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When long-distance American sailor Nick Kats – now 62 - arrived into Clifden in far west Connemara nearly ten years ago with his 39ft steel Bermudan ketch Teddy, it started a fascinating new chapter in an already interesting life. For although his vocational training had turned him into a skilled carpenter and shipwright, his aptitude was as a sailor, he was also a doctor specialising in natural medicines, and in the exceptionally-varied environment of this part of Ireland’s always fascinating Atlantic seaboard, he was to find an area rich in possibilities, and his lifelong interest in foraging acquired new dimensions.

Nick Kats, this will be his third voyage to East GreenlandMany of many parts – for Nick Kats, this will be his third voyage to East Greenland

So although since 2012 he has had a longterm plan of sailing back to his home territory in the US’s Pacific northwest - ideally by using the Northwest Passage – events and changing circumstances have managed to prevent it, or at least put it on a very long finger. Certainly, he has made exploratory voyages to the High Arctic. But as often as not, he seems to have intentionally ended up well east of Greenland’s southern tip of Cape Farewell, way up around Iceland and Jan Mayen and East Greenland, and then Teddy invariably returns to her familiar winter berth, comfortably drying out at low water against the picturesque quayside in Clifden.

Teddy (centre) at Clifden Quay Teddy (centre) at Clifden Quay in the early days – there has been some building done beside her berth since this photo was taken

Apart from becoming part of the Clifden and west Connemara community, where he now has a shore base with a house set deep in that Land of the Sea, Nick Kats was already in several communications groupings when he arrived thanks to his eclectic range of interests, while he is also in a very special group of sailors in being deaf. Thus internet communications are a Godsend for him in recruiting crew, and the blogs by himself and various crewfolk hint at the diversity of characters that the wanderings of Teddy attract, such as Pierre the French chef who came aboard with rumours of experience in some very famous kitchens.

Nick Kats in Teddy’s comfortable saloonThe Master Forager in his den – Nick Kats in Teddy’s comfortable saloon with some interesting ingredients to hand

He’d been met through Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt where he’d been working as a boatbuilder with Liam Hegarty, the restorer of Ilen among many other major projects. Yet somehow Pierre managed to spend a long period sailing on Teddy without cooking a single meal. But as Nick can rustle up superb food, occasionally from some unlikely ingredients, that was no problem.

We learn of this from crewman Josh, a New Zealander who claims with some pride to have no fixed abode, who tells also how they all get along with Nick’s virtually total deafness since his birth in France 62 years ago. It seems they simply take it for granted or forget about it as time passes, learning to face him fully when talking in daylight, while at night there’s something resembling telepathy to keep things moving along.

Teddy is the epitome of the ocean voyagerAt her own pace, in her own time – Teddy is the epitome of the ocean voyager. Photo: Kenneth Whelan

Not that Teddy is an excessively labour-intensive boat, as she is one of those rare but wonderful craft which can easily be made to steer herself on most points of sailing. Designed and built in steel as one of two in 1988 by Arne Hedlund of Denmark, her design certainly gives a nod to Colin Archer. But she’s very much her own boat, with a transom stern which provides valuable cockpit and deck space right aft, where a classic canoe-sterned Redningsskoyte design from Archer tends to be distinctly cramped.

The ocean dream – Teddy self-sailing while dolphins play around the forefootThe ocean dream – Teddy self-sailing while dolphins play around the forefoot

In fact, Teddy is a boat of moderation in everything, being neither too wide nor too narrow, neither too heavy nor too light, with as much accommodation as can reasonably be fitted without reaching sardine-can territory. Her hull balances easily, and having a ketch rig increases the options for sail combinations to minimize helm load while still providing driving power such that – like Slocum’s Spray – once set in the grove, she just goes effortlessly on steering herself for miles and miles, the ease of it all shortening the apparent distance.

Nick Kats’ pleasure in all this is such that, although he was in East Greenland waters as recently as last year, yesterday (Monday) Teddy departed from the comfort of Clifden, outward bound for his third visit to that remote area beyond Iceland, over towards Greenland, and up to Jan Mayen. There, the ice cover is certainly much less than it was when Lord Dufferin made his pioneering high latitude cruise with the schooner Foam in 1856, as a result of which the charts of that rugged and remote island still show a small cove named Clandeboye Creek on the eastern shore, far indeed from the luxuriant ‘Gold Coast’ of North Down where Dufferin’s ancestral lands were centred around Clandeboye House.

Beerenberg on Jan Mayen Beerenberg on Jan Mayen as seen from Teddy in today’s conditions, above an ice-free sea. Photo: Alex Hissting

Beerenberg suddenly appears through a gap in the clouds above the fog and the ice around Lord Dufferin’s Foam (lower left) in 1856 Beerenberg suddenly appears through a gap in the clouds above the fog and the ice around Lord Dufferin’s Foam (lower left) in 1856

Teddy’s current voyage is limited only by the fact that two of the crew – Dutch finance student Arjan Leuw (24) and Italian architect Piero Favero (33) - have flights booked out of Iceland on 6th September, following which Nick and remaining Irish crewman Aodh O Duinn (29, and a veteran of tall ships) expect to head for home and Clifden double-handed.

But just what some of the remote ports and settlements that they expect to visit will make of a boat coming in from far beyond the seas in this time of COVID-19 remains to be seen. As things are, it is quite an achievement to have assembled an international crew and get free to voyage towards distant horizons and remote snow-covered peaks.

Meanwhile, there is much busy research currently under way among various cruising and long-distance organisations as to just what is or is not possible in the Arctic, where we instinctively feel that the disease will not be so rampant, thanks to sparseness of population and the purity of air.

