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Displaying items by tag: Strangford Lough

The Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is looking for Youth Rangers. Lecale is a peninsula in the east of County Down and lies between Strangford Lough and Dundrum Bay. It was designated an AONB in 1967 and was merged with the Strangford Lough AONB in 2010 to form the new Strangford and Lecale AONB.

The area is located between the Lough and the Mourne Mountains in South Down and has a low sandy, rocky or grassy shoreline. Its southern tip lies along an extensive sand dune system at Dundrum Bay.

The AONB Youth Ranger Programme 2022/23 is looking for young people aged between 14 and 17 who would like the opportunity to learn outdoor adventure and practical conservation skills. The programme will extend to the Ring of Gullion Landscape west of Newry in South Down, lying around the mountain’s mystical ring dyke formed over 60 million years ago.

The Programme will run for five days in each of the AONBs, starting on Saturday, 14th January 2023 in Strangford and Lecale. It is designed to give the opportunity to learn outdoor skills such as navigation and canoeing, whilst exploring the Ring of Gullion and Strangford and Lecale AONBs; learning about how it formed and its rich biodiversity and heritage. Most importantly of all, it’s an opportunity for to learn practical conservation skills and contribute to the environmental management of the area.

Some past Youth Rangers had these comments to make about the programme:“It was very educational and fun and helped me learn how to help the environment more.” “Great for CV, thanks” “It was brilliant fun and I would definitely come back and recommend it!”

The programme is part funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council.

The application deadline for our Youth Ranger programme has been extended to 5pm on 6th January 2023 and you can download the application pack here 

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Portaferry RNLI in Northern Ireland rescued a male after he drifted more than a mile out to sea while holding on to the edge of a 15ft cabin cruiser on Tuesday afternoon (23 August).

The lifeboat crew were launched to reports of a person in the water after the alarm was raised by a local woman at Kilcief Gaelic park when she heard calls for help and contacted Belfast Coastguard.

Portaferry’s volunteer crew launched the inshore lifeboat promptly at 3.40pm and made their way to Rock Angus in Strangford Lough.

When on scene at 3.45pm, the lifeboat crew faced Force 4 conditions with a choppy sea state but excellent visibility.

The lifeboat crew located the casualty in the water and clinging to the cabin cruiser at the bar bouy at the start of Strangford Lough.

They immediately set about bringing the casualty onboard the lifeboat while checking him over for any injuries. The crew then proceeded back to Strangford Harbour and transferred the casualty into the care of his family and Portaferry Coastguard rescue team.

Following this, the lifeboat headed back to station to pick up another crew member and the salvage pump in case the casualty boat was taking on water.

When on scene again with the cabin cruiser, the crew checked the area over for any debris and then recovered the boat and established a tow to Strangford Harbour.

Commenting on the callout, Portaferry lifeboat press officer Jordan Conway said: “We were glad to rescue the casualty this afternoon and bring him to safety. The member of the public did the right thing by contacting the coastguard when she heard the calls for help.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Portaferry RNLI in Northern Ireland rescued a teenager after he drifted more than half a mile out to sea on an inflatable unicorn on Tuesday afternoon (2 August).

The volunteer crew launched the inshore lifeboat promptly at 3.45pm and made their way to Kilard Point in Strangford Lough where concerned members of the public had raised the alarm with Belfast Coastguard, the RNLI says.

The lifeboat crew located the casualty at Angus Rock within Strangford Lough and they immediately set about bringing the teenager onboard the lifeboat to checking him over for any injuries. The casualty was found to be safe and well.

The crew then proceeded back to Kilcief beach and transferred the casualty into the care of his family and the coastguard.

Commenting on the callout, Portaferry RNLI helm Ian Sands said: “We were glad to rescue the casualty this afternoon and bring him to safety. The casualty did the right thing by staying with the inflatable until help arrived.

