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Fastnet Yacht Race. News from the RORC Offshore Race Event

#rnli – Lifeboat crew at Howth RNLI launched their inshore lifeboat yesterday afternoon (Thursday 24 July) at 12.17pm following a call to the Coast Guard from a member of the public reporting that a boat with four people onboard was in trouble on the east side off Ireland's Eye, Howth. The 18ft vessel was taking on water.

Conditions were described as excellent and the lifeboat was on scene in minutes. The casualties had managed to leave their boat, which was beginning to become submerged and climb onto nearby rocks. The volunteer lifeboat crew immediately transferred the four people off the rocks and onto the lifeboat and put two of their own crew onto the stricken vessel to see if they could prevent it sinking. The inshore lifeboat returned to Howth harbour with the four people safely onboard and returned to the two lifeboat crew on the sinking vessel minutes later.

However the condition of the vessel had worsened and the two lifeboat crew onboard were unable to bail the water out. They had to quickly abandon the boat and swim the short distance back to shore as it had started to sink beneath them. The vessel was then quickly towed back to land due to a concern that it would cause a hazard if left abandoned in the area.

Commenting on the callout Howth RNLI lifeboat crewmember Ian Sheridan said; 'The good weather has brought an increase in the amount of people taking to the water. Thankfully conditions were calm and the four people involved in today's callout were all wearing personal floatation devices.

Before taking to the water there are things that people can do to ensure they stay safe or that can give them time if something goes wrong. They should always wear a lifejacket, carry a means of calling for assistance and check the engine and fuel before setting off. They should also tell others where they are going and what time they expect to return. In the event of an emergency on the water we would advise that people always dial 999 or 112 and ask for help.'

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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#Asgard - The official commemoration of the centenary of the landing of arms from the yacht Asgard at Howth and the subsequent loss of life at Bachelors Walk will take place on Sunday 27 July.

Descendants and relatives of the key participants will be guests of honour at these events, 100 years and a day after Erskine Childers' yacht delivered its cargo to the Irish Volunteers in their fight for home rule.

The programme begins with a wreath-laying ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery at 9am, led by new Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys, in memory of the four members of the public shot at Bachelors Walk on Dublin's North Quays.

At 10am the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin city centre will hold a Mass in memory of the Bachelors Walk shooting victims, which will be attended by President Michael D Higgins.

The President will then join Minister Humphreys to address and lead the official commemoration ceremony by the Defence Forces at Howth Harbour's East Pier from 11.30am.

Following that, from 1pm the Asgard 100 Community Group will stage a re-enactment of the landing of arms, featuring a replica of the yacht Asgard and a flotilla of boats observed by President Higgins.

Local volunteers from the Howth GAA Club and marching volunteers from Dublin will unload and leave the pier with the consignment. Historical context to the events of 26 July 1914 will be provided by members of the Asgard 100 group throughout the proceedings.

Then at 1.30pm President Higgins will view the Asgard replica dinghy constructed by the Asgard 100 group and presented to the National Museum of Ireland (NMI).

The community element of the commemoration will continue after 2pm with a cultural programme featuring Brian Begley, Ceoltóirí Chluain Tarbh and St Brigid’s Pipe Band from Howth, which is free and open to the public.

Indeed, visitors are encouraged to attend in period costume, and prizes will be presented to the best period dressed individual male or female, family and boat crew.

Speaking at the presentation of the replica dinghy to the NMI, Minister Humphreys said: “I am very grateful to the volunteers of Howth for their generosity in giving their time and expertise to assist us to commemorate this important event in our history.

"There is no doubt that the landing of arms in Howth was a significant milestone along the road to Easter 1916 and I am delighted to support arrangements to mark this centenary in an appropriate way.”

Published in Historic Boats
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#RNLI - Howth RNLI continued a busy week of callouts on Wednesday evening (16 July) when the volunteer crew launched to assist a 27ft motorboat with no power drifting in the vicinity of the Nose of Howth.

The crew was alerted at 6.43pm following a distress call that a motorboat with two crew members aboard was drifting with no engine power at the mercy of the strong tide.

Weather conditions at the time were very good, with a light westerly Force 2 to 3 breeze and good visibility.

The Howth lifeboat, under coxswain Fred Connolly and with five other crew members on board, quickly located the casualty vessel and established a tow line to return the vessel and its occupants to the safety of Howth Harbour exactly an hour after the initial alert.

