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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 – The FISH IRELAND Exhibition in Killybegs, the Volvo Race in Galway, the Round Ireland Race at Wicklow, commemorating an Arctic hero in Courtmacsherry and where is the summer for sailing? That's quite a mix of maritime material for one week. At least the Volvo is generating more attention to the marine scene in the general media. It is a regrettable that the same attention is not continued throughout the year.


Looking out the window of the Race Office perched high above the quay wall at Wicklow, Dennis Noonan recalled his days of sailing Enterprise dinghies at Baltimore in West Cork:

"They challenged your ability. A mistake at a gybe mark and you could end up in the water. You needed to concentrate, but they were a great way to learn sailing," and he chuckled at the memory, then pointed at the cruisers rafted up at the quayside, tugging at their moorings, seeming anxious to get away: "Offshore racing is a different type of sailing, but no less challenging when you take on the coast of Ireland, no matter what the size of the boat."

Dennis is the doyen of the Round Ireland Race which he was describing to me.

"I've stepped back a bit now," he said, waving at the busy office team putting the final arrangements in place for the start of the race when we talked on the evening before the start. The following day he sent 37 yachts off on their 704-mile voyage. "I have to live by the sea," he told me.

Sailing needs determined people like Dennis who, from his time as a boat builder, continues to build lovely model boats.


I noted the number of inshore fishing boats tied up at the quayside in Wicklow, as I am sure crews on the yachts gathered for the Round Ireland start also did. It seems that there is good whelk fishing off Wicklow which has attracted the boats and that the port provides better landing facilities than Arklow which had been the dominant fishing port on the Wicklow coastline.

in boat


These are tough times for the fishing industry and I have been hearing many stories of those difficulties at THE MARINE TIMES FISH IRELAND EXHIBITION in Killybegs. The problems are extensive – from limited quotas to the massive amount of regulations and it is not good to see fishing boats tied up at the quayside prevented from going to the fishing grounds by EU regulations. There are few industries where the official approach is to stop men from working. All this while foreign vessels continue to fish in Irish waters because their quotas are so much larger than those of Irish vessels. There is no doubt that politicians have made a complete mess of the fishing industry.

The small Irish fishing fleet could not have fished Irish waters to the low state of some stocks at present, but this fact is ignored by sensationalist commentaries in the general media where the facts of fishing and maritime life are not understood and there is insufficient expression of an opposite viewpoint. To see areas of Killybegs shuttered which should have viable fish-related industrial activities is disappointing and some of this is due to the attitude of Irish government officials who have frustrated development and stopped proposals which would have created jobs by imposition of unreasonable rents and regulations. It makes me wonder about the government's commitment to job creation.

There are other issues to be addressed, such as the differing reports from environmentalists, scientists, fishermen and leisure anglers about cod stocks. While environmentalists and scientists claim cod has disappeared from Irish waters, anglers report catching more than ever before and fishermen, who are controlled in catching them say the waters are alive with cod. So who is right – those who go out and see for themselves or land-based opinion?

in patrickkeohane


A project is underway in Courtmacsherry in West Cork, I am told, to honour the role of local man Patrick Keohane in Arctic exploration. He was one of those who located the bodies of Robert Falcon Scott and others from the Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904 near the South Pole. The location for a memorial to him is likely to be within view of his birthplace at Barry's Point on the route of the Seven Heads Walkway. A local committee is raising finance for the memorial. Unveiling day is likely to be Sunday, August 19. Well done to the people of Courtmacsherry.

This is an artist's impression of the sculpture.


According to the Research Council of Norway the Arctic may contain more than a fifth of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas. Increasing pressure on the region is indicated by shipping cargoes which will reach their highest level through the area this year as companies cut costs and fuel consumption by avoiding the Suez Canal. A thousand tonnes of fuel, costing over $600,000 dollars, can be saved. The environmental importance of the Arctic has been shown by the discovery of a 60-mile bloom of phytoplankton beneath the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic, regarded as "astonishing" by scientists. Phytoplantkon is the essential food of marine life.


Seafarers' Awareness Week, an annual campaign by the biggest charity helping seafarers in need – Seafarers UK – has just concluded. The charity works to raise awareness of Britain's dependence on seafarers and gives annual grants of more than stg£2 million to help seafarers, their families and dependants across the Merchant Navy, Fishing Fleets and the Royal Navy. What a pity there is not something similar in Ireland.


Captain Francesco Schettino who commanded the cruise liner Costa Concordia is now charged with multiple manslaughter, causing the accident and abandoning ship prematurely. Italy's top appeals court has held that he should face the charges, indicating that he was unfit to command.


Twenty-two hydro-electric schemes are planned to be built along the Amazon River and its tributaries. Environmentalists and indigenous rights campaigners claim this will alter the environmental and social balance and that the rain forest and tribes which live there will be permanently damaged as locals are removed to for construction work in remote areas. The power schemes are required to meet Brazil's burgeoning demand for electricity as the country develops economically.

in enda


I was delighted to see that IMERC, the Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster at the National Maritime College in Ringaskiddy, whose work I have praised previously, was awarded this year's "Public Service Excellence Award" by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The award highlights the opportunities for job creation and economic growth in the marine sector and the importance of realising the economic potential of Irish marine resources. IMERC was chosen from 190 projects. It is a tripartite alliance between the Naval Service, UCC and the Cork Institute of Technology Development. This is the first time a maritime project has featured in the awards since they were initiated in 2004.

