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The award during February of the Irish Cruising Club’s premier trophy - the Faulkner Cup - to Maire Breathnach of Dungarvan was another highlight in a remarkable cruising career. The trophy was for the voyage she made with her husband Andrew Wilkes in their 64ft gaff cutter Annabel J to northeast Greenland. Its award made her a worthy Afloat.ie February “Sailor of the Month (Cruising)”, and also served to highlight her outstanding cruising and voyaging experience. She first came to notice with a mostly single-handed round Ireland cruise with a Hurley 22, and since teaming up with Andrew Wilkes she has circumnavigated both South America including Cape Horn, and North America via the Northwest Passage, in all a very impressive CV.

Annabel J1The 64ft steel-built gaff cutter Annabel J which Maire Breathnach and Andrew Wilkes cruised to northeast Greenland

Published in Sailor of the Month
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The day-long Irish Sailing/Cruising Association of Ireland Annual Cruising Conference, organised with energetic enthusiasm by Irish Sailing’s Gail MacAllister, deservedly attracted a full house on Saturday to the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown in South Dublin writes W M Nixon.

A motorway-focused modern hotel may seem an unlikely setting for a gathering redolent of sailing the salty sea. So it tells us everything about the calibre and variety of the speakers and presenters, and the range of their subjects, that the audience very quickly felt that they were no longer in a window-less conference suite. Instead, they were magically transported to a maritime environment, in and around boats among fellow-minded shipmates either simply enjoying cruising, or dealing with its challenges, or indeed solving the many sometimes apparently intractable problems which come with owning and running a boat.

aleria message8Rogue Trader – with much TLC, she became a dream-fulfilling ocean voyager

There was no mistaken attempt to give the impression that real cruising is easy - that it is simply racing without the stress. On the contrary, the conference started with Claire McCluskey and Nick Russell’s inspiring story of how - virtually on a whim – they bought the hefty and decidedly tired ketch Rogue Trader – 56ft from the end of her mizzen boom to the tip of her bowsprit – restored her to full seaworthiness, and then headed off on an Atlantic cruise which has seen 10,000 nautical miles logged. Just like that……..

aleria message8Claire McCluskey and Nick Russell – a spur-of-the-moment decision became a dream of the future, and the dream came true

It was very hard work making it happen for Rogue Trader, but once she was actually under way it was mostly fun. So, for balance, the next topic was not fun at all - the pollution of our seas and coastlines, particularly by plastic. The speaker was Sinead McCoy, Coastal Communities Manager with An Taisce, and though in spreading environmental awareness in the cruising community she was largely talking to the converted, it is our duty to pass on the message, particularly as regards plastic, for it seems that some forms of it actually have a taste which is attractive if ultimately fatal for marine life.

aleria message8Evie Conway has taken on a massive wooden boat restoration job.

aleria message8Urgently in need of restoration – very little is known of the origins of Evie Conway’s 26-footer, but by the time the restoration job is completed in her parents’ garden, it is hoped the entire history will be available.

A serious tone, but with a hopeful longterm outcome, was the theme of the next topic, the restoration project being carried out on a neglected and anonymous 26ft sloop – now called Saoirse – by Evie Conway. At the moment she’s doing the work by herself, but hopes to speed up progress when the boat is moved from Cobh to her parents’ garden in Dublin. In time we’ll hope to have more precise details of the presently-unknown history of this Folkboat-like mahogany-built craft, but for now the project is powered by the extra goodwill generated in Leopardsown.

After that, we were into a presentation which could comfortably have filled the entire morning or afternoon. To describe Alex and Daria Blackwell of Clew Bay as “Atlantic veterans” is a real understatement. Their handsome Bowman 57 Aleria has crossed the Western Ocean many times in a wide variety of conditions, and Alex has taken on what many would describe as the most challenging ocean of them all several times in other vessels, so their Atlantic experience has few rivals.

aleria message8Alex and Daria Blackwell’s much-travelled Bowman 57 Aleria is based in Clew Bay

But few if any with comparable experience have tabulated their thorough research and knowledge with the dedication of Aleria’s crew. It was an extremely focused yet broad-ranging presentation about how to deal with offshore storms in crossing the Atlantic and everything – but everything – that it might throw at you.

aleria message8Daria Blackwell aboard Aleria. Even with today’s domination by electronics, it is still vital to keep proper records

aleria message8The basic findings by Aleria’s experienced crew

And though Atlantic crossing was beyond the experience or even the ambitions of many present, there was one abiding message of good sense which remained with all who heard it. When the going is getting rough to extremely rough, even if your boat is still making progress, give a thought to the benefits of heaving-to.

Proper heaving-to, that is. Not simply hauling down the sails and lying a-hull – that can be extremely uncomfortable and downright dangerous, for most modern boats lie beam on, the motion is abominable, and there’s a real chance of being completely rolled.

But properly hove-to (and it should be on starboard tack), with a scrap of headsail aback and enough mainsail, try-sail or mizzen set so that you’re lying at the proper angle to the seas, and you’ll find that life on board is transformed. The good sense of this struck a chord with the audience, with one experienced cruising man remarking that if the wind was more than Force 6 – and sometimes much less, depending on the sea state - he always hove-to at meal times.

aleria message8Heaving-to is traditionally done on starboard tack – carried out like this, in theory you then have right-of-way over every other ship except a lightship. And the corollary is that the galley should be on the port side……

There was so much thought-inducing material in the Blackwell’s presentation that it took a real mental re-set to adjust to the next item, a maritime poetry reading by Seamus Harrington. But he’s such an engaging reader with so much delight in the topic that it put everyone the mood for lunch, and when your correspondent found himself sharing a table with Daria and Alex Blackwell, Paddy Barry, Alan Leonard and John Duggan of the Irish Cruising Club, there was a possibility that an alternative mini-conference might get underway, but we returned to the conference suite and soon were back to sea, for the afternoon had much more of interest.

