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#ribs – At 20:48 last night Baltimore's RNLI all weather lifeboat was alerted to a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) adrift four miles south of Glandore in West Cork. The lifeboat proceeded to rendezvous with the two young men who had been en route from Cork to Baltimore when their engine failed.

Crew member Diarmuid Collins went aboard the RIB to establish a tow. The lifeboat then towed them to the safety of Baltimore Harbour.

On board the 'Alan Massey; lifeboat were Coxswain Kieran Collins, mechanic Brian McSweeney, Pat Collins, Diarmuid Colllins, Tadhg Collins, Jim Baker, John O'Flynn.

Published in RIBs
Tagged under

The sailing paradise of West Cork on Ireland's south-west coast is at its best right now, and the south coast fleets are already heading that way for the traditional West Cork regattas in August. WM Nixon reflects on the magic sailing region of West Cork. 

West Cork is as much of a frame of mind as a specific place. Officially, we might suppose it to extend all the way along the Rebel County's coast from the Old Head of Kinsale to Dursey Island away in the far nor'west, up at the north side of the wide entrance to Bantry Bay. But this doesn't necessarily mean that all the folk in the hinterland north of this coastline see themselves as being in West Cork.

As for boat people, our limits are much more narrowly defined. If you're afloat down there, West Cork is that sublime but compact bit of coastline between Galley Head and Mizen Head, just 38 miles as the gannet flies. It's the ultimate lotus land, with an interesting scattering of islands, blessed moreover with an abundance of sheltered natural harbours each with its own port town or village vying with its neighbours in colourful character. And visible from much of it is the Fastnet Rock, mysteriously a place of the remotest ocean despite being only a matter of four miles from the nearest land at Cape Clear.

In this magic land, the local mini-capital is of course Skibbereen, the very essence of a rural market town. But on the coast, the very different harbours of Schull, Baltimore, and sometimes even Glandore have been seen over the years as the sailors' capital of West Cork. Recently, however, it is Baltimore which has gone from strength to strength to affirm its position as the sailing capital of the southwest, and spending a June night there as summer settled comfortably over Munster reinforced the impression of its pre-eminence.

We were on a bit of a land cruise, so the bed for the night was in the Waterfront, the hotel where Room 12 is just about as near to the beating heart of Baltimore as you can get. Aboard a cruiser in Baltimore, you can enjoy that splendid isolation which a boat so easily confers. But in Room 12 on top of the Waterfront's northwest corner above the square, the busy life of the little port town bubbles about you, and the views across to Sherkin Island and over the country to Mount Gabriel get even more perfect with the approach of sunset.

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The view from Room 12 at the Waterfront in Baltimore. The sun has set beyond Mount Gabriel, but somebody is busy launching a newly-arrived RIB by floodlight, and the buzz from the square below is still rising. Photo: W M Nixon

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It has to be one of the best arrivals in world sailing. A cruiser enters Baltimore beneath the Baltimore Beacon, aka Lot's Wife. Photo: W M Nixon

It was fifty years ago when I first sailed in to Baltimore, coming in from the west on a round Ireland cruise, and entering port close under the beacon – Lot's Wife they call it – to find a quiet little place which showed some signs of a former prosperity, and hinted at better times to come. Back in 1964, it still had its railway station, but the West Cork Line was in its final year and was soon to be totally closed. Before that happened, later that summer when Baltimore Sailing Club hosted Dinghy Week for the Irish Dinghy Racing Association, the Firefly Class in Dun Laoghaire – mostly university boats – had been able to have a Tuesday night race. Then they'd towed their boats into Dun Laoghaire station on the launching trolleys, put them onto a CIE flat truck, and found them on Friday night safely delivered by rail the entire way to West Cork, offloaded ready at the harbourside station in Baltimore, and waiting for the arrival of thirsty crews keen for a bit of sport.

Mostly, they'd got themselves there by overloading some little car belonging to somebody or other's mother, so the fact that they disdained to use the railway themselves would help to explain why such a charming amenity was doomed. Since then, of course, Baltimore Railway Station from 1969 until recently had become Ireland's first Glenans base. But life moves on, the Glenans model doesn't seem to work any more in Ireland, so now the former station is for sale by the powers-that-be, and there are ructions being raised about it all which should keep everybody nicely exercised through the rest of the summer.

