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Displaying items by tag: Tom MacSweeney

#clouds – Clouds can be unjustly maligned. Life would be immeasurably poorer without them.

They are expressions of the mood of the atmosphere and can be read like the moods of a person's countenance.

"Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked.
"They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul."

"All who consider the shapes they see in them will save on psychoanalysis bills".

I am member number 11,767 of a pretty unique society from the Manifesto of which the above comments are extracts. It is a society which seeks "to persuade all who'll listen of the wonder and beauty of clouds."

It is ten years ago this Summer that the Founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, gave a lecture which began it at the Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall. He was back there a couple of weeks ago, reviewing the events that have shaped the Society and, as he said "rocked the cloud world over the past ten years."


Gavin Pretor-Pinney founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society

The Cloud Appreciation Society has a touch of wry humour about itself as evidenced by its promotional statement:

"We love clouds, we're not ashamed to say it and we've had enough of people moaning about them. We are fighting the banality of 'blue-sky thinking'.

It does not take itself too seriously and there are members, like myself, who quite like blue skies and the nice sailing weather that goes with them.

But there is a fascination with clouds and their appearance.

There is also a serious aspect to understanding the clouds where sailors are concerned. Being able to read them helps indicate what weather may be expected, changes that may come quickly and catch one unawares.


A Sunrise over the Muromi River, Fukuoka City, Japan. by Junichi Kai - from The Cloud Appeciation Society gallery


Flying carpet cloud - seen this week in uk - from cloud appreciation society photo gallery

"Mackerel scales and mare's tails, make lofty ships carry low sails."

That, or various interpretations of that particular quotation, are well-known to many sailors. But how many can tell a Cumulus from a Cumulonimbus ?

Or a "Mamma", the udders of a cloud from a "Nacreous" – 'mother-of-pearl' clouds ?

Or an Incus from a cirrostratus undulate?
I certainly can't, but I know that there are also stratospheric and mesospheric clouds and from the Cloud Appreciation Society I have learned one thing – it behoves anyone going out in a yacht or a boat of any kind to be able to understand the pattern of cloud behaviour.


A sighting of Elvis Presley, spotted over Samburu National Park, Kenya.  by Colin McDerment Cloud Appreciation Society


A cloud that looks like Aladdin's Lamp over Clovelly Surf Club, Sydney, Australia. by Nick Andrews in the Cloud Appreciation Society photo gallery

I am still working on that myself!

The First Irish Cloud Festival was held in West Cork by the Irish chapter of the Society in 2011.

"The Cloudspotter's Guide" was the first publication of the Society, described by The Sunday times as: "Go cloudspotting, it's the new religion." It introduces each of the different 'characters' in the 'cloud family', to help readers understand the predictions for weather which they provide. Clouds are used to predict earthquakes and there has been one in Australia which glider pilots surfed like a wave.

And if you have wondered who would win in a clash of clouds between the stormy Cumulonimbus thunderclouds and the drizzly Nimbostratus, this is where the answer can be found.

"I've always loved looking at clouds, Nothing in nature rivals their variety, drama and sublime ephemeral beauty," says the Society's Founder and, with that wry touch of ephemeral comment, wit and humour which encourages membership like mine, adds: "The clouds deserve better than to be regarded merely as a metaphor for doom. Someone needed to stand up for clouds, so I started the Society devoted to doing this."

The worldwide membership of the Society is now 35,796. Membership includes professionals such as meteorologists, merchant mariners, other professionals, leisure sailors but mostly those with no professional qualifications, just an interest in clouds.

Before the invention of modern weather instruments, seafarers relied on observations of nature to predict weather. In these modern times there are weather forecasts on radio, in the papers, by coastal and Coastguard radio stations, on television, in the papers, available on mobile phones apps, national weather services, satellite photographs, but a mariner should also understand seasonal weather patterns and be able to read signs in the environment both before and during a trip. The wind, sea state, clouds all give clues to current and approaching weather. The art of non-instrument weather forecasting can be used to confirm weather reports or to predict weather when instruments and reports are not available.


Cloud illumination over lake Seattle, USA - from the cloud appreciation society gallery

Tragedies at sea, as happened again this week in West Cork, are terrible. The sea is unpredictable, so is the weather. It can change rapidly, particularly across our island which is so exposed to the effects of the Atlantic and associated weather patterns, particularly on the South and West Coasts from where much of our weather patterns arrive.

"The very shadows of the clouds have power to shake me as they pass," wrote William Wordsworth.

Understanding them is worthwhile.

And - Are Mackerel Scales and Mare's Tails good predictors of approaching storms?

The answer is 'yes,' because cloud systems that develop prior to a storm will often appear lumpy and wispy like a fish scale or a horse's tail!

So now you know.

I am still learning.

Clouds are Nature's poetry, the most egalitarian of her displays. Everyone can have a fantastic view of them.

Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day-after-day, so says The Cloud Appreciation Society.

Fair sailing until next week..... and keep an eye on those clouds!

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @Tom MacSweeney @Afloatmagazine

Published in Island Nation
Tagged under

#islandnation – In this month's programme we have the story of a Soviet take-over of Cork Port, hear that love is in the air at the country's lifeboat stations, with the 45th station due to open shortly; we go to Ireland's longest river, the Shannon, where a boat made famous by Wolfe Tone is being launched; tour Ballycotton Lighthouse, open to the public for the first time and hear about its association with the Irish ship which made the first crossing of the Atlantic by steam; and we discuss whether a Tall Ship is the best method of sail training.

Published in Island Nation

#rorcbdcc – At a time when the future of Irish sailing is under examination by the sport's national association, the Irish success in winning what has been described as the world cup of offshore racing, the Commodore's Cup, is in my view, a considerable boost.

The 'spirit of sailing' appears to be under a degree of challenge at present, though it seems from talking to clubs and groups around the coast that the picture is not gloomy everywhere. However, there is an undeniable loss of numbers in quite a few clubs, a few of them major ones and racing seems to be taking the brunt of this.

It was interesting therefore to meet the Skipper of Team Ireland which won this top trophy in the home of British sailing, for the second time. Anthony O'Leary, members of the Irish team and officers of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association, were given a reception and 'welcome home' with the Cup at his home club, the Royal Cork in Crosshaven on Thursday night.

