Displaying items by tag: Howth
Our header photo this week may not be the greatest in terms of clarity and technical brilliance, let alone jaw-dropping drama writes W M Nixon. But it tells us much about our peculiar sport of racing under sail, that two genuine and experienced sailing enthusiasts could examine this photo in detail and argue for hours about whether it is a Good Thing, or a Travesty of Sporting Justice.
It shows the Dublin Bay 25 class making a start through the mouth of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, which would have been Kingstown when the image was taken, as it’s probably pre-1914. But even were it in the 1920s or ’30s, many of the locals – including, one would think, practically everyone on these yachts - continued to call it Kingstown even though it had officially reverted to Dun Laoghaire in 1920, meaning that it had been Kingstown for just 99 years.
Be that as it may, it shows a classic summer’s day - probably a Saturday afternoon, though they had racing on some weekday afternoons too in the GODs (the Good Old Days) – and an easterly sea breeze is making as the 25ft LWL class, the aristocrats of the Dublin Bay One Design scene and the J/109s of their time, get their race under way.
It may well be that their actual start was made in-harbour from a mark boat off the waterfront for the convenient viewing of the many members and their guests in the distinguished clubhouses (who would have observed proceedings for about four minutes as it was otherwise interrupting their lunch, but never mind). Thus it might be said that in accessing Dublin Bay through the harbour mouth, they were getting two starting lines for the price of one.
But either way, the last thing on anyone’s mind was the thought that people should go to much trouble – or indeed any trouble whatever – to provide a starting line which was at exactly 90 degrees to the basic wind direction. On the contrary, the thinking at virtually all sailing centres was that you should get the boats away as quickly and conveniently as possible from a start line near their moorings, and finish them in similar style. For in those pre-auxiliary-engine days, finishing at some distance from home with the wind failing was a big turn-off in every sense of the term, and it was certainly bad for club racing’s popularity.
Anyway, that header photo, which is such a long up the page by now that we’ll show it again, would seem to suggest that the boat on the left – no 2, Punctilio which was the last DB25 to leave Dun Laoghaire, she was here until the 1970s – is well set up, as they’re probably racing towards a first mark in mid-bay. She’s nicely on a closer-than-close reach but not actually hard on the wind, she’s just hitting the edge of the seaward-going ebb which will sharpen the breeze and enable her to sail at the optimum angle, and she looks to have freed herself from getting any dirt from the group close under the east pier.
But don’t dismiss them entirely. The boat right under the lighthouse may be carrying her way with limp sails through a small calm spot. But within seconds she will be getting a benefit from the mini tide rip which swirls round the pier end, and suddenly her overall position could be transformed.
For in the GODs, the boat which has had the best start was the boat which was best placed after about a mile of racing. And who knows, but it might even be the boat in the foreground, No 1 which could either be Whisper built in 1898 by local shipwright J E Doyle, or it could be Fodhla built in 1903 also by J E Doyle.
For Fodhla was built for the Viceroy, the Earl of Dudley and the nascent 25ft class were so chuffed that Himself up in The Park was getting one of the boats (it was a surprise present from his wife) that they decided Fodhla should also be No 1. Only in Dublin Bay would they have two No 1s, while they never ever had a No 13.
Anyway, Fodhla or Whisper or whatever is going like a train as she carries a private puff of breeze from within the harbour, but you’ll notice that her racing flag atop the jackyard tops’l suggests she is reaching, yet they already have her trimmed for the wind being well ahead of the beam, in anticipation of the significantly different direction outside.
Or it could be we’re flattering No 1’s crew? Maybe they’ve been surprised by this sudden puff from abeam or even slightly aft of it. But as it’s only going to last for a few seconds until they get into the basic breeze in the bay, it’s hardly worth their while adjusting the four different sheets which the complex rig of the DB25 requires, and it’s only going to cause confusion with the sister’s son, young Willie, who is trying to make himself comfortable in the sunshine on the lee deck, and fell overboard last time out, costing them a couple of places……
Be that as it may, we’re assuming one of our experienced observers is a sailor who enjoys racing which is as much an interaction with coastal features and local quirks of sea and weather as it is with the straightforward achieving of boat speed in clear relatively tide-free water, and he or she sees this start as a delightful challenge.