John Leahy and Clifford Brown of the Cruising Association of Ireland told us of their organisation’s busy plans for the season of 2018, and then Aodhan FitzGerald of the Marine Institute in Galway, a keen offshore sailor himself and the MI’s Research Vessel Manager, outlined the many problems and solutions in maintaining Ireland’s extensive Marine Weather Buoy Network.

It was a forceful reminder of the fact that Ireland is very much on Europe’s ocean frontier, and that the wave power we’re told is going to provide so much energy in future can also be a destructive force which makes the informationally-valuable buoyage network a constant maintenance challenge, but Aodhan took us clearly through the development of the system, and introduced us to the next generation of equipment.

The final speaker was a double bill, and as it was Norman Kean, Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions, his contributions were a reminder of just how much difference congenial cruising couples make to our sport. After all, the night before in Dun Laoghaire, we’d seen Maire Breathach be declared the latest awardee of the Irish Cruising Club’s senior trophy, the Faulkner Cup, and that was for a cruise she’d made to northeast Greenland with her husband Andrew Wilkes in their 64ft cutter Annabel J.

Then to start Saturday’s conference, we saw positive couple power demonstrated again in the achievements of Claire McCluskey and Nick Russell. Soon after that, we had the comprehensive contribution of Daria and Alex Blackwell. And here we were, rounding out the day with many insights from Norman Kean, whose wife Geraldine Hennigan is his constant shipmate and effectively co-editor of the Sailing Directions. So the old saying is true: “If you find a good crew – marry her…..”

Norman’s first contribution was on the infrastructural developments around the coast of benefit to cruising folk, and it was heart-warming to feel the sense of pride when somebody’s favourite harbour or anchorage came up on the screen with some really useful new amenity.

aleria message8Norman Kean – the man to go to if you want sound advice on marina locations. And a man with a serious message about fishing gear markers

That said, with his unrivalled experience, Norman Kean’s opinion carries real weight, and while you could sense the approval in the room as he showed the welcome new developments at North Harbour at Cape Clear in the far south of the country, equally we shared his sorrow rather than anger that so much public money had been squandered in trying to create a pontoon facility at Bunagee Pier on Donegal’s Culdaff Bay in the far north of the country. It’s a very useful passage anchorage, but without huge – as in really enormous - harbour works, there’s no way it could ever properly shelter pontoons.

Inevitably these comparisons between facilities contributed to the post-conference chat which almost inevitably led to people naming their favourite anchorage, but before we got to that safe haven, Norman has a serious topic to deal with – the marking of fishing gear as in lobster, crab and whelk pots. Salmon nets may have gone, but there seem to be more barely-marked pots around than ever, and there’s now a very determined campaign afoot to have them properly marked with a flag on a pole, with the buoy showing the name of the owner, not just a number or the name of some boat.

aleria message8Unseen fishing gear fouls a propeller – not just a day ruined, but you could be in danger, and it might ultimately prove expensive too.

You don’t have to be under power to get fouled in semi-submerged fishing gear, but it greatly increases the risk, and with propeller installations on P-brackets or sail-drive, the hazards are even further compounded. Norman and Geraldine had profound personal experience of this a couple of years ago when they were heading west under power in their 40ft Coire Uisge in the west part of Bantry Bay under the north shore. Although they gave a barely visible marker buoy a good berth, a second invisible buoy was some distance away on a semi-submerged line, and with a sickening clunk they were immobilised.

The wind and set of the seas was basically onshore, and it soon became apparent that although out of control, they were slowly dragging the now multiply-tangled set of pots towards the lee shore. So a Pan Pan call became the only option, and the Castletownbere lifeboat the ultimate solution – plus about €2,000 to put right the damage to the propellor installation.

Norman Kean – one of the most experienced and safety-conscious cruising people you could ever hope to meet – was completely frank about having to seek help. But being of a positive outlook on life, he kept a complete record of the entire experience, and now he is a leading figure in the international movement to make the marking of floating or semi-submerged fishing gear a much more effective business.

aleria message8The date is already set for next year’s conference

aleria message8

Gail MacAllister – she’ll be doing well to match the content quality of 2018’s conference

It was a thoughtful note on which to end, but then it was one very thought-provoking conference throughout. So much so, in fact, that people were in no hurry to leave, for it’s seldom enough that you’ll get such a centration of genuine cruising enthusiasts in one place with the day devoted to their favourite subject. The date and venue has been set for 2019’s conference already – it’s Saturday February 16th at Lough Ree Yacht Club near Athlone. Gail MacAllister will be doing well to match the calibre of her 2018 lineup. But for now, very well done to everyone involved in this year’s event.

aleria message8Good wishes from Aleria to send everyone safely on their way

Purchase a copy of Alex and Daria Blackwell's Cruising the Wild Atlantic Way here.

Published in Cruising
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Irish cruising under sail and power is being celebrated and developed this weekend. Last night’s AGM of the Irish Cruising Club in the National YC in Dun Laoghaire saw this 1929-founded organisation moving its many activities forward on all fronts while also distributing its annual awards – some of which date back more than 85 years – to honour a range of remarkable seagoing achievements.

And today, Irish Sailing’s Annual Cruising Conference - with the involvement of the Cruising Association of Ireland – is taking place in the larger venue of the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown in south Dublin, a day-long information-packed gathering which is providing an unrivalled selection of expert topics and informed discussion groups in an atmosphere which evokes the special camaraderie of the sea. W M Nixon casts an eye over the current Irish cruising scene.