Northwest Iceland as seen from Teddy last year.Will it be as fresh and healthy as it looks? Northwest Iceland as seen from Teddy last year

Whether or not that is the case is a moot point. As it is, we cannot help but notice that, through the month of June, many frustrated Irish sailors were sustained by the wonderful thought of the one-armed voyager Garry Crothers successfully battling alone across 3,500 miles of the Atlantic in order to get home to Derry.

And now, the mantle of our sailing dreams has been taken over by a highly individualistic owner-skipper who has not let profound deafness limit his joy in voyaging and savouring the special nature of the High Arctic cruising grounds. Our thoughts are with the crew of the Teddy, and thanks to Damian Ward of Clifden Boat Club, we have this drone footage of the ketch taking her low-key departure from Clifden Quay, and heading out for other places beyond the northern seas.

Published in Cruising
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The Marine Institute in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade launched the Network of Arctic Researchers in Ireland (NARI) last Friday.

NARI aims to create, maintain and develop an informal all-island network of Arctic researchers in Ireland to facilitate the collaboration of scientific activities linked to the Arctic, and to provide independent scientific advice to the public and policymakers.

Irish sailors have voyaged to both the Arctic and Antarctic in recent times. Last Summer Gary McMahon's restored Ilen project went to Greenland and the Arctic circle. Jamie Young’s Frers 49 exploration yacht Killary Flyer from Ireland's west coast travelled to the Arctic in 2013 and 2019. And this year Round the World Sailor Damian Foxall led a mission to Antarctica.

According to the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere, the extent of Arctic sea ice is declining and is getting thinner. Glaciers and ice sheets in polar and mountain regions are also losing mass, contributing to an increasing rate of sea-level rise, together with expansion of the warmer ocean. Sea level rise will increase the frequency of extreme sea-level events and warming oceans are disrupting marine ecosystems.

With significant demand for greatly enhanced knowledge and services to observe the changes in our oceans, NARI aims to enhance collaboration and promote Irish-based Arctic research activities, seek international polar cooperation and support the next generation of Arctic scientists.

President of NARI, Dr Audrey Morley of National University of Ireland, Galway said, “The coordination of research efforts on a regional, national and international scale is becoming increasingly urgent in order to address the emerging environmental and societal pressures on the Arctic region, which are of global significance. NARI will support a greater scientific understanding of the Arctic region and its role in the Earth system.”

Dr Audrey Morley will be leading a survey on the Marine Institute’s marine research vessel the RV Celtic Explorer later this year to improve our understanding of marine essential climate variables in the Nordic Seas. The Marine Institute is providing ship-time funding for this research survey and funding Dr Audrey Morley’s Post-Doctoral Fellowship (Decoding Arctic Climate Change: From Archive to Insight) in support of improving our understanding of Arctic climate change and ecosystems.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute said, “As an Arctic neighbour, Ireland is exposed to the effects of a warming ocean, such as rising sea levels, increasing storm intensity and changing marine ecosystems. Scientists based in Ireland can make a real and meaningful contribution to Arctic research, and help to develop and implement adaptation responses from local to global scales. The Marine Institute is delighted to be supporting a network which will foster impactful research into the causes, manifestations and impact of Arctic change.”

Since 2018, the Embassy of Ireland in Oslo and the Marine Institute have sponsored early career researchers to attend the Arctic Frontiers Emerging Leaders. It is an annual program held in Tromsø, Norway, which brings together approximately 30 young scientists and professionals from around the world with interests in Arctic security, Arctic economy and Arctic environment.

Marine Institute and Dep Foreign Affairs and Trade launch NARI 28 February 2020The Marine Institute and Dept Foreign Affairs have launched an informal Arctic researchers network

Ciara Delaney, Regional Director at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said: “The Department of Foreign Affairs is delighted to host today’s round-table meeting of Irish-based Arctic researchers. Given the impact of climate change and the increasing relevance of strategic developments in the Arctic, the Arctic region is of growing importance to Ireland. A previous roundtable meeting in 2019 demonstrated considerable interest for the establishment of a national network of researchers to identify and take forward areas of common interest on Arctic issues. Building on this initiative, we are delighted to officially launch the new Network, together with the Marine Institute of Ireland. I hope that NARI can contribute to developing a strong, research-led, evidence base for Ireland’s growing engagement with the Arctic region.”

The new all-island network (NARI) brings together multidisciplinary scientists from the National University of Ireland Galway, the University of Limerick, the National Maritime College of Ireland, Cork Institute of Technology, Queens University Belfast, National University of Ireland Maynooth, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork.

Published in Marine Science

The further west you go in Ireland, the warmer is the hospitality. So despite the current ferocious weather and the fact that Clifden in Connemara is well out into Ireland’s Atlantic frontier, the mood will be friendly and warm in Clifden Boat Club this Saturday night as Commodore Donal O Scannell welcomes members and guests for American skipper Nick Kats’s profusely-illustrated unveiling of his recent Arctic voyaging with his hefty Danish steel-built Bermuda-rigged 39ft ketch Teddy.

It is quite a few years since Nick and Teddy arrived into Clifden for a visit of undefined length, and during that time he has built up a reputation in Connemara for his skills as an acupuncturist and naturopathic doctor. But a return to his home in Oregon by way of the Northwest Passage was always on the horizon. However, it slipped down the agenda as he made exploratory visits to Greenland waters, and became bewitched by the place.

Thus last year’s cruise to the north was clearly made with no intention of trying for the Northwest Passage at all, as it took him to Eastern Greenland and included a circuit of Iceland before returning to Clifden. Just like that. It’s all very remarkable, and if you’re looking for something truly different in Connemara this Saturday night, we strongly recommend a visit to Clifden Boat Club for a unique experience.

