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Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Ilen
The Shared Shannon Estuary - the Trading Ketch Ilen approaching Limerick upriver as a Women's Four from St Michael’s Rowing Club heads downstream in Sunday morning’s good weather
Most people’s memories of the already pandemic-constricted Bank Holiday Weekend will be of Monday's wet and windy storm. But the training crew on the restored Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen of Limerick have only pleasant memories, as a fair weather passage…
The newly-built Ilen at Foynes on 22nd July 1926, as recorded in his own highly personal style by Harbour Master Hugh O’Brien
Global circumnavigator and sailing ship designer Conor O’Brien (1880-1952) inevitably saw his most noted vessels, the 42ft world-girdler Saoirse and the 56ft trading ketch Ilen, being closely associated by the rest of the world with their birthplace in Baltimore. But…
The
The good ship Ilen, the 56ft Trading Ketch of Limerick, has been in the slipway cradle at Liam Hegarty's boatyard in Oldcourt upriver of Baltimore in West Cork this week, enjoying the relatively dry weather and the attention of her…
"She stopped time for everyone around". So said photographer Teddy Murphy as he recorded the characterful Limerick trading ketch Ilen when she came through Dalkey Sound in a flash of sunlight on the afternoon of December 7th for a busy two weeks visit to Dublin
In Greek mythology, at the Winter Solstice, there is a brief calm for the Halcyon Day, and this was the experience of the crew on the Limerick ketch Ilen as they headed away on Monday evening, after a busy two…
Putting on the cloth on the shortest day of the year – Ilen’s headsails being hanked on at Poolbeg Y&BC in Dublln this afternoon
The great Captain Cook may have voyaged to the Pacific in 1769 for the astronomical purpose of observing the Transit of Venus from Tahiti. But tonight (Monday) the crew of the Limerick ketch Ilen have a more modest hope -…
Ships that pass as history is being made. With the final stages of Brexit negotiations in the balance, the Limerick Trading Ketch Ilen is recorded by RTE News coming up Dublin's River Liffey as the cross-channel ferry Clipper Pennant heads out for a UK port, still under minimal customs regulation. With Ilen making for a berth at Poolbeg Marina, she has been instructed to hold to the south side of the Dublin Port Channel
The Limerick ambassadorial ketch Ilen arrived on the Liffey River at Dublin in the late hours of Sunday after a fast passage, and since then has been out daily from Poolbeg Y & BC's marina on Dublin Bay with a…
The Ilen on port tack crossing Dublin Bay
The unmistakable sight of the traditional ketch Ilen as she crosses Dublin Bay today  (Monday, December 7th). The restored vessel is on a 'Sailing into Wellness' programme on the capitals' waters this week, working with organisations Coolmine, Tiglin and @tolkariver The…
Trading ship, sailing ship, school ship – the Ilen goes about her business in Kilrush, County Clare
The restored 1926-built 56ft Limerick trading ketch Ilen's project of education through action and involvement continues to be developed with the Ilen Marine School's Community and Cargo 2020-21 Programme. Transportation of cargo to coastal communities was the original purpose of…
First day at school: the trading ketch Ilen in her new role as the Ilen Marine School, getting under way on Bank Holiday Monday.
When the 56ft Conor O'Brien-designed trading ketch Ilen - built in Baltimore in West Cork in 1926 - was retrieved and brought back to Ireland by Gary MacMahon of Limerick from the Falkland Islands in November 1997, it was the…
Sheep-shape & Bristol fashion, or a time for woolly thinking……? For 64 years from 1926 until around 1990, deck scenes like this were a regular part of the Ilen's long working life
When we contemplate the 56ft 1926-vintage Limerick ketch Ilen today in her superbly-restored form, making her stylish way along rugged coastlines and across oceans on voyages of cultural and trading significance between places as evocative as Nuuk in West Greenland…
Ilen departs Foynes, on passage for Kilronan in the Aran Islands. Conor O'Brien – Ilen's designer in 1926 – ensured that all his major voyages essentially started from Foynes, his home port where he lived on Foynes Island
The restored 1926-built Conor O'Brien-designed 56ft ketch Ilen of Limerick found the Atlantic in a challenging mood last week as she undertook a combined educational, cultural, and commercial cargo voyage. Yet despite the vagaries of the Irish weather and the…
Back at her real home after 93 years – the 56ft 1926-built restored Limerick Trading ketch Ilen takes up her berth in Foynes for the first time in 94 years yesterday (Friday) evening. On the Foynes YC pontoon are (left to right) Ilen Project Manager Gary Mac Mahon, and Conor O’Brien family relatives Rob, Alison and Stephen O'Brien. Conor O’Brien’s modest house of Barneen on Foynes Island, in which he designed both Saoirse and Ilen and spent his last days in 1952, is just visible above Ilen’s bowsprit.
The 56ft Trading Ketch Ilen has had a busy couple of days of cultural and educational activities in Kilrush during her current two-week cargo cruise, with performances including shows and workshops with noted Limerick Boy and contemporary dancer Tobi Omoteso.…
The trading ketch Ilen berthed in County Clare where traditional sail traders berthed before her, at the quayside in Kilrush
The Shannon Estuary is king size and clearly defined. Where some other great rivers gradually broaden as they near the sea, sometimes dissipating further into a delta, the Shannon Estuary affirms its individuality with a rapid change as it emerges…
 Ilen at the quay in Baltimore yesterday (Sunday) to take on local products for delivery by sea
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…
Ilen enjoys a breeze, and can safely deliver cargo in an environmentally-friendly way
When the restored 56ft ketch Ilen of Limerick gets worthwhile wind conditions, she can give a good account of herself in terms of sailing speed. Yet no-one would claim that her rate of knots on passage afloat remotely compares to…
The new Ilen Tetra Pak models have sailed on the Rhine and the Shannon
The restored Limerick trading ketch Ilen may have already voyaged to Greenland in 2019, but this year the distinctive vessel – or at least a model of her – has also been seen sailing on the Rhine in Germany. For…

