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#MaritimeFestivals - How often have you admired the River Foyle but wondered what the walled city must look like from out on the water? Whether it’s swimming across it, flying above it or sailing along it, your options are endless at this year’s Foyle Maritime Festival.

Opportunities abound thanks to the packed programme put together by the Loughs Agency in association with Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Kevin Wilson, Director of Development with the Loughs Agency said: “The Loughs Agency is looking forward to the Maritime Festival as an opportunity to highlight the potential of the Foyle for the development of marine tourism. A range of exciting trips and taster sessions has been arranged, in partnership with local activity providers, to showcase what can be enjoyed on the river (canoeing, sailing, paddle boarding)!”

First up is the Foyle Safari from July 14 – 21. Three times a day, Inish Adventures is offering river safaris to take in the historic sights of Derry – from the river, of course - in two large open canoes accommodating up to 24 people. Or you can join them for a sailing taster session under the guidance of experienced instructors for either a group or individual activity.

Far and Wild are offering two very different experiences on the water. The Foods of the Foyle tour will travel by canoe along Lough Foyle on a two hour historical and gastronomical tour which will include a wild camping experience as well as savouring local produce. Alternatively, the stand up paddle board yoga sessions will see you swap a yoga mat for a paddle board – but no experience of either yoga or stand up paddle boarding is required. All you need is an open mind to try something new. Both activities depend on the tide but pre-booking is essential.

If you’re not content with just being on the water and would prefer to be in the water, City of Derry Swimming Club has organised a swim in the River Foyle with around 100 participants taking to the open water on the penultimate day of the Festival, July 21st.

For the ultimate ‘getting away from it all’, join Foyle Paddlers on the evening of Thursday, July 19th for the festival favourite ‘Twilight Paddle’. Deck your canoe and yourself with lights and glow sticks and illuminate the river as part of a large group that receives a great welcome at the marina. There are just two departures, at 7 pm and 8.30 pm, so booking is essential.

Even if you’re not feeling adventurous enough to try out some of the trips, you can still experience life on-board a boat by taking in the Clipper 70 Experience (over 18s only) or the free Clipper 2017-18 Race Fleet Open Boat tour where crew members will give tours and talk about their time sailing the ocean waves.

Two of the Tall Ships will also be docked along the riverside for anyone who wants to enjoy an older style of sail. The Phoenix, star of countless TV and movie productions, returns while the Kaskelot makes its Foyle Maritime Festival debut. Visitors can explore the ‘mini museum’ while finding out what skills it takes to sail and maintain such a ship. The crew will be on hand to answer questions.

Jessie Atkinson, Ship Operations Manager, said: “We are very excited to be bringing Kaskelot to Foyle for the Maritime Festival 2018. It is a particular treat to be coinciding with a stopover for the Clipper Race yachts, an opportunity to see traditional and modern sailing vessels side by side. We look forward to dropping our gangway and opening for visitors – see you there!”

But if you really can’t be convinced to set foot on a boat, then enjoy watching the Foyle River Races from dry land. This new and exciting event has been developed for the festival by the Loughs Agency in partnership with rowing, canoeing, sailing and open water swimming clubs across the Foyle area. Live commentary will be provided for each of the races with Prize Giving Events in the Festival Village afterwards.

Or for the ultimate spectator sport, what about watching adrenaline junkies soar into the sky on their jet packs? Some of the world’s finest flyboard riders will cruise through the air along the riverfront from Thursday 19th until Sunday 22nd.

Flyboard Fun said: “We are thrilled and honoured to be a part of the Foyle Maritime Festival 2018 and we cannot wait to see the excitement in people’s eyes, seeing us jet up to the sky, soar through the air and high-five people in the crowd. We like to ‘involve’ the visitors so that they too feel part of the show.”

After the exhaustion of all that activity – or spectating – you can collapse on the beach; the city beach, that is, which will be located along the quay so don’t forget to bring a bucket and spade!

Helena Hasson, Festival Co-ordinator with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “Foyle Maritime Festival promises to put the spotlight on our magnificent River Foyle and there is a packed programme of activities to ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to get out on the water and enjoy our greatest asset. With a range of free and low-cost events appealing to a wide age-range, there is always something to appeal in the festival programme which you can find on our website.”

Please check the festival website here for information on start times, durations, prices and booking tickets for all events. Note that a minimum age restriction may apply in the interests of safety and supervision. Pre-booking is highly recommended.

Published in Maritime Festivals

#SURFING - Rachel Collins writes in The Irish Times recently of her experiences learning to surf in Portugal's sunny Algarve.

"Thousands of hardy souls follow the waves around the Irish coastline," she writes, "but for rookies sacrificing themselves to the sea, the warmth of the Algarve makes it the perfect place to learn."

The "friendly, welcoming atmosphere" at Lagos, near Faro - with direct daily flights from Dublin - will surely put any surfing beginner at ease, as well as making for "a welcome break from the cold Irish winter".

And with plenty of other activities on offer, from the nightlife, shopping, fine dining and relaxing sandy beaches to kitesurfing, wakeboarding, mountain biking and rock climbing, there's something for all interests.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Surfing

#TOURISM - Winter might be upon us, but it's a great time to plan a new year holiday in Ireland on the sea, according to the UK's Daily Echo.

From night-time paddling in with renowned kayaking instructor Jim Kennedy, to snorkelling in Baltimore, relaxing in Skibbereen and and fresh seafood lunches in Kinsale, a vacation in Cork can appeal to any taste.

Whale and dolphin watching is a big draw for the region, too, as Ireland's coast – the first cetacean sanctuary in Europe - plays host to a growing variety of species.

The summer feeding grounds off the southern coast are particularly busy, and tourist boats are often treated to whales breaching the surface and surrounded by dolphins putting on a show.

The Daily Echo has more on the story HERE.

Published in Aquatic Tourism
This week The Irish Times highlights a host of water-based activities that you may not have tried.
From kitesurfing to paddle boarding, urban fishing to SCUBA diving and even moonlight kayaking, there's surely a new experience for everyone from the most veteran sea dog to the driest landlubber.
The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

This week The Irish Times highlights a host of water-based activities that you may not have tried.

From kitesurfing to paddle boarding, urban fishing to SCUBA diving and even moonlight kayaking, there's surely a new experience for everyone from the most veteran sea dog to the driest landlubber.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Aquatic Tourism

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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