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UK sailing clubs are still struggling to get back on the water under more relaxed coronavirus restrictions, according to SailWeb.

While the blanket shutdown on sailing activity lifted in England four weeks ago, and rules amended in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland more recently, the magazine says “little has really changed” as most club facilities remain on lockdown for the time being.

As reported earlier this week on Afloat.ie, the situation in Northern Ireland is fluid to say the least, with some harbours and marinas open for residents only if they are open at all.

And SailWeb suggests that smaller clubs run on a volunteer basis “will struggle to provide more than individual social sailing” without required safety assessments.

Although some crews, such as family-crewed boats, have been getting creative with ad-hoc or ‘scratch racing’, organised events and even regular club racing are still some time from returning.

SailWeb has more on the story HERE.

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Sailing clubs and centres in England are already beginning to benefit from the £22 billion grant and business rates package recently announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the RYA says.

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry, such as RYA-affiliated sailing clubs and recognised training centres, will be eligible for a one-off grant payment dependant on their rateable value.

Those with a rateable value of less than £15,000 will receive £10,000 and those clubs with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 will be provided with a grant of £25,000.

Business rates in England have also been suspended for the next 12 months — though devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland set their own rates, and their measures if any may involve a reduction rather than a suspension.

It is understood that local authorities may be contacting businesses either via letter or by email this week. As the clubhouse is usually the registered business address for sailing clubs, this may cause a delay in receiving notification due to the current travel restrictions.

The RYA suggests that sailing clubs and training centres should contact their local authority and ask for any communication to be sent via email instead, or for any essential letters to be temporarily re-directed to a more convenient address.

Published in Scottish Waters

#MarineWildlife - Via the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) comes news that the European Commission (EC) is asking the United Kingdom to designate protected areas for the harbour porpoise.

The EU legislation on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive) requires member states to propose a list of protection sites for a number of species that are native to their territory, ensuring their protection from interventions which could seriously compromise their ecological character.

Despite a large number of harbour porpoise – a protected marine species in the Republic of Ireland – regularly found in its waters, the UK has, according to the EC, "so far proposed only one small site in Northern Ireland, exposing some of the identified sites to the risk of offshore wind farm development."

The EC adds that it has "repeatedly urged the UK to fulfil its key obligations for this species, but no further designations of sites have been proposed."

This current acton by the EC follows a letter of formal notice sent to the UK government in June 2013. If the UK fails to reply within two months, the commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#WaterSafety - There were a total of 381 drownings and water-related deaths from accidents or natural causes across the United Kingdom in 2013, according to a report published this week by Britain's National Water Safety Forum (NWSF).

As in previous years, more than half of that number (227) were in inland waters, such as tidal and freshwater rivers, lakes and reservoirs, while fatalities at the sea, on the beach or shoreline accounted for nearly a third (115).

A further 22 deaths happened at harbours, docks, marinas and inland or coastal ports. Eight deaths occurred in the bath and six in swimming pools, while three happened in areas that are not normally watercourses such as marsh and flooded land.

The figures include deaths in water that resulted from natural causes such as a heart attack, drowning or other fatal injuries resulting from falls into water and those that occurred during the course of water-based activities.

The NWSF’s Water Incident Database (WAID) breaks down drownings and other water-related deaths by activity, age and location type. It reveals that in 2013 the five-year age group with the highest number of fatalities (31) was males aged between 20-24.

Meanwhile, 0-19s accounted for 12 per cent of deaths (46), of which more than half were teenagers aged 15 to 19 (27). In the youngest age bracket of four and under, 10 children drowned.

The peak summer months of July and August witnessed the most deaths, with 106 during this period.

The leading activities were people walking alongside water and falling in, swimming (predominantly in open water) and jumping into open water.

There were 260 deaths in England, 56 in Scotland, 41 in Wales and 11 in Northern Ireland. In England, the South West (53) and the South East (50) regions had the highest number of deaths.

