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As a citizen of an island nation, John Latham long had the desire to sail around this country, headland by headland. With that in mind, co-owner John McQuaid and he were determined to carry out such a voyage in their Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349, Scoundrel, from their home port Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay.

Scoundrel was purchased early in 2017 and we had a good shakedown cruise to West Cork during that first summer…Baltimore, Schull, Crookhaven, Cape Clear and around the Fastnet. She proved a comfortable and seaworthy yacht excelling on a beat back to Baltimore from Fastnet in a force 6 gusting 7 … twin rudders and hard chine give her a stiffness and control which surpasses our expectation.

The cruise of 2018 beckoned with the lure of more Westerly and Northerly ambitions.

We decided to have 2 parts to this voyage and conduct a clockwise circumnavigation:

  1.  A non-stop passage of about 250NM from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle in Co. Kerry on the S.W. Coast during the last weekend of June.
  2. Join the boat again in Dingle on 15th July and continue our venture in daily passages up the Atlantic coast and around the North of Ireland and back into the North Channel and the Irish sea to home. We had 2 weeks for this part, each owner requiring to be back at work on the 30th July. A rather tight schedule you might agree.

All of this would be dependant on the weather and the performance of boat and crew as well as the occurrence of the unexpected in the way of natural or man-made emergencies, misadventures or calamities. But that uncertainty and anxiety are partly why we go cruising!

For most of the circumnavigation, we would be a crew of 3 …the 2 owners and John McQuaid’s son Eoin. Time on his hands and a certain sense of adventure attracted Eoin to this escapade but we knew that at some stage along the West Coast he planned to jump ship for social and romantic reasons. We were confident that 2 would then handle Scoundrel comfortably.

John McQuaidJohn McQuaid

28 June. We were still in that prolonged period of high pressure and little wind. This first passage included the leg south from Dublin Bay to Carnsore Point inside the banks and the Tuskar Rock. Then followed the long trek westwards along the South Coast, passing at a distance off our usual West Cork cruising grounds and nudging north into the Atlantic coast to Dingle in Co. Kerry. The only wind of note was a northerly force 4, on our nose as we crossed Dingle Bay from Valencia Island.

This long, windless, non-stop passage from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle was 275 NM and we were underway for almost exactly 48 hours. All of this was under engine at 2,500 revs at an average speed of 5.7 knots. Diesel and factor 50 sunblock was at a premium!

The only crisis of this passage was the tangling of the propeller with a lobster pot line close to the Conningbeg light off the Saltee Islands. Instantly volunteering, Eoin donned a wetsuit, dived below the boat and with a diver’s knife freed us from this unwelcome tether. 

The famous and aged dolphin Funghi welcomed us in the channel at Dingle harbour where the excellent Marina and extremely helpful staff supplied a safe berth for 2 weeks as well as green diesel in cans.

BlasketValentia Island

Sunday 15 July. We continued our cruise and left Dingle at 07.20 towards Fenit in Tralee Bay. We experienced a S.W. breeze force 3 to 4 and sailed for 6 ½ hours, motor-sailing for 2 ½. The log showed 50.7 NM in 9 hours. A highlight of this passage was passing through the Blasket Sound. Newly restored houses on the Great Blasket Island gleamed white as we kept well off Slea Head and its rocky dangers. Crossing Brandon Bay we encountered a very playful pod of at least 10 dolphins who accompanied us for several miles. It was decided to pass outside the Maharee Islands as rain and poor visibility had set in. Fenit, on the northern side of Tralee bay, was gained after a brisk reach to Great Samphire Island to which the excellent marina is attached.

Great SamphireGreat Samphire Island

samphire islandThe County Kerry coast

Monday 16th. Our 35-mile passage was towards Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary. We beat out of Tralee Bay and then maintaining a broad reach up to the Estuary we ran eastwards towards Scattery Island which lies off Kilrush on the Northern shore. The famous pod of Shannon Dolphins accompanied us for 4 or 5 miles. Kilrush Marina, in County Clare, is approached through a lock which maintains depth at all tides. More like inland waterway than sea marina this was a very comfortable berth.

Tuesday 17th. A lovely 60-mile passage towards Kilronan on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. But first we had a slog under engine out of the Shannon Estuary to Loop Head. This was followed by a favourable westerly force 3 and 4 bringing us past the coast of County Clare and the dramatic Cliffs of Moher. Kilronan on the N.E. of Inishmore is approached from the south via Gregory Sound with Inishmaan to starboard. On our approach to the Sound, a very large swordfish jumped high out of the water with a bright flash of silver. A visitors mooring at Kilronan proved very comfortable with a dinghy trip of about half a cable to a sandy beach and slip.

Passage planningPassage planning time

Wednesday 18th. A day on the Island. The only place where we spent a full day exploring; Inishmore provided us with a sunny day of walking and visiting Dun Aengus the Bronze Age promontory fort. We enjoyed the hospitality of the islanders. A swim in the harbour off the back of the boat proved very refreshing.

Thursday 19th. Commencing at 06.30 this was a passage from Inishmore to Clare Island, 62 miles in 12 hours. The highlight for me was the remarkable view of the Maamturk Mountains of North Connemara which were in view to the East, shimmering smoke grey peaks and ridges …tempting lures for future mountaineering expeditions. The Atlantic coast cannot be surpassed for dramatic scenery, high cliffs, mountains and mighty headlands. Islands are a special feature of this most western part of Europe and we were sorry that we had only time to visit three. This passage took us south of the extensive maze of rocks which guard South Connemara and Roundstone, then around Slyne Head, inside High Island and then a course of 060 M brought us inside Inishbofin and Inishturk islands. Our arrival at Clare Island Harbour at 18.30 coincided with mist and drizzle as we took a visitors mooring overlooked by Gráinne Ní Mháille’s Castle. Also known as Grace O’Malley, she was the famous 16th century “pirate queen”. We enjoyed a splendid fish dinner and Guinness at the Sailor’s Inn.

Friday 20th. The postmaster Páiric O’Malley sold us some provisions and lent us the key to the remarkable 14th-century abbey with residual painted frescoes still extant. Eoin took the ferry to Roonah Quay on the mainland and the two Johns continued the venture. Leaving our mooring at 11.08, a 50-mile passage towards Broad Haven, an anchorage on the southern shore of Donegal Bay was our aim.  Being a dull day with drizzle and fog and light westerly breeze we motored, firstly N.W. to make Achill Head and then west of the Inishkea Islands and many other rocky protuberances guarding the Mullet Peninsula. During this rather tedious passage, we passed only 2 other vessels, a trawler fishing and a yacht heading South, neither of which were transmitting AIS. On the West Coast, we rarely met other yachts; fishing vessels showing AIS were in a minority! At 20.20 we entered the narrow inlet on the South of Broad Haven Bay and anchored N of the fishing pier at Ballyglass. A very comfortable night with only one Scottish yacht nearby.

