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Displaying items by tag: Strangford Lough

Portaferry RNLI were called out yesterday evening (Thursday 26 August) at 5.44pm after members of the public reported three people in the water after their small punt capsized on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

Helmed by Fergal Glynn and with two crew onboard, the lifeboat was on scene close to the Walter rocks within minutes and the volunteers recovered the casualties from the water one by one.

After ensuring they did not require any medical assistance, the lifeboat crew took the casualties ashore and transferred them into the care of Portaferry coastguard rescue team.

The lifeboat crew then returned to the capsized punt to right it and take it under tow to Cook Street Quay.

Less than 24 hours before, on Wednesday evening (25 August), the lifeboat volunteers were called out to reports of two kayakers thought to be in difficulty off Kilclief in Co Down.

The lifeboat, helmed by Chris Adair and with two crew onboard, launched shortly after 8.30pm and was on scene at the Strangford Narrows within minutes.

However, after a thorough search of the area the volunteer crew found nothing of concern and returned to station at 9.25pm.

Commenting on both callouts, Portaferry RNLI press officer Jordan Conway said: “Our initial callout turned out to be a false alarm with good intent. The second callout was also initiated by a concerned member of the public and we would like to thank all members of the public for being so alert and taking the appropriate action.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Portaferry RNLI launched to the aid of two people early yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 21 July) after their leisure boat broke down and was left adrift at the Narrows on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

The volunteer lifeboat crew’s pagers sounded just after 12.45pm and the inshore lifeboat, helmed by Fergal Glynn and with three crew members onboard, launched immediately.

Reaching the scene within minutes, they assessed the situation and found two women on board the leisure boat were safe and well.

The lifeboat crew then quickly established a towline and the leisure boat was brought into Portaferry Marina in Co Down.

Speaking following the callout, Glynn said: “The casualties made the right decision at the right time when calling for assistance. Their quick thinking and calm actions made the rescue simple and kept them out of harm’s way.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The long-established Narrows Regatta held in that fast-flowing stretch of water between the towns of Portaferry on the east side and Strangford on the west side of Strangford Lough in County Down brought together last weekend over 140 boats for exciting racing in enviable conditions.

It provided perfect viewing of sail racing during the Portaferry Sails and Sounds festival, which was packed with children's activities, exhibitions, crafts, and even foraging.

There was racing for 13 classes, including dinghy handicap, Laser Radials and Toppers.

Tight racing in the Flying Fifteen class at the Narrows RegattaTight racing in the Flying Fifteen class at the Narrows Regatta

Topper and Laser Radial fleets at Strangford SC prepare for the Narrows RegattaTopper and Laser Radial fleets at Strangford SC prepare for the Narrows Regatta

Traditionally the Regatta begins with the Bar Buoy Race on a course which took the fleet, made up of IRC 1and 2, NHC 1, NHC Restricted Sail, and One Designs through the Narrows to the Bar Buoy at the mouth of Lough. The Bar Buoy race, the Strangford Regatta and the two Portaferry Regattas combine their four sets of results to make the Narrows Series which you can find here. The dinghy results are here 

Racing in the Narrows Regatta NHC 2 divisionRacing in the Narrows Regatta NHC 2 division

The Laser Radial put up the largest class at 18 but notable too were the two one-design classes, the Glens and the 100-year-old Rivers, both with a history of migration long ago from Belfast Lough to Strangford Lough Yacht Club and still holding strong at that location.

Adelante was the winner of NHC 2 division of the Narrows Regatta Adelante was the winner of NHC 2 division of the Narrows Regatta

The 2022 Narrows Regatta date has been set for 11th until 14th July.

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The 18-foot Waverley open racing yacht has for many years been a Ballyholme Yacht Club class, and those which are still sailing have been berthed in Bangor Marina, which from when it was opened in 1989 proved to be something of a haven for boats traditionally moored in Ballyholme Bay which occasionally over the years were subject to being hurled onto the beach by the big seas of a northerly gale.

But now they are leaving Bangor (albeit for a trial season) for Strangford Lough Yacht Club at Whiterock on the Lough's western shore, as their owners are finding berthing costs more than they feel they want to pay, coupled with the fact that they have no engines and moving in and out is tricky. They will be kept on moorings in Whiterock Bay.

