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Re-Born Ilen will Emerge From Her Shed at the Beginning of January

18th December 2017
Ilen as she was this morning, ready to face the rigours of a brief period in the open before a special cover can be fitted over the re-born Conor O’Brien ketch. Photo: Gary MacMahon Ilen as she was this morning, ready to face the rigours of a brief period in the open before a special cover can be fitted over the re-born Conor O’Brien ketch. Photo: Gary MacMahon

The historic 1926-built 56ft ketch Ilen is to exit The Old Cornstore in Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore, the building which has accommodated her re-birth, early in the New Year writes W M Nixon.

Much remains to be done before she can be subsequently put afloat in April. But the pace of productivity in recent days, with the efficient completion of several jobs by the beefed-up team of nine craftsmen who have put in some very long days, shows what can be achieved as the work reaches it optimum pace.

The actual business of moving the ship out to an area of hard-standing, getting her there from a very limited space and negotiating some formidable obstructions en route, will be drawing on the deepest reserves of West Cork ingenuity, and deploying certain floating vehicles in unexpected ways.

All will be revealed in due course. But when we look at the photo of Ilen as she was when the programme was gathering pace, and compare it to photos of the ship as she is today, we realize - yet again - that the Ilen Project is something very special indeed, and dealing with unusual challenges is all part of the day’s work.

ilen ready2The Ilen Project has certainly moved on. Liam Hegarty (left) and Gary MacMahon at an early stage of the restoration

ilen ready3It is now possible to visualise the Ilen thrusting her way purposefully through the seas. Photo: Gary MacMahon

ilen ready4Inside the ship, with sole floors fitted, a real sense of the space which will become available is now apparent.

ilen ready6The business end. For her work as an inter-island trading. freight and passenger-carrying vessel, the mainly sail-powered Ilen needed the added reliability of powerful auxiliary motor, and space had to be provided for a substantial propellor. Photo: Gary MacMahon

When Conor O’Brien of Foynes Island and Tom Moynihan of Baltimore were designing Ilen’s propellor installation, they took account of the fact that Ilen would be using some very confined little harbours and rudimentary piers, and the extra manoeuvrability conferred by having an intact rudder would give greatly-improved prop thrust. Many yachts of the day being fitted with auxiliaries used the easy option of taking much of the propellor aperture out of the rudder, thereby negating the effectiveness of the prop thrust for tight turns. But Ilen’s designers ensured that the entire aperture was taken out of the deadwood, leaving all the benefits of a completely intact rudder. Photo: Gary MacMahon

ilen ready7The helmsman’s view of “a small tall ship”. Photo: Gary MacMahon

ilen ready8Everything in and around Ilen’s aft footwell was made in the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick, except for the steering wheel. The original had long since been replaced by something very basic, but as Conor O’Brien had said that the optimum diameter for the wheel would be 42 inches, when a genuine wheel of 41 inches diameter was spotted in an antiques fair in the city, it was immediately secured for the Ilen Restoration. Photo: Gary MacMahon

ilen ready9The deck design in the way of the mainmast has a definite clear space between the mast and the coachroof, a space intended for a manually-operated anchor windlass. An authentic replacement windlass has already been sketched out by David Webster (below)

ilen ready10

Published in Ilen Team

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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.

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