Displaying items by tag: Cork Harbour
It is a truth not universally acknowledged that the steady pint-drinking communities of Cork city and south Munster contributed substantially to the resourcing of the newly-formed Ulster Volunteer Force’s uprising against the proposed introduction of Home Rule for Ireland in 1912.
For sure, Cork is known as the Rebel County, the home of Michael Collins himself. But despite that, every enthusiastic consumer of the beloved Beamish’s Stout in the deep south of Ireland in the early years of the 1900s was unknowingly helping to finance a basically anti-Irish uprising in the far north of the country.
Such tortuous interpretations of the past are sometimes best conveyed to us through the complex inter-linkings in the history of sailing in Ireland. And most especially it comes through the 29ft Cork Harbour One Designs of 1896, and how they fitted into the broader interaction of Irish sailing with the leading Scottish designer William Fife during the Golden Age of Yachting, which glowed from around 1890 until the Kaiserite unpleasantness brought the good times to a shuddering halt with the Great War in August 1914.
But before that horror, while Ireland may have had its local hostile inter-faces, it is remarkable how many leading players on opposing sides in the subsequent wars and political dramas were united in a fondness for sailing. After all, James Craig - later Lord Craigavon and the first and rather belligerent Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1921 - had been in the 1890s the first and very enthusiastic Honorary Secretary of the pioneering Belfast Lough One Design Association and was an owner-helmsman of note.
Equally, in Cork top sailor and leading solicitor Harry Donegan may have played a key role in setting up the new Cork Harbour One Design Association in 1896, but by 1912 he was also the Chairman of the Cork Branch of the Redmondite Irish Home Rule Party.
Yet these are only two of the sailing figures involved in straddling the political divide, and the return in recent days to Cork Harbour of the superbly-restored CHOD Jap – she has been donated to the RCYC by her owner in honour of the club’s Tricentenary – reminds us of other even more unexpected links.
Let us hope that the return of Jap after a glittering international career on the classic yacht circuit will help in bringing this very special class to vigorous fresh life, to support the dedicated Pat Dorgan and others who have kept the faith for the class for several years. But Jap’s story certainly underlines the difficulties inherent in maintaining a vibrant vintage local One Design class in Cork Harbour in the same way that classic ODs have prospered and continue to prosper at Dun Laoghaire, Howth, Whiterock on Strangford Lough, and at Bangor and Cultra on Belfast Lough, as well as at Dromineer on Lough Derg and Ballyglass on Lough Ree.
For the problem with Cork Harbour is that it is much too good a harbour. There’s an embarrassment of choices as to where you can conveniently moor a boat. But a successful classic One-Design keelboat class with a local emphasis in Ireland seems to do best with just one focal point, and at most two. Yet with the CHODs from their earliest days, some might be based near the Royal Cork YC at its former HQ in Cobh, others might be based across channel at Monkstown at the 1872-founded Royal Munster YC, while yet others may have laid their moorings across at Carrigaloe near where the boats were built. And perhaps the occasional errant one might even be found down in Crosshaven, though that wasn’t to become a main centre of Cork Harbour sailing until after 1923.
Either way, there wasn’t the logistical simplicity of always having the boats in the same place when a race was scheduled, a particular problem with engine-less craft. But when they were new around the turn of the Century, the enthusiasm of novelty did see good steady turnouts, with the Royal Cork’s Cobh flotilla and the Royal Munster’s Monkstown group conveniently combining to make a hot racing fleet.
And they knew they were good, for one of their competitive number was Arthur F Sharman Crawford (1862-1945), Commodore of the Royal Munster YC, whose considerable income as Managing Director of the large Beamish & Crawford brewery in Cork city enabled him to lead a double life in sailing. He’d a CHOD for Cork Harbour sailing, and a top-level Fife designed International Metre Class boat – at one stage it was 12 Metre – based in the Solent for extended high summer campaigns, including regular attendance at Cowes Week.
Yet while Sharman Crawford didn’t stint on personal expenditure, the Munster enthusiasm for Beamish Stout was such that he could also continue and even expand the long-established Crawford reputation for philanthropy in Cork. Apart from founding the Crawford Art School in 1909, he greatly increased the support for technical education, so much so that it is appropriate that the Cork Institute of Technology should now be one of Ireland’s leading sailing colleges, for Arthur Sharman Crawford did much to develop it in its early days.
But in family circles, he’d been regarded as having drawn the short straw. His mother was a Crawford of Cork who had inherited a large holding in the brewery, while his father was a distantly-related Crawford from the north. It was as the younger of two brothers that he was detailed off to go to Cork from his birthplace of Dublin to join the management of the 1792-founded brewery, while his older brother Robert inherited the family estates in the north, which were so extensive that they even had the picturesque village of Crawfordsburn at their heart.
