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Displaying items by tag: Ilen

The Ilen Marine School's 56ft-restored trading ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage is already renowned for her good work when taking part in the Sailing Into Wellness programme. It's one of the ship's many interests that were vividly high-lighted at her home port at the weekend, when she and the city's waterfront at Steamboat Quay were floodlit in green to launch the current Mental Health Week which is now underway at the characterful Shannonside city.

The Mayor of Limerick. Daniel Butler, was among those on board to reinforce the ship's connections with the port and its people, and to emphasise that raising mental health awareness is a special challenge for his city and its citizens, as the stresses of modern life have been exacerbated by a higher-than-average incidence of COVID19 with its related fatalities.

Bringing the Light of Hope to the city – Ilen on the Shannon approaching Limerick to launch the currently-ongoing Limerick Mental Health Awareness Week.Bringing the Light of Hope to the city – Ilen on the Shannon approaching Limerick to launch the currently-ongoing Limerick Mental Health Awareness Week.

The vision of the shining Ilen against a part of the city which speaks of Limerick's future as much as its past was inspiring for all those who witnessed it. And the word is that far from resting at home on her achievements through the winter months, Ilen will be bringing her sense of well-being to other ports on Ireland's Atlantic coast.

In being able to do so, she is maintained by Ilen Marine School Director Gary Mac Mahon and his team to the highest standards, and her refit in September at Oldcourt above Baltimore in West Cork was made possible by widespread goodwill spearheaded by the support of the Heritage Council, which fully recognises the very special role played by Ireland's only surviving trading ketch.

Annual refit – Ilen on the slipway at Hegarty's Boatyard in Oldcourt in September. Photo: Gary MacMahonAnnual refit – Ilen on the slipway at Hegarty's Boatyard in Oldcourt in September. Photo: Gary MacMahon

The work is continuous – a collage showing some of the many and various maintenance tasks required to keep Ilen up to standard. Photos: Gary Mac MahonThe work is continuous – a collage showing some of the many and various maintenance tasks required to keep Ilen up to standard. Photos: Gary Mac Mahon

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While everyone else was staring goggle-eyed at rapidly-changing and decidedly hostile weather charts last Thursday, and wondering whether the weekend's racing was going to be possible at all, in typical style the always-amazing Gary MacMahon was at sea off our most exposed southwest coast in the lovingly-restored 56ft Conor O'Brien ketch Ilen, homeward bound to Limerick after the annual overhaul with Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt above Baltimore.

Since her very special Limerick to West Greenland voyage in 2019, the pandemic has meant the Ilen has been largely Kinsale-based in summer, sailing as much as was permissible for the Sailing into Wellness programme and other worthwhile causes. And her passage home after the annual check-up at Oldcourt – where she was painstakingly restored – has tended to involve freakishly gentle Autumn weather.

When the going was gentler, and full sail could still be carried. Photo: Gary Mac MahonWhen the going was gentler, and full sail could still be carried. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

Weathering Cape Clear, with the end of the Mizen Peninsula fine on the starboard bow. Photo: Gary MacMahonWeathering Cape Clear, with the end of the Mizen Peninsula fine on the starboard bow. Photo: Gary MacMahon

But this year, needs must when the devil drives. For whatever reason, the enigmatic Director of The Ilen Marine School found he was obliged to make the passage in the latter half of last week, and come hell or high water – literally – he did so. He admitted to it being a "wild ride", but the gallant 1926 Conor O'Brien creation – Ireland's only surviving traditional trading ketch – came through it with style, arriving into the Ted Russell Dock in Limerick without a feather out of place.

The highest ocean swells on the West Coast of Ireland come in to the north of the Dingle Peninsula. Photo: Gary MachonThe highest ocean swells on the West Coast of Ireland come in to the north of the Dingle Peninsula. Photo: Gary Machon

Gary is a very visual person in his way of thinking, and we've received a sheaf of un-captioned photos and a couple of anonymous vid clips sent to tell the story. Thus we're winging it with the captions, but so what? – he and his shipmates did it, and did it with style. And there's a special unity to our Great Southwestern Seaboard which makes precision of location of secondary importance,

The Ilen sailing well in more sedate conditions. Photo: Gary Mac MahonThe Ilen sailing well in more sedate conditions. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

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The restored 56ft Limerick ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage is such an eye-catcher - when you can get a proper view of her - that she immediately arouses, in both young and old, the secretly cherished dream of running away to sea. So perhaps it’s as well that, in most secure harbours, pontoon berths, and marinas, the safest spot to locate her often means that it’s difficult to get the complete mind-blowing total view of this unique and characterful ship.