Published in Cruising

Eight Irishmen and their 47-foot boat Northabout left Westport in June 2001 to sail the Northwest Passage north of Canada and Alaska. Nobody had ever sailed this in an East/West direction which is against the prevailing tides and winds. The crew endured hazards of ever-moving ice and navigation through narrow channels of open water.

They photographed the harshly beautiful landscape and superb wildlife on their way. The boat was designed specifically for polar exploration and built by Jarlath Cunnane of Mayo, and eventually she returned to Clew Bay after completing an Arctic circumnavigation of the world with a transit of the Northeast Passage north of Russia.

One of the crew was Gary Finnegan who has been a cameraman and filmmaker for over 30 years. As well as crewing on this journey Gary filmed the trip from start to finish.

Gary is coming to Sutton Dinghy Club on Thursday, March 14th at 7.30pm to show this great film and to answer any questions you have on the night.

Published in Cruising
Tagged under

#Shipping - Ireland supports a move toward banning the use of heavy fuel oil from Arctic shipping, following a meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London earlier this month.

Plans to develop a ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping, along with an assessment of the impact of such a ban, were agreed upon during the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, which closed on Friday 13 April. 

The move was welcomed by the Clean Arctic Alliance campaign, which called on IMO member states to “make every effort” to adopt and implement a ban on “the world’s dirtiest fuel” by 2021.

“Thanks to inspired and motivated action taken by a number of IMO member states to move towards a ban on heavy fuel oil, Arctic communities and ecosystems will be protected from the threat of oil spills, and the impact of black carbon emissions”, said Dr Sian Prior, lead advisor to the coalition of 18 NGOs working to end HFO use as marine fuel in Arctic waters. 

“A ban is the simplest and most effective way to mitigate the risks of HFO – and now we’re calling on the IMO to ensure that this ban will be in place by 2021. Any impact assessment must inform, but not delay progression towards an Arctic HFO ban, and member states must ensure that Arctic communities are not burdened with any costs associated with such a ban.”

The proposal to ban HFO as shipping fuel from Arctic waters was co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United States. 

The proposal for a ban, along with a proposal to assess the impact of such a ban on Arctic communities from Canada, was supported by Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Ireland, Japan, the League of Arab States, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK. 

Support from Denmark is particularly notable as it is the sixth Arctic nation to support the ban, according to the Clean Arctic Alliance.

“With Denmark the sixth Arctic nation to back a ban on HFO from Arctic shipping, the green alliance of Arctic nations have sent a clear message to the IMO,” said Kåre Press-Kristensen, senior advisor in the Danish Ecological Council. 

“With both the Danish government and the Danish shipping industry united to ban HFO, we hope to gain further international support for the ban from more nations and progressive parts of the shipping industry. Next step will be to engage Greenland further in planning and preparing for the ban.”

Alaskan native Verner Wilson, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth US and a member of Curyung Tribal Council, with Yupik family roots in the Bering Strait region between Russia and the US, said: “I am grateful that IMO has advanced a ban on HFO to help protect Arctic communities and our traditional way of life.

“For thousands of years we have relied on our pristine waters and wildlife – and now the IMO has taken this important step to help protect our people and environment.”

The Clean Arctic Alliance says there “widespread support from within the industry” for a HFO ban, citing the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, the Norwegian Shipowners Association and icebreaker company Arctia as among those who have expressed support.

Published in Ports & Shipping
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#ArcticBuoy - A marine research buoy found on the Connemara coast by local Sea Scouts recently had drifted over 6,000 kilometres across the Beaufort Sea, Arctic Ocean and Atlantic to Ireland.

The buoy, around half a metre in diameter, was found at Lettermullen by the scout troop during an exploration of their local beach.

Michael Loftus, leader of Gasógaí Mara na Gaeltachta (Connemara Sea Scouts), said they often find flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shore, which they can usually identify.

“However, little did we know that this new find would uncover a world of discovery relating to the buoy being launched from an aircraft in the Arctic Ocean and travelling thousands of kilometres to land on the west coast of Ireland.”

The Marine Institute, which works on a series of projects where autonomous instruments are deployed into the ocean for marine research, was contacted to help solve the mystery of where the red buoy came from.

“Although the buoy is not an Argo float that is typically used by the institute as part of the national Argo float programme, we were delighted to help the Sea Scouts establish that the buoy is in fact an Airborne Expendable Ice Buoy, which came from as far away as the Beaufort Sea,” said Diarmuid Ó Conchubhair of the Marine Institute.

The International Arctic Buoy Programme involves a number of different countries including Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Russia, and the United States.

The programme maintains a network of drifting buoys in the Arctic Ocean that are used to monitor sea surface temperatures, ice concentration, and sea level and support weather forecasting. The buoys are also used for validating climate or earth system models which inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

Each buoy in this programme has an identification number that is used to track its location in the Arctic Ocean using a type of satellite communication system.

“Using the number marked on this buoy [#4800512], we were able to establish that this particular buoy had been deployed by an aircraft over five years ago in the Beaufort Sea, north of the Yukon and Alaska, west of Canadian Arctic islands,” said Ó Conchubhair.

Dr Eleanor O’Rourke, oceanographic services manager at the Marine Institute, explained: “Researchers involved in the International Arctic Buoy Programme decide where to deploy buoys, particularly where the status of sea-ice may be changing.

“Most of the buoys are placed on sea ice, but some are placed in open water in some of the most remote parts of the world's ocean, where it is difficult for research vessels to access.”

Footage of the buoy found in Connemara being deployed from an US Coast Guard C-130 aircraft in 2012 can be seen online.

Airborne Expendable Ice Buoys have an average lifespan of 18 months and around 25 to 40 buoys operate at any given time.

“The buoy last reported its data in 2014 and it is likely that it ran out of battery power and spent the last three to four years at the sea surface travelling via wind and ocean surface currents,” said O’Rourke.