Val Cummins directs the team which is developing the world's largest marine renewable energy research facility at Ringaskiddy. Congratulations to them on their well-deserved award.

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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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#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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#ISLAND NATION – It is encouraging that the first citizen of THIS ISLAND NATION is taking an interest in the marine sphere. I was M.C. at the national commemoration ceremonies for the Titanic centenary in Cobh when President Michael D. Higgins spoke powerfully about the challenge of the sea and the courage of seafarers. Following that event he travelled to Union Hall in West Cork to meet the coastal and fishing community and families of those who had died in the Tit Bonhomme trawler tragedy. There he spoke about the importance of fishing communities and the commitment, fortitude, courage and bravery of fishermen. He had expressed a personal wish to go there to meet the community. This Tuesday President Higgins will open the refurbished National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire. It is good to see him taking such interest in the maritime sphere. When the President does this it focusses public attention on this vital part of national life.

Read on about Irish sailors on top of the world and the fact that there were not one but two ships named Concordia involved in maritime disasters. One has led to suggested changes in training officers for sail training vessels and an unprecedented salvage operation is being tried on the other. Certified fishermen and whales are also interesting me this week.


Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery are two great sailors who I am honoured to count as friends. They are top of the world following the arrival of the Volvo Round the World Fleet in Lisbon.

Justin, a Corkman, is bowman aboard Ador, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing entry. It is the toughest position on the Volvo 70 ocean racing machines. Aboard Ador he is crewing again with Skipper Ian Walker, as he did on the Irish Green Dragon in the last race. Ador shrugged off what have been seven months of frustration with poor results and serious boat damage in the Southern Ocean to secure their first leg victory, crossing the Lisbon finish line ahead of the French Groupama.

Aboard Groupama is Damian Foxall from Kerry and a member of Kinsale Yacht Club, sailing with Skipper and world sailing legend, Franck Cammas. Second place into Lisbon puts Groupama in the overall race lead and, as I have been writing in past weeks, creates the strong possibility that there could be an Irishman on the winning podium when the race finishes in Galway in July. It is great that two Irishmen are on the winners' podium for this leg of the race, so it is building up beautifully to the finish in Galway.

Here's hoping for Irish victory celebrations in the City of the Tribes.


While salvage experts are planning to use water-filled cisterns to weigh down the above-sea side of the cruise liner Concordia which capsized off the Italian coast as part of an effort to turn the massive vessel upright so that it can towed away for demolition, a book examines why another Concordia sank.

This was the sail training barquentine, Concordia, that capsized and sank 300 nautical miles south east of Rio de Janeiro on February 17, 2012. Fortunately all 64 onboard were able to abandon ship into liferafts from which they were rescued after 40 hours. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada produced a detailed report indicating how difficult it was to abandon the vessel as it lay on its beam ends and that it was fortunate this happened in daylight. The Nautical Institute, the professional body for seafarers, has produced a Square Rig Handbook analysing the findings and implications for the design and operation of sail training vessels.

The Canadian report recommended new international standards for officers in sail training ships. The Nautical Institute says this endorses its decision to establish a Square Rig Certification scheme in 1990, to improve the quality of officers in square rig and enhance the safe operation of these ships.

Isn't it an extraordinary coincidence that two vessels of the same name should have been involved in major emergencies at sea?

Turning back to the cruise liner Concordia what salvage experts are attempting has been described as "unprecedented." Nothing on such a scale has been tried before. If they succeed it will be early next year before the ship is towed away to be demolished. The Costa Lines' Concordia, was carrying 4,200 people when it struck a jagged reef on January 13 after going too close to Giglio island. The accident killed 32 people.

Titan Salvage, based in Pompano Beach, Florida, USA has won the bid to remove the wreckage from what are pristine waters. Managing Director Capt. Richard Habib said they would "use brains, not as much brawn" to remove Concordia. The biggest challenge is to roll the vessel upright on a platform and float it away to a port to be selected by Italian officials.

"The magnitude of the job is unprecedented," he said. It will involve building an underwater platform and attaching empty cisterns to the side of the ship which is above water. They will be filled with water and two cranes attached to the platform to pull the vessel upright. Then the cisterns will be filled with air to raise the vessel higher in the water and get it free of the seabed.

"Nothing on such a scale has been tried before. We think our plan is going to work," Captain Habib said.

The Mediterranean waters near Giglio are teeming with fish, dolphins and other sea life. So far no pollution has been reported. The bodies of two victims of the disaster have yet to be located.


Fishermen have shown their concern in maintaining sustainable and well-managed fisheries. The Marine Stewardship Council which approves fishing practices internationally has awarded its certification to the Celtic Sea Herring fishery, an important one for Irish boats, after an 11-month assessment. This shows that Irish fishermen are catching fish in a sustainable manner. Gavin Power, Chairman of the Celtic Sea Herring Management Advisory Committee, said the stock has recovered well after years of dedicated commitment by fishermen. Herring now carry the blue MSC eco label. Fishermen in the south have also been given MSC certification for the mackerel fishery.


