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Bere Island in West Cork has scheduled its annual regatta for August 8-13.

"Always popular and packed with fun, races, and games," say the organisers.

Bere Island has its own Watersports Club and sailing programme, which includes sail training weeks for adults and young sailors, which are ongoing at present and into early August.

Bere Island Water Sports Club supports its members to enjoy water-based activities around the shores.

Published in West Cork
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Castletownbere RNLI were launched last night just before midnight to assist a vessel taking water north of Dursey Island off the Beara peninsula in West Cork.

Castletownbere lifeboat volunteer crew were requested to launch by Valentia Coastguard Marine Coordination Centre at 23:47 last night to provide assistance to an 18-metre workboat which was taking water, and there was concern that the vessel could sink.

The lifeboat was launched within minutes under the command of Coxswain Marney O’Donoghue, mechanic Martin Cronin and crew John Paul Downey, Dave Fenton, Seamus Harrington, David O’Donovan and Sean Bawn O’Sullivan.

At 00:40 the lifeboat arrived on scene five miles North West of Dursey Island, and conditions were described as Force 4 North-westerly winds and a 1-2 metre swell. At this stage, the two crew on board had located the water leak's source and brought it under control using its own onboard water pump. However, as a precautionary measure, the lifeboat remained on standby in case assistance was needed. The lifeboat then proceeded to accompany the vessel to Castletownbere. The lifeboat was back on station and ready for service by 02.25.

Commenting on the callout Castletownbere RNLI Lifeboat Launching Authority, Felix O’Donoghue, stated: ‘Thankfully, the crew aboard the vessel were able to resolve the difficulty themselves. However, they made the correct decision in calling the lifeboat as a precaution.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The three Mizen Peninsula Sailing Clubs have announced a new West Cork interclub race.

 "The 3 Sq Miles Cup" will see cruisers from Schull Harbour Sailing Club, Baltimore Sailing Club and Crookhaven Harbour Sailing Club race for a new trophy presented by Cape Clear Distillery.

The race will start in Roaring Water Bay, finishing at Cape Clear's North Harbour and will be followed by an onshore BBQ. 

"There is a great appetite to rebuild interclub racing in Carbery's Hundred Isles"

"There is a great appetite to rebuild interclub racing in Carbery's Hundred Isles," said Schull Harbour Commodore Mark Murphy. "Each of the three clubs in the area has strong junior sections, with active cruiser racing during summer. While it was a regular occurrence in years gone by, in recent years, racing with our friends around the bay has mostly died out.

Having such wonderful sailing waters to enjoy and the perfect halfway point in Cape Clear Island will be a great way to reintroduce a bit of friendly rivalry between the clubs." 

The first gun is at 13:00 on Saturday, 29th of July.

The 3 Sq Miles Cup

Published in West Cork
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The Mulloy Trophy Race on Saturday at Schull Harbour Sailing Club in West Cork was won by Tony O’Brien’s J109 Tighey Boy, with Tadgh Dwyer’s Brazen Huzie second and John McGowan’s Mackey G third.

SHSC is now in the final stage of preparations for its CD Environmental Calves Week Regatta from 8 - 11 August 2023.

Published in West Cork

Castletownbere RNLI lifeboat was launched this afternoon (Wednesday, 5 July 2023) to immediately assist two sailors whose yacht got into difficulty off the West Cork Coast.

A UK couple had set out in their 11-metre yacht from Sneem in Co Kerry this morning on route to Bere Island in West Cork. This afternoon they contacted the Irish Coast Guard’s Marine Research Coordination Centre in Valentia, stating the yacht had become snagged in a lobster pot rope and could not manoeuvre, and they requested assistance.

Castletownbere’s RNLI lifeboat, ‘Annette Hutton’, was tasked at 16:23 and launched within minutes under the command of Coxswain Marney O’Donoghue with crew Dave O’Donovan, Seamus Harrington, Kyle Cronin, John William O’Donoghue and Will Power.