NWSF deputy chair Jim Watson said: “Although the number of accidental drownings and water-related deaths has remained consistent in recent years, there should be no room for complacency, particularly as we enter the warmer summer months and more people are drawn to the water.

“We encourage people to enjoy the UK’s waters, but to make sure they understand the risks and come home safely.”

A full copy of the UK Water-Related Fatalities 2013 report can be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet HERE.

The WAID was developed by NWSF members, including national partners the Canal and River Trust, the British Sub Aqua Club, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the RNLI, RoSPA and the Royal Life Saving Society; sports governing bodies; and regional and local organisations, including Cornwall Council. It was developed in partnership with the UK government's Department for Transport.

Published in Water Safety
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#InlandWaterways - Some of Britain's most famous inland waterways can now be followed on Google Street View thanks to the internet company's latest bit of kit.

The Canal & River Trust reports that it was the first organisation in the UK to take loan of Google's Trekker, a backpack device with a camera that captures images in all directions every 2.5 seconds wherever the wearer walks.

The Trekker allows Google's mapping team to reach areas that the Street View car and tricycle often cannot access, such as canal towpaths.

Now the fruits of labour by some 20 staff and volunteers of the Canal & River Trust can be seen online - such as Bingley's five locks on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Little Venice in London and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in North Wales.

Hopefully Ireland's own inland waterways won't be too far behind!

Published in Inland Waterways
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#LondonBoatShow - The UK's domestic boat sales market is heading back towards pre-recession levels, according to marine leisure industry body the British Marine Federation.

Releasing its latest data to coincide with last week's London Boat Show, the BMF points out that the marine sector is now in a "bullish mood" at home, thanks to the support of a strong export market.

A whopping 7.7% increase in overseas trade in 2012/13 - primarily to the continent and the United States - helped drive overall revenue up by 1.7% for the same period, for a total of almost £3 billion.

The BMF also cites strong demand for boats manufactured in the UK, and forecasts for builds and sales are up, with almost half of companies across the reporting better business.

Indeed, the federation's figures show that 48% of leisure marine businesses increased turnover between May and November last year.

BMF chief executive Howard Pridding said the federation is "confident that 2014 will welcome a new period of sustained growth for the sector" that has "exported its way back into growth".

Published in Marine Trade

#MarineWildlife - The British government has announced the creation of 27 new marine conservation zones (MCZs) after a long delay, as BBC News reports.

Last December it was decided that just 31 of the 127 potential sites for marine wildlife protection around the British coastline proposed by government advisors would be designated as MCZs - a decision welcomed by some coastal users but lambasted by conservation groups as displaying a "lack of ambition".

More recently, professional fishery managers expressed their disappointment with the reduction in scale - since reduced further by increased costs at four sites - and called for a "clear timetable" for expansion of the zones network.

Plans were delayed further earlier this year, with the situation blamed by Environment Minister Richard Beynon on budget cuts and the high cost of scientific assessment.

The news that 27 MCZs are now finally designated has been welcomed as a "significant milestone" by the Marine Conservation Society, which still warns that it falls short of the proposals recommended for an "ecologically coherent" network.

BBC News has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#Diving - Divers across Britain and Northern Ireland are being called on to help the RNLI with research into participation and attitudes to safety in the sport by taking part in a new online survey.

The RNLI, in partnership with the British Diving Safety Group (BDSG), is asking divers and dive instructors in the UK to take 10 minutes to complete the online survey, which looks at their reasons for participating in diving, how often they take to the water, preferred methods and locations, experience and training, awareness of possible hazards and use of safety measures.



The findings will be used to help the RNLI and BDSG develop tailored and relevant safety messages for the diving community, to help make the sport even safer.

Last year alone, 314 diving incidents were reported to the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC). 

The survey, being undertaken by Substance on behalf of the RNLI, launched on Tuesday 27 August and will run for nine weeks, during which time anyone who dives in the UK – no matter how often or what level of experience – is invited to take part.