Those of us who had been competing in the Thursday night league that evening were back ashore at the end of racing, to be part of the occasion and it was interesting to hear Anthony reflect on the background to how the trophy had been won and the planning and commitment required of all those involved. He spoke of the value of learning sailing from an early age and remaining with the sport, but also of the dedication and demands which must be endured to be successful. Sailing can be developed as a lifetime sport from the days of youngsters in Optimists through to the highest levels of the sport, was his message, an issue also referred to by RCYC Admiral Pat Lyons and by the Commodore of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association, Norbert Reilly. These comments must have reflected on the thoughts of Irish Sailing Association President, David Lovegrove, who was also at the RCYC event.

The drop-out of younger sailors appears to be at the core of difficulties in several clubs, where keeping them involved is proving difficult. Perhaps it is the variety of boats or the lack of a pathway in the sport other than the higher competitive levels, or are some younger sailors being driven too hard towards trying to achieve winning as the only mark of being successful?

It will be difficult to resolve these questions but the sport needs to do so and particularly to ensure the involvement of younger sailors.


Norbert Reilly of ICRA at Royal Cork Yacht Club

So, what is the 'spirit of sailing'?

'A man must be obsessed about something and a boat is as good as anything.' That quote from E.B.White, an American editor and writer has often been used to summarise the spirit of sailing though, let me be clear that I do not see sailing as a male preserve, nor obsession with it!

E.B.White also wrote about arising in the morning "torn between a desire to improve the world and to enjoy it, which makes it hard to plan the day."

That can occasionally make the choice of going sailing against deploying oneself to more mundane household or even work demands difficult and potentially awkward in domestic relationships!

Most important of all, in my view, is enjoying going sailing. I have always taken the view that, if it is not enjoyable and if one has doubts about going out on a boat, then don't do so. We can be put off by unpleasant weather, though sometimes there is a need to endure it and if one is only involved in cruising, perhaps the boat may be used less than when the disciplines of racing bring a crew together.

An example of this thought process for me was on last Tuesday night when I was invited to take part in the annual Media Challenge organised by the ISA and Providence Resources at the Royal St.George YC in Dun Laoghaire with members of the Irish Olympic Squad. It was a bit blustery when Bill O'Hara as Race Officer outlined what the night's racing would involve in 1720s. These are a pretty demanding keel boat which move quickly. I had not helmed one before and found it challenging, but definitely enjoyable in the prevailing conditions.

Everyone involved declared that they had a good night's sailing though, if one was not involved in racing, one might have stood back, looked at the conditions and thought that remaining ashore was a better choice! But, when you do go out, it most often proves that sailing is fulfilling, can be enjoyable and that it is necessary to understand and attempt to master different conditions.



Mirror racing is back in Cork Harbour

Another boat I enjoyed seeing was the Mirror, back racing in Cork Harbour for their Southern Championships, sailed out of the RCYC at Crosshaven. It was good to see the red sails of the Mirror dinghies in numbers again. There were 23 boats, with 46 sailors in all ranging in age from 14 to 50+ It was the biggest turn-out for the 'Southerns' in years, I was told. The first boat I ever owned was a Mirror, which I sailed out of Monkstown Bay Sailing club. They are a great dinghy.

Mirrors hadn't sailed out of the RCYC since 2005. A few former 'Mirror sailors,' now with children of their own, decided it was time to get the boats they had once sailed out of hibernation and see if they were still fit for purpose. Both sailors and boats seemed to be and there is some thought that the event may lead to a revival of interest in this dinghy class in Cork. There was a lot of discussion at the event about the changes from the original wooden boats to the present fibreglass dinghies, with consequent changes in equipment and rigging.

"There is no doubt that the plastic Mirror is a fine design, but a good wooden boat can still challenge them," one of the 'woodies,' said. Indeed, a wooden boat from South Africa won the Mirror World Championships held at Lough Derg Yacht Club last year.

And of course, young Irish sailors have been victorious in the Mirror World Championships.



The Oman MOD 70 where Kerry's Damian Foxall (below) is co–skipper


Then there is the spirit of Damian Foxall from Kerry, one of the world's top sailors, who is Skippering the MOD70 of Musandam-Oman Sail in the Artemis Challenge in Cowes Week in the Solent. This is part of the Oman Sail project for which he is working. It is that country's national initiative established in 2008 which "uses the power of sport to contribute to the development of the Omani people," the government says. It is an "equal opportunity project" which runs sailing programmes "for thousands of young Omani men and women, aimed at inspiring a new generation to discover sailing, encompassing a national sailing squad and high achieving inshore and offshore racing teams, all of which benefit from world-class coaching and whose ultimate objective is to win an Olympic medal for Oman." The programme is pledged to teach 70,000 Omani children to sail by 2020 at eight sailing schools, four of which are already operational:

"The goal is to rekindle Oman's maritime heritage while raising the country's regional and international profile as a high-end tourist and foreign investment destination, through competitive sailing at home and abroad. Oman Sail seeks to instil confidence and to teach valuable, transferable life skills to a generation of Omanis."

Wouldn't it be marvellous if this island nation had such a State project and saw its national maritime traditions in such a manner?

Damian Foxall is co-Skipper of Musandam-Oman Sail which is part of the project. The Skipper is Sidney Gavignet of France.

For the past month, Oman Sail skipper Sidney Gavignet (FRA) and a mixed squad of Omani and European sailors have been at the centre of a tough series of inshore and offshore races around the French coast in conditions that varied from very light to downright stormy and produced their best performance since they first entered the event in 2008 by finishing third.

"We had a tough Tour de France, but pulled it off in the end through good team work, our squad really pulled together and we are very happy with the result!" said Sidney Gavignet.

After the Artemis Challenge they will take on the Round Britain and Ireland Race, where a line honours win is their goal.

Jan Dekker, the highly regarded America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran from South Africa will be with Damian on the MOD70 in the Artemis Challenge.

Gavignet set a Round Britain and Ireland non-stop singlehanded record set in 2010 on the 105ft Trimaran, Oman Air Majan.

"We are looking forward to the Round Britain, it is a challenging race and will be the last crewed race for us before I turn to solo training for the Route du Rhum at the end of the year," said Gavignet.



South Harbour on Cape Clear on a busy day

But sailing cannot and should not be dependent exclusively on racing and for the next few weeks the annual trek to West Cork beckons sailors from many parts. As one matures, gets older some would say and the joints do not bend or flex as easily as they did in years past, cramped conditions aboard cruiser/racers can be challenging. But there is the counterbalance of the enjoyment of leisurely time in places like South Harbour, Cape Clear, which is one of my ideal locations; at Sherkin Island, Baltimore, Schull and other places. Glandore is quieter these days than inprevious years for visitors, with the village hotel and the Glandore Inn, which had been sailors' main location on arrival in the village closed. The hotel is up for sale. Other pubs in the village are open and Glandore Harbour Yacht Club has its own clubhouse now. There are sunsets and sunrises to be discovered, early morning sailing in quiet areas and the enjoyments of cruising without time disciplines. [Read WM Nixon's recent sailing blog on West Cork]



Nice catch!