The yacht was subsequently located between Crow Head and Blackball Head on the Beara Peninsula at 16:58. Coxswain O’Donoghue described the conditions onscene as ‘good visibility with South-westerly Force 4/5 winds and a 1-2 metre sea swell’. The volunteer crew were able to free the yacht with a grappling hook and take the vessel under tow. The yacht was berthed at Castletownbere Pier at 19:05 where both sailors expressed their thanks to the crew.

Castletownbere RNLI lifeboat crewCastletownbere RNLI lifeboat crew

Brendan O’Neill, Launching Authority at Castletownbere RNLI, stated: ‘The sailors were wise to make an immediate request for help given the worsening weather conditions this evening’.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The Howth 17s are sailing amongst Carbery’s Hundred Isles.

The oldest classic sailing boats in the world are in West Cork waters to mark their 125th year and intend to sail around the iconic Fastnet Rock

The photo above is from Seamus O’Drisceoil, taken from Cape Clear Island this afternoon, showing them “passing beyond Bird Island en route from Baltimore to Schull.”

Their visit is “a unique maritime occasion, blending history and maritime culture,” he says.

As Afloat reported earlier, weather permitting, they plan a circumnavigation to include Schull, Crookhaven, Fastnet, Cape Clear Island and Baltimore.

“The plan is that they will arrive on Cape Clear on Wednesday afternoon, June 28, to a great welcome, and every boat will be a winner. Every participating boat merits an award and what better than an engraved bottle of 3Sq Miles Gin from Cape Clear Distillery”.

Published in Howth 17
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Baltimore RNLI will host its first Ladies Boutique Lunch this August in West Cork. The fundraising event will see proceeds raised go towards the charity that saves lives at sea.

The lunch will take place in Inisbeg Estate in Baltimore and will kick off with a prosecco reception at 12.30 pm on Thursday, 3 August, and will include a three-course meal. There will also be a raffle on the day.

Speaking ahead of the event, Odharnait Collins, Baltimore RNLI Fundraising Chair, said: ‘We are all really looking forward to the event. August is a lovely time in Baltimore and a very busy time for the station, so it’s the perfect time to give back.

‘Last year, Baltimore RNLI launched its all-weather and inshore lifeboats 24 times with our volunteer crew bringing several people to safety. That is a great achievement for the station team, who selflessly dedicate so much time to training and responding to call outs. Proceeds raised from the sale of tickets and the raffle for the lunch will ensure the crew are provided with the best of kit and equipment so they can continue to save lives at sea.’

Tickets for the event are priced at €85 and available by contacting Ruth McSweeney on 086 2698324 or Rosaleen Mackeown on 086 809 4814.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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This coming weekend’s annual Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival makes its welcome post-pandemic return from Friday, May 26th until Sunday, May 28th, with the well-proven formula of events afloat tailor-made for the local and visiting classic and traditional craft being neatly balanced by a host of cultural happenings ashore that reflect West Cork’s instinctive hospitality to provide a deeper and all-inclusive dimension when boats are involved.

For sailors, the highlight of the entire weekend will be found in the historic occasion when the Baltimore-born and re-built word-girdling 42ft Saoirse - of Conor O’Brien fame - sails together for the first time with his restored 1926-vintage 56ft former trading ketch Ilen - also an O’Brien-Baltimore creation. As this will all be happening just three weeks before the exact Centenary of Saoirse’s departure from Ireland for her great global adventure, the adjective “historic” is scarcely adequate.

The restored Ilen at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire in May 2019. It was from the RIYC on June 20th 2023 that Conor O’Brien’s Saoirse departed on her pioneering global circumnavigation south of the Great Capes. Photo: W M NixonThe restored Ilen at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire in May 2019. It was from the RIYC on June 20th 1923 that Conor O’Brien’s Saoirse departed on her pioneering global circumnavigation south of the Great Capes. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet although the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival is now a reliable annual opportunity to celebrate West Cork’s maritime traditions and the boat types with which it is associated - as well as welcoming traditional craft from other areas - the reality is that it was just a few dedicated voluntary workers who ensured that a full knowledge of the West Cork boats, and the preservation of the best of them in proper sailing order, took place on sufficiently sound foundations to ensure that a central and growing flotilla of craft was available to provide a tangible and living presence afloat when any local maritime event was staged.

A 6th Edition of Conor O Brien’s Across Three Oceans about the Saoirse voyage, including a new Introduction which sets himself and his voyage in context, has been published by the Irish Cruising Club with other extra material, and is available through Amazon.A 6th Edition of Conor O Brien’s Across Three Oceans about the Saoirse voyage, including a new Introduction which sets himself and his voyage in context, has been published by the Irish Cruising Club with other extra material, and is available through Amazon.


Inevitably, those who put the beginnings of it all in place upwards of a quarter century ago are now handing over the movement’s administration and inspiration to the next generation. But fortunately, one of the founders, Brian Marten - the owner of the locally-built Liam Hegarty cutter Guillemot - has recorded some of his memories of this very special time in the 1990s, when some notably inspired thinking ensured a full and enduring appreciation of a remarkable legacy of boats, seafaring traditions, and the sea-minded culture that goes with it. He writes:

“Before embarking on the history of the Wooden Boat Festival, it is worth recording a precursor organisation, almost forgotten now. This was the “Ilen River Cruising Club”, formed by a group including this writer in November 1996 with the aim of “fostering friendship and the exchange of ideas among boating enthusiasts ”. At the inaugural meeting the committee that was elected was Donal O'Sullivan (known to us all as “Big Dan”): Chairman; Jeremy Irons: Vice-Chairman; Nigel Towse: Secretary: Ted O'Driscoll: Assistant Secretary: Liam Hegarty: Treasurer; Kevin O'Farrell: Assistant Secretary; John Caden: P.R.O; Cormac Levis: Assistant P.R.O; Mary Hegarty: Committee Member; Gene O'Neill: Committee Member.

Brian Marten’s cutter Guillemot was both built in Baltimore (in the 1890s), and then restored there 110 years later.Brian Marten’s cutter Guillemot was both built in Baltimore (in the 1890s), and then restored there 110 years later

“These details are extracted from the first News Letter of the Club. The club was registered with the Companies Registration Office as incorporated on 21st June 1999 with an address Old Court. It was a place particularly well furnished for such an organisation, as Oldcourt is a little world unto itself, yet it had a pub and at least two boatyards. And the new IRCC was happy to cast the net wide, as it was for all sailing boats, regardless of construction type.


“The Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival was originally started in 2002 by Brian Ormonde and Nigel Towse, and the first festival was held in 2002. A bank account was opened on 12th April 2002 by Brian Ormonde and Ted O'Driscoll in the name of “The Baltimore Traditional Boat Festival ''. However, to appreciate the history, one must delve further back to before 1994. Much of the following paragraph is based on an article by Terry Tuit that can be accessed online here

“Terry, a fisherman from the tiny harbour of Goleen towards the western end the Mizen Peninsula, on occasions would venture into Croagh Bay, an inlet west of Schull. In the northern part of the long shallow inlet, best accessed at high tide, he noticed the hull of an old boat resting up against a small quay which can also be accessed by road. He had a good look at her, and thought she had a very fine shape. Then in 1994, he attended a West Cork Leader course in which participants were asked to focus on ideas that would improve interest in the area. Terry pointed out that there was no physical evidence of the maritime history of West Cork, where fishing was still an important part of the economy.


“He applied to West Cork Leader for a grant to conduct a study of the historic boats of the area. He was successful, and started the documentation process, hoping that it would be possible to restore or rebuild one or more of them, which would then become as iconic as the Galway Hookers. He approached many fishermen, present and former boat owners, museums, boat yards and maritime organisations throughout Ireland. His research came up with a list of traditional West Cork fishing boats, one located as far away as Galway. It is not clear if this list still exists, though Terry himself is still around, something of a bard – “Bard na Mara”, he has recorded a CD.