Saturday 21st. We weighed at 06.20 to commence a 54-mile passage across the mouth of Donegal Bay towards Teelin Harbour on its Northern Shore. There were no hazards or navigational challenges during this passage…which concluded in a very thick fog and a dead run in a force 3 to 4 SW breeze. Teelin Harbour on the N.W. of Donegal Bay is hidden within steep surrounding cliffs at the best of times but with visibility down to 100yds, the small lighthouse at the entrance was a welcome sight as we rounded up and took a temporary berth at a fishing boat pontoon. Paddy Byrne, a local boatman kindly lent us his hose for filling our water tank. A visitors mooring provided a very comfortable night and a pub called the Rusty Mackerel provided an excellent dinner.

Teeling harbour donegalScoundrel snug on a visitor mooring in Teelin Harbour on the N.W. of Donegal Bay

Sunday 22nd July. This passage from Teelin towards Tory Island, 55 miles was delayed until 10.30 when the thick fog lifted slightly giving us some visibility of the bulk of Donegal to the north as we motor-sailed out beyond Rathlin O’Beirne Island and headed NNE towards Aran Island. Most of the passage was a dead run in a force 4 under main alone. ..not having a spinnaker or a pole for goose-winging the jib … the wind was too far aft for our asymmetrical chute. This fairly uneventful passage became more dramatic as we approached Tory Harbour from the south with the wind piping up to 25 Kts. Choppy seas were manageable but on approaching the high harbour pier, fenders to the ready on the starboard side, sidling at dusk into a nice berth next to a ladder, our cruise nearly ended in disaster! Scoundrel came to an abrupt and sickening, clanging halt as a hydraulic crane jib, protruding 90 degrees out from the pier engaged with our mast about two-thirds up. My heart sank as I imagined the rig coming down around our ears. A gust blew off the pier and we disengaged from this aerial hazard. Mast and rigging survived unscathed, not so our nerves! This most remote of the Irish Islands deserves a prolonged visit but we needed to press on. Gales were being forecast in the Irish Sea from mid-week onwards.

Monday 23 July. This passage towards Portrush in Co. Antrim began at 07.00 in drizzle and turned out to be a lovely 85 miles 13-hour sail across the top of Ireland. Initially an easterly (078deg M) fetch to Malin Head and then S.E. towards Portrush. However some miles off our destination, on radioing Portrush Harbour Master we were informed that we could not enter as a stone barge was blocking the harbour. The evening was fair and, undismayed we altered course for Ballycastle some 15 miles further East. At 20.15 we entered this beautiful marina to a splendid welcome from staff and local boat owners; we no longer felt rejected. On the South of Rathlin Sound (famous for that dramatic tide race), Ballycastle is a lovely town with very clear views of the Mull of Kintyre.

Tuesday 24 July. A 45-mile passage from Ballycastle to Bangor in Belfast Lough. With a flat calm but a favourable tide, we shot out of Rathlin Sound into the North Channel with the beautiful hills of Antrim as our backdrop on the starboard side and Scotland to Port. A lovely, sunny evening landfall at Bangor’s Large and delightful Marina completed our penultimate passage. Celebrating with spaghetti Bolognese and accepting freshly picked tomatoes from my Belfast brother in law Eddie, John and I turned in early.

Wednesday 25 July. Starting at 04.25 This southerly homeward passage was 102 miles mostly under engine with a light southerly breeze. Highlights were views of the beautiful Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland and the Cooley Mountains on the southern side of Carlingford Lough. In good visibility, the Isle of Man was clearly in sight for much of this passage. On arriving north of Howth Head which guards Dublin Bay, we were hard on the wind with a foul flood tide impeding progress. Here I made a tactical error and took a tack to leeward of Lambay Island. This left us with a hard 2-hour slog against wind and tide to round Howth Head and the final fetch across the bay to Dun Laoghaire. We were on our marina berth at 22.10 having passed lines to our adoring wives.

Time underway: 158 hours … 124 motor-sailing, 34 under sail alone.
Total Distance Logged: 858 NM
Average speed: 5.4 kts
Diesel consumption: 250 L at approx 2,500 revs. Consumption approximately 2L per Hour

John Latham, 25 September 2018

Ross O'Leary of MGM Boats adds: The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349 is currently the most successful and best-selling production sailing cruiser in Ireland. Perfect size for our shores - it offers great comfort, space and stability. Modern chined hull design with twin rudders give unrivalled seakeeping performance that suits all levels of sailing experience. 

Published in MGM Boats
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#FerryNews - What about taking a novel excursion this summer as the Isle of Man Steam Packet offer the popular annual 'Round the Island' cruise this month, bringing an opportunity to take in the spectacular Manx coastline.

The Steam-Packet which makes the Isle of Man easily accessible with routes from Dublin, Belfast, Heysham and Liverpool, will operate Ben-My-Chree on the evening cruise this month on Saturday, 23 June.

The cruise taking around 4 hours to circumnavigate the largest island in the heart of the Irish Sea, departs the Manx capital, Douglas (at 7pm). 

Among the cruise's coastal attractions is the Calf of Man, a 250 hectare island separated from the mainland by the narrow waters of Calf Sound. At Peel is the Viking constructed 11th century Peel Castle perched on St. Patrick's Isle that is connected to the harbour town by a causeway.

In addition the many offshore views of rural landscapes and on stretches rising steeply to mountainous terrain leading to the interior. The island's highest peak, Snaefell is 2,037 feet (620.9 m) above sea level from where the island's only other commercial port is Ramsey.

So come on board the recently overhauled, Ben-My-Chree, from where you can soak up the stunning rugged coastline while enjoying a meal which is included in the fare, costing just £28.00 for adults. Fares for children are £15, again inclusive of a main meal, drink (non-alcoholic) and ice cream.

During the cruise, the bar will not be open during the sailing as the vessel is not licensed to sell alcohol while cruising within Manx waters. If you would like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage with your meal the operator says that you can bring your own (BYO) only for this sailing.

To make a booking please call the operator's Reservations Team on 661661 (IOM), 08722 992 992* (UK) or 0044 8722 992 992* (ROI & Outside UK).

Telephone Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday 0830-1800
Saturday and Sunday 0900-1800

In addition bookings can be made at the Ferry Travel Shop, Sea Terminal, Douglas.

