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Displaying items by tag: Ilen

The imaginative use of the 1926-vintage 56ft Trading Ketch Ilen’s mainmast as a brightly-illuminated Christmas Tree for Galway Docks was switched on as recently as Sunday evening. Yet within 30 hours, the entire setup was being severely tested for many hours by the huge winds of Storm Barra.

Gary MacMahon, Director of the Ilen Marine School, commented today (Wednesday): “We take this opportunity to express again our gratitude for a magnificent winter berth in the Port of Galway, and for the welcoming and helpful Harbour Master Captain Brian Sheridan”.

But while the berth itself was exceptionally snug, there was no mistaking the power and speed of the wind howling overhead, and it speaks volumes for the seamanlike skills and high standards inculcated by the Ilen Marine School that not only did the highly-visible seasonal lights and their equipment come through unscathed, but they had been so well installed that at no time at the height of the storm was it felt necessary to disconnect from the grid.

Mark Sutton of Ishka Spring Water Limerick, sponsors of Ilen’s Christmas Lights, with Gary Mac Mahon (Director, Ilen Marine School) and Captain Brian Sheridan, Harbour Master of the Port of Galway, at Sunday night’s switch-on ceremony.Mark Sutton of Ishka Spring Water Limerick, sponsors of Ilen’s Christmas Lights, with Gary Mac Mahon (Director, Ilen Marine School) and Captain Brian Sheridan, Harbour Master of the Port of Galway, at Sunday night’s switch-on ceremony

Published in Galway Harbour
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This spectacular Christmas lighting design on the historic wooden sailing ship Ilen may well be the greenest in Ireland. Ireland’s last surviving wooden cargo ship, as Limerick's ambassadorial vessel, has been illuminated on her seasonal visit to Galway Docks. And the lighting design - generously funded by Irish spring water company Ishka - sends out a fashionable and essential green message, as the lights arranged on Ilen's mast – a wooden spruce structure – transform it into a 70ft tall Christmas tree. 

“The spruce and the great fir tree, which has gifted Ilen much of her material structure and capacity to harness wind power, encourages our crew to cultivate a more ecumenical relationship with nature,” said Ilen’s skipper, Gary MacMahon, Director of the Ilen Marine School.

Mike Sutton of Limerick-based Ishka said the firm was delighted to have the opportunity to illuminate the vessel at Galway City, as the firm has deployed the Ilen on several occasions to transport its spring water under sail and sustainably. “Mitigating climate change and promoting sustainability is a duty, not an option, and we were happy to spread that message through the voyaging of the Ilen, along with a little Christmas cheer at the same time,” he said.

Seasonal reflections of hope and goodwill from the IlenSeasonal reflections of hope and goodwill from the Ilen

In June, Ishka sent Ilen to deliver the company’s spring water to a retailer at Kilronan, Aran Islands, loading at Limerick City and discharging at Kilronan on Inis Mór, before sailing onward for Galway City.

The wind-powered voyage followed the ancient sea route linking both cities, and was organised to highlight and explore eco-friendly alternatives which businesses can use to reach their customers. Designed by Limerick man Conor O'Brien in 1926, the Ilen - built in Ireland - served as an inter-island cargo trader for over 70 years, transporting sheep and goods around the Falkland Islands before repatriation to Ireland 21 years ago, and restoration by a team led by Gary MacMahon.

Captain Brian Sheridan, Harbour Master of the Port of Galway, Gary Mac Mahon, Director of the Ilen Marine School, and Mike Sutton MD of Ishka Spring Water, at Sunday night’s switch-on ceremonyCaptain Brian Sheridan, Harbour Master of the Port of Galway, Gary Mac Mahon, Director of the Ilen Marine School, and Mike Sutton MD of Ishka Spring Water, at Sunday night’s switch-on ceremony

Published in Ilen
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The Ilen Marine School of Limerick’s 56ft traditional trading ketch Ilen has been making the best of a sojourn in Galway City and the gentler periods of late Autumn weather in November, with last weekend’s ideal conditions being used for a visit to Kilronan in the Aran Islands.