“Terry's researches found that the hull in Croagh Bay was the legendary Shamrock, one of a class of mackerel boats that were cutter rigged, but known locally as 'yawls'. Technically a yawl is a sailing boat with two masts, with the shorter mizen mast stepped on or after of the sternpost. They are generally now just referred to as 'mackerel boats'. She was one of many in the area, where they were common just before and after 1900. The Shamrock was designed and built in Baltimore by Henry Skinner in 1910 for Mick “Paddy” O'Sullivan of Colla, Schull.

“There’s a winner in there somewhere…” - Shamrock as discovered by Terry Tuit“There’s a winner in there somewhere…” - Shamrock as discovered by Terry Tuit


“Just under 33' long on deck, Shamrock was renowned for her good sailing qualities combined with speed, and won many regattas. Some of the stories about the racing are recounted in Terry's article, gleaned from Mick's daughters. See also descriptions of her fishing career and racing in Cormac Levis (2008c). The writer had heard stories of her fame as a boy from Gerry Donovan, an old school friend who grew up in Schull. He knew all the family well, and of course the Shamrock.

“In fact, this writer must have seen her in the 1950s as we used to sail over to Schull every so often to replenish supplies, visit Gerry's parents, and compete in regattas. Gerry says her top plank was painted green, and a small shamrock was painted on her bow. Mick used to bring her to Croagh Bay every winter and lay her up on legs against the small pier where her remains are now. Gerry says Mick was a small man, who liked a drink, and used to sing a song called the “Gracie Blue” repeatedly about a notorious yacht that came into Schull at one time owned by a confidence trickster.


“A Dáil report from 1947 records that the Naval Service was ordered to intercept her, but they failed. No doubt starved of resources, as it still is. Unfortunately, Mick had a terrible voice, and would annoy the other customers. He was known as “Mick Paddy” to distinguish him from other branches of the O'Sullivan clan, as is the common practice in West Cork. His daughter Betty inherited his house which is still there, on the Colla Road about 500m from Colla Pier. Mick's son Johnny fished the boat by himself when Mick retired, using a small trawl. He would haul the trawl by taking in the slack when the boat heeled in the swell. Like his father, Johnny developed a liking for a drink, and he was the one facd with the sad task, when her fishing days were over, of laying up the Shamrock in Croagh Bay for the last time.


“Gerry Donovan as a schoolboy fished on various boats, including the St Dominic, a 36' double-ended ketch that was also built in 1910 by Henry Skinner for Dan O'Regan of the Western Calf island, so she deserves mention in this context. Gerry says she was owned by Willy Griffin at that time in the early-mid 1950’s, but he sold her to Sean Barnett of Schull. By then a Kelvin K2 had been installed, and she no longer sailed. So Séan decided to remove her supposedly redundant old iron mizzen sheet horse that was for the lower block of mizen sheet. He did not realise that, because she was a double-ender, she had a very long tiller that passed under the horse, which in turn kept the rudder in place. One day when Gerry was out fishing with Sean in a very heavy swell, the rudder lifted off the pintles and was lost. They managed to steer her into South Harbour on Cape Clear by putting out two heavy tyre fenders on alternate sides.

“Robert Marten saw the St Dominic on the slip at Skinners in Baltimore in 1967 when he was working for Willy Skinner. Finbar Murphy bought her at that time. David Burke and Robert fished crabs from her for a few years. She had a Perkins 4236 engine in her by then. Robert then spent a year or so restoring a yacht which he sold, and then fished crabs with David on the St Dominic for a couple of years while their fishing boat The Larissa, 36', was built by Paddy Hegarty in Old Court in 1971-72, with Robert doing some of the work on her, while Pip Marten did the engine.

Despite the proliferation of Mackerel boats in the late 19th to early 20th Century, only the St Patrick - owned by the late Mac O'Donoghue - is the sole other survivors in this area . She is on Cape Clear just west of the lake. Built in 1908 by Henry Skinner, and 29' in length, she was the last of the “Mackerel Yawls” to fish under sail (Levis 2008c), but now she is slowly but surely blending into the soil at her final resting place.