It was another French import which currently sets the pace in Baltimore. Around 1980 a young Breton fisherman, Youen Jacob, came into the harbour, and in time he settled there. To say that Youen Jacob has played a major role in Baltimore life is understating the case. It is he and his family who have developed the Waterfront – quite a challenge in somewhere as conservative as West Cork – and with Youen Jnr's Jolie Brise restaurant and guest house beside it to provide an alternative aspect of good Breton cuisine, the Jacob family's establishments have given a healthy new configuration to Baltimore's miniature harbourside square, and have settled in so well you could be forgiven for thinking the little town was built around them.

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The Waterfront (right) and Jolie Brise at the south side of the mini-square in Baltimore bring a welcome breath of Brittany to West Cork. Photo: W M Nixon

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It's party time in Baltimore. The al fresco lifestyle is expected in West Cork in summer. Photo: W M Nixon

There are times when you'd understandably think this is the hub of the maritime universe, and why not? But if, during a quiet cruise, you think you might find it too hectic at night when the joint really is jumping, the sensible thing is to call by at lunchtime when everybody is out at the islands and Baltimore is refreshed and catching its breath for the next night's partying. Then in the evening, you can pop over to Sherkin Island where peace will reign while Baltimore ramps up the socializing.

Up in our eyrie above the square, we savoured the life of this busy little port. It's not quite a 24-hour town, but late at night boats were still being launched by floodlight, and conviviality continued in the square. Finally, peace descended, and though most folk were slow to stir early in the morning, the first ferries were coming in, and a workboat headed out for the islands, going past Graham Bailey's Peel Castle, the remarkable bisquine-rigged variation on a 50ft 1929-built Cornish lugger which is seen at her best on her mooring in Baltimore harbour. This is only right and proper, as the restoration and re-configuration of Peel Castle took place nearby, just up the Ilen River at one of the boatyards at Oldcourt.

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Good morning Baltimore, how are you? The first ferry arrives in from Sherkin Island. Photo: W M Nixon

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Getting the day's job started. A workboat heads out towards Sherkin past Graham Bailey's distinctive Peel Castle. Photo: W M Nixon

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Peel Castle in all her glory in the middle of Baltimore Harbour. Restoring this 1929-built 50ft Cornish fishing boat and giving her a bisquine rig took Graham Bailey eight years of dedicated work at Oldcourt. Photo: W M Nixon

Another Baltimore revival which gets our approval is the restoration of the castle right in the middle of town, the "tigh mor" which presumably gives the place its name. We suffer from a widespread ruins overload in Ireland, so it's refreshing to find that somebody upped and took action, brining a ruin back to life and giving Baltimore a very effective signature focal point with a useful function. You could do the same to good effect at Dromineer on Lough Derg, where the ruined castle is an eyesore.

But you don't even have to leave the Baltimore area for a worthwhile restoration project, as just across the harbour beside the pier on Sherkin is the roofless ruin of the 15th Century Franciscan friary which we know looks much better with its roof back on, even if it has been missing since the 1770s.

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The restoration of the castle at Baltimore has given welcome and useful new life to a former ruin. Photo: W M Nixon

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The Cove on the south side of Baltimore Harbour has some very desirable real estate. Photo: W M Nixon

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Thanks to its use as a film set in 1973, we know that the friary on Skerkin Island looks much better with it roof in place. Photo: W M Nixon

We know this because, in 1973, the makers of a TV film managed to get permission from the OPW to put a temporary but very convincing roof in place, and it looked so utterly right. The film was the unfairly forgotten Catholics, based on the novel of the same name by Belfast-born Brian Moore, and memorably starring Trevor Howard as the troubled Father Abbot. Even in this usually overlong blog, there isn't space to go into the details of the story, but it's worth viewing Catholics at the very least to see how well Sherkin friary looks with a roof. Alas, when filming was done the production company religiously (how else?) adhered to the OPW's demands to return the very attractive little old building to its ruinous state, and there it sadly sits.