The interesting and attractive harbour town of Dungarvan in West Waterford would not be the first place that springs to mind when thinking of major sailing achievement. While it has a busy sailing club with a welcoming in-harbour pontoon for visitors and locals alike, much of the anchorage in the inner harbour dries, and the entrance channel from Dungarvan Bay requires careful negotiation.

Yet last night in Dun Laoghaire, the two top trophies in the Irish Cruising Club’s historic list both went to Dungarvan sailors.

The Faulkner Cup, which dates back to 1931, and the Strangford Cup, which was presented many years ago as an alternative to the Faulkner Cup when that season’s adjudicator couldn’t make up his mind when choosing between two superb cruises, will both be at home for the next year in Dungarvan, on display in that south coast town where the Comeragh Mountains and the Colligan River come to the sea at the broad east-facing bay in the lee of the Ring Peninsula.

dungarvan harbour2Dungarvan Harbour at high water. Despite the fact that much of the anchorage dries, the hospitality makes it a popular port of call

Not only that, but these remarkable award-winning sailors are sister and brother. And both their cruises in their respective boats were to the Arctic. To go north when your home port faces south, and has ancient trading links with France and most especially Spain, takes some extra determination.

Particularly so as Maire Breathnach, awarded the Faulkner Cup, and her brother Donal Walsh - who now holds the Strangford Cup - are the children of the late Gerry Walsh, a pioneer of Dungarvan sailing development, who was a junior crewmember on the only Dungarvan cruising boat of note in the 1950s, Reveille Farrell’s powerful 34ft 1936-built Bermudan cutter Susanna.

gerry walsh3Gerry Walsh with some successful fishing aboard Susannah in 1957

Susanna was later to acquire added distinction by winning the 1961 RORC Beaumaris to Cork Race under the ownership of National YC Commodore John McConnell. But in 1957 while still Dungarvan-owned, she cruised to Spain and back with the young Gerry Walsh on board, and family memories of that then-considerable venture have propelled the new Walsh generation on to stratospheric heights of seagoing achievement.

Donal built his reputation for some time with extensive cruising with the Moody 31 Lady Kate, while Maire – having started by cruising round Ireland single-handed in a Hurley 22 – then teamed up with Andrew Wilkes from the south of England, and they cruised round South America in the Swan 44 King of Hearts in 2004, an epic voyage which saw Maire being awarded the ICC’s Faulkner Cup for the first time.

Maire and Andrew married un due course, by which time they were sailing a very different boat – the steel-hulled gaff yawl Young Larry, a robust replica of an Edwardian cruising yacht with which they circumnavigated North America, Northwest Passage and all, and for this they were given the ICC’s supreme international accolade, the occasionally-allocated Fastnet Award, in 2014.

young larry dungarvan4Young Larry over-wintering in the pool immediately below the bridge at Dungarvan

At home, Young Larry could just fit into the pool beneath the bridge at Dungarvan for a winter berth, but when they moved on to their current boat, the powerful 64ft steel gaff cutter Annabel J which is broadly a development of the Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter type, they found that her sheer size meant they had to use the Waterford City Marina – an hour or so up the road – as the winter berth.

Despite the massive nature of Annabel J’s gear and sails, there are times when this remarkable couple cruise quite extensively with just the two of them on board. And even when they are joined by sailing friends and relatives, Annabel J is never over-crewed.

annabel j5The 64ft Annabel J – quite a proposition for a crew of two, a real test of skill and experience.

aboard annabel j6Traditional sail - Annabel J developing full power

But she and her gallant sailors certainly do the business, for in 2017 they cruised north first to Iceland, and then on to Scoresby Sund in northeast Greenland before returning south westward of Iceland to complete a circumnavigation of that dramatic land, and on the way home in Westmanna – a place of historic Irish associations – they met up with brother Donal doing a “simple” round Iceland cruise with his alloy-built Ovni 385 Lady Belle which, thanks to its lifting keel, can comfortably berth where wished back home in Dungarvan.

donal and maire7The seafaring children of Gerry Walsh – Donal and Maire met aboard Annabel J in Westmanna in Iceland

Both boats then returned to Dungarvan via the west coast of Ireland, so round Iceland and round Ireland circuits were part of the two projects, and on Lady Belle they even managed to take in a sighting of Rockall while homeward bound, a surprisingly small rock pinnacle which admittedly is more easily found with the latest SatNav gear.

Donal at rockall8Donal Walsh takes his Ovni 385 Lady Belle past the elusive pinnacle of Rockall on passage from Iceland to the West Coast of Ireland

lady belle at dungarvan9Lady Belle is welcomed back to the Pontoon in Dungarvan on her return from Iceland, Donal Walsh on the helm, and Clare Morrissey on the foredeck

The season over, Maire’s work was only starting, as she had voluntarily taken on the Honorary Editorship of the Irish Cruising Club Annual, which her predecessor Ed Wheeler had raised to fresh heights of quality during his five years in the job. The new Edition, Maire’s first and covering the 2017 season, is a superb production, and it was comfortably with the membership at home and abroad in time for Christmas. But it was only last night in Dun Laoghaire that the annual awards could go fully public, as the annual distribution of prizes is now the concluding highlight of a very crowded and busy gathering.