This is some photograph, of an angler in the water with a blue shark. Paul Bourke, Angling Information Officer with Inland Fisheries Ireland explained to me: "Jim Clohessy was out with some Norwegian anglers last week fishing from boats in the Bellavista fleet in Cork Harbour. Amongst this intrepid crew was Hans Olav Hagerup, an angling guide himself. Hans explained to Jim how his anglers, fish, catch and release for big halibut and as these fish are too big to get in the boat for a photo, the anglers get in the water instead. Little did Jim know what this would lead to when Hans had his first Irish blue from a small boat and jumped in the water! He won the Fisheries Ireland Catch of the Week for this one!


Published in Island Nation

#tallship – The first Bantry Longboat ever built in the Midlands will go sailing on the Shannon at Banagher in County Offaly. It will be some sight when it does, bringing involvement with the Atlantic Challenge which organises international competition of these boats, to what can fairly be described as Ireland's greatest river system.

If that major event should itself be held in future years on the Shannon, what a great occasion it would be.

I met some of those who built it the Banagher Longboat at the Glandore Classic Boats Summer Maritime School where one of them, Noel Ryan, told me that it took 5,036 man hours. Another of the group, Willie Kirwan, added that they would have "done it quicker if we were tradesmen, but we were all learners without experience, so we had a lot of tea breaks! If we were tradesmen we would have been quicker, but we enjoyed it and we have a fine boat."

They have indeed and those who built it will be testing it out in August. "We want to make sure it goes well, we wouldn't want any embarrassment," said Willie jovially, "but we are sure it won't sink, though we will have to learn about the skill of rowing and sailing this boat."

Indeed they will. I had the pleasure of sailing in the Bantry Longboat which was built in Bantry a few years ago. When it sailed on a reach it could reach a pretty quick speed and I found it was the skill of the crew in balancing the boat which kept it upright. You needed to be lively, as the longboat doesn't have a keel.

"We learned a lot, new things every day, building a boat can be tough and demanding but it is definitely enjoyable and rewarding when you see it finished," Noel said.

They have a lot of pride in their boat which was built with as the West Offaly Bantry Bay Longboat Project, originally a Men's Shed initiative with support from Offaly Local Enterprise Development Company, West Offaly Enterprise and County Offaly VEC, the latter of whom apparently thought the job might be done in three months!

The boat has led to the formation of the Midlands Atlantic Challenge Club, which intends to organise involvement with schools, youth, sports and corporate groups.

Twelve countries are members of the Atlantic Challenge organisation – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Indonesia, Italy, Russia, USA, Ireland and Northern Ireland are separate members.

The original longboat, also known as an admiral's barge, was built in Brest, France, over 200 years ago. The boat is similar to the Captain's gigs used at that time by the navies of France, Sweden, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the USA. When the French Armada arrived off the South/West coast of Ireland in 1796 it ran into a gale and, through lack of leadership, decided to return to France. But the longboat from the vessel which Wolfe Tone was aboard, while trying to establish communication with other ships, was blown ashore in Bere Island and the crew were captured by British forces. This boat is preserved in the National Museum at Collins Barracks in Dublin. Built in1790, it is the oldest surviving vessel of the French Navy.

So, what have these Bantry Longboats got to do with whether Ireland should have a tall ship?

Hal Sisk, legendary figure in the traditional boats sphere and a man never reluctant to take and express a different view and to advance that, even if controversial, was also speaking at the Glandore Summer School in his role as sailor, author and yachting historian, on the topic: 'The origins of the sport of modern amateur sailing.' 


Hal Sisk

Hal advanced a different view about the thrust of sail training than Ireland having a tall ship for the purpose:

"To get people out on the water, in a team concept, providing physical exercise and with international competition, all of that could be achieved with an alternative of a fleet of 30 Bantry Longboats, several of which have already been built in Ireland. There are 35 worldwide and a fleet of them in Ireland would provide, at dramatically reduced cost, what a sail training ship delivers in sail training."


Building The Banagher Bantry Longboat

I put it to him that this would exclude the role of international representation which, for example Asgard had done well and, in modern terms, requirements to provide for disabled trainees.


Bantry Longboat Fionbarra

"I acknowledge what you say, but these boats have fantastic international competition. They are all built the same wherever they are, whereas in the race of sail training ships, it is pretty much based on handicap, it is not a race between identical boats. The Bantry longboats provide this, they come together every few years in international competition and have been built far away, in Indonesia, Russia, for example. You would get true, fair, international competition. They don't fly the flag in a spectacular way in international representation terms as Asgard did for example or as does a beautiful square-rigged tall ship, but there always was an alternative in the replacement of Asgard after she sank.


The Banagher Bantry Longboat


Willie Kirwan And Noel Ryan - Banagher Boat Builders


The Oldest Vessel Of The French Navy - The Original Bantry Longboat In Ireland's National Museum

"Ireland could have bought a steel-hulled topsail schooner for about €2m, or so and have her for that function, but I would argue that, as against the building of a new tall ship we could build a fleet of Bantry Longboats. We must also remember the cost of maintenance and operation of a tall ship, crewing and health and safety requirements. But a fleet of Bantry longboats would be out on the water far more often probably and could be built for maybe a million and would provide more use for more trainees and the cost, against that of a sail training ship, would not be just very much less, but substantially less by my calculations."

Hal has sent me statistics to make his point - that actual use and benefits in providing sail training and general seamanship for many more young people would be at much less cost for a fleet of 30 Bantry Longboats compared to a tall ship and would be of much greater benefit.

"Bantry Longboats could be spread around the country, built locally and therefore also building on town and parish pride and maintaining coastal traditions also. It is a historic boat, authentic, distinctive, with that huge international competition dimension."

The case Hal Sisk makes is interesting, while at present efforts continue through what was formerly called the 'Pride of Ireland Trust' now changed to the 'Atlantic Youth Trust,' to build a new Irish tall ship, the concept design for which has been completed. The name change followed consultation on both sides of the Border, after which it was decided that 'Pride of Ireland Trust' did not represent the views of all stakeholders and "therefore did not represent the ethos of the organisation, so in order to create a name that has a true sense of neutrality, a strong maritime focus, a sense of adventure and one that carries weight in America, 'Atlantic Youth Trust,' was chosen as the name to offer unique Youth and Cultural Development opportunities, to help the island reach its maritime potential and to create a flagship that will represent the island on an international platform," amongst other aims.