Ilen is no stranger to the main port on Aran, as late in the summer of 2020 - during her multi-visit trading cruise - she delivered the best Limerick-distilled whiskey to Inis Mor. But this time round, it was simply a goodwill visit, a chance to renew old friendships, and an opportunity for some sail training drill.

Ilen is making Galway her base for the last two months of 2021. Photo: Gary MacMahonIlen is making Galway her base for the last two months of 2021

When we remember that the days start getting longer again in just six weeks time, it was an especially magic experience, and an eloquent reminder of the winter sailing enthusiasts’ belief that one good hour of sailing in the off season is as good for you as an entire day in summer.

Sunday morning sunrise for Ilen at Kilronan. Photo Gary Mac MahonSunday morning sunrise for Ilen at Kilronan. Photo Gary Mac Mahon

The first sunshine of a November morning finds Ilen’s crew busy at Kilronan, preparing to go to sea.The first sunshine of a November morning finds Ilen’s crew busy at Kilronan, preparing to go to sea.
 A fair wind and the top-sail set for the passage back to Galway.A fair wind and the top-sail set for the passage back to Galway.

Published in Ilen
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They do things differently in Limerick and along the west coast. Where other migrating birds of passage head south as winter approaches, the restored 56ft trading ketch Ilen of 1926-vintage is departing her usual base in the Shannon Estuary today (Friday), and is heading north to spend part of the winter in Galway, where she has been allocated a snug berth in the docks at the heart of a city where she’ll find plenty of traditional sailing craft with which to share the long nights.

It now seems a long time since she made a free-spirited voyage to western Greenland in 2019, but even with her wings clipped by pandemic regulations, when possible she has made shorter passages along the Irish coast, a programme which revealed that the spirit of the Ilen Marine School can be carried to many ports.

Galway in particular provided a hospitable showcase, and Ilen is expected into port around 2.30 pm tomorrow (Saturday).

The cleansing sea - crewmen Brian and Jim rinsing Ilen’s decks as she heads down the Shannon Estuary at 1300hrs today (Saturday). Photo: Gary Mac MahonThe cleansing sea - crewmen Brian and Jim rinsing Ilen’s decks as she heads down the Shannon Estuary at 1300hrs today (Saturday). Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

IIen’s allocated betty in Galway DocksIIen’s allocated betty in Galway Docks

Published in Ilen
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The Ilen Marine School's 56ft-restored trading ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage is already renowned for her good work when taking part in the Sailing Into Wellness programme. It's one of the ship's many interests that were vividly high-lighted at her home port at the weekend, when she and the city's waterfront at Steamboat Quay were floodlit in green to launch the current Mental Health Week which is now underway at the characterful Shannonside city.

The Mayor of Limerick. Daniel Butler, was among those on board to reinforce the ship's connections with the port and its people, and to emphasise that raising mental health awareness is a special challenge for his city and its citizens, as the stresses of modern life have been exacerbated by a higher-than-average incidence of COVID19 with its related fatalities.

Bringing the Light of Hope to the city – Ilen on the Shannon approaching Limerick to launch the currently-ongoing Limerick Mental Health Awareness Week.Bringing the Light of Hope to the city – Ilen on the Shannon approaching Limerick to launch the currently-ongoing Limerick Mental Health Awareness Week.

The vision of the shining Ilen against a part of the city which speaks of Limerick's future as much as its past was inspiring for all those who witnessed it. And the word is that far from resting at home on her achievements through the winter months, Ilen will be bringing her sense of well-being to other ports on Ireland's Atlantic coast.