“Meanwhile, in about 1993, Liam Hegarty of Old Court decided to build himself a boat. She was based very loosely on “Blue Moon” designed by Thomas Gilmore. He never got around to giving her a name, but took her to the Glandore Classic Yacht Regatta. Here she was admired so much by Jeremy Irons that he bought her and named her “Willing Lass”. Jeremy is a very keen sailor, and participates in as many local regattas as his work allows. Nigel Towse also admired her, and approached Liam about building another one like her. However, Liam by this time had taken an interest in the Shamrock. He suggested to Nigel that it would be better to build another mackerel “yawl” or cutter like the Shamrock.

The un-named new boat became Willing Lass when impulse-bought by Jeremy Irons, seen here at the helmThe un-named new boat became Willing Lass when impulse-bought by Jeremy Irons, seen here at the helm

“In 1994 Liam and Fachtna O'Sullivan went to Croagh Bay and took moulds from Shamrock's hull. Nigel had by then decided to build another, working alongside Liam and Fachtna. By 1996 they had finished and launched her, and Liam named her very appropriately Shamrock 2, and her first public outing was to the Glandore Classic Regatta in 1996 - see here for a laser scan of her lines. Liam sold her to Ivan Wolfe of Monkstown soon after. Ivan had many years of enjoyment on her but he had to lay her up after he had an accident. He now owns the lobster boat Rose. (see below). Meanwhile, Nigel had been working on his boat which was completed circa 1998. He named her An Rún, “The Secret”. Building her was a steep learning curve for Nigel - he’d had a lot of sailing experience, for example on the Excelsior, a 77ft classic Lowestoft ketch-rigged sailing trawler, and on numerous other craft, but had no experience until then as a shipwright. Others were inspired to have additional replicas built. Brian Ormonde commissioned the Macalla 3 1 which was completed in 2000. She competed against An Rún in Crookhaven in 2001, and won. A cup was presented to Brian Ormonde by Billy O'Sullivan, nephew of 'Mick the Shamrock'. The cup is on permanent display there in O'Sullivans Bar. Macalla has a boom on her mainsail, whereas An Rún's is loose-footed. That probably made a difference.

While Nigel Towse’s seagoing experience included offshore sailing on this 77ft Lowestoft trawler Excelsior, he was a novice shipwright when he took on the building of An RunWhile Nigel Towse’s seagoing experience included offshore sailing on this 77ft Lowestoft trawler Excelsior, he was a novice shipwright when he took on the building of An Run
Macalla racing against An Run for the O’Sullivan CupMacalla racing against An Run for the O’Sullivan Cup


“Macalla was sold and taken to the South of France, but was brought back to Hegarty's in September 2009. The heat in the Med did not do her much good, causing some splits, but she was repaired and Liam now owns her, and sails her most weekends in the summer months. The Nellie B was then built for Tom McCarrick of Sligo, and made her first appearance at Glandore Classic Boat Regatta in 2003 (see a fine photo of her in Levis 2008c, p. 282). Tom intended to go cruising in her, so she was built with a coach roof and self draining cockpit. Unfortunately, he died before he was able to fulfil his dreams. She was lying in Hegartys for a couple of years, until she was bought by Uilliam O'Lorcáin in 2007. He had Hegarty's boatyard convert her back to the open cockpit format in 2008. He renamed her An T'Iascaire “The Fisherman “. Fig. 18, p. 7 below, shows her sailing in 2009, Ted O'Driscoll, a mainstay of the festival, bought a 26' Maurice Griffith sloop in about 2004. He acquired his present boat, Speckled Wood in 1975. She was a McGruer built “Formula 1” Bermudan-rigged racing sloop.

An T’Iascaire was originally new-built as a seagoing cruiser with full accommodation and a self-draining cockpit, but was subsequently changed to the classic one layoutAn T’Iascaire was originally new-built as a seagoing cruiser with full accommodation and a self-draining cockpit, but was subsequently changed to the classic one layout

“Leo McDermot had bought an ex-fishing boat out of Schull called Síle, built originally by Paddy Hegarty for Jimmy O'Reilly of Schull. He extended her length by adding on to her stern, and converted her into a fine ketch, completed in 2011. He renamed her Síle a Dó . It was a learning experience for him, guided by the Hegarty team. Hegarty's restored the Guillemot in 2014, she is a 28' gaff cutter, built at the Fishery School in Baltimore around 1893 by Henry Skinner for Col. McCarthy-Morrough of Inishbeg island. The Teal made her appearance in 2014, she is a Falmouth Quay Punt.

