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National Yacht Club Lift-In: At last, Summer has Arrived in Dun Laoghaire Harbour

1st June 2020
The Gaffer. National YC Commodore Martin McCarthy looking the part in a super-cool hard hat as he leads his members in the COVID-delayed annual lift-in on Saturday The Gaffer. National YC Commodore Martin McCarthy looking the part in a super-cool hard hat as he leads his members in the COVID-delayed annual lift-in on Saturday Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Suddenly, it’s summer in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Oh for sure, we all well know that, meteorologically speaking, it seems to have been bright sunny summer in Dun Laoghaire town since at least Easter, and maybe earlier. But in the Harbour, it isn’t really officially summer until the anchorage within the curve of the East Pier – The Bight as it’s known – is well-filled with a colourful array of yachts and boats lying serenely to their moorings. And the first stage of that vital marker took shape on Saturday, with the annual lift-in - COVID-19 delayed for two months - at the National Yacht Club, with forty boats going afloat in a steady day’s work.

Hibernation at the National YCHibernation at the National YC. Thanks to the use of a long-jib crane, the boat-deck storage space is optimised for winter lay-up of members’ boats. But with the summer well upon us, the COVID-19 two-months delay meant they’d over-stayed their welcome. Photo: Brian McCullough

Led by Commodore Martin McCarthy - who looked every inch The Gaffer with a decidedly rakish and stylishly white customised NYC hard hat - it was a communal members’ effort, focused around the professional skills of a William O’Brien crane whose driver seemed doubly-determined to prove the accuracy of firm’s motto: “O’Brien Can Shift It”.

The crane had an apparently endlessly-extending jib which would have disappeared into the cloud base, had there been one. But it was a day of searing sunny heat, despite which everyone kept their cool and worked in compliance with the Industrial Outdoor Covid Restrictions – in other words, Building Site Regulations.

Dawn patrol for the first boat to be lifted-inDawn patrol for the first to be lifted-in. With forty boats to be splashed, it was an early start to a long day

Having a long-jib crane is central to the operation, as its use maximises the boat-deck storage area. Instead of space-consuming trailers, the members’ boats can be neatly dropped from high above into and out of spaces only slightly bigger than their basic support cradles, in what is for all the world like a continuous “Beam me up, Scotty” procedure.

O’Brien long-jib extending crane enables boats to be extracted “O’Brien Can Shift It” – an O’Brien long-jib extending crane enables boats to be extracted from their minimalist space-maximising berths in a “Beam me up, Scotty” operation. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Well, it wasn’t quite continuous, as the tidal times meant there was insufficient depth in the launching bay for two hours around the lunch-time low water. But although the clubhouse itself is shut, the kitchen is open, and the ubiquitous manager Tim O’Brien was on had to make sure that the creations of club chef Cormac Healy were rolling out for al fresco lunches in some welcome shade.

The it was back to work with the continued steady splashing-in of everything from the class of vintage Ruffian 23s (“We’re classics now, y’know”), right up to the flotilla of J/109s, including the Hall family’s distinctive dark blue Something Else, Dun Laoghaire’s senior boat of the marque.

Dress code was high vis vest, hard hat and industrial glovesDress code was high vis vest, hard hat and industrial gloves, but otherwise casual

As late afternoon drew on, the boat-deck space emerged as newly-cleared, and it seemed enormous. There’ll be tidying up for a while and a bit of re-organisation, but by Thursday (June 4th) the space will be ready for dry-sailers and dinghies and the fleet of Flying Fifteens, finally released from their extended hibernation in storage in the Wicklow Mountains.

Meanwhile on Saturday after a day of mega-achievement, there was the return to the current reality, with the realisation that there was no question of everyone adjourning to the club bar for some very refreshing and well-earned pints. But useful alternative arrangements may have been in place on an individual basis, and anyway there was nothing to beat the refreshing feeling of a complex communal job very well done.

A Shipman 28 goes aloft at the National Yacht Club Lift InNearly there. A Shipman 28 goes aloft, with just four boats still to be launched in a long day’s work which saw forty boat go afloat. Photo: David OBrien/Afloat.ie

Summer will continue to return officially to Dun Laoghaire Harbour in the coming days with the Royal Irish YC boat-deck open for use to dry-sailers and dinghies from Tuesday June 2nd onwards, while as mentioned just now, the National YC’s deck is in business from Thursday. Then on Saturday June 6th there are big crane lift-ins at the Royal St George YC and the Dun Laoghaire Motor YC, and on Sunday it’s the turn of the Coal Harbour Boatyard to make use of the crane which will have been at the DMYC on Saturday.

As to sailing, it is of course already available for those who can comply with some quite strict restrictions, and in theory some limited racing will be possible for these compliers. But now that the boats are getting afloat again, we can expect a greater focus on clarifying what is possible. To revert to Star Trek, it may not be racing as we know it, Jim, but it will be some sort of racing nevertheless.