“It is important to note that while inflatables can be fun, they are not designed for the beach where they can be easily be blown offshore.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

This year’s Narrows Series held jointly last week by Strangford Sailing Club, Portaferry Town and Portaferry Sailing Club turned out to be a truly memorable event, blessed with sunshine and a good breeze.

The three Regatta Series is traditionally sailed in the narrow neck of water (hence the name) between the towns of Strangford and Portaferry at the mouth of Strangford Lough in Co. Down.

Around 80 boats took part in ten classes ranging from Flying Fifteens through cruiser/racers in IRC; the stalwarts of the Lough, the Glens and Rivers, to the smaller Squibs.

There were some dicey moments. The end of the Flying Fifteen races on Wednesday and Thursday were nearly photo finishes with only inches between first and second.

Stephen Lynn's Mipaal of Portaferry SC Regatta Narrows Series Photo Andrew SteensonStephen Lynn's Mipaal of Portaferry SC Regatta Narrows Series Photo Andrew Steenson

On Wednesday the tussle was between the appropriately named Final Fling (Shane McCarthy and Jeremy Rodgers) and Peter Kennedy’s Team Ridgway with McCarthy winning, and on Thursday between Kennedy and Ffast antic sailed by Andrew McCleary and Colin Dougan, the latter coming first.

On Thursday in IRC, the well-matched Going to Red, Peter Holden’s J109 from Strangford Lough YC and Phil Quinn’s Projection 35 Fat Tony were neck and neck from the final mark to the finish, changing places every five minutes. A second bullet for GTR clinched the win for Holden and Fat Tony had to be content with third, with Mike Spence’s A 35 Le Bascular coming between.

In the Rivers, a retiral in Race 2 on Wednesday for Kenny and Sonia Smyth meant runner up slot to first placed Peter Burrows’ Uladh and in the Glen class Phil and Jenny Martin were winners in Glen Orchy.

Among this diverse and varied fleet was the 50-year-old 30-foot Half Tonner Rock ‘n Goose built by the late Dickie Brown and racing at Portaferry, home waters for that fondly remembered yachtsman and builder of the Ruffian range of yachts.

J109 Jemmie Dodger racing on Strangford LoughJ/109 Jemmie Dodger racing on Strangford Lough

And racing too was a refurbished J109 with the new name Jemmie Dodger, ex the unfortunate Jelly Baby which came to grief on Weavers’ Point in Cork Harbour last year – is now back on the water owned by the O’Neill family.

Narrows Regattas 2022 results below

The Bar Buoy lies at the mouth of Strangford Lough in the Narrows which is the six mile long fast-flowing and very tidal neck of water between Ballyquinton Point to the east on the Ards Peninsula and Killard Point on western shore.

It provides a perfect turning mark for the race which traditionally precedes the Strangford Lough Narrows Regatta organised by Strangford Sailing Club and the two clubs in Portaferry.

This year on Monday 11th July 80 boats took part in ten classes ranging from large dinghies to cruiser/racers in IRC. Winds were southerly between 12 and 16 knots with lumpy seas at times.

In the Flying Fifteen and Glen keelboats, first places went to Peter Kennedy in Team Ridgeway from Strangford Lough YC, who recently won the Northerns at County Antrim YC and his clubmate Henry Anstey in Glen Iris.

In IRC 1 the prize went to the visiting Corby 29 Elixir from Carrickfergus on Belfast Lough and in IRC2 it was Mark Mackey’s Sigma 33 Mithril from nearby Quoile YC first. In NHC 1 and 2 the winners were Ronnie McLernon in the Contessa 32 from East Down YC and the visiting Charles Slevin in the Corribee 21 Casualen.

Ryan and Brian Wilson's Elixir from Carrickfergus were IRC winners in the Bar Buoy RaceRyan and Brian Wilson's Elixir from Carrickfergus were IRC winners in the Bar Buoy Race

NHCRS 1 and 2 were won by the East Down boats, Madrigal of Saltash, (Stephen Dow) in an Albin Ballad and Keith Carr’s Jeanneau Sundream, Kestrel. The large dinghy fleet was topped by Patrick Hamilton, Kenny and Sonia Smyth from SLYC won the Rivers and their clubmate Robert Darnley was first Sonata.