But equally we assume the other is a purist whose highest ideal is Olympic sailing in waters as interference-free as possible, with courses of a very set type with a starting line virtually at 90 degrees to the wind, which must be of minimal strength and steady direction, racing round marks well clear of any land influence with minimal and preferably no tide, and putting the emphasis on windward-leeward courses in which the crews are always busy busy busy. He or she, therefore, sees this start as a lazy luck-reliant shambles.
Inevitably, in an era when public awareness of sailing just about extends to Olympic medals and no further, the Olympic disease is spreading down to every level of our sport. Characterful starting huts on the end of piers or on picturesque shoreside seapoints, both with eminently sensible transit markers setting the line, are discarded in favour of Committee Boats, mark-laying RIBs, and a general support cast of dozens of pious folk including, God help us, umpires…...
"the Olympic disease is spreading down to every level of our sport"
Even back in the 1990s, it was sometimes at the stage where there seemed to be more people on the management side than were actually racing the boats. But the 1990s being the final years of that prelapsarian era before 24/7 electronic communication meant that you now never knew when you actually have time off, even though I was churning out verbiage at a ridiculous rate for many printed publications with the odd book to make things truly manic, deadlines meant that was it - job done and goodbye, you were all clear, and some civilised diversion could be planned without a thought for what should be going onto some ever-active communication screen.
So anyway, after one particularly exasperating Race Week when the Organising Committee had insisted the Race Officer set the start line well away from harbour or any land, meaning we spent half the day getting there and back, I used the grapevine of the club bars to air an idea about a race among like-minded souls which would involve no Race Officer, and for its marks would rely only on islands (of which we have more than most folk realize in the Greater Dublin area), and on the navigation buoys of Irish Lights and Dublin Port.
Admittedly its successful functioning was reliant on inter-boat VHF, but for some years on the second Saturday of May, a handy flotilla of proper cruiser-racers in the 35-40ft range would get together for what we called The Islands Race in the morning sunshine (of course the sun always shone), and we’d talk ourselves into a sort of line and race round an island or two and a hefty steel buoy or three and end up somewhere agreeable like Skerries if the tide was right, or Poolbeg (when we ran up the Liffey under spinnaker right under the Hailing House to avoid the tide - you definitely couldn’t do that nowadays) or into Dun Laoghaire and an entertaining call to one of the clubs, or the Howth section might make the effort and get across to Dun Laoghaire and we’d all talk ourselves into a race back to Howth, maybe going round Dalkey Island and perhaps Ireland’s Eye on the way.
It was perfect. But it was too good to last. Crews were returning home much too clearly demonstrating that they’d been having a lovely time. And the main official programme was expanding to spread into the shoulders of the season, taking up those early-May Saturdays, with Tim Goodbody in the Royal Alfred YC developing the season-long Superleague for cruiser-racers, which inevitably became a must-do series.
Our little idea lasted maybe half a dozen years. But with some people trying to make it more structured, while others who didn’t really fit the mould wanting to join, it was gently let go as we observed much-loved straightforward events such as the traditional Lambay Race degenerating into a cat’s cradle of windward starts and additional marks which confused simple mariners who knew very well indeed how to race round islands, but couldn’t get too excited about VMG towards some distant artificially-planted buoy.
For inevitably, the business of starting and running yacht races was becoming a mini-industry within itself, a mini-industry whose functioning adds to the time spent in actually getting in a decent little race which should be over and done with from about a quarter of an hour after leaving port, to within minutes of finishing.
It is something which is causing concern throughout sailing, but before we attempt a truly disruptive revolution and try to Make Sailing Simple Again, may I take another slight diversion?