It’s a gathering which reflects the truly all-Ireland nature of the club, which was one of its central aspirations when it was founded with an assembly of five cruising yachts at Glengarriff in July 1929. The current Commodore, Stanton Adair, cruises from Bangor on Belfast Lough. The Honorary Editor of the Journal, Maire Breathnath, is in Dungarvan. The Honorary Secretary, Alan Markey, sails from Howth. The Honorary Editor of the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions – which cover the entire coast in two continually-updated volumes – is Norman Kean, who cruises from Courtmacsherrry on the south Cork coast and is comprehensively supported in his efforts by Geraldine Hennigan. And the Honorary Awards Adjudicator for 2017 was Derek White, who cruises from Strangford Lough in a Fastnet 34 which was built in Limerick. So when we talk of an “Irish” Cruising Club, we really do mean it in the broadest sense.

And of course although Derek White chose to give the two main prizes to cruises to the High Arctic, there were many other extensive ventures to warmer places, although another noted high latitude project was the cruise to Svalbard by Michael and Ann Madsden of the NYC in Dun Laoghaire with their Starlight 35 Gabelle, for which they were awarded the Rockabill Trophy for Seamanship.

In complete contrast to all these icy wanderings, the ICC’s core organized event in 2017 was the Rally in the Rias of Northwest Spain in July. Organiser Peter Haden of Ballyvaughan in County Clare and his team thought they might get as many as thirty boats. But it proved so popular they had to cap the number at sixty.

icc spain rally10Fleet assembly during the ICC Rally in Galicia. In the foreground is Alex and Daria Blackwell’s Bowman 57 ketch Aleria from Clew Bay, and they’ll be speaking this afternoon about their ocean-sailing experiences at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference. Photo Tansey Millerick

And an extraordinary selection they were too, coming from every direction, for the ICC now operates in an international way. So not surprisingly some of the cruises to get there were award-winning in themselves, a good example being by Portuguese-based John Duggan with his Castro 40 Hecuba, winner of the Strangford Cup in 2013. He’d a crew of all the talents with Daragh Nagle (winner in 2016 Faulkner Cup for his extensive Pacific islands cruise with his West Canada-based Moody 376 Chantey V) and that noted Dun Laoghaire sailor Ailbe Millerick.

hecuba crew in azores11Seasoned ocean voyagers – Hecuba’s crew of Ailbe Millerick, Daragh Nagle and John Duggan in the legendary Peter’s Bar in Horta in the Azores.

Ailbe hadn’t contributed to the ICC Annual before, so he was detailed off to tell how Hecuba got to the Spanish Rally from Cascais by first sailing out to the Azores, cruising those islands in some informative detail, and then shaping their course back to join the party. He tells the story so well that Hecuba and Ailbe Millerick are awarded the Perry Greer Bowl for the best first log, and as for the party in Spain, it was epic.

Most of us cannot even begin to guess at the level of background work which is needed to cater for the needs of 60 boats (many of them quite substantial craft) and their decidedly diverse crews as they make their way from one choice port or anchorage to another along one of Europe’s premier cruising grounds. So very deservedly Peter Haden was last night honoured with the Aran Islands Trophy of the ICC’s Western Committee for his quietly brilliant work in putting this marvellous happening together.

The accounts of its crowded events in the Annual are in total contrast to another log which Maire Breathnath has included in what she hopes will be a feature of future Annuals, a log from the archives. She has started it off in style with the story of her father and his shipmates from Dungarvan sailing the Susanna out to northwest Spain and back in 1957, and it perfectly captures the atmosphere of 61 years ago, when the world was very different, and boats were very different too, but the spirit of cruising was essentially the same.

susanna in spain12As it was then – Reveille Farrell’s 34ft Susanna from Dungarvan in northern Spain in 1957

celtic spirit spain13As it is now – Michal Holland’s 70ft ketch Celtic Spirit in in the ICC Rally, July 2017. Photo: Trish Phelan

Of course, not all the logs in the 200-page Annual are about distant ventures, and with 13 awards for cruising, the Honorary Adjudicator is spoilt for choice. But one which continues to be very special for the ICC is the Round Ireland Cup, and for 2017 it goes to Alan Leonard of Strangford Lough, whose elegant circuit with the Starlight 35 Ariadne was gently made in detail by not actually declaring that he was on a clockwise round Ireland cruise until be noticed that his home port was nearer if he just kept gong the way he was, calling at many interesting places along the way.

At one of them, Rutland Harbour near Burtonport in Donegal in July, he met up with Charlie Kavanagh of Wicklow in his Sadler 34 Stravaiger, likewise on a leisurely round Ireland cruise, but this time anti-clockwise. Alan asked him when he hoped to get home. “October” said Charlie. Now that definitely is cruising.

Other definitions and aspects of cruising will be part of today’s busy agenda at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference in the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown in Dublin. There’s a comprehensive all-day programme, and the interaction between the various organisations in cruising is reflected by the fact that the speakers include the ICC’s Norman Kean from Courtmacsherry, together with another ICC couple, Alex and Daria Blackwell from Clew Bay, while a third speaker, Galway’s Aodhan FitzGerald who is Research Vessel Manager with the Marine Institute, is likewise ICC.

Norman Kean and Geraldine Hennigan’s devotion to furthering cruising knowledge was neatly indicated in 2017 when they located their 40-footer Coire Uisge in northwest Spain well in advance of the ICC Rally, as they felt the available sailing directions were inadequate for some of the more detailed channels. As a result all participants were presented with crisp new ICC-quality directions filled with local knowledge which enabled them to take some very interesting routes.

However, Norman’s two presentations this afternoon are on New Developments in Infrastructure, which will provide real inside track material, as he’s a fellow of the Royal Institute for Navigation, while his second talk will be a real cry from the heart, as he’ll be moderating an open discussion on obstructive Fishing Gear.

His boat Coire Uisge experience a total and expensive foul up with submerged lobster gear a couple of seasons ago, so we can expect a detailed and heartfelt Norman Kean exposition and proposals for improvement in classic style.