Published in Ferry

Exploring the Shannon by boat with a Carrickcraft three-day cruiser hire was not the first choice for David O'Brien and family's September weekend getaway. But North Roscommon gave a lot more than expected

With the summer ebbing away, my family were in need of a short holiday, but we had grown so tired of no–care airlines that even the prospect of the Aircoach was beginning to make it more like a chore than a well-earned break. There must be some other way to spend quality family time without the queues, we thought.

What's more, I was determined to show my family, comprising of my wife Lisa and children Isabel (15) and Thomas (13), that Ireland could offer much more than the usual format of the so-called 'city break'.

crowded departures area of dublin airportFar away fields are always greener – but the prospect of 'Please arrive three hours early for your flight' and a crowded departures area of Dublin Airport did not inspire us...

Shannon rush hour 2570...so we swapped it for rush hour on the Shannon...

I suggested some local options. "How about a River Shannon cruise?"

It was a question that, quite honestly, did get a mixed reaction at the kitchen table. But with an open mind and a sense of adventure it was something they all thought (eventually) would be worthwhile giving a shot. 

Plotting the course

The navigable River Shannon runs for 400km but if you've got just three days, where does a novice start?

It might be the essence of leisurely cruising to drift along, going where the river might take you, but that could not be this weekend's plan. In order to satisfy my teenage crew, I felt this had to be exactly the opposite: a 72–hour whistle stop tour packing in as much fun as we could along the way.

But could a 20km stretch in North Roscommon really measure up to a weekend in London, for example?

The county is landlocked, yet there are plenty of lakes to make up for the lack of any coastline. Loughs Key, Allen and Ree are all situated in the county. But more than that, one of the more notable features of Roscommon is the fact it is the home of well-known actor Chris O'Dowd, who grew up in Boyle. He's also a family favourite, as it happens.

I150627 151841 978497oTextTRMRMMGLPICT000032523369oMoone Boy on Sky Two: Chris O'Dowd (left) as Sean Murphy and David Rawle as Martin Moone is a big hit in Boyle. Photo: Sky

Experience had taught me it's the simple things that mean the most, so I was sure that if I spent a little time in planning it could go a long way. I decided there were some basic requirements for a successful trip that would provide fun for the family and some nice memories. 

First of all, we'd want our weekend to have minimum travel time to the destination. There should be activities for my family to do together, and the chance to learn something new. 
There should also be easy access to dining options. They say cooking on board is a Shannon cruise pleasure but we decided against it – it's meant to be a holiday, after all. 

And I knew well that if we ended up stranded on the river bank looking at one bag of crisps, with a long walk at dusk to the nearest town, then it would be a short–lived cruise at that. 

Carrickcraft is a leading Irish Shannon cruise hire firm that has a base in Carrick-on-Shannon in Co Leitrim. I booked a three-day cruise with a start and finish in Carrick, on board a self-drive Kilkenny Class (4 + 2 Berth) for three nights priced at €765.

In search of 'The Moone Boy Burger'

On the map, Carrick looked like a central enough location, and not too remote. But early research into what we might do when on the water wasn't easy. Certainly, there were guides but not much in terms of joined-up thinking for waterborne tourists.

There were navigation charts. There were route planners. There were restaurant guides. There were activity guides. But what I needed was the nice easy spoonful of an entire travel plan that tied in journey times with berthage, activities with restaurants.

For instance, I spotted that some of the nicest sounding restaurants in Georgina Campbell's invaluable Inland Waterways Restaurant Guide were not always accessible by boat. I just coudn't work out how we could get to a restaurant at dusk and back in the dead of night. Taxis in this neck of the woods can be as rare as river kingfishers. And dark country roads are not pedestrian-friendly.

To make a success of our short break, I had to join the dots between time, food and river, so I ended up making up my own itinerary – an idiot's guide, if you will, to cruising on the River Shannon: the 72–hour edition!

Navigational guide shannonThe Navigational Guide to the Shannon is a captain's handbook that charts the river and gives plenty of tips. It has drawings of harbours and jetties and makes it easy to plot your course. You get a copy when you hop on board your cruiser. Courtesy: Shannon Leisure Development Company Ltd

My research time was well spent, though, because within an hour or so I had sketched out a voyage that might involve wildlife, history, literary links, Hollywood stars, gourmet food, navigational tips and exercises, bike trails, high-wire tree-top adventures, castles and islands. But most of all, we would be captains of our own ship of adventure as we steamed up and down the River Shannon, in search of 'The Moone Boy Burger'.

Did we expect to find such weekend adventure and welcomes, just an hour-and-a-half from home? No, we certainly didn't.

Here's how our trip worked out: 

Friday – Downstream to Jamestown

12 noon – It's half-day Friday! Collected kids from school and headed straight for the N4. From Dun Laoghaire it's two hours (169.2 km) via the M4 and N4 to Carrick-on-Shannon.

2pm – Check-in at the Carrickcraft base, and meeting our cruiser for the weekend. (Top tip: Park your car near the jetty for handy loading/unloading.)

Shannon CarickcraftFirst sight of our weekend home, Carrickcaft's Kilkenny class E22 cruiser. Journey time has been so instant the kids are still in school uniform!

2.30pm – Before we set sail, it's straight to restaurant #1: lunch at the Oarsman!

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Seven generations of proud hospitality keeping in Carrick-on-Shannon. A tradition stretching back to 1870 (above and below), The Oarsman is a fine spot for a fortifying pre-cruise lunch and it's round the corner from Carrickcraft's marina

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123

4.30pm – We get an instructional tour of our Kilkenny Class cruiser and a helpful driving test from our Carrickcraft guide, Padraig. And there's a bit to know: If you're reversing, steer left if you want to go right. Gottit?

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Padraig from Carrickcraft gave us a thorough guide of our self-drive cruiser. No experience (or licence) is necessary to rent a cruiser as full training is given 

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123There are rules of the river and also rules onboard. This sign behind the loo made the kids chuckle

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123 This layout plan gives the broad outline of the Kilkenny’s effective accommodation, but the forward cabin is best with no engine noise  Illustration: Carrickcraft

5pm – We depart Carrick-on-Shannon and head downstream under the bridge to Jamestown, because restaurant #2 has been booked for at least a fortnight.