For I have long wished to declare that the greatest benefactor of the human race is the inventor of golf. The thinking behind such a notion is this: What on earth would all those people be doing if they didn’t have golf to play? It helps to keep them moderately fit, and though it may result in artificially green spaces, from seaward or up in the hills an artificially green space in pleasant countryside is infinitely preferable to industrial or urban sprawl.
As for the people for whom golf is pleasantly sedating, they cause trouble to no-one. An experienced hotelier in the west of Ireland once told me that the golfer is the perfect guest, easily pleased if you’ve the proper hospitality skills, and no trouble to anyone. He or she will return to the inn in a relaxed frame of mind after one or two rounds of their beloved game, and for dinner they’ll invariably have a steak with a bottle of red wine. Then they’ll retire peacefully to their rooms maybe with another bottle or a pint of Guinness, and there they’ll settle down in bed and watch a golf video before sleeping serenely.
It’s an entire segment of society kept content with a sense of purpose. So when the disruptors talk of doing away with distantly-located “perfect” start lines and Race Officers who will not let the fleets away until a dozen wind requirements are fully met, do they (the disruptors) not have enough humanity in them to think about what might become of the not-inconsiderable corps of volunteers who currently man committee boats and back-up RIBs and mark boats and heaven only knows what else that floats and can usefully be deployed to ensure that a smaller number of people actually get in some sort of race?
For the fact of the matter is, a fully-crewed and effectively-equipped and properly-organised Committee Boat with its various support boats is arguably a floating Men’s Shed (and yes, I know there are many splendid women involved too, God bless them).
So if we go back to simple shore-based starts using transits as Nature intended rather than having fully-manned boats bobbing about at sea, what on earth is going to become of those who have been called to Committee Boat service? For it’s not for everyone – it’s a sort of secret society, and there’s an invisible vetting process.
Either way, if we just pack a race officer into a little pier-end hut with a time-keeper and a records secretary and set up the transits for a reasonable start and then let the sailors at it within a few yards of the harbour mouth, we’re inevitably going to cast all those Committee Boat folk, mark buoy boys, and umpires into a sort of purposeless outer darkness.
Perhaps they can take up golf…..Meanwhile, before this column is swamped into obliteration under an onslaught of Olympic Sailing Purity of Opinion, let it be pointed out that the Round Ireland Race starts from a shoreline, though admittedly with the race officer at the outer end in a Naval Service vessel if there’s one available. Elsewhere, much of Cowes Week and all of the Fastnet Race starts from a fixed shoreline. And as for the course, that’s then sailed, very little of it is round artificial marks other than established navigation buoys.
And for those who object to racing where the effect of land regularly intrudes, just remember that the most popular participant sailing events in the world are the Round the Island Race around the Isle of Wight in the south of England, and the Round Gotland Race and other huge events involving close inshore stuff on islands in the Baltic.
Clearly, it’s what people want. And as for fancy Olympic courses in slightly remote area (ie more than two miles away from the harbour), they’re now soooo yesterday……Club sailors want convenience. If they want to go for a sail, they’ll simply go for a sail. But if they want a race, they don’t want to have to go for a sail before it. They want racing, and they want it now.
For a while, the ancient Howth 17s were told that the only racing that could be provided for them on a Saturday afternoon would be with the Puppeteer 22s (which carry an outboard auxiliary engine) at a Committee Boat start north of Ireland’s Eye in a supposedly clear area.
Yet if a calm fell, the Seventeens had to resort to a long oar, which was and is brutal to row with, and that’s it. So they rebelled, organized their own Race Officer rota for starts at the old pierhead line which they could reach within minutes from their moorings, and they’ve never looked back since. Saturday afternoon racing is the highlight of the week. So maybe if sailing organisers went by the old dictum of the customer being king, we might see club sailing becoming more healthy.