I will be interested to hear response to the views of Hal Sisk.


It remains a blot on the maritime reputation of this island nation that the €3.8m. insurance paid for the loss of Asgard was put into general Government funds by former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, rather than being held for the specific purpose of a replacement national tall ship, even if that would be provided outside of Government.

I was never impressed by the administration of Asgard during my years as a national marine correspondent. I expected far more commitment and determination in support of the maritime interests of this nation. When Willie O'Dea appeared to confuse 'vehicle' and 'vessel' in his answers on a radio interview about the sinking of Asgard, then refused several attempts by me to get an interview with him about his decision in regard to giving the Asgard insurance money to the State and other decisions he made when the equestrian requests of the Army for horses, were considered more important than Asgard, I realised that the Limerickman who declares on his website - 'Working for You' - did not show much commitment to working for the national tall ship. I offered to go anywhere, anytime, to interview him, but through his officials, he always found a reason not to be available.

Whether for Bantry Longboats or for a tall ship, it is my view that there is €3.8m. in State funds which is morally due to either project and the Government should acknowledge and provide that.

No less is required of the Government of an island nation.

Published in Island Nation

#sailing – Sailing is a sport, not the qualification of a superior social standing.

Is that fully understood by everyone involved in the sport or is there still an element of elitism which needs to be eradicated?

The term 'yachting' was dropped a few years from the title of the national representative organisation which became the Irish Sailing Association, amidst an apparent belief that 'sailing' would be less elitist as a descriptive term and more acceptable to the public.

Most 'yacht' clubs did not become 'sailing' clubs, though there are more 'sailing clubs' it would seem than 'yacht' clubs around the country. Boats did not generally become described in the American term of 'sailboats' but remained yachts.

I see no major problem with the term 'yachting' though I understand the sensitivities which surround the different terminology. I have no qualms about admitting that I own a yacht and feel fortunate to do so.

What is of more concern to me is that the sport becomes truly a 'sport for all' and is not riddled with different levels of social strata.

There remains a degree of public perception that sailing is an elitist sport. This has dogged it gaining more general acceptance and bedevilled its reputation.

Sailing, or yachting, should be a 'sport for all' in an island nation where it is based on access to the magnificent resource of waters surrounding us.

The perception of wealthy people with big boats, sitting in clubs behind signs of 'strictly private', is not conducive to creating a widely popular sport. There is a dichotomy here because the growth of interest amongst young sailors, with more involvement in dinghy sailing such as through Optimists, has been encouraging. So has the advent of more interest in schools in adopting sailing onto their sports curricula.

The movement for change within the ISA came initially from the dinghy fraternity, where many of us who now sail cruisers, began their love affair with the sport.

The breakthrough which sailing needs, to gain more general popular public acceptance, has not been made.


People sail boats of all types

Why is this?

Throughout my years of being a marine journalist and when marine correspondent within RTE, it was difficult to get coverage for sailing. I did achieve it, but there was always a bit of a battle to establish acceptance that the sport was not just for the wealthier part of the population, but that it permeated across all social milieu. I did get that message across by quoting figures of how many are actively involved in a day's racing organised by major clubs, compared with the attendance for example at some Irish soccer matches which got plenty of media coverage. I also stressed that it was a participative sport more than a spectator one. More people within the broadcast service have become involved in the sport. But generally in the media, there is still an impression that sailing is a sport for which you need a lot of money and this is perpetuated by the oft-quoted unfortunate analogy of standing under a cold shower and tearing up money.

But sailing – and yacht – clubs are also contributors to this failure to get the message of sailing as a sport for all across. In my experience as a journalist, most clubs are poor at their public relations and the issuing of information to the press, but yet complain that the sport does not get enough coverage, even if they do not provide the information. There are honourable exceptions, who provide good circulation of information and websites, but there are many other clubs who are pretty bad at sending information and whose websites are dismal failures, not updated for long periods of time.

At the annual meeting of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association in Kinsale Yacht Club in the Spring one participant told the audience that "yacht clubs to most people would be the scariest places to walk into."

Another said: "It is no wonder that we struggle as a sport to keep people as lifelong participants, even though we can and do attract younger people into the sport at an early age."

The warning signs have been there for years, for those who wanted to note them. Sailing needed to widen its appeal, to get more people into the sport for lifelong participation.

To survive a sport needs an organised structure and clubs are needed to provide this, they must have members who pay to join and support them. They cannot exist if people use them without joining and therefore not giving on-going financial and volunteer support.

So there is a dichotomy here. Why are clubs not getting enough members, a situation which appears widespread?

The economy over the past few years has undoubtedly been a contributory factor. People have lacked disposable income and, amongst families in particular, expenditure on non-essential matters has had to be cutback. Some clubs have responded with different arrangements for membership, but as I wrote in this blog last week, I still think that new, flexible approaches are needed, particularly to encourage crews, of which most active racing boats are short.

There are also people who sail and who do not join clubs, either they don't want to, or can't or there are not clubs close to them or for whatever reason. But they do sail, are they outside of the system and should they be considered. How can they be appealed to because they are involved in the sport. There are the traditional boats and the huge support they get. Some are members of the ISA, some of clubs, but many not so perhaps. There is a huge level of support for sailing in this sphere and many organised events which draw big support. Should the ISA reach out to these sailors, to this area of sailing activity?

This and many other aspects merit consideration to band together all interested in sailing, in all its facets. United in approach there would be a strong force which official authorities could not ignore when improved facilities and recognition are sought or when government and officialdom has to be challenged, such as in the imposition of new regulations.

On this month's edition of my radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, (click to play podcast above) I talked to the President of the Irish Sailing Association about his plan for a Strategic Review of the sport to deal with a decline and he accepted my suggestion that the impression of elitism is not good for the sport and has not helped its expansion and development. We also discussed whether there was too much concentration on racing and whether more support should be given to other forms of sailing, encouraging cruising.

David Lovegrove wants to get across the message that sailing is open to everyone. He would be particularly happy, he told me, if he could get that understood and accepted widely in public. We discussed how sailing can be a sport for all ages and for all people, with the uniqueness of enabling families to participate together if they wished. He recalled the time when he first got involved in sailing and the enjoyment and sense of friendship that abounded. Perhaps too, we agreed, there was less concentration then on being winners in racing and in high performance levels.