As for Alix and Daria Blackwell, they’re also leading figures in the Ocean Cruising Club, and their experience of rough ocean weather with their Bowman 57 Aleria and other craft is extensive and varied. But sometimes it’s far from blissful. In the rough Atlantic weather of July 2016, Alex sustained broken ribs while helping a friend deliver a substantial American yawl from the Azores to Ireland, so even home runs can sometimes prove to be distinctly other than a cakewalk.

Certainly by the time the conference closes by 5.0pm this evening, we can expect to have taken on board some real quality information on the current state of Irish cruising. The knowledge is undoubtedly there, and organizer Gail MacAllister of Irish Sailing has provided the means of tapping into it.

Published in W M Nixon
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His many friends in international sailing and the global mining industry will be delighted to hear that the legendary Dave FitzGerald celebrated his 90th birthday at a very convivial gathering of family and close friends in the Royal St George YC in Dun Laoghaire at the weekend, hosted by his daughter Grainne writes W M Nixon.

Dave FitzGerald is best known as a legend of west coast and particularly Galway Bay sailing, but these days he lives in Dublin to be near his daughters, and old shipmates from the west coast came across country to join the great man as he entered his tenth decade.

His careers in mining and sailing - and indeed sports generally - are all decidedly high-powered. He is renowned for his utter fearlessness in the hunting field, and he brought the same total enthusiasm to his sailing. When he owned the 40ft sloop Partizan in the early days of the Round Ireland Race, he was a committed supporter of this new event starting and finishing in Wicklow. This meant that in order to participate, Partizan had to sail round Ireland twice, but it was the sort of thing the great men and women of west coast sailing could take in their stride.

When sailing took over from hunting for the summer season, if not racing he would go cruising – sometimes very extensively - and he was a popular member of the Irish Cruising Club, elected in 1966. In those days, cruising boats were few and far between on the Atlantic seaboard, but Dave encouraged others to take part in a sport which is now thriving in that challenging area. Meanwhile, he became part of the ICC administration, moving up through the committee and various offices until on the advent of the new Millennium in 2000, he became the ICC’s first Commodore from the west, hosting many memorable events.

Dave FitzGerald’s long and very active life has encompassed several eras of sailing, and seen many changes in design and boat use. When he returned to Ireland after very impressive experiences in some extraordinarily remote mining operations in many parts of the world, it was to develop Tynagh Mine near Loughrea in County Galway. Having decided that the area would be his longtime base of operations, and that Galway Bay would be his new sailing home, he bought his first cruiser in Dun Laoghaire, a little Snapdragon 26 which he called Pegeen.

Being impatient to start sailing in Galway Bay as soon as possible, he researched the best way of having the new boat delivered across country, and discovered that owing to some clerical oversight,  the freight rate charged by CIE Rail for such a boat from Dun Laoghaire station to Galway by flatbed rail-truck was precisely 7/6d – seven shillings and sixpence, or about 38 pence in today’s pound sterling.

Apparently, no boat had been moved in this way for a very long time, and so the freight charges were still at 19th Century rates. So Pegeen - conveniently a twin keeler – was moved across Ireland to Galway Bay with no trouble at all at a pocket-money price, and Dave FitzGerald was launched into a new chapter of his remarkable sailing career which, with his many other adventures, was celebrated in proper style at his 90th birthday party.

Published in Cruising
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3Di sails are significantly stronger and lighter than our competitor’s laminate string sails when made of comparable materials. Filaments are the elemental form of fibers. What we think of as a yarn used in traditional sailcloth and string sails are in fact a twisted bundle very small filaments, each less than the diameter of a human hair. Using filaments instead of yarns in sail constructions allows better exploitation of the fiber properties.

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Published in North Sails Ireland
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The third Irish Sailing Cruising Conference 2018 returns to Dublin on 17 February 2018, at the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown, just off the M50 in South County Dublin.

The conference is a popular event on the sailing calendar for cruising sailors to swap stories and catch up on new ideas before they plan their destinations for the summer and beyond.

The carefully chosen talks for 2018 include:

As previously reported by Afloat.ie, The Adventures of Rogue Trader with sailors Claire McCluskey and Nick Russel telling us about their journey to buying, restoring and registering a 56ft wooden ketch and then venture off sailing west in the ARC in the Autumn and returning the following year.

An Taisce will be talking about their Clean Coasts programme and we take a look at what sailors can do to make a difference.

The Wooden Boat Project with Evie Conway and her one woman restoration of Saoirse, her beloved 26ft mahogany folk boat

The Irish Marine Weather Buoy Network will be explained and how the Marine Institute meets the needs of mariners, forecasters and researchers with Aodhan FitzGerald, Research Vessel Manager, Marine Institute

Managing Offshore Storms demonstrated by experienced offshore sailor and author Alex Blackwell

New Developments in Infrastructure presented with navigator Norman Kean of ICC Publications

Fishing Gear Marking open discussion on the problems and ideas for solutions with Norman Kean

To give an opportunity for small group discussions, workshop and discussion stations are organised with the speakers and marine professionals, while Teas and Coffees are served.

'Thanks to Sponsors Union Chandlery and support of Cruising Association of Ireland we can keep our entry fee down to a reasonable rate. Irish Sailing Members €25 and Non Members €30, includes a Carvery Lunch at the Clayton, Irish Sailing's Gail McAllister told Afloat.ie

Tickets are here

Published in Cruising
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3rd December 2017

David Whitehead 1942-2017

Irish sailing is mourning the loss of someone very special with the death of Dave Whitehead of Kinvara. In his close and strong family circle, throughout an international circle of friends, and among many more in the Galway Bay area, the loss is made more poignant by the fact that he was a very active 75–year-old, brimming with plans for the future, and keenly interested in every aspect of the world today, both within and beyond sailing.