Carrick jamestown 1Downstream from Carrick-on-Shannon to our first port of call at Jamestown, both in Co Leitrim, served as a good shake-down on our first evening afloat Courtesy: Shannon Leisure Development Company Ltd

Nav sign Jamestown 0147Navigation for cruisers is not possible downstream of Jamestown

current river shannon 2620The strong flow is visible on the marker poles

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123We moored at Ardanaffrin Bridge, on the Jamestown Canal (we're the cruiser nearest the camera). This mooring is round the corner from Jamestown but probably the safest because it's away from a fast-flowing stretch of river at Jamestown Bridge. The village is a pleasant 15–minute walk from here

6pm – 'Watch out for the strong flow on the river at the end of the navigation.' Whoa, they're not joking! No room at the inn at Jamestown Quay thanks to a couple of what looks like long term harbour hoggers but we find a spot round the corner and berth up for the night on the nearby Jamestown Canal at Ardanaffrin Bridge. Glad of the company of one other cruiser, it feels lovely but a tad isolated.

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123On foot – some onboard hi-viz jackets would be handy...

Jamstown sign 0125Jamestown used to be on the main Sligo–Dublin road (N4) and was known for the narrow pillars of the arch of the old town gate that straddles the road in the centre of the village

6.20pm – It's Shank's Mare to the village. Just need to remember where we parked the boat for the return journey in the dark! No street lights round here...

6.30pm – It's anicent Ireland time as we pass through the town gates. No wonder Roscommon marketeers use the phrase 'the beating heart of Ireland's past' to describe the place.

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123One of Jamestown's two pubs, The Arch Bar

6.40pm – We're at the Arch Bar for pre-dinner pool and pints.

7.10pm – Leitirm's gourmet capital is found in The Cottage, a modestly named and presented restaurant. Inside, a giant portrait of the owner's father sitting astride a giant ox is an early clue that there's more than cottage pie on offer here...

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123The Cottage Restaurant. Make sure to book in advance – they come from as far as Sligo to sample this cuisine

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123With starters served in cigar boxes, Chef Sham and manager Lee Hanifa pull out all the stops in a restaurant that uses only locally sourced produce. What a first night treat!

10.30pm – Taxi! No Uber or Hailo here. It turns out to be a bit of a wait for Jamestown's only cabbie, CK (Tel: 086 0772020). It's a €7 fare well spent, though, as we avoid walking on some pitch-black switch back roads (no paths, no street lights).

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123A great night comes to end – CK Taxi is well worth the fare... if you can get him. 

11pm – Goodnight!

Saturday – Upstream to Lough Key Forest Park and Boyle

Thomas coiling rope 0276Learning about mooring ropes. Between casting off, steering, navigating and negotiating locks, there are plenty of new skills to learn

8am – Good morning! After some early morning reconnaisance on foot, we like the idea of a short detour to explore Jamestown Canal. 

 Jamestown canal 0165

8.40am – It's like stepping back in time. Solitude. 

 Jamestown canal sign 0168Although the sign is erected to the memory of a past generation, the canal is relatively new in the context of the Shannon's 5,000-year history

8.50am Immersed in this Victorian feat of engineering, it's left to Thomas to ask: "Dad, how are we gonna turn around?"

8.55am We manage a six–point turn. The E22 is pretty manoeuvrable. Phew! And in the process, we catch the unmistakable glimpse of a kingfisher flying alongside us.

9am – Turning back on ourselves, we head upriver on our journey to Lough Key Forest Park.

carrick Eldin 2We headed back upriver past Carrick and through Lough Eidin into the Boyle River on our way to Lough Key in Co Roscommon, a very manageable voyage of two or three hours in total  Courtesy: Shannon Leisure Development Company Ltd

9.15am – This shower will pass! The heavens open and we're glad we've got umbrellas on the flybridge.

windscreen wipers boatIt wasn't all plain sailing....we got some heavy showers

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123There's a pan and a gas hob that's only waitin' for the kettle and the rashers....

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Is there any finer way to enjoy a rasher sandwich than with a nice cup of tea sauntering down the Shannon, master of your own ship?

9.30am – Breakfast as we cruise: rasher sandwiches and a hot cup of tea served on deck. Can you beat it?

10am – Pitstop at Carrick to, ahem, check the car's locked!

10.05am – (Car now locked.)

10.30am – There's a knack to this navigation thing, but it's a game for all the family as we plot our course upriver. We remember to keep the red buoys to our left and the green on our right upstream. Downstream it's the opposite, green on left and red on right.

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Every day's a school day on the river....the kids enjoyed rudiments of navigation in the well laid-out captain's handbook

11am – Into Lough Eidin. This beautiful lake hit the headlines in 2000 when President Mary McAleese applied for planning persmission to build a lakeside house, outbuildings and a jetty here. We can see why, it's a tranquil place...just don’t scour the books looking for it by that name because it's more locally known as 'Drumharlow Lake' and it's a top fishing spot.

11.20am – Into the Boyle River.

boats river shannon 2654Navigation gets a bit tighter on the Boyle River – especially if you meet oncoming boats

cootehall hedge sign 2664What other village has a topiary sign for its boating traffic? COOTEHALL shrubs are clipped into shape on a bend in the river

11.40am – Cootehall. What an enchanting bend in the river that invites further exploration of John McGahern's hometown, but the quay has already got boats on it. Another jetty is in a state of collapse. Sadly, we sail on.

11.50am – Oakport Lough.

oakport lake leitrim 2860Oakport Lough is located six miles northeast of Boyle beside the village of Cootehall and known for its excellent angling. Fishing is into 10 feet of water and the lake has bream to 5 lbs, roach rudd and hybrids

Knockvicar Boyle river 2691A bridge at Knockvicar. Keep to the marked navigation arch (seen here on the right) when negotiating bridges

12 noon – We pass Knockvicar and Tara Marina and continue on the winding Boyle river.

12.30pm – Clarendon Lock, with its picturesque weir, is a very pretty Shannon setting.

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Clarendon Lock at Knockvicar is the only lock on the Boyle River. Thomas is in charge of the bow rope, while Isabel is on stern rope duty

Lough key 3After the narrow navigating up the Boyle River the magic of Lough Key awaits  Courtesy: Shannon Leisure Development Company Ltd

12.35pm – Call from Seamus in Bike Trails: "Are ye still coming?" "See ya in 40 minutes, Seamus."

Lough Key cruisers 2798Shannon cruisers enter Lough Key – September is a popular month on the Lough

12.50pm – We spot The Moorings restaurant and a handy adjacent marina. Could this be a lakeside dining detour tonight?

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123This restaurant looked like a lovely spot but there's no where nearby to park unless you're a berth holder at a nearby marina

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123 

1pm – Making our way across the lough, we pass several small islands, then it's a 90 degree left for our overnight berth. It's like we've sailed into a scene from Lord of the Rings with forests, islands, castles and turrets on every headland!

lough key castle 2764There is reference to Castle Island in the annals of 'Lough Ce' as early as 1184. During this time the park was called Moylurg and the Kings of Moylurg were the McDermotts. The McDermott’s official residence was on The Rock, now called Castle Island

1.10pm – Mooring at Lough Key Forest Park Marina.

