Displaying items by tag: Tom MacSweeney
I have known Justin Slattery and followed his career for many years as he rose to become one of the top international sailing stars, the winner now of two Volvo Ocean Races in the toughest position on a racing boat, that of Bowman.
Justin is a very pleasant, courteous, friendly and quiet man, who can take justifiable pride in what he has achieved, but whose international reputation as a top sportsman, a top athlete, would not be as well-known in Ireland as the names of unpronounceable English soccer players and that, in my belief, is an indication of the failure of sports coverage in the general national media to give sailing and its Irish stars their rightful place..
In sailing, his name is at the top internationally and he does not forget his Irish background. He is back in Cork for a rest after an exceptionally busy racing period. It is the first time he has taken a break since the end of the Volvo Race in Gothenburg in June, the second time he won it, this time aboard Abu Dhabi. He was sailing again with British Skipper Ian Walker, with whom he had also sailed aboard the Irish entry, Green Dragon, in the 2008/2009 Volvo Race.
Abu Dhabi at speed in the Volvo Race Photo:Matt Knighton
In my interview with him, he discusses that project and the need to have sufficient backing and support in a Volvo campaign.
“You are up against the best in the world in the Volvo Race, with the best resources. If you arrive on the start line under-resourced or with a boat that’s off the pace, then you are on the back foot right away and that is a pretty painful way to go around the world.”
A clear, definitive assessment there from a sailor who has huge international respect and experience and who also won the 2005-2006 Volvo Race aboard ABN AMRO ONE.
“I have managed to tick a lot of boxes over the last few years, but it seems that those boxes are ever-increasing. There are various types of racing I would like to do, boats I would like to race. There is never a dull moment and I am looking forward to the future,” he told me as we discussed his sailing career and his plans for the future in the interview for this Podcast.
Now aged 41 Justin lives in the UK sailing centre of the Hamble and was back in Cork for a rest and relaxation with his wife and daughter, before again entering the racing circuit next year when the Caribbean season starts.
Justin Slattery at the Volvo Race Awards Ceremony in Gothenburg
CLICK the podcast at the top of this blog to listen to the interview.
One of my prized sailing possessions is a cap which Justin gave me after he won his first Volvo Race and which he had worn aboard AN AMRO ONE.. There is a story to it. When my boat was broken into and damaged on its mooring at Crosshaven a few years ago, that hat was amongst the items stolen. An alert Garda detective spotted a man wearing it in Cobh and, with sailing knowledge, questioned him as to where he got it. That led to an outcome where quite a bit of stolen boating equipment was found, including some of mine and Justin’s hat, which was returned to me and which I still use, as the photo shows!
The hat that survived thieves
It is a point which I feel compelled to make, time and again, because it is people who make up a community of interest, by their determination, their commitment, their focus and that is what I believe the marine community to be and so, consider it to be THE FAMILY OF THE SEA, a common interest which those of us who value the sea, the lakes and the rivers of Ireland share. Long may there be such people.
I am fortunate enough to come across them, to hear their stories and to be able, through this medium, to bring them to the attention of others. This week on the programme, a 22-year-old is the focus. There are people who decide to do amazing things, for no motivation other than that they want to achieve something and to help a particular project. Twenty-two-year-old Alex Ellis-Roswell is one such person. He comes from Margate in Kent in England from where he started walking around the coast of Britain and Ireland in August of last year, planning to take two years to complete his self-imposed task and raise money for the RNLI lifeboat service as he walked.
”The slower you travel, the more you see…” is his attitude … But can you imagine getting into a sleeping back somewhere at six o’clock on a Winter’s evening to spend the night outdoors? That was one of the things he describes on the programme as he outlines how he chose the pathways for his journey. But he also records the most horrible sight which he has seen and this is something to which I have referred before – human abuse of our beaches, our foreshore areas.
Alex has had to take a rest from his walk for a while, to recover from damage to his knees during his expedition, but he plans to resume shortly. He is a fascinating, determined young man on a mission, who set himself a target of raising stg£10,000, which he is set to exceed, such has been the level of popular support he has been receiving.