"The crew of the motorboat did the correct thing to call for help as soon as their vessel experienced engine trouble," said Connolly. "We are pleased that we were able to locate and tow the vessel to safety before it drifted closer to the shore."

Later that evening, Wicklow RNLI launched its all-weather lifeboat Annie Blaker to go to the aid of a 24ft yacht with mechanical problems off the Wicklow Coast.

The alarm was raised after the boat on passage south developed engine problems, With light wind, the yacht was unable to make any headway under sail, so the crew dropped anchor and contacted the Irish Coast Guard for assistance.

Wicklow's lifeboat, under the command of coxswain Nick Keogh, located the yacht – with two adults and a dog on board – one mile east of the Six Mile Point at 11.54pm. Conditions in the area were calm sea and light wind.

Crew member Kevin Rahill was transferred onto the yacht to establish a towline and assist the two sailors. Once the towline was rigged, the yacht was towed back to Wicklow Harbour, where it was safely secured alongside the East Pier by 1am.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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#RNLI - Howth RNLI rescued a party of tourists yesterday afternoon (Monday 14 July) after the passenger boat they were on got into difficulty on the north side of Ireland’s Eye.

The volunteer lifeboat crew was alerted at 3.25pm following a Mayday call that a 30ft passenger boat had ran aground onto rocks and was taking on water.

Weather conditions at the time were described as good, with a westerly Force 2 to 3 wind blowing.

The lifeboat, under coxswain Fred Connolly and with four crew members on board, made its way to the scene a mile and a half away from Howth Harbour.

On arrival at the scene, Howth RNLI observed that another boat had come to the assistance of the casualty vessel and was holding it in position ready for the lifeboat to come alongside. It then emerged that the stricken vessel was not taking on water.

The lifeboat crew proceeded to transfer all of the tourists from the passenger boat safely onto the lifeboat, before establishing a tow line and returning the vessel and its occupants safely to Howth Harbour with no medical assistance required.

Further north in Co Dublin, Skerries RNLI were even busier in the weekend days before, responding to two separate callouts to vessels in difficulty.

Shortly before 5.30pm on Friday (11 July) the volunteer crew launched their Atlantic 85 lifeboat Louis Simson following reports of a small motor craft broken down off Donabate beach.

The lifeboat, with David Knight at the helm and crewed by Rob Morgan, Joe May and Eoin Grimes, proceeded directly to the area where they quickly located the motor craft with two people on board.

Conditions on scene were calm with a Force 2 southerly wind. A tow was established and the vessel was brought safely to Howth.

The second callout came shortly before 10.30am on Saturday (12 July) when Dublin Coast Guard requested Skerries RNLI launch to assist a yacht that had fouled its propeller North of St Patrick's Island off Skerries.

The lifeboat launched with David Knight on helm and Conor Walsh, Rob Morgan and Stephen Crowley also on board. There was a Force 1 northerly breeze at the time of launch and visibility was slightly reduced due to a misty rain.

The lifeboat quickly located the 13m yacht, which had fouled its propeller on a lobster pot. The volunteer crew managed to free the yacht and tow them safely to Skerries Harbour, where they then freed the remaining obstruction from the propeller.

Skerries RNLI's third launch of the weekend was less urgent but no less important, as the volunteer crew carried out their regular training exercises on Sunday morning (13 July).

Speaking of the callouts, Skerries RNLI volunteer lifeboat press officer Gerry Canning said: "It was a busy weekend but our volunteers are always ready and willing to drop whatever they are doing to help anyone that is in difficulty at sea."

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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#squib – The key to a successful cruise is good organisation. Plan ahead, select your destination, ensure that the tide is going in a favourable direction, ensure that the facilities at your place of arrival are adequate for your group of cruisers, and that the weather is fine writes Vincent Delany.