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123The 50–berth marina has all the facilities to go with it, including a shower block. But you need a smart card to access it

lough Key forest 0383Some great forest trails

1.45pm – We saddle up with Seamus and we're on our way on an 8km bike trail.

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Hiring bikes is convenient at Lough Key. We hired four on site at €30 for an hour or so. The cycle trail is well suited to families with kids bikes, bikes with child seats or tag-a-longs. As these trails are completely traffic-free, they are a great place to teach your children to cycle and grow their confidence on a bike. There are approximately 8km of traffic-free trails in the park

3pm – What a ride! Tummies rumbling, we're ready for a snack at the Woodland Cafe.

4pm – Time for an afternoon nap on board for some, a spot of fishing for others. And is there time for Zipit? Certainly.

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Feelings of trepidation as you climb and swing from tree to tree on the Zipit line

6.45pm – We take the Ranger Service for the 3km shuttle into Boyle. We're the only passengers. 

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123The Ranger timetable 

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Efforts are being made to connect local moorings at Lough Key and the Boyle Marina with the town. A 15–minute run into town on the Ranger Shuttle costs just €1 per head. Our driver gave us a guided tour too!

6.55pm – Our bus driver points out Chris O'Dowd's family home. We're closing in on Moone Boy now!

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Boyle is a large, modern town with a rich history, much of it centred around the King family, one of the wealthiest families in 17th-century Ireland. Boyle is keen to make more of its riverside location but this is limited because moorings are located well outside of the town

7pm – We arrive in Boyle and pick up supplies at Londis on the hill. Oops, forgot the carrier bag! But the shop owner offers to drive us back to the boat. It's typical of the warm welcome here.

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123

7.05pm – We head to Clarke's Bar and Restaurant in search of the 'Moone Boy Burger'. 

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123The Moone Boy Burger (It's got an egg on top) – we eventually found this massive patty at James Clarke's authentic Irish pub in Boyle town. It's not the only thing we got – there was a great welcome for boaters here, too

9.45pm – Waiting for the return shuttlebus at King House.

10pm – We arrive back at Lough Key Marina. Still the only passengers.

10.05pm – Back on board E22. Why can't we get this heating to work?

10.06pm – Brrr! Night, night!

Sunday - Downstream to Carrick–on–Shannon (and Dun Laoghaire)

8am – A spot of early morning fishin'?

lough key fisihng 2737Early morning spinning. We read that September is a great month for Pike but try as we might, there was not a sign. 'That's why it's called fishin' and not catchin', I tell Thomas...

9am – Feeding the ducks as we wait for the onsite cafe to open.

10am – Breakfast toasties in hand, we're heading for downstream for home. 

10.05am – Across Lough Key in autumn sunshine.

lough key sunrise 2731

11.40am – Back in Cootehall – and now there's a free quayside berth! Take it!

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123On a bend in the Boyle River, yet another picturesque spot appeared in front of us – except when we went ashore, we found it deserted. 

12 noon – We hop ashore to explore. The door is locked at McHenry's. Everyone's at Mass....

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Even MJ Henry's was locked up. The only telltale sign of life was a community notice board with a plea from locals for 'a bustling riverside village for boaters on the Lough Key route'

Arch Bar Jamestown 0123Riverside tribute: Cootehall was home to John McGahern, one of the most important Irish writers of the latter half of the 20th century

12.10pm – Back aboard cruiser E22.

12.2pm – Enter Lough Eldin. A pair of swans take flight and fly alongside us for seemingly ages. Even enough time to grab the camera. It edges out yesterday's kingfisher as the wildlife highlight of the trip.

Swans Leitrim 2847

13.30pm – Return to Carrick-on-Shannon Marina, leaving E22 as we found her. 

carrickcraft kilkenny class cruiserThanks for the memories, E22!

4pm – We arrive home in Dublin. Time for homework and school in the morning...

What's the verdict?

Writing in the Sunday Times recently, columnist India Knight described how a friend holidayed just 40 minutes from where she lived. She concluded that the things we love doing are often familiar – and close to home. This Shannon trip proved this was also the case for us. From kingfisher spotting to tree-top advenure, this was an intrpeid voyage by our standards. We never expected to find such good times along the river, and we thoroughly enjoyed our three days afloat.

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Published in Inland Waterways

#Missing - A Dublin-based man was set to be charged with the murder of his wife, who went missing from a Mediterranean cruise earlier this month.

Daniel Belling, a German citizen and IT professional, was detained this week before boarding a flight from Rome to Dublin, as The Irish Times reports.

The arrest came after the crew of the cruise liner MSC Magnifica discovered that Belling’s wife Li Yinglei did not disembark the vessel with him and their two children at Civitavecchia after a 10-day cruise.

Belling was reportedly being held at Rome’s Regina Coeli prison ahead of formal charges today (Friday 24 February).

In other news, a post-mortem was set to take place today on the body of a man taken from a canal on the River Shannon at Killaloe yesterday.

BreakingNews.ie reports that the man in his 60s was recovered by the local Irish Coast Guard unit after he was seen by a passer-by in the water at Killaloe Bridge.

Published in News Update

#CruiseBerth - Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company has welcomed the granting of planning permission for a new cruise liner berth.

As reported earlier today on Afloat.ie, An Bord Pleanála has given the go-ahead for a scaled-down development, accommodating cruise vessels at a maximum 250m in length.

In a statement this afternoon, the harbour company estimates that even this reduced sized berth “could attract 50 cruise calls a year” with an average of 2,000 passengers and crew per call, contributing €10 million to the local economy each season.

“Today's positive outcome now enables cruise tourism in Dublin to significantly grow by allowing Dublin's two ports – Dún Laoghaire and Dublin – to collaborate and work with other stakeholders to exploit this great tourism opportunity,” said DLHC chair Eithne Scott Lennon at the news.

Afloat.ie understands that the Dun Laoghaire Combined Clubs will hold a meeting with the club commodores this evening (Friday 4 November) to discuss the planning decision and its implications.

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#CruiseBerth - An Bord Pleanála’s long-awaited decision on the proposed new cruise berth for Dun Laoghaire is in — and gives the green light for the cruise liner berth.

In a statement on the ruling as seen by Afloat.ie, the planning board has granted permission for a berth to accommodate ships of a maximum 250 metres in length, short of the 340m originally sought to future-proof the harbour for ever larger cruise ships.