Ocean racer Damian Foxall of County Kerry

I think there is a need for Ireland to have a good presence on the international scene and that it is good for the country. It is also good for sailors to aspire to the highest levels of achievement, but have we got over-committed to competition to the detriment of the enjoyment of participation, of being on the water. Had the ISA also been too focussed on its own high performance programme and those who qualify for it and not given enough support to other sailors who may not have made it through the ISA system, but want to try on the international scene and should there be arrangements to support that. Also, for example, has the ISA been close enough to the top international sailors who have come from Ireland and sought to include them and utilise their services in promoting Irish sailing, such as Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery and where is the ISA in regard to the efforts of such as young David Kenefick making his own way onto the international scene through the Figaro Race.

All of these are interesting points to debate.

I take part in club racing, but I always try to make it clear to the crew that we are going out to enjoy ourselves and winning is not the overall aim, though it would be nice and we have been fortunate enough to do so from time-to-time. I don't like shouting on a boat, though sometimes getting something done quickly when needed can raise the vocal level. But if the enjoyment is taken out of the sport, that is not for the best.


All forms of sailing need to be engaged

Again, here we have a dichotomy, other sports are hugely competitive-oriented, why should sailing not be?

There are issues to be addressed and I wish David Lovegrove and his team every success as they try to come up with answers. He told me in our interview, that this would not be a short-term solution, but would take a lot of work and commitment by the clubs themselves. Indeed. As I wrote in this blog last week, encouraging participation is essential to arrest decline. That will mean more innovative ways of involving people, a point which Denis Kiely, who has given tremendous national service to sailing made at that SCORA meeting in Kinsale and which impressed me.

He said that often crews did not get enough of a proper introduction to the sport, didn't have enough knowledge of it and weren't given such, didn't get training, could therefore feel unwelcome and then leave the sport.

Club marinas are pretty full of boats around the country, so it is at times hard to accept that there is a decline in participation, but the meetings which have led to the new approach by the ISA have shown problems, including dissatisfaction with the national association itself. David Lovegrove has accepted this and the need for change.

He spoke to me of his enthusiasm about the work ahead to re-define the sport and his confidence in the team he has appointed to oversee different aspects of the sport and to suggested changes. These are outlined in detail in the current/Summer edition of AFLOAT magazine.

His determination to create a strong, vibrant sport, is welcome. I wish him success with his efforts. Listen to his interview in my programme here on the Afloat website (above). Everyone interested in the future of our sport should respond positively. That commitment is what the sport needs.

So – who is to blame for the decline in sailing – all of us are, if we do not make changes to encourage more people into the sport and to stay in it and if we do not adapt existing systems to ensure they feel welcome. That means all of us who want to see sailing being a sport for all accepting that sailing is just that - a sport - not a badge of social approval.

Published in Island Nation

#seachange – The Government is planning a new maritime safety strategy. The Irish Maritime Administration, which is effectively the Coast Guard and other aspects of maritime transport within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, has decided that Ireland needs a new maritime safety culture.

The IMA was established in 2013. It comprises the Maritime Safety Policy Division, the Marine Survey Office, the Irish Coast Guard, the Maritime Transport Division and a new Maritime Services Division. In an island nation which fully respected its maritime requirements these should be within a Department of the Marine, but civil service and internal politicking ensured that it was part of the break-up of maritime responsibilities within Government, despite promises that all maritime matters would be under one Department giving the maritime sphere a higher presence in Government and despite attempts by Marine Minister Simon Coveney to bring safety matters within his Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine

While safety at sea must be embraced, when government decides to draw up new or more regulations, it is time for examination of the motives and their aim. For example, single-handed sailing is not approved of by Irish officialdom. That French Figaro Race passing through Irish waters last week and all who like to sail solo are not in favour with Irish maritime authorities.

The Maritime Administration has decided to develop a new Maritime Safety Strategy – 'Sea Change – Building a New Maritime Safety Culture.' This, it says, "will focus on building a culture of safety and will target the main causes of casualties in the maritime sector."

It will cover all types of craft being used for any purpose on Irish coastal or inland waters, including recreational craft, fishing vessels, passenger vessels and cargo vessels.

That is very wide-ranging.

There have been 134 maritime fatalities since 2002 and Minister Leo Varadkar maintains that "almost half" were the result of leisure activities on recreational craft. He is trying to parallel his road safety approach to the maritime sphere, maintaining that roads are safer as a result of regulations. That opinion would not go unchallenged. While safety is an issue that must be treated seriously there has been an obsession amongst Government with imposition of regulations in all aspects of life where Ireland is possibly the most regulated country in the EU. There remains, at present, a freedom to use the waters around our island nation and, while emphasising the need for a culture of maritime safety, any attempts by civil service mandarins to impose more controls on that freedom should be examined closely.

"The sea and any open water can be hostile and dangerous environments and demand total respect," said the Minister. I agree and by consulting with stakeholders and the general public, it would be good to reach a situation where there are no fatalities. But the Irish Maritime Administration, by some of its previous attitudes towards safety, such as attempting to shut down Coastal Radio Stations at Valentia and Malin Head, has not inspired confidence. It did not demonstrate a willingness to listen to what it was told. It has shown a more dictatorial than responsive attitude to the views of stakeholders who have brought instances to my attention. There was, for example, the RNLI provision of lifebelts with a built-in radio alert safety system to which the Coast Guard objected because control was not direct to them but would have been via the lifeboat service. So there is reason to examine a desire for more regulations.


Loop Head lighthouse in County Clare

Notably, one of the points the IMA highlights in its reasons for a new maritime safety strategy is : Inadequate enforcement of regulations.

I support safety at sea, but long journalistic experience has taught me to always examine the reasons for the desire of government officials for more regulations.

The Minister has urged all stakeholders, and the general public, to engage with a consultation process open until August 29 and "to contribute their ideas to the Irish Maritime Administration.

One life lost unnecessarily at sea is one fatality too many.

One of the advantages of being an island nation is the freedom to go to sea, which is a freedom that imposes disciplines of safety on those who use our coastal and inland waters. Safety regulations are necessary but had civil service mentality been exercised in the past would there have been explorers of the sea, round-the-world voyagers and solo sailors?

I hope that this time the Irish Maritime Administration will learn the lesson of listening rather than dictating to stakeholders.


There is a line in the Irish Sailing Association's Strategic Review which stuck out for me: "Racing currently forms the backbone of club activity." But is this too dominant in the sport which it appears is in a crisis of dwindling interest? The ISA has been described as a bureaucracy detached from the reality of what is going on and the new Strategy is an attempt to change that. I believe in the concept of sailing being a 'sport for all' as the ISA has previously highlighted. But can it ever be that when the perception remains of an elitist sport run by exclusive and at times unwelcoming clubs, a point which was forcefully put at this year's meeting of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association which I previously reported in Afloat?