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This year's work on Baltimore Sailing Club has made it even more of a local asset. Photo: W M Nixon

But as regular readers of Afloat.ie will know, other refurbishment and extension work has been under way in Baltimore, with the Sailing Club in fine fettle in its extended premises which look so well you'd think it's all new. It's certainly all of a piece with Baltimore's vitality, which contrasts with other little West Cork ports. In Baltimore, the key to it all is the fact that the Waterfront gallantly stays open all year round. But at present in Schull and Glandore, the main hotels don't even open in summer.

Doubtless in time, and sooner rather than later, both establishments will be brought back to life. But for people genuinely cruising, the absence of a hotel or two doesn't matter that much in an area where the abundance of cruising options and hospitable pubs with good food is almost bewildering. And around Baltimore in particular, there's always something going on.

The wholesome 1893-built cutter Eva (later known as Guillemot) was restored at Oldcourt, which is only a few miles from her birthplace 121 years ago on the Baltimore waterfront. Brian Marten's project to have Eva re-born and continue as Guillemot has come to a successful conclusion after she went through several vicissitudes before he happened upon her, but a visit to Oldcourt will reveal many other boat restoration, re-build and re-birth projects at various stages, including some which - as our accountancy friends would insist on putting it - are no longer going forward.

Be warned, however, that any visit to Oldcourt in any capacity whatever is likely to take longer than you expect, as there's simply so much to see. And they're at every stage, from projects just starting, through projects stalled, to projects nearing completion, while inspiration was being provided by a visiting boat, Darryl Hughes' immaculately-restored 1937 43ft Tyrrell ketch Maybird, which was berthed for a while at Oldcourt to let boatbuilder John Hegarty take off measurements in order to build a traditional clinker dinghy which will fit on board.

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Boats in a row at Oldcourt. The further from the quay, the more ready for sea you are. Furthest out is the 1937 Tyrrell ketch Maybird, with which owner Darryl Hughes regularly attends the annual Yeats Summer School in Sligo. He's the only participant to arrive by sea, and he lives on board at the pontoon in Sligo during the Yeats festival. Photo: W M Nixon

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A new traditional clinker dinghy, built by John Hegarty of Oldcourt, awaits her first coast of varnish. Photo: W M Nixon

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The new dinghy shares space with Conor O'Brien's Ilen, which continues to be a major work in progress. Photo: W M Nixon

Just to show what the result will be like, there was another recently-completed Hegarty dinghy in the Ilen shed, and very well it looked too. As for the restoration of Conor O'Brien's Ilen herself, that can best be described as ongoing. It has become such an absorbing task that the restoration process might best be thought of as an end in itself. Trying to work out what could most usefully be done with this hefty big lump of a boat if she ever is restored to seagoing condition is something which will require many brainstorming sessions, but it surely doesn't need to be considered in too much detail just yet.

The problem with the Ilen is she's too small for some things, and too big for others. She's of the same sort of in-between size which made the first Asgard of limited use as an official sail training vessel. Asgard was fine for teaching young people to sail, but she was simply too small to keep up with the tall ships which also completely overshadowed her in port, where Ireland's little ketch also failed to provide the necessary space and impressive setting for entertaining local bigwigs.

Manageability is the keynote to successful boat restorations. But Oldcourt is such a maritime universe that it can provide examples of what you'd think might have been eminently manageable restoration projects, yet they've ground to a halt. One such is Englyn, the creme de la crème of the boats amateur-designed by Harrison Butler, the English opthalmologist. In the 1930s, he was designing boats which successfully anticipated the highly-regarded designs of Lyle Hess more than forty years later, and the 26ft 6ins Englyn was so highly thought of by cruising guru Eric Hiscock that he included the design in his seminal book Cruising Under Sail, first published 1950.

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Plans of the Harrison Butler-designed Englyn, as featured in Eric Hiscock's Cruising Under Sail.

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A little boat that may have missed the boat. Englyn as she is today. Photo: W M Nixon

If anything, the designs of Harrison Butler are more cherished than ever, and in this blog on May 10th we featured photos of the Harrison Butler Khamseen class cutter which ace boatbuilder Steve Morris is creating near Kilrush. It's heart-breaking to see the lines of Steve's healthy boat palely reflected in the weather-beaten remains of Englyn as she is today. But sometimes boats really can be brought back from the near-dead, and at the two-day Glandore Classic Boat Summer School in mid-July, the entire Sunday afternoon was given over to presentations about boats in various stages of restoration in and around Oldcourt.

