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Two airline pilots on board a yacht which collided with a tanker off Greystones in the Irish Sea last year have disputed criticism of their experience in a report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB).

The MCIB inquiry into the collision between the 11.7m (38 ft) yacht Medi Mode and the 88m chemical tanker Varkan Ege on the night of August 23rd, 2019 highlights issues with some of the actions taken by both vessels.

The yacht was extensively damaged but was able to make its way to port, and there were no injuries and no pollution caused in the incident.

Damage to hull, starboard side Photo: courtesy MCIBDamage to hull, starboard side Photo: courtesy MCIB

However, the MCIB - which does not apportion blame or fault in its reports - calls on the Minister for Transport to alert recreational sailors and motorboat users to the need for “appropriate training” and compliance with international regulations on prevention of collisions at sea.

The event occurred in three miles east of Greystones at night, but with good visibility and good weather.

The Moody class yacht was en route to its home port of Howth, Co Dublin, and the chemical tanker registered in Turkey was on passage from Dublin to Falmouth, England.

Tanker ‘Varkan Ege'Tanker ‘Varkan Ege' Photo: courtesy MCIB

A “close quarters situation” and subsequent collision occurred at 02.22 hours.

The tanker stayed with the yacht to ensure it did not need assistance. It made its way to Greystones harbour.

The MCIB report says that the tanker reported seeing a red or port side light some 1.5 nautical miles away, and six minutes before the collision.

A demonstration of the incident contained in the MCIB reportA demonstration of the incident contained in the MCIB report

It says the ship altered course to starboard four minutes before the collision. It also reduced speed and used “sound signal” to request the yacht to indicate its intentions.

The yacht had believed no risk of collision existed as the navigational warning lights on both vessels were “green to green” or starboard to starboard.

The yacht was unaware its own light was showing “red”, due to yawing of its mast from a following wind.

The yacht kept its course and speed in the belief that the tanker would pass clear on its starboard side, the report states.

While the report says the tanker “complied with efforts to avoid a collision when it became apparent that collision was possible”, it is critical of the fact that the tanker tried – unsuccessfully - to communicate via VHF radio with the sailing vessel when it was so close.

“This wasted valuable time when an immediate alteration of course to starboard may have been sufficient to avoid collision,” the report states.

It says that the two crew members of the yacht Medi Mode- who are not named in the report - had “many years’ experience of sailing” but they “had no formal marine navigation training”.

“They had no recognised course on the Collision Regulations (COLREGS),”the report says, noting “this was a contributory factor particularly in relation to International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972“.

In a response to the report, a representative of the yacht acknowledges that both crew did not have formal qualification in marine navigation.

It states that as “professionally qualified airline pilots of considerable experience, we are both well-grounded in the aviation COLREGS” or collision regulations”.

The letter says that these aviation collision regulations are “very similar to those pertaining to the marine, with an added third dimension”.

Under collision regulations, a power-driven vessel “shall keep out of the way of a sailing vessel”, but the report says that the yacht was not a sailing vessel in this situation as “both engine and sails were being used for propulsion”.

The report notes that the tanker claims it observed the yacht altering its course to port just before the collision, but the yacht says it kept its course. It says this cannot be determined definitively, as the yacht did not have the technology to record this.

However, the two vessels were on a collision course before it happened, the MCIB says, with the prow of the yacht striking the port bow of the tanker.

The report says the tanker’s speed was 7.5 knots and the yacht had a speed of 7.9 knots.

The report says that “both vessels should have observed each other and avoided a close-quarters situation developing”, where vessels are dangerously close.

It says the yacht should have seen the tanker’s lights at a range of six miles, and the tanker should have observed the yacht lights at a range of one mile.

It says the report by the master of the Varkan Ege tanker does not indicate there was a lookout on the bridge at the time of the collision but does state that the “lookout kept an eye of the sailing vessel”.

It also notes a “conflict” in the information provided by the master and the watchkeeper on the tanker.

It notes that neither vessel took compass bearings of each other to determine if there was a risk of collision.

The report says that “tiredness and fatigue cannot be completely ruled out as a contributing factor in the collision”.

The report recommends a marine notice highlighting the requirements in chapter two of the code of practise on the safe operation of recreational craft be issued by the Minister for Transport.

It says that “in particular, attention should be drawn to” the section on the need to undertake “appropriate” training in sailing and motorboat activities, and on compliance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (1972).

Published in MCIB

Two civil servants have stepped down from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), following a European Court of Justice ruling which found it lacked independence.

As The Sunday Times reports today, Ireland is not appealing the recent EU court judgment, according to the Department of Transport.