Whales are being seen on the West Cork coastline. Several reports have come in during the past week and also of dolphins being spotted off the south coast particularly near Kinsale this week.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group is to hold another series of their popular "watching weekends" this summer on Cape Clear Island. July 20-22 and September 7-9 are dates. The courses are a mixture of land and boat-based watching with indoor lectures in a relaxed environment. For more information see or email [email protected] or phone 023-8838761.

Local West Cork whale watch operator Colin Barnes noted a humpback whale 7-8 miles Southeast of Galley Head outside Clonakilty Bay.


Galway's Harbour Master, Captain Brian Sheridan, is a happy man these days with a good schedule of cruise ship calls due this year.


Captain Brian Sheridan

The second visitor to Galway Bay will be the Bremen, due on Thursday, June 7 and on Friday, August 17, there will be a great sigh in the bay when three cruise liners call on the same day to the western port. That will come after the highlight of the Volvo Ocean Race which will make its return to the city in July.

No wonder he is a happy man. Other ports watch out, Galway is on the march and I'll be telling you more at a later stage about its development plan, due to be lodged for planning approval later in the summer.

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#ISLAND NATION – The Commissioners of Irish Lights, the seafood industry and country's ports and shipping movements all provided indications this week of how important the marine sector is to this nation.

Twenty-one seafood companies are investing €15.5m. and creating 142 jobs at a time when Ireland needs employment. This how the seafood sector is developing. This investment follows investments of €7m. in 2011 and €2.7m. in 2010, all of which indicates a continuing path of development in the fishing industry.

Marine Minister Simon Coveney said the seafood sector is a high growth area of the economy: "The investment involves companies significantly growing their businesses and diversifying, which will lead to increased profitability and increased employment."


Seafood developments

The companies are based in Wexford, Dublin, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Louth and Kerry and their investment is being supported by grants of €3.2 million under the EU co-funded Seafood Processing Business Investment Scheme which is administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara. BIM is the national fisheries board and its future has been under question in the review of State services. In my view it is time that the future of BIM was clearly and unambiguously stated. It is a necessary part of the fishing industry and must be maintained.

Details of the companies involved in the seafood development are attached at the end of this column.

Light On The Future

I met and interviewed Yvonne Shields several times when she was Director of Strategic Planning and Development at the Marine Institute, responsible for management of the National Marine Research Programme. She is the first lady to become Chief Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights. In the current edition of BEAM, the magazine of the Irish Lighthouse Service, she writes that Ireland is on the cusp of great developments in the nation's relationship with its marine resource.


Yvonne Shields CEO of Irish Lights

"These developments will bring great challenges and opportunities," she says, referring to the Government's consultation programme on harnessing Ireland's ocean wealth and securing part of what is a €1.3 trillion global ocean market. "At European level there is a renewed focus on the Atlantic and the need for an integrated strategy for its production and development. Ireland will be central to any Atlantic strategy as, in terms of seabed, we are one of the largest EU States with an area of 900,000kms containing many key resources."

When senior people in the marine sphere put emphasis in public on the importance of our marine resources the maritime sphere is enhanced.


Bantry Bay Makes The Difference

Glenn Murphy, Director of the Irish Maritime Development Office, has always been clear in his view that the volume of shipping and port traffic indicates the state of the national economy.

"The Irish Ports and Shipping sector is heavily influenced by events globally. As the stability of the European economy remains fragile, uncertainty for Irish consumers and businesses will inevitably persist, which will be clearly reflected in freight volumes passing through Irish ports," he told the European Shortsea Conference in Dublin on Thursday when he said that the volume of shipping and port traffic through Ireland declined in the first quarter of this year.

Lift-on/Lift-off) trades were down 1%; Roll-on/Roll-off by 3%; Break bulk volumes down 4%.Total container traffic declined by one per cent.


An oil tanker transhipment in Bantry Bay

There was growth in oil imports driven by Bantry Bay which recorded a marked increase at its international trans-shipment activity, a crude oil and products facility. Tankers are regular callers to Bantry and can be seen from the shoreside but probably pass unnoticed nationally. Liquid bulk volumes of tanker based petroleum products through Irish ports therefore increased by 30% in the first quarter of the year.

Repelling Pirates

The US-flagged Maersk Texas a container ship thwarted a pirate attack in the Gulf of Oman this week. An onboard security team fired warning shots when pirates in several boats approached the ship north-east of Fujairah. The pirates fired at the ship, but retreated when the security team opened direct fire on them. .

All sailors on board were safe, and the vessel proceeded on its voyage to the US, said Kevin Speers, a Senior Director of Marketing for the Maersk Line. The Iranian Navy issued a statement claiming it had repelled the pirates. Mr Speers said the ship had issued a distress signal and, while the Iranian navy responded, "it was never on scene, our own team dealt with the emergency."


Decent Working Conditions

Representatives of the EU's employers and trade unions in the sea fisheries sector have signed an agreement to ensure that fishermen have decent working conditions on board fishing vessels. It lists minimum requirements for conditions of service, accommodation and food, occupational safety and health protection, medical care, and social security.