In being able to do so, she is maintained by Ilen Marine School Director Gary Mac Mahon and his team to the highest standards, and her refit in September at Oldcourt above Baltimore in West Cork was made possible by widespread goodwill spearheaded by the support of the Heritage Council, which fully recognises the very special role played by Ireland's only surviving trading ketch.

Annual refit – Ilen on the slipway at Hegarty's Boatyard in Oldcourt in September. Photo: Gary MacMahonAnnual refit – Ilen on the slipway at Hegarty's Boatyard in Oldcourt in September. Photo: Gary MacMahon

The work is continuous – a collage showing some of the many and various maintenance tasks required to keep Ilen up to standard. Photos: Gary Mac MahonThe work is continuous – a collage showing some of the many and various maintenance tasks required to keep Ilen up to standard. Photos: Gary Mac Mahon

Published in Ilen
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While everyone else was staring goggle-eyed at rapidly-changing and decidedly hostile weather charts last Thursday, and wondering whether the weekend's racing was going to be possible at all, in typical style the always-amazing Gary MacMahon was at sea off our most exposed southwest coast in the lovingly-restored 56ft Conor O'Brien ketch Ilen, homeward bound to Limerick after the annual overhaul with Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt above Baltimore.

Since her very special Limerick to West Greenland voyage in 2019, the pandemic has meant the Ilen has been largely Kinsale-based in summer, sailing as much as was permissible for the Sailing into Wellness programme and other worthwhile causes. And her passage home after the annual check-up at Oldcourt – where she was painstakingly restored – has tended to involve freakishly gentle Autumn weather.

When the going was gentler, and full sail could still be carried. Photo: Gary Mac MahonWhen the going was gentler, and full sail could still be carried. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

Weathering Cape Clear, with the end of the Mizen Peninsula fine on the starboard bow. Photo: Gary MacMahonWeathering Cape Clear, with the end of the Mizen Peninsula fine on the starboard bow. Photo: Gary MacMahon

But this year, needs must when the devil drives. For whatever reason, the enigmatic Director of The Ilen Marine School found he was obliged to make the passage in the latter half of last week, and come hell or high water – literally – he did so. He admitted to it being a "wild ride", but the gallant 1926 Conor O'Brien creation – Ireland's only surviving traditional trading ketch – came through it with style, arriving into the Ted Russell Dock in Limerick without a feather out of place.

The highest ocean swells on the West Coast of Ireland come in to the north of the Dingle Peninsula. Photo: Gary MachonThe highest ocean swells on the West Coast of Ireland come in to the north of the Dingle Peninsula. Photo: Gary Machon

Gary is a very visual person in his way of thinking, and we've received a sheaf of un-captioned photos and a couple of anonymous vid clips sent to tell the story. Thus we're winging it with the captions, but so what? – he and his shipmates did it, and did it with style. And there's a special unity to our Great Southwestern Seaboard which makes precision of location of secondary importance,

The Ilen sailing well in more sedate conditions. Photo: Gary Mac MahonThe Ilen sailing well in more sedate conditions. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

Published in Ilen
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The restored 56ft Limerick ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage is such an eye-catcher - when you can get a proper view of her - that she immediately arouses, in both young and old, the secretly cherished dream of running away to sea. So perhaps it’s as well that, in most secure harbours, pontoon berths, and marinas, the safest spot to locate her often means that it’s difficult to get the complete mind-blowing total view of this unique and characterful ship.

However, during her 2021 programme of voyaging anti-clockwise round Ireland on a project associated with our historic walled ports, this past weekend found her in Greystones, and for once she had a berth in which she could be seen in all her eccentric glory, yet at the same time her location was secure while permitting access by those with a genuine interest. Inevitably, the crew found themselves inviting folk aboard who revealed that they dreamt of running away to sea. And they weren’t all young people by any means. Not surprisingly, after 17 months of lockdown, there are many adults who dream of simply running away to sea, and letting the challenges of voyaging in a vessel like Ilen blow away the cobwebs of covid concern.