However, during her 2021 programme of voyaging anti-clockwise round Ireland on a project associated with our historic walled ports, this past weekend found her in Greystones, and for once she had a berth in which she could be seen in all her eccentric glory, yet at the same time her location was secure while permitting access by those with a genuine interest. Inevitably, the crew found themselves inviting folk aboard who revealed that they dreamt of running away to sea. And they weren’t all young people by any means. Not surprisingly, after 17 months of lockdown, there are many adults who dream of simply running away to sea, and letting the challenges of voyaging in a vessel like Ilen blow away the cobwebs of covid concern.

The Ilen will be in the Dublin area for the next couple of weeks, based mainly in Howth, but taking in visits to the Port of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Harbour as well. The contact is Ilen Marine School, and maybe you should get your old sailor’s kitbag suitably packed, ready to fulfil the dream if you can manage to find your way aboard.

Ship of Dreams…..the ketch Ilen at Ilfracombe in the Bristol Channel in 1926 shortly before departing on her voyage to the Falklands under Conor O’Brien’s command, while on the quay young boys dream of running away to sea.Ship of Dreams…..the ketch Ilen at Ilfracombe in the Bristol Channel in 1926 shortly before departing on her voyage to the Falklands under Conor O’Brien’s command, while on the quay young boys dream of running away to sea.

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In the recent spell of northerly winds, the 56ft restored Limerick trading ketch Ilen had some superb sailing from a successful civic visit to Galway (where she was much admired) back to her alternative summer base of Kinsale, with two smooth daylight hops and a short overnight pause at Dingle.

The Ilen Marine School are working their way through their Kingship programme of visiting every historic port in Ireland where the harbours used to be an integral part of the original walled town. So after a spell in Kinsale with further work for organisations such as the Sailing Into Wellness programme, the 1926-built Conor O'Brien ketch will make her way eastward to Waterford and New Ross, and then on to Dublin.

But meanwhile, those who were aboard will cherish the memory of great sailing, particularly from Black Head in County Clare offshore of the Cliffs of Moher past Loop Head and then Mount Brandon and on to Blasket Sound and Dingle, Ilen revelling on the good going with all sail set.

Evening arrival. Still carrying the soldier's breeze which has favoured her all the way from Galway, Ilen comes in round the Old Head of Kinsale. Photo: Ilen Marine SchoolEvening arrival. Still carrying the soldier's breeze which has favoured her all the way from Galway, Ilen comes in round the Old Head of Kinsale. Photo: Ilen Marine School

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It has emerged there was much more to the diplomatic voyage of Limerick’s 56ft trading ketch Ilen to Galway at the weekend with the Mayor of Limerick. Councillor Michael Collins, on board.

Officially, it was to launch the Ilen Marine School’s project of providing a tangible first link at Galway between Ireland’s many historic walled ports.

But as the initial stage of the passage was down the long estuary of the River Shannon, the Mayor had the opportunity to reassert his ancient rights as Admiral of the Estuary by the traditional method of ceremonially throwing a silver dart into the mighty waterway’s darkening depths. However, If that dart really was silver, on behalf of Limerick’s rate-payers we presume and hope it came with strings attached……

Published in Ilen

The Limerick Trading ketch Ilen has reached Galway in the first stage of a programme which will eventually see her call at all the Irish ports which, in Mediaeval times, were a remarkable mixture of defensive walled towns and actively-functioning seaports. The Irish Walled Towns Network, a grouping operated through the Heritage Council, seeks to emphasise the aspects are shared by those historical port, and the voyage of the Ilen round Ireland, coupled with a wide variety of events at the ports visited, will be tangible evidence of this ancient reality, with the mayor of Limerick, Councillor Michael Collins, aboard Ilen to be greeted on arrive by Galway’s Deputy Mayor, Councillor Colette Connolly.

The Mayor of Limerick, Councillor Michael Collins, links up with Galway’s Deputy Mayor Colette Connolly at the Ilen in the Port of Galway with Ilen Marine School Director Gary Mac Mahon.   The Mayor of Limerick, Councillor Michael Collins, links up with Galway’s Deputy Mayor Colette Connolly at the Ilen in the Port of Galway with Ilen Marine School Director Gary Mac Mahon.

Ilen is a fine sight on Galway Bay. Photo: Deirdre PowerIlen is a fine sight on Galway Bay. Photo: Deirdre Power

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The Island of Ireland has twelve medieval walled towns with sea harbours on Atlantic and Irish Sea waters writes Gary McMahon of the Ilen Project

The historic Irish sailing ship Ilen will voyage this summer between some of these towns to reveal their unity in its Kingship project - a demonstration of nautical nexus.