World's Oldest Junk

The world's oldest surviving Chinese junk returned home to Taiwan on Thursday, nearly 60 years after it set sail on a historic voyage to the United States. Called the Free China to mark Taiwan's severance from mainland China arrived in the northern port of Keelung aboard a cargo ship from San Francisco. It will be restored and displayed in a maritime museum in the city, said L.S. Lwo, Head of the Boat Restoration Project. The 100-year-old boat is believed to be the oldest surviving wooden Chinese sailing ship, or junk, in existence and the last of its kind, according to the Chinese Junk Preservation Society which has been trying to save it. The boat and its six crew left Keelung in 1955 to cross the Pacific during a yacht race and arrived in San Francisco after a 112-day voyage. The vessel, which was in need of an overhaul upon arrival, went through several owners and was left in a shipyard while it continued to deteriorate until Taiwan's government stepped in to save it.


"We are happy that she has arrived safely," said Calvin Mehlert, an original crew member of Free China who has assisted in the junk's return to Taiwan. "We are pleased that Taiwan is going to restore this treasure," he said.

• The photo shows the "Free China" that set sail on a historic voyage from Taiwan to the US nearly 60 years ago.

Remembering Mario

Kinsale held the inaugural Mario Bertelotti Race last Friday night to remember their Club Steward whose kindness and courtesy always impressed when visiting the Kinsale clubhouse. Twenty-eight boats from five classes took part. The trophy was won by Johnny Godkin sailing Godot and presented by Patricia Bertoletti. Second were the MacCarthy Brothers in Mac Magic II. Rob Gill with his A Class came third.


(Above) The Bertoletti family with John Godkin winner of Mario Bertoletti Trophy and Cameron Good, Commodore KYC and (top) the late Mario

At an 'Italian evening' with the Bertoletti family and friends that followed, Commodore Cameron Good spoke about the late Mario and his contribution to Kinsale YC during his time as Club Steward.


The sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, which is being commemorated this centenary year is probably the world's most famous shipwreck, but it was not the biggest.

Wilhelm Gustloff

Wilhelm Gustloff sank in wartime

The wartime sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II, with the loss of 9,300 people in 1945 remains the greatest maritime disaster ever.


Sea level rise near Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific is estimated at seven millimetres per year, double the global annual average of 2.8 to3.6 mm.


While in Castletownbere on the Beara coastline in the past week I heard about the first vessel of its kind ever to be built in the area. The Orchid was constructed by Beara Iron Works of Eyeries for the Marine Harvest Company. A 15.6 metre work vessel, it will be used to service aquaculture facilities in the South West.




Project Spend


Maximum Grant Approved

Sofrimar Ltd , Kilmore Quay Co. Wexford

 €        1,430,009

 €           357,502.25

Kilmore Fish Co. Ltd Kilmore Quay Co. Wexford

€           273,965

 €             63,408.25

Dunns Seafare Ltd Jamestown Business Pk., Finglas Dublin 11

 €           585,000

 €           146,250.00

Atlantis Seafoods Wexford Ltd. Kerlogue Ind. Estate, Rosslare Rd. Wexford

€             49,400

 €             12,350.00

Shellfish De La Mer, Dinish Island, Castletownbere, Co. Cork

€           488,980

 €           122,245.00

Rockabill Shellfish Ltd,  Stephenstown Ind. Estate, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

€           437,239

 €           109,309.73

Sean Ward Fish Exports Ltd. Killybegs Co. Donegal

 €           755,140

 €           188,785.00

Iasc Mara Teo. ,Rossaveal, Co. Galway

€           310,612

 €             77,653.00

Earagail Eisc Teo  Meenaneary Carrick Co. Donegal

 €           895,000

 €           223,750.00

Charlie Vial (Fish Merchant) Ltd, Dunkineely Co. Donegal

 €           303,256

 €             75,814.00

Premier Fish Ltd. Kinncaslagh Co. Donegal

 €        6,134,884

 €           887,193.90

Atlanfish Ltd  Malin Rd. Donegal

 €           148,000

 €             37,000.00

Proseail An Clochan Liath Teo. Meenmor Dunglow, Co. Donegal

 €           591,950

 €           147,987.50

Breizon Ltd, Rossaveal Co. Galway

€             12,500

 €               3,125.00

Keohane Seafood Ltd Unit 28, Kinsale Road, Ind. Estate, Kinsale Rd. Co. Cork.

€           255,000

 €             63,750.00

Kish Fish Ltd. Malahide Road Industrial Park Coolock, Dublin 17.

€             80,625

 €             20,156.25

Seafood Processors Ltd. T/A Morgans Fine Fish, Omeath, Co. Louth 

 €           235,963

 €             58,990.75

Good Fish Processing (Carrigaline) Ltd. Carrigaline Industrial Estate, Crosshaven Rd. Carrigaline Co. Cork

€           222,000

 €             55,500.00

Castletown Bere Fishermens Co -op Ltd Castletownbere Co. Cork.

€        1,400,000

 €           350,000.00

O Cathain Iasc Teo An Dangain, (Dingle) Co. Kerry

 €           715,000

 €           178,750.00

Ballycotton Seafoods Garryvoe, Co. Cork.

 €           219,563

 €             54,890.75





€      15,544,085

 €        3,234,411.38





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#ISLANDNATION – The sinking of the Titanic in 1912, remembered so much this year in the centenary of the disaster, is probably the most well-known shipwreck, but it is not the greatest maritime disaster ever. If you want to know what that was, go to the full edition of THIS ISLAND NATION, where this week there is more about shipping, the marine environment, fishing and many other aspects of the maritime world. The great variety of the marine sector is what makes it so interesting to write about and report.

The announcement today that, with jobs needed, 21 seafood companies are to provide 142 in Wexford, Dublin, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Louth and Kerry, underlines the importance of the fishing industry which should indicate its economic benefits. It is good to see the industry advancing.

The Irish Ports and Shipping sector is heavily influenced by events globally and, as Glenn Murphy, Director of the Irish Maritime Development Office has pointed out, when the volume of shipping and port traffic drops, that indicates the problems in the Irish economy. This is another example of how this nation depends on the sea. The latest figures were released to the European Shortsea Conference in Dublin yesterday.

Published in Island Nation

#THIS ISLAND NATION – The best news for maritime Ireland this week, in my view, was the abandoning of a proposal which could have wiped out the Irish family tradition in fishing.

European bureaucrats have made a shambles of the fishing industry with convoluted regulations and proposals. Fishermen were not properly consulted and the result has been the present mess of the Common Fisheries Policy. There are reasons to believe that EU fisheries officials would prefer a single, centrally-registered and controlled European fishing industry. Introducing ITQs - tradeable fishing quotas - would have facilitated this, allowing big fishing companies to buy up quotas and force smaller, family operators out of business.

Denmark has first-hand experience of this happening. It introduced the system in 2003 and today, according to figures from the Institute of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Copenhagen, 106 fishing vessels catch 90 per cent of all Danish fish. It was the Danish Presidency which went against the Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki and her officials this week, recommending that each Member State should implement its own management structure for quotas and ITQs should be abandoned.

Marine Minister Simon Coveney saw the dangers which ITQs would have caused to Ireland and fought against their introduction from the outset, having been briefed by the fishing industry. "Privatising fish quotas would have been a serious threat to the economic survival of our coastal communities," he said. "If quotas were traded on the open market they could be bought by international corporations and would no longer be landed into Ireland. This would directly threaten economic activity in our main fishing ports with loss of jobs not only in the fleet but also in fish processing."

EU fisheries officials and their desire for conformity contradict another EU commitment - to the preservation of peripheral communities. Coastal, fishing communities are vital to this nation as is the fishing industry.

Denmark has reduced the maximum share a single fisherman may hold to five per cent of the cod quota and 7.5 per cent of plaice to prevent quotas becoming too concentrated in the hands of too few fishermen. This followed advice that the transferable quota system had reduced competition and allowed a handful of companies to wield too much control.



The International Harbour Masters' Association met in Cork this week, discussing whether ports could be managed without marine experience.

The role of the Harbour Master in port management and development, the legal powers of the office in today's commercial environment, the decline of nautical expertise in shipping and the port industry, competition between ports,

International harmonisation of port rules, regulations and procedures, cost-cutting and its effects on safe operations in the ports, were amongst the topics debated.


Harbour Masters' work reviewed in Cork

The Nautical Institute, which is celebrating 40 years' in existence, is the international representative body for maritime professionals and has a strong presence in Ireland.

Captain Jim Robinson, retired from the Naval Service here, is the Institute's President.

It operates a distance learning certification scheme for Harbour Masters and has published the third edition of its book, 'The Work of the Harbour Master,' which reflects the diversity of the job.


Writing in the May edition of SEAWAYS, the journal of the Nautical Institute, a former UK Royal Naval Commander calls for an inquiry into passenger safety at sea, following the several incidents this year aboard cruise ships.

"About a year ago I drew attention to the increasing size of cruise ships, leading to passenger numbers that had increased to a level which could not be managed in an emergency," says Cdr.J.A.Holt, MBE., in an interesting letter to the journal reflecting increasing concern about the issue.

"The concept of the ship being its own lifeboat has been utterly discredited. There is no such thing as an unsinkable ship, nor a shipping company who can guarantee immunity from human error or equipment failure. A thorough enquiry into passenger safety at sea is now demanded and perhaps it would be appropriate for The Nautical Institute to lead such an enquiry," he writes.


The Panama Canal Authority is to hold a public hearing next Wednesday, May 23, about its proposal that is being opposed by shipowners, to increase canal tolls by 15 per cent for large ships and over 60 per cent and up to as much as 100 per cent for smaller vessels. The increases would be from $500 to $800 for smaller ships of less than 15 metres and from $1,500 to $3,200 for the largest, more than 30 metres.

The increases are likely to eventually affect consumer prices for products carried aboard vessels transiting the canal. The increase is due to take effect from July but cannot be imposed until approved by the government of Panama. This is likely to follow the public hearing.



Knots, ropes and splicing are just some of the craftwork which a sailor needs to know, bearing in mind the advice of Alvin Smith that: "A good knot on a bad rope is no better than a bad knot" and they can be difficult to learn. So at Cronin's Pub in Crosshaven in Cork Harbour 'crafty men' have been gathering tonight to develop these skills.