Waverley IvanhoeWaverley Ivanhoe

The Waverley was designed by a complete amateur, John Wylie, who was a technician at Queen's University Belfast and Captain of the newly formed County Antrim YC at Whitehead on the north shore of Belfast Lough. The first three Waverleys were built in Carrickfergus, and first raced in 1903 at the opening of the new clubhouse.

The Centenary Regatta at Ballyholme was held in 2003 with eight boats taking part.

Over the years 18 were built, gunter rigged, and all named after characters and places in Sir Walter Scott novels. By 1907 there was a fleet of eight, two of which two still sailing today, Waverley no 5 and Lilias no 7.

 Waverley launch at Ballyholme YC circa 1973A Waverley launch at Ballyholme YC circa 1973

In 1962 the boats relocated to Ballyholme, by which time the fleet had doubled in size. Those joining the owner of Waverley, Mike Stevens, a former member of Ballyholme YC and now a member of SLYC at Whiterock, are Lilias owned by Jeff Gouk, Ivanhoe (John McCrea), Fair Maid owned by Ben Gouk and Steve and Anne Allen's Durward, which was built with a Bermudan rig in Bertie Slater's Shipyard in Bangor in 1948 and is perhaps the most celebrated of all. For as you can read here as told by WM Nixon in 1961, the MacLaverty brothers of Belfast – Kevin and Colm, both alas no longer with us – sailed around Ireland in Durward crewed by Mick Clarke from Lough Erne Yacht Club.

The Waverley Opening Day at Ballyholme makes headlines in the local newspaperThe Waverley Opening Day at Ballyholme makes headlines in the local newspaper

The then owners of Durward seemed to have a penchant for cross North Channel voyages as well, for in the same year (1961) after Winkie Nixon sold his Skal, and was taking part in the Schools and Universities racing based at McGruers of Clynder on the Clyde, Durward turned up and provided for McLaverty and Nixon the perfect ferry substitute for the trip back to Bangor though it was a beat all the way - a lot of windward work for an 18-footer.

There are now no Waverleys in commission in Ballyholme Yacht Club, and about those leaving the club Commodore Aidan Pounder said, "The Waverley class are very much part of our history, not just at Ballyholme but in Belfast Lough and will be sadly missed. We hope that their departure is temporary and very much look forward to their return to the shores of Bangor in the very near future".

And Kevin Baird, Marina Manager, said, " The Waverly class will always be welcome at Bangor Marina, and we wish those moving to Whiterock fair winds, following seas and a safe voyage".

The River Class is the oldest class racing on Strangford Lough and the past weekend saw a notable celebration of its 100th Anniversary – notable because all 12 boats which first raced at Royal Ulster Yacht Club on Belfast Lough, graced the waters off Whiterock, the whole fleet having eventually moved there.

Designed by legendary naval architect Alfred Mylne, the 29-foot Rivers can trace their origins back to 1919 when Belfast Lough sailors were looking for a simple and elegant one-design class to race. That same twelve turned out on the weekend of 26th /27th and provided for the crews the competitive close racing for which the class is known.

Rivers  racing at their Centenary event on Strangford Lough Photo: Elaine HicksRivers racing at their Centenary event on Strangford Lough Photo: Elaine Hicks

Six windward-leeward races set by Race Officer Peter Gault and his team on the Committee boat, Clara Rose, enjoyed favourable conditions on both days with a northerly wind (which on Belfast Lough was kicking up quite a sea), overcast on the Saturday but sparkling in the sunshine yesterday. (Sunday).

Tight racing in the Rivers for the Centenary races Photo: Patrick HobsonTight racing in the Rivers for the Centenary races Photo: Patrick Hobson

The Smyth brothers, Graham in Enler and Kenny in Laragh, dominated the competition with Graham narrowly beating his brother counting two firsts, two seconds and a third-place to take the Cup presented for the 75th Anniversary of the class in 1996. Kenny posted two firsts, a second and two thirds. In third slot was new owner Peter Burrows who ended his run with a first in Uladh, the only boat not to be named after a River but famous nonetheless for having as its first owner the Lady Londonderry of Mount Stewart on the opposite side of the Lough. The first place in the fifth race went to the trio who own Faughan – James Nixon, John Witchell and David Lindsay.