A Squib class event was conceived on 12th June after club racing, to cruise on the following Saturday to Howth, on the opposite side of Dublin Bay, on the expectation of a fish and chip lunch at Beshoff's famous fish shop, followed by a leisurely pint at Howth Yacht Club.
All did not go to plan.
There was a high pressure system sitting over the east coast of Ireland on Saturday morning with about 1 knot of wind from the north. It took the seven squibs, (Jill, Conor and Dermot in Perfection, Vincent and Joe in Femme Fatale, Gerry and Elena in Buzz Lite, Sheila and Gilly in Little Demon, Rupert and Emily in Sidewinder, Fergal and Wendy in Aija and Derek and Jean in Why Not) at least an hour to sail from the Royal St George Yacht Club to the Dun Laoghaire Harbour mouth. At that rate of progress they were guaranteed not to have a favourable tide all the way to Howth Harbour. What should they do? It was agreed to raft up and put the thinking hats on! Then a small breeze from the north east appeared. Somebody suggested "Let's go to Clontarf.", the Squibs were pointed in the direction of Poolbeg where two venerable lighthouses mark the entrance to Dublin Port. En route we sailed through hundreds of large racing yachts looking for wind, and when they found it, trying to get it to stay in a constant direction to allow a Bloomsday race to start.
When the first Squibs reached Poolbeg lighthouses, they waited for the others to catch up, before entering the Dublin Port area where Clontarf is on the north shore. The tide was almost full in so there was plenty of depth, except in a few areas which were inevitably unmarked. As the Clontarf fleet were our racing, some moorings were lifted and some anchors dropped in the shallow water. Yes we did know that the moorings dry out at low water. Next question was, how do we get ashore? A launch appeared from nowhere, welcomed us to Clontarf, an asked us where we had come from, and enquired if we wanted to go ashore. Some headed straight to Beshoffs (yes there are two branches of Beshoffs, on in Howth and one in Clontarf.) while others went straight to the Yacht club for refreshment. Peter Reilly asked us if we would like to see the O'Brien Kennedy designed IDRA 14 footer which is currently being built at the back of the clubhouse by the members. She was progressing well with at least half the planking complete. When we came back to the front of the clubhouse the 15 hungry Squibs we consuming huge platters of sandwiches which had been quickly made by Mrs. O'Rourke. It turned out that Clontarf is celebrating the 100 year centenary of another invasion, from the Vikings, so the Squibs were invited to don some Viking helmets.

 

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The Squibs make their way into Dublin Port

After about an hour of chat and gossip, it was time to check our boats in the falling tide. Yes they were all afloat with at least 300mm of water under the keels. An informal race was made out of the return trip, during which some Squibs were nearly run down by freighters entering Dublin Port. The light wind was from the south east, which meant that it was a beat all the way, but with a strong tide under us.
When only a few hundred yards from Dun Laoghaire harbour mouth, the wind disappeared entirely, so it was time to apply some paddle power.
In retrospect, spontaneity can be great fun. We should all spend more time cruising! .

 

 

 

Published in Squib

#Jailed - A Dublin man has been sentenced to three years in prison following his conviction for assault on a tourist during the Tall Ships Festival in August 2012.

As Newstalk reports, Thomas Reilly of Dublin's North Strand was convicted by a jury in January after the court heard he had lured British visitor Colin Ryder to the water's edge at Howth's West Pier before pushing him into the water.

Ryder sank under a boat moored at the pier-side but was rescued after nearby youths threw him a rope to drag him to safety.

The sentencing comes in what was a second trial over the incident for Reilly, who has 68 previous convictions, after a jury failed to agree a verdict in May last year.

Newstalk has much more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update

#Antisocial - The Garda riot squad was put on alert at popular coastal spots in Dublin yesterday to avoid a repeat of the mass brawl in Howth on Saturday 31 May.

As The Irish Times reports, the Public Order Unit was sent in to Howth Harbour to disperse the crowd, said to comprise several hundred teenagers - many of whom were described as drunk and disorderly.

The Sunday Independent says up to 100 youths were involved in a fight that broke out among the gathering between two separate groups, though no arrests were made.

The same newspaper also spoke to a teenage girl who was caught up in the fracas with her friends.

Eva Drum from Ballymun says she was "punched, kicked, bitten and scraped" in the melee after rowdy teens suddenly attacked her group - and turned on her when she shouted at them to stop.

Dart services were suspended at Sutton station for a time on Saturday afternoon to prevent the crowds increasing.

Published in News Update
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#rnli – A member of Howth RNLI was honoured at the RNLI Annual Presentation of Awards at the Barbican Centre in London last Thursday (22 May 2014).

