend will be of Monday's wet and windy storm. But the training crew on the restored Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen of Limerick have only pleasant memories, as a fair weather passage around Ireland's magnificent southwestern seaboard from Winter Quarters in Kinsale saw them well ahead of the bad weather when they came into port at lunchtime Sunday, having rested until the tide made fair with the by-now traditional stopover at Carrigaholt.

The brief feeling of it being high summer already was emphasised by a Women’s Four racing shell from St Michael’s Rowing Club heading downriver with a welcoming eave from the cox. And by the time the storm struck, Ilen was safely and snugly in dock, and the racing shell was comfortably back in the boathouse. With Ilen now positioned in her home port, she is strategically located to swing into further action as soon as the easing of restrictions permits a further broadening of her activities.

Published in Ilen

Global circumnavigator and sailing ship designer Conor O’Brien (1880-1952) inevitably saw his most noted vessels, the 42ft world-girdler Saoirse and the 56ft trading ketch Ilen, being closely associated by the rest of the world with their birthplace in Baltimore. But much and all as he liked West Cork, he always insisted that ultimately his heart was in the Shannon Estuary on Foynes Island, where he was living when designed both vessels, and so he made a point of ensuring that they spent some time in the Foynes anchorage before going off on their great voyages. Thus although Saoirse’s pioneering cruise round the world south of the great Capes is generally thought to have started from Dun Laoghaire on June 20th 1923, O’Brien secretly reckoned it had got going from Foynes some weeks earlier. And equally, while the official records show that Ilen’s voyage to the Falkland Islands started from Avonmouth near Bristol on the 26th August 1926, as far as her skipper was concerned, the voyage had got under way from Foynes on the 28th July 1926.

There’s charming proof of this in the Foynes Harbour Master’s personal log from the 1920s. At the time, the HM was Hugh O’Brien, who was Conor O’Brien’s brother-in-law through marriage to one of the voyager’s sisters, while sharing his surname through being distantly related as a de Vere O’Brien of Curragh Chase. As Harbour Master, Hugh O’Brien was wont to embellish his records book with drawings of visiting vessels of special interest, and naturally, the new Ilen got the complete treatment in July 1926, resulting in very tangible evidence of Conor O’Brien’s assertion that this was the ship’s spiritual home port.

Now that Ilen has passed her biennial Department of Transport survey (as recently reported in Afloat.ie), the coming easing of pandemic restrictions means that plans are being firmed up for her programme in May, and she will shortly leave her winter berth in Kinsale to make the familiar passage round Ireland’s majestic southwestern seaboard towards Foynes, where Foynes Yacht Club have generously allocated a berth. This will enable the Ilen Marine School to implement as full a programme as the regulations at the time will permit, and the fact that it will see Ilen spend a longer period at her spiritual home than she ever has in her 95 years of existence will be a salute to the faithfully-kept records of Hugh O’Brien.

Published in Ilen

The good ship Ilen, the 56ft Trading Ketch of Limerick, has been in the slipway cradle at Liam Hegarty's boatyard in Oldcourt upriver of Baltimore in West Cork this week, enjoying the relatively dry weather and the attention of her crew as they brush on fresh-smelling paint. And she returns to the salty sea on Saturday, confident in the renewal of her Departmental Certificate.

Even with the best-maintained vessels such as Ilen, the annual inspection can bring its challenges. And on Wednesday evening, after very thoroughly spending a day going through the ship, the Department of Transport surveyor descended the ship's ladder to speak softly with the crew.

But it was good news. Ilen, he stated, had passed survey with just the remediation of a few minor matters. Under the Department's Passenger 5 Licence, she can now resume operations for 2021. This survey outcome is directly attributable to her crew's dedicated annual maintenance programme. Considering the severe limitations to travel this year and last, it really is excellent news.

Ilen in the slipway cradle at Oldcourt this week, where she has passed her annual Certification with flying coloursIlen in the slipway cradle at Oldcourt this week, where she has passed her annual Certification with flying colours. Photo: Gary Mac Maho

Ilen makes for the Lower Shannon Estuary in April under the Ilen Marine School's developing community educational Kingship Programme, which takes its name and logo inspiration from the fact that King John's Castle is the most venerable feature of the Limerick riverfront, while King's Island is at the heart of the ancient city.