The board says its decision to curtail the scale of the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company development was in compliance with relevant Natural and environmental impact statements, as well as in accordance with the National Ports Policy.

The statement also says the 250m limit “would enable the development of an appropriate level of commercial cruise tourism within the harbour” and “strike an acceptable balance between commercial development … and protecting the amenities of recreational users.”

More on this story as it develops.

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Dublin Port Company has announced the launch of its 2016 cruise season as preparations get underway for the return of luxury cruise liner MSC Splendida next week. She is among 113 cruise calls confirmed this season, the largest number of cruise calls in a year for Dublin Port bringing over 180,000 visitors to experience the city’s sights and attractions. Among the 113 calls are four turnaround cruises, which will see passengers travel to Dublin to begin their cruise.

Dublin Port’s cruise business started as early as January with three calls in the first quarter, but the season begins in earnest next week with the arrival of the 333m long MSC Splendida on Tuesday, 3rd May. Currently the 11th longest cruise ship in the world, her inaugural call made maritime history when she became the longest vessel ever to visit Dublin Port last summer. She will return next Tuesday morning carrying over 4,600 passengers and crew on board.
One of this season’s highlights will be the arrival of the 300m long Disney Magic cruise ship when Dublin Port becomes the first Irish port to welcome one of Disney Cruise Line’s signature vessels on Thursday, 26th May. Disney Magic’s maiden call will bring some 3,650 passengers, cast and crew to the capital.
Days later over 200 delegates from leading cruise destinations will converge on Dublin for the Cruise Europe Conference, which will be co-hosted by Dublin Port and Dublin City Council and held in the capital for the first time. The prestigious three day event (31st May – 2nd June 2016) will showcase Dublin to all the major cruise lines and service suppliers of the cruise industry worldwide.
The event comes as Dublin Port plans to market Dublin as a ‘Home Port’ to the cruise industry, having recently established a new cruise tourism development and marketing agency called Cruise Dublin. Set up to promote Dublin as Ireland’s cruise capital to cruise lines internationally, Cruise Dublin works collectively with its members which are drawn from the capital’s leading retail outlets, visitor experiences and tourism bodies, including Fáilte Ireland. As a membership organisation, Cruise Dublin’s remit is to support those businesses in the capital looking to develop their offering in tandem with the future growth of Dublin as a marquee cruise destination.
Pat Ward, Head of Corporate Services, Dublin Port Company, said: “2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for cruise at Dublin Port with 113 cruise calls and over 180,000 visitors scheduled for the port and the city. We are delighted to welcome the return of MSC Splendida, and one of the highlights this season will be the arrival of Disney Magic on her maiden call in May. For the first time this year, Dublin Port will also host the Cruise Europe Conference.”
“Dublin is rapidly developing a reputation among the international cruise lines as a marquee destination that offers passengers easy access to a vibrant European city. Demand in the market is so strong that Dublin Port is being asked by the cruise lines to accommodate ships much larger than we routinely handle, such as the MSC Splendida. With the ABR Project largely complete in the next four years, Dublin Port will have the enhanced infrastructure and capacity to meet market demand for future years. All the signs from the cruise lines now point to Dublin’s potential to become one of the next leading turnaround capitals for cruise passengers by 2020, especially for the North American market.”
Dublin Port’s current operational limit on ship length is 300m, which means that longer ships such as MSC Splendida cannot currently turn within the Liffey and must, therefore either reverse in or reverse out of Dublin Port. Work has already commenced on the €230m ABR Project which will expand capacity in Dublin Port and will be largely completed in four years. The ABR Project, once complete, will mean that larger ships will be able to routinely call at Dublin Port, turn within the expanded Alexandra Basin West and berth as far upriver as East Link Bridge.

Published in Cruise Liners
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It is my belief that there is a ‘Family of the Sea,’ a community of interest uniting maritime people, from those engaged in the sector professionally, to those who take part in marine leisure activities. Bonding these disparate interests together through a focus on the sea and the Irish coastline, the rivers, the lakes, the thread linking to the oceans of the world and what happens on and in them is what I try to do in each fortnightly edition of my THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme. Listen to the podcast below.
When I am preparing the programme, recording interviews, arranging reports, I try to keep this focus which, I hope, results in an interesting half-hour voyage around the maritime sphere of Ireland. It is also why the programme is broadcast here on the AFLOAT website and through community stations which are the voices of local communities and their interests in the maritime sphere. This continues to develop, expanding this ‘community of interest’ which is what I hope to see evolve and is underlined in this new edition of the programme when the head of a company which has been providing travel at sea for over 150 years suggests that an Irish port should be designated as a base for cruise ships. George Barter leads J. Barter Travel and says that the popularity of cruise ship holidays makes this a reasonable possibility.

There would be a lot of competition for that role – including from Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, Waterford, Cork and Galway. Interestingly, Dublin Port has set up its own cruise development and marketing agency, called ‘Cruise Dublin,’ which it says is intended “to grow Dublin as Ireland’s premier cruise port.”

George Barter made the suggestion during a discussion about the popularity of cruise ship holidays, following sea trials of the biggest cruise vessel ever built - the Harmony of the Seas for Royal Caribbean Lines. The trials were conducted off the French coast, where the vessel was built at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire. It cost €800,000 and is so big that it is 167 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower. It has a capacity for 6,000 passengers, 16 decks and needs 2,000 crew. That is 8,000 people aboard one vessel. It is so big that, on its first voyage from Southampton due to take place in May, passengers will be given GPS-style wrist ‘trackers’ to locate their cabins! I talked to George Barter on the programme about why cruise ships are so popular?

There is always something unusual about the sea. For example, the mysterious, green-eyed fish pulled out of Nova Scotia waters and described as a “terrifying 'alien fish' with wings and glowing eyes." The photograph here is by fisherman Scott Tanner who described it as “downright bizarre” - Three feet long, with a long, narrow tail, two prominent fins, a long pointy mouth, nose and teeth and glowing green eyes. You can hear more about it on the programme and that is it not an alien, but has been identified as a rarely seen ‘Knifenose Chimaera,’ a species which swim along the ocean floor, using that long nose to detect the heartbeats of its prey and those long, pointy teeth to dig into the ocean floor to catch them. They are so rare that very little is known about them.
There is also a very special piece of music about the RNLI on the programme. Listen and hear how you can support the lifeboat service through this special composition which remembers Lifeboat Heroes.
if you would like to contact the programme, the Email address is: [email protected]

Published in Island Nation
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Dublin Port Company has announced the launch of Cruise Dublin, the company’s new Cruise Tourism Development and Marketing agency established to grow Dublin as Ireland’s premier port of choice for cruise.

