Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Limerick Ketch Ilen - Her Work in Greenland Completed – Will Soon be Heading Home for Ireland

1st August 2019
Summer in Greenland is brief but spectacular – the Limerick ketch Ilen in idyllic conditions off the majestic coast near Nuuk Summer in Greenland is brief but spectacular – the Limerick ketch Ilen in idyllic conditions off the majestic coast near Nuuk Credit: Gary MacMahon

The traditional 56ft Limerick trading ketch Ilen will shortly begin her long return voyage from west Greenland to the Shannon Estuary, following the successful completion of the several strands of research and exploration in the Ilen Project’s Salmons Wake programme writes W M Nixon.

After departing from Ireland at Loop Head through some rough coastal conditions on July 1st, the main section of the Atlantic crossing was relatively smooth, but a local area of distinctly rugged weather made the outward passage round Greenland’s most southerly headland of Cape Farewell a real challenge.

It was successfully put astern through 30 hours of very tough going, and after calling at and interacting with several small communities along the southwest coast while continuing the Salmons Wake research, Ilen arrived safely in the Greenland capital of Nuuk in a favourable if cold and strong southerly wind.

ilen arctic circle2A moment for spiritual thought – aboard Ilen at the Arctic Circle with Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, a Director of the Ilen Project since its inception, reflecting on all that has been achieved. Photo: Deirdre Power

However, since then the Arctic summer has arrived to facilitate the implementation of every aspect of the Project’s objectives which included getting north of the Arctic Circle, and with the arrival of August it is now time to put into action the planned second section of the two-way voyage, the return to Limerick.

Ilen routeIlulissat is the most northerly port reached by Ilen, and it will be the turning point for the Salmons Wake voyage

The most northerly port reached by Ilen and her current location is Ilulissat, and it is there that Project Manager Gary MacMahon – having been Ilen’s skipper for the outward passage and the work along the Greenland coast – has as planned now handed over command for the return voyage to renowned long distance and high latitudes sailor Paddy Barry, who is aboard Ilen for the entire sea-time of the Project.

gary in greenland4Gary Mac Mahon at the wheel of Ilen, absorbing the majesty of the Greenland coast. Photo: Deirdre Power

After some mountaineering in the region, Paddy will shortly be starting progress southward back to Nuuk where he and his shipmates will be joined for the main part of the return voyage by noted traditional sailors Dr Mick Brogan and Jarlarth Cunnane. It will be a busy month of August for Mick Brogan, as first he has to oversee the 40th Anniversary Cruinniu na mBad – the Gathering of the Traditional Boats - at Kinvara from 9th to 11th August.

Gary MacMahon himself has returned to Limerick in recent days to meet business requirements and also to put in hand the long work programe which will be involved in the processing of all the information that has been learned – and is still being learned – in the Salmons Wake project.

paddy barry5 Paddy Barry, one of Ireland’s top voyagers and an expert in traditional craft, will be skippering Ilen for the homeward Transatlantic passage. Photo: Deirdre Power

Published in Ilen
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

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.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Ireland's Trading Ketch Ilen

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.

Wooden Sailing Ship Ilen FAQs

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

The Ilen was designed by Conor O’Brien, the first Irish man to circumnavigate the world.

Ilen is named for the West Cork River which flows to the sea at Baltimore, her home port.

The Ilen was built by Baltimore Sea Fisheries School, West Cork in 1926. Tom Moynihan was foreman.

Ilen's wood construction is of oak ribs and planks of larch.

As-built initially, she is 56 feet in length overall with a beam of 14 feet and a displacement of 45 tonnes.

Conor O’Brien set sail in August 1926 with two Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear in West Cork, arriving at Port Stanley in January 1927 and handed it over to the new owners.

The Ilen was delivered to the Falkland Islands Company, in exchange for £1,500.

Ilen served for over 70 years as a cargo ship and a ferry in the Falkland Islands, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties. She stayed in service until the early 1990s.

Limerick sailor Gary McMahon and his team located Ilen. MacMahon started looking for her in 1996 and went out to the Falklands and struck a deal with the owner to bring her back to Ireland.

After a lifetime of hard work in the Falklands, Ilen required a ground-up rebuild.

A Russian cargo ship transported her back on a 12,000-mile trip from the Southern Oceans to Dublin. The Ilen was discharged at the Port of Dublin 1997, after an absence from Ireland of 70 years.

It was a collaboration between the Ilen Project in Limerick and Hegarty’s Boatyard in Old Court, near Skibbereen. Much of the heavy lifting, of frames, planking, deadwood & backbone, knees, floors, shelves and stringers, deck beams, and carlins, was done in Hegarty’s. The generally lighter work of preparing sole, bulkheads, deck‐houses fixed furniture, fixtures & fittings, deck fittings, machinery, systems, tanks, spar making and rigging is being done at the Ilen boat building school in Limerick.

Ten years. The boat was much the worse for wear when it returned to West Cork in May 1998, and it remained dormant for ten years before the start of a decade-long restoration.

Ilen now serves as a community floating classroom and cargo vessel – visiting 23 ports in 2019 and making a transatlantic crossing to Greenland as part of a relationship-building project to link youth in Limerick City with youth in Nuuk, west Greenland.

At a mere 56ft, Ilen is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

©Afloat 2020

Who is Your Sailor of the Year 2021?
Total Votes:
First Vote:
Last Vote:

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating