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Limerick Ketch Ilen DIY Kids’ Model Provides Handy Pint-Size Challenge for a €150 Prize

21st April 2020
Seeing things differently. Who’d have thought a Tetrapak was actually the Ilen in disguise? Seeing things differently. Who’d have thought a Tetrapak was actually the Ilen in disguise?

Junior and very junior sailors who’d like a special indoor Do-it-Yourself Challenge in these locked-in times will find something of special interest in the latest idea from current Irish Sailing Presidential Award holder Gary MacMahon of Limerick.

Gary received his award for his twenty-years of dedication in getting the 1926-built 56ft ketch Ilen of Conor O’Brien fame restored to such good seagoing order that, last summer, she voyaged to Greenland from Ireland and back, and collected other awards for that achievement.

This year the plan had been to have Ilen busy in and around the Shannon Estuary for the first half of the season, visiting all the local ports as part of her regular “Sailing into Wellness” programme. Then, on July 19th, she was to depart for Madeira to replicate the 1926 voyage Conor O’Brien made there with the ship, on his way to the Falklands, where Ilen was to spend her 40-year working life.

crew and ilen2Still seeing things differently through young eyes – Ilen’s delivery crew, and the ship herself

But the COVID-19 lockdown has put that on hold for a year. However, one ray of hope is that if some sailing does resume in August, then Ilen may be able to make her first visit to the Cruinniu na mBad festival in Kinvara on Galway Bay – if it happens, this year’s is scheduled for 14th to 16th August.

Meanwhile, the Ilen team have been prevented from assembling in any way by current regulations in what would normally have been be a very busy time of joint effort for her fit-out programme, and thus the ship is effectively moth-balled in Limerick when she should already be sailing.

So in the meantime, one day Gary was idly observing a Tetrapak and got to thinking how it might be completely re-purposed to be the basis of a kids’ home project and competition for a €150 Amazon Gift Prize to create a pint-sized version of Ilen, complete with Conor O’Brien and the Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear, who crewed with him on the long voyage of 1926.

And yes, we know that a standard Tetrapak actually holds a litre, but for most of us “pint-size” has a much more resonant meaning. Take the basics off this pdf, and then you’ll just need a few little things that “should be readily available in a modern household….”

Ilen tetra pak boat craft for kids3 1This is the cut-out-and-get-to-work department - Scroll down to the end of the article to download a PDF to make your own Ilen

Oh yeah? We can see some mums and dads having kittens as they try to get their colour printer to work in order to create the cut-outs on a standard sheet of A4 paper, but not to worry, all will be well in the end. Have a care, though, when applying the specified Super-Glue – a kid-friendly paste from a squeezy tube or painted on with a sponge pen might be safer.

The key thing is to have the square-sail properly printed with the evocative Salmon’s Wake logo which set the tone for the Greenland voyage, and now seems to be the symbol for the entire Ilen project. Get that right, and then it’s Bon Voyage and good luck with the €150 prize. The competition ends on May 22nd. 

Ilen in greenland4Award winner every which way – Ilen in Greenland. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

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WM Nixon

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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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