Cruise Dublin’s role is to promote Dublin as Ireland’s cruise capital to cruise lines internationally, working collectively with its members who are drawn from the capital’s leading retail outlets, visitor experiences and tourism bodies, including Fáilte Ireland. As a membership organisation, Cruise Dublin’s remit is to support those businesses in the capital looking to develop their offering in tandem with the future growth of Dublin as a marquee cruise destination.

Its formation comes as figures reveal that cruise tourism is currently growing at a rate of 20 per cent per annum in Dublin, and projected to grow substantially in the coming years. Dublin Port Company’s ABR Project, recently approved by An Bord Pleanála, will facilitate future growth and allow Dublin Port to handle the world’s largest cruise liners, including the 360m long Allure of the Seas. The ABR Project, once complete, will mean that larger ships will be able to routinely call at Dublin, turn within the expanded Alexandra Basin West and berth as far upriver as East Link Bridge, adding a new dimension to the cityscape.

Cruise Dublin’s work begins in earnest tomorrow, when it takes up position at the world’s leading cruise business convention, the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (14-17 March). Dublin will be the only Irish port with a dedicated exhibition space at this year’s event, which attracts over 11,000 attendees and nearly 800 exhibitors annually, bringing together ports, cruise lines, suppliers, travel agents and partners.

During the week, Cruise Dublin will also meet with Cruise Europe to finalise plans for the Cruise Europe Conference in Dublin in 2016. The three day event is set to attract over 200 delegates from leading cruise destinations throughout Europe from all the major cruise lines and service suppliers to the cruise industry worldwide. This is the first time that the event will take place in Dublin, providing an opportunity to showcase the city as a leading cruise tourism destination.

Pat Ward, Head of Corporate Services at Dublin Port Company with responsibility for cruise, said: “Dublin Port Company established Cruise Dublin as a marketing development agency to work collectively with its members to attract international cruise lines to the capital, and represent members in our work with Cruise Ireland, Cruise Europe and Fáilte Ireland.”

“We want to promote Dublin as a premium cruise destination directly to cruise companies and work with businesses in Dublin to tailor packages to the needs of the cruise lines and their passengers. This includes attracting ‘Free Independent Travelers’, who normally disembark without an itinerary. We are looking at developing a systematic approach to guiding these passengers towards our members’ attractions, experiences and shopping using a new Cruise Dublin Visitor Card ahead of, and upon, arrival.”

Representatives from the city’s retailers and attractions, as well as tour operators and members from Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and Fingal Local Authorities recently gathered at Dublin Port for a briefing on Cruise Dublin and the future of cruise tourism at Dublin Port.

Jim Keogan, Assistant CEO, Dublin City Council presented plans of the Docklands development demonstrating the port’s improved connectivity to the city, thus making Dublin a ‘City Centre Port’ and suitable for the ‘home porting’ market.

Dublin Port Company’s Head of Corporate Services with responsibility for cruise, Pat Ward, confirmed; “We are also commencing promotion of Dublin as a ‘Home Port’ which, once established, will dramatically increase the number of bed nights in Dublin. It’s an exciting initiative that needs to be commenced now if Dublin is to reap the rewards by 2020.”

“Dublin Port Company has been the driving force behind the development of Dublin’s burgeoning cruise tourism business, having worked to attract and build this valuable business for the city for over 30 years. This is the next step in creating a positive economic impact for the city, enhancing inbound tourism and contributing to the development of Docklands.”

According to Dublin Port Company’s Chief Executive, Eamonn O’ Reilly; “The big challenge will be a lack of 5 star hotels in and around the Port and the City Centre. We have a window of opportunity to make a difference now, but this can only be achieved if we all work together - the businesses, the agencies and the Port. We are doing our part in our developments – it’s up to the industry now to “jump on board”.

Published in Cruise Liners

Bantry Bay Port Company has launched its first Schools Initiative for 2016 aimed at 5th class primary schools.

The initiative theme ‘A Day in the Life of a Cruise Passenger Visiting Bantry Harbour’ is aimed at encouraging school children to explore the tourism aspect of Bantry harbour and all the wonderful visitor attractions to see and enjoy in the West Cork region.

Tourism plays a vital role in Bantry Bay Port Company’s business with a number of small cruise liners visiting the harbour each year. These cruise passengers and crew visit West Cork during the summer months, bringing a welcome economic tourism contribution to the region.

All 5th classes who participate in the Bantry Bay Port Company’s initiative will be invited on a boat trip around beautiful Garnish Island, compliments of Bantry Bay Port Company. An award will also be given for ‘Best Artwork Piece’ and each participating class and teacher will receive a Class Certificate of Participation.

Captain Paul O’Regan, Bantry Bay Port Company Harbour Master said: “We are excited to be launching our Bantry Bay Port Company Schools Initiative. The initiative is a great way for primary school children to learn about the history of Bantry port and the role it plays in the region. The theme this year relates to cruise tourism and this is an area Bantry Bay Port Company will be aiming to increase in the coming years.’

He continued: ‘Many local families are involved in tourism either directly or indirectly and so it’s important that children understand tourism and the business it generates for the region. We hope our initiative will make learning fun for the school children.’

Projects must contain a high level of visual content and can contain photographs as well as artwork. The creativity of each project will be taken into account when being judged as well as visual impact, originality, content and presentation. Bantry Bay Port Company will provide each participating school with a piece of ply-wood 2ft x 2ft and this must be used for the project. Closing date for submissions is Friday 6th May 2016. All submitted projects will go on public display in Bantry during the summer months.

To register your primary school or for further information, please visit the Bantry Bay Port Company website

Published in Cruise Liners
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Ireland's Commercial Fishing 

The Irish Commercial Fishing Industry employs around 11,000 people in fishing, processing and ancillary services such as sales and marketing. The industry is worth about €1.22 billion annually to the Irish economy. Irish fisheries products are exported all over the world as far as Africa, Japan and China.

FAQs

Over 16,000 people are employed directly or indirectly around the coast, working on over 2,000 registered fishing vessels, in over 160 seafood processing businesses and in 278 aquaculture production units, according to the State's sea fisheries development body Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

All activities that are concerned with growing, catching, processing or transporting fish are part of the commercial fishing industry, the development of which is overseen by BIM. Recreational fishing, as in angling at sea or inland, is the responsibility of Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The Irish fishing industry is valued at 1.22 billion euro in gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2019 figures issued by BIM. Only 179 of Ireland's 2,000 vessels are over 18 metres in length. Where does Irish commercially caught fish come from? Irish fish and shellfish is caught or cultivated within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but Irish fishing grounds are part of the common EU "blue" pond. Commercial fishing is regulated under the terms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983 and with ten-yearly reviews.