The fleet gathering at Audleys Roads Photo: Ian McKelvie The fleet gathering at Audleys Roads Photo: Ian McKelvie

Today (Wednesday) the fleet moves to Portaferry for the Town Regatta and tomorrow it’s the turn of Portaferry Sailing Club’s Regatta.

Portaferry RNLI launched to the aid of four people across three callouts on Strangford Lough over the weekend for the Northern Ireland volunteer lifeboat crew.

The first call came just after 1am on Saturday morning (28 May) when a spoken-word mayday was picked up by Belfast Coastguard reporting an incident on Strangford Lough. There were no other details provided.

Helmed by Chris Adair and with three crew members onboard, the inshore lifeboat was launched for a search of the Portaferry shoreline. The HM Coastguard helicopter Rescue 199 from Prestwick was also tasked.

After three hours of searching and with nothing found, the lifeboat was stood down and the incident was declared a false alarm with good intent.

The second callout came at 4pm on Saturday after Belfast Coastguard reported that a person on a small punt had got into difficulty in shallow waters.

After emerging from the vessel and attempting to drag it to shore, the person had reportedly got stuck in mud in Cadew Bay, south of Whiterock on Strangford Lough.

The lifeboat helmed by Adair launched and made its way to the scene, where approach was made tricky by the low water conditions.

Portaferry and Bangor Coastguard mud rescue teams were also tasked and helped bring the person and their boat ashore, and the RNLI volunteers were subsequently stood down.

The lifeboat crew were called out once again on Sunday morning (29 May) at 5.21am following a report that a 30ft yacht with three people onboard that had run aground outside Portaferry Marina.

Adair again helmed the lifeboat along with three crew members and after assessing the situation on scene, they decided the best course of action was to establish a towline and bring the grounded vessel to the nearest safe port at Portaferry Marina.

Speaking following the three callouts, Portaferry RNLI’s lifeboat press officer Jordan Conway said: “This has been a busy weekend for our volunteer lifeboat crew and we would like to commend them and out colleagues in the coastguard for their efforts in going to the aid of those in difficulty.

“We would also like to commend the person who raised the alarm with good intent for the first call out. While nothing was found, we would always much rather launch and find nothing rather than not launch at all.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

There’s certainly a great variety of racing this season in Strangford Lough.

The Strangford Lough Racing Calendar has just published its fixtures for 2022 and the very busy months till the end of September kick off with the two-day Quoile YC Spring Series hosted at the end of April by the club at the southern end of the Lough.

Eight of the clubs on the Lough will run a variety of events and regattas during this season.

Following on in mid-May are the Squib Northerns at Killyleagh on the western shore of the Lough with the classic 102-year-old River Class holding its Anniversary Series on 25th and 26th June at Strangford Lough Yacht Club at Whiterock, where the following weekend the Club hosts the Ulster Laser Championships, an event which always attracts a big turnout.

That six-mile stretch of fast strong tidal water, the Narrows, at the mouth of the Lough will be the scene in mid-July for the traditional Narrows Series when sailors from all around the Lough and visitors from farther afield, take part over the four days – 11th till 14th July.

The first club to appear in that area was Strangford Sailing Club in 1946 on the west shore of the Narrows and opposite in Portaferry the Cooke Street club appeared, possibly also in the 1940s. It closed in 1956 and re-emerged as Portaferry SC in 1970. From a photograph in James Nixon’s excellent River Class History, it seems that the Narrows Series existed in the 1950s.