For more information about his journey go here
WI-FI ON DUBLIN BAY
Also on the programme you can hear about the introduction of Wi-Fi on Dublin Bay and the Dublin Bay Digital Diamond, which Deirdre Lane, Navigation Policy Officer with the Commissioners of Irish Lights, describes. Click the link at the top of this story to listen in.
There is always something unusual to be found in the sea and we come across such stories and incidents regularly when compiling THIS ISLAND NATION. This week we report that Live Science website has issued pictures of a rare and endangered sea turtle which was found near the Solomon Islands.
It was spotted underwater by divers at night time, glowing bright red and green and they filmed it – identifying it as a hawksbill sea turtle. "It was a short encounter," said David Gruber, an Associate Professor of Biology at Baruch College in New York City and a National Geographic explorer. “It bumped into us and I stayed with it for a few minutes. It was really calm and let me film it. Then it dived down the side of a cliff face wall."
GOING FOR A PINT IN A BATHTUB
There is a lot of tide in the Shannon Estuary, which can make it a dangerous place in certain conditions, so it is hard to imagine that anyone would try to use what seemed liked nothing bigger than a bathtub to set out on the river to go for a few pints. Not surprisingly those involved got into trouble and Kilrush Lifeboat was called to their rescue. This story is told on the programme by Pauline Dunleavy of the West Clare lifeboat station.
• With the latest angling news from Myles Kelly of Fisheries Ireland and other stories there is, as always, a lot worth listening to on THIS ISLAND NATION. Click the link at the top of this story to listen in.
I feel an empathy with Jimmy Buffett, the American singer and songwriter, whose words about his boat resonates with me:
“Yes, I own a boat… It slides across the sea… Some folks say I’m a part of it…I know it’s part of me…”
Do you feel that your boat is part of you?
Have you ever, in the boatyard during winter lay-up, when you visited your boat – as you should to check on her – caressed her hull and did it give you a loving feeling towards her and, as you left… Did you remind her that “the season isn’t too far off…”
Or, after she has been launched, on the mooring or at the marina, as you slid open the saloon hatch and stepped below, did you tell her you were glad to be back….?
“If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything… Perhaps a bit better than most…”
Now there’s a good reason for owning a boat!!! It was penned by the writer E B White of New Yorker magazine and many other journals, a leading American essayist whose son. Joel, was a noted naval architect known for beautiful, classic designs, including the famous W Boats.... E B said that a sailing craft was “not only beautiful, but “seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble…”
Little wonder then, that they are referred to as ‘she’…..
Impressive restoration of the Ilen
In my work as a marine journalist, I am lucky enough to meet people who love boats… I remember being down at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Old Court near Skibbereen in West Cork, where they still work the traditional crafts of the shipwrights and where, with Gary McMahon from the Ilen School and Network for Wooden Boat Building in Limerick and all their supporters there was a magnificent, great feeling of warmth about the restoration of the Ilen, Ireland’s last surviving, largest, original wooden sailing ship.
Colm Newport's Colin Archer design at Kinsale
During the Summer I met Colm Newport, who was Master of ASGARD II and who told me about his restoration of a lovely old Colin Archer boat of Norwegian extraction which he is restoring. A “beauty in wood” as she was described…. And there are many others who love their boats, so back to the point at issue – Do you love your boat and are you prepared to admit to it in public…..?
I do and have, though getting odd looks from time-to-time and questions such as how can you love an inanimate object….? But then, is a boat an ‘inanimate object’ or does it have a life of its own? Thereby hangs another debate… Why is the old adage, for example, often honoured – that to change the name of a boat may be unlucky?
My special female - scribbler - my Sigma 33 racing at the RCYC in Cork harbour
I have changed the name of every boat I have owned…… And my present Sigma 33, which I do love, was named ‘Sarabande’ when I bought her, which I changed to SEASCAPES as I was presenting the programme on RTE at the time, but having left there I saw no reason to give RTE free publicity, so I have changed her name this season to SCRIBBLER… Rather appropriate I think …
Scribbler at Courtmacsherry cruising in West Cork this summer
I had a lot of work done on her at the yard this year.. On the evening before launching at Castlepoint Boatyard in Crosshaven, I visited to check all was in order and caressed her refurbished hull, with its new markings and paintwork, which have led several people to think I had a new boat…. , then told her I would see her afloat in the morning … And when I went aboard at the mooring for the first time…. sliding back the hatch.. told her it was good to be back…
She looks after me, so I look after her….. Sometimes I do wonder about my state of mind and of health, for I have been told that it is not a good sign to be talking to a piece of plastic…. But I don’t see her as that.....
In the Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare wrote that “ships are but boards, sailors are but men….” But then what did he know about putting men and boats, either of wood or plastic together and what that can lead to?
There’s something about a boat …. No matter how many times its bow kisses the waves….. or pushes her way through them … you always want more…” Friendship is a boat that never sinks….
This year I have met men and women who also love their boats, respect, help and nurture them......It is small wonder that we, who love boats, may hold them in the secret places of our hearts and minds….and love to hear them spoken about nicely…..such as, after racing :“She was flying tonight…” or hearing someone say: “That’s a beautiful boat…”
When I have heard it said about mine this Summer, I have given her an extra pat…..
I do love it when others admire my special female…
Every sailor knows the importance of the weather forecast ….
We watch forecasts on television, listen to them on radio, check the Met Eireann forecasts, look at the weather maps in the newspapers… At sea we check the Coast Guard’s coastal radio station forecasts – all part of good, safe, seamanship …
But how many people know that the world’s first weather reporter was an Irishman, from Cork and that, 141 years after his tragic death at the age of 40 in the frozen wastes of Siberia during a failed Arctic exploration, United States Naval records still list him as under arrest at the time of his death. His family descendants allege this is an insulting slur on his memory and, for over a century have fought a battle with the US Government to remove what they say is a ‘stain on his memory.’
It is a battle which the latest member of the family has taken to the Pentagon and found the US Navy didn’t particularly like what was doing when she rang got the phone number of the Secretary of the Navy and rang his office!
Over my years in journalism, unusual stories have been brought to me. This one ranks at the highest level, because Jerome Collins was a man whose Arctic exploration experience puts him close to the life story of the legendary Tom Crean as an explorer. But he is not as well-known and to achieve that is the self-imposed task of his Great, Great Grandniece from Minnesota, Amy Nossum, who I first came into contact with on Emails, then phone calls and finally met when she made her first visit to Ireland during the Summer to see where Jerome Collins is buried, in the old Curraghkippane cemetery, high over Cork City on the northern bank of the River Lee. After his body was found in Siberia, it was brought all the way back to Cork and is regarded as the longest funeral in the world.
The story of Jerome Collins, an engineer born in Cork on October 17, 1841 who supervised the construction of the city’s North Gate Bridge in 1864, is the subject of my AFLOAT Podcast this week, which you can hear here.
Amy Nossum is a determined lady, who tells me how she telephoned the Pentagon and, since she returned home to Minnesota, continues her long-running battle with t the United States Navy.
As I say, an extraordinary maritime story.
“We were invited into schools in the North Wall and while all the children had grandparents who were dockers, not one of them knew what a docker was, because all of that tradition is gone….”
Amidst the current controversy over where Dublin Port and Dun Laoghaire Harbour will dump what they intend to dredge up in their plans to provide deeper access channels for the larger cruise ships which they both covet and which business they are fighting for, that comment, made to me on the edge of Dublin Bay by a man dedicated to preserving the maritime traditions of the port, should give cause for thought about where all the commercial development has taken the communities which once bounded in Dublin Port and lived from the jobs it provided.
Alan Martin of the Dublin Dock Workers’ Preservation Society was speaking to me, as we sat on the edge of Dublin Bay, for the current edition of my maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION. We could hear the sound of seagulls wheeling in the sky, the rumble of noise emanating from the docks, ships passed in and out, as we talked and he had a reality check for me. He told me that 40,000 jobs have gone from the capital’s port since the time when dock labour sustained viable communities.
“Why do the people of Dublin seem to know so little about the place of the docks in the history of Liffeyside and how their role was once the heart-and-soul of Dublin Port, its shipping and its commerce?”
There are many voluntary organisations doing great work in the marine sphere, without whom much of the maritime culture, history and tradition would be lost. The Dublin Port and Dock Workers’ Preservation Society, set up to preserve the history of Dublin Port, is definitely one such. The interview Alan Martin gave me is revealing. They have encountered many obstacles in their self-imposed task.