Subject to variations in pandemic restrictions, the following six weeks of operations await her during Aril and early May:

  • Ilen familiarisation courses
  • Ilen will sail the Lower Shannon on experimental community voyaging.
  • May Weekend sailing demonstration just west of Shannon Bridge, Limerick City.
  • Onboard the Ilen, a marine survey of the tidal Shannon from Loop Head to Thomas Island will also unfold. This schools survey, both actual and online, will - among other areas - focus on water quality, measurements of salinity, and plastic pollution. Ilen is getting fully equipped for such marine surveys.
  • Traditional rigging courses.
  • A navigation course on the Lower Shannon will also unfold.
  • As part of Ilen Marine Schools 2021 Kingship Community Educational Programme, carefully monitored community sailing days on the Lower Shannon will be part of the schedule.

All of the above courses and activities will be delivered, without charge to the communities and individuals who participate, and interest is high.

The Ilen Marine Schools' Kingship Programme symbol draws its inspiration from the city's historic interaction with the River Shannon.The Ilen Marine Schools' Kingship Programme symbol draws its inspiration from the city's historic interaction with the River Shannon

Foynes Yacht Club and Shannon Foynes Port Company are generously collaborating to provide Ilen with berths at the head of the Estuary in Limerick City, and down towards the sea at Foynes in County Limerick on the Shannon Estuary's southern shore.

The remaining season is still at the planning stage in view of the "unknowables" inherent in the emergence from the pandemic restrictions, but all being well the newly-certificated Ilen's 2021 season will be a very active one, built on experience gained with a necessarily limited but successful programme in 2020.

Published in Ilen
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The Shannon Estuary has the potential to become a global hub for floating offshore wind according to a major new study.

If such a project were to be progressed, writes the Limerick Leader, it could attract up to 12 billion in investment and lead to the creation of up to 30,000 jobs over the next 20 years.

The Offshore Wind Potential Study (download)- commissioned by Shannon Foynes Port Company - by specialist geotechnical engineering consultancy Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions identifies the potential, through capitalising on the unique wind resource and deep-water port in Foynes to turn the State into an exporter of energy and generate unprecedented job creation in the process.

It finds that Shannon Foynes is best placed to service the future offshore floating wind market due to the proximity to resource and market; availability of the deepest watercourse in Ireland and one of the deepest and most sheltered estuaries in the world; extensive future landbank availability; and the existence of Shannon Foynes Port Company as a statutory authority with National Tier 1 port status.

The fact that the port also has European Commission, Trans European Transport Network core corridor status on North/South and East/West corridors and the existing 1.6 GW connectivity to our own national grid were also key findings of the report.

For further reading click the newpaper here.

Published in Power From the Sea

Steve Morris of Kilrush Boatyard and his lead boat-builder Dan Mill are busy these days, as their team have two further Dublin Bay 21s under construction for the Hal Sisk/Fionan de Barra project, and this week they launched the new "Gleoiteog with a difference" for a local couple who sought a traditional sailing boat with impeccable ecological credentials. Thus while they realised auxiliary power was a requirement, the clients insisted on an electric auxiliary unit, and this has been achieved with a Torqueedo turbine incorporated in the rudder, which suggests there's quite a bit of Antipodean savvy and ingenuity being applied to the boat-building scene down in West Clare.

Steve Morris and Dan Mill are bringing Antipodean skill and ingenuity to the boat-building scene in West ClareSteve Morris and Dan Mill are bringing Antipodean skill and ingenuity to the boat-building scene in West Clare. Photo: W M Nixon

From ahead, the new boat looks like an interesting refinement to the traditional concept for a 23ft gleoiteog, in which the length is 23ft from the aft side of the stem to the transom, meaning that under other jurisdictions she'd be regarded as a 24-footer.

Thus as they have their own way of doing things in Galway Bay, we don't quite know what they'll make of What Steve Did Next. For although he took the lines off a classic gleoiteog belonging to a friend in The Claddagh in Galway City, he subsequently raised the topsides a bit and increased the beam before beginning construction for the Kilrush customers.

Be that as it may, when seen from ahead first while under construction, and then after she'd emerged newly-finished from the shed in recent days, there's no doubt that the true spirit of a curvaceous gleiteog had been achieved, made all the more impressive by gleaming topsides which have been painted in a glorious luminous colour for which "deep yellow" is scarcely appropriate.

