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Limerick Trading Ketch Ilen Proves Faster Than Expected on Cargo Cruise

24th August 2020
 Ilen at the quay in Baltimore yesterday (Sunday) to take on local products for delivery by sea Ilen at the quay in Baltimore yesterday (Sunday) to take on local products for delivery by sea Photo: Gary MacMahon

When - on August 4th - we previewed the planned eco-friendly "cargo cruise" by the restored Limerick trading ketch Ilen on Afloat.ie, it was emphasised that speed would not be of the essence as the 1926 Conor O'Brien-designed and Oldcourt West Cork-built 56ft traditional ship carried a variety of special cargoes between Baltimore, Kilrush, Foynes, Limerick, Kilronan in the Aran Islands, Dingle and Cork City.

Yet in Sunday's welcome sunshine at noon in Baltimore, the West Cork and Cape Clear section of the cargo was taken on board, and this morning (Monday) at Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary, there was Ilen, already in her first port, and ready to discharge the ordered consignment of Red Strand Coffee, expertly roasted in West Cork.

Cargo being taken aboard Ilen in Baltimore for delivery from West Cork to Clare and other placesCargo being taken aboard in Baltimore for delivery from West Cork to Clare and other places. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon 

West Cork products – all the better for arriving by sea, they were delivered this morning in KilrushWest Cork products – all the better for arriving by sea, they were delivered this morning in Kilrush. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

If it had been sent by road with a courier, it probably wouldn't have got to Kilrush any sooner. But nevertheless, Gary Mac Mahon of the Ilen Project is keen to emphasise that speed is not what it's all about, rather it's about reminding people of how big a role an environmentally-friendly sailing-based delivery system used to play in Ireland's commerce, and for four days this week between Kilrush and Foynes, Ilen will be the focal point of an Education Programme for schoolchildren from Limerick and Clare.

The Skelligs partially hidden by the Atlantic mist, as seen yesterday (Sunday) evening from Ilen on her cargo voyage from Baltimore towards Kilrush, Foynes and LimerickThe Skelligs partially hidden by the Atlantic mist, as seen yesterday (Sunday) evening from Ilen on her cargo voyage from Baltimore towards Kilrush, Foynes and Limerick. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

From Foynes, she goes on to Limerick for cargo deliveries, and formal registration with her historic home port, then it's northward to Kilronan for more discharging and loading of cargo before taking in Dingle on the way to the main delivery at Port of Cork.

Beyond that, it is planned that the cargo voyage be extended to Dublin by the third week of September. But for now, on this Monday morning, it's good to know that Ilen is securely in Kilrush well ahead of the latest forecast storm, and the first delivery of this unusual project has already taken place. 

Kilrush Creek as it is now. In the days of trading sail, it was an important cargo port Kilrush Creek as it is now. In the days of trading sail, it was an important cargo port.

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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