The Rivers Laragh (left) and Enler Photo: Patrick HobsonThe Rivers Laragh (left) and Enler Photo: Patrick Hobson

The next outing for the Rivers will be the four day Narrows regatta starting 9th July, organised by Portaferry and Strangford on opposite sides of the entrance to the Lough, with its fast-flowing tide sure to make interesting racing.

Enler (Graham Smyth) Photo: Patrick HobsonThe River Enler (Graham Smyth) Photo: Patrick Hobson

Published in Historic Boats

Portaferry RNLI lifeboat crew was called out on 22nd April to a yacht with engine failure at the entrance to Strangford Lough.

The entrance at the southern end of the Ards Peninsula leads to the Strangford Narrows through which the tide flows at about 8 knots, and with an uneven bottom, rough seas can result. Portaferry and its Marina lie on the eastern side of the Narrows, and the Strangford ferry runs between here and the village of Strangford on the western side.

The casualty vessel was sailing towards Portaferry but did the right thing and called for help early, knowing that they would need assistance when coming alongside. The lifeboat took the vessel under tow and ensured their safe arrival at the Portaferry marina.

Commenting on the call-out, helmsman Simon said, "While not in any immediate danger, the men certainly took the right course of action today calling for help once they realised that they had an issue. We were delighted to help and would urge anyone considering going to sea to take all necessary precautions and respect the water".

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry on Strangford Lough has welcomed new residents. Fourteen Humboldt Penguins from the Curraghs Wildlife Park in the Isle of Man are settling well in their new home.

Exploris illustrates and exhibits the large variety of animals that live in Strangford Lough as well as farther afield. It was closed in late 2014 for refurbishment and reopened in 2016 following an investment of close to £1.5m and with the help of Crumlin Road Gaol Ltd, who are the operators. It attracts over 100,000 visitors each year.

The Humboldt penguin and the cold water current it swims in are named after the explorer Alexander von Humboldt. They are medium-sized penguins, growing to 56–70 cm long and a weight of 3.6-5.9 kg.

Portia Sampson, display supervisor said recently on Ulster Television. "They're from Curraghs Wildlife Park, which is in the Isle of Man. To get here, they've had to get on a ferry to the UK and then they've been driven up to Scotland and then across to Belfast and then they've been on a lorry to get us here, so it's taken them a good 20 hours to get to us." Aquarist Ester Scordmadlia added: "They are from South America, and we are very lucky to have this species of penguins because they can adapt very well to the environment. They are already enjoying the pool. They like to stay in the water, and they also like to jump. The six males and eight females will be named after Greek gods and goddesses".

During Lockdown, the staff continue with their daily responsibilities. Improvement works have also been taking place in anticipation of reopening to the public.

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Portaferry Coastguard Rescue team was joined by the Bangor team for joint mud and water rescue training in Strangford Lough on Sunday, 28th February.

The Dorn at Ardkeen was the location for the mud training. The word Dorn, from the Gaelic word for narrow channel, refers to the channel which connects several sheltered bays to the Lough near Ardkeen on the eastern side of the Lough.

Cook Street Quay in Portaferry town was used for the water rescue training.

Mud rescue training in Strangford LoughMud rescue training in Strangford Lough

The Portaferry team said, "It is essential that we keep our skills up to the highest level possible, so when required to conduct a technical rescue, we provide a first-class service".

23rd February 2021

Brendan Sharvin 1925-2021

The death of Brendan Sharvin of Strangford village at the age of 95 has taken from among us a remarkable man who was a leading figure in the development of sailing and boating in the southern part of Strangford Lough, a very special man of enormous charm and ability who combined a lightning wit with genuine kindness.

Born into the family pub-grocery in the village near the quay – later it became the Cuan Bar, but everyone knew it as Sharvin's - he was a host and entertainer of world-class, a master joke and story-teller whose beautifully-timed and appropriate anecdotes well-matched anything that even the most humorous of his many customers could produce, such that he was renowned as the best raconteur in Lecale.

But there was a quietly serious side to him as well. He reckoned that continuing to develop the neighbourhood's recreational interaction with the sea was essential, and he was a leading light in encouraging racing with the local punts fitted with sails which made up in the initial "dinghy fleet" of the 1946-founded Strangford Sailing Club and was then active in the group which own-built a fleet of fourteen Wychcraft sailing dinghies in the late 1950s.