But although Beamish and Crawford had been overtaken by Guinness’s in 1833 as Ireland’s largest brewery, the Cork company was still expanding at a prodigious rate, paying Arthur – who soon rose to become Managing Director - a substantial salary in addition to generous dividends, with significant dividends also going to Robert in the north, where the various Land Acts meant that large property estates were no longer the goldmines they’d been in times past.
Both brothers were very much into sailing, with Robert being one of the founder members of the Fife-designed 37ft Belfast Lough One Design Class of 1897, while also being a member of the Royal Ulster YC’s Management Committee which handled Thomas Lipton’s five America’s Cup Challenges from 1899 onwards, while Arthur had been the sixth owner when the 29ft Cork Harbour One Designs – also Fife-designed – had appeared in 1896, and as Royal Munster YC Commodore, his boat Colleen was given sail number 1.
Yet while all this sporting activity at local, national and international level might suggest civilized harmony, the Home Rule movement was gaining strength. With the family home in a big house in Glanmire within easy distance of his Cork Harbour OD moored in the upper harbour, Arthur was so involved with Cork’s commercial, cultural and technical life that he tended to keep his political views to himself. But in the north, Robert was increasingly taking a strongly anti-Home Rule stance.
Yet the dynamics of the relationship between the brothers was changing. While the still very large Crawford estate in the north was experiencing diminishing profits, down in Cork the Beamish & Crawford brewery had been skillfully steered by Arthur to a public flotation in 1901 which turned it into a gift that kept on giving, enabling Arthur to expand his additional sailing interests in the Solent while maintaining his Cork Harbour activities afloat, while Robert now had the muscle to become a significant mover and shaker in the Unionist cause in the north.
Thus as Colonel Sharman Crawford, he came to play a leading role in the formation of the virulently anti-Home Rule Ulster Volunteer Force in 1912, and after the UVF had imported German rifles and other weapons of war on an industrial scale with the steamship Clyde Valley’s gun-running to Larne in 1914, the newly-armed UVF were drilled on the extensive lawns at his stately Crawfordsburn House overlooking Belfast Lough. But the quaint notion that this was partially possible thanks to the steady consumption of Beamish’s stout way down south in Cork city and throughout the depths of rural Munster will have occurred to very few, if at all.
While Robert was parading the paramilitaries on his front lawn beside Belfast Lough early in the summer of 1914, down in the Solent brother Arthur was taking his first sail with his latest Fife creation, the International 8 Metre Ierne, which was the first Metre Class boat on the planet to be given a Bermuda rig. While he was doing this, Erskine Childers with Asgard and Conor O’Brien with Kelpie stopped off in Cowes on their way to a gun-running appointment at the Ruytigen Lightship off the Belgian coast as a response to the Larne events, but neither side seems to have been aware of the others’ presence in port, or if they were, they remained discreetly silent.
In any case, for Arthur Sharman Crawford, all focus was on the approaching Cowes Week, and having Ierne in top tune for it. But with the violent arrival of the Great War, Cowes Week was cancelled, and Ierne was moth-balled for the duration. When it was over, Ireland was in such turmoil that Sharman Crawford accepted an offer for his still state-of-the-art 8 Metre, and it was with mixed feelings that he heard she’d won the Gold Medal for Norway in the Sailing Olympiad of 1920 in Belgium.
In Cork Harbour and in Ireland generally, it took a very long time for sailing to recover from the Great War, the War of Independence and the Civil War, yet as some sort of normality emerged, even the economic wars of the 1930s couldn’t dislodge the Cork Harbour One Designs from their key role in the harbour. And after the Royal Munster YC had moved to Crosshaven in 1923, that had gradually became the class’s focal point, though for some, Cobh was the one and only place they should be. So there was special satisfaction in 1947 when the annual “Ocean Race” from Cork Harbour, while starting from Crosshaven, was well won by young Kevin O’Regan from Cobh sailing his family’s Cygnet with all the usual suspects in his very youthful crew.
Yet even the keenest CHOD sailors weren’t immune to the attractions of newer boats, particularly with the advent of glassfibre construction and Bermudan rig with aluminium masts. So several of the CHODs were give a new lease of life by their conversion to Bermudan-rigged cruisers with a long coachroof, complete with doghouse, giving them good accommodation. But when allied to their proven seaworthiness, this opened open up new possibilities, so much so that some of them simply sailed away to other distant places beyond the seas, and were gone from Cork Harbour.
But in the 1990s, George Radley Jnr of Cobh, despite being busy campaigning the famous Ron Holland-designed 39ft Imp, got to hear that the converted CHOD Querida, once owned and raced with great success by his father George for many years, was up on the quay in Dunmore East, hidden away behind the harbour office and in a bad way, so he resolved to bring her home and restore her to original racing form.
