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Traditional Ketch Ilen Heads for First Major Port of Call at Nuuk in Greenland  

18th July 2019
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The Ilen in Paamuit in Greenland, where she found perfect shelter while a southerly gale blew itself out in the Labrador Sea The Ilen in Paamuit in Greenland, where she found perfect shelter while a southerly gale blew itself out in the Labrador Sea Photo: Gary MacMahon

The restored 56ft 1926-built traditional ketch Ilen lingered in the southwest Greenland port of Paamuit for the past couple of days while a vicious southerly gale blew itself out in the Labrador Sea writes W M Nixon. It was an opportunity to make do and mend on board, while onshore the crew of ten continued in their exploration of Greenland and the lives of the people who live in its more remote small ports. The opportunity was taken to re-stock the ship's stores. Ten hungry sailors can get through a prodigious amount of food, though unfortunately, it was impossible to find a local supply of potatoes to match their very best Irish spuds put aboard in Limerick, which the ship’s company had finished in a celebratory feast once Greenland waters were reached.

ilen irish potatoes2The Last Supper (of Irish potatoes on Ilen). And very good they were too...

Project Leader Gary Mac Mahon posted his thoughts as Ilen prepared to depart for her main objective on this Salmons Wake Educational Voyage: "It's time to depart the town and harbour of Paamiut. Simply; a sailor's longing for new places grows exponentially to the length of time spent holed-up at port - regardless of its charms.

Nuuk is next, approximately 150nm downwind and north from Paamiut. Today's southeasterly breeze will be at our backs, so all augurs well for a respectable ship’s speed as Ilen pushes onward north.

Yesterday's low cloud and rain has given way to sporadic sunshine, but the Ilen crew remain wrapped up while moving about the deck or bare streets of Paamiut.

Ilen has seen her Gardner engine enjoy a full service this morning - Mantas and Mike were the men for that vital task. Meanwhile, preparations for the coming run to Nuuk continue - food make-ready, rigging work and the stowing of Ilen's tender and outboard. Also, the anchor will see more robust deck lines embrace it, as we anticipate a rolling run north up the Labrador Sea - with decks awash from time to time.

And so, away we go.”

We wish them the best of luck. And in Nuuk, they will find a different world. Most of Greenland’s population lives in this bustling port town of many amenities provided by generous Danish Government support. Apart from hotels and restaurants, it claims to have three night clubs and there are bars where’s the musicianship of Ilen’s crew will be much appreciated, while they in turn - if seeking a total change - may welcome the fact that Nuuk is particularly proud of its 9–hole golf course……

ilen to nuuk3The final leg to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland

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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