In 2007, Ireland became a member of the international Argo programme, which uses robotic instruments known as autonomous Argo floats that report on subsurface ocean water properties such as temperature and salinity via satellite transmission to data centres.

Using a fleet of around 4,000 autonomous floats around the world, the Argo array is an indispensable component of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS).

“Similar to the buoys used by the International Arctic Buoy Programme, Argo floats collect and distribute real time information on the temperature and salinity of the ocean,” said Ó Conchubhair, who is vice chair of the European Argo Programme.

“Argo floats; however, measure these variables from the upper 2,000m of the ocean and help to describe long-term trends in ocean parameters such as their physical and thermodynamic state.”

This information is required to understand and monitor the role of the ocean in the Earth's climate system, in particular the heat and water balance.

Click here for more information about Ireland’s involvement in the Argo programme. You can also track and look at data from Irish Argo floats at Ireland’s Digital Ocean.

Four years ago, another Arctic device was found on the North West Coast and exhibited by Transition Year students in Co Mayo, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Marine Science

#HMSTerror - The discovery of what appears to be the wreck of the long-lost HMS Terror may rewrite the history of one of the biggest mysteries of polar exploration.

According to The Guardian, the nearly completely intact Vesuvius-class bomb vessel was found in a stroke of luck by researchers in an Arctic bay in the far north of Canada.

And their find was almost exactly 170 years to the day since the Terror and sister ship HMS Erebus were first trapped in polar ice northwest of King William Island in Victoria Strait.

Both vessels were part of an expedition by Sir John Franklin to complete the Northwest Passage in the 1840s, but Franklin did not live to see the final days of the ill-fated mission.

He was succeeded in June 1847 by Banbridge native Captain Francis Crozier, whose last known effort, as evident from a scrawled note from previous recovered records, was an attempt a year later to lead the remaining crew to safety along a river to the south, though no trace of their movements has been found.

However, the discovery of the Terror some 100km south of where it was previously believed crushed by the ice opens up a wealth of questions as to how Capt Crozier and his crew survived the extremes of the region for so long.

The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update

With last night’s Irish Cruising Club Annual General Meeting & Prize-Giving hosted at Howth Yacht Club, and this morning’s day-long ISA Cruising Conference at the same venue, centre stage has been taken by the silent majority – the large but distinctly reticent segment of the sailing population which emphatically does not have racing as its primary interest afloat. W M Nixon takes us on a guided tour.

The great Leif Eriksson would approve of some of the more adventurous members of the Irish Cruising Club. They seem to be obsessed with sailing to Greenland and cruising along its coast. And it was the doughty Viking’s father Erik Thorvaldsson (aka Erik the Red) who first told his fellow Icelanders that he’d given the name of Greenland to the enormous island he’d discovered far to the west of Iceland. He did so because he claimed much of it was so lush and fertile, with huge potential for rural and coastal development, that no other name would do.

Leif then followed in the family tradition of going completely over the top in naming newly-discovered real estate. He went even further west and discovered a foggy cold part of the American mainland which he promptly named Vinland, as he claimed the area was just one potential classic wine chateau after another, and hadn’t he brought back the vines to prove it?

In time, Erik’s enthusiasm for Greenland was seen as an early property scam. For no sooner had the Icelanders established a little settlement there around 1000 AD than a period of Arctic cooling began to set in, and by the mid-1300s there’d been a serious deterioration of the climate. What had been a Scandinavian population of maybe five thousands at its peak faded away, and gradually the Inuit people – originally from the American mainland – moved south from their first beachheads established to the northwest around 1200 AD. They proved more successful at adapting to what had become a Little Ice Age, while no Vikings were left.

Now we’re in the era of global warming, and there’s no doubt that Greenland is more accessible. But for those of us who think that cruising should be a matter of making yourself as comfortable as possible while your boats sails briskly across the sea in a temperate climate or perhaps even warmer for preference, the notion of devoting a summer to sailing to Greenland and taking on the challenge of its rugged iron coast, with ice everywhere, still takes a bit of getting used to.

Yet in recent years the Irish boats seem to have been tripping over each other up there. And for some true aficionados, the lure of the icy regions was in place long before the effects of global warming were visibly making it more accessible.

Peter Killen of Malahide, Commodore of the Irish Cruising Club, is a flag officer who leads by example. It was all of twenty years ago that he was first in Greenland with his Sigma 36 Black Pepper, and truly there was a lot of ice about. The weather was also dreadful, while Ireland was enjoying the best summer in years.

Cape Farewell Greenland 2
Peter Killen’s Sigma 36 Black Pepper in local ice at the quay inside Cape Farewell in Greenland, August 1995

penguin  Antarctica
ICC Commodore Peter Killen’s current boat is Pure Magic, an Amel Super Maramu seen here providing the backdrop for a fine penguin in Antarctica, December 2004.

More recently, he and his crew of longterm shipmates have been covering thousands of sea miles in the Amel Super Maramu 54 Pure Magic, among other ventures having a look at lots more ice down Antarctic way to see how it compares with the Arctic. With all their wanderings, by the end of the 2014 season Pure Magic was laid up for the winter in eastern Canada in Nova Scotia. So of course in order to get back to Ireland through 2015, the only way was with a long diversion up the west coast of Greenland. And the weather was grand, while Ireland definitely wasn’t enjoying the best summer in years.

The Pure Magic team certainly believe in enjoying their cruising, however rugged the terrain. If the Greenland Tourist Board are looking for a marketing manager, they could do no better than sign up the skipper of Pure Magic for the job. His entertaining log about cruising the region – featured in the usual impressive ICC Annual edited for the fourth time by Ed Wheeler – makes West Greenland seem a fun place with heaps of hospitality and friendly folk from one end to the other.

Greenland  coast
If ice is your thing, then this is the place to be – Peter Killen’s Pure Magic off the west Greenland coast, summer 2015.

But then Peter Killen is not as other men. I don’t mean he is some sort of alien being from the planet Zog. Or at least he isn’t so far as I know. But the fact is, he just doesn’t seem to feel the cold. I sailed with him on a raw Autumn day some years ago, and while the rest of us were piling on the layers, our skipper was as happy as Larry in a short-sleeved shirt.

I’d been thinking my memory had exaggerated this immunity to cold. But there sure enough in the latest ICC Annual is a photo of the crew of Pure Magic enjoying a visit to the little Katersugaasivik Museum in Nuuk, and the bould skipper is in what could well be the same skimpy outfit he was wearing when we sailed together all those years ago. As for the rest of the group, only tough nut Hugh Barry isn’t wearing a jacket of some sort – even Aqqala the Museum curator is wearing one.

Pure Magic crew
Some folk feel the cold more than others – Pure Magic’s crew absorbing local culture in Greenland are (left to right) Mike Alexander, Peter Killen, Hugh Barry, Aqqalu the museum curator, Robert Barker, and Joe Phelan

Having a skipper with this immunity to cold proved to be a Godsend before they left Greenland waters, when Pure Magic picked up a fishing net in her prop while motoring in a calm. Peter Killen has carried a wetsuit for emergencies for years, and finally it was used. He hauled it on, plunged in with breathing gear in action, and had the foul-up cleared in twenty minutes. Other skipper and Commodores please note……

The adjudicator for the 2015 logs was Hilary Keatinge, who has one of those choice-of-gender names which might confuse, so it’s good news to reveal that after 85 years, the ICC has had its first woman adjudicator. No better one for the job, man or woman. Before marrying the late Bill Keatinge, she was Hilary Roche, daughter of Terry Roche of Dun Laoghaire who cruised the entire coastline of Europe in a twenty year odyssey of successive summers, and his daughter has proven herself a formidable cruising person, a noted narrator of cruising experiences, and a successful writer of cruising guides and histories.

Nevertheless even she admitted last night that once all the material has arrived on the adjudicator’s screen, she finally appreciated the enormity of the task at hand, for the Irish Cruising Club just seems to go from strength to strength. Yet although it’s a club which limits itself to 550 members as anything beyond that would result in administrative overload and the lowering of standards, it ensures that the experience of its members benefit the entire sailing community through its regularly up-dated sailing directions for the entire coast of Ireland. And there’s overlap with the wider membership of the Cruising Association of Ireland, which will add extra talent to the expert lineup providing a host of information and guidance at today’s ISA Cruising Conference.

But that’s this morning’s work. Meanwhile last night’s dispensation of the silverware – some of which dates back to 1931 – revealed an extraordinarily active membership. And while they did have those hardy souls who ventured into icy regions, there were many others who went to places where the only ice within thousands of miles was in the nearest fridge, and instead of bare rocky mountains they cruised lush green coasts.

Nevertheless the ice men have it in terms of some of the top awards, as Hilary Keatinge has given the Atlantic Trophy for the best cruise with a passage of more than a thousand miles to the 4194 mile cruise of Peter Killen’s Pure Magic from Halifax to Nova Scotia to Howth, with those many diversions on the way, while the Strangford Cup for an alternative best cruise goes to Paddy Barry, who set forth from Poolbeg in the heart of Dublin Port, and by the time he’d returned he’d completed his “North Atlantic Crescent”, first to the Faeroes, then Iceland to port, then across the Denmark Strait to southeast Greenland for detailed cruising and mountaineering, then eventually towards Ireland but leaving Iceland to port, so they circumnavigated it in the midst of greater enterprises.

Poolbeg  Dublin6
You collect very few courtesy ensigns in the frozen north. Back at Poolbeg in Dublin after her “North Atlantic Crescent” round Iceland and on to Greenland, Paddy Barry’s Ar Seachran sports the flags of the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland. Ar Seachran is a 1979 alloy-built Frers 45. Photo: Tony Brown

Arctic polar bear
“Definitely the Arctic”. A polar bear spotted from Ar Seachran. Photo: Ronan O Caoimh

Paddy Barry started his epic ocean voyaging many years ago with the Galway Hooker St Patrick, but his cruising boat these days is very different, a classic Frers 45 offshore racer of 1979 vintage. Probably the last thing the Frers team were thinking when they turned out a whole range of these gorgeous performance boats thirty-five years ago was that their aluminium hulls would prove ideal for getting quickly to icy regions, and then coping with sea ice of all shapes and ices once they got there. But not only does Paddy Barry’s Ar Seacrhran do it with aplomb, so too does Jamie Young’s slightly larger sister, the Frers 49 Killary Flyer (ex Hesperia ex Noryema XI) from Connacht, whose later adventures in West Greenland featured recently in a TG4 documentary.

mountains Iceland
“A grand soft day in Iceland”. Harry Connolly and Paddy Barry setting out to take on mountains in Iceland during their award-winning cruise to Greenland. Photo: Harry Connolly

Pure Magic and Ar Seachran are hefty big boats, but the other ICC voyager rewarded last night by Hilary Keatinge for getting to Arctic waters did his cruise in the Lady Kate, a boat so ordinary you’d scarcely notice her were it not for the fact that she’s kept in exceptionally good trim.

Drive along in summer past the inner harbour at Dungarvan in West Waterford at low water, and you’ll inevitably be distracted by the number of locally-based bilge-keelers sitting serenely upright (more or less) on that famous Dungarvan mud. There amongst them might be the Moody 31 Lady Kate, for Dungarvan is her home port.

But she was away for quite a while last year, as Donal Walsh took her on an extraordinary cruise to the Arctic, going west of the British mainland then on via Orkney and Shetland to Norway whose coast goes on for ever until you reach the Artic Circle where the doughty Donal had a swim, as one does, and looked at a glacier or too, and then sailed home but this this time leaving the British mainland to starboard. A fabulous 3,500 mile eleven week cruise, he very deservedly was awarded the Fingal Cup for a venture the adjudicator reckons to be extra special – as she puts it, “you feel you’re part of the crew, though I don’t think I’d have done the Arctic Circle swim.”

Svartsen Glacier Norway9
A long way from Dungarvan. Lady Kate with Donal Walsh off the Svartsen Glacier in northern Norway

Indeed, in taking an overview of the placings of the awards, you can reasonable conclude that the adjudicator reckons any civilized person can have enough of ice cruising, as she gives the ICC’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup, to a classic Atlantic triangle cruise to the Azores made from Dun Laoghaire by Alan Rountree with his van de Sadt-designed Legend 34 Tallulah, a boat of 1987 vintage which he completed himself (to a very high standard) from a hull made in Dublin by BJ Marine.

Tallulah looks as immaculate as ever, as we all saw at the Cruising Association of Ireland rally in Dublin’s River Liffey in September. And this is something of a special year for Alan Rountree, as completely independently of the Faulkner Cup award, the East Coast ICC members awarded their own area trophy, the Donegan Cup for longterm achievement, to Tallulah’s skipper. As one of those involved in the decision put it, basically he got the Donegan Trophy “for being Alan Rountree – what more can be said?”

Azores 10
The essence of the Azores. Red roofs maybe, but not an iceberg in sight, and the green is even greener than Ireland. Alan Rountree’s succesful return cruise to the Azores has been awarded the ICC’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup.

Tallulah Yacht11
Tallulah at the CAI Rally in the Liffey last Setpember. She looks as good today as when Alan Rountree completed her from a bare hull nearly thirty years ago. Photo: W M Nixon

Tallulah 12
A boat to get you there – and back again. Tallulah takes her departure from the CAI Rally in Dublin. Photo: Aidan Coughlan

Well, it can be said that his Azores cruise was quietly courageous, for although the weather was fine in the islands, the nearer he got to Ireland the more unsettled it became, and he sailed with the recollection of Tallulah being rolled through 360 degrees as she crossed the Continental Shelf in a storm in 1991. But he simply plodded on through calm and storm, the job was done, and Tallulah is the latest recipient of a trophy which embodies the history of modern Irish cruising.

There were many other awards distributed last night, and for those who think that the ICC is all about enormous expensively-equipped boats, let it be recorded that the Marie Trophy for a best cruise in a boat under 30ft long went to Conor O’Byrne of Galway who sailed to the Hebrides with his Sadler 26 Calico Jack, while the Fortnight Cup was taken by a 32-footer, Harry Whelehan’s Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 32 for a fascinating cruise in detail round the Irish Sea, an area in which, the further east you get to coastlines known to very few Irish cruising men, then the bigger the tides become with very demanding challenges in the pilotage stales.

Sadler 26 Calico
The smallest boat to be awarded a trophy at last night's Irish Cruising Club prize-giving was Conor O’Byrne’s Sadler 26 Calico Jack, seen here in Tobermory during her cruise from Connacht to the Hebrides

As for “expensively equipped”, the Rockabill Trophy for seamanship went to Paul Cooper, former Commodore of Clontarf Yacht & Boat Club and an ICC member for 32 years, who solved a series of very threatening problems with guts and ingenuity aboard someone else’s Spray replica during a 1500 mile voyage in the Caribbean, with very major problems being skillfully solved, as the judge observed, “without a cross word being spoken”.

Not surprisingly in view of the weather Ireland experienced for much of the season, there were no contenders for the Round Ireland cruise trophy, though I suppose you could argue that the return of Pure Magic meant the completion of a round Ireland venture, even if in this case the Emerald Isle becomes no more than a mark of the course.

In fact, with the unsettled weather conditions of recent summers in Ireland , there’s now quite a substantial group of ICC boats based out in Galicia in northwest Spain, where the mood of the coast and the weather “is like Ireland only better”. The ICC Annual gives us a glimpse of the activities of these exiles, and one of the most interesting photos in it is provided by Peter Haden of Ballyvaughan in County Clare, whose 36ft Westerly Seahawk Papageno has been based among the Galician rias for many years now.

Down there, the Irish cruising colony can even do a spot of racing provided it’s against interesting local tradtional boats, and Peter’s photo is of Dermod Lovett of Cork going flat out in his classic Salar 40 Lonehort against one of the local Dorna Xeiteras, which we’re told is the Galician equivalent of a Galway Bay gleoiteog. Whatever, neither boat in the photo is giving an inch.

Salar 40 Lonehort14
So who never races? Dermod Lovett ICC in competition with his Salar 40 Lonehort against a local traditional Dorna Xeiteira among the rias of northwest Spain. Photo: Peter Haden

Hilary Keatinge’s adjudication is a delight to read in itself, and last night after just about every sailing centre in Ireland was honoured with an ICC award for one of its locally-based members, naturally the crews leapt to the mainbrace and great was the splicing thereof.

But it’s back to porridge this morning in HYC and the serious work of the ISA Cruising Conference, where the range of topics is clearly of great interest, for the Conference was booked out within a very short time of being highlighted on the Afloat.ie website.

It’s during it that we’ll hear more about that intriguing little anchorage which provides our header photo, for although it could well be somewhere on the Algarve in Portugal, or even in the Ionian islands in Greece were it not for the evidence of tide, it is in fact on the Copper Coast of south Waterford, between Dungarvan and Dunmore East, and it’s known as Blind Harbour.

It’s a charming place if you’ve very settled weather, but it’s so small that you’d probably need to moor bow and stern if you were thinking to overnight, but that’s not really recommended anyway. Norman Kean, Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions, had heard about this intriguing little spot from Donal Walsh of Dungarvan (he who has just been awarded the Fingal Cup), and being Norman Kean, he and Geraldine just had to go and experience it for themselves. But it has taken three attempts to have the right conditions as they were sailing by, and it happened in 2015 in a very brief period of settled weather as they headed past in their recently-acquired Warrior 40 Coire Uisge, which has become the new flagship of the ICC’s informal survey flotilla.

Waterford Copper Coast
The secret cove is to be found on Waterford’s Copper Coast, midway between Dungarvan and Dunmore East. Courtesy ICC

Blind Harbour
The newly-surveyed Blind Harbour on the Waterford coast as it appears in the latest edition of the ICC’s South & West Coasts Sailing Directions published this month. Courtesy ICC.

They found they’d to eye-ball their way in to this particular Blind Harbour (there are others so-named around the Irish coast) using the echo sounder, as any reliance on electronic chart assistance would have had them on the nearest part of County Waterford, albeit by only a matter of feet. With a similar exercise a couple of years ago, they found that the same thing was the case at the Joyce Sound Pass inside Slyne head in Connemara – rely in the chart plotter, and you’re making the pilotage into “impactive navigation”.

The message is that some parts of charts are still relying on surveys from a very long time ago, and locations of hyper-narrow channels may be a few metres away from where they actually are. On the other hand, electronic anomalies may arise. Whatever the reason, I know that a couple of years ago, in testing the ship’s gallant little chart plotter we headed for the tricky-enough Gillet passage inside the South Briggs at the south side of the entrance to Belfast Lough, and found that it indicated the rocks as shown were a tiny bit further north than we were seeing, which could have caused a but of a bump if we’d continued on our electronic way.

Electronic charts are only one of many topics which will be covered today. We hope to bring a full report next Saturday, for the participants will in turn require a day or two to digest their findings.

Published in W M Nixon

Irish offshore sailor Jarlath Cunnane, the first Irish skipper to transit the northeast passage with Northabout in 2003-2004, has been among the first to congratulate Guo Chuan on his world record in transiting the treacherous 3240nm passage.

“This is a great and fantastic achievement. But it also shows how much the ice is retreating. Guo Chuan and his team were sailing in a mostly ice free waters in areas where – just eleven years ago - we were up against ice which was 5 metres thick”, Cunnane told Afloat.ie

After 13 days of racing on the the North East Passage, Qingdao China, led by Chinese skipper Guo Chuan, finally crossed the finish line on the Bering Strait at 16.48 UTC September 15, 2015. Skipper Guo Chuan and his five crew from Germany, France, and Russia completed the journey. For the very first time in history, a racing trimaran sailed non-stop successfully through the Arctic Ocean Northeast Passage from Murmansk to Bering Straits.

Departing from Murmansk around noon on September 3, Qingdao China crossed the start line at 13.41 UTC and started the attempt to challenge the first non-stop sailing world record across the Arctic Ocean’s North East Passage. The start of the voyage was treacherous as strong winds were expected for the first 3 days.

Because of the weather, Guo Chuan decided to pilot the trimaran to a more southerly route into the Kara Sea. After sailing among growlers and icebergs across the Laptev Sea, the crew experienced the extreme cold and big gusts on the East Siberia Sea. Sunshine welcomed them on the Chukchi Sea and after that, it took them only over a day to reach the finish line between the Cape Dezhnev and the Big Diomede Island on the Bering Strait.

As soon as they crossed the finish line, the crew jumped for joy and pride. For celebration, they prepared a special ceremony. German crew Boris took out a white board and Guo Chuan wrote the historic moment onto it, “Arctic Ocean, Northeast passage, World Record, 15 September, 2015.”

chuan finish

The Chinese skipper was so excited that he could not hold back his emotions. “I’m so on the top of the world. It’s such an unbelievable moment. Even two months ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I could have a moment like this. It is a moment that could only happen in a dream,” he exclaimed.

Looking back the 13 day voyage, Guo said, “I feel very proud of myself and my crew. It is a challenging and tough journey, especially as we were surrounded by ice and gusts under the extreme cold weather. The boat was bumping like roller-coaster sometimes and seemed totally out of control. For several times, when we were in a very difficult situation, I wondered if we could continue. But thanks to our determination and brave and excellent crew, we overcame the difficult times together and finally made it.”

As a Chinese skipper leading five international crew, Guo said it was not only a special experience for him as a leader but also carried the symbolic significance of “peace and sport”. “This is an international team, our crew are from China, France, Germany, and Russia. Obviously we come from different cultures, but we still work together and made a great voyage successful. As the only Chinese champion for ‘Peace and Sport’, I want to spread the peace message to more people. Now in the world, there are still nations at war, but we want to show that people from diverse backgrounds can do things together,” Chuan said.

chuan peace

Guo Chuan received the congratulations from “Peace and Sport” the moment after crossing the finish line. “No matter the difficulty of the journey through the wind and ice, you and your crew faced it all, showing commitment to your objectives, your passion and the core values of sport. It is a true example for the world and I am very proud to count you among Peace and Sport’s Champions for Peace.”, JoelBouzou, chairman of Peace and Sport wrote in the congratulations letter to GuoChuan.

This is another exceptional achievement for Guo Chuan, who is the iconic face of Chinese offshore sailing. Lingling Liu, Managing Director of Guo Chuan Racing, has been receiving congratulations from the world’s sailing community. “This is a project led by a Chinese skipper and managed by Chinese professional, and supported by experts from all over the world. We are so proud that we made it!” Liu said.

Weather expert Christian Dumard said, “It was like the first race around the world or the first person to climb to the top of the Everest.”