Here’s a vid of the Round the Island Race which usually starts at an ungodly hour of the morning, yet if you have a handy berth in the outer reaches of Cowes Harbour, you can leave it with just a quarter of an hour to go to your start. We’re not recommending that, but it can be done……
And as for those who like to claim that their nearest “clear area” really does minimize the need for local knowledge almost completely, let us remember the time when John Bertrand, America’s Cup-winning helm for Australia in 1983, finally achieved his true goal in life – becoming Etchells 22 World Champion in 2010, when it was staged in Howth.
For sure, the race area was set in the “clean zone” well clear of Howth, northwards between Ireland’s Eye and Lambay. But despite that, John Bertrand – whose crew for the big event was to include Tom Slingsby – spent six weeks (repeat: 6 weeks) in Howth beforehand, sailing his Etchells 22 morning, noon and night in the race area in order to get a complete feel for it and its many moods. He certainly deserved to win. But a bit of old-fashioned racing using a clear transit-marked shore-based starting line might have been more fun.
The island — which is an important breeding spot for many seabirds — was included in the recent sale of Howth Castle and demesne by the Gaisford-St Lawrence family, whose ancestors held the lands since the 12th century Norman invasion.
The new owners say visitors are still “very welcome to the island” and boat trips will continue to be offered by local operators.
“It is our intention to work closely with key stakeholders to preserve the beauty, amenity and accessibility of Ireland’s Eye,” a spokesperson for Tetrarch Capital said.
Tetrarch Capital’s portfolio includes Kilkenny’s Mount Juliet Estate, hotels at Citywest and Powerscourt, and a number of development sites in Dublin city centre.
Earlier this year, local man Rowan Byrne launched a crowdfunding drive to pay for the installation of the surface water cleaning device that has already made a big difference in Dun Laoghaire thanks to the sterling efforts of young marine litter campaigner Flossie Donnelly.
Byrne has also been backed by his employer Mott MacDonald and Howth’s Harbour Master in his own efforts, and harbour authorities will maintain the Seabin that will be installed at the passenger vessel ferry pontoon opposite Aqua restaurant.
The Seabin is essentially a floating bucket with a pump that sucks in debris from the surface and traps it for later collection.
But the device’s simplicity belies its effectiveness, as a single Seabin as the potential to collect as many as 20,000 plastic bottles or more than 80,000 plastic bags from the water each year.
“Everyone knows just how important the sea and the marine life in there is to us,” said Harbour Master Harold McLoughlin. “We hope this Seabin will have a big impact on the amount of rubbish floating around in the local area.”
The crew immediately responded and began a search for the casualties who were were quickly located, taken aboard the boat and returned to a safe location ashore.
“The callers did the right thing when they realised they were in trouble: they called 112 and asked for the coastguard,” said Howth Coast Guard in a statement.
The Irish Coast Guard issued a reminder for people to be careful walking on shorelines in fine weather, as tides can rise quickly and cut one off from the shore faster than expected.
If you find yourself in this situation, immediately call 112 or 999 and ask for the coastguard.
Last weekend saw the running of the increasingly popular Investwise and CH Marine sponsored Irish Laser Masters National Championships, which took place at Howth Yacht Club, a stunning setting for the event. The event has been running since 1982, where the first Nationals was held in Dunmore East. Most notable this year was the significant increase in the Radial Fleet. A fleet of 40 boats split between Radial and Standard Rigs competed. All sailors in the Masters Fleet are 35 years of age or older. The Radials consisted of all visitors bar one as the host club has no real Master Radial fleet yet. However, with local adult Radial fleets on the increase up and down the country, next year should see in excess of twenty Radials at this event.
The fleet was greeted by superb Howth weather; sunshine, blue skies, breeze and even some white horses. The race course was set up promptly and racing was underway as scheduled- the radials being particularly well behaved on each start line! There was great racing throughout the fleet on both days in the varying conditions.