It's 1959, and the completion of Wychcraft sailing dinghy no 14 has to be marked with a celebratory stop outside Sharvin's, the beating heart of Strangford village.   Photo: Courtesy SSC  It's 1959, and the completion of Wychcraft sailing dinghy no 14 has to be marked with a celebratory stop outside Sharvin's, the beating heart of Strangford village. Photo: Courtesy SSC 

With the major up-grading of the car ferry across the Narrows to Portaferry, the boat-mooring space in Strangford Creek became much more restricted, and the Club – somewhat reluctantly – moved its operations base to the shores of Audley's Roads at nearby Castleward, where it now thrives.

But Brendan, having given many years to the family business, decided on a change of direction, and having sold the pub and stores, went to work in the Public Service in Downpatrick, eventually attaining a position of authority in the Housing Executive, which fitted well with his personal inclination for fulfilling a helpful role in society.

Strangford village, Brendan Sharvin's home for all of his long life.Strangford village, Brendan Sharvin's home for all of his long life

Yet although he continued to live in Strangford, working from Downpatrick altered his sailing focus, and he became involved with the sailing cruiser fleet at the Quoile Yacht Club in the southwest corner of Strangford Lough, which had been developing rapidly with new big-boat facilities immediately seaward of the 1957-constructed Quoile Barrier.

For many years he was a regular shipmate from QYC with Colin Crichton on a variety of boats, starting with a Fred Parker-designed 26ft Mystere and graduating through several craft on which the two longtime crewmates cruised almost every summer weekend, with the Isle of Man a favourite destination among many ports.

In time, however, Brendan moved on to his own boat, a twin-keeled Westerly, and at the same time his organisational ability and willingness for voluntary work had been noted, and he was steadily moving up the management and committee structure of Quoile YC.

Nevertheless, he'd been retired from the day job for some time when he became a popular QYC Commodore twenty-five years ago. But in Brendan Sharvin's case, "active retirement" was inadequate to describe his continuing enthusiasm and all-round involvement at the age of 70, and his style of running meetings made them events to be cherished.

A secret place. Quoile Yacht Club's base is a peaceful havenA secret place. Quoile Yacht Club's base is a peaceful haven

That a man with such a wide circle of friends and a noted public persona should also have a profoundly fulfilled family life was almost a surprise to some, but his long and happy marriage to Agnes was blessed with six children who in turn have made them grandparents and great-grandparents.

And while we mourn the loss of someone who was great company ashore and afloat, and an able man in a boat with it, equally we recall those precious moments of long ago when you might sail into Strangford village on a quiet midweek summer evening, knowing that as you ambled up the quay to Sharvin's, the sound of laughter would be heard from within before you'd gone through the open door. Our heartfelt condolences are with Brendan Sharvin's family and his many friends, he was indeed a lovely man.


Published in News Update
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Bloodlands is a new crime thriller following DCI Tom Brannick, played by Co Antrim born actor James Nesbitt and filmed in Northern Ireland, principally in Strangford Lough.

It's a classic Jed Mercurio executive produced thriller written by Chris Brandon who having grown up in Strangford, knows the area well.

Strangford Lough from Old Norse Strangr Fjörðr, meaning "strong sea-inlet," is a stunning sea lough in east County Down. It is the largest inlet in the British Isles covering 150 sq km and reputedly has over 70 islands, one of which is a scene for the film. In 877 AD it was the scene of a battle between two groups of rival Vikings and now in Bloodlands the scene of an investigation into an assassin who has re-emerged after 20 years. A discovery on the Strangford Lough island helps him in the case.

Strangford Lough - a stunning sea lough in east County Down is the latest Northern Ireland location for film companiesStrangford Lough - a stunning sea lough in east County Down is the latest Northern Ireland location for film companies

The location according to The Telegraph, has been kept secret as the owners of the island fear an influx of visitors, as happened after the filming of Game of Thrones at various locations in Northern Ireland when official tours took fans to the location sites.

According to The Telegraph, Director Pete Travis said that a conscious decision to keep the location secret was made after the owners of the original island location pulled out as they were nervous about it attracting tourists. He also said that the logistics of getting the crew to the chosen island was difficult but the production hired two local men to transport them. On the last day, treacherous weather forced the entire crew to be evacuated at short notice.

Bloodlands, an HTM Television production co-owned by Jed Mercurio airs on BBC 1 at 9 pm on Sunday 21st February.

Published in Maritime TV
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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.


While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset


While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

© Afloat 2020

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