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The Aran Islands got closer this week as the fastest and most eco-friendly passenger cruise ship to operate on the western seaboard sailed into Doolin for the first time following a €3m investment.

The Doolin2Aran operated ‘Star of Doolin’ completed the 650 nautical mile journey from La Rochelle in France and sailed into Doolin Pier in splendid morning sunshine to cheers from tourists and locals and - naturally for the North Clare village recognised as the home of traditional Irish music - strains of box, fiddle, banjo and pipes.

Following regulatory sign-off by Department of Transport officials, the boat was operating to the three Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher by mid-afternoon.

Doolin Ferry 8 1There were wild morning celebrations on Doolin Pier as the ‘Star of Doolin’ sailed in for the first time. Photo: Arthur Ellis

The ship, will be the fastest and largest to operate to the islands from Doolin, halving journey times and doubling capacity of the company’s existing boats. It has also been designed with the environment in mind, with additional features to lower emissions and state of the art waste water treatment on board.

The investment by Doolin2Aran, which is owned and operated by one of Ireland’s best-known sea families, the Garrihys from Doolin, is the biggest ever made in a single vessel on the west coast of Ireland. The one-off designed, 200 seat cruise ship is also tailored for international tourists, with multi-lingual voice commentary to ensure visitors get the absolute experience and knowledge of the world-famous heritage sites.

Hundreds gathered on Doolin Pier to welcome the ship back in, led by legendary Clare concertina player Chris Droney (93), who gave the boat its name. Chris is father in law of Eugene Garrihy – one of four Garrihy brothers with PJ, Joe and Donie involved in the business.

"Hundreds gathered on Doolin Pier to welcome the ship back in"

The 25m ship was sailed back from La Rochelle to Doolin, with an overnight in Dingle, at the weekend by skipper PJ Garrihy and his crew. They spent Monday night at the Aran Islands as locals, who will benefit from the investment through quicker journey times and more tourists, got a preview of the new vessel.

“It’s a great day for Doolin, for West Clare and for the Aran Islands,” said PJ Garrihy. “It was a lovely trip back. It’s such a comfortable ship and will be a great service to West Clare and the islands. We couldn’t wait to get her back and were blown away by the crowds on the pier for us so early today.”

Said PJ’s brother Eugene, “This is the end of an 18 month journey for us. We took the decision back in late 2016. It was a big move because we’re a small family business and it’s a very big investment for us but now that the ship is back, we’re delighted. It will be a huge boost to tourism in the West of Ireland but particularly here in Doolin and the Aran Islands.

“It ticks all the boxes. While it can take more passengers and operate at twice the speed, it has also been designed with the environment as a core consideration. We’re operating here out of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and it was a priority for us to get emissions as low as possible and we’ve done that.”

Garrihy’s daughter Aoibhín, who is due her first child with husband John Burke, in three weeks’ time was also on the pier. “I’m very proud of what’s been achieved here. I got my first job here working in the summers and I just love the place. A lot of hard work, including in difficult times, has gone into this by the family, by people employed here and it’s great to seeing it pay off.”

Her grandfather Chris was in sprightly form, the celebratory mood even seeing him dancing a set on the pier. “I was here 70 and 80 years ago and there was nothing. Now it’s a thriving pier but it didn’t happen overnight. It’s great to see progress like this,” he said.

Published in Ferry

Accessing Ireland’s most popular offshore destination, the Aran Islands, and the Cliffs of Moher by sea is to get a lot more comfortable, faster and environmentally friendly thanks to a record investment by one of the best known sea faring families on the west coast.

In what will be the biggest single private transport infrastructure investment on the Wild Atlantic Way, the Garrihy family run business, Doolin2Aran Ferries, has commissioned a state of the art, €3m new vessel that is being built by OCEA Shipbuilding in La Rochelle, France. This is the first ship to be built for the popular port of Doolin this decade, the last one being the Doolin Discovery, which was also commissioned by the Garrihy family in 2009. 

Doolin2Aran Ferries is owned and operated by the Garrihy family from Doolin, who have been operating commercially on the seas around Doolin for half a century.

doolin aran ferryAn artist’s impression of the new 26m Doolin to Aran Ferries cruise ship being built in France

The 26–metre vessel will be the fastest and most comfortable domestic cruise ship on the entire Irish coast. It will operate daily sailings to the Aran Islands as well as the stunning cruise to the foot of the Cliffs of Moher, one of the West coast’s most captivating tourism experiences.