It is understood the Irish state is still liable for legal costs over its decision to challenge the European Commission’s issue with the board’s make-up.

The EU had taken issue with two of five board members being Ireland’s chief marine surveyor and the Department of Transport secretary-general’s nominee.

The EU said that the responsibilities and activities of both the transport department and Marine Survey Office (MSO) could conflict with the investigative task.

Confirming the resignations of both civil servants, the MCIB said it had been “advised that vacancies will be filled in accordance with standing Government policy after the introduction of legislation to give effect to the recent decision of the European Court of Justice”.

The Department of Transport said it has “sought legal advice on legislative and administrative options to address the court findings and the concerns of the EU Commission, and is currently examining same”.

The EU court judgment was published earlier this summer, two years after it initiated its case against Ireland over the MCIB’s lack of independence.

It found that Ireland was “not fulfilling its obligations under Article 8(1) of Directive 2009/18” governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector” .

In its defence, Ireland had argued that the MCIB reports are independent.

The MCIB is responsible under the Merchant Shipping Act and the Merchant Shipping Regulations for conducting investigations into marine casualties in Irish waters and Irish-registered vessels.

It is a non-prosecutorial body which does not enforce legislation, and its investigations do not apportion blame or fault, but recommendations have regularly been made to the Irish minister for transport.

However, almost 300 of its reports on commercial fishing and recreational casualties, and incidents involving ferries, ships and other vessels have been made public since its establishment 20 years ago.

Read The Sunday Times report here

Published in MCIB

The latest Marine Notice from Department of Transport highlights the importance of planning seagoing voyages, especially those involved in fishing.

It follows a recommendation from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) this summer in its report on the sinking of a West Cork fishing vessel in Ardglass, Co Down last year.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Dillon Owen was entering Ardglass harbour to land its catch and refuel on 23 October last when it grounded, lost power and then drifted onto rocks.

All five crew on board were uninjured and airlifted to safety, but the vessel could not be towed off the rocks at Phennick Point and sank over the following days.

The MCIB report noted that the crew lost valuable time to drop their primary anchor — which would likely have avoided the drift into the rocks in the shallow harbour — by instead focusing on attempts to release the trawl doors.

Also suggested in the report was a call on the Minister for Transport to issue a Marine Notice for fishing vessel owners and operators to develop contingency plans and drills for such incidents.

Full details are available in Marine Notice No 41 of 2020, a PDF of which is available to download below.

Published in MCIB

An angler who drowned in Lough Mask in Co Mayo over a year ago was not wearing a lifejacket, the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) has found.

A report by the MCIB published yesterday (Tues, September 1) has been unable to establish the cause of the incident in which a 78-year old experienced angler drowned in March 2019.

However, it says that the fact that the man’s boat was found in an upright position would suggest that he fell overboard and was unable to get back into the vessel.

The man, who lived locally near Lough Mask, left Cushlough slip near Ballinrobe at approximately 12.30 on March 8th, 2019.

Weather conditions deteriorated during the day from westerly force four to force six, with wind gusts of force seven.

The alarm was raised at 7.23 pm after the man failed to return at 6 pm and his mobile phone was off.

A local person travelled to his house to see if he had returned home and then contacted the gardai at Ballinrobe.

An air and coast search by the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 118 helicopter and Corrib Mask Search and Rescue found nothing, but the vessel was located the following day on the eastern shore of Lough Mask, about 1.5 nautical miles north of Cushlough slip.

The vessel was reported to be in “good order”, according to the MCIB report, with the outboard engine in the lifted position and the port side oar in the shipped position.

The report says the vessel’s starboard side oar was subsequently found in the water nearby, along with the angler’s cap.

A personal flotation device (PFD), fishing gear, supplies and rod were in the stowed position in the vessel.

A PFD stowed in forward part of the lake boat under the gunwale Photo: MCIBA PFD stowed in the forward part of the lake boat under the gunwale Photo: MCIB

The search was hampered by prolonged bad weather periods. The man’s body was located on March 30th near where the vessel had been found. He was not wearing a PFD.

“The casualty was considered locally to be an experienced angler,” the report says, and “had been angling on Lough Mask for many years, and had entered numerous fishing competitions”.

However, it says that “even an experienced angler would have found the conditions challenging”.

An inquest on November 28th, 2019, recorded the cause of death as asphyxia due to drowning.

The MCIB report notes that Lough Mask has “no navigation marks to warn water users of danger”, and “with water levels at the time of the year when the incident occurred, awareness of hazards below the water would be all the more difficult”.