Ireland's Trading Ketch Ilen

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.

Wooden Sailing Ship Ilen FAQs

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

The Ilen was designed by Conor O’Brien, the first Irish man to circumnavigate the world.

Ilen is named for the West Cork River which flows to the sea at Baltimore, her home port.

The Ilen was built by Baltimore Sea Fisheries School, West Cork in 1926. Tom Moynihan was foreman.

Ilen's wood construction is of oak ribs and planks of larch.

As-built initially, she is 56 feet in length overall with a beam of 14 feet and a displacement of 45 tonnes.

Conor O’Brien set sail in August 1926 with two Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear in West Cork, arriving at Port Stanley in January 1927 and handed it over to the new owners.

The Ilen was delivered to the Falkland Islands Company, in exchange for £1,500.

Ilen served for over 70 years as a cargo ship and a ferry in the Falkland Islands, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties. She stayed in service until the early 1990s.

Limerick sailor Gary McMahon and his team located Ilen. MacMahon started looking for her in 1996 and went out to the Falklands and struck a deal with the owner to bring her back to Ireland.

After a lifetime of hard work in the Falklands, Ilen required a ground-up rebuild.

A Russian cargo ship transported her back on a 12,000-mile trip from the Southern Oceans to Dublin. The Ilen was discharged at the Port of Dublin 1997, after an absence from Ireland of 70 years.

It was a collaboration between the Ilen Project in Limerick and Hegarty’s Boatyard in Old Court, near Skibbereen. Much of the heavy lifting, of frames, planking, deadwood & backbone, knees, floors, shelves and stringers, deck beams, and carlins, was done in Hegarty’s. The generally lighter work of preparing sole, bulkheads, deck‐houses fixed furniture, fixtures & fittings, deck fittings, machinery, systems, tanks, spar making and rigging is being done at the Ilen boat building school in Limerick.

Ten years. The boat was much the worse for wear when it returned to West Cork in May 1998, and it remained dormant for ten years before the start of a decade-long restoration.

Ilen now serves as a community floating classroom and cargo vessel – visiting 23 ports in 2019 and making a transatlantic crossing to Greenland as part of a relationship-building project to link youth in Limerick City with youth in Nuuk, west Greenland.

At a mere 56ft, Ilen is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

©Afloat 2020

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