The Ilen will be in the Dublin area for the next couple of weeks, based mainly in Howth, but taking in visits to the Port of Dublin and Dun Laoghaire Harbour as well. The contact is Ilen Marine School, and maybe you should get your old sailor’s kitbag suitably packed, ready to fulfil the dream if you can manage to find your way aboard.

Ship of Dreams…..the ketch Ilen at Ilfracombe in the Bristol Channel in 1926 shortly before departing on her voyage to the Falklands under Conor O’Brien’s command, while on the quay young boys dream of running away to sea.Ship of Dreams…..the ketch Ilen at Ilfracombe in the Bristol Channel in 1926 shortly before departing on her voyage to the Falklands under Conor O’Brien’s command, while on the quay young boys dream of running away to sea.

Published in Ilen
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In the recent spell of northerly winds, the 56ft restored Limerick trading ketch Ilen had some superb sailing from a successful civic visit to Galway (where she was much admired) back to her alternative summer base of Kinsale, with two smooth daylight hops and a short overnight pause at Dingle.

The Ilen Marine School are working their way through their Kingship programme of visiting every historic port in Ireland where the harbours used to be an integral part of the original walled town. So after a spell in Kinsale with further work for organisations such as the Sailing Into Wellness programme, the 1926-built Conor O'Brien ketch will make her way eastward to Waterford and New Ross, and then on to Dublin.

But meanwhile, those who were aboard will cherish the memory of great sailing, particularly from Black Head in County Clare offshore of the Cliffs of Moher past Loop Head and then Mount Brandon and on to Blasket Sound and Dingle, Ilen revelling on the good going with all sail set.

Evening arrival. Still carrying the soldier's breeze which has favoured her all the way from Galway, Ilen comes in round the Old Head of Kinsale. Photo: Ilen Marine SchoolEvening arrival. Still carrying the soldier's breeze which has favoured her all the way from Galway, Ilen comes in round the Old Head of Kinsale. Photo: Ilen Marine School

Published in Ilen
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It has emerged there was much more to the diplomatic voyage of Limerick’s 56ft trading ketch Ilen to Galway at the weekend with the Mayor of Limerick. Councillor Michael Collins, on board.

Officially, it was to launch the Ilen Marine School’s project of providing a tangible first link at Galway between Ireland’s many historic walled ports.

But as the initial stage of the passage was down the long estuary of the River Shannon, the Mayor had the opportunity to reassert his ancient rights as Admiral of the Estuary by the traditional method of ceremonially throwing a silver dart into the mighty waterway’s darkening depths. However, If that dart really was silver, on behalf of Limerick’s rate-payers we presume and hope it came with strings attached……

Published in Ilen

The Limerick Trading ketch Ilen has reached Galway in the first stage of a programme which will eventually see her call at all the Irish ports which, in Mediaeval times, were a remarkable mixture of defensive walled towns and actively-functioning seaports. The Irish Walled Towns Network, a grouping operated through the Heritage Council, seeks to emphasise the aspects are shared by those historical port, and the voyage of the Ilen round Ireland, coupled with a wide variety of events at the ports visited, will be tangible evidence of this ancient reality, with the mayor of Limerick, Councillor Michael Collins, aboard Ilen to be greeted on arrive by Galway’s Deputy Mayor, Councillor Colette Connolly.

The Mayor of Limerick, Councillor Michael Collins, links up with Galway’s Deputy Mayor Colette Connolly at the Ilen in the Port of Galway with Ilen Marine School Director Gary Mac Mahon.   The Mayor of Limerick, Councillor Michael Collins, links up with Galway’s Deputy Mayor Colette Connolly at the Ilen in the Port of Galway with Ilen Marine School Director Gary Mac Mahon.

Ilen is a fine sight on Galway Bay. Photo: Deirdre PowerIlen is a fine sight on Galway Bay. Photo: Deirdre Power

Published in Ilen
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