Rupert Jeffares, the Lifeboat Operations Manager with Howth RNLI, was awarded a Bar to the Gold Badge. This is the second highest award that is made by the charity. Rupert has dedicated 50 years to serving the RNLI and saving lives at sea. He joined the lifeboat crew in Howth in the mid-sixties and later took on the role of Lifeboat Operations Manager. In this volunteer role Rupert is in charge of authorising the launch of the lifeboat and the day-to-day station management.

Owen Medland, RNLI Divisional Operations Manager paid tribute to him, "Rupert Jeffares demonstrates the selflessness of the RNLI's volunteers ashore in support of our crews. He has given many years of continuous service in his role as Lifeboat Operations Manager, often forsaking family and work in support of Howth Lifeboat. It is such individuals that make the service world class and it is fantastic to see him acknowledged for his dedicated service."

"On behalf of everyone at Howth RNLI, I want to congratulate Rupert on his outstanding achievement. His award is richly deserved after years of tireless dedication to the lifeboat in Howth. This accolade demonstrates the high esteem in which Howth Lifeboat Station is held by the hierarchy of the RNLI", commented Russell Rafter, Chairman of Howth RNLI.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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#youthsailing – Séafra Guilfoyle from Cork has beaten off stiff competition to win the Laser Radial division of the Irish Youth Sailing Championships at Howth Yacht Club today. A reported 250 sailors were competing across five classes since Thursday, with Saturday blown out and the regatta sailed in mainly in light to medium conditions.

Up for grabs at the annual youth event which was entirely single–hander based (except for a fleet of 13 double–handed 420s) were places on squads and teams for international events.

Overall results for each class (Laser radial, 4.7, Topper, 420 and Optimist) are downloadable below as jpeg files

Only one point separated Séafra Guilfoyle and fellow Royal Cork Yacht Club member Cian Byrne after the first race today. Both sailors were again neck and neck for the second race which left them tied on points and all to play for in the ninth and final race of the championship.

When it came down to the last race this afternoon Guilfoyle and Byrne were tied on points so the pressure was really on for both of them to perform. The final turned in to a match race between the pair who both finished mid-fleet. But discarding those points, it was Séafra who came out on top with 24 points. Cian finished on 25 points to take the silver while another Corkonian; Ross O'Sullivan from Kinsale scooped the bronze. Sarah Eames from Ballyholme Yacht Club finished seventh overall and takes the prize for first girl.

Guilfoyle, a past Irish Optimist champion, took to Twitter to pass on the news of his latest success:

In the 420 double-handed class local Howth sailors Robert Dickson & Sean Waddilove won the regatta with a race to spare. The 2013 champions are currently in transition year and have spent their academic year studying in France where they have also been able to put in a lot of training and competition time on the water. And their hard work certainly paid off. They put in a solid performance over the three days which shows in their results of 1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 2, 2, 2, 2. Finishing in second place overall were Peter McCann & Arran Walsh from Royal Cork and in third as well as first girls were the McDowell cousins Lizzie and Cara from Malahide.

In the Laser 4.7 class overnight leader Nicole Hemeryck took the first race win of the day to extend her lead by seven points. Johnny Durcan from Cork was 2nd which moved him up to 2nd overall. His win in race five, along with the discard coming in to play, then narrowed the gap to five points. But even a win in the final race for Johnny wasn't enough to catch Nicole who is the new 2014 ISA Laser 4.7 Champion. An impressive feat for the Dun Laoghaire girl who only recently graduated from the junior Topper class to the Laser. Settling for silver was Johnny Durcan followed by Conor Sherriff in third.

In the Topper class Hugh Perrette knocked Geoff Power off the top spot after the first race of the day and held on to that position for the rest of the championship. Of the six races, the National Yacht Club sailor won four which along with a 3rd and discarded 8th was enough for him to claim the gold. Geoff Power from Waterford was 2nd overall while Heather Spain from the National Yacht Club earned both third place overall and first girl.

 

Published in Youth Sailing

#fingal – The Government's recent move to create a framework for the direct election of a new all-powerful Mayor for Dublin was expected to be a shoo-in. The new Super-Mayor's authority would incorporate the current four local councils of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin, Dublin City, and Fingal, each one of which had to vote in favour. But Fingal's councillors voted firmly against it, despite emphatic support of the proposal by the councillors in the other three areas. As a Fingallion by adoption, W M Nixon strongly supports this independent move by a largely rural and coastal region which has a longer shoreline than all the other Dublin areas put together, and is clearly not a naturally integral part of the city.