Remember the fable about the Hare and the Tortoise…. Well, that was the story of first race in the Standard Fleet! The Hare was the whole fleet of Laser Sheep who missed the last mark and the Tortoise was one experienced Joe Cull – Laser Grandmaster – who probably recorded one of the biggest winning margins, before the rest of the Laser sheep realised their mistake! Grandmaster trophy sealed by 70-year-old Joe Cull in one move!
Racing was extremely tight in the Standard Rig fleet with up to 8 boats overlapped at leeward marks vying for the lead. After 3 races in mixed and testing conditions on the first day, Nick Walsh [Cork] lead the fleet. The very competitive on the water racing had 3 different race winners and 6 Laser masters still within reach of the title, at the end of day one.
"In the Radial fleet, three different race winners on Saturday set the scene for competitive racing"
In the Radial Fleet, three different race winners on Saturday set the scene for competitive racing with Darrell Reamsbottom and Conor Clancy taking race wins after Sean Craig took the opener. Difficult conditions ensued as the breeze eased throughout the day leaving an unpleasant chop. Judy O’Beirne laid down a marker for the keenly contested Ladies award with a good 5th in race 3. Peter Hassett performed well this weekend with all top 4 results and might have been second except for some pilot error in race 2!
Back on shore the social side kicked off in good spirits. After all, the Masters is much more than just sailing! Some thirsty sailors gathered for an Investwise sponsored Hope beer drinks reception and racing debrief given by Ronan Wallace. Onboard trackers were used, showcasing our gains and losses (even one capsize!) with much slagging between the Standard rigs and Radials, but especially highlighting Standard Rigs missing the black mark in race 1! This was followed by a delicious meal in the magnificent setting of HYC dining room with the rugby on a large screen.
Sunday provided more wind than expected, with 15-20kts on the race course, enough to cause a few aches and pains by the evening! Here the Radial rig really came into its own! Two good hard races and Sean Craig and Marco Sorgassi had a ding-dong up-front before Craig pulled away in each. Craig only had a two point margin from Reamsbottom on three best results going into the final race and was keeping a very close eye on him, especially with that local knowledge. Sean Flanagan had a better second day showing the Grand Masters (Over 55s) can still do it! Philip Doherty from Cork came through well in the stronger conditions also.
Craig retained his title from 2018 showing his superior speed in true style with a very tight finish for 2nd, 3rd and 4th with Reamsbottom next, then Sorgassi, just edging out the unlucky Clancy. In the Ladies, Judy O’Beirne took the laurels showing her Frostbiting and recent training have paid off. Flanagan took first Grand Master.
In the Standard Rig, great consistency paid for David Quinn [Howth] as he sealed the title, counting 3 2nds and a 3rd, in some very close racing. With positions changing nearly every leg in the final two races he used his local knowledge and showed great ability along with experience to come out on top. Nick Walsh settled for 2nd and Dan O’Connell [Dun Laoghaire] hiked his way into 3rd overall.
Let’s just say the unnamed ‘Lead Hare’ continued his form [he got the 2 bullets in the last 2 races!] and used his local knowledge to sail onto the sandbank on the way back home…. At least most of the sheep learned and didn’t follow this time…!!!
Thanks to the excellent Race Officer, Harry Gallagher and his team of mark layers, Jim McMahon who ran launching and recovery on the slipway, the sponsors, Investwise and CH Marine, and finally to Dave Quinn for organising a superb event with great attention to detail.
Report by Shirley Gilmore and Ross O'Leary
Irish Laser Masters is probably one of the fastest growing fleets that provide a great standard of racing for all levels and abilities from 35 years +. Family friendly it is a great way to get on the water, try to stay fit and enjoy your sailing with this very sociable bunch… most sailing clubs have a local fleet and the ILA are providing training support if you want to grow the fleet in your area for all ages and abilities…more information contact [email protected]
Gary Sargent and Elaine Ball will host the auction from 9.30pm with many items up for bidding, including vouchers for Irish Ferries and Stena Line.