On June 11th the Ilen Marine School, Limerick, will launch its Kingship project on the quays at Limerick City.

Kingship, a national project, will celebrate the school’s local walled town, English Town at Limerick City and in that process, reach out to other sea-harboured walled Irish towns. Notably, those towns that Limerick City once enjoyed a vibrant trade and cultural exchange with during the long medieval period - such as Galway, Cork, Waterford and Dublin.

Kingship is a community educational project which stands on the shoulders of local and universal traditions. Specifically, the venerable marine traditions that walled Limerick shares with all walled towns in Ireland and beyond - including London, which the Ilen Marine School’s eponymous sailing ship Ilen will set out for in May 2022.

The sailing vessel Ilen, which the school owns and operates, is the sole surviving representative of a once-great fleet of Irish ocean-going wooden sailing ships. Moreover, her size and traditional type of sailing rig correspond handsomely to that of the medieval period’s sailing vessels - bringing an authentic spirit to these inter-town voyages on which Ilen’s crew will soon embark.

The first inter-walled town voyage will be between Limerick and Galway, reopening an ancient trading under-sail sea-route that united these ancient harbours in an at-once dynamic and uniquely maritime way.

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In the decidedly unsettled weather of this 2021 Spring and early Summer, the restored 56ft trading ketch Ilen of Limerick is acquiring the reputation of being a lucky ship in finding gentler conditions when sea work has to be done in periods of storms. Thus although we're currently in three or four days of meteorological mayhem, as recently as Tuesday Ilen found idyllic conditions in her Community & Cargo Programme to get from her berth at Foynes up to Limerick for the collection of barrels of Thomond Gate Distillery's Limerick Whiskey for delivery to Cappa, the all-tide quay for Kilrush in County Clare. And then a sunny evening westerly swept her back up the Estuary to Foynes and further cargo discharging. Skipper Gary Mac Mahon takes up the story.

Westward bound – the whiskey for West Clare on Steamboat Quay. Photo: Ivan O'RiordanWestward bound – the whiskey for West Clare on Steamboat Quay. Photo: Ivan O'Riordan

Focus of attention – Ilen at Steamboat Quay in Limerick. The quay is so called because the passenger & freight steamships serving the Shannon Estuary berthed here at high water to take on people and cargo for prompt departure towards ports down the estuary as the ebb started to make. Limerick's very big tides mean that ships wishing to stay longer have to go through the sea lock into what is now the Ted Russell Dock. Photo: Ivan O'RiordanFocus of attention – Ilen at Steamboat Quay in Limerick. The quay is so called because the passenger & freight steamships serving the Shannon Estuary berthed here at high water to take on people and cargo for prompt departure towards ports down the estuary as the ebb started to make. Limerick's very big tides mean that ships wishing to stay longer have to go through the sea lock into what is now the Ted Russell Dock. Photo: Ivan O'Riordan

"The elemental pull of a favourable tidal current is a motive power source a lively sailor will never let slip by his ship. And on Tuesday, the spritely Ilen on a cargo voyage took the Lower Shannon tidal current of two floods and one ebb to sail east and west for a logged distance of ninety nautical miles.

Tuesday's Lower Shannon Cargo Voyage enjoyed many cultural and historical synchronicities;

  • 100 years since a cargo of whiskey was loaded on a vessel 
in the city to be sent downriver towards a West Clare bonded stores.
  • 50 years since a commercial vessel got loaded at Steamboat Quay, Limerick.
  • 70 years since the last Lower Shannon cargo sailing vessel 'Alzina' sailed west from 
Limerick, never to return.


And it was all done by Ireland's only surviving wooden sailing trading Ketch 'Ilen'. 
In the early morning, Ilen slipped her lines at the Port of Foynes and - with a tidal flood - made her way to Limerick City, arriving at high water-noon. At Steamboat Quay, Limerick City, she firstly discharged her cargo from Foynes - a cultural gift to Limerick.