Yves Le Blévec, skipper of the Ultime trimaran, Actual said, “I’m watching Guo Chuan’s challenge closely. Making your way through such an extreme zone on this size of trimaran is clearly a huge challenge. Guo Chuan and his crew did a great job. ”

Kito de Pavant, skipper of the 60-footIMOCA Bastide Otio and an expert in multihull racing said, “This is a very interesting course and the challenge is bound to be tricky. But Guo Chuan is sailing perfectly reasonably. His performance is opening up new routes. Other sailors may well want to follow in his footsteps. We can even imagine that one day races will pass through there. It’s something we need to keep an eye on.”

Benoit Cabaret, designer of the Qingdao China trimaran (former IDEC) said: “As the boat’s designer, I was surprised to learn that an Ultime trimaran was going to attempt this tricky passage. New challenges are not that common today, which makes Guo Chuan and his crew’s accomplishment all the more remarkable.”

The Arctic Ocean Northeast passage non-stop sailing world record is the second world record Guo Chuan has achieved. In2013, he set the world record of solo non-stop circumnavigation in a Class 40 monohull. And maybe he has made one more.

At 14h00 UTC 8 September, Qingdao China touched the northernmost water that no other unpowered racing boat had ever reached in the past. She sailed at 78°33’25 North, only 1271 km (686 miles) from the North Pole. It is the first time that a racing boat has sailed so far north.

During the whole voyage, Qingdao China reached maximum instant speed of 37 knots on September 4, and covered 466 miles during one 24 hour stretch during the Arctic Ocean World Record Challenge between the 4th September at 11h04 and the 5th September at 11h04 with an average speed 19.43 knots.

The result of Qingdao China’s voyage will be delivered to WSSRC for validation and the world record announcement will be officially confirmed at a later date.

A weekly video series was produced by award-winning director Stewart Binns to follow along. Here is the series timeline:

August 18: Departure footage from Brittany, France
August 25: Arrival into Kirkenes, Norway
August 31: The Challenge Awaits: Arrival into Murmansk
September 4: Departure from Murmansk, Russia
September 10: Arctic Ocean halfway update
September 17/18: Northeast Passage finish

 

 

 

Published in Offshore

After eight days sailing on the treacherous waters of the Arctic Ocean, skipper Guo Chuan has less than 1000nm remaining onboard his 97-foot trimaran Qingdao China in order to set the World Record for a non-stop sail of the Northeast Passage from Europe to the Pacific via the Bering Strait.

Global media coverage has started to pick up on the impressive challenge undertaken by Guo and his international crew of four sailors and one media crew member from France, Germany and Russia.

German news stories have been extensive with some of the country’s largest national papers including Die Welt, Tagesspiegel and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung highlighting the drama of the Arctic Ocean World Record Challenge and the adventure of the team’s German sailor Boris Herrmann. France's L'Equipe newspaper has been following along.

Lingling Liu, Managing Director of Guo Chuan Racing has been receiving dozens of media inquiries from around the world. "Before that, all the French thought Guo was crazy. Guo is really doing something exceptional. Everybody thought it was impossible and suddenly people realize that it is possible and that somebody is doing it.”

Weather expert Christian Dumard of France added: “It was like the first race around the world or the first person to climb at the top of the Everest.”

Departing from Murmansk around noon on September 3, Qingdao China crossed the start line at 13.41 UTC and started the attempt to set the first non-stop sailing world record across the Arctic Ocean’s Northeast Passage.

With strong winds during the first three days, Guo Chuan decided to pilot the trimaran to a more southerly route then originally planned. Qingdao China reached maximum speed of 37 knots on September 4, and covered 466 miles during one 24-hour stretch of the Arctic Ocean World Record Challenge between September 4 at 11h04 and September 5 at 11h04 with an average speed of 19.43 knots.

Guo and his crew have become accustomed to seeing icebergs, especially when they sailed above the 75 degrees north latitude. They remain very careful and vigilant about this danger.

Benoit Cabaret, designer of the boat has been following Guo’s journey closely, “I am very happy to see that they went through the most difficult part of the course without any problem.”

And Guo Chuan is philosophical about the scene he has witnessed: "In view of
sailing, I do not want to see any Arctic ice as it would be dangerous for the fragile hull. However, it is really sad to see such disappearance of icebergs caused by global warming. Though it makes the route navigable, I would like to see more ice deep in my heart."

Qingdao China has now sailed through the Laptev Sea and will soon enter the East Siberian Sea and the Chukchi Sea, she will head south until reaching the finish line at Bering Strait.

Weather expert Dumard added that from the most recent weather forecast analysis, Qingdao China is expected to complete the voyage on September 14.

A world record is waiting!

Published in Offshore
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About boot Düsseldorf: With almost 250,000 visitors, boot Düsseldorf is the world's largest boat and water sports fair and every year in January the “meeting place" for the entire industry. From 18 to 26 January 2020, around 2,000 exhibitors will be presenting their interesting new products, attractive further developments and maritime equipment. This means that the complete market will be on site in Düsseldorf and will be inviting visitors on nine days of the fair to an exciting journey through the entire world of water sports in 17 exhibition halls covering 220,000 square meters. With a focus on boats and yachts, engines and engine technology, equipment and accessories, services, canoes, kayaks, kitesurfing, rowing, diving, surfing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, SUP, fishing, maritime art, marinas, water sports facilities as well as beach resorts and charter, there is something for every water sports enthusiast.

At A Glance – Boot Dusseldorf 

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Messe Düsseldorf GmbH
Messeplatz
40474 Düsseldorf
Tel: +49 211 4560-01
Fax: +49 211 4560-668
Web: https://www.boot.com/

The first boats and yachts will once again be arriving in December via the Rhine.

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