Water temperature at the time of the incident was 8°C, and the report notes that cold water shock is a factor in water temperatures below 15°C.

“This, combined with the casualty not wearing a PFD, would have considerably reduced his chances of survival”, it states.

The MCIB recommends that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport issue a marine notice, reminding mariners of their obligations to comply with the “Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft”.

It says special emphasis should be placed on the need to be aware of the current forecast for the area; the requirement to wear a PFD, and the need for a boarding ladder, or “other effective means of quickly re-boarding a vessel”.

It says “clubs should be requested to bring this notice to the attention of their members”.

Published in MCIB

Canoeists, kayakers and relevant organisations are encouraged to review the Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft, following a recent report into the death of a kayaker on Lough Gill.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the lone kayaker was believed to have become separated from his Canadian canoe in bad weather on the Co Sligo lough in late January 2019.

The vessel had not grablines to aid recovery after the casualty had entered the water, the MCIB report said, adding that he may have been weighed down by his Wellington boots, and had only a mobile phone and no other means of signalling for help.

The report recommended a Marine Notice highlighting the requirements for kayaks and canoes as set out in Chapter 7 of the Code, and in particular the following:

  • Chapter 7, Section 7.1 (Training), page 84 of the Code: Undertake a recognised training course in the correct use of the specific type of canoe you wish to use.
  • Chapter 7, Section 7.2 (Prior to entering the water), pages 84 and 85 of the Code: Ensure that you carry a mobile phone or Marine VHF radio in a suitable watertight cover for use to summon assistance in emergency situations.
  • Check the hull is fitted with grab loops/towing lines.
  • Ensure that you are a competent swimmer and capable of surviving in the areas you operate.

The MCIB also recommends that canoeists and kayakers should ensure that they wear clothing and footwear that will not affect their chance of survival in the water.

In addition, Chapter 7 of the Code of Practice contains general information on personal safety equipment, sea kayaking, river kayaking and canoeing.

Part A of the Code outlines the legislative requirements that apply to all recreational craft or specific types or size of craft, and Part B contains recommended guidelines and best practice for the safe operation of a range of recreational craft including canoes and kayaks.

The Code of Practice is a free document and hard copies can be obtained on request, in both English and Irish, from the Maritime Safety Policy Division at
[email protected]

The Code and individual chapters of the Code are available to view or download from dttas.gov.ie and a list of updates to the 2017 edition of the Code is also available.

Marine Notice No 30 of 2020 is available to download below, as is Chapter 7 of the Code of Practice.

Published in Kayaking

The European Court of Justice has ruled the State’s marine incident investigating body is not independent due to the presence of two civil servants on its board.

In a judgment issued late last week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said the Marine Casualty Investigation Board’s (MCIB) independence is “not guaranteed” and has awarded costs against Ireland.

Its ruling takes issue with the fact that the five-person MCIB board includes the Department of Transport secretary-general, or his or her deputy, and the Marine Survey Office (MSO) chief surveyor.

The ECJ ruling says that “in view of the functions performed simultaneously” by the two civil servants, Ireland is not fulfilling its obligations under Article 8(1) of Directive 2009/18” governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector” .

International maritime lawyer Michael Kingston has called for an “immediate public inquiry” into all investigations by the MCIB.

Mr Kingston, whose father Tim died in the Whiddy island Betelgeuse explosion 41 years ago, has already called for a “root and branch review” of the Department of Transport’s maritime safety directorate.

The Department of Climate Action, Communications and Transport said it is “examining the judgment in the case and is seeking legal advice to address the Court findings and the concerns of the EU Commission”.

The MCIB is responsible under the Merchant Shipping Act and the Merchant Shipping Regulations for conducting safety investigations and for drawing up reports and recommendations.

It is a non-prosecutorial body which does not enforce legislation, and its investigations do not apportion blame or fault.

However, its reports are made public, with recommendations to the Minister for Transport.

It has issued almost 300 reports since its establishment almost 20 years ago on commercial fishing and recreational casualties, and incidents involving ferries, merchant shipping and other vessels.

It published both an interim and final report into the death of Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitriona Lucas off the Co Clare coast in September, 2016.

In taking the case against Ireland, the European Commission said the MCIB was not independent, on the basis that the responsibilities and activities of both the Department of Transport and the MSO could conflict with the investigative task.

The MSO holds administrative and enforcement functions in relation to ships and fishing vessels, related equipment, and the competence of mariners.

In its defence, Ireland argued that the MCIB reports are independent.

Ireland’s decision to defend the MCIB board’s composition had cost the taxpayer “substantial legal fees”, Mr Kingston said.

