The Limerick ketch Ilen returned safely from Greenland to berth at an Irish quayside for the first time in more than two months when, at 0400hrs this morning, skipper Paddy Barry and his crew brought the 56ft 1926-built “little ship” safely alongside the facilities beside the Trident Hotel in Kinsale writes W M Nixon. This will be Ilen’s base for the Autumn as – with command now passing to James Lyons - she works with the Sailing into Wellness Programme and sail-training projects with trainees from the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick.
2019 has been an achievement-filled and extraordinary busy year for the much-loved restored vessel, for in addition to sail training courses earlier in this, her first full season, she has now completed a voyage of around 5,000 miles to and from Greenland, a voyage which included extensive intercultural and educational exchanges with the people of that enormous Arctic island.
Ilen Project Director Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick and his supportive colleagues and donors deserve every congratulation for the achievements of all involved, while Ilen’s current crew in particular deserve special credit for the skilled way in which they chose the optimal weather window in which to return across the ocean at an unceasingly difficult time in the Atlantic weather cycle, for even as they were relaxing on finally being secured in Kinsale this morning, the weather was already deteriorating rapidly in the open Atlantic west of Mizen Head.
With such a busy ongoing programme, there’s scarcely time to take stock before moving into the next stage - the training programmes operating from Kinsale. But the word is that later today, most if not all of the 26 different people who were involved in getting Ilen to and from Greenland, together with extensive coastal exploration of the southwest and west Greenland coasts, will be gathering in Kinsale later today for some well-earned celebration.