The restoration of the 56ft 1926-built ketch Ilen by Liam Hegarty and Fachtna O’Sullivan and their team in the boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore in West Cork, working in concert with the Gary Mac Mahon-directed Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick, will be moving into the next stage this weekend when the historic vessel makes her debut afloat in her new colours at the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival on Saturday writes W M Nixon.
As with many thing to do with boats and ships, the nearer you move towards the completion of a major project, the slower the final precise tasks seem to become. The devil is indeed in the details. But in Oldcourt, as memories of the long winter recede, impressive marine machinery - like the bronze windlass re-created by specialist David Webster - gets installed on the ship to add to her sense of purpose.
At the stern, where an extra flourish has been given to Ilen’s shapely transom with the gold escutcheon crafted from the sound remains of an original hull timber, wood carver James O’Loughlin of Cobh has been painstakingly creating a classic name and port-of-registry configuration that will elegantly tell everything in properly restrained style to complement the ketch’s new image.
And all those bits and pieces which followers of the Ilen project have seen emerging from workshops in Limerick and elsewhere are now in place to take on their specific tasks as Ilen and her highly individual ketch rig – which manages to be both complex and simple – prepare to test themselves at sea.
Some of the bits and pieces have a special resonance for those who have been involved with the Ilen Project from its earliest days. When the mainboom gooseneck was unveiled, its simple functionality projected a beauty all of its own. And as for the final spar to be delivered from Limerick down to Oldcourt, that is something very special indeed, as it is the square-sail yard which will do its work well aloft.
Ideally, it should be as light as possible while providing great strength, so the late and much-missed Theo Rye, expert in all to do with classic and traditional restorals and reconstruction, agreed to design a sweetly tapered hollow spar whose creation seriously tested the developing skills of the Ilen Boat-Building School. But now, every time the square sail is up and drawing, Ilen’s crew will fondly remember the many kindnesses of Theo Rye.