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Historic Restored Ketch Ilen Returns to Baltimore, Her Birthplace of 92 years Ago  

29th May 2018
The restored ketch Ilen makes her public debut at the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival The restored ketch Ilen makes her public debut at the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival Photo: Paul Fuller

In 1926, Tom Moynihan and his shipwrights on the waterfront in Baltimore built the 56ft ketch trading Ilen to Conor O’Brien's designs at their boatyard in the heart of the West Cork fishing village writes WM Nixon.

However, Baltimore nowadays is a pace-setting sailing and holiday port, so the main boatyard facilities in the neighbourhood are further inland towards Skibbereen, up the Ilen River at Oldcourt where Liam Hegarty and his expert team restored the old vessel to back to healthy life, working in concert with the Ilen Boat Building School directed by Gary Mac Mahon from Limerick.

After successfully-re-launching at Oldcourt last week, on Saturday it was to Baltimore’s Woodenboat Festival that Ilen made her way on Saturday to be formally re-born under the spiritual guidance of Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey in Limerick. On a perfect early summer’s morning she was piloted down the river after which she was named by noted Baltimore sailor Dermot Kennedy and Liam Hegarty himself, and finally, after so many years being restored in the Top Shed at Oldcourt, there was the “new” Ilen looking her very best for all to see.

Having gone public, she is now back in Oldcourt for final preparation towards being ready for her first sail, which is expected to take place in July.

Afloat.ie’s Tom MacSweeney attended the Baltimore ceremonies and will tell us all about it in his regular podcast on Wednesday.

Published in Ilen
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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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