Despite some unpleasantnesses visited upon it by the lingering death of the Celtic Tiger, Glandore gallantly soldiers on. Glandore Harbour Yacht Club's new headquarters in a cleverly rebuilt two-storey cottage up a side street (the only side street, as it happens) is appropriate to the good taste which prevails in this sweet place, whose name in Irish can mean either the golden harbour, or the harbour of the oaks - either will do very nicely.

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Glandore Harbour YC's clubhouse is now this cleverly re-built two-storey cottage beside the harbour. Photo: W M Nixon

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The outboard dinghies waiting at the pontoon at Glandore Pier give a good indication of the number of boats based in Glandore and across the harbour at Union Hall. Photo: W M Nixon

The Summer School packed in an extraordinary variety of topics, and even this blogger was wheeled out to develop his thesis based around the ambiguous question: Why shouldn't the Irish be a seafaring people? Don't worry, for those who missed it, we'll push it out again here some time in the depth of winter. But we cannot hope to convey the full wonder of the best event in the Summer School, the question-and-answer session between ocean voyaging and offshore racing legend Don Street and his son Richard.

The old boy hasn't half been around. And if at some time your only experience of Don Street has been a high-pitched New England rant about some iniquity of modern yachting (fibreglass dismissed as "frozen snot", for instance) it's my happy duty to assure you that, as he delved into his extraordinary memories, the pitch of Don Street's distinctive voice became deeper and more resonant, until by the time he concluded all too early, we could have been listening to Captain Ahab himself.

From such a treasure trove of recollection, there were many gems, perhaps the best being about how he came to make his profession in writing about the sea and sailing. In his early days in the Caribbean before he'd put pen to paper, on one run ashore Don and his shipmates met up with Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck, and they'd a convivial time together. Later, heading back along the islands, they'd another dinner with the great writer, and during yarning at table, Don's shipmates insisted he'd so many good stories to tell that he should write them down.

"But I don't know how to spell, and I know nothing about grammar" complained Don.

"But you've a story to tell" said Steinbeck, "and you tell it well. Just you write it down, and the editors will sort out the spelling and the punctuation and the grammar. That's their job."

God be with the days......

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The old man of the sea – Don Street's reminiscences were the highlight of this year's Glandore Classic Boat Summer School. The school sessions were held in the harbourside church, and Don is seen here with his son Richard while he recalls his days in submarines in the US Navy. On the screen is his legendary 1905-built yawl Iolaire, in which he cruised the Caribbean and crossed the Atlantic. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in W M Nixon

#baltimore – The village of Baltimore in West Cork was en fête yesterday (20th July 2014) with the opening of the newly-rebuilt clubhouse for Baltimore Sailing Club by Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food, the Marine & Defence.

The opening follows a proposed Fáilte Ireland sale of the former Glenans sail training school premises in the West Cork town.

As Afloat.ie reported in April the new West Cork club house has been greatly welcomed by Irish sailing and yesterday, the scenic fishing village played host to hundreds of local and national sailors, visitors to the region and the local community, who were hugely supportive of the development of new Clubhouse and its facilities, which embraces all levels of sailing and encourages activity in the waters of the Carbery's 100 isles surrounding Baltimore. St. Fachtna's Silver Band from Skibbereen added to the carnival atmosphere, performing in the open air, with the stunning backdrop of Baltimore and the islands behind and boats of all shapes and sizes rafted up to complete the picture.

Minister Coveney stated: 'Baltimore is a very special place in West Cork, and the vibrancy is palpable from the moment one arrives here. There is an obvious high level of co-operation between the various groups in the village and its hinterland, culminating in the re-building of this impressive structure, offering outstanding facilities for locals and visitors. The Government and its agencies including West Cork Development Partnership, and Cork County Council, are delighted to lend support to the project, in the knowledge that it is significantly improving marine infrastructure in Baltimore. The Government has also supported the building of the new pier and service buildings in Baltimore, and I feel sure that, in the future, this harbour will see many new developments for the better in this wonderful part of west Cork'.