The one-off designed cruise ship will also be tailored for international tourists, with multi-lingual voice and visual guide systems to ensure visitors get the absolute experience and knowledge of the world-famous heritage sites.

In production since late October, the 200-seat vessel will have the highest specification available. It will incorporate system built seating and air conditioning, and the most advanced computerised stability system providing quality and comfort to passengers.

The ship also embraces the latest in terms of environmentally friendly technologies with a high-tech, on-board waste water treatment plant and TIER ii advanced low emission energy efficient engines.

The shipbuilders, OCEA, are one of Europe’s leading specialist manufacturers of ships for the leisure and commercial markets. Building up to 20 vessels per year, and for some of the world’s most high net-worth individuals, OCEA operates across four production sites, with 95% of its turnover garnered from the export markets. Its biggest build to date is an €80m patrol boat for a Middle Eastern client.

On completion, the Doolin2Aran Ferries vessel will be sailed back from La Rochelle, with stops in Brest in North West France before making its way to Doolin where it will join the fleet of Doolin2Aran Ferries vessels, helping to accommodate the huge increase in popularity of cruises to the islands and the Cliffs of Moher since the launch of the Wild Atlantic Way brand. It will be the largest operator sailing out of the hugely popular Aran Islands gateway pier. The Garrihy family also own and operate The Happy Hooker, The Rose of Aran, The Jack B, The Doolin Discovery and the St Bridget, which operates on Dublin Bay.

Commenting on the investment, Eugene Garrihy of Doolin2Aran Ferries said: “We worked hard to get the new improved pier facilities at Doolin and now we are investing in this state of the art vessel. We have grown the business year on year and we feel the time is right to take our business to a new level with this investment. The Wild Atlantic Way is proving a global tourism phenomenon and we have to respond in the industry by improving the quality of our offering to ever more discerning customers.

“With good visitor management and continued engagement with all tourism bodies, we are confident that the impact of this investment in the region will be very positive. The ship will be the largest and fastest operating to the islands from Doolin. As it will operate in the UNESCO Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, we were also particularly conscious that it would be the most energy efficient and sustainable vessel operating here and is being custom built to that end.

“We’re really looking forward to its completion and getting it back here. There’ll be nothing like it for tourists heading out from the west coast.”

Published in Ferry
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#Coastguard - Shannon's Irish Coast Guard helicopter was launched yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 14 June) to evacuate an injured crewmember from an Irish fishing vessel off the Kerry coast.

Top cover was provided by a second coastguard helicopter as Rescue 115 flew to the boat 120 miles west of the Blasket Islands to recover the injured party for treatment.

In another incident, coastguard volunteers recovered the body of a man from the base of the Cliffs of Moher last night, as BreakingNews.ie reports.

Units from Doolin and Kilkee responded when the alarm was raised around 5pm yesterday, eventually lifting the body to the cliff top four hours later. Gardaí are investigating.

Published in Coastguard

#RiverLee - Divers have found a car submerged in the River Lee in Cork just hours after it was seen entering the water this morning (Friday 6 May).

BreakingNews.ie reports that a member of the public spotted the vehicle near the Lee Rowing Club with its boot sticking out of the water around 6am, prompting an immediate search and rescue response.

The car was subsequently located after a search of the river and divers from Haulbowline are assessing the scene, as RTÉ News reports.

In other news, a young tourist is recovering after he was swept onto rocks by an unexpected wave at Doolin in Co Clare yesterday (Thursday 5 May).

The 25-year-old American sustained multiple injuries after the wave knocked him off the shoreline at the popular beauty spot, according to BreakingNews.ie.

Published in Cork Harbour
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Clare County Council has today (Tuesday, 12 April 2016) announced the appointment of consultants for the design of proposed shoreline facilities at Doolin Pier, including a new visitor facility.

A new €6m pier was officially opened in June 2015 in the North Clare coastal village where currently an estimated 70,000 to 90,000 passengers are carried to and from the Aran Islands by Doolin-based ferry operators and this is expanding annually with the introduction of the Wild Atlantic Way through this part of County Clare.

The Council says the proposed visitor facility will replace existing temporary structures and will be part of a masterplan proposal relating to the development of the Doolin Pier area including the pier area in general, vehicle routes to and from Doolin village, and parking and traffic management.

Among the functions and operations being considered within the overall plan is the sale of tickets by a number of Ferry Operators, the serving of food, and the provision of toilet facilities for patrons and staff, public waiting/viewing area, luggage holding area, tourism information, car/bike parking, waste management, harbour master office, and health and safety requirements.

The architect-led design team comprises Bucholz McEvoy Architects (Architects), Punch Consulting Engineers (Civil Structural Engineers), IN2 Engineering (M&E Engineers), Aecom (Quantity Surveyor), Aegis Safety Ltd (PSDP safety) and HRA Planning (Planning).

“The key to the success of this project is the design of a sustainable product that is delivered in an environmentally, socially and economically balanced way to ensure longevity and success of the pier and maximise the potential of the new pier infrastructure already invested,” said Tom Coughlan, Chief Executive.

The consultation process, expected to commence during the summer months, will be taken into consideration during the design development to assist in maximising the potential of the site and also to facilitate an opportunity to obtain valuable local knowledge and insight from the primary users.

"The commencement of the design stage of this project is very welcome and it begins the process of delivering a visitor facility at Doolin which has been long sought after by pier users," said Cllr. James Breen, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council.

"Doolin Pier is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure in North Clare and the primary tourism nautical link with the islands from County Clare. It is important therefore, that it is complemented with the delivery of important ancillary services and facilities as those proposed," said Cllr. Breen.

The appointment of an architect-led design team to develop a full design brief and the Council's decision to hold a public consultation process also has been welcomed by Cllr. Christy Curtin, Chair of the West Clare Municipal District.

"The proposed facilities will greatly improve the visitor experience in Doolin and they will help to further drive ferry activity between North Clare and the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher during the tourist season, as well as accommodate other activities – both leisure-based and otherwise," said Cllr. Curtin.

More on visiting Doolin can be found here

Published in Coastal Notes
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#CoastalNotes - Doolin expects to double the number of visitors on its ferry route to the Aran Islands after the opening of its new €6m pier last week.

As the Irish Examiner reports, it's envisaged up to 200,000 people will use the Co Clare village as a gateway to the Galway Bay island chain via the new pier which does away with the former practice of 'trans-shipping', or ferrying passengers by currach from the older, smaller pier to the ferry offshore at low tide.

Among the locals hailing the new pier's potential for the locality is ferry operator Eugene Garrihy, who says it represents "the best money spent here in decades" and believes the investment "will double within the next three to five years" as the previously announced master plan is carried out.

Garrihy adds that the ferry route was "completely hamstrung in the past by tidal issues, which prevented us [ferry operators] from scheduling sailings for a peak period of the day, but now the pier is redeveloped the shackles are definitely off for us.”

He also said that despite opposition from surfers over the pier's feared impact on the Crab Island wave, they have benefitted from the project in the form of a shower block and new launch area.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes
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#doolinpier – The new €6m Pier at Doolin, Co. Clare, has been officially opened today by Brendan Howlin, T.D., Minister for Public Expenditure & Public Reform.

The new 65-metre pier, the development of which was led by Clare County Council, will serve as a primary access point to and from the Aran Islands for ferry companies operating out of Doolin.

"This important infrastructure project has been long sought after by ferry operators, fishermen and tourists who use the pier. The new pier development will boost visitor numbers in Clare considering access to the Aran Islands from the County has now been greatly enhanced with the completion of this project," said Cllr. John Crowe, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council.

"I want to congratulate the staff of Clare County Council and the consulting engineers on the project, Punch Consultant Engineers and Malachy Walsh & Partners, who have guided the pier project through the various stages of planning and construction. I also want to acknowledge L & M Keating Limited of Kilmihil who completed the construction of the new pier on schedule and within budget," he added.

Tom Coughlan, Chief Executive, Clare County Council commented: "From the outset, the Council has believed this project would have significant, positive economic and social consequences for the people of North Clare and the wider region, including the Doolin Coast Guard, fishermen, tourists and the general public in terms of leisure and amenity use. This belief has been strengthened over the years as a result of the support shown by the local community, the Elected Members and of course, the Government."

Mr. Coughlan said the completion of the new pier complements plans to develop a Visitor Services facility at the location.

"The next step in the development of Doolin Pier will be the planning and construction of ferry terminal visitor facilities, incorporating improvements to parking and ancillary services. That project is currently being progressed and I look forward to further announcements in the near future," added Mr. Coughlan.