Fingal is the Ukraine of Leinster, and the glowering monster of Dublin is the Russia within Ireland, intent on the conquest of its smaller freedom-seeking neighbour. Vigorous, all-powerful, intensely urban, and distinctly impressed with itself, Dublin is certain that the further its bounds are spread, the better it will be for all its citizens. And the more citizens it can claim, then the better for Dublin.

But Fingal is different. For sure, it can seem a bit sleepy and rural by comparison with central Dublin, but that's the way we like it. It's a place of odd little ports and much fishing, a region of offshore islands, rocky coasts and many beaches on one side, and the profound heart of the fertile country on the other. A place where – as you move north within it - you might make a living in many ways at once, taking in growing vegetables, raising animals, running a dairy herd, and keeping a lobster boat down at the local quay, while perhaps having a horse or two as well. And if you feel like more shore sport, the golfing options are truly world class.

As for the sailing and all other forms of recreational boating, Fingal is not just a place of remarkable variety – it's a universe. With five islands – six if you count Rockabill – its 88 kilometre coastline is one for sport, relaxation and exploration. Sea angling is well up the agenda, and it's a kayakers' paradise, while Irish speed records in sailboarding and kite-surfing have been established in the natural sand-girt canal which forms for much of the tidal cycle in the outer Baldoyle estuary immediately west of Howth.

Apart from fishing boats – and inshore they're usually only the smaller ones – it has no commercial traffic. And though there are tidal streams, in southern Fingal's main racing area between Ireland's Eye and Lambay, they're not excessively strong, and run in a reasonably clear-defined way, while the flukey winds which so often bedevil Dublin Bay away to the south are much less of a problem in sailing off Fingal, where the winds blow free.

The range of boat and sailing clubs of Fingal matches the variety of its coast. The most southerly is Sutton Dinghy Club, rare among Ireland's yacht clubs in being south-facing. It may be focused on sailing in Dublin Bay, but scratch any SDC sailor, and you'll find a Fingallion. Round the corner of the Baily – not a headland to be trifled with - Howth has two clubs, the yacht club with its own marina, and Cumann na Bhad Binn Eadair (the Howth Sailing & Boat Club) in the northeast corner of the harbour, while Howth Sea Angling Club with its large premises on the West Pier is one of the tops in the country.

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The sunny south. Sutton Dinghy Club is Fingal's most southerly sailing club, and is also rare in Ireland through being south facing.

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Islands of Fingal seen across the eastern part of Howth marina, with Ireland's Eye in the foreground, and Lambay beyond. Photo: W M Nixon

As for the waters they share, their most immediate neighbour is the steep island of Ireland's Eye with its pleasant southwest-facing beach, the island itself a remarkable wild nesting site, particularly when you remember that it's close beside an intensely urban setting. When a discerning visitor described Ireland's Eye as "an astonishing and perfect miniature St Kilda", he wasn't exaggerating.

Across in Malahide, where we find Fingal's other marina, Malahide YC - which recently celebrated its Golden Jubilee and currently has Graham Smith as its first second-generation Commodore – is in the curious position of having two clubhouses. One is a charming and hospitable place among trees within easy stroll of the marina, while the other is west of the long railway embankment which retains the extensive inner waters of Broadmeadow. This makes the waters into a marvellous recreational amenity and boating and sailing nursery, so not surprisingly it is home to active sailing schools. And it is also the base of Malahide YC "west", a dinghy sailing club on the Broadmeadow shore at Yellow Walls, while further west of it again is yet another club, the more recently formed Swords Sailing & Boating Club.

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The map of modern Fingal shows how the southwest corner of the present region seems remote from the largely coastal and rural nature of much of the rest of the county. And it also confirms the surprise (to many) that the Phoenix Park is in Fingal.

North from Malahide, and you're into "Fingal profonde", its deeply rural nature occasionally emphasised by the sea nearby. The long Rogerstown Estuary, the next inlet after Malahide, sometimes found itself providing the northern boundary of The Pale, and as recently as the early 1800s the river at Rogerstown and the tiny port of Rush were a veritable nest of smugglers, privateers and occasionally pirates, with buccaneering captains of myth and legend such as Luke Ryan and James Mathews proving to have been real people who were pillars of society when back home in their secretive little communities after their lengthy business forays to God know where.

