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Limerick Ketch Ilen Exploring in West Greenland

25th July 2019
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Ilen in gentle conditions in Greenland’s Umanap Surdlua fjord this week, when the opportunity was taken to set every sail in the ship Ilen in gentle conditions in Greenland’s Umanap Surdlua fjord this week, when the opportunity was taken to set every sail in the ship Photo: Gary MacMahon

While the restored 1926-built 56ft traditional trading ketch Ilen of Limerick may have arrived in the Greenland capital of Nuuk last weekend in harsh weather – albeit with a favourable southerly wind – since then conditions have become much gentler, providing ideal opportunities for local coastal exploration and continuation of the research programme into the migratory patterns of the Atlantic salmon writes W M Nixon.

It is this programme which has given the venture the overall title of Salmons Wake, and the arrival of summery conditions in Greenland has facilitated regular deployment this week of Ilen’s distinctive square sail, emblazoned with the distinctive Salmons Wake logo. Skipper Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Project reports on a rewarding three days:

ilen greenland2 An iron coast….even in summery conditions, there’s no doubting the sheer ruggedness of the Greenland coast. Photo: Gary MacMahon

"After a magnificent three day trip to Umanap Surdlua and other adjacent fjords, the Limerick ship Ilen and her crew returned to Nuuk, West Greenland this evening (Wednesday). Umanap Surdlua is a vast Fjord area where we find Greenland's only salmon-spawning river, the Kapisillit, a river which is central to the Ilen Project’s Educational Programme - Salmon's Wake.

All on board are delighted with the achievement and results of visiting the Kapisillit River, and discovering at first hand the challenges it shares for the wild salmon with our very own river, the majestic Shannon. The research results and discoveries made will be presented in due course, on return to Limerick.

The Umanap Surdlua trip, in sheltered waters, also provided some excellent sailing and ship handling conditions. conditions which crew of Ilen crew did not waste, taking the opportunity to set every stitch of sail the ship carries”.

Today (Thursday 25th July) Ilen will be sailing north from Nuuk, and in time will cross the Arctic Circle.

ilen greenland3A well-earned spot of gentle cruising for Ilen’s crew. Despite a very rough rounding of Cape Farewell, Greenland’s most southerly headland, the restored 1926-built ship is looking very well indeed. Photo: Gary MacMahon
ilen greenland4 That famously long Ilen bowsprit, made in the Ilen Boatbuilding School in Limerick and installed on the vessel at Hegarty’s Boatyard in Oldcourt near Baltimore in West Cork, finds an appropriately dramatic background with the Greenland coast. Photo: Gary MacMahon

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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