Tom Archer presenting his 'monkey first' to proprietor Sean Cronin in the company of RCYC sailor Nicholas O'Leary on right and Darryl Hughes, owner of the classic boat Maybird on left. Photo: Joleen Cronin

Traditionally scruffy rope ends on deck were the sign of a carelessly run ship, boat or yacht. So being good at rope work indicates a better quality vessel, I am told! In Cronin's the walls are adorned with historical artefacts and pictures of old sailing boats and shipwrecks. It is a maritime location and, like many mariners I occasionally ramble into the premises, whose history dates back to 1892. 'Crafty Mensday,' actually a maritime evening was started there by the 'guys of Crosshaven' as an alternative to ladies' Knit and Natter' sessions.

"The guys were getting a bit jealous of the ladies up-skilling themselves and decided to Knot instead of Knit," proprietor Sean Cronin told me.

Rope splicing, knot-tying and other marine handy work is taught to anyone who turns up on every second Wednesday night and the learning process is succeeding as our photograph shows of Tom Archer presenting his 'monkey first' to proprietor Sean Cronin in the company of RCYC sailor Nicholas O'Leary and Darryl Hughes, owner of the classic boat Maybird. The "crafty men's" get-togethers will continue every second Wednesday night until August. The next dates are May 30; June 13/27; July 11/25 and August 8/22

Sessions are open to all who would like to attend. They operate on a 'skills-exchange' format, with essential knots and other rope skills like splicing being shared around the table. Despite the name, ladies are welcome I am told.


The British tall ship Pelican went on sale this week for an asking price of stg£2.45 million. She has a steel hull and is 148ft.long overall. The insurance money for ASGARD II would have bought Pelican. Willie O'Dea, Minister responsible for the ship at the time promised to replace ASGARD, but handed the money over to the Department of Finance. The national sail training programme was closed in subsequent cutbacks.


Pelican for sale

Can you ever believe what politicians say?

Once again Ireland will be without a State sail training vessel when the Tall Ships Race comes to Dublin from August 23-26.

Another legacy left behind by Fianna Fail and Willie O'Dea in particular!



The World Wildlife Fund, WWF and its partners have announced that the first-ever Coral Triangle Day will be held on June 9 at several locations around the Coral Triangle region to highlight the importance of marine conservation and raise awareness on this global centre of marine biodiversity.

The Coral Triangle is a six million square-kilometre ocean expanse that contains the highest number of reef building corals on the planet, spanning across six countries in Asia and the Pacific including Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Timor and Solomon Islands. Its spectacular coral reefs systems are home to thousands of whales, dolphins, rays, sharks and six of the world's seven species of marine turtles. The Triangle is also a nursery ground for tuna and reef fish species. It sustains the lives of an estimated 120 million people who depend on marine resources for food and income.

Coastal development, overfishing, unsustainable tourism, illegal trade in endangered species and climate change are reported to be taking a heavy toll on this fragile marine ecosystem.

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#ISLAND NATION – The historic Asgard I, the original Erskine Childer's yacht which has been under extensive renovation at the National Museum in Dublin is to go on public display this summer. Public involvement is being sought to provide part of the planned exhibition.

Tom MacSweeney has more details in his 'This Island Nation column' below which this week also has reports from Achill, Galway Bay, the fishing and shipping industries and the marine environment. They include the first Chinese offshore exploration and a major international appointment for a Cork seafarer.


I had my first sail of the season on Saturday, not my normal 'opener' of the year in Cork Harbour, but on the waters of Galway Bay. Preparations for the Volvo Race arrival and overall conclusion there in early July are well underway in the midst of the start of the racing season at Galway Bay Sailing Club at Rinville near Oranmore.

It was from the club there that I sailed aboard my son Pat's Contessa 32, Roamer, on what started off as a day of light winds with sunny conditions. Then the skies darkened, it got cold and the wind strengthened so that soon we were beating as the boat shoved waves aside making its course on a voyage of just over two hours to Parkmore near the hallowed, traditional base of the Galway Hookers at Kinvara harbour.

The Contessa range was designed by the legendary David Sadler and is one of the best-known yachts, with a great reputation for seaworthiness. It was good to hold the helm of a yacht again and hear that pleasant rush of water past the hull. There are several classes of boats sailing out of GBSC, with the younger members particularly favouring the Dart 18 catamaran as I saw last Saturday.


The restored Asgard 1, the original Erskine Childers yacht which carried out the historic Howth gun-running to the Irish Volunteers in 1914 will go on public display this July, 98 years after the event. The vessel has been restored over several years at the national museum in Collins Barracks Dublin. The present recessionary times restricted funding for the renovation of the building, a former gymnasium where the work was carried out, into a suitable public display area. This has now been resolved and the necessary works are underway. Spars and rigging are the final stages of preparing the yacht itself for display. There has been considerable voluntary effort by a group of boat owners in Howth helping with the renovation of the old mast, booms and standing and running rigging.

Sarah Kingston of the Education Department at the National Museum Decorative Arts & History Section tells me that they are collecting oral histories and memories of people who had some connection to the yacht. "This may be people who served on the Asgard when it was a training vessel, people who were involved in its conservation or people who saw the boat in Kilmainham Jail. We would love people to share their memories, so that these could be incorporated into the exhibition. Their stories would be recorded and quotes of these recordings may be used in the exhibition. It would be great, if you could support our search in any way."

I am delighted to do so. If you can help, if you have memories you can share, contact the museum by Email to: [email protected]

The Asgard exhibition will be a big visitor attraction and show how the marine sphere was vitally involved in Irish history.