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Muddy situation. Low water in the Rogerstown Estuary. The hill in the distance on the left is new – for years, it was the largest dump in Ireland, the Balleally Landfill. But now it is well on its way to rehabilitation as an enhancement of the landscape. Photo: W M Nixon

The Rogerstown Estuary went through an unpleasant period when its inner waters were dominated by the nearby presence of the biggest waste dump in Dublin, Balleally Landfill. It rose and rose, but now it's closed, and is in process of being revived to some sort of natural state. The result is that the vista westward from Rogerstown is much improved by a pleasant and completely new hill which so enhances the view at sunset that shrewd locals have built themselves a row of fine new houses facing west, along the quirkily named Spout Lane which runs inland from the estuary.

Whatever about the legality-pushing privateer skippers who used Rogerstown Estuary as their base in days of yore, these days it's home to the quay and storehouse which serves the ferry to Lambay, which is Fingal's only inhabited island when there are no bird wardens resident on Rockabill, and it's also the setting for another south-facing club, Rush SC. It is spiritual home these days to the historic 17ft Mermaid Class (they still occasionally build new ones in an old mill nearby), but despite the very strong tidal streams where the estuary narrows as it meets the sea, RSC also has a large cruiser fleet whose moorings are so tide-rode that unless there's a boat on the buoy, it tends to disappear under water in the final urge of the flood. This can make things distinctly interesting for strangers arriving in and hoping to borrow a mooring while avoiding getting fouled in those moorings already submerged. Not surprisingly, with their boat sizes becoming larger like everywhere else, Rush SC find that their bigger cruisers use Malahide Marina.

To seaward of Rogerstown, with the little port of Rush just round the corner, the view is dominated by Lambay. A fine big island with is own little "miniature Dun Laoghaire" to provide a harbour on its west side, it has a notable Lutyens house set among the trees. But for many years now Lambay has been a major Nature Reserve, so landing is banned, though anchorage is available in its three or four bays provided you don't interfere with the wildlife along the shore. This makes it off bounds to kayakers who might hope for a leg stretch on land, though it's still well worth paddling round close inshore.

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Racing round Lambay. Close competition between the Howth 17s Aura (left) and Pauline, which have been racing annually round Lambay since 1904. Photo: John Deane

Along the Fingal mainland coast, the next inlet after Rush is Loughshinny, a lovely natural harbour with a quay to further improve the bay's shelter. There's a very active little fishing fleet, while the shoreside architecture is, how shall we say, decidedly eclectic and individualistic? Go there and you'll see what I mean.

Six miles offshore, Rockabill marks the northeast limits of Fingal. It's a fine big double-rock, with a substantial lighthouse and characterful keepers' houses attached. But as it's now automated, the only time Rockabill is inhabited is for the four summer months when a bird warden or two take up residence to monitor the rocky island's most distinguished summer residents, Europe's largest breeding colony of roseate terns.

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Rockabill, where the shy roseate terns feel at home. Photo: W M Nixon

In Fingal we tend to take these pretty but noisy summer visitors for granted, but the word is that south of Dublin Bay the tern buffs are so incensed by Rockabill having a clear run that they're tried to start a rival colony of roseate terns on the Muglins, and built a row of tern houses (one good tern deserves another) to facilitate their residence. The potential nest sites may not have survived the past severe winter. But in any case, one wonders if they had planning permission from Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown council for this development? Persons suggesting that such a development would almost certainly be terned down will not be given any attention whatsoever.

Skerries and Balbriggan are the two main sea towns of north Fingal, and they're as different as can be, the difference being emphasised by historic rivalry. It's said that back in the government harbour-building days of the late 19th Century a grant was made available to assist local landowners to make significant improvements to one of the harbours, and this meant war.

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Balbriggan may very definitely dry out, but it provides a secure home port for both trawlers and other boats prepared to settle on the mud and sand. Photo: W M Nixon

So eventually the grant was split with half going to improve Balbriggan, and the other half to Skerries, with neither being a total success. If you seek total shelter in either today, you have to be prepared to dry out, while the anchorage off Skerries is also subject to a large tidal whorl which means that when the ebb is running in a strong onshore wind, the moorings are doubly rough and diabolically uncomfortable. And every so often after an exceptional nor'easter, we have another litany of boats driven ashore and Skerries yacht insurance going even further through the roof.