The CY&BC also invites attendees to bring along their own items for auction to raise finds for the lifesaving charity.
Complimentary wine and cheese will be served for those who come early from 8.30pm.
Planners are from today set to review proposals for a controversial €500 million wastewater treatment scheme in North Dublin, as The Irish Times reports.
Clonshaugh near Dublin Airport was chosen in June 2013 as the site for the sewage ‘super plant’ before Irish Water took over the Greater Dublin Drainage project from Fingal County Council last year.
The new plant — second only to the Ringsend wastewater facility in scope — would be connected to a new orbital sewer to Blanchardstown, and an outfall pipe to eject treated wastewater in the sea north of Ireland’s Eye.
Plans for the new sewage processing plant have faced strong local opposition, both from residents adjacent to the Clonshaugh site and connected works and marine professionals concerned about potential environmental risks.
Last October, Howth-based ferryman Ken Doyle expressed his fears of the knock-on effect on fish stocks from any accidental contamination of the local waters from the outfall pipe.
The planning hearing began at The Gresham hotel in Dublin this morning, and The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.
Independent.ie reports that local man Rowan Byrne has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the installation of two Seabins in the north Co Dublin harbour.
Byrne notes how more and more people at home and beyond are discovering Howth’s natural beauty, but that this also means “more and more plastics, nano, micro and macro plastics are seen floating on the waters surface in the harbour”.
One solution to this problem is the Seabin — a floating bucket with a pump that sucks in surface debris and traps it for collection.
A single device has the potential to collect as many as 20,000 plastic bottles or more than 80,000 plastic bags each year.
Byrne’s efforts follow those of young marine litter campaigner Flossie Donnelly, who recently presented the National Yacht Club with its own Seabin — the second such device in Dun Laoghaire Harbour after her own crowdfunded bin was installed last summer.
Ards and North Down Borough Council is also seeking to procure a number of Seabins to help clean up the coastline of the Ards Peninsula around Strangford Lough.
Maybe it’s the fact that the days start to get longer again in only a fortnight, but there’s mood of rising optimism in Irish sailing these days writes W M Nixon. There’s an almost measurable buzz in the air which is spearheaded by the pace-setting Fintan Cairns-inspired DBSC Turkey Shoot Series in Dublin Bay, and given substantial extra boosts by long-established Autumn and Winter series going full blast at other centres.
This fresh zest for our sport is supported by more traditionally-minded sailors. They may have preferred to bring their season to a close in October or November with their boats properly laid up for the winter, but the amount of work they have going on behind the scenes to get new initiatives up and running, while keeping existing programmes in good and growing health, is a remarkable reflection on the value of the voluntary effort and input which sailing inspires.
As one leading big-boat contender in the Turkey Shoot has put it: “If it wasn’t for the continuing enthusiasm of Fintan and his team chivvying us out there every Sunday morning, and then being on station with the Committee Boat to set another excellent course, then I don’t think half of us would think of taking part in a series which takes us right up to the very threshold of Christmas. Yet here it is, week after week for seven Sundays with a splendidly varied fleet of 75 boats, and the mood is euphoric – it feels like the best racing we’ve had all year, and it probably is”.
The regular reports in Afloat.ie give some idea of the pace of the sport and the calibre of the racing, yet although there are so many relatively new contenders involved that it has been commented that the Turkey Shoot 2018 is for all the world like a live Boat Show afloat and racing, it’s somehow reassuring to note that going into this weekend’s race, the overall leader is Sean O’Regan’s vintage Dehler 31 Vespucci.
That said, if we were to choose a “Marque of the Year” in Irish sailing, the Grand Soleil brand from Italy would definitely be on the shortlist, with John Treanor’s new Grand Soleil 34 Justtina turning many heads in the Turkey Shoot as she makes mince of the Dublin Bay chop.