I was on Achill Island in the past week to launch a book by international artist Alexandra van Tuyll who now lives there. "Sea meets Land" was the appropriate title of the book which is a record of her journey around Ireland in aid of the RNLI. It is composed of her paintings of various locations she chose. There was a big turn-out in Giltie's Pub and Restaurant at Doeega on the westernmost part of the island for the launch. Alexandra was born in the Netherlands and taught art and music before moving to Achill in 2001 to paint full-time. She exhibits solo and in group shows in leading Irish and international galleries and her work is found in both private and public collections.


Achill RNLI Book - Sea meets land

Operations Manager at the Achill RNLI Tom Honeyman and the crew and fund-raising supporters invited me to visit the station, a modern building at Cloghmore in the southern part of Achill Sound. The station was established in August 1996 and its all-weather lifeboat is kept on moorings. It is always a pleasure to meet and talk with lifeboat people and this visit underlined the huge community involvement with and pride in the lifeboat.

I wish Alex and the Achill Station every success with the book. It has been published by and is available from Achill Art Press Slievemore Road, Keel, Achill, Co.Mayo or by Emailing: [email protected]


With the Achill Island lifeboat crew


Giving more power to local communities in the fishing industry must be encouraged. There is too much dominance by State and European bureaucracy which has not been helpful. This is underlined in a community-led report published in the biggest whitefish port in the country, Castletownbere in West Cork.


Castletownbere fishing strategy presented to Marine Minister Simon Coveney. L. to R. Liam O'Driscoll, Vice Chairman Irish South and West Fish Producers' Organisation; John Nolan, Castletownbere Fishermen's Co-op; Eibhlin O'Sullivan, CEO, ISWFPO; Minister Simon Coveney; Frank Fleming, 'Responsible Irish Fish' organisation and Michael Keatinge, BIM Fisheries Development Manager.

More than half the economic life of Castletownbere depends on the offshore fishing industry. With fish farming and ancillary activities added that dependence increases to 86 per cent. The economic figures, revealed in the report compiled by the State fisheries Board, BIM and local fishing industry organisations, underline how vital the industry is to coastal areas. It provides 81 per cent of all employment in the town. The money spent by those employees keeps business turning over.

The proposals were presented to Marine Minister Simon Coveney. Key actions proposed include improved co-operation in the catching sector; new gear adaptations and techniques; tuna and boarfish processing locally; a frozen prawns brand and an increase in aquaculture development and processing.


Cork Mariner Appointed European Chairman

Captain Michael McCarthy, formerly Deputy Harbour Master in the Port of Cork and now its Commercial Manager, has been elected Chairman of the Cruise Europe organisation which has a hundred member groups in the Atlantic Europe and Baltic Region, including Portugal, Russia, Iceland, Scandinavia, Norway and the UK, developing the cruise ship business. He has been involved in the maritime sphere for 40 years, as a Master Mariner, Ships' Captain and marine surveyor.


Captain Mike McCarthy of the Port of Cork

The cruise industry faces major challenges, not just from recession but the effect on public confidence of the Costa Concordia disaster in January and other emergencies at sea involving cruise ships, as well as rapidly increasing operational costs, such as fuel.

"The organisation provides cruise ship owners with top-class destinations of which Ireland is a major one. There are over 200 cruise calls to Ireland a year carrying half-a-million passengers and crew. This is worth €60 million," Capt. McCarthy said.

World Harbour Masters Visit Cork

The 8th International Harbour Masters Association (IHMA) Congress, "Global Ports & Marine Operations" will be underway from Monday, May 14, in Cork City Hall. The Congress is held every two years and this is the first time it is being held in Ireland. An attendance of 300 local and international harbour masters is expected to hear 30 leading industry speakers.


More Water Moved

More water moved into and out of the atmosphere in 2000 than in 1950, making parts of the world's oceans saltier and fresh waters less salty according to American researchers this week. A warming planet may be to blame. Evaporation and rainfall increased by 4 per cent as surface temperatures rose half a degree. That is a bigger change than previous studies suggested, but underlines that a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture.


Oil Day In China

China brought its first home-made, deepsea, semi-submersible oil drilling rig into operation on Wednesday. This starts the country's offshore exploration programme. The new rig, Ocean Oil 981, took six years to build and has been towed to the eastern region of the South China Sea to begin 56 days of drilling to a depth of over 7,000 feet. It is being operated by the State-run National Offshore Oil Corporation and is another stage in Chinese economic development.


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#ISLAND NATION – As I said for over twenty years when presenting Seascapes on RTE Radio, 'welcome aboard' and you are very welcome to join me on this weekly look at maritime affairs in Ireland - shipping, fishing, leisure, angling, sailing, marine developments, offshore energy research, general boating, inland waterways - included and more! I'm hoping this will help to advance coverage of the maritime sphere which is lacking in the general national media.

I have a little book on my desk titled "The Call of the Sea," which, if I had sufficient copies, I would give to those politicians, civil servants, economists, commentators, those in the media, those in positions of influence who still fail to recognise that they are inhabitants of a small island on the western edge of Europe, which is rich in maritime resources.

It is in and on these resources that the future of this nation could benefit, through projects founded on resources that cannot be taken away at the whim of foreign investors who, when no longer satisfied with the profits to be extracted from their operations in Ireland or when Irish State grants which attracted them to this island run out, remove themselves and their investment from this country and head elsewhere. This has happened and may happen again.