Gleiteog_under_buildAlthough some modifications had been made to lines taken off a traditional gleoiteog, as the new boat took shape there was no doubting her true credentials. Photo: Steve Morris

The Naomh Fanchea achieves an elegant balance between traditional precepts and classic boat standardsThe Naomh Fanchea achieves an elegant balance between traditional precepts and classic boat standards, but the view from ahead hides her surprise power-unit feature. Photo: Steve Morris

The Torqueedo power pod may be mounted in and on the lower trailing edge of the rudder, but it is located in such a way that the propeller is working in clear water for maximum thrustThe Torqueedo power pod may be mounted in and on the lower trailing edge of the rudder, but it is located in such a way that the propeller is working in clear water for maximum thrust. Photo: Steve Morris

It's when you go round to the transom that the secret weapon is found, a 4kw Torqueedo pod mounted partially within the foot of the rudder with controls - and power from two Torqueedo lithium batteries in the boat – transmitted by a substantial cable from the transom into the rudderhead and then led down within the rudder itself to the power pod.

The propeller installed, with the transmission cable socketed into the transom and the lower edge of the cheek of the rudder-headThe propeller installed, with the transmission cable socketed into the transom and the lower edge of the cheek of the rudder-head. Photo: Steve Morris

The view from astern reveals the increased beam and the way in which the rudder-mounted propellor is kept in clear waterThe view from astern reveals the increased beam and the way in which the rudder-mounted propellor is kept in clear water, while getting some protection from the fact that the foot of the rudder is fitted a few inches above the bottom of the keel.

In due course, there'll be time to test Naomh Fanchea's performance with the first traditional sunrise sail round Scattery Island under the sails which have been made for her by Yannick Lemonnier of Quantum Sails in Galway, but with such a novel auxiliary motive unit, the immediate curiosity was about performance and range under power.

Torqueedo provides a sophisticated monitoring system which enables you to evaluate speed against range in real-time, which is very much a primary concern at the present developmental stage of battery power longevity. The news is that while Naomh Fanchea could clock 6.5 knots at full power, the available reserves were almost visibly depleting, but at 4.5 knots the unit was confident of 7.5 hours usage, suggesting a range of 33 miles.

Smooth and silent – Naomh Fanchea under way in Kilrush Creek.  Photo: Steve MorrisSmooth and silent – Naomh Fanchea under way in Kilrush Creek. Photo: Steve Morris

For those who think in terms of a range under engine of hundreds of miles, this may seem scarcely worthy of consideration. But for environmentally-conscious owners who live locally and will be using the boat for day sailing with the power unit only essential for accessing or exiting the lock at Kilrush and perhaps getting over the last few miles home on a calm evening, this is all that is required.

As for general handling and manoeuvring under power, this is described as excellent. And as Naomh Fanchea will be based in Kilrush Marina, access to shore power is immediate for connection to each lithium battery's own unit, which enables recharging from totally flat - something only rarely achieved - within 11 hours. In other words, you simply leave the boat plugged in overnight.

In addition, a separate 12-volt battery which is kept up to power by its own solar panel is used to service lights and instruments, the final addition to a very eco-friendly setup which sits well within the ambience of this particularly elegant example of the classic gleioteog.

A sacred place – the Round Tower on Scattery Island off Kilrush in the Shannon EstuaryA sacred place – the Round Tower on Scattery Island off Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary. In keeping with local tradition, the new Naomh Fanchea will be christened by having her first sail at sunrise round Scattery.

The 56ft Trading Ketch Ilen has had a busy couple of days of cultural and educational activities in Kilrush during her current two-week cargo cruise, with performances including shows and workshops with noted Limerick Boy and contemporary dancer Tobi Omoteso. The next stage on her programme came up yesterday (Friday) evening with the epochal visit across the Shannon Estuary to Foynes for her first time berthed there in 94 years.

Contemporary Limerick dancer Tobi Omoteso goes through one of his routines aboard Ilen in KilrushContemporary Limerick dancer Tobi Omoteso goes through one of his routines aboard Ilen in Kilrush

The Shannon Estuary had been in a lively mood earlier in the day with at least one waterspout seen whirling its way up past Tarbert. But things had quietened down when Ilen made her short but historic passage to bring her to a berth just across the channel at Foynes from the little house of Barneen on the island where Conor O’Brien designed both Saoirse in 1921-22, and Ilen in 1925-26. It is also where he lived out his last days in 1952, and his graveyard is on the mainland in the churchyard near Foynes Yacht Club. The programme with Ilen today (Saturday) in Foynes includes tours of the vessel, a DJ set in Foynes Yacht Club, stories from Foynes island with the O’Brien family, and a Sea Shanty Workshop with William Howard.

