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Ilen
The restored trading ketch Ilen floodlit off the modern section of the Limerick waterfront to launch Mental Health Week in her home city
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…
The way of a ship at sea….
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…
The
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…
Ilen berthing at sunset in Kinsale, after a fair wind voyage all the way from Galway. And yes - it definitely is sunset. But the lights of the western sky, cross-reflected in the windows of the Trident Hotel, give a first impression of this being the Dawn Patrol
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…
Admiral of all he surveys - the Mayor of Limerick, Councilor Michael Collins, re-asserts his ancient role and privileges of the Admiral of the Shannon Estuary with a silver dart into the sea while still in the Estuary, on passage aboard Ilen from Limerick to Galway last Friday evening
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…
Contrasting styles - a Galway Bay gleiteog welcome the Limerick Trading ketch Ilen to Galway, the first port in her Walled Towns 2021 Project
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…
The historic Irish sailing ship Ilen will voyage this summer between some sea-harboured walled Irish towns
The Island of Ireland has twelve medieval walled towns with sea harbours on Atlantic and Irish Sea waters writes Gary McMahon of the Ilen Project The historic Irish sailing ship Ilen will voyage this summer between some of these towns…
The Ship and her City – Ilen comes into Steamboat Quay in Limerick to take on valuable cargo for West Clare and Foynes
In the decidedly unsettled weather of this 2021 Spring and early Summer, the restored 56ft trading ketch Ilen of Limerick is acquiring the reputation of being a lucky ship in finding gentler conditions when sea work has to be done…
The Shared Shannon Estuary - the Trading Ketch Ilen approaching Limerick upriver as a Women's Four from St Michael’s Rowing Club heads downstream in Sunday morning’s good weather
Most people’s memories of the already pandemic-constricted Bank Holiday Weekend will be of Monday's wet and windy storm. But the training crew on the restored Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen of Limerick have only pleasant memories, as a fair weather passage…
The newly-built Ilen at Foynes on 22nd July 1926, as recorded in his own highly personal style by Harbour Master Hugh O’Brien
Global circumnavigator and sailing ship designer Conor O’Brien (1880-1952) inevitably saw his most noted vessels, the 42ft world-girdler Saoirse and the 56ft trading ketch Ilen, being closely associated by the rest of the world with their birthplace in Baltimore. But…
The
The good ship Ilen, the 56ft Trading Ketch of Limerick, has been in the slipway cradle at Liam Hegarty's boatyard in Oldcourt upriver of Baltimore in West Cork this week, enjoying the relatively dry weather and the attention of her…
"She stopped time for everyone around". So said photographer Teddy Murphy as he recorded the characterful Limerick trading ketch Ilen when she came through Dalkey Sound in a flash of sunlight on the afternoon of December 7th for a busy two weeks visit to Dublin
In Greek mythology, at the Winter Solstice, there is a brief calm for the Halcyon Day, and this was the experience of the crew on the Limerick ketch Ilen as they headed away on Monday evening, after a busy two…
Putting on the cloth on the shortest day of the year – Ilen’s headsails being hanked on at Poolbeg Y&BC in Dublln this afternoon
The great Captain Cook may have voyaged to the Pacific in 1769 for the astronomical purpose of observing the Transit of Venus from Tahiti. But tonight (Monday) the crew of the Limerick ketch Ilen have a more modest hope -…
Ships that pass as history is being made. With the final stages of Brexit negotiations in the balance, the Limerick Trading Ketch Ilen is recorded by RTE News coming up Dublin's River Liffey as the cross-channel ferry Clipper Pennant heads out for a UK port, still under minimal customs regulation. With Ilen making for a berth at Poolbeg Marina, she has been instructed to hold to the south side of the Dublin Port Channel
The Limerick ambassadorial ketch Ilen arrived on the Liffey River at Dublin in the late hours of Sunday after a fast passage, and since then has been out daily from Poolbeg Y & BC's marina on Dublin Bay with a…
The Ilen on port tack crossing Dublin Bay
The unmistakable sight of the traditional ketch Ilen as she crosses Dublin Bay today  (Monday, December 7th). The restored vessel is on a 'Sailing into Wellness' programme on the capitals' waters this week, working with organisations Coolmine, Tiglin and @tolkariver The…
Trading ship, sailing ship, school ship – the Ilen goes about her business in Kilrush, County Clare
The restored 1926-built 56ft Limerick trading ketch Ilen's project of education through action and involvement continues to be developed with the Ilen Marine School's Community and Cargo 2020-21 Programme. Transportation of cargo to coastal communities was the original purpose of…

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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