Dr.Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute, made a comment to me many years ago in an interview about the importance of maritime-based jobs which "cannot be helicoptered away" from Ireland, an analogy which has stayed in my mind having seen multi-national executives arrive at Irish locations to announce the closure of operations and the loss of jobs.

While a level of inward investment from abroad is needed in these difficult days and risks have to be taken in this regard because our unemployment and economic situation is so bad, seeking foreign investment should be only one aspect of national development. The maritime sector should be much higher in State attention and accorded far more stimulus.

Regrettably, this is still not so, though there are some positive moves and, like many others, I wait to see what the promised national maritime development plan will bring when it is unveiled later this year. Marine Minister Simon Coveney has indicated that the Taoiseach is closely involved in the preparation of this. Both men have maritime tradition within their families.


Dr Peter Heffernan CEO, Marine Institute, (right) and Prof Ian Wright, Deputy Director, Science and Technology, National Oceanography Centre (UK) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in late April, in the presence of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD (standing) to foster closer co-operation and joint activities between Ireland and the UK in the area of marine research, development and innovation.

It was encouraging in the past few months to hear President Michael D.Higgins speak on several occasions about the importance of the marine sphere and to listen to the man commanding the Naval Service, Flag Officer Commodore Mark Mellett, outline the need for an" attack on unemployment" through the marine sector.

Sea blindness, he said, had been created in the Treaty of Independence which ushered in an era when institutions of the Irish State took minimal interest in maritime matters.

He spoke at a conference in the National Maritime College in Ringaskiddy where planning approval has been given for the Beaufort Laboratory, a major international marine research centre. Between the Irish Marine and Energy Cluster, University College Cork, the Naval Service and the Cork Institute of Technology, this project has strong potential and it is fair to say that State financial support has been committed.

But more is needed. Sea blindness prevails in too many sectors of Irish life in a nation whose lifeblood, sustenance, main channel of communication for exports and imports is the sea. Our ports are essential to the economy, so I find it questionable that the government should be considering a proposal that the ports should be sold off. This seems analogous to a householder in need of money, selling the front door to another and then paying for right of access.

Economic advice is not always correct and there is reason to challenge the opinions of government advisors, particularly in relation to the sale of our ports.

Over the next weeks THIS ISLAND NATION on the website will be a forum for discussion. Leave your comment below in our comment box, email me with your views to: [email protected] and I'll also be expressing my views on Facebook and Twitter @TomMacSweeney

"The ocean is a wilderness reaching round the globe ... washing the wharves of our cities and the gardens of our seaside residences" – quotation from Henry David Thoreau in the 19th century.


This fishery was closed by the Irish Government in 2009, in response to an EU request for a partial closure. The then Government decided on a total closure. Eel fishing continued in other European countries. A review of that ban is due in June. Small businesses closed, jobs were lost and ancillary businesses in boat provision, maintenance, etc., were also affected. Most Irish eels were exported and other European countries picked up the Irish export market.

Do Irish politicians go too far to please the EU?

CUDDLY POLAR BEAR CUBS - but will they survive?

Another light on the problems in the Arctic, due apparently to global warming. Male polar bears may be turning cannibalistic towards their own offspring. A new film narrated by Meryl Streep and with music by Beatle Paul McCartney has pictures of a mother polar bear defending her cubs against a male bear. "To the Arctic" has been made in IMAX high resolution by 66-year-old Greg Mac Gillivray, an experienced Californian surfer and film-maker.

• A monthly THIS ISLAND NATION newsletter will be circulated on the last Friday of each month. If you would like a copy, email me at [email protected]

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Page 9 of 11

Coastal Notes Coastal Notes covers a broad spectrum of stories, events and developments in which some can be quirky and local in nature, while other stories are of national importance and are on-going, but whatever they are about, they need to be told.

Stories can be diverse and they can be influential, albeit some are more subtle than others in nature, while other events can be immediately felt. No more so felt, is firstly to those living along the coastal rim and rural isolated communities. Here the impact poses is increased to those directly linked with the sea, where daily lives are made from earning an income ashore and within coastal waters.

The topics in Coastal Notes can also be about the rare finding of sea-life creatures, a historic shipwreck lost to the passage of time and which has yet many a secret to tell. A trawler's net caught hauling more than fish but cannon balls dating to the Napoleonic era.

Also focusing the attention of Coastal Notes, are the maritime museums which are of national importance to maintaining access and knowledge of historical exhibits for future generations.

Equally to keep an eye on the present day, with activities of existing and planned projects in the pipeline from the wind and wave renewables sector and those of the energy exploration industry.

In addition Coastal Notes has many more angles to cover, be it the weekend boat leisure user taking a sedate cruise off a long straight beach on the coast beach and making a friend with a feathered companion along the way.

In complete contrast is to those who harvest the sea, using small boats based in harbours where infrastructure and safety poses an issue, before they set off to ply their trade at the foot of our highest sea cliffs along the rugged wild western seaboard.

It's all there, as Coastal Notes tells the stories that are arguably as varied to the environment from which they came from and indeed which shape people's interaction with the surrounding environment that is the natural world and our relationship with the sea.