Contrasting styles - Leo McDermott’s lengthened ketch Sile a Do, and Kevin O’Farrell’s classic Mylne-designed Scottish Islands OD CaraContrasting styles - Leo McDermott’s lengthened ketch Sile a Do, and Kevin O’Farrell’s classic Mylne-designed Scottish Islands OD Cara

“A new chapter in the story of the revival of the traditional boats of West Cork was opened in 1999, when Nigel Towse heard Cormac Levis give a lecture to the Irish Cruising Club on the lobster boats of Heir Island. This was a couple of years before Cormac published his important book on them (Levis 2002). Nigel at that time was living near the Colla Road in Schull where he was told by an elderly neighbour that he had once owned a mackerel boat, and that she was lying in Mill Cove at the north east corner of Schull Harbour (named after a water powered flour mill where Gerry Donovan the writer’s old pal was sent as small boy to collect flour. The mill with its mill wheels still intact and is now a private house). Nigel went to Mill Cove and found that it was in fact a lobster boat. He asked Cormac about it, who told him that she was the Hanorah, S463.


“The Hanorah is a gaff rigged cutter, 24.6 ft in length, built in 1892 or 1893 by Richard Pyburn on Heir Island for Con Harte, also on the island. She was well built with pitch pine planks and she was fished until 1984 with one short break. Cormac Levis (2002 and 2008b) gives her history in detail. Hanorah was in very poor shape in 1999 and would not float. In order to get her to the nearest slip, Nigel and Liam Hegarty tied two blue plastic barrels used by the mussel fishery into her and towed her to the nearest slip. There is a photo of this event in Levis (2008c). Cormac, who witnessed the historic event, records that for good measure they then also had a couple of mishaps with the trailer.

“Hanorah was brought to Hegartys Yard where a lot of alterations such as a pot hauler, an extra plank etc were removed to bring her back to her origlnal structure. Nigel then replaced the stem post and transom, and Liam took moulds off her. Ted O'Driscoll drew her lines in 2000. Nigel then brought Hanorah over to Sherkin and got her into Richard Collins's shed. She was restored to her original condition and colours during a boat building course given by Nigel and Liam Hegarty. This course was an annual event sponsored by the FETAC Further Education Training Council.


“A photo of her official launch on Easter Sunday 2005 is in Cormac Levis's chapter on the Lobster Boats (Levis 2000b, p. 264). It was a poignant occasion. Present were the late Jack Pyburn of Heir Island whose grandfather had built her, Séan Harte, grandson of the original owner, as well as Nigel and Liam Hegarty. See here for a laser scan of her lines, while the photo below shows her in full sail. Colm O'Cuilleannáin had seen Hanorah set up initially, and said he must have one built. So the Fionn was started for Colm and Mary Jordan, joint owners, and launched in 2002 . This was the first boat to be inspired by the resurrection of the Hanorah, after which the fleet grew. An interesting feature is that historic photos show the Lobster boats rigged as cutters, with a bowsprit. The new ones have dispensed with this feature, though the Fionn was originally rigged that way.

The inspiration. Nigel Towse sailing Hanorah, whose re-build resulted in the creation of several sister-shipsThe inspiration. Nigel Towse sailing Hanorah, whose re-build resulted in the creation of several sister-ships

“By 2001 there was by then a small fleet of traditional West Cork sailing boats in the locality: two Mackerel “Yawls” or Cutters and one lobster boat. As noted at the beginning of this account this inspired Nigel Towse and Brian Ormonde to hold the First Baltimore Traditional Boat Festival - as it was then called - in 2002, and from 2002 programmes for each festival were produced annually.