The total value of seafood landed into Irish ports was 424 million euro in 2019, according to BIM. High value landings identified in 2019 were haddock, hake, monkfish and megrim. Irish vessels also land into foreign ports, while non-Irish vessels land into Irish ports, principally Castletownbere, Co Cork, and Killybegs, Co Donegal.

There are a number of different methods for catching fish, with technological advances meaning skippers have detailed real time information at their disposal. Fisheries are classified as inshore, midwater, pelagic or deep water. Inshore targets species close to shore and in depths of up to 200 metres, and may include trawling and gillnetting and long-lining. Trawling is regarded as "active", while "passive" or less environmentally harmful fishing methods include use of gill nets, long lines, traps and pots. Pelagic fisheries focus on species which swim close to the surface and up to depths of 200 metres, including migratory mackerel, and tuna, and methods for catching include pair trawling, purse seining, trolling and longlining. Midwater fisheries target species at depths of around 200 metres, using trawling, longlining and jigging. Deepwater fisheries mainly use trawling for species which are found at depths of over 600 metres.

There are several segments for different catching methods in the registered Irish fleet – the largest segment being polyvalent or multi-purpose vessels using several types of gear which may be active and passive. The polyvalent segment ranges from small inshore vessels engaged in netting and potting to medium and larger vessels targeting whitefish, pelagic (herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting) species and bivalve molluscs. The refrigerated seawater (RSW) pelagic segment is engaged mainly in fishing for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting only. The beam trawling segment focuses on flatfish such as sole and plaice. The aquaculture segment is exclusively for managing, developing and servicing fish farming areas and can collect spat from wild mussel stocks.

The top 20 species landed by value in 2019 were mackerel (78 million euro); Dublin Bay prawn (59 million euro); horse mackerel (17 million euro); monkfish (17 million euro); brown crab (16 million euro); hake (11 million euro); blue whiting (10 million euro); megrim (10 million euro); haddock (9 million euro); tuna (7 million euro); scallop (6 million euro); whelk (5 million euro); whiting (4 million euro); sprat (3 million euro); herring (3 million euro); lobster (2 million euro); turbot (2 million euro); cod (2 million euro); boarfish (2 million euro).

Ireland has approximately 220 million acres of marine territory, rich in marine biodiversity. A marine biodiversity scheme under Ireland's operational programme, which is co-funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and the Government, aims to reduce the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the marine environment, including avoidance and reduction of unwanted catch.

EU fisheries ministers hold an annual pre-Christmas council in Brussels to decide on total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is based on advice from scientific bodies such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. In Ireland's case, the State's Marine Institute publishes an annual "stock book" which provides the most up to date stock status and scientific advice on over 60 fish stocks exploited by the Irish fleet. Total allowable catches are supplemented by various technical measures to control effort, such as the size of net mesh for various species.

The west Cork harbour of Castletownbere is Ireland's biggest whitefish port. Killybegs, Co Donegal is the most important port for pelagic (herring, mackerel, blue whiting) landings. Fish are also landed into Dingle, Co Kerry, Rossaveal, Co Galway, Howth, Co Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, Union Hall, Co Cork, Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Clogherhead, Co Louth. The busiest Northern Irish ports are Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel, Co Down.

Yes, EU quotas are allocated to other fleets within the Irish EEZ, and Ireland has long been a transhipment point for fish caught by the Spanish whitefish fleet in particular. Dingle, Co Kerry has seen an increase in foreign landings, as has Castletownbere. The west Cork port recorded foreign landings of 36 million euro or 48 per cent in 2019, and has long been nicknamed the "peseta" port, due to the presence of Spanish-owned transhipment plant, Eiranova, on Dinish island.

Most fish and shellfish caught or cultivated in Irish waters is for the export market, and this was hit hard from the early stages of this year's Covid-19 pandemic. The EU, Asia and Britain are the main export markets, while the middle Eastern market is also developing and the African market has seen a fall in value and volume, according to figures for 2019 issued by BIM.

Fish was once a penitential food, eaten for religious reasons every Friday. BIM has worked hard over several decades to develop its appeal. Ireland is not like Spain – our land is too good to transform us into a nation of fish eaters, but the obvious health benefits are seeing a growth in demand. Seafood retail sales rose by one per cent in 2019 to 300 million euro. Salmon and cod remain the most popular species, while BIM reports an increase in sales of haddock, trout and the pangasius or freshwater catfish which is cultivated primarily in Vietnam and Cambodia and imported by supermarkets here.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1983, pooled marine resources – with Ireland having some of the richest grounds and one of the largest sea areas at the time, but only receiving four per cent of allocated catch by a quota system. A system known as the "Hague Preferences" did recognise the need to safeguard the particular needs of regions where local populations are especially dependent on fisheries and related activities. The State's Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, based in Clonakilty, Co Cork, works with the Naval Service on administering the EU CFP. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and Department of Transport regulate licensing and training requirements, while the Marine Survey Office is responsible for the implementation of all national and international legislation in relation to safety of shipping and the prevention of pollution.

Yes, a range of certificates of competency are required for skippers and crew. Training is the remit of BIM, which runs two national fisheries colleges at Greencastle, Co Donegal and Castletownbere, Co Cork. There have been calls for the colleges to be incorporated into the third-level structure of education, with qualifications recognised as such.

Safety is always an issue, in spite of technological improvements, as fishing is a hazardous occupation and climate change is having its impact on the severity of storms at sea. Fishing skippers and crews are required to hold a number of certificates of competency, including safety and navigation, and wearing of personal flotation devices is a legal requirement. Accidents come under the remit of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, and the Health and Safety Authority. The MCIB does not find fault or blame, but will make recommendations to the Minister for Transport to avoid a recurrence of incidents.

Fish are part of a marine ecosystem and an integral part of the marine food web. Changing climate is having a negative impact on the health of the oceans, and there have been more frequent reports of warmer water species being caught further and further north in Irish waters.

Brexit, Covid 19, EU policies and safety – Britain is a key market for Irish seafood, and 38 per cent of the Irish catch is taken from the waters around its coast. Ireland's top two species – mackerel and prawns - are 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, dependent on British waters. Also, there are serious fears within the Irish industry about the impact of EU vessels, should they be expelled from British waters, opting to focus even more efforts on Ireland's rich marine resource. Covid-19 has forced closure of international seafood markets, with high value fish sold to restaurants taking a large hit. A temporary tie-up support scheme for whitefish vessels introduced for the summer of 2020 was condemned by industry organisations as "designed to fail".

Sources: Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Marine Institute, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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