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Limerick’s Ilen is Now Homeward Bound from Greenland

19th August 2019
Symbolic link – Ilen’s squaresail with the distinctive Salmons Wake logo on display in St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick during the Spring, and in use off the coast of Greenland this summer as the ship continues her mission in researching the Atlantic salmon story, and developing cultural links between Limerick and the Greenland capital of Nuuk Symbolic link – Ilen’s squaresail with the distinctive Salmons Wake logo on display in St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick during the Spring, and in use off the coast of Greenland this summer as the ship continues her mission in researching the Atlantic salmon story, and developing cultural links between Limerick and the Greenland capital of Nuuk Photo: Gary MacMahon

The 1926-built restored 56ft Limerick trading ketch Ilen has completed the varied shoreside and coastal aspects of her research voyage to Greenland writes W M Nixon. This took her as far north as Ilulissat beyond the Arctic Circle to give first-hand experience of waters frequented by the Atlantic salmon and other wildlife, while also showing her crew the unmistakable effects of global warming.

Having returned south to the capital of Nuuk, homeward voyage skipper Paddy Barry and his shipmates have now been joined by noted west of Ireland traditional sailors Jarlath Cunnane and Dr Mick Brogan, the latter arriving onboard only a day or two after he had pulled down the shutter on the successful 40th Anniversary of Cruinniu na mBad at Kinvara, of which he is Organising Chairman.

mike in galley2The heart of the ship. Limerick salmon fisherman Mike Grimes of Ilen’s crew “is always busy”, and here he is at the eternally warm ship’s stove with a big fish feed on the way.
The primary objective now is to get Ilen safely down Greenland’s southwest coast to Cape Farewell, in order to be positioned for a return date in Limerick around September 10th. From Cape Farewell it is 1,200 sea miles across the open Atlantic to Loop Head at the entrance to the Shannon Estuary, and the Atlantic is currently in a restless mood.

But despite the primacy of the overall schedule, there was time for a bit of relaxation when the two new crewmembers from Ireland came on board, as those who have been with the ship since she sailed ocean-wards past Loop Head on July 1st were celebrating being 50 days on the project. There was also a suspicion that it might be Jarlath’s birthday. But being a Mayo man who doesn’t take much notice of such things – particularly when there are so many of them – he had to check it out on his Smartphone.

ilen 50 days3Party time when the new crewmembers arrive in Greenland. Ilen was celebrating 50 days on the voyage, and Jarlath Cunnane (left) thought it might just be his birthday too, but had to check it on his phone with (left to right) Mike Grimes, Justin McDonagh, and Cruinniu na mBad’s Dr Mick Brogan

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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