“The writer watched from shore. There was a fresh NW breeze. The boats that participated were the mackerel boats An Rún and Macalla, the Lobster Boat Fionn. Tom Hegarty's Curlew, an Itchen Ferry type, was well reefed down, but had to retire; Cork One Design C2 Elsie and Pat Tanner's An Faoileán, a type of Galway Hooker. The mackerel boats carried their topsails and their lee rails were just awash.

“The next Lobster Boat to be built was Mary Collette for Michéal O'Crualaoi and John Collaron, and the Saoirse Muireann for Cormac Levis in 2002. Next was the Rose for the late John Punch in 2003. She was laid up on the beach under a cover until 2017 when Ivan Wolfe bought her. Meanwhile the Mary Ann was built in 2006 for a partnership of John Desmond, Rose-Marie Punch and Micheál O'Crualaoi. A new lobster boat Ellen was completed in Hegarty’s Yard in 2019 by “Tash”, who however built her entirely himself, after some initial guidance from Fachtna O'Sulliivan. He keeps her in Castletownshend.


One of many evocative posters created by Gary Mac Mahon and the team at Copper Reed Studio in Limerick.One of many evocative posters created by Gary Mac Mahon and the team at Copper Reed Studio in Limerick.

Every year Gary McMahon from Limerick, of A.K. Ilen fame, produced beautiful posters. An example from 2016 is in it shows a variety of the boats that participated. On the left, partially shown is An T-Iascaire, then Lobster Boats Hanorah, Fionn, Rose, then An Rún, and outside is Thomas Drewes beautiful cutter Jane Paul. Unfortunately all of the registration forms for all of the festivals over the years have not been kept. The writer has a spreadsheet of the entries for 2018. This shows that there were eight curraghs, always an important part of the festival, five lobster boats, two gaff cutters, Jane Paul and Guillemot., Mark Bushe's Cánóg, two mackerel boats, An T'Iascaire and An Rún, An Faoileán, a type of Galway hooker, two Water Wags Good Hope and Mary Kate, two Ettes, Sagette and Minuette, A cruising yacht Hafod, Cara a beautiful Scottish Islands Class OD Bermudan sloop owned by Kevin O’Farrell, Grishka, a dinghy, and Shearwater another very old restored dinghy. The total number of boats was an impressive thirty six.

Mark Bushe's father George built Cánóg for him in Crosshaven, and Mark has brought her to many festivals, as well as his yacht Dainty, now sold. The long-established Bushe family tradition of boat building - originally of Baltimore and subsequently from Crosshaven - is still being continued internationally from a Swedish base by Killian Bushe. Swallow, built by Richard's father Tom Bushe. has appeared at several festivals. She was originally built for sailing, and was featured in the 2015 festival with a photo of her being sailed by Tom on the cover of the programme. The Swallow has been cared for by the family over the years, but has not sailed for a long time. She has had an outboard for maybe 50 years, and Richard was a familiar sight heading out the harbour with his dog Rex


“2018 saw the of two Bristol Channel Pilot Cutters - Freya and Marian - came and made an impressive sight. They are powerful boats, and were well reefed down in deference to the smaller boats. 2019 was a special year for the village and the festival, as it was the centenary of the arrival of Baltimore’s first lifeboat, the 45’ Watson Class ON649 Duke of Connaught which arrived on station in 1919. She was renamed the Shamrock in 1920, because of the political sensitivities of those times. The programme had a photo of her under way, taken by Winne Atkins of Dunmanway.

“The 2019 festival was a success, but though the registration form exist, the person who holds them has not managed to produce them despite repeated entreaties over the past three years! On the Friday evening there was a most interesting talk given by Arista Holden in Baltimore Castle on the “Apprenticeshop” based in Maine. Two days of great sailing were enjoyed in 2019, the curraghs raced well down the Ilen from Skibbereen, and they also participated in the Pilot Race. Once again we were lucky with the weather. The Covid 19 pandemic struck in early 2020 and the country was in lockdown until restrictions were eased in early 2022. As a consequence no Festival could be held in 2020 and 2021. As a result of lifting of restrictions in February, planning for 2022 started very late, and it was not known if infections might re-occur.


