Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Saoirse pictured in Dun Laoghaire before Conor O’Brien embarked on his historic circumnavigation in 1923
The Journal has highlighted the upcoming centenary of Irish yachtsman Conor O’Brien’s pioneering circumnavigation. In June 1923, Limerick man O’Brien set off on his yacht the Saoirse — named after the then newly created Irish Free State — on the…
Ghost ship? Ilen anchored off Sandycove seems like a wraith-like image from the past
It was good to know of the sail training ketch Ilen lying serenely in the Scotsman’s Bay-Sandycove anchorage south of Dun Laoghaire Harbour last night, like a proper sailing ship of ancient times taking a useful break to await a…
The timber ketch, Ilen, was built in Baltimore, West Cork to a design by Conor O’Brien, the Irishman who sailed around the world from 1923-25 is used in Sailing into Wellness courses
Sailing into Wellness, which offers educational and therapeutic programmes for “at-risk” young people and adults, has been recognised for its expansion as a result of a Rethink Ireland Sports to Impact Fund award. It is one of three national sports…
Decks swept clean - Ilen in Baltimore after a
"Ilen came back from London so quickly we got ahead of ourselves" said Ilen Marine School Director Gary MacMahon in Baltimore today, where the Limerick trading ketch had prudently put into port yesterday (Monday)evening in acknowledgement of near-gale westerlies forecast…
The business of the City of London is business. Thus last week's visit there by the Limerick trading ketch Ilen saw many boxes being ticked in an efficient style, including a clear affirmation that The Dey of Kilcoe takes precedence…
The ketch Ilen adds something exotic to the already complex London skyline
These past few days have been purest serendipity for historic Irish boatbuilders. Just two days after the 1926-vintage West Cork-built Limerick ketch Ilen was celebrated beside the River Thames in London on Wednesday, the 1937 Tyrrell of Arklow 43ft ketch…
Total shelter. Ilen safely into the tidal lock at St Katharine Docks in
London today
The River Thames in the heart of London is a lively piece of intensely tidal water, so for vessels bound for the sea-locked haven of St Katharine Docks beside Tower Bridge, it can be restless enough lying inthe waiting berth…
The Falkland Islands postage stamp of 2001 featured an Irish tricolour to honour the origins of Ilen, while also revealing her very practical propellor installation
Following the departure last Saturday for her 700-mile Limerick-London voyage, the trading ketch Ilen under the command of Ilen Marine School Director Gary Mac Mahon was able to sail the track as far as Land's Endin Cornwall, which she rounded…
Fair winds and sunshine - Ilen departs on time down the Shannon Estuary on Saturday
Although she is now meeting easterly headwinds in the English Channel as she voyages towards London following her departure down the Shannon Estuary on Saturday, the 56ft Limerick Trading Ketch Ilen was able to lay the course from the Fastnet…
Gentle start to a great voyage – Saoirse getting under way in Dun Laoghaire on June 20th 1923
Barry Keane and Tony Doherty of Mountaineering Ireland have formally proposed that commemorative postage stamps be issued to celebrate the up-coming Centenary of Conor O’Brien’s pioneering voyage round the world south of the Great Capes with his Irish-built 42ft ketch…
International star Dominic West of Glin Castle on the Shannon Estuary will be bringing his enthusiasm for waterways and boats to the Ilen ceremony in London on May 4th
The complex and long-standing relationship between the ancient city ports of Limerick and London will be celebrated with a ceremony on the historic Trading Ketch Ilen in the London city-centre St Katharine Dock, beside Tower Bridge on the River Thames,…
Looking good – The Ilen team of Aodh, Eugene & Mike with their ship looking spic and span after her Spring refit at Oldcourt.
The restored 56ft trading ketch Ilen of 1926 vintage and Conor O’Brien fame has been blithely passage-making to and fro at speed – despite the unsettled weather – along the southwest coast in recent weeks, as Ilen Marine School Director…
St Katharine Docks in the heart of London – the Limerick
ketch Ilen will be taking up temporary residence here for a cultural
exchange visit early in May
The programme for the “cultural voyage” of the 56ft restored Limerick trading ketch Ilen to London in late April and through the first fortnight of May continues to take shape. The ship herself is now back in her birthplace at…
The Ilen in Greenland in 2019 (left), and her route to London (right) in 2022, planned for late April.
The last timber-built sailing trading ship in Ireland, the 56ft Ilen, will set off from the river port of Limerick on the Shannon in April, bound for the great river city of London on the Thames in England writes Gary…
“Happy Christmas to Galway and Ireland” - the Limerick ketch Ilen brings festive cheer to Galway Docks on Sunday evening
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…
November Atlantic sunset on Galway Docks Marina, with the traditional rig of the Limerick ketch Ilen in marked contrast to modern craft. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon
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…

Ireland's Trading Ketch Ilen

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

Designed by Limerick man Conor O’Brien and built in Baltimore in 1926, she was delivered by Munster men to the Falkland Islands where she served valiantly for seventy years, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties.

Returned now to Ireland and given a new breath of life, Ilen may be described as the last of Ireland’s timber-built ocean-going sailing ships, yet at a mere 56ft, it is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

Wooden Sailing Ship Ilen FAQs

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

The Ilen was designed by Conor O’Brien, the first Irish man to circumnavigate the world.

Ilen is named for the West Cork River which flows to the sea at Baltimore, her home port.

The Ilen was built by Baltimore Sea Fisheries School, West Cork in 1926. Tom Moynihan was foreman.

Ilen's wood construction is of oak ribs and planks of larch.

As-built initially, she is 56 feet in length overall with a beam of 14 feet and a displacement of 45 tonnes.

Conor O’Brien set sail in August 1926 with two Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear in West Cork, arriving at Port Stanley in January 1927 and handed it over to the new owners.

The Ilen was delivered to the Falkland Islands Company, in exchange for £1,500.

Ilen served for over 70 years as a cargo ship and a ferry in the Falkland Islands, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties. She stayed in service until the early 1990s.

Limerick sailor Gary McMahon and his team located Ilen. MacMahon started looking for her in 1996 and went out to the Falklands and struck a deal with the owner to bring her back to Ireland.

After a lifetime of hard work in the Falklands, Ilen required a ground-up rebuild.

A Russian cargo ship transported her back on a 12,000-mile trip from the Southern Oceans to Dublin. The Ilen was discharged at the Port of Dublin 1997, after an absence from Ireland of 70 years.

It was a collaboration between the Ilen Project in Limerick and Hegarty’s Boatyard in Old Court, near Skibbereen. Much of the heavy lifting, of frames, planking, deadwood & backbone, knees, floors, shelves and stringers, deck beams, and carlins, was done in Hegarty’s. The generally lighter work of preparing sole, bulkheads, deck‐houses fixed furniture, fixtures & fittings, deck fittings, machinery, systems, tanks, spar making and rigging is being done at the Ilen boat building school in Limerick.

Ten years. The boat was much the worse for wear when it returned to West Cork in May 1998, and it remained dormant for ten years before the start of a decade-long restoration.

Ilen now serves as a community floating classroom and cargo vessel – visiting 23 ports in 2019 and making a transatlantic crossing to Greenland as part of a relationship-building project to link youth in Limerick City with youth in Nuuk, west Greenland.

At a mere 56ft, Ilen is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

©Afloat 2020

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