Mr Kingston says he has commissioned a formal report by Capt Neil Forde of Marine Hazard Ltd to carry out a review of the investigations, reports and recommendations of the MCIB.

Earlier this year, he made a submission to Garda headquarters seeking a Garda inquiry into the State's role in investigating marine accidents. He was accompanied by Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Anne Marie O’Brien, whose brother John O’Brien and his friend Patrick Esmonde drowned in 2010 off Helvick Head, Co Wexford.

Mr Kingston, who has worked as a consultant to the International Maritime Organisation, also claims that the State had been alerted to malfunctioning of emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) before the deaths of Paul (49), Kenny (47) and Shane (44) Bolger from Passage East, Co Waterford in Tramore Bay in June 2013.

All three brothers had been wearing lifejackets when their punt capsized. Their emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) signals alerting rescue agencies to their location were not picked up.

The year after the incident, the manufacturer issued a product recall for EPIRBs manufactured between January 2005 and February 2008.

The Department of Transport subsequently confirmed that in 2010 it had contacted the manufacturer over false alerts and battery failures.

Published in MCIB

The need for formal navigation planning has been highlighted in a Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report on the sinking of a West Cork fishing vessel in Ardglass harbour, Co Down last year.

The report on the sinking of the FV Dillon Owen has also highlighted the need for emergency exercise drills to prepare for groundings and collisions.

The 23-metre pelagic vessel registered in Skibbereen, Co Cork, was entering Ardglass harbour to land herring and sprat and refuel in the early hours of October 23rd, 2019 when it lost power and drifted onto rocks at Phennick point.

As Afloat reported at the time, all five crew on board were uninjured and airlifted to safety, and there were unsuccessful attempts by RNLI lifeboats to tow the vessel off the rocks.

The vessel sank over the following days, and the wreck was recovered and sent for demolition. The MCIB report says there was no pollution of the environment.

The report says three distinct events occurred: the initial grounding; the loss of power; and finally the second grounding and sinking of the vessel.

It says the second grounding was caused by the failure of the crew to deploy the primary anchor as the prevailing wind sea direction drove the powerless vessel towards the north shoreline and Phennick Point.

It says the “depth of water here was shallow enough to drop an anchor in order to stop the vessel’s drift”.

“By first focusing on attempts to release the trawl doors the crew lost valuable time,”it notes.

The report cites the “Recommended Practice for Anchor and Mooring Equipment”, which states that “the use of otter boards/trawl doors should only be used if the vessel has lost its anchors”.

“The Dillon Owen had not lost its anchors, and timely release by the crew of the vessel’s primary anchor at this time would likely have averted the vessel’s second grounding at Phennick Point,” it says.

The report says the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport should issue a marine notice to remind vessel owners and operators to ensure all navigation is planned in adequate detail and with contingency plans, where appropriate.

It also calls on the minister to issue a marine notice “stating that fishing vessel owners and operators develop contingency plans and procedures and conduct emergency exercise drills to prepare for a grounding event or collision incident”.

It says that “where owners and operators of fishing vessels have an anchoring arrangement whereby chain cables are replaced by trawl warps”, crews should “ready anchors for deployment when entering or leaving port by connecting the trawl warp to the free end of the primary anchor chain”.

Published in Fishing

The latest Marine Notice from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport reminds fishing crews of the dangers associated with boarding and transiting across vessels, especially under the influence of alcohol.

The move is in response to recent reports from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), which found that alcohol was a factor in two unrelated incidents in Killybegs, Co Donegal in March 2019 and Rosslare, Co Wexford in May 2019, as reported by Lorna Siggins on Afloat.ie last month.

The notice also reminds of the duty of care on the part of owners and skippers “to provide a safe means of access to vessels while in the harbour and that a gangway or other suitable means, providing an appropriate and safe means of boarding a vessel, shall be made available”.

In addition, all those accessing vessels or working on exposed decks “whether at sea, in harbour or combing two and from moorings” must wear a personal flotation device, or PFD, which “will increase your chance of survival in the event of entering the water”.

The department highlights the risks associated with the consumption of alcohol and/or drug consumption and the dangers associated with boarding and transiting across vessels.

“It is evident from the recent MCIB reports that alcohol consumption continues to be a significant factor in marine incidents,” it says.

“A number of incidents have occurred where diminished human performance due to the effects of alcohol consumption have been primary causes or contributing factors, leading to the loss of life in some cases.

“Alcohol speeds up the rate of body cooling and thus increases the risk of hypothermia in the event that you fall into the water.”

Marine Notice No 25 of 2020 is available to download below.