That started a movement, with Mark Bushe being next with Elsie, and soon enthusiasm was such that genuine CHODs in any condition were at a premium for restoration projects. Around 1999, I mentioned to the late Paul Kingston of Kilmacsimon Boatyard in Kinsale that I’d seen the CHOD Jap on the foreshore in the uppermost reaches of Falmouth Harbour at Truro as recently as August 1994, as the in-laws lived beside the Fal Estuary, and I knew its coastline well. Within a week I’d a phone call from Paul to say that he was in a little pub in Truro almost overlooking Jap, and expected to meet the owner at any moment and swing a deal.
A deal was finalised, but instead of going to Kinsale for a re-build, Jap was snapped up by Clayton Love Jnr – one of Kevin O’Regan’s crew for that famous Crosshaven-Kinsale 1947 win – and went to Duncan Walker of Fairlie Restorations on the Hamble for the total gold-plated Fife restoration which was completed by 2002.
Subsequently, she became a successful feature of the Mediterranean classic circuit, complete with her own customised air-conditioned 40ft luxury container. This prompted that noted yacht designer, the late Doug Peterson (by this time a classic boat enthusiast himself with a 1931 International 6 Metre) to remark favourably on the foresight of William Fife III, who in 1895 had so cleverly designed the CHOD that a century later it would fit comfortably into a standard shipping container…….
Jap’s distinguished connections extend in other directions, as she was originally completed at Carrigaloe in 1898 for someone described in the RCYC History as “Mr A Fowler”, who on closer examination proves to be one Adolphus Fowler, Manager of the Cork & County Club. He had two new boats on the stocks at the time, the other being a 43ft Fife cutter he called Yum. While the name Jap was acceptable as it’s believed to have referred to the then-current popularity of the Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera The Mikado, Yum was just plain silly for an elegant clipper-bowed Fife classic, though maybe it was revenge for Fowler’s own silly name.
Be that as it may, having two yachts on the go at once seems to have strained the resources of Adolphus Fowler, or maybe the Yum build was speculative, but either way, she was very soon sold, she had several names thereafter, but for a long time now she has been known as the Tabarly family’s legendary Pen Duick in Brittany.
As for Jap, after a glittering classics career with Clayton Love Jnr, she was sold into English ownership and became Solent-based to continue her winning ways, often with classic sailmaker and ace helm Andy Cassell of Rastey & Lapthorn doing the sailing. And this provides an intriguing insight into the special 1914 Arthur Sharman Crawford Eight Metre Ierne, as she too was found virtually abandoned, and underwent a total restoration in Yorkshire, with completion in 2008.
As sailmaker to both boats, Andy Cassell has helmed Ierne and Jap, and when asked to make a comparison, he says it isn’t really fair. For although Ierne is a flyer and must have seemed even more so at the 1920 Olympics, she has an unpleasant habit of developing lee helm as she puts her lee rail under, which any true sailor sees as a disagreeable trait.
“Lovely” says Andy, “lovely in all conditions. A joy to helm. One of the nicest boats to sail I’ve ever known”.
So the people in Crosshaven who will be able to sail Jap within management parameters being drawn up by a special RCYC Sub-Committee will be in for a treat with a story that seems to have come full circle. But before leaving this piece of wallowing in Lockdown literature, here’s one final little thought.
In the lower floor of the National Yacht Club, you’ll find the attractive Maguire Collection of models, assembled by the late Willie Maguire, a popular former commodore. He was an architect by profession, with a keen nose for sniffing out items of special maritime interest. Thus one of the Half Models on display is a Belfast Lough 25ft OD, the No 1 Class of 1897, when each owner would have been presented with a half model by the builder, John Hilditch of Carrickfergus, and the designer William Fife.
It so happens this model is Hoopoe, the Belfast Lough No 1 built for the-then Major Robert Sharman Crawford. He died in 1934, and in 1947 the last of the Crawfords left Crawfordsburn House, with much that was in it going into the outside world through a contents sale. Thus a quality half model came on the open market, and in time Willie Maguire sniffed it out, and made it part of his collection which eventually went to his club. It is indeed intriguing to think that the cherished half model of the racing yacht of Colonel Crawford of the Ulster Volunteer Force should eventually find a permanent home in the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.
Prior to launching the historic 1895-built boat was trailed to Crosshaven and stored on her trailer at Crosshaven Boatyard, drawing many admiring glances.
As Afloat's Tom MacSweeney reported in March, C4, Jap, after many years based on the South Coast of England, has been donated by her owner to the Royal Cork YC and will be sailing in Cork this season.
Photos prior to Jap's launch below by Bob Bateman
Some offshore racing enthusiasts may have been hoping that the historic re-enactment of the “Kingstown to Queenstown" Race of 1860 – the first proper offshore event in Irish and British waters – might still have been staged in some very muted form, with minimal shoreside interaction in order to comply with post-COVID-19 restrictions. But those directly involved have now made a clear decision that to do so would be entirely at variance with the spirit of the race, which is to be a celebration of offshore racing both in Ireland and internationally, with a highly sociable shore-side element in Cobh after the finish.