'This project is a testament to a fantastic volunteer effort by our members, supported by the people of Baltimore, and supporters and friends from many walks of life. In particular I'd like to pay tribute to Tony O'Driscoll, my predecessor as Commodore of the Club, whose relentless enthusiasm and hard work saw this project cross the line in jig time.' said Joan Collins, Commodore of the Baltimore Sailing Club.
Joan added: 'Baltimore has retained its friendly village atmosphere and this new clubhouse adds to the offering, with year round activity to encourage people to get on the water and enjoy the freedom of the waters of West Cork. The re-furbishment will be a great boost for our sailing fraternity, and we now have an option to host our events with style, while encouraging additional events which can only be of definite benefit to the Baltimore and greater West Cork area.
The Club is a vibrant and active summer club and has, and will, host several prestigious sailing events. With sailing every weekend throughout the summer and additional events out of season including at Easter (Laser Munsters), the National 18ft Class over June bank holiday weekend this year, and the Optimist Coaching week in February, we will hold many other great events later this year.'

Designed by architect John McCarthy and built by local builder, Michael Joe Leonard, the new Clubhouse space incorporates enhanced facilities for members and visiting sailors, including a new shower block (15 showers) and spaces facilitating events, training, seminars and storage and improved dingy parking. Totally transformed, and re-built at a cost of €400,000, the Club was supported by Cork County Council and West Cork Development Partnership, with match funding provided by the Club itself and by donations from members and the general public. Founded in 1952, Baltimore Sailing Club has over 600 members drawn from the locality and other regions, including several overseas members.

Baltimore is renowned for its sailing courses for children of all levels (85 children availing of this currently), and the Rambler Team Racing for junior club members is very popular again this year. Junior sailors from Crookhaven, Schull, Glandore and Baltimore are also involved in the inter-club Marconi Cup team racing event bringing communities closer together in the region. There is a course for adults in train this year also, and it is hoped to build on this offering into the future.

Sailing events in Baltimore include Baltimore Sailing Club Regatta will take place over the August bank holiday weekend, as will the 1720 Club. The inaugural WOMEN ON THE WATER (WOW) event on August 12th in aid of Breakthrough Cancer Research (part of Cork Cancer Research Centre) will see craft of all shapes and sizes on the water, with onshore fun for all the family. Sponsorship cards are available at the clubhouse and Commodore Collins is confident this event will raise a substantial amount for cancer research.

The Club will also participate in Bart's Bash, one of the first clubs in Ireland to register for this massive world-wide charity event. The clubhouse will also be used by local organisations such as the Baltimore Bridge Club, RNLI, local festival groups and defibrillator personnel, truly embracing all strands of society in the area.

Published in News Update

#Tourism - A Baltimore maritime group says Fáilte Ireland's commitment to coastal tourism "rings very hollow" in light of its proposed sale of the former Glenans sail training school premises in the West Cork town.

Last September Afloat.ie reported on the decision by the French sail training group, one of the biggest such operators in Ireland, to close its bases at Collanmore and Baltimore.

The Baltimore location had operated since 1969 in a redbrick building that was once the southern terminus of the Skibbereen branch line, according to The Irish Times.

But Fáilte Ireland, which took over ownership of the waterfront property from Cork-Kerry Tourism, is "determined to put the station and allied facilities ... on the open market" for sale to to the "highest bidder", says Micheál O'Meara, chair of the Baltimore Maritime Centre/Glenua sail training group.

O'Meara adds that the decision flies in the face of Fáilte Ireland's commitment to the Wild Atlantic Way initiative, as the Old Station House "is a key anchor of the project" with potential to provide maritime education and training alongside sailing courses.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Aquatic Tourism

#Diving - RTÉ News is reporting on a major search and rescue operation for a missing diver after another was airlifted to hospital from the West Cork coast this morning (Wednesday 2 July).

It's thought that the two were diving at a wreck site off Baltimore when they got into difficulty. The condition of the hospitalised diver is not yet known.

Update 12.01pm: RTÉ is now reporting on Twitter that the hospitalised diver has died. The search continues for the missing diver.

Published in Diving

#MarineWildlife - A tip of the hat to @BestBaltimore on Twitter for this video of a dolphin 'superpod' that congregated outside Baltimore Harbour in West Cork yesterday (Thursday 15 May).

Such superpods can comprise as many as 1,000 or more dolphins - so the vast numbers seen here breaching the surface may only have been a fraction of a much larger group.

Early last year researchers captured video of a superpod hundreds of dolphins strong in the Irish Sea, with one describing the scene as "boiling" with the gregarious marine mammals.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#optimist – A top Irish youth sailor has opted out of his place on the European Optimist team in favour of a place on the startline at the world championships in October.

Irish champion sailor Harry Durcan (14) from Royal Cork and Baltimore Sailing Club who came third at the trials this year has made the tough choice to go to the worlds on his own as the IODAI are not sending a team this year.

Harry has opted to go to the Worlds instead of the Europeans as you cannot attend both under Irish Optimist Dinghy Association (IODAI) rulings.

Normally the top five finishers at trials go to the Worlds but this year IODAI are not supporting a team because it's been held during school term.

The World Championships this year are on in San Isidro, Buenos Aires, Argentina in October. Durcan's preparations will be to train with the Irish 2014 Optimist European Team from now until the European event in Dun Laoghaire in order to help them and himself. He will also attend all the Irish regional events. He then plans to train with the Danish Team and their coach Dennis Passke for the week before the Europeans in Dun Laoghaire. He will then travel to Weymouth for the British Nationals at the 2012 Olympic Games venue and from there to Germany for the German nationals in August.

harrydurcanitalianprize

Harry picks up a top Optimist prize in Italy

He goes as the only Irish sailor to Argentina but has completed two world championships before, in Lake Garda in 2013 and the Dominican Republic in 2012.

Durcan also competed an event in Riva Del Garda at Easter and placed 9th out of 800 sailors, the best ever result for an Irish sailor at such an event. In March he was in Oman for an event with some of the top sailors from Europe. 'I am now looking forward to a fun Summer ahead and getting some training and racing under my belt' he told Afloat.ie

Published in Optimist

#lifeboat – On a sunny Easter Sunday Morning, 20th April 2014, both the all weather lifeboat and inshore lifeboat were called upon to give assistance. A yacht had grounded on rocks at a treacherous stretch between Cunnamore Pier and Heir Island in West Cork on a falling tide. The 35ft yacht had 4 people on board at the time. The yacht was well aground when the lifeboats arrived.
The inshore lifeboat RIB crew went aboard the stricken vessel first. A line was secured to the yacht's stern and another line to the masthead. Helm Tadhg Collins on the inshore lifeboat RIB pulled on the masthead line, heeling the yacht over to reduce her draught. Then Coxswain Aidan Bushe on the allweather lifeboat towed the yacht astern to release her from the rocks on which she was wedged.The lifeboat established a tow to bring the yacht to safety. There were no injuries. Winds were fresh North North Easterly.

On the allweather lifeboat Coxswain Aidan Bushe, Mechanic Cathal Cottrell, Eoin Ryan, Ronnie Carthy, Brian MacSweeny, Sean McCarthy, Jerry Smith

On the inshore lifeboat Helm:Tadhg Collins, John Kearney, Jason Pavry

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#Shipping - A cargo ship captain has been fined by Cork District Cork over failing to immediately inform the Irish Coast Guard of engine difficulties suffered by his vessel late last month.

As the Irish Examiner reports, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport brought the case against Turkish national Mehmet Kaya, captain of the 140m Begonia G that was travelling from Foynes to the Port of Cork with its fertiliser cargo on the evening of 27 February when it lost engine power in poor weather some eight miles off Baltimore.

The court hard that the vessel began to drift towards shore, but Valentia Coast Guard was only made aware of the incident independently some two hours after it began.

Kaya's solicitor entered a guilty plea on the charge of breaching a vessel traffic directive in not informing the coastguard of his ship's loss of manoeuvrability.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Ports & Shipping

#dancingRNLI – Despite its battering at the hands of the winter storms Baltimore's maritime community made the best of things by producing an upbeat video to show how resilient the little village is.Filmed on 16th February 2014 hours after storms had ravaged West Cork - this coastal community turned out to dance. Look out for a cast of familiar faces, including a dancing RNLI Lifeboat crew. 

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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