A pet day and reflections galore….Ilen approaching Limerick from Foynes in the morning calmA pet day and reflections galore….Ilen approaching Limerick from Foynes in the morning calm. Photo: Dermot Lynch  

With the ebb well made at Cappa, an extending forklift was a help in getting the valuable cargo ashore. Photo: Ian Riordan   With the ebb well made at Cappa, an extending forklift was a help in getting the valuable cargo ashore. Photo: Ian Riordan  

Skipper Gary Mac Mahon looking thoughtful – "You'd look thoughtful if you'd seven thousand euros-worth of whiskey swinging around aloft…" Photo: Ian Riordan   Skipper Gary Mac Mahon looking thoughtful – "You'd look thoughtful if you'd seven thousand euros-worth of whiskey swinging around aloft…" Photo: Ian Riordan  

Loading a cask of whiskey and cargo boxes for discharge at Cappa Quay, West Clare, was an efficient process delaying Ilen no more than 20 minutes. 
Soon she was making downriver toward the west on a Lower Shannon ebb - coming alongside Cappa Quay at 4.30 pm. With crew efficiency matching that displayed at Limerick City, the whiskey cask and cargo boxes were soon discharged onto the magnificent 1830 extension to Cappa Quay, a living relic of the great days of the Shannon steamers.


The final run - Cappa to Foynes, some 20 nautical miles, was covered with a soldiers breeze from west, and tide making east, rounding out a gloriously long and fulfilling day concluding with an evening cargo discharge at Foynes.

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Most people’s memories of the already pandemic-constricted Bank Holiday Weekend will be of Monday's wet and windy storm. But the training crew on the restored Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen of Limerick have only pleasant memories, as a fair weather passage around Ireland's magnificent southwestern seaboard from Winter Quarters in Kinsale saw them well ahead of the bad weather when they came into port at lunchtime Sunday, having rested until the tide made fair with the by-now traditional stopover at Carrigaholt.

The brief feeling of it being high summer already was emphasised by a Women’s Four racing shell from St Michael’s Rowing Club heading downriver with a welcoming eave from the cox. And by the time the storm struck, Ilen was safely and snugly in dock, and the racing shell was comfortably back in the boathouse. With Ilen now positioned in her home port, she is strategically located to swing into further action as soon as the easing of restrictions permits a further broadening of her activities.

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Global circumnavigator and sailing ship designer Conor O’Brien (1880-1952) inevitably saw his most noted vessels, the 42ft world-girdler Saoirse and the 56ft trading ketch Ilen, being closely associated by the rest of the world with their birthplace in Baltimore. But much and all as he liked West Cork, he always insisted that ultimately his heart was in the Shannon Estuary on Foynes Island, where he was living when designed both vessels, and so he made a point of ensuring that they spent some time in the Foynes anchorage before going off on their great voyages. Thus although Saoirse’s pioneering cruise round the world south of the great Capes is generally thought to have started from Dun Laoghaire on June 20th 1923, O’Brien secretly reckoned it had got going from Foynes some weeks earlier. And equally, while the official records show that Ilen’s voyage to the Falkland Islands started from Avonmouth near Bristol on the 26th August 1926, as far as her skipper was concerned, the voyage had got under way from Foynes on the 28th July 1926.

There’s charming proof of this in the Foynes Harbour Master’s personal log from the 1920s. At the time, the HM was Hugh O’Brien, who was Conor O’Brien’s brother-in-law through marriage to one of the voyager’s sisters, while sharing his surname through being distantly related as a de Vere O’Brien of Curragh Chase. As Harbour Master, Hugh O’Brien was wont to embellish his records book with drawings of visiting vessels of special interest, and naturally, the new Ilen got the complete treatment in July 1926, resulting in very tangible evidence of Conor O’Brien’s assertion that this was the ship’s spiritual home port.

Now that Ilen has passed her biennial Department of Transport survey (as recently reported in Afloat.ie), the coming easing of pandemic restrictions means that plans are being firmed up for her programme in May, and she will shortly leave her winter berth in Kinsale to make the familiar passage round Ireland’s majestic southwestern seaboard towards Foynes, where Foynes Yacht Club have generously allocated a berth. This will enable the Ilen Marine School to implement as full a programme as the regulations at the time will permit, and the fact that it will see Ilen spend a longer period at her spiritual home than she ever has in her 95 years of existence will be a salute to the faithfully-kept records of Hugh O’Brien.

Published in Ilen
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Shannon Foynes Port Information

Shannon Foynes Port (SFPC) are investing in an unprecedented expansion at its general cargo terminal, Foynes, adding over two-thirds the size of its existing area. In the latest phase of a €64 million investment programme, SFPC is investing over €20 million in enabling works alone to convert 83 acres on the east side of the existing port into a landbank for marine-related industry, port-centric logistics and associated infrastructure. The project, which will be developed on a phased basis over the next five years, will require the biggest infrastructure works programme ever undertaken at the port, with the entire 83 acre landbank having to be raised by 4.4 metres. The programme will also require the provision of new internal roads and multiple bridge access as well as roundabout access.

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