The leading race organiser at the Cobh finish, South Coast Offshore Racing Association Commodore Johanna Murphy, has issued an informal statement outlining the thinking behind the way things will go, as plans take shape to stage the race in 2022:
“The Kingstown to Queenstown Race is postponing to 7/7/22 in light of COVID-19. The race is being run by Cove Sailing Club and the National Yacht Club, and will start from the NYC and finish at the Old Yacht Club (now the Sirius Centre) in Cobh. After the finish, there’ll be festivities on the Cobh waterfront, including of course a talk on the history of the iconic race by the one and only Eddie English. The prize-giving will follow, and I will be organising a barbecue in the Quays, while now that CSC marina is up and running, there will be visitor berthing available.
All the mechanics of the race will be worked out nearer the time, but it’s definitely one for the diary - after all, what’s another two years when we have waited since 1860? The June-July programme for 2021 is already solidly booked, so to do this iconic and historic race justice, we need to make the clean break to 2022. It deserves the chance to be a fantastic race, and will I feel it be a popular event nationally and internationally, and a chance for the Clubs and sailors to come together - which is what much of sailing is all about. And It will also tie in nicely with Cork Week 2022, which is 11th – 15th July 2022."
As Afloat reported previously, another County Cork marina at Kinsale Yacht Club was also awarded the standard.
The programme aims to raise environmental awareness and promote sound environmental management of beaches, marinas and inland bathing waters around the world.
The 80 Irish beaches and 10 marinas that have achieved this accolade in 2020 must adhere to specific criteria related to water quality, information provision, environmental education, safety and site management.
"The award is really important to the Club as it is a vital part of our overall sustainability strategy", Gavin Deane, RCYC General Manager told Afloat.
On the West Coast, Kilrush Marina on the Shannon Estuary, and facilities in County Kerry at Fenit and Portmagee were also Blue Flag winners.
Other Blue Flag marinas for 2020/21 are:
- Greencastle Marina
- Rathmullan Marina
- Fenit Marina
- Kilmore Quay Marina
- New Ross Marina
- Quigleys Marina, Killinure Point, Co. Westmeath
Time was when fifty years seemed a long time in the life of any sports organisation, and indeed in life itself. Golden Jubilees were a big deal, to be celebrated with much fanfare. In fact, even 25 years of organisational continuity were worthy of festivities. But then, the general mindset was programmed by the fact that many sports only became properly codified towards the end of the 1800s, while the organisations which grew from them were generally only finding their feet around the turn of the century in 1900.
The new Century was barely under way before it was riven by two World Wars, in 1914-1918 and again in 1939-1945. In between them, in Ireland in the period 1919 to 1922 we managed to fit in a War of Independence, Partition and a Civil War. None of this was remotely comparable in scale to the major geopolitical changes and industrial carnage of the global conflicts, but they caused major disruption and tragedy at a local and personal level, such that just one decade of civilised life and gentle progress began to seem like a long time, a major achievement.
Yet despite the Troubles in Ireland between 1969 and 1998, the general mood since the end of World War II in 1945 has been one of peace and progress, however deceptive that may become under close analysis. The effect of all this – allied to markedly increased longevity until too many people started getting obese in recent years – is that fifty years no longer seems such a very long time.
We see it in Irish sailing in particular by noting the number of people around us who can remember participating in the Quarter Millennial Celebrations of the Royal Cork Yacht Club in 1969-1970, and were looking forward to being involved in the RCYC’s Tricentenary this year.
Back in 1970 – which after all was only 25 years after the end of World War II - fifty years still seemed a very considerable length of time, making the Royal Cork’s 250 year of existence all the more remarkable. That was something which was underlined ten years later, when much fanfare accompanied the Irish Cruising Club’s Golden Jubilee Cruise-in-Company in 1979, with a large international fleet sailing westward from Crosshaven to the incomparable cruising grounds of southwest Ireland, made popular over the years by the key ICC founder, Harry Donegan of Cork.
But nowadays, fifty years is something we just take in our stride. And perhaps it is this modern compression of the half-century which has helped us to cope with the unbelievable reality that the visionary and meticulous plans for the Tricentenary of the RCYC have been up-ended by a worldwide pandemic, a lethal disease which originated in a wet market in the depths of China, and has spread so totally and ruthlessly across the world that we will probably never really know the true extent of its fatal effects.
Preventing those dreadful effects from being even worse has become a national project. Yet before the need for this became totally clear, even the most utterly pessimistic observer could not have imagined how totally the necessary safety measures would effectively wipe out the RCYC celebrations.