Through the season, Frank Whelan’s Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera from Greystones set the pace on both the east and south coasts, while on the south coast the Murphy family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo rounded out a great season by being made the Royal Cork YC’s “Keelboat of the Year”.
Still on the south coast, as our colleague Tom MacSweeney was reporting, the recent AGM of the South Coast Offshore Racing Association brought a breath of fresh air with the much-approved election of Johanna Murphy of Great Island SC as the first woman sailor to be Commodore. She takes up the role with a clear vision of encouraging coastal passage races, but as such races have to be fitted in with the increasing number of club At Homes, the demand on premium dates is high.
A further challenge was added to the brew at the AGM with a significant presence from Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East, seeking to have their historic yet expanding club included in the SCORA programme. This is quite a challenge, as it’s all of 50 nautical miles and more from Cork Harbour to Dunmore East. That’s fine and dandy if the SCORA main fleet race there from Cork Harbour with a grand following breeze, but problems of logistics arise when they face the uphill slog home.
Nevertheless in due course there’s no doubt Dunmore East will be back in the offshore racing picture, just as in due course a fleet of J/109s has developed in Dublin Bay as everyone hoped for years would eventually happen. And not only is God in his heaven with ace MOB rescuer Tim Goodbody in the lead in White Mischief in the J/109s racing in the Turkey Shoot, but this week it has been revealed that the latest addition to the class is newly-elected ICRA Commodore Richard Colwell, back in harness with his former longtime campaigning partner Johnny Murphy with their recently-acquired J/109 Outrajeous. They’ll be keeping her at their home port of Howth, increasing the likelihood of further sister-ships there, as they’ll be joining Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles with Indian, and the daddy of them all, Pat Kelly with the all-conquering Storm.
Howth, with its winter Laser Frostbites dating from 1974 and its keelboats Brass Monkey series now in its 32nd year, continues to be a hive of activity. In fact if anything the colourful sailing/fishing harbour as a whole had a problem of success, as it has become such a visitor magnet that, on a good weekend, the quaysides and waterfront roads can get distinctly crowded.
A series of fortuitous circumstances have brought about the situation whereby the place can offer such an attractive visitor experience. When the harbour was undergoing its massive re-development in the 1980s, the original plan was that all the ancient and often quaint buildings of the West Pier should be swept away to provide the maximum of space for fishing-related work and vehicle movements. But by some miracle they all were saved, and today the colourful line of buildings down the West Pier is home to more popular and varied seafood restaurants than you could count, cheek-by-jowl with marine industry workshops. And the old Mariner’s Hall, originally built as “The Prayer House” for visiting Scottish fishermen, has been saved from demolition and is currently having its roof replaced with such attention to detail that its woodwork will become a special architectural feature.
But while everything above the water around Howth’s increasingly tidy yet ever busier harbour seems to be going fine, under the sea’s surface things aren’t so good, as bits of the harbour badly need dredging. In the Netherlands where they’re the world leaders in building and maintaining maritime structure, all harbours are automatically dredged every five years at least. But in Howth although the harbour as we know it now dates back to 1982, there has been only piecemeal dredging and channel clearance, and a major infrastructural project is on the cards.
With this in mind, leading Howth fisherman Sean Doran and local Senator Catherine Noone and others set about arranging a top level visit which would bring Howth’s problems home to Government at the highest level. They reckoned that the case would be best put if the Government could meet representatives of all the harbour stakeholders in an effort to gauge how much could be maintained and added to local economic activity by bringing the harbour depths up to the required standards.
It’s only when you set out to arrange such a gathering that you become fully aware of how many revenue-generating and employment activities a harbour as diverse as Howth can encompass. When local TD and Government Minister Richard Bruton and Senator Noone set out last Saturday afternoon with Fingal Mayor Councillor Anthony Lavin to show Taoiseach Leo Varadkar round Howth Harbour and meet the people who make it work, it was one busy day, with harbourmaster Captain Harry McLoughlin and others taking the fact-finding group on a mission which started with the many fishing enterprises and the shore facilities for the regular summer ferry route to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, went on with a wide variety of retail and workshop outfits, seemed to take in everything possible to improve the harbour, and then concluded with a much-needed cup of tea in Howth Yacht Club where Commodore Joe McPeake and his team were able to introduce the Taoiseach to sailors at every level from absolute beginners to Olympic 49er Under 23 Gold Medallists Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, while at the same time providing information about how Howth YC’s Quest Sailing School is reaching out to people from every background.