Published in Water Safety
Tagged under

The Minister for Transport has been urged to remind fishing crews of the dangers involved in boarding vessels under the influence of alcohol, following reports issued this week of two separate fatalities in ports.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) found alcohol was a factor in the two unrelated incidents which occurred in Killybegs, Co Donegal in March 2019 and Rosslare, Co Wexford in May 2019.

In the Killybegs incident, a crewman from 50-metre Cork vessel MFV Menhaden died after he fell while crossing vessels in the port in the early hours of March 14th,2019.

Weather conditions were poor at the time with a lot of movement between vessels, the report says.

His vessel was in the Donegal port due to adverse weather and was one of three tied up alongside each other near the auction hall, including the Sligo-registered MFV Olgarry and Norwegian MFV Grip Transporter.

The report says there was a gangway rigged between the MFV Olgarry and the MV Grip Transporter, but there are no images on CCTV footage of this gangway being used by the casualty.

The alarm was raised after he was reported missing and a Killybegs Coast Guard team recovered his body on the shore on the east side of the harbour.

A post mortem report indicated death due to drowning at sea and the accompanying toxicology report indicated high levels of alcohol in the casualty’s system.

MFV Ellie Adhamh

In May 2019, a crewman onboard the 22-metre fishing vessel MFV Ellie Adhamh drowned after he fell between the deck and the quay wall in the early hours of the morning.

The vessel was in Rosslare Europort for a marine survey and had landed fish after its arrival on May 17th.

The MCIB says the toxicological analysis report from the post mortem confirms the casualty was under the influence of alcohol and “would have been a danger to himself and others in the port area at the time of the incident”.

“ As per the report on an incident at Killybegs on March 14th, 2019 this again highlights the dangers involved when attempting to board fishing vessels when under the influence of alcohol,” the MCIB says.

It recommends the Minister for Transport should issue a marine notice reminding fishing vessel crews of the dangers associated with boarding vessels under the influence of alcohol.

It also recommends that the minister issue a notice reminding fishing vessel owners and skippers of the duty of care to provide safe means of access to vessels while in harbour, and of the importance of wearing personal flotation devices while boarding or crossing vessels.

The MCIB also says that Rosslare Europort should “consider reviewing its operating procedures including bye-laws and security plans regarding fishing vessel operations in the port”.

“This should include movement of crewmembers within the port limits and ensuring the perimeter is secure at night and also a suitable location for the berthing of fishing vessels,” it says.

Published in MCIB

A lone kayaker who died on Sligo’s Lough Gill last year may have become separated from his Canadian canoe in bad weather, an investigation has found.

A Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report into the incident on January 29th, 2019, has found that wellington boots worn by the kayaker would have weighed him down on immersion.

The incident is believed to have occurred sometime between 18.27 hours on January 26th and the next evening, January 27th, before darkness fell.

The man had set out from a pier in Trawane Bay opposite Inishfree on the southwestern corner of Lough Gill and planned to camp overnight near Slish woods.

His body was found by Sligo-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter about 0.75 km from his campsite on the morning of January 29th, after the alarm was raised by his partner.

His canoe was found later on the shore by his partner approximately 0.4 km east of the campsite which he had established.

Weather conditions were not suitable for a small craft, and the personal flotation device (PFD) worn was designed to aid a person to stay afloat and swim to safety.

“The PFD would not keep him afloat as an inflatable life jacket would have done,” the report states.

The report says the canoe and the casualty “were found in two different locations indicating that the casualty entered the water and became separated from the canoe due to some incident”.

“There were no grab lines attached to the canoe to assist recovery,” it says.

The kayaker had a mobile phone but did not carry any other means of signalling for help, such as flares or a marine VHF handheld transceiver, the report states.

The report notes the man’s partner advised that he had bought the canoe within the past 12 months, and was inexperienced in using this type of craft or any craft on the water.

“He was, however, a competent swimmer having gained several certificates for achievements in swimming,” the report states.

An autopsy recorded cause of death as freshwater drowning.

The MCIB report recommends that a marine notice should be issued, highlighting the requirements set out in Chapter 7 of the Code of Practice for Recreational Craft for canoeing/kayaking.

It says particular attention should be paid to the code’s section 7.1 on training, 7.2 on carrying a mobile phone or marine VHF radio in a suitable watertight cover, and that the hull is fitted with grab loops/towing lines, and that the person is a competent swimmer.

It also recommends that canoeists/kayakers should “ensure that they wear clothing and footwear that will not affect their chance of survival in the water”.

Published in MCIB
Tagged under
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