The David Cheverton-designed wooden classic Carrick Witch finally gets gratefully afloatAlmost the last in. The David Cheverton-designed wooden classic Carrick Witch finally gets gratefully afloat. The intense sunshine and heat of recent days has been very harsh on wooden boats still ashore

Additional photography by Michael Chester below

Sign-In to lift-in: The National Yacht Club cruisers were lifted in for the summer season at the weekend

COVID-19 Temperature checks and sanitising station for the Natonal Yacht Club Lift-In

National Yacht Club Lift in of Boats

National Yacht Club Lift in of Boats

National Yacht Club Lift in of Boats

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Dun Laoghaire Harbour Information

Dun Laoghaire Harbour is the second port for Dublin and is located on the south shore of Dublin Bay. Marine uses for this 200-year-old man-made harbour have changed over its lifetime. Originally built as a port of refuge for sailing ships entering the narrow channel at Dublin Port, the harbour has had a continuous ferry link with Wales and this was the principal activity of the harbour until the service stopped in 2015. In all this time, however, one thing has remained constant and that is the popularity for sailing and boating from the port, making it Ireland's marine leisure capital with a harbour fleet of over 1,200-1.600 pleasure craft.

Where is Dun Laoghaire Harbour located?

Dun Laoghaire is a Dublin suburb situated on the south side of Dublin Bay, approximately, 15km from Dublin city centre. 

What length are Dun Laoghaire's Piers?

The east and west piers of the harbour are each of 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) long 

What are is enclosed by Dun Laoghaire's Piers?

The enclosed area is 250 acres or one square kilometre

What width is Dun Laoghaire Harbour Entrance?

The harbour entrance is 232 metres (761 ft) across from East to West Pier

What are the GPS Co-ordinates for Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

53.3024° N, 6.1264° W

What public facilities are on offer at Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

  • Public Boatyard
  • Public slipway
  • Public Marina

What organisations are based at Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

23 clubs, 14 activity providers and eight state-related organisations operate from Dun Laoghaire Harbour that facilitates a full range of sports - Sailing, Rowing, Diving, Windsurfing, Angling, Canoeing, Swimming, Triathlon, Powerboating, Kayaking and Paddleboarding. Participants include members of the public, club members, tourists, disabled, disadvantaged, event competitors, schools, youth groups and college students.

  • Commissioners of Irish Lights
  • Dun Laoghaire Marina
  • MGM Boats & Boatyard
  • Coastguard
  • Naval Service Reserve
  • Royal National Lifeboat Institution 
  • Marine Activity Centre
  • Rowing clubs
  • Yachting and Sailing Clubs 
  • Sailing Schools 
  • Irish Olympic Sailing Team
  • Chandlery & Boat Supply Stores

What size is Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

The east and west granite-built piers of Dun Laoghaire harbour are each of one kilometre (0.62 mi) long and enclose an area of 250 acres (1.0 km2) with the harbour entrance being 232 metres (761 ft) in width. 

Who owns Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

In 2018, the ownership of the great granite was transferred in its entirety to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who now operate and manage the harbour. Prior to that, the harbour was operated by The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company, a state company, dissolved in 2018 under the Ports Act. 

What is the history of Dun Laoghaire Harbour?

  • 1817 - Construction of the East Pier to a design by John Rennie began in 1817 with Earl Whitworth Lord Lieutenant of Ireland laying the first stone.
  • 1820 - Rennie had concerns a single pier would be subject to silting, and by 1820 gained support for the construction of the West pier to begin shortly afterwards. When King George IV left Ireland from the harbour in 1820, Dunleary was renamed Kingstown, a name that was to remain in use for nearly 100 years. The harbour was named the Royal Harbour of George the Fourth which seems not to have remained for so long.
  • 1824 - saw over 3,000 boats shelter in the partially completed harbour, but it also saw the beginning of operations off the North Wall which alleviated many of the issues ships were having accessing Dublin Port.
  • 1826 - Kingstown harbour gained the important mail packet service which at the time was under the stewardship of the Admiralty with a wharf completed on the East Pier in the following year. The service was transferred from Howth whose harbour had suffered from silting and the need for frequent dredging.
  • 1831 - Royal Irish Yacht Club founded
  • 1837 - saw the creation of Victoria Wharf, since renamed St. Michael's Wharf with the D&KR extended and a new terminus created convenient to the wharf.[8] The extended line had cut a chord across the old harbour with the landward pool so created later filled in.
  • 1838 - Royal St George Yacht Club founded
  • 1842 - By this time the largest man-made harbour in Western Europe had been completed with the construction of the East Pier lighthouse.
  • 1855 - The harbour was further enhanced by the completion of Traders Wharf in 1855 and Carlisle Pier in 1856. The mid-1850s also saw the completion of the West Pier lighthouse. The railway was connected to Bray in 1856
  • 1871 - National Yacht Club founded
  • 1884 - Dublin Bay Sailing Club founded
  • 1918 - The Mailboat, “The RMS Leinster” sailed out of Dún Laoghaire with 685 people on board. 22 were post office workers sorting the mail; 70 were crew and the vast majority of the passengers were soldiers returning to the battlefields of World War I. The ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat near the Kish lighthouse killing many of those onboard.
  • 1920 - Kingstown reverted to the name Dún Laoghaire in 1920 and in 1924 the harbour was officially renamed "Dun Laoghaire Harbour"
  • 1944 - a diaphone fog signal was installed at the East Pier
  • 1965 - Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club founded
  • 1968 - The East Pier lighthouse station switched from vapourised paraffin to electricity, and became unmanned. The new candle-power was 226,000
  • 1977 - A flying boat landed in Dun Laoghaire Harbour, one of the most unusual visitors
  • 1978 - Irish National Sailing School founded
  • 1934 - saw the Dublin and Kingstown Railway begin operations from their terminus at Westland Row to a terminus at the West Pier which began at the old harbour
  • 2001 - Dun Laoghaire Marina opens with 500 berths
  • 2015 - Ferry services cease bringing to an end a 200-year continuous link with Wales.
  • 2017- Bicentenary celebrations and time capsule laid.
  • 2018 - Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company dissolved, the harbour is transferred into the hands of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council 