Howth Harbour in county Dublin, a popular boating venue

There are skippers who cannot find enough crew and some clubs have moved to try to accommodate this by offering crew memberships. But they may have to move further. A club structure is essential, so membership of clubs and income is vital to support them, but there are people whose only desire to go sailing may be one night a week racing when they would crew and who, in these economic times, may not be able to afford even 'crew' membership, but would crew a boat and add to the club's income on an even partial basis. While keeping an essential percentage of a boat's crewing to club members, perhaps clubs need to accommodate new styles and requirements of 'crewing' to increase the sport's popularity. The 'elitist' image, which has been fostered in the past by some clubs and their members, needs to be removed if it is to be "a sport for all" and club membership encouraged, as also that it can be for cruising and not just for racing.


I wrote about the nature of the sea and another example is the photos from Antarctica sent to me for my blog this week. They were taken by a lady named Lara Harrison, who was there as a medic. Look at them and reflect on what is happening in these areas due to global warming and why we all need to be conscious of the natural environment.


Nice cool day and (below) a bit crowded on this beach



On the July edition of THIS ISLAND NATION monthly hour-long radio programme next week I will be talking to the last man alive from the islanders who were evacuated from the Blaskets. As a youngster he was described as "the loneliest boy in the world, whose only playmates are seagulls." I will also discuss with ISA President, David Lovegrove, the Association's new strategy; hear about Loop Head Lighthouse; a new five-man currach; the history of Kinsale Harbour and much more. The programme will be available here on the AFLOAT website and is also broadcast on Near FM Dublin 90.3; CRY 104FM Cork; and Raidio Corca Baiscinn, Clare 94.8 FM

Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#islandnation – Entering Kinsale Harbour, east of the Bulman Buoy, is a prominent 200-foot cliff rising sharply above the sea. It is known as Hangman Point and was the location of a gibbet, a warning to everyone not to engage in piracy. Displayed there in 1675 was the head of one of six Irishmen who had murdered the Master and three crew aboard what was described as "a very rich ship," the St.Peter of Hamburg which had been bound for France. This gang sailed the vessel to the West Coast of Ireland where they were captured by the authorities led by Robert Southwell, Vice Admiral of Munster. Convicted and executed, their heads were displayed at different points along the coast, including one at Hangman Point.

The next time I am rounding the Bulman heading for Kinsale I'll take more note of Hangman Point about which I hadn't known a lot, though I did know of the roadside reminder out towards the Old Head of Kinsale of the female pirate Anne Bonney, another story of piracy from the locality. She was actually Anne Cormac, described as "a vivacious girl" who lived with her father, William, in a fine house on the edge of Bullen's Bay which was a haven for piracy on the south coast not far from Kinsale, providing a place to land stolen goods and get water and provisions.

She shared the maritime activities of the area, but her father was actually a successful Cork lawyer who emigrated from that area to the Carolinas in America where the doughty daughter was drawn to the sea, despite the best efforts of her father to steer her in other directions. This led her to falling for the charms of pirate and buccaneer 'Calico' Jack Rackham who was terrorising the coast of Bermuda.

 Anne took to the life of piracy, engaged in it by boarding ships and capturing and looting them and was regarded as a tough fighter. Despite pregnancies, she had her children fostered to continue her cutlass-bearing life. Captured eventually, both 'Calico' and Anne were sentenced to hang. Because she was again pregnant she was reprieved and her last words to 'Calico' before he faced the hangman, according to legend were: "If you had fought like a man, you would not now be hanged like a dog!"

I am not sure I would particularly like such a female type aboard, but out towards the Old Head of Kinsale there is a roadside plaque reminding passersby of Anne Bonney.


The story is told by John Thullier, well-known in the maritime world and in sailing after a lifetime involvement with boats. He is the retired Director of Kinsale Further Education College and steeped in the maritime tradition of the town. The College evolved from projects designed to introduce the maritime environment to students and providing training in marine skills.


He has compiled the history of Kinsale Harbour and told me how, on walks around the seafront of the town with his grandfather who was a good boat builder timber needed would be spotted, with it all explained to him as a youngster about what a boat needed to be sturdy. John recalled to me how Sundays were the day of leisure, so the men would go sailing and, "in soft hat and with shirt and tie!" Those were times when there was a different approach to sailing clothing!

"Kinsale Harbour – A History," published by The Collins Press, was launched this week at Kinsale Yacht Club. In it John Thullier charts the history of a town now known best for its tourism and food, but which he says must retain its focus of being a port and a maritime location.

Nestling on the River Bandon as it sweeps to the sea, Kinsale emerged as a settlement in the 6th century and has seen many changes.

"Really there are three harbours here, the inner, the middle and the outer and Kinsale has changed over the years as it evolved to meet the many challenges," he said as we chatted overlooking the harbour from the front of the Trident Hotel where the statue of a fisherman, resting and thinking, reminds patrons that this too was once a big fishing port and still retains fishing boat activity.


"The harbour has always provided a safe anchorage and prospered during the golden age of sail, victualling shops bound for the American colonies, the West Indies and trading with English and Continental ports. Many people will remember it for the Battle of Kinsale, but there is much more to the town and the maritime tradition is its main reason for existence. There was a Naval base to restrict threats of foreign invasion, there were pirates and smugglers, it was a shipping port, it evolved when the size of ships changed, it was a big fishing industry centre, that changed too as the industry and stocks moved. It still retains some fishing and it became a sea angling centre which gave it a new life.


Now it is still very active in the marine, as a sailing centre. There have been difficult times here in Kinsale, but the way a town like this survives is to focus on what it has best, that is the maritime role, its maritime resources and facilities."

Even where we sat talking about Kinsale, where the Trident Hotel stands, he told me was once a dockyard.

"My mother's family was involved in the fishing industry, on my father's side the family were boatbuilders, owners and members of various boards and public bodies engaged in the affairs of the harbour.

"The story of Kinsale is the history of its connection with the sea. Everything about Kinsale is of the sea and so it should remain," says John Thullier, whose book about this major sailing location is well worth reading.

And if you want to know what happened to Anne the pirate, John Thullier says:
"No precise information is available about her after Rackham's hanging. There are reports that she abandoned piracy, was reconciled with her father, remarried and had eight more children."

I like a happy ending!

Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation

#thisilandnation – There are 11 different storylines in this month's THIS ISLAND NATION programme here on the Afloat website, underlining the wide variety of maritime topics to be reported. They range from an exclusive interview with the head of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the regulatory body for the fishing industry, to a reminder about Rosslare's involvement with the first use of Morse Code on a lifeboat in Ireland.