Sailing is of itself a very healthy sport, and the people who participate in it are usually from a vigorous cohort of the population. But that in turn means that our post-sailing socialising is unusually intense. So we know that the resumption of sailing is requiring a complete re-set of the way we go about our activities afloat, and how we access them. But meanwhile, the thoughts of the sailing community are very much with the sailors of Cork, and the way that their hopes and plans were caught precisely in the target cross-hairs of the spreading pandemic.
Yet the way that the Royal Cork YC has responded to this unbelievable reversal of fortune has been an inspiration to us all. The inevitable cancellations have been timely and efficient, and the members have rallied round in a spirit of mutual support, while Admiral Colin Morehead has been the very model of calm philosophical acceptance and example as he leads his members in handling this extraordinary challenge.
Colin Morehead himself had been working on the plans for the Tricentenary for three years and longer, and while he was doing that, it was Pat Farnan as Admiral who led the club to such good effect through the busy countdown years that RCYC entered 2020 already feted as “Club of the Year”.
It was all systems go, and then it was all systems on hold as the grim news came from the east, and then with gruesome inevitability, it was all crowd-gathering events on cancellation. Yet it was done with a dignity and graceful acceptance which set the standard not just for Irish clubs, but for world sailing generally.
It is impossible to overestimate the beneficial effect which the gallant –indeed noble – manner in which the RCYC has dealt with the circumstances has contributed to the general good. Then too, the broad benefit of the community spirit within the club has manifested itself in many ways, with the National 18 class leading the charge in the full development of eRacing, while members with a real feeling for the extraordinary history of the club have got together to produce an online series - Way Back When – which features on the RCYC website, and explores many areas of club activity and Crosshaven history, all with an attractive personal touch.
Limited club sailing has of course finally resumed this week in controlled circumstances with emphasis on the juniors, while family sailing – always central to the Cork scene – has been returning as the restrictions are eased, though there’s still a long way to go, and everyone is mindful of the need for careful monitoring at every stage.
What with the fresh look at the club’s past through the Way Back When series, coupled with the fact that the Club’s monumental history - based by historian Alice St Leger on RCYC archivist Dermot Burns’ unrivalled collection of records and artefacts going back to 1720 and beyond - was published to several awards and much acclaim in 2005, provides an enduring base of shared awareness. This, when combined with the eRacing, the Webinars, and now the ordered resumption of sailing in gradual socially-distanced steps, tells us all that the RCYC is very much alive and well.
In fact, nothing has become the Royal Cork Yacht Club so much as its graceful acceptance of the inevitability of cancelling much of its Tricentenary celebrations. It tells us much about how the Club and its members have matured and thrived over the centuries into the unique institution which has been a club for long enough to be planning a Tricentenary in the first place. As sailing resumes on a broader scale, the RCYC will find that their standing in world sailing is greater than ever.
As it is, they should take every encouragement from the progress that they and their magnificent harbour have made in terms of facilities and activity since 1970, which becomes abundantly clear from most of 1970’s monthly editions of Irish Yachting & Motorboating, Afloat.ie’s direct predecessor, which in 1970 was dominated by the RCYC Quarter Millennium.
We really started to roll with the May issue, in which the lead item in Seascape, the opening collection of stories of particular interest to the Editor, led with the building of Francis Chichester’s 53ft Robert Clark-designed Gipsy Moth V in Crosshaven Boatyard. I hadn’t forgotten just how much Chichester had loathed the committee-designed Gipsy Moth IV in which he circled the world in 1966-67 with one stop at Sydney, but I had forgotten - until re-reading the story fifty years down the line - that he’d been so impressed with the improvements Sydney yacht designer Warwick Hood had made to the boat during the Sydney stopover that he at one stage contemplated getting Hood to design Gipsy Moth V.
However, in the end he went back to Robert Clark, designer of Gipsy Moth III which had been built by Tyrrell of Arklow, and as Clark by this stage had formed a working relationship with Crosshaven Boatyard through Denis Doyle, that’s where Gipsy Moth V was built.
When we all went back to Crosshaven in July through various offshore races finishing in Cork Harbour, Gipsy Moth V was afloat and Francis Chichester was in the village and having himself a fine old time among the crews who took part in the week-long Quarter Millennia Offshore Regatta which followed the feeder races.
This relaxed state of affairs came to an end when Mary Doyle took the nautical knight up to Cork Airport to meet an incoming flight with the formidable Sheila Chichester on board. The plane pulled up on the apron outside the Terminal Building, and almost immediately a distinctive red trouser leg emerged from the opening door. Chichester whispered to Mary: “Oh dear. That’s the trouser suit we were knighted in at Greenwich. I think the fun is over for a day or two.”
Meanwhile, everyone else continued to have much sport and fun throughout the Cork summer of 1970, but in looking back at those magazines of the time, the abiding impression is of the greyness of it all, mainly because black and white photos were still totally dominant, but also there’s the primitive nature of the facilities.