He surprised me with his revelations about the extent of the maritime-associated jobs that have been lost and the port-side communities which have suffered in the drive towards modernity. He made strong points about how Dublin’s marine traditions can be preserved and turned into a modern, vibrant, beneficial culture for the benefit of the city.
This offers a bridge from the past to the future, effectively a conveyance of pride in past experience to benefit modern life. Other port communities could, with benefit, replicate the commitment of the Dublin Dock Workers’ Preservation Society.
It was an interview I enjoyed doing and I think you will enjoy listening to. I am fortunate to work as a marine journalist and to meet exceptional people in the ports and maritime communities. So it is good to report in this programme, a positive attitude amongst young people in coastal areas, many of whom are joining the lifeboat service. Also featured in this edition of the programme is the delight of a coastal town when it gets a new lifeboat, as I found in Youghal in East Cork.
And there is always something interesting and unusual about the sea to report, such as the 467 million years old sea scorpion (above) found in a river in Iowa in the USA.
Click HERE to listen to the programme.
#islandnation – "Now, why would you say that Tom?"
And when Fionán Murphy rightly challenged me about my question, I did ask myself why I had just said:
"It's unusual, isn't it, for a boat for Norway to be built in Kerry?"
"I don't know why you would say Kerry, Tom," Fionán said back to me. "Ireland maybe, but why would you say 'Kerry'? The guy involved found us, came over to us and we have a fantastic relationship with him. He has been here for two months and he will be here with us until the boat is finished. It is a great place to do business because the Norwegian currency is very strong. To do anything in Norway costs a fortune, so they are getting great value for money here and we are still getting a good price for our product. It is a great place to do business and if we can do more business there, it will be fantastic."
It was a bright exchange which I enjoyed, because it is good for an interviewer to be challenged. I was trained in radio broadcasting in the days when the interviewee was the most important person, not the interviewer. Too much of radio now centres on the personality of the programme presenter, not the interviewee. I still believe that the interviewee is the most important part of an interview, so Fionán and myself chuckled at my gaffe and as Managing Director and the man who owns Murphy Marine Services on the Shore Road in Valentia Island and so an islander, he made a strong point about Kerry and the importance of our offshore islands. I was talking with him and other members of the island community who were making the point that the Government does not show enough commitment to Ireland's offshore islands. I interviewed Fionán about the future of the island and how his boatyard, which builds, maintains and stores boats, is going.
Fionán Murphy of Murphy Marine Services, Valentia Island
"Our predominant thing is new builds. If we get four-to-five of those a year we would be very happy. This keeps jobs on the island and that is what we need."
Fionán is also Chairman of the island's Development Company:
"Rural Ireland is in decline and we are doing what we can, but the island needs people and people need jobs to stay here. Islands need special recognition from the Government."
Fionán tells me in the interview, which you can hear here, how he started the yard fourteen years ago and how it has developed to its present stage of building boats which are sold all over Europe and how he overcame the economic, recessionary downturn.
A new fishing vessel built in Valentia and bound for Norway
You can hear him on this current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION, Ireland's niche maritime programme, now broadcast on seven radio stations around the country and on this website. Also on the programme, the value of maritime safety training is emphasised by the interim Chief Executive of Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Michael Keatinge, who outlines how three fishermen's lives were saved when their boat capsized off the East Coast, because they had done the BIM safety course.
There's a lot more to be heard on THIS ISLAND NATION and you can Email me direct about the programme to: [email protected] or leave a comment below.
#arklow legend – We are fortunate in this country to have people who are dedicated to the marine sphere and who give freely and willingly of their time and efforts in pursuit of their belief that maritime matters really should matter to the national community.
Jimmy Tyrell from Arklow is such a man. I have known and respected him through his work for the lifeboats for many years.
The RNLI has a proud history of over 190 years and the port of Arklow in County Wicklow, a town founded by the Vikings in the 9th century, lays claim to being the first lifeboat station established in Ireland, back in 1826. Jimmy Tyrrell has led lifeboat operations there for 46 years. His family is legendary in maritime matters.
Twenty-seven years ago Jimmy made a decision. The RNLI named its different classes of boat designs after rivers, but had never used the name of an Irish river. Jimmy was determined to change that and being a determined man, he achieved his goal. So when the new Shannon Class was born, the most modern vessel in the RNLI fleet and the first into Ireland arrived at the Lough Swilly Station at Buncrana in County Donegal, Jimmy was there to see it.
