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Marina For Westport Proposed As Major Local Facility And Vital Link For Cruising Atlantic Seaboard

24th August 2022
Westport Quay with Croaghpatrick beyond. Phase One of the proposed marina would be along the straight line of quayside in the foreground, with depths retained by a barrier and sea lock
Westport Quay with Croaghpatrick beyond. Phase One of the proposed marina would be along the straight line of quayside in the foreground, with depths retained by a barrier and sea lock Credit: Courtesy of Mayo.ie

The almost absurdly picturesque township of Westport at the head of Clew Bay has been variously acknowledged and nationally recognised as “Ireland’s Best Place to Visit”, and Ireland’s “Best Place to Live”. Even if dedicated misanthropes would argue that any self-respecting township - however lively and easy it is on the eye – simply can’t be both at once, there’s no doubting that hospitable and facilities-rich Westport has an impressive array of factors in its favour.

Yet this only adds to the frustration of cruising folk making their way along Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard, when they make a diversion into island-studded Clew Bay in the hope of savouring Westport’s numerous charms. For Clew Bay’s many islands – with a host of secret anchorages among them – are simply too much of a good thing.

There are so many islands and sheltered anchorages at the head of Clew BayToo much of a good thing? There are so many islands and sheltered anchorages at the head of Clew Bay that it’s difficult deciding which is the most convenient for accessing Westport (lower right)

Thus it has ended up with the thriving Mayo Sailing Club having its well-furnished base at relatively remote Rosmoney, hidden among the islands and inlets a good 9.2 kilometres northwestward from Westport. Other anchorages conveniently reached from sea are wellnigh inaccessible by land unless you’re in the know on where certain tree-lined un-signed boreens are leading. And while the obvious and most direct seaward access point to Westport is to berth at Westport Quay, much of that ancient port dries or has shallow depths at low water.

Chartlet of Westport Quay – even with a berth here, you are still 3 kilometres from Westport town. Courtesy Irish Cruising Club

And anyway, Westport Quay is itself more than 3 kilometres from Westport itself, which can seem a challengingly long distance if you’d like to amble into town, but have walked no further than the length of a cruising boat’s deck for the past week. That said, Westport Quay is an attractively bustling and hospitable community in its own right, quite enough of a destination in its individuality for many of us. And if you want to hit the bright lights of the big city at Westport itself, it’s only a modest taxi fare to reach one of the best nights on the town Ireland has to offer, if you could only be secure in the knowledge that your boat is safely berthed back in Westport Quay.

But with its uneven depths and large tidal range, Westport Quay cannot provide that guarantee. So not surprisingly, noted Clew Bay sailor Alex Blackwell – better known for his ocean voyaging – has been spending some of his time at home in Mayo during the past decade and more in sussing out the possibilities of providing acceptable modern berthing at Westport Quay, complete with the expected facilities such as a Travelhoist.

Ocean voyagers Alex and Daria Blackwell of Clew Bay. While they keep their 57ft ketch Aleria in a secret anchorage among Clew Bay’s mny islands, Alex is well aware that visiting boats need more immediate access to shoreside facilities

Having built up a cohort of like-minded folk in favour of the idea, they have recently been presenting the idea to stakeholders including the local community, tourist interests, boating enthusiasts, the Chamber of Commerce and Mayo County Council, and they’ve been much encouraged by the favourable response.

The scheme – which could in its entirety provide 130 berths – is in two parts. The first phase depends on the installation of a proper sea lock – not a time-constricting tidal gate – at the west end of the river-like stretch of the harbour beside Westport Quay’s attractive waterfront. Provided the sea lock can offer extensive time options for access to the lower channel (which admittedly has shoal sections) and the open sea beyond, it will give significant freedom of movement for boats based in the enclosed berths, pontoon berths which can be provided without the need for extensive and expensive dredging.

Phase 1 of Westport Marina would be provided by a tidal retention barrier and a sea lock.

Phase 2 is the more ambitious project of dredging the lagoon area close to the westward, immediately south of Roman Island. This is a major concept, as it includes a multi-berth accessible-all-tides marina and 40 acres of recreational water right beside the heart of Westport Quay.

The much more ambitious Phase 2 would involved dredging, but it would provide highly-accessible recreational water space in addition to extra all-tide berths

From the wandering cruising person’s point of view, the possibility of a secure berth in the heart of civilisation will offer an attractive change from the rugged offshore islands and remote anchorages which fill much of the menu in a Connacht cruise. And from a strategic point of view, Westport is one of the most westerly points providing direct access to Ireland’s railway network. Longer term berthing in a marina at Westport Quay would offer all sorts of fresh and accessible cruising possibilities on the Atlantic seaboard from most of Ireland’s major conurbations.

Be warned, however, that if you rail your way down to Westport with a crew just let off the leash after some intensive weeks of work, it may take a will of iron to head immediately to the boat from the train, instead of pausing “just for a minute” to savour the entertainments of Westport in a place like Matt Molloy’s. For he’s a sailing man himself, and you know what it’s like when people get talking about boats.

Matt Molloy of Westport – he would as soon talk about boats as his famous music

Published in Irish Marinas
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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