As well as those items Stephen Newton, Senior Conservation Officer for Seabirds with Birdwatch Ireland, discusses the importance of the observation of the rare Bermuda Petrel species off the Irish coast for the first time; an artist from a fishing family at Roche's Point in Cork Harbour describes how the sea inspires her painting; a former Coast Guard describes how he will be Ireland's only representative at the World Town Crier Competition; there is a reminder of how tough life was for dockers in Dublin Port; the €4m. export value of an Irish sea worm is reported and a man from the Waterford Estuary calls on maritime communities to follow his example in preserving traditional maritime artefacts.


Dunmore East fishery

The RNLI provides a regular monthly report, as do the Commissioners of Irish Lights who describe changes at Inisheer Lighthouse on the Aran Islands and the Chief Executive of Irish Water Safety emphasises the importance of teaching children how to swim. The national media does not give enough coverage to the marine sphere, but and THIS ISLAND NATION do.




Susan Steele, IFPA

The Head of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority wants to see "a thriving fishing industry and thriving fishing communities," but says that those who "lose the run of themselves" and engage in illegal fishing will be prosecuted. Susan Steele is Chair of the SFPA, effectively the senior executive and in an exclusive interview with THIS ISLAND NATION says she wants the fishing industry to understand that that the SFPA will always act fairly and with transparency. "The Authority's task is to do a good job for Ireland's marine communities to help ensure that they survive and thrive. As well as working closely with the industry with which we have a fantastic relationship, there are times when the SFPA has to carry out "enforcement actions to ensure that "those who lose the run of themselves are dealt with," she says.



Bermuda Petrel – back off Ireland in search of food

The arrival of a Bermuda Petrel, a very rare species the future of which is under threat, off the Irish coast has caused considerable interest. Stephen Newton of Birdwatch Ireland indicates that this could be because of following fish for food. He also has an interesting insight as to why the Bermuda Petrel might be migrating the wrong way around.



Valentia Island Lifeboat Station in County Kerry has been presented with a 100th anniversary Vellum. Last year the lifeboat there launched 33 times and saved 33 people. Niamh Stephenson from the RNLI has this and more lifeboat news on THIS ISLAND NATION.


The Commissioners of Irish Lights have made changes to the light displayed from Inisheer Lighthouse in the Aran Islands, introducing a LED (light emitting diode) which will be more energy efficient. Rory McGee, Engineering Operations Manager at CIL, reports the change on THIS ISLAND NATION.



I referred in my last blog to the 'Songs of the North Lotts' about the communities living around the Dublin Port area and the collection of forty evocative songs by Paul O'Brien. There was considerable interest, so this month on THIS ISLAND NATION I am playing another of Paul's songs. This time he sings about the dockers who unloaded the ships and how they had to line up and hope to be chosen for a day's tough work.


A sea worm that is worth €4m. is the description of the whelk which Sea Fisheries Protection Officer Liam Kennedy tells me about on the programme. They rarely make an appearance on Irish menus, but this large sea snail is highly prized in the Far East including: South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, China and Singapore. The whelk fishery is important to smaller inshore vessels. Because whelks are susceptible to over-fishing, he is asking fishermen to "be responsible and not land undersized whelks."


The Costa Concordia is to be scrapped at Genoa in Italy to where it will be towed on July 20, according to latest information about the dismantling of this ill-fated cruise ship on which 32 people died when it hit rocks off Tuscany in 2012. An Italian consortium has been chosen for the demolition work over other bids which were made from France, UK, Norway, Turkey and China. Italian Government approval has yet to be given for the scrapping.


I'm pleased with the number of people contacting me with opinions, news and views, since this programme and blog was launched. Your comments are always welcome.
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]


The national association of community broadcasting stations, CRAOL, at its annual conference presented the award for scheduled programmes to THIS ISLAND NATION maritime programme, produced at and presented from Community Radio Youghal, Co. Cork. Photo shows l. to r. Justin Maher, Station Development Officer, cry104fm Community Radio Youghal; Tom MacSweeney, Presenter; Declan Gibbons, Station Manager.

Twitter: @TomMacSweeney @Afloatmagazine

Published in Island Nation

#thisislandnation – We don't make enough use of the rivers which flow through our cities. These ribbons of life to our major urban centres pass through the heart of the cities where the pressure of traffic and pedestrians shows more interest in the speed with which they can be crossed, often seeming to regard them as unwelcome blocks which require bridges, rather than appreciate that underneath those bridges is a system of transport and leisure which is neglected and often used by citizens for dumping of their waste.

There are some moves to utilise them more efficiently. On the Liffey there is a sightseeing tourist vessel and Poolbeg maintains its sailing presence close to the shipping sector. In Cork a voluntary organisation, Meitheal Mara, has promoted boating on the many different strands into which the city forces the Lee to pass through. Cork's city-based shipping operations have been diminished by the port which wants to end them altogether and move commercial shipping to Ringaskiddy where its public presence will be more limited and removed from the public eye. Waterford has based a marina in the city centre, but shunted its shipping to Belview where it is practically unseen by the public, so that the contribution of shipping to the economy is not perceived as strongly as it should be. Galway is a restricted tidal port, but a new one is planned and close enough to be seen by citizens. Dublin maintains port operations close to the city.


Dublin Port docker from the North Lotts book

There was a time when the ports and the rivers throbbed with life. In Dublin Guinness barges traversed the Liffey and there were real characters on the docks in all of our cities. Life could be tough as a dock labourer, but there was a great pride in the communities which lived around the ports and recognised the importance of shipping.

The East Wall has always been a proud Dublin community with seafaring a vital part of its tradition. On my programme THIS ISLAND NATION I played a song from a CD which was presented to me. 'Songs from the North Lotts' by Paul O'Brien capture a time in East Wall which deserves to be remembered. The East Wall Residents' Association which has been in existence for some fifty years, "maintaining and promoting the rare and wonderful community that it is an always has been," led the production of the book of the songs, dedicated to the people of East Wall and North Wall.

The song I played was "Taking the Boat," about which Paul O'Brien wrote in a book accompanying his CDs in 2009: "When I was growing up Dublin people didn't emigrate, they 'took the boat'. Single or married, it didn't matter. I don't personally know of any Dublin family that has not been touched by emigration."

There was a great response to the song, which you can hear on the Afloat website by CLICKING HERE. It was so good that in the June edition of the monthly programme, I will be playing another ballad from the collection – "Me Handsome Stevedore."