His life story is a tale of our times. From Monkstown in County Dublin, he was of a technically-minded family – a great-grand-uncle had invented the Whitehead Torpedo, the first in the world. Young David had started his sailing in Dublin Bay, but after graduating in geology from Trinity College, his career path was in mining, which eventually took him to many corners of the globe, some of them very remote, and others also very far underground.

However, an early position in the late 1960s was with Tynagh Mines in the southeast of County Galway, headed by Dave FitzGerald who shared his love of sailing. For a while they were much involved with the little sailing club which functioned at the time on the lake at Loughrea. But the call of the sea and the possibility of a club being established on Galway Bay drew their sailing interests westward, and during the early 1970s David Whitehead contributed much to the early life of Galway Bay Sailing Club, which was being spearheaded by determined enthusiasts like Pierce Purcell and others.

Dave had maintained his friendships with Dublin Bay sailing, and through John Bourke with Jack McKeown’s S&S 34 Korsair, he was able to introduce the new sailors of Galway, who at that time were experimenting with being based on Lough Atalia immediately east of the city, to the invigorating realities of offshore racing with ISORA.

Dave himself was soon to go on to become elected to both the Irish Cruising Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club. But meanwhile in Galway the neophyte club accepted his and David FitzGerald’s advice that they should locate their main sailing base at Renville near Oranmore at the head of Galway Bay, and soon Dave Whitehead was making an active input to the GBSC as a sailor who introduced some interesting craft to the growing fleet at Renville, and as a member of the committee.

david whitehead1aAlways absorbing information. Dave Whitehead taking on board some new facts while on passage from the Azores to Ireland in 2008. Photo: Ed Wheeler

The Honorary Secretary in those early days was Marie White, and in each other they found kindred spirits, and were married. They shared the hope that they would live in due course on the shores of Galway Bay, but to achieve that Dave first had to see through a very concentrated international career in mining. In this, with Marie’s support, he was very successful, working extremely hard both in the field and in board-rooms, rising rapidly through the ranks to achieve positions of significance in the leading global commodities firm Billiton – at the time of his death last week, he was chairman of a number of Billiton’s London-based subsidiaries.

He and Marie had long since also succeeded in returning to Galway Bay, buying The Glebe in Kinvara and turning it into an idyllic family home. As for sailing, his interest was if anything greater than ever, and though he had always made a point of finding the best sailing within reach of wherever his various mining jobs took him, his heart was with Galway Bay, where he went though an intriguing array of boats ranging from the Quarter Tonner Frantic aboard which many young GBSC sailors took their first steps afloat, to the classic miniature S&S 27 Shemite – all of them boats which have remained with the Galway Bay fleet under new owners.

One he’d achieved his dream of finally settling in the west (where, during his and Marie’s absence abroad, the members had built the first GBSC clubhouse at Renville in 1979) Dave Whitehead was able to put experience gained at many other sailing centres to good use. Though he’d never had any formal training in race management, Pierce Purcell fondly recalls that he proved a natural as a Race Officer, providing his services with enthusiasm, and running things afloat very competently and without fuss.

But by now his main enthusiasm in sailing was in cruising, while in life generally it was about learning even more to add to the huge stock of knowledge in his already well-furnished brain, and its deployment on the lively discussions which he relished. Fellow Irish Cruising Club member Ed Wheeler, himself no slouch when it comes to conversations in depth, recalls a voyage home from the Azores crewed by Dave: “The wind-driven autohelm was working very well, so inevitably at mealtimes, and indeed at many other times, there were discussions as we sailed along. You might think you had talked Dave around to your way of thinking, but then he would come up with some totally unexpected but indisputable and perfectly-remembered scientific fact from his warehouse of mental information, and the argument was back to square one”.

david whitehead2The unusual dreamship. While Dave Whitehead’s smaller gunk-holing craft were often of traditional appearance, much of his offshore cruising was done with the highly-individual Oyster Mariner 35 Joyster, a Holman & Pye design which packed an astonishing amount of accommodation into a compact hull which performed very well

Typically of Dave Whitehead, when making a Transatlantic passage as crew with Marie aboard La Contenta in the ARC of 2003, the very fact of the boat being well equipped with the latest in electronic navigation aids prompted him to bring along traditional bits of gear to calculate their position, and by the end of the voyage not only was he getting his calculations absolutely spot on, but he had worked out ways of simplifying the time-honoured methods used by the likes of James Cook and other great voyagers.

For his own principle cruising boat, he was for many years content with the ingeniously-laid-out Holman & Pye-designed Oyster Mariner 35 ketch Joyster in which he voyaged near and far, and was rewarded with ICC and GBSC trophies. But from the moment he settled in Kinvara, he was also fascinated by the miniature cruising possibilities – the “gunk-holing potential” – of the much-indented southern and eastern shores of Galway Bay. To explore them properly, he went through an almost bewildering variety of small specialist cruisers with lifting keels and easily-handled rigs which enabled him to get to places where no cruising boat had ever been seen before.

With his base now in Kinvara, he could also contribute to the changes in the perceptions in the rest of Ireland of the level of sailing in the west, and together with Dave FitzGerald, he was much involved in a major re-balancing of the structure of the Irish Cruising Club. This began with an increase in western-based Committee members, then there was a western Rear Commodore, and eventually Dave FitzGerald served as Commodore from 2000 to 2002, while Dave Whitehead was Rear Commodore from 2006 to 2008, and Vice Commodore from 2009 to 2011.