The Royal Cork clubhouse was only a tiny hint of what it has become today, though I do rather miss the old bar – originally from the time of the Royal Munster YC – which was in the shape and spirit of the great aft cabin of a mighty ship from the Golden Age of sail, but it wasn’t remotely commodious enough for today’s level of business.
As to getting afloat, it had been by a long jetty across mud – incredibly adhesive mud, as revellers would learn from time to time - and then by dinghy or club launch to your moored yacht out in the Owenboy River. However, by the time of the special regattas of 1969 and 1970, a large floating pontoon had been assembled at the club, and there was limited -though for many boats tide-sensitive - rationed berthing there.
Yet it wasn’t until 1972 that Ireland saw the first salt-water marina, and that was a local council amenity at Coleraine on the estuary of the River Bann on the North Coast.
But then 1974 the Royal Cork installed the beginnings of its marina, a new-fangled and very popular Autumn league followed that same year as a consequence, and since then progress has been taking place on almost every coastline - despite what some still-deprived areas might think - and it is Cork Harbour which has been leading the way.
This has been fulfilling an historic tendency. After all, the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork came into being partially because the landowners around the harbour sometimes found the most convenient way to get about his complex area of water and into the city was by boat, and it didn’t take long for working boats used for personal transport to be developed into something more luxurious.
Then the age of steam brought a new wave of harbour transport, with routes criss-crossing the harbour, and steamer piers and landing stages being installed at strategic locations, with many of them – or the remains of them - still in evidence. Local railways did provide an alternative, and so too did roads and cars as both improved, but the steamers survived for a remarkably long time.
When John G Sisk, who recently featured here as the first owner of Sarnia, was a schoolboy in Cork during the upheavals and dangerous strife of the early 1920s, for his safety he lived in his parents’ house in Myrtleville, travelling home by the harbour steamer to Crosshaven each evening and then continuing by pony and trap the two miles to the house.
Being John G Sisk, he optimised this situation. He knew that he would spend some time on the early morning steamer going back up to Cork city next day, so he was able to spend his evenings roaming freely in boyish adventures in the fields and beaches of Myrtleville, knowing he’d a clear time-slot for his homework on the morning ship to school.
All round Cork Harbour you can see the remains of the old steamer call-points, and there are many other little local ancient harbours too, some so old their original uses are forgotten. For a while, indeed, it seemed that the great days of Cork Harbour as an amenity, every bit as much as it’s a commercial asset, had been forgotten too.
But that has changed in the past fifty years, and particularly the past twenty. The Port of Cork and the Council have been beavering away installing landing and berthing facilities at key locations through this myriad island-filled harbour, transforming it for mini-cruising, for although there are real beaches in some choice locations, elsewhere mud is still king, and getting neatly and cleanly ashore at a safe berth makes all the difference in visits to the islands and remote locations.
The two people who lead the movement in making the best possible use of everything that Cork Harbour now has to offer are Monkstown’s Jack O’Keeffe, who’s busy with Drascombes when he’s not busy with kayaks when he’s not on some project involving Meitheal Mara (with it sometimes being a combination of all three), and Eddie English of Cobh. Eddie’s webinar this week, providing a guide to every hidden corner of this fantastic history-laden harbour, was required viewing, an eye-opener for anyone whose knowledge of Cork Harbour is restricted to biennial participation in Cork Week.
Jack O’Keeffe put together the remarkable “Corkumnavigation” of Cork city by kayaks and paddleboards last weekend, a real adventure which took the participants from crowded city-centre quaysides with visiting naval vessels looming over them, right into what seemed like the deepest heart of the countryside with trees closing overhead above clean narrow and winding waterways, while at other times they were going through a cityscape which might have been Venice.
Next weekend, Jack is leading a Drascombe flotilla around the harbour, and he’s to give an illustrated talk on the Inner Harbour to Meitheal Mara shortly, so it was time to update available data. It’s thanks to him that we have the interim gazetteer of landing and berthing facilities around Cork Harbour, for it’s such a complex place with so many small local developments taking shape that it needs constant monitoring by people like Jack just to keep up.
No better man. On Wednesday evening, I was supposed to be phoning him at home to discuss how this was all coming together, the idea being that he’d be comfortably at his desk slurping a cup of tea or something stronger, and comfortably able to take the ideas forward. But while there was a semi-liquid noise when I got through, it was a squelching rather than a slurping, and he seemed slightly breathless.
“Don’t mind me” he said. “I’ve just heard about a tiny hidden Cork Harbour beach I didn’t even know about, and I just had to go and see for myself. I’m nearly there, and I think I can see a little patch of sand. If you don’t get some photos from me later tonight, you’ll know it was quicksand….”
