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Historic Ketch Ilen’s Essential Limerick-Baltimore Corridor Re-opens

6th March 2018
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The inter-island communications vessels Ilen (left) and Penelope in the Falkland Islands in 1977. The Irish-designed-and-built Ilen was always reckoned slightly faster than the German-built Penelope, even when Ilen’s skipper and youngest commander, the 16-year-old Stephen Clifton, was still learning the ropes The inter-island communications vessels Ilen (left) and Penelope in the Falkland Islands in 1977. The Irish-designed-and-built Ilen was always reckoned slightly faster than the German-built Penelope, even when Ilen’s skipper and youngest commander, the 16-year-old Stephen Clifton, was still learning the ropes

Efficient travel between the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick and Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore, where work continues on restoring the 56ft 1926-built ketch Ilen, has been a key factor in progressing the project writes W M Nixon.

All the more detailed parts are assembled in Limerick before being transported to Baltimore for installation in the ship. The recent exceptionally bad winter weather saw the link disconnected for a few days, but now it’s running smoothly again. And next week will see Ilen’s massive mainmast being transported to Oldcourt for early stepping, as her new location in the open – albeit under a special tent structure which withstood the bad weather very well – enables work to proceed in all areas.

ilen propellor2For efficient working of the inter-island routes, it was essential that Ilen operated as a true auxiliary ketch, and the recent fitting of this impressive propellor has been a marker of real progress. Photo Gary MacMahon

ilen tankage3Getting the newly-made tanks from Limerick to Oldcourt, followed by their rapid transfer into the ship, was a typical function of the Limerick-Baltimore “corridor”. Photo: Gary MacMahon

The impressive propellor has been fitted, work on the interior has seen Limerick-made tankage of all kinds being installed, and once the mast is in place we’ll be seeing a ship reflecting the Ilen in her working days, though in a much brighter paint scheme to reflect her future educational role.

Once in place, the rig will appear to have it own delicate tracery, but as the images from the Ilen workshop reveal very clearly, the spars and their rigging are on a really heavy and workmanlike scale.

ilen mastwork4The workshop in Limerick has provided the ideal facilities for the initial assembly of the mainmast. Photo: Gary MacMahon

ilen mastwork5Definitely a grown-up piece of work – detail of the fittings at the hounds. Photo: Gary MacMahon

The restoration has been followed with increasing interest by the Falkland Islanders she used to serve, and recently they sent Gary MacMahon in Limerick some photos from the 1970s showing Ilen berthed with the other inter-island communications vessel, the German-built Penelope ex-Feuerland, which like Ilen has been re-patriated to the land of her berth for restoration, in this case in Hamburg.

To the quiet pleasure of the Ilen team, the word from the islands is that Ilen was always the faster of the two, even when her skipper was the youngest commander of all, the recently-recruited 16-year-old Stephen Clifton.

ilen rig profile6Ilen as she will look when fully rigged again, something which takes a sigificant step forward next week when the main spars are transported from Limerick to Baltimore

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