Lively weather to greet Ilen as she crossed from Kilrush to Foynes. Yesterday (Friday) evening, her Shannon Estuary passage past Tarbert took her straight through this area where a waterspout or two had been busy earlier in the dayLively weather to greet Ilen as she crossed from Kilrush to Foynes. Yesterday (Friday) evening, her Shannon Estuary passage past Tarbert took her straight through this area where a waterspout or two had been busy earlier in the day Lively weather to greet Ilen as she crossed from Kilrush to Foynes. Yesterday (Friday) evening, her Shannon Estuary passage past Tarbert took her straight through this area where a waterspout or two had been busy earlier in the day. Photo Eamonn Barry

Published in Ilen
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The Shannon Estuary is king size and clearly defined. Where some other great rivers gradually broaden as they near the sea, sometimes dissipating further into a delta, the Shannon Estuary affirms its individuality with a rapid change as it emerges between mountains and hills from river to sea in Limerick. And yet that first taste of real sea is still a very long way from the open ocean, for the geography between the counties of Limerick and Kerry on the south shore and Clare on the north is such that a majestic waterway – a superhighway of the sea – is developed to such an extent that the distance from river to ocean is almost one hundred kilometres.

It comes tantalising close, at 97 kilometres. But that figure hasn’t registered really registered with the city and its area’s schoolchildren, for down the centuries they’ve had it drummed into their minds that the Shannon Estuary is sixty miles long, and that’s it. But even at sixty miles, it makes it seem so enormous that they can scarcely grasp what it means, and its full significance in the economy and ecology of the region. So for the next four days, the restored 56ft trading ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage is the focus of Scairt na hOige, a Creative Youth Festival around the Shannon Estuary.

Scair na hOige’s busy programmeScair na hOige’s busy programme

Currently, Ilen is in County Clare where - as reported in Afloat.ie - she had very efficiently delivered a cargo of West Cork produce from Baltimore for discharge on Monday morning in the ancient but now up-dated port of Kilrush. But for now and until Sunday afternoon, she is being re-focused as an educational centre, and on Saturday she’ll have crossed the estuary to Foynes and a berth at Foynes Yacht Club to continue the work, while adding a further very significant historical element. For this is her first stopover visit since her restoration to Foynes, which was the home port of Conor O’Brien, designer and skipper of Ilen and of the world-girdling Saoirse before her, and though the official versions of the voyages of Saoirse and Ilen would have it that they started in some other major ports, as far as Conor O’Brien was concerned, the voyages were properly underway once he sailed each vessel away from Foynes.

From Foynes, Ilen will sail to Limerick for a two-day visit to take on cargo and a ceremony on September 1st in the Hunt Museum (the former Limerick Customs House) finalising her registry in that historic port, and then she resumes her trading activities with the delivery of a cargo to Kilronan in the Aran island on a working voyage which will eventually see the main part of her cargo discharged in Cork.

 Pioneering global circumnavigator Conor O’BrienPioneering global circumnavigator Conor O’Brien always made a point of starting his major voyages from Foynes. From the painting by Kitty Clausen

Published in Ilen
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When the restored 56ft ketch Ilen of Limerick gets worthwhile wind conditions, she can give a good account of herself in terms of sailing speed. Yet no-one would claim that her rate of knots on passage afloat remotely compares to the speed and raw efficiency of pollution-emitting lorries ashore, buzzing along Ireland’s roads.

But Ilen Project Director Gary Mac Mahon – current holder of the Irish Sailing Presidential Award for his unflinching determination in restoring the Conor O’Brien-designed, Oldcourt West Cork 1926-built ketch to full seagoing conditions – reckons that the steady global movement in slow food and local artisan products makes for a good fit with Ilen’s ability to carry cargo to remote little quays - or indeed quays of any kind – at a leisurely but environmentally-friendly pace.

Gary Mac Mahon of LimerickGary Mac Mahon of Limerick – current holder of the Irish Sailing Presidential Award – aboard the restored Ilen in Nuuk in Greenland, July 2019

In this he is partially inspired by the example of the last Shannon sail-only cargo vessel, the trading cutter Alzina, owned and sailed by Captain John Davis of Labasheeda, that useful little port on the Clare coast midway between Limerick and the open Atlantic.

Alizina was working under sail until the 1950s, and Gary’s father Joe got some photos of this intriguing vessel and her activities in the mighty estuary. In those days, when “Just In Time” was an unimaginable concept in the deep heart of rural and coastal Ireland, there were enough consignments and cargoes and harvested crops coming in from the west at a leisurely pace to keep Alzina in business.