In his later years, he made the shrewd judgment that the unpretentious but very cleverly-designed Moody 27 was the ideal boat for his main cruising needs, while continuing to work with specialists like boat-builder Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob in West Cork towards creating the perfect gunk-holing cruiser for places “where the water is very thin”.

In sailing the Moody 27 Mystic, he found an ideal crew in the equally individualistic Peter Fernie who lives on Tawin Island, which is well out in Galway Bay, though connected by a causeway to nearby Ireland. As matched spirits, they moved into an ownership partnership which worked very well, and a round Ireland cruise with an extended visit to the Hebrides in 2016 saw them being awarded GBSC’s David Baynes Cruising Award in the face of some formidable competition.

david whitehead3David Whitehead’s last seagoing cruiser was the Moody 27 Mystic, which he latterly co-owned with Peter FernieIt is Peter Fernie’s response to the death of David Whitehead which best captures the essence of this remarkable man, and with his permission, even though it re-phrases some of what we’ve already said, we are honoured to publish it here:

“David Whitehead: A memoir by Peter Fernie

David Whitehead was never lost for words. Whether it was boats, or maritime history in general, mountaineering or rugby, climate change or electric cars, you could be certain that David would have a well thought out position. More often than not, his was a contrary one to the accepted or establishment view, but a position backed up by his incomparable memory.

Despite his losing keys and mobile phones like the rest of us, I often wondered whether David had ever forgotten anything he had read or seen in the past. His prodigious recall was exemplified once when sailing up the Cleddau River in Wales, above Milford Haven. This location was not part of our plan, but we had ended up there en-route to Brittany, owing to a number of engine-related difficulties. David spied a moored wooden cutter, and we sailed across to get a closer look. Triumphantly he said: “That’s Driac” and proceeded to give me a detailed history of the 1930s Nicholson built boat: her original owner and cruises, as well as various assorted related ephemera comprising the establishment of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and the evacuation of the B.E.F. from Dunkirk. I always assumed that he had this stuff printed on the back of his eyelids. In the event I googled Driac when I got back home – he was absolutely accurate.

Moving to Galway in the ’60s, he had sailed up and down the west coast and further beyond with David Fitzgerald (ICC). His training as a geologist found him working with mining concerns around the world but wherever he was, he found time to sail. He was a founder member of Galway Bay Sailing Club and became a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Irish Cruising Club in 1972. He became a member of the Royal Cruising Club in 2008.

He had raced and cruised many different boats since his days in Trinity College, Dublin. He had owned boats large and small from his first, a 16 foot Paul Gartside designed gaffer to his latest, Goblin, a 16 foot Chesapeake Bay microcruiser which he adapted for gunkholing around Galway Bay creeks.

In 2009 whilst Vice Commodore of the Irish Cruising Club, he was diagnosed with lung cancer which he attributed to working in an Australian uranium mine. Nevertheless, and despite major surgery he was sailing his Oyster Mariner 35 Joyster three months later to Tory Island and Lough Swilly. Despite a continually compromised respiratory system, David never let this get in the way of his sailing, with cruises to Wales, Brittany, the Isles of Scilly and the Aeolian Islands as well as the south and west coasts of Ireland. In 2016 we sailed from Galway to the Hebrides and back around Ireland clockwise to Galway in our Moody 27 Mystic.

This year, he was sailing in Galway Bay several days before a forthcoming hip replacement operation. Next year was to be an extended cruise to Galicia, as well as a gunkholing cruise in Roaring Water Bay.

He was an excellent shipmate and a great companion. He could be uncompromising and pedagogic but was never boring. He was unremittingly positive about life and dwelt always on the future whilst enjoying the past. He will be missed by many”.

Our heartfelt condolences are with David Whitehead’s wife Marie, his son Duncan, his daughters Jennifer and Siobhan, his daughter-in-law Kerry, his grandchildren, and his extended family and very many friends. May he rest in peace.

WMN

david whitehead4The last major cruise. Dave Whitehead at the helm of Mystic in June 2016, emerging from Broadhaven in Mayo, bound for the Hebrides with Eagle Island to seaward. Photo: Peter Fernie

Published in Cruising
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The only Irish registered yacht in this year's Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is Eamon Crosbie's Discovery 55, Pamela. 

As Afloat.ie reported earlier Crosbie set off from Dun Laoghaire on the adventure with Dublin Bay Sailing Club's Brian Mathews on board. Mathews will be absent from Dublin Bay racing for about a year, having joined Crosbie, a former Round Ireland Race winner, in what is the start of a world cruise.

An international fleet of yachts taking part in the 32nd edition of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) set sail on Sunday from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, beginning an amazing transatlantic journey to the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.

It is a particularly diverse fleet this year with boats from 30ft to 95ft setting off on the same transatlantic course, including 156 monohulls, 28 catamarans and 2 trimarans. The sailors themselves are just as varied, aged from 3 years old to over 80.

While the ARC is a cruising rally, there is a start and finish line, and the boats are split into divisions according to size, type and competition. The first start today was for the multihull division, led over the line by American flagged Lagoon 42-4 Libelula, followed by Seawind 1160 X86 and the fleet's largest trimaran, Rapido, living up to her name coming over the line third before storming off down the Gran Canarian coast.

Following on, 27 boats in the ARC Racing Division were equally eager to stretch their sea legs and sail out into the Atlantic. Regular ARC Skipper and Class winner Ross Applebey brought through Scarlet Island Girl hot on her heels swiftly followed by Valerio Bardi's Swan 46 Mk II Milanto.

The first boats to cross the line in the Cruising Division were Norwegian Arcona 400 Tiffin, Swedish Najad 460 Ellen and British Grand Soleil 56 Mad Monkey.

Of the 186 boats sailing on the ARC direct route, 4 are still in Las Palmas with technical problems delaying their departure.

The majority of boats will take 18-21 days to make the 2700 nautical mile Atlantic crossing, arriving in Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia.

Tracker here

Published in Cruising
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Any cruising enthusiast or would-be cruising enthusiast who has ever dreamt of sailing away in their own boat to the balmy climate and sheltered islands of the Pacific and other warm and sunny destinations is welcome at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire on Thursday December 7th at 7.30pm writes W M Nixon.

The Club is hosting a talk by one of the most remarkable couples in Irish sailing, Myra Reid and Paraic O’Maolriada of Kinsale. When their retirement was approaching, they had a plan. They’d buy a boat, and sail round the world. They hadn’t done much sailing, if any, before. But they felt confident that with research and good advice, they could source the right boat, and once they’d learnt the basics of sailing, their skills would improve as they sailed along.

They started extremely well by buying a 1996 Amel Super Maramu 54 ketch - the gold standard in trouble-free ocean cruisers. They called her Saol Eile, and off they went. They’d thought they’d be gone maybe two years, but it took six because they were enjoying themselves so much. And then when they slipped quietly back into Kinsale in July 2016, it was a while before the Irish sailing community fully realised the wonder of what they’d done.

But now the word is getting out that Myra and Paraic have lots to tell, and the RIYC is keen to help them share their experiences with others. So all interested cruising and sailing folk are welcome at the club on Thursday December 7th, and for €27 you can have supper afterwards, an ideal opportunity to continue to exchange ideas on fulfilling the dream

Officially, the show is titled:

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (+ 1,724)

“How a couple late in life with zero knowledge of sailing learnt to sail, and went on to do a circumnavigation of the globe. They experienced six years of unexpected pleasure and thrills, and made many new friends. Myra Reid and Padaric O’Maolriada with their yacht Saol Eile”

It sounds like an ideal opportunity to get a few like-minded friends together for an informative and entertaining evening, but be warned that what you hear may be life-changing……..If you want to have supper in the club afterwards, contact RIYC catering through [email protected]

saol eile2Paraic and Myra in Kinsale with their sailing home for six wonderful years

Published in Cruising

The Cruising Association of Ireland held its summer cruise to Belfast Lough in early July 2017.

Fourteen boats comprising over forty sailors of varying ages gathered in Bangor Marina, County Down and were welcomed there by David Meeke and Betty Armstrong from the Royal Ulster YC, who acted as local organisers and publicists of events for the cruise. The marina manager, Kevin Baird, provided a barbecue for the participating sailors and supplied wine and beer for the evening. The following day the sailors visited the Walled Gardens in Bangor and afterwards met the Ards and North Down Mayor, Councillor Robert Adair, who welcomed us to Bangor and explained his duties as Mayor and the functioning of the town council. Afterwards we were treated to lunch and were given a guided tour of the town hall. The sailors were invited to the Royal Ulster Yacht Club for a splendid buffet that evening. The Vice Commodore Nigel Hamilton and Honorary Treasurer Phil Davis welcomed us to the magnificent clubhouse and the excellent dinner was enjoyed by all. One of our young sailors, Caoimhe McCormick, addressed the group to explain her fundraising for the Rapunzel Organisation. This group supports cancer patients with hair loss due to their treatment. Caoimhe explained that she would have her long hair cut short and that her tresses would be used to make a hair replacement wig for a victim of cancer. She raised a large sum of money in donations from our sailors.

The fleet proceeded the next morning to the Belfast Harbour Marina located in the Abercorn Basin. On the afternoon of our arrival we had a guided tour of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Offices. The next day many sailors visited the local attractions in the Titanic quarter. HMS Caroline is the only surviving vessel from the Battle of Jutland and this new attraction is now open to the public – it is an amazing ship and well worth the effort. Titanic Belfast also proved popular and the Nomadic tender vessel has been refurbished which adds to the visitor experience. In the afternoon there was a civic reception with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister. She welcomed us to Belfast City Hall and the commodore of the CAI, Clifford Brown, presented her with a CAI burgee. In his address to the Lord Mayor he stressed the importance of maintaining open sailing waters between the North and South of Ireland so that sailors can enjoy the many amenities in Irish coastal waters. The sailors then enjoyed a guided tour of the magnificent Belfast City Hall.

After two days in Belfast, the fleet proceeded to Carrickfergus Marina. We were welcomed there by the Harbourmaster, Nigel Thompson, and the Commodore of Carrickfergus Sailing Club, Trevor McCaig, and the members of the sailing club. An evening of traditional music was enjoyed in the clubhouse and some of our sailors participated in the entertainment. The next morning was the deciding match in the Lions rugby Tour of New Zealand. A large group of sailors watched the match in Ownies Bar and enjoyed an Ulster fry for breakfast. That evening the proprietor of the bar, Jack, hosted a barbecue for the group in the beer garden. A musician was in attendance to entertain us as we ate and a sing- song developed as the evening progressed. Many talented sailors regaled the group with renditions of popular and less known songs.

The next morning the fleet of boats departed Carrickfergus with some continuing to cruise further north, some going to Scotland and the Isle of Man and some returning home. The cruise was a great success and everyone was made very welcome in the places we visited. New friendships were established and the CAI is very indebted to David and Betty who did so much to facilitate the visit. Belfast Lough is a very beautiful place with many amenities to be enjoyed and the facilities in the marinas are excellent. Sailors will be sure of a friendly welcome and the CAI will definitely return in the future.

John Leahy

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