Limerick’s restored 56ft Conor O’Brien-designed 1926-built traditionally-rigged trading ketch Ilen emerged yesteray evening (Sunday) from the eastern end of Prince Christian Sound to start her passage back to Ireland writes W M Nixon. The magnificent Sound - noted for its dramatic scenery - leads inside the archipelago of steep islands which culminate in Greenland’s most southerly headland of Cape Farewell. By negotiating it safely, the crew of Ilen - under the command of Paddy Barry with traditional west of Ireland boat sailors Jarlath Cunnane and Dr Mick Brogan added to the strength for the return voyage - have brought themselves within 12000 miles of Loop Head and a homecoming in the Shannon Estuary.
While coast-hopping south from the Greenland capital of Nuuk, Ilen’s home-coming crew have learned more about the ship’s handling characteristics, and a favourable wind through some channels has demonstrated how effectively the square-sail – complete with its Salmons Wake logo highlighting the central theme of the voyage – can be conveniently deployed on its own when dead-running, thereby avoiding the challenges of using the heavily-boomed mainsail with its hazards when gybing in stronger and often gusty winds.
The crew have taken the opportunity to avail of natural hot spring baths when they’ve been anchored near one, while every option has been taken to get the vessel in compact ocean-going condition and add to ship’s stores to ensure a well-fed homeward passage. The forecast for the coming days in the area of the North Atlantic where Ilen will be voyaging is currently looking quite favourable in terms of wind directions and strength, and the ship and her crew’s many followers worldwide wish her Bon Voyage.