The series is made up of four events hosted by Strangford and Portaferry. As told in the history of the River Class. “As with many coastal and lakeside Irish towns and villages, there is a tradition of holding ‘regattas’ in the summer. Both villages probably did so from the early 19th century. Commenting on the long-standing event Fiona Hicks, a lifelong sailing member of Strangford Lough Yacht Club; “There have been regattas in the Narrows since they were invented I would imagine!” Last year this series attracted a big fleet of 140 boats.

The first race on 11th July is the Bar Buoy Race run by Strangford Sailing Club. Again, according to the River Class book, it dates back to the 1950s when Punts and Wychcraft raced between the two towns on the ‘Ferry Course’. When bigger boats wanted to join in a more expansive course round the Bar Buoy outside the mouth of the Lough was set up.

The three regattas, Strangford SC, Portaferry SC and Portaferry Town follow.

Interspersed with regattas and open events are coastal races, namely a race round the South Rock off Kearney Point on the Ards Peninsula eastern coast, the Ardglass race to the fishing port of that name south of the Narrows on the County Down coast as well as the Isle of Man race and cruise.

And an interesting addition to the fixture list this year is the stand alone pre - 50th anniversary of the birth of the Ruffian class in the early 70s designed by the legendary the late Billy Brown with his brother Dickie building the hull of the new boat. It was followed by the smaller Ruffian 23 (produced by the newly formed Weatherly Yachts) and it was to the launch of this successful Quarter Tonner that William was invited for a sail test of the prototype at Portaferry. 

Ruffian 23 debut in 1973Ruffian 23 debut in 1973 photo W M Nixon

The Ruffian anniversary will be organised by Portaferry SC as part of the Sails and Sounds festival in the town on 6th and 7th August.

Event organiser Maura Ritchie said, “We are inviting all Ruffian boats to Portaferry for a fun challenge race and opportunity to see the area where their boats where created; to enjoy the festival and prepare for big one next year where there will be exhibitions, talks, tours and lots of water activities”.

The family of the late Billy Brown and will be in attendance this year and on the actual Anniversary in 2023. Maura continued “They are delighted with the whole programme”.

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At the end of March, the Strangford and Lecale Partnership started a new pilot study of Advanced Mooring Systems in Strangford Lough. It is the first study of its kind in Northern Ireland, and these eco-friendly moorings will avoid or limit the damage caused to the seafloor habitats and species by the swinging chain of traditional boat moorings.

The Partnership covers the whole of the Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, taking in much of the Ards Peninsula, Strangford Lough and Lecale. It brings together statutory authorities to improve heritage management across the whole of the area and is underpinned by the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Newry Mourne and Down District Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council.

The Sterling mooring system uses floats to keep the chain off the seabed

Two different types of advanced mooring systems were installed in Ballyhenry Bay following condition assessments of the Seagrass around the existing swinging chain moorings. The site is just north of Portaferry on the eastern shore of the Lough near the Narrows.

A Seaflex Mooring unit about to be deployedA Seaflex Mooring unit about to be deployed

The diver video recorded the seagrass condition around the entire circumference of the mooring, the old mooring was removed and the new mooring installed.

The two different systems being trialled are Seaflex, an elastic and environmentally friendly mooring solution and Sterling which uses floats to keep the chain off the seabed.

The area will be resurveyed next year to see which has been more successful in allowing the seagrass to re-establish. This work is being carried out by Cuan Marine Services Ltd, in partnership with local mooring owners, and funded through the NIEA Challenge Fund. This fund supports the Water Quality Improvement Strand of the Environmental Challenge Fund which seeks to support projects that help people connect with and seek improvements to their local aquatic environment.

Cuan Marine Services are carrying out the Strangford Lough studyCuan Marine Services are carrying out the Strangford Lough study

Cuan Marine Services were employed by Newry Mourne and Down District Council to deliver a feasibility study ‘Potential for advanced-moorings as management option for Strangford Lough Marine Protected Areas (MPA)’

Hen Island lies in Whiterock Bay near Sketrick Island on the west shore of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland and used to be the location for a popular raft race.