Tune in to hear it – next Wednesday night, June 4 at 7.30 pm on Youghal Radio – Community Radio Youghal 104FM or on their website or if you are in the Dublin area, tune in to NearFM 90.3 on Friday night, June 6 at 6 p.m. This is another station joining the "family of the sea."

There was an interesting comment on the May edition of the programme by Jim O'Donovan, Director of Environment and Recreation with Cork City Council, who compared the better environmental condition of the River Lee to the Liffey, particularly around Heuston Station, about which he was quite critical.

Click HERE to listen to him on the Afloat podcast of the programme.



Waiting for the tide at Youghal in County Cork

Community radio stations around the country are showing great interest in the marine sphere and counteracting neglect by national and local commercial radio. I met many of these voluntary broadcasters at the annual meeting of their national organisation, CRAOL, over the past weekend in Youghal. They have produced and broadcast programmes on a wide variety of marine topics. THIS ISLAND NATION, was amongst the winners in the annual CRAOL national awards, chosen by the broadcasters themselves. I am pleased that the description "this island nation" is heard being more widely used in general conversation, by the media, in politics and in business. Awareness of the marine sphere is growing.


I didn't know a lot about the Irish sea snail which is worth around €4m. a year in exports until I talked to Liam Kennedy from the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority who wants fishermen to protect them. I will be broadcasting that interview in the June edition of THIS ISLAND NATION radio next week, as well as an exclusive interview with the Head of the SFPA, Susan Steele. She tells me that she wants to see "a thriving fishing industry and thriving fishing communities," but warns that those who "lose the run of themselves" and engage in illegal fishing will be dealt with speedily and effectively because they damage the future of the fishing industry. I will also be talking to Birdwatch Ireland about the arrival, for the first time, of one of the world's rarest sea birds off the Irish coast.


This is the Bermuda Petrel, an endangered species, of which there are only 108 breeding pairs known to exist.


"We've never sailed in Cork before, but we're quite confident anyway." That's the view of the top woman match racing sailor, 32-year-old Camilla Ulrikkeholm from Denmark, who will be at the home of sailing, the Royal Cork YC in Crosshaven, for the ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championships will be staged there next week.


 Camilla Ulrikkeholm from Denmark

The event will start on Tuesday and continue until Sunday, sailed in the ISA J80s fleet. "We've done a lot of research about the venue, we know the boat very well and we're definitely as tuned together as a crew should be. We'll just handle it the same way we usually do - arrive early to spend a day finding out all the practical details, then do some practising and get to know the boat and work our way into the regatta by using the first matches to learn about the local conditions."

That's confidence !


The Chief Executive of A.P.Moeller-Maersk Company has indicated that there will not be a sustainable recovery in the shipping industry in the short term. Nils Andersen is quoted as saying that "there is lingering overcapacity" which may remain until 2017. The Irish Maritime Development Organisation in its Weekly Market Review says that "the idle containership fleet" has gone below two per cent of the overall fleet for the first time since last September, but the global tanker market is experiencing low rates with the crude sector suffering particularly and providing only very low earnings for owners. The European Short Sea Bulk market is also experiencing a downward trend which has been developing since April.


Baltimore Maritime Centre was formed in December 2013 by a nucleus of members of Les Glénans, following the closure of the Glenans sail training base in the village. It has acquired six of that organisation's keel boats and will start sailing courses this Summer in conjunction with Heir Island Sailing Schull and Baltimore Yacht Charters.

Twitter: @TomMacSweeney and @Afloatmagazine

Published in Island Nation

#thisislandnation – After an absence of several years it is a pleasure to return to the airwaves, a decision I have taken in pursuance of my belief that the national media is seriously neglectful of maritime matters. The marine sphere is not adequately served by the national media, print or broadcast. The specialist media such as AFLOAT and community radio offers an alternative voice, so do social media outlets.

THIS ISLAND NATION is a monthly hour-long radio programme of which the first edition available here on highlights the decay forced upon coastal communities by government and EU policies.

Sean Doherty, who I interviewed for my programme at the 'EMPOWERING COASTAL COMMUNITIES' Conference in County Waterford, is a man who is trying to preserve his local community at Cheekpoint on the Waterford Estuary. He describes how the ending of the drift net fishery, followed by the closure of the eel fishery, has contributed to what he sees as the destruction of his community. Men earned a living from the fisheries for their families, others were employed to maintain engines on the boats, more had work repairing the fishing boats and local restaurants served their catches as local produce. But these aspects of life in Cheekpoint no longer exist. The village has suffered heavily. His interview indicates how decisions were made by politicians and State administrators without carrying out any examination of the social effects and the damage they would cause to the communities affected. Those communities were treated with disregard and what amounts to contempt for their future. It is a sombre story.

The oceans are, in places, a wilderness, sweeping the globe and washing the edges of our cities. They provide opportunity and potential. The coastal communities are the first interface of Ireland with the sea at the coastal rim of this island nation.

So why is it that the sea is not regarded as a priority national interest?

The answer lies in a failure of political and economic perception, fuelled by an adherence to globalisation rather than pride in being an island nation.

Ireland is the most western island nation in Europe, but there is no pride evident in Government circles that we Irish are islanders. At the highest level of political life and civil service administration, as well as amongst the national media and the general public, there is a failure of perception to realise that being islanders gives Irish people an unique place in Europe. The concept of globalisation, which policies favour, is the destruction of uniqueness.

As Sean Doherty says in the interview, there are publicly expressed concerns and movements calling for the protection of indigenous communities around the world; and for the promotion of multi-culturalism in Ireland; but there is little or no interest and no movements for the preservation of the indigenous people of Ireland –the coastal and fishing communities.

The voice of the sea can speak to the soul, that voice should be heard by those who make the decisions which affect Ireland.

While there are some positive steps, which are also outlined in the programme - THIS ISLAND NATION - which you can hear on this website, these are not enough to counterbalance neglect of the maritime sphere. More is needed.

Cheekpoint nestles in the Waterford Estuary near where the Rivers Suir and Barrow meet, lying beneath Minaun Hill and has a magnificent, panoramic view across Waterford Harbour.

Sean Doherty described himself to me as an angry, frustrated man at what he sees as he looks out from his home on the estuary, "because what I am seeing is destruction caused by a form of blindness."

The Prong is the local boat which has been used by fishermen from the village. The first one built in many years is pictured below, together with an example of an older boat. The coastal communities are endeavouring to maintain their maritime heritage. So should the nation.


Above John Gossip with the new Cheekpoint Prong and below an older example of the craft



Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation
Page 6 of 12

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.

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At A Glance – Boot Dusseldorf 

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