To supplement the online survey, face-to-face surveys will be conducted at dive sites, charter boat launch and departure points, and at Dive 2013, the NEC Dive Show in October. In-depth interviews and focus groups will also be conducted. Divers wishing to take part in these are encouraged to contact Substance via the survey website.



RNLI coastal safety manager Nick Fecher, who is running the project, explained the reasoning behind the research.



"Diving is a hugely popular sport but accidents do happen. A total of 314 diving incidents were reported to BSAC last year and the RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews have rescued 96 divers and saved 13 divers’ lives in the past five years," he said.

"By carrying out this research, we hope to understand more about how and why people dive, what they know about the risks and what safety measures they take. We’re hoping to hear from divers of all levels of experience, so we can then develop really targeted and relevant safety advice to help them enjoy their sport as safely as possible.



"Coastal safety is a key part of the RNLI’s remit of saving lives at sea – by offering important safety advice to people taking part in coastal activities like diving, we hope to prevent incidents from happening in the first place and, ultimately, save lives."

All who participate in the survey are offered the option of free entry into a prize draw, with the first prize of a DX dive computer, kindly donated by Suunto Diving UK, and a second prize of an Abyss 22 regulator, kindly donated by Mares. Winners will be chosen by Substance using a random number generator by 15 November.

Published in Diving
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#MarineWildlife - Fears among conservation groups that the UK would enact just a quarter of the proposed Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) in British waters have been realised with the news that just 31 out of a potential 127 sites will be designated as protected by the end of 2013.

The original proposals, as reported last year on Afloat.ie, cover the waters around the English and Welsh coastlines - of which only 1% is currently protected - recommending a variety of zones that offer different levels of protection for marine wildlife and plantlife, allowing flexibility for fishing and other activities.

A government decision on the conservation areas was already postponed in November last year after pressure from coastlines users.

But as the Guardian reports, Westminster has now been accused of a "lack of ambition" by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) over the announcement on Thursday 13 December, which the charity says flies in the face of the government's own advisers who have recommended a 'coherent network' of sites around Britain, including the immediate designation for 59 sites regarded as 'highly threatened'.

"We cannot delay protection," said Jean-Luc Solandt of MCS. "We wouldn't stand by and let wildflower meadows and ancient forests be dug up and cleared, and yet heavy fishing gear is dragged across all kinds of habitats, destroying large swaths of the seabed with very little control."

The World Wide Find for Nature (WWF) added to the chorus of disapproval, saying the decision by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) "falls woefully short of what is needed to protect the marine environment".

Ali Champion of WWF UK said: “It’s disappointing and shows a complete lack of commitment to the protection of our seas in a coherent way."

Of the four zones recommended for the Irish Sea area, only one - at Fylde Offshore, off Lancashire - has been chosen by Defra for protection. But as the Blackpool Gazette reports, local campaigners say they will vow to continue the fight to 'save our seas'.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Sailors, fishermen and SCUBA divers in England's West Country could face "tough new restrictions" if plans for conservation zones in the Irish Sea and around the UK coast go ahead.

According to This Is Cornwall, groups representing water users argue that marine protection plans "would have severe knock-on effects on those who rely on the south west's coastline for employment and leisure".

Alana Murphy of the Royal Yachting Association said: "A lot of the small inshore areas proposed as conservation zones coincide with estuaries and bays that are used by sailors for mooring, or for laying buoys for racing. We are concerned we could lose important sailing areas."

Companies involved in offshore renewable energy have voiced their concerns on the impact of marine reserved on their development, while the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations added that the scale of proposed fishing reserves was too great, and could potentially push commercial fishermen "to other areas which will then get overfished".

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the UK's Wildlife Trusts have expressed dismay that plans to establish Marine Conservation Zones in the Irish Sea and elsewhere have been shelved till at least next year after pressure from fishermen, boaters and other groups.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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