Published in Coastal Notes
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#coastguard – Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe T.D has opened the newly-built Coast Guard Station in Doolin, Co Clare. As one of the busiest Coast Guard Units in the country, this new facility provides the local Volunteer Coast Guard team with top class facilities including an operations and training room.

The project has been in the pipeline for many years and provides one of the busiest Coast Guard Units in the country with an operations and training room, changing facilities, wet room, store room and a large garage within which to store boats, road transport and cliff rescue equipment.

The purpose built facility is situated close to Doolin pier on the south-western tip of the Burren Uplands, enjoys scenic views of the nearby Aran Islands and approaches to the adjacent Cliffs of Moher. Architecturally the building takes the form of a series of abstract blocks that reflect the surrounding geology, reducing its apparent size in the landscape and, in effect, becoming part of the landscape.

Commenting today Minister Donohoe said: 'Both Clare County Council and the OPW deserve great credit for developing a building that is both functional and sensitive to the local landscape. The design in itself will be an added visitor attraction to the area as its unique design enables it to sit comfortably with other similarly scaled natural rock structures present in the area'.

"I am particularly delighted to have the opportunity to thank the volunteer members of the Doolin unit, and indeed all Coast Guard volunteers for the service they so willingly provide to our coastal communities. Coast Guard volunteers shoulder much responsibility and the services that they provide, including boat rescue, cliff rescue and shoreline searching are an integral part of our world class Maritime Search and Rescue organisation.

"This Doolin opening follows on the completion of similar projects in Killybegs in 2014, Crosshaven in 2013 and Goleen in 2012. This year I expect work on the construction of a new station in Greystones to commence. Plans for construction of a station in Westport are also at a very advanced stage."

The Volunteer Officer-in-Charge of the Doolin unit, Mattie Shannon, whose two late uncles were members of the forerunner of the Coast Guard, the CLSS (Coast Life Saving Service) established in 1937, described the opening as a proud day for the team and the Doolin community, saying: 'It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of our Coast Guard friends to Doolin on what is a proud and historic day. I want to extend a special welcome to former members of the Unit and I know they will feel as proud as the current team does. We have pursued this goal for many years and we now have a facility that will ensure that the Doolin Volunteer Coast Guard Unit is equipped to support the coastal community and surrounding areas well into the future'.

Irish Coast Guard Director, Chris Reynolds, said: 'The Doolin Unit has a long and proud tradition that dates back to 1937 when a Coastal Life Saving Service was established locally. The professionalism and commitment that was displayed in those early days continues to be the hallmark of the unit. In recent years it has been one of the busiest teams in the country providing cliff rescue services, boat rescue and shoreline search services, coupled with support for Coast Guard helicopters as well as supporting and assisting the other statutory and voluntary services'.

Published in Coastguard
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#WildAtlanticWay - Check out this video shot by Eoin O'Hagan for Clare Virtually that shows the intense results of the first winter storm of the year at Doolin in Co Clare.

Indeed, the winds from the so-called 'weather bomb' were so strong at that stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way that they blew the sea spray up and over the cliffs in a reverse waterfall!

Published in Coastal Notes
Tagged under

#MarineWildlife - The swimmer who suffered serious injuries when she was attacked by Doolin's formerly resident dolphin has spoken of the "pure terror" of the incident last summer.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the woman was hospitalised after being stuck by the snout of Dusty the dolphin, whose behaviour had grown increasingly hostile towards swimmers in the Co Clare harbour over the summer.

Valerie Ryan spoke out some weeks later over the incident, calling for a total swimming ban in the area as she outlined the extent of her injuries, which included eight spinal fractures, two broken ribs and lung damage.

More recently, she recounted her experience for the Guardian, noting how Dusty "went ballistic" after she entered the water to join another swimmer ("I found out afterwards that she's very territorial when she us with somebody") and rammed Ryan from behind before she could climb out.

"All these people on the pier were staring down at me open-mouthed," she recalls. "Dusty was still in the water beside me, her tail flapping crazily. That was more frightening than anything: I thought, if she hits me with her tail, I could go under; I’m gone."

Yet despite the shock of that day, Ryan says she doesn't have "any anger towards Dusty. I respect her. But I was in her territory and she’s a wild, unpredictable animal. People need to know that."

The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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