It's a situation which needs proper attention from an administration which is genuinely interested in the port. And the proper development of the harbour at Skerries, while retaining the little old place's special character, is surely something which could be much better done by Fingal Council rather than some remote Mayor of Dublin for whom Skerries will be the outermost periphery, a place seldom visited, if at all.

We've seen it all before. Time was when Fingal was simply the North County, little noticed in the centres of power which were basically Dublin City and Dublin County, their head offices in the heart of the city. But then in 2001 the new four-council setup was created, and the old name of Fingal – never forgotten by those who cherished the area – was revived. A very fine new user-friendly County Hall – it has even been praised by Frank McDonald of The Irish Times – was built in the re-born county town of Swords. Out on the new boundaries meanwhile, the signs went up saying "Welcome to Fingal County". But we old Fingallion fogeys pointed out that as Fingal means "Territory of the Fair Strangers" (i.e the Norsemen rather than the Danes), it was superfluous to be describing it as "the county of the territory", so these days it's just Fingal, and we're happy with that.

Here in Howth, we sort of slipped into acceptance of the new setup. Once upon a time, from 1917 to 1943, Howth had its own Urban District Council. It says much for the place's remoteness from the world that the HUDC was established in the midst of one global war, and quietly wound up in the midst of another. In 1943, Commissioners had to be imposed on the tiny fiefdom to offset the fact that some local interests thought the HUDC existed entirely for their own personal benefit. So at various times since, Howth was run either by Dublin County Council, or even by Dublin City Corporation. We were assured that this latter setup was all to our benefit, as the powers-that-be in City Hall had a soft spot for Howth, sure wasn't it the place where the mammy went every Thursday evening to buy the family's fish, and wouldn't she want to see it looking well?

Maybe so, but when it came to doing something more useful with the harbour, Howth Yacht Club – having re-constituted itself in 1968 from an amalgamation of Howth Sailing Club (founded 1895) and Howth Motor Yacht Club (founded 1934) - found itself dealing with a bewildering variety of government departments as the lowly interests of fishing and its ports seemed to be shifted whenever possible by civil servants who reckoned that banging the drum on behalf of fisheries in particular, and maritime interests in general, was not a shrewd career move for anyone planning a steady progress up the very landbound Irish public service ladder to the sunlit uplands of a long and prosperous retirement.

So if at times absolutely nothing seemed to be happening in a harbour which was painfully inadequate for expanding boating and fishing needs, it was partly because the club officers and fishermen's leaders could find it difficult to discern just who in authority could or would make the decisive call. In those days it turned out to be somewhere in the hidden recesses of the Office of Public Works. Suddenly, in 1979, a plan for the major re-development of the harbour was promulgated at official level, with a radical rationalisation planned for its future use. The western part, it was proposed, would become totally fisheries, while the eastern part was to be given over to recreational boating, all of it involving major civil engineering and harbour works projects.

Looking at the successful harbour today, it all seems perfectly reasonable and sensible. But back in 1979 when HYC were presented with a time-limited take-it-or-leave-it choice, the way ahead was not at all clear. Friendships were sundered and family feuds emerged from the heated progress towards accepting the offer that the club agree to vacate its premises on the West Pier - a clubhouse which it had renovated and extended only ten years earlier – and commit itself to the installation, at members' cost, of a marina in the eastern harbour with the obligation to build a completely new clubhouse there.

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Today's Howth Harbour didn't happen overnight. This is how it was from 1982 until the new clubhouse was completed in 1987. Photo: W M Nixon

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Multiple activities under way at Howth YC this week. The club's setup may seem only natural now, but it was quite a struggle to get there. Photo: W M Nixon

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Howth's vibrant mix of a working fishing port and busy sailing centre has provided the ideal setting for the development of a successful visitor and seafood destination. Photo: W M Nixon

It's all history now, but it was done. And done so well by those involved that today it's simply taken for granted. Arguably, it's a compliment to those who created the Howth YC setup, that newer members should seldom wonder how it all came to happen, it just seems so right and natural. And as for those running the club, they in turn have to build on past achievements in dealing with an ever-changing administrative environment in which the changeover to being part of Fingal was only one of several evolutions.