It was a great day for Jimmy, well-deserved and he describes his feeling as he saw the boat arrive on this edition of THIS ISLAND NATION.
When Jimmy retired from RNLI duties in Arklow another member of that great maritime family stood up to take over from him and continue the family association, John Tyrrell, who is now Lifeboat Operations Manager there.
The new Shannon lifeboat at Lough Swilly cost €2.4m and was designed by a Derry man who works for the RNLI at its Poole headquarters. It uses twin waterjets instead of propellers, giving it more manoeuvrability and the ability to operate in shallow waters. The man who designed it is Peter Eyre and he was once saved by the lifeboat service when he got into difficulty on the water, the story of which he tells also on the current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION.
When the RNLI describes a boat as "all-weather..." they mean it, the service always responds to calls for help, even in the worst of sea conditions, so the crews deserve the best boats. The Shannon has a top speed of 25 knots, a range of 250 nautical miles and a unique hull to minimise slamming of the boat in heavy seas, with shock-absorbing seats to protect the crew from impact when powering through the waves. The Lough Swilly lifeboat has been largely funded through a legacy from Derek Jim Bullivant of Bewdley, Worcestershire, in the UK who died in September of 2011.and is named Derek Bullivant. Coxswain, Mark Bennett, commands it and was welcomed by a huge crowd when he and his crew brought the boat from Poole to Buncrana. He tells us how it was an emotional day for him.
This edition of Ireland's niche maritime programme also has an interesting story about supermarket advertising which can mislead purchasers into thinking they are buying Irish bass when it is illegal to catch them for commercial purposes in Irish waters, where such fishing is banned. So why are the public misled by advertising which says "Irish produced bass" when they come from fish farms abroad?
David Stanton, the Fine Gael TD for Cork East interested – and somewhat pleasantly surprised me – by making an issue of the lack of Government and State attention to the marine sphere. It's not often, I put to him, that a politician is heard to draw attention to maritime matters. He has a good point -that there is no single, central point in the State system, no 'one-stop-shop,' where all maritime enquiries can be dealt with, so anyone proposing a project can be sent from one section of the State services to another so many times they could meet themselves coming back. He is worth listening to and I'll be looking forward to hearing how the self-imposed mission he has declared, to highlight maritime affairs at Government level, gets on.
The island communities join the programme with a regular report, in which we hear why €60,000 a year, not a huge sum of money, is vital to education on the islands.
A lot then, about maritime matters which you can hear THIS ISLAND NATION by clicking on the programme icon above
Your comments are welcome below.
#irishsailing – There are just 17,000 registered leisure sailors in Ireland at present. There has been a decline in sailing, the level of activity has weakened, clubs are losing membership and several marinas have space available for the first time.
The only official participation figure available is for those 17,000 members of clubs registered with the Irish Sailing Association. There are many more sailors who own boats and use them outside of the club structures, so the actual participation levels could be two or three times that number. But there is no doubt about the decline in activity in the sport. The effects of the economic recession, people having less disposable income, loss of jobs, emigration, have all had their effects.
Brian Craig, one of the Directors of the ISA discusses the challenges facing the sport in a frank and direct interview on the current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION, the niche maritime radio programme, which you can hear here. The interview ranges across the still-present perception of the sport as 'elitist' and the methods needed to change this and to increase involvement in the sport.
"There is still a strong core foundation to the sport," Brian Craig says in the interview which discusses the Strategic Plan the Association has drawn up and which has been considered at meetings of ISA members around the country.
The plan will be put before the ISA annual general meeting in Portlaoise on March 28 for adoption.
GOVERNMENT THINKS THERE IS AN IRISH LANDBRIDGE!
"We are a funny country. We are surrounded by water. We have a Government that thinks there is a landbridge somewhere, but they don't know where it is."
That was the comment of former seafarer Tom O'Mahony when he spoke to the programme at the annual Remembrance Ceremony for those lost at sea in the town of Youghal on the East Cork coastline. It is a coastal town with a great schooner tradition and memories of seafarers who ranged from the River Blackwater onto the world's oceans in various types of vessels. It is also where the programme is compiled, edited, recorded and transmitted every Monday fortnight at 6.30 p.m. and later each fortnight on Near FM in Dublin, Dundalk FM, Dublin South FM and Raidio Corca Baiscinn in County Clare as well as on this website.