Is there a Dun Laoghaire Harbour Live webcam?

A live stream Dublin Bay webcam showing Dun Laoghaire Harbour entrance and East Pier is here

Dun Laoghaire Yacht Clubs

From East pier to West Pier the waterfront clubs are: 

  • National Yacht Club. Read latest NYC news here
  • Royal St. Geroge Yacht Club. Read latest RSTGYC news here
  • Royal Irish Yacht Club. Read latest RIYC news here
  • Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club. Read latest DMYC news here

The umbrella organisation that organises weekly racing in summer and winter on Dublin Bay for all the yacht clubs is Dublin Bay Sailing Club. It has no clubhouse of its own but operates through the clubs with two x Committee vessels and a starters hut on the West Pier. Read the latest DBSC news here

The sailing community is a key stakeholder in Dún Laoghaire. The clubs attract many visitors from home and abroad and attract major international sailing events to the harbour.

What are the main sailing events at Dun Laoghaire?

Dun Laoghaire Regatta

Dun Laoghaire's biennial town regatta was started in 2005 as a joint cooperation by the town's major yacht clubs. It was an immediate success and is now in its eighth edition and has become Ireland's biggest sailing event. The combined club's regatta is held in the first week of July.

  • Attracts 500 boats and more from overseas and around the country
  • Four-day championship involving 2,500 sailors with supporting family and friends
  • Economic study carried out by the Irish Marine Federation estimated the economic value of the 2009 Regatta at €2.5 million

The dates for the 2021 edition of Ireland's biggest sailing event on Dublin Bay is: 8-11 July 2021. More details here

Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Offshore Race

The biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race is a 320-miles race down the East coast of Ireland, across the south coast and into Dingle harbour in County Kerry. The latest news on the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race can be found by clicking on the link here. The race is organised by the National Yacht Club.

The 2021 Race will start from the National Yacht Club on Wednesday 9th, June 2021. 

Round Ireland Yacht Race 

This is a Wicklow Sailing Club race but in 2013 the Garden County Club made an arrangement that sees see entries berthed at the RIYC in Dun Laoghaire Harbour for scrutineering prior to the biennial 704–mile race start off Wicklow harbour. Larger boats have been unable to berth in the confines of Wicklow harbour, a factor WSC believes has restricted the growth of the Round Ireland fleet. 'It means we can now encourage larger boats that have shown an interest in competing but we have been unable to cater for in Wicklow' harbour, WSC Commodore Peter Shearer told Afloat.ie hereThe race also holds a pre-ace launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club. 

What recent International Sailing Fixtures have been Held in Dun Laoghaire?

Laser Masters World Championship 2018

• 301 boats from 25 nations

Laser Radial World Championship 2016

• 436 competitors from 48 nations

ISAF Youth Worlds 2012

• The Youth Olympics of Sailing run on behalf of World Sailing in 2012
• Two-week event attracting 61 nations, 255 boats, 450 volunteers.
• Generated 9,000 bed nights and valued at €9 million to the local economy.

What is the role of Dun Laoghaire's Harbour Police?

The Harbour Police are authorised by the company to police the harbour and to enforce and implement bye-laws within the harbour, and all regulations made by the company in relation to the harbour. 

How many ship berths does Dun Laoghaire Harbour have?

There are four ship/ferry berths in Dun Laoghaire: 

  • No 1 berth (East Pier)
  • No 2 berth (east side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 3 berth (west side of Carlisle Pier)
  • No 4 berth  (St, Michaels Wharf)

Berthing facilities for smaller craft exist in the town's 800-berth marina and on swinging moorings

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Bye-Laws

Download the bye-laws on this link here

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