“Most importantly, Ted O’Driscoll could not get insurance cover. However, very late in the day, the Sailing Club offered to host it, on condition that participants produce their insurance documents one week before the start. At this stage several of the long time organisers decided that they had had enough, and felt that they did not have the energy to try to organise all of the events, talks, supper etc in such a short time frame - these individuals were Nigel Towse, Chairman; the writer, Secretary, and Ted O'Driscoll, Treasurer. The Seafood Festival organiser Dominic Casey was very anxious that some form of festival should proceed, so we 'organised,' if you can call it that, an informal sail around on the Sunday, for fun and give a bit of a spectacle, then rafted up in the harbour for refreshments, and this this proved to be an enjoyable and successful compromise.

Visiting Pilot Cutter Freya and Marianne provide a glimpse of more complex gaff rigsVisiting Pilot Cutter Freya and Marianne provide a glimpse of more complex gaff rigs


“First, the writer apologises for omitting to refer to the articles in successive Community Newsletters, mainly by Mary Jordan, which give excellent summaries of Festivals, and mention important boats that visited, such as the Edith Grey, Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter in 2014. Nevertheless it is unfortunately clear that records of the Festival from the start are sadly deficient because the registration forms have not been kept., with the important exception of the accounts. It is suggested that present and former committee members, especially the former, put their heads together and try to make a record that has some detail to it.

“Photos of past festivals will be important for this. For example, the writer has only just recalled such memorable entries as Mab, Flying Fish, Rui and Ankes clinker built sloop, whose name escapes me, and of course the Peel Castle, PZ17. I'm sure there are others I have forgotten. We decided to try to hand over to a new younger committee for the following year, and happily this has happened in 2023. Ted later relented and has stayed on as Treasurer., so there’s welcome continuity going hand-in-hand with refreshing new enthusiasm”.

Published in Historic Boats

The Atlantic Challenge group at Bantry is working on a new development project for a marine centre in the West Cork town which would encourage more young people to become involved in the maritime sphere.

The Atlantic Challenge International began in 1984 to bring young people from different nations together in competitions through friendly contests to preserve and sustain traditional seamanship skills.

The Atlantic Challenge longboat can be rowed and sailed, though when sailed, it depends on the weight of the crew to balance the boats, which don’t have keels underneath to steady them. I once sailed in the Bantry longboat, and it was quite an experience, moving from side to side to keep it upright.

The message of the Atlantic ChallengeThe message of the Atlantic Challenge

The longboats hearken back to the attempted French invasion of Ireland at Bantry Bay in West Cork when Wolfe Tone was aboard the invasion fleet and the boats would have been used to land the invasion force, but that didn’t happen, gales decimated it and never invaded.

The longboats are replicas of the original, dating back to the late 1700s. There are now a hundred of them around the world. The original was restored and is displayed in the National Museum at Collins Barracks in Dublin.

Diarmuid Murphy of the Atlantic Challenge Bantry group has been telling me about their plans for a marine development programme in Bantry and the next Atlantic Challenge event in Belfast next year. There had been a plan to hold it in Russia, but Putin’s invasion of Ukraine scuppered that. 

In this week’s podcast, my guest is Diarmuid Murphy. Listen below.

Published in Tom MacSweeney

Baltimore RNLI was called out to provide a medical evacuation yesterday evening (Thursday, 20 April) from Sherkin Island off Baltimore, West Cork.

The volunteer lifeboat crew launched their all-weather lifeboat at 8.20 pm, following a request from the Irish Coast Guard to provide a medical evacuation for a child living on the island.

The Baltimore all-weather lifeboat crew arrived at Sherkin Island pier at 8.25 pm and transferred the casualty onboard the lifeboat. The lifeboat departed Sherkin Island and returned to the station in Baltimore arriving at 8.40 pm. The casualty was then handed over to the care of the HSE Ambulance crew.

There were five volunteer crew onboard the lifeboat, Coxswain Aidan Bushe, Mechanic Cathal Cottrell and crew members Emma Lupton, Don O’Donovan and Emma Geary.

Conditions in the harbour during the call out were choppy with a south easterly force 4-5 wind.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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