Tom O'Mahony said there was a lack of maritime awareness at Government level and recalled the closure of Irish Shipping and the manner in which ships and crews were stranded overseas and men later left without pensions. "And that was company in which seafarers had gone to sea in ships that would not now pass maritime safety requirements."
The RNLI describes a very courageous disabled sailor on the programme in contrast to the decision of the Paralympics Committee to discard sailing from its programme.
NO PLACE FOR BEING POSH OR A FIGUREHEAD
Also discussed on THIS ISLAND NATION is the use of nautical descriptions in everyday language, such as 'posh,' being a 'figurehead' and 'flogging a dead horse."
"I finish on a sad note, that it looks like we have lost ten of our citizens to drowning in the first month of this year, the majority of which appear to be through self-harm."
John, who formerly served with the Irish Navy and is a qualified diver, a tough discipline in which to qualify for underwater work, is also a sailor and a man I have known and respected for many years for his dedicated commitment to water safety. He has driven forward the need to wear lifejackets on boats, for fishermen and other aspects of safety on the water. And his work, leading that of Irish Water Safety, has had an effect. There is now, for example, much more wearing of lifejackets during yacht racing. I have noticed this over recent years and insist upon it on my own boat and, of course, lifejackets should be worn aboard boats of all kinds.
Referring to the drownings during January this year, of which I had not been aware until he revealed the information, John Leech added:
"To help reduce these drownings we need people to complete the HSE Safe Talk of Assist Course, which I have completed myself and recommend highly. Essentially it is a First Aid Course in suicide prevention."
During his report he also said that the Bulgarian Government has made water safety mandatory in their schools, "whilst Ireland has it on the Curriculum, regrettably not enough schools are teaching it."
Among the other facts he revealed:
• Drowning claims the lives of 372,000 people globally each year and is among the ten leading causes of death for children and young people.
• Over half of all drowning deaths are among those aged under 25 years
There are several other surprising facts about drowning and water safety which he discusses in his report which you can hear here.
John Leech IWS CEO
EU RECOGNISES CRUISE SHIP INDUSTRY
"The industry has not got the recognition from the EU which it should, even though it has been around for 25 years," Capt. Michael McCarthy tells me on the programme when he talks about the cruise ship industry and says that recognition appears to, at last, be coming with the scheduling of a conference in Brussels on March 5 and 6.
"This has been sought by all cruise organisations. It will bring together those involved - shipping lines, ports, national and local tourism interests. There is a huge amount of potential in jobs and supplying the industry. Most of the cruise ships which are being constructed and 30 are due in the next four or five years, including mega ships, are being built at four shipyards in Europe. Then there is the tourism sector, ports, logistics, a multi-billion Euro potential, so it is time the EU recognised this," says Capt. McCarthy who is Cork Port's Commercial Manager.
He also speaks about Cork Port's cruise berth facilities at Cobh which are being extended: "To stay at the forefront, we have expanded as the industry has developed."
Capt. McCarthy, Cork Port's Commercial Manager
Work has started on putting in new bollards at the Cobh cruise ship berth at a cost over €1.4m. Cork is the only port in Ireland which can dock the last four generations of cruise ships, any of the new ships built since 2008/2009, any ships over 300-metres cannot berth in any other port in Ireland, he says in the interview which can be heard here.
#islandnation – "There is a deep-rooted interest in the sea amongst Irish people. Seeing history through the prism of the sea, bringing together the coastal communities and the public generally will raise interest in the relationship of Ireland to the sea," says Dr.John Borgonovo, Professsor of History at University College, Cork, in this edition of the fortnightly THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme.
The programme is presented by maritime journalist, Tom MacSweeney, and will also hear well-known Galway sailor, John Killeen, talk about the need and importance for the public service to serve the maritime community in the development of marine facilties throughout the coastal regions.
There will also be a report from the first time-ever holding of the International Lifesaving Conference in Ireland, which will be held in Dublin, maritime news from Ireland and overseas and music of the sea.