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Historic Ketch Ilen to Depart Home Port of Limerick on Sunday for Greenland Voyage

28th June 2019
The 56ft traditional ketch Ilen of Limerick making good speed. The restored vessel - the only surviving example of an Irish trading ketch - will depart Limerick on Sunday afternoon for her multi-purpose nine weeks voyage to southwest Greenland The 56ft traditional ketch Ilen of Limerick making good speed. The restored vessel - the only surviving example of an Irish trading ketch - will depart Limerick on Sunday afternoon for her multi-purpose nine weeks voyage to southwest Greenland Photo: Gary MacMahon

It is 1200 nautical miles across the Atlantic from Loop Head at the north side of the long Shannon Estuary to Cape Farewell, the southernmost point of Greenland, writes W M Nixon. While the originally 1926-built ketch Ilen of Limerick may have made the much longer voyage to her working life in the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic in her first year afloat, the voyage to Greenland will be the first time that this special little ship has been in remote northern waters.

In recent months, Ilen Project director Gary MacMahon and his team have been testing Ilen as they visited several Irish ports and fulfilled a programme implemented with the Sailing into Wellness organisaton.

But since June 18th, Ilen has been back in Limerick making final preparations for this Salmons Wake venture to Greenland, tracing the migratory routes of the Atlantic salmon. It’s a multi-faceted concept which has developed from the building of informational interactions between schools in the Limerick area and schools in southwest Greenland, going on to include maritime studies and sea monitoring, and spreading into cultural exchanges and the promotion of ancient skills.

Ilen Square SailThe Salmons Wake symbol inscribed on Ilen’s squaresail. Photo: Gary MacMahon

One of the purposes of the outward voyage will be the delivery of a traditional Limerick Shannon salmon-fishing cot, a creation of the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick city, to the people of the Greenland capital of Nuuk. And when Greenland has been reached, it has been planned that the hosts will have opportunities to sail on Ilen, while specialists in Ilen’s crew of ten will undertake mountaineering expeditions in the Nuuk locality, among several other shore ventures.

There are very many skills and special talents combined in Ilen’s ship’s complement which - for the outward voyage - will comprise Gary Mac Mahon, Paddy Barry, Mike Grimes, Mantas Seskanskis, James Madigan, Ronan O Caoimh, Breanndan Begley, Mick Ruane, Seamus O’Byrne and Justin McDonagh.

Ilen takes her departure from the Ted Russell Dock in Limerick at 5.0pm on Sunday, June 30th, and her many supporters in Ireland and worldwide will be united in good wishes for this special ship and her crew in their unique and visionary venture.

Published in Ilen
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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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