Now post Lockdown the Strangford Lough Raft Race is back by popular demand and will be held on Friday 3rd June on the 2022 Jubilee Weekend. Places are limited.

There will be about 20 entries open to teams (max of 6 people) from Strangford Lough Yacht Club members, so if you are interested, start preparing to build your rafts - no sail, power or boat hulls allowed! It should be noted that any materials used must be suitably cleaned of any toxicity so that there is no damage to the Lough.

More details, raft and team rules will be released shortly on the new website, but meanwhile, do start the necessary preparations.

The Club hopes everyone will be ready for a fun-filled family Jubilee Weekend

The first of the BBC NI Series, The Chronicles of Strangford aired on Monday, 17th January.

The maritime TV series will cover the four seasons on this stunning part of Co Down, beginning with this week's episode on Autumn. It will ultimately follow a year on the almost landlocked sea Lough, the largest in the UK.

Autumn is the time when grey seals visit and use the sheltered Islands to breed and raise their pups before returning to the open sea. It also celebrates the arrival of the migrating Brent Geese, an annual event familiar to many who live and work on the shores of the Lough. The geese travel from arctic Canada and the Lough is a vital stopover when thousands arrive to feed on the shores at low tide.

Brent Geese on Strangford Lough Brent Geese on Strangford Lough Photo: National Trust

The programme also featured songwriter Brigid O’Neill who finds inspiration from the natural surroundings and performs at a gig in a small, converted church. RSPB Ranger Mark McCormick explained how his work looking for endangered species has helped him overcome PTSD which he suffered after seeing the attack on Westminster Bridge. And in Portaferry on the Narrows near the mouth of the Lough former ferry Captain, 84-year-old John Murray was seen hauling out his boat, the St Brendan.

Next week (Monday 24th) on BBC NI at 19.30 will be about Winter on the Lough. National Trust Ranger Hugh Thurgate moves livestock between islands and Ulster Wildlife’s Katy Bell looks after barn owl boxes at Mount Stewart Gardens. Boatyard owner Kenny Smyth winterises his yard near Whiterock and shed to work on his 100-year-old River Class yacht Laragh in which Kenny races regularly.

Published in Maritime TV
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Every Year Ireland's Search & Rescue Services deliver emergency life saving work on our seas, lakes and rivers.

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There's no better fun than getting out on the water but being afloat is a responsibility we all need to take seriously.

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Think Before You Sink - Wear a Lifejacket

Accidents can happen fast on water and there may not be time to reach for a lifejacket in an emergency therefore don't just carry a lifejacket - wear it; if it's not on you, it can't save your life.

Irish Water Safety's Safe Boating Alert:

Check condition of boat and equipment, hull, engine, fuel, tools, torch.

Check the weather forecast for the area.

Check locally concerning dangerous currents and strong tides.

Do not drink alcohol while setting out or during your trip.

Carry an alternative means of propulsion e.g. sails and oars or motor and oars.

Carry a first aid kit on board and distress signals (at least two parachute distress rockets, two red hand flares).

Carry a fire extinguisher, a hand bailer or bucket with lanyard and an anchor with rope attached.

Carry marine radio or some means of communication with shore.

Do not overload the boat - this will make it unstable.

Do not set out unless accompanied by an experienced person.

Leave details of your planned trip with someone ashore - including departure and arrival times, description of boat, names of persons on board, etc.

Wear a Lifejacket at all times.

Keep an eye on the weather - seek shelter in good time.

In Marine Emergencies, call 999 or 112 and ask for Marine Rescue.

Lifejackets Checklist

Ensure Cartridges have not been punctured and are secured firmly.

Ensure all zips, buckles, fasteners and webbing straps are functioning correctly and adjusted to fit the user.

Check that fitted lights are operating correctly.

Ensure that Automatic Inflation devices are fully serviced and in date.

Check that the valve or lifejacket is not leaking.