The photos arrived. But what with Jack boldly going where no skipper had ever gone before, and the unquenchably enthusiastic Eddie English taking his First 36.7 Holy Grounder into places where most of us wouldn’t take a paddleboard, we’ve serious Cork Harbour information overload. So you’ll just have to go and see for yourselves, confident that if Lockdown continues in some limited form, there’s already an entire cruising universe within Cork Harbour without having to even think about going out to sea.
And in all its glory, the place is another expression of the continuing spirit of the Water Club of the Harbour of Cork as expressed through the Royal Cork Yacht Club and all the other clubs around this unique area of sheltered scenic water. In this time of travail, we wish them well, and thank them profoundly for the fine example they’ve set for sailors everywhere.
2020 was to be a year of special events in Cork Harbour. COVID 19 brought those plans to a crashing halt. The highest-profile hit was Cork Week and the events celebrating Cork 300, many of which are cancelled or in doubt at present. But tucked away in another part of the harbour lies a special club that had its very own anniversary this year.
Monkstown Bay Sailing Club came into being on Sunday, the 7th of June 1970. The six-strong committee of Mr Robert Cuppage, Mr Jack O’Driscoll, Mr Barry O’Connell, Mr Will O’Brien and Mr Dick Woodley was ably led by Mr Norcott Roberts.
Racing initially took place in Enterprises and other small dinghies on a handicap basis. The races were held in the evenings. The minimum subscription was 10/- which made you a founding member.
The village of Monkstown has always featured a strong sense of community and no place exemplifies this more than Monkstown Bay Sailing Club. Many families of founding members are still actively involved in the running of the club and as the club has grown in stature a full programme is conducted every year with no one left out. Class 1 and 2 dinghies still race of an evening and an active cruiser fleet races also.
One of the first events organised by the club was an IYA sailing course. 40 aspiring young sailors attended, and the course was run by Mr Neville Eames.
To this day the courses have run introducing countless sailors to the pleasures and delights of sailing on Cork Harbour. In another consequence of the current pandemic, for the first time, in living memory, the sailing course has been cancelled. The sight of boats being rigged on a sunny morning by enthusiastic sailors will be sorely missed on the daily commute to work.
By way of compensation for the loss of the celebratory weekend, Monkstown Bay Sailing Club has commemorated their anniversary with a series of posts and commentary on their Facebook page and a series of WhatsApp messages to those members who are signed up to the various club groups.
In one of the initial posts, the twenty-seventh Commodore, Mr Ciarán Mc Sweeney greeted the membership with a wonderful letter commemorating the club’s anniversary and went on to announce the re-commencement of racing within guidelines in July for class 1 and a slightly restricted version for class 2.
It is also intended to run some training for level 3 and 4 junior sailors to complete their certificates.
Looking further ahead the club will exhibit items of historical interest in the Passage West Maritime Museum later in the year when it reopens. It is also noted that the anniversary celebrations have merely been postponed and an opportunity to celebrate will be taken later in the year as circumstances permit.
With 22km winds howling around Cork Harbour last Saturday morning, the Ocean to City team should have been in a frenzy reorganising the race routes, but instead, they were online in the middle of launching their Ocean to City Virtual Challenge. From the comfort of their homes the organisers did a countdown for over a hundred participants, from all over the world, who were getting ready to row Ocean to City on their rowing machines.
At 10.30 am the Zoom screens were filled with participants from Ireland, UK, Portugal, USA, Australia, Germany and Lebanon. Race Director Donagh MacArtain began the event talking about the difficult decision to cancel this year’s race and thanking those who supported and continue to support the Cork Harbour Festival: Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Port of Cork, Fáilte Ireland and many more who have ensured the future of the festival and Ocean to City. Lord Mayor of Cork City, Cllr. John Sheehan joined in the Zoom meeting to formally welcome all participants. The Lord Mayor spoke on the importance of a collective in these strange times and how vital it is to bring people together. He remembered starting his term as Lord Mayor launching the Lee Swim and how apt it was to finish it with the Ocean to City.
The event had two categories to choose from, the Rowing Machine Challenge – where participants rowed the equivalent time to either the Ocean Course (2hr23min39sec) or the Monkstown Course (1hr1mins12secs). The furthest distance rowed within the time limit would win. The second category was the Fun Time challenge – where participants had to record their most creative rowing or paddling training on land. The event was also joined by UK runner Lawrence Washington who ran for the full Ocean Course time limit, from his home to the town of Porthmadog and back.
The race began at 11am and stayed live on Facebook and Zoom where spectators could watch the efforts of the participants in the rowing challenge. Along with the rowing challenge, participants were asked to send in videos of their creative home training and the submissions were fantastic! All submitted videos are available on oceantocity.com along with the full results on the day.
The 16th Ocean to City was a very different day but thankfully the day and the ethos of this wonderful race was marked, as a community of like-minded people who have a love of the water, of Cork and the spirit to adapt to new circumstances.