The sailing trading cutter Alizina of Labasheeda on the Shannon EstuaryThe sailing trading cutter Alizina of Labasheeda on the Shannon Estuary, seen in the early 1950s in Limerick making best use of the guaranteed power of the tide. Photo: Joe Mac Mahon

However, an element of urgency came into it all when she was docked in Limerick and gradually taking on board outward-bound cargo and goods, for the ideal was to have everything together and destined for Labasheeda for a single unloading at the quay there, as John Davis prided himself on being able to do the Limerick-Labasheeds passage on one good ebb tide.

So to emphasise the extra urgency - even in the already bustling atmosphere of Limerick - Alzina carried a ship’s bicycle, and it was the task of the ship’s boy – or whoever happened to be available – to hop aboard this iron steed as high water approached, and race round any shops where they knew specific personal orders for folk downriver were being put together at the last moment.

Despite the inevitable bicycle race, it all suggests an environmentally-friendly way of doings things which increasingly chimes with some of today’s mood, and Ilen in turn can become part of that.

When she made her first voyage in restored form last year to West Greenland – a voyage which in itself garnered several awards – the theme was Salmons Wake, as 2019 was the Year of the Atlantic Salmon, and any cargo carried on Ilen was cultural and creative material to strengthen links with schools and communities in Greenland.

Ilen's SailsAboard Ilen in Greenland, with the squaresail doing great work. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

But for 2020’s necessarily shortened season, a project has been devised which gives an acknowledgement of Ilen’s first sixty-five years of life as the freight and passenger vessel for the Falkland Islands, and combines it with the central concept one of her 2020 roles – four days as a youth educational vessel with the Limerick & Clare Education & Training Board.

Ilen’s main cargoes were sheep and people For the first 65 years of her working life in the Falkland Islands, Ilen’s main cargoes were sheep and people – in that order. Photo courtesy Ilen Project

The concept that’s emerging is the Ilen Community and Cargo Voyage 2020, whose final form is still taking shape. Currently, Ilen is back with builder Liam Hegarty in Oldcourt near Baltimore for her annual refit and some adjustments. But on August 24th she’ll head west with a first call at North Harbour on Cape Clear, home port of Conor O’Brien’s 1926 Ireland-Falklands crew of Con and Denis Cadogan, where she’ll take on board her first consignment, Cape Clear Gin.

Then it’s on for a long hop to Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary (August 26th), followed by a crossing to Foynes (August 29th) for the first time berthed there since 1926, Kilrush and Foynes being among the focal points for the Education & Training Board involvement, and Foynes Island being home for Conor O’Brien, who died there in 1952.

Ilen Cargo SymbolA symbol for all sailing cargo vessels? Ilen’s new Community & Cargo Voyage logo

Then from Foynes it’s upriver to Limerick itself, where some of the Cape Clear Gin will be discharged, while additional products taken on board will include Ishka Spring Water, Limerick Beer, and Thomond Gate Distillery Whiskey, while other specialist quality products will doubtless be added as the voyage plan develops.

The Limerick visit has an added significance as it is hoped that on September 1st in a ceremony in the Hunt Museum (originally the Customs House), the official registration of Ilen (No 146843) will see the Port of Registry formally transferred from Skibbereen to Limerick.

The Hunt Museum in LimerickThe Hunt Museum in Limerick - formerly the Customs House – will see a celebration of the official transfer of Ilen’s Port of Registry from Skibbereen to Limerick on September 1st.

The business done and cargo stowed away, Ilen heads down the estuary and then sails north around Loop Head for Kilronan in the Aran Islands, where more of the Cape Clear Gin will be unloaded. The course is then shaped south for Dingle where the spirit of Cape Clear is awaited, and then if time serves there’ll be a call to historic Derrynane, much associated with Conor O’Brien and last visited by Ilen in 1926. However, the primary purpose of the second half of the voyage is the delivery - under sail - of cargo from Cape Clear and primarily Limerick to Cork City, and the date set for the completion of that at the Cork quays is September 7th.

Conor O’Brien used to say that he always preferred to have a purpose over and above the pleasure of simply sailing when he went to sea, and it looks as though the Ilen Community and cargo Voyage 2020 is going to be fully in line with his philosophy. Meanwhile, dare we suggest that the manufacturer or distributor of a handy little transport bicycle might find a promotional opportunity in Ilen’s Community and Cargo Voyage 2020…….

Almost-laden Alzina awaits the last of her cargo for Labasheeda“On your bike!” The pace quickens as high tide approaches in Limerick, and the almost-laden Alzina awaits the last of her cargo for Labasheeda. Photo Joe Mac Mahon

Published in Ilen
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W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
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