It was a mutually informative yet pleasantly informal gathering, sweetened by the news that the dredging of Howth Harbour is now agreed as a Major Infrastructural Project. And for any busy yacht or sailing club to be given this opportunity to see itself as others see it, and to see particularly how well - with mutual goodwill - it fits in and interacts with the community around it, well, that was a real tonic for the membership.
But then, having been at the annual dinner of the historic Howth Seventeen Foot Class in the clubhouse the night before, your correspondent was already reassured about the basic good health of HYC. For this might well have been the 120th Annual Dinner of the Howth Seventeens, as they were founded in 1898. But with a convivially packed house with 128 present, the mood was so youthful it could have been the first Annual Dinner of all, for age shall not weary them.
And even when it does, the Seventeens have a remarkable capacity for renewal, headed in the 1970s by Nick Massey, and more recently kept simmering by Ian Malcolm. Their capacity for re-birth is extraordinary, and thus the Howth Seventeen people are among the most appreciative of a small beautifully-restored yacht which quietly appeared in their marina back in September.
This is the 23ft Laurent Giles-designed L Class Iduna, originally built in 1938 and bought in 1948 by the late Roger Bourke of Limerick and Foynes. Iduna is now owned by his son Robert for whom she has been restored by Howth master-shipwright Johnny Leonard, who is indeed connected to the great County Cork boat-building clan.
Iduna, as restored by those Leonard skills, simply glows – there’s no other word for it. And in time when finishing jobs have been completed, she’ll be based in Dun Laoghaire though her home port will always be Foynes, as her owner moves between bases in Limerick and Dublin. But for now, she’s an adornment in Howth marina, and anyone feeling the winter glooms only has to go and look at her to feel better.
In fact, the health benefits of seeing a good boat restoration cannot be underestimated, and down West Cork way they almost have a regional service in this feel-good factor, what with Ilen being restored at Oldcourt where Saoirse is now being re-built, while across at Ballydehob, Tiernan Roe has the fine job of restoring The Lady Min underway for the O’Keeffe family of Schull, and nearby Rui Ferreira – already well proven in classic boat restoration and new-build - has Dublin Bay Water Wag No 49 under new construction for Martin Byrne.
This is being done to such an exquisite standard that you’d think she should be put straight into a glass case for permanent display purposes. Between all these restorations and new-build projects, together with the good news about re-vitalised sailing enthusiasm and increased government awareness of harbour needs, there’s a fresh zing to the sea air which launches Irish sailing towards 2019 with vigorous optimism.
Ken Doyle of Ireland’s Eye Ferries tells Dublin Live that any accidental contamination of the waters from the pipeline, from Clonshaugh to a mile off the small island immediately north of Howth, could have a disastrous knock-on effect on fish stocks — an issue both for sea anglers and local bird and seal colonies.
Five years ago, Clonshaugh in North Co Dublin was chosen as the location for the capital’s wastewater treatment ‘super plant’.
The scheme will connect a 26km orbital sewer through counties Dublin, Kildare and Meath with an outfall pipeline ejecting waste off Ireland’s Eye.
Doyle noted that when the outflow of raw sewage at Howth Head was ended with the opening of the Ringsend treatment plant, improvements in water quality meant “the bird population increased hugely and it’s all positive but I wouldn’t like it to go back to like it was.”
He adds that he is not opposed to the wastewater scheme in principle — only that he and other local residents and businesses want assurances that the plant will not have any negative impact on the environment.