Yet the recent attempt to abolish Fingal was a wake-up call. In Howth we may have wandered into it, but in just a dozen years, a dormant Fingal identity has come quietly but strongly awake. In Howth village it's natural enough, as our backs are turned to Dublin and we look to the rest of Fingal. But even on the south side of the hill, where fine houses face across Dublin Bay and you'd expect a sense of identity with households in similarly choice locations for all that they look north out of Dun Laoghaire, you find that the attraction of visiting the southside has the exotic appeal of going foreign, while those of us more humbly placed in the village, if visiting remote places like Rathmines or Terenure, find it positively unnerving to think of all the houses between us and the sea.

Then too, while Fingal Council has been establishing itself in our hearts and minds, it has been a good time for Howth Harbour. Good fences have been making good neighbours, and though marine administration in government has been kicked from pillar to post, an underlying Department of Fisheries recognition that their harbours cannot be only about fishing has led to a re-think on the use of buildings about the harbour, with Howth becoming an extraordinary nexus of good seafood restaurants, such that on a summer evening, despite the presence of a traditional fish and chip shop, the seafood aroma is of a proper fishing port in Brittany or Galicia. In fact, rents from the hospitality and sailing and marine industries in Howth have now reached such a level that fish landing fees – formerly the bedrock of the harbour economy – only contribute about 10% of the overall income.

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The man from County Hall. Fingal Mayor Kieran Dennison is comfortable with his county's busy sailing activities, and the sailors are comfortable with him. He is seen here officially opening the J/24 Worlds at Howth in August 2013. Photo: W M Nixon

As for how we've been getting on with our new masters in County Hall up in Swords, the news is good. Most recently, we've been having direct contact with the current Mayor of Fingal, Kieran Dennison, who hit just the right note when he officially opened the J/24 Worlds in Howth in August 2013. Following that, he was back at the annual Commodore's Lunch in HYC in the dark days of November when a review of the past season lightens the onset of winter, and he was able to tell us that thanks to contacts made at the Worlds, his invitation to visit the America's Cup in San Francisco in September was made even more enjoyable. Those of us who reckoned the only way to visit the 34th America's Cup was on the television screen were reassured by the thought that if somebody was going to represent us in the San Francisco bear-pit, then our Mayor, our very own Mayor of Fingal, was just the man for the job.

So we very much want to keep Fingal in existence and in robust good health, but we appreciate that its current boundaries might be creating a bit of a Ukraine-versus-Russia situation. In particular, the southwest of the county could well be Fingal's Crimea and Donetsk regions. There, relatively new settlements of ethnic Dubs in places like Clonsilla, Castleknock, Blanchardstown could become such a source of trouble that it might be better to transfer them peacefully to administration by either Dublin city or South Dublin before there is unnecessary bloodshed.

The situation arises because, when the boundaries were being drawn, southwest Fingal was set out all the way down to the Liffey. The Fingallion instinct would be to see the border drawn along the Tolka, in other words the M3. But there could be trouble because of the discovery – always something of a surprise – that the Phoenix Park is in Fingal. I could see that when some people find our Fingal includes the Park, they'll want to fight for it, particularly as, in the southeast of the county, the excellent St Anne's Park in Raheny was somehow allowed to slip into Dublin City.

One thing which is definitely not for transfer is the Airport. It is naturally, utterly and totally part of Fingal. For sure, it contributes a fifth of the county's annual income from business rates, making Fingal the economically healthiest Irish county. But we in Fingal have to live with the airport very much in our midst. If Dublin really wants to take over the airport, then a first condition before negotiations even begin would be that all flight paths are to be re-routed directly over Dun Laoghaire and Dalkey. A few weeks of that would soon soften their cough.

Whatever, the recent kerfuffle about Fingal rejecting involvement in administration by an all-powerful Mayor of Dublin has been a powerful stimulant to thinking about how our own county might best be run. Everyone will have their own pet local projects, and most of us will reckon that decision-making in Swords, rather than in some vast and impenetrable office in the middle of Dublin, will be the best way to bring it about. For those of us who go afloat, the fact that Fingal Council shows that it cherishes its long and varied sea coast, rather than preferring to ignore it, is very encouraging. And the fact that this prospering county has some financial muscle all of its own gives us hope that we can build on what the past has taught us, and spread improved facilities to every port. Should that happen, it will in turn benefit Irish sailing and boating generally to a greater extent than would restricted development under one closely-controlled central administration headed by some southside megalomaniac.

Published in W M Nixon
Page 9 of 24

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