Ocean to City – An Rás Mór, the flagship event of Cork Harbour Festival is organised by Meitheal Mara, the community boatyard, training centre and charity located in the heart of Cork City. The event is sponsored by Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Port of Cork, Fáilte Ireland and made possible with the help of dozens of Event Partners and hundreds of volunteers.
Cork Harbour Festival will be back next year 5-13 June 2021 with the flagship Ocean to City – An Rás Mór taking place on Saturday 5 June 2021.
The sight of more masts appearing on the marina in my village of Monkstown on the edge of Cork Harbour was encouraging this week. Not that I have any disregard for the motorboat community who populate the Cork Harbour Marina year-round, but in this difficult and challenging season, it was good to see more yacht masts in the marina and other yachts going onto their moorings in Monkstown Bay.
That was the good news. The disappointing news was from Sail Training Ireland that they have had to cancel all Tall Ship voyages planned for this year.
Chief Executive Daragh Sheridan said this was inevitable because there was no way the organisation “could ensure the social distancing required to ensure the safety of trainees and crew.”
That is the issue which troubles me about the resumption of cruiser yacht racing.
The Government’s medical advisors and the Minister for Health have been making it clear that, as Mr.Harris has said: “social distancing will be with us for a long time.”
Two metres is just over six feet, even one metre would be difficult, “impossible” is the description I’ve heard repeatedly in phone calls and read in Emails.
Two instances this week highlighted my thoughts about this “social” or “physical distancing.” One was when I was reminded of a 30-year anniversary and the lack of any “social distance” on my only TransAtlantic race, back in May 1990 as a crew member aboard NCB Ireland on the last leg of that year’s Round the World Race, then known as the Whitbread, from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton - 3,818 nautical miles sailed over 18 days. The crew shared “hot bunking”. Mine was the middle of three where when lying down there wasn’t enough space to raise a book to read.
Social or physical distancing wasn’t possible on the 83-foot NCB and I can’t see it either on Scribbler, the 33-foot Sigma which I sail with my son, grandsons and occasional other crew. We won’t even qualify as a family crew because we are in two households.
Irish Sailing are doing their best, but there seems little official understanding of the requirements of sailing. How do you keep apart during the demands of racing, when more than one person may be needed to get a sail in or to launch and recover a spinnaker, or what about adding weight on the rail?
Solo racing will be ok, but there aren’t a preponderance of single-household cruiser racing crews, or so it appears from the reaction I’m receiving. Even with the easing of restrictions, the constant message is that social distancing stays in place…. So can cruiser racing be resumed?
All the comments I’m getting seem to be doubtful unless there are major changes in social distancing. I hope there are because I’d like to go sailing and racing this season.
This week’s Podcast is below...
An untended wheelbarrow apparently abandoned in a boat at Ringabella at the entrance to Cork Harbour has raised concerns about the well-being of the noted Dublin-based seafood distributor, Ms Molly Malone. An outstanding figure in the Dublin retail food-to-go scene, Ms Malone is noted for her special skills in the use of wheel-barrows for the rapid distribution of live seafood, notably cockles and mussels. It is believed that she may have gone to Cork to inspect new sources of supply which will live up to the business mission statement of her wares being “Alive, Alive-Oh”.
While conspicuous in her retail role, Ms Malone is noted for keeping her activities under cover when developing agencies for resourcing her popular products. Thus even her closest colleagues were unaware that she might have gone to Cork to broaden her network. And while the authorities are keeping an open mind about the situation, the Gardai and the Irish Coastguard would welcome any information from any source whatever about the possible whereabouts of Ms Malone (whose photo they have distributed), and they assure Afloat.ie that they will keep the media and the public abreast of all developments.
The problem for resuming normal yacht racing is the current limitation on household crewing of boats only. Because the majority of yachts are not crewed solely by one household, racing is impossible under current restrictions. This is reflected in the intentions of two Cork clubs to resume limited racing, for household-crewed boats only, reports Tom MacSweeney.
Kinsale Yacht Club's limited form of club sailing
Kinsale Yacht Club is proposing to start what Club Commodore Mike Walsh describes as “a limited form of club sailing next Wednesday (June 10) but only for family/ household boats living within 20kms of the club marina. This would include Squibs, Dragons, Cruisers.”
He has told members that this racing “will be limited to white sail only for cruisers.
“All activities are limited to household units. If there is sufficient interest we will continue this league or series of races until July 20. Starting and finishing will be from the club marina.”
The club intends to start its Junior Sailing/training course on July 6, which is likely to run to the end of August in a restructured schedule. The course is fully booked. Further applications will be put on a waiting list.
Cove Sailing Club's single-handed or single household sailing
This also will only be for “single-handed or single household sailing.”
The club says it will not be able to run “a full programme of training courses similar to the past 13 years, but will endeavour to plan for a return to sailing courses as soon as safely possible.”