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Displaying items by tag: Strangford Lough

Portaferry RNLI came to the aid of two people on Saturday evening (21 October) after they got cut off by the tide at Rough Island at the northern end of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat at 5.25pm at the request of Belfast Coastguard.

Helmed by Dave Fisher and with crew members Molly Crowe, Rosslyn Watret and George Toma onboard, the lifeboat launched immediately and made its way to the scene at Rough Island, which has a causeway that covers a period of 2-3 hours before high tide.

Weather conditions at the time were good with a Force 3-4 wind and a slight sea state.

Once on scene, the crew observed that the man and woman were both safe and well before taking them onboard the lifeboat and bringing them safely back to shore.

Speaking following the call-out, Heather Kennedy, Portaferry RNLI lifeboat operations manager said: “We were delighted to be able to assist both people safely back to shore.

“We would remind anyone planning a walk to always check weather and tide time signage before venturing out as it can be easy to get caught out by the incoming tide at high water.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Any sailing competition for young people that began in 2008 and is still going strong must have an attractive format. The Strangford Lough Youth Series is still drawing sizeable turnouts, and maybe it’s because the timing, on the day after, and at the location of five of the Lough Regattas, suits well.

This is a club team race series organised by a cooperative of clubs on the lough and is designed to encourage young people to progress into racing. The SLYS allows junior sailors to develop their sailing and racing skills in a competitive but fun environment.

This season, the winning club was the Whiterock-based Strangford Lough YC. Killyleagh, Quoile, East Down and Strangford were all involved.

Toppers at Strangford Sailing Club at the Strangford Lough Youth SeriesToppers at Strangford Sailing Club at the Strangford Lough Youth Series

The initiative for this series came from Davy Young from Killyleagh YC and Roger Chamberlain from SLYC. Gerry Reilly and Jane McMeekin, who had coached Strangford Sailing Club youngsters for years, got involved later. They realised that after initial instruction and Championship racing, there was nothing much in between, and the Lough series adequately filled that gap.

 A dinghy capsize during the Strangford Lough Youth Series  A dinghy capsize during the Strangford Lough Youth Series 

Over 50 young people between 8 and 18 have taken part over the years, and many have progressed to National and International competitions, and indeed, their children are now sailing. This season, over 20 took part in three classes of dinghies – Lasers, Fevas and Toppers.

The format also acts as informal training, and although scoring isn’t easy, a system was satisfactorily devised.

Strangford Lough Youth SeriesStrangford Lough Youth Series

Published in Youth Sailing

No sooner than the 40 Wayfarer dinghies left East Down Yacht Club last weekend after their successful International rally, it’s the turn of bigger boats to step up for a Ladies’ Cruise in Company.

On Sunday 25th June, the club, which is situated in a very sheltered passage inside Island Taggart on the west of Strangford Lough, will organise a fun day on the water to give the lady members experience of sailing big boats for all levels, from beginners up to racers.

Eight cruisers varying in size from 26 to 40 footers will be used, and the ladies will be sailing the boats themselves, taking turns to helm, crew and use the radio, and the owners will be on board to advise. It is a great opportunity for our new lady members to meet others: it is not a training day, just a fun experience, and there will be a RIB with the boats.

Margie Crawford, who is organising this event, says she hopes that this might be an annual event for the benefit of our ladies.

For more detail, see East Down Yacht Club and the flyer below

EDYC Ladies’ Cruise in CompanyEDYC Ladies’ Cruise in Company flyer

Published in Women in Sailing

Last week, the International Wayfarer gathering in Strangford Lough attracted over 40 visitors from as far away as the USA and from mainland Europe. The event was hosted by East Down Yacht Club on the west side of the Lough.

Club members lent boats to those flying in from overseas, which is a traditional feature of the International Rally. Mixing and sailing with Wayfarer enthusiasts from different countries and with different experiences keeps people coming back year after year and is a great learning experience.

The Wayfarers approaching the lightship at Ballydorn, home of Down Cruising ClubThe Wayfarers approaching the lightship at Ballydorn, home of Down Cruising Club

The kind sunny weather meant the fleet could explore much of the Lough though there was considerable time spent waiting for the wind to fill in. The Lough, which is the largest sea inlet in the British Isles, empties 350 million cubic meters of water through a five-mile-long channel, the Narrows, into the Irish Sea and on the rising tide repeats the process. Thus the tidal flow can reach eight knots in the fast stretches and lower, though noticeable speeds elsewhere. This made for an interesting experience for many of the crews.

The week began with a talk by Ralph Roberts, the Wayfarer International Committee Secretary, who gave a talk 'Nine Lives of a Wayfarer Cruiser' on his lifetime's cruising experiences and the lessons learned. The Wayfarer dinghy is particularly suitable for cruising and family sailing as well as for open sea voyages in the hands of those with suitable experience, as Ralph Roberts demonstrated in having crossed the English Channel six times and sailing to Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Some of the numerous islands in the Lough were ideal spots for picnics and after waiting for the wind on Monday last, the fleet sailed inside Island Taggart north to Long Sheelagh island, then on to the west side of Pawle Island for a lunch stop. Lots of light wind tactics were seen as the fleet slowly returned to EDYC, rounding Don O’Neill island.

On Tuesday on a break from sailing many if the group climbed Slieve Binnian or visited the easier option of the trail to the Blue Lough for their first experience of the Mountains of Mourne in the South of County Down.

Other outings in the exploration of the Lough included a sail south past Killyleagh to land on Gore's Island for lunch, during which time the new Wayfarer Weekender dinghy was demonstrated. The trip back was a long reach.

Ringhaddy Sound on Strangfrod lough Photo: Michael HarpurRinghaddy Sound on Strangfrod lough Photo: Michael Harpur

The ‘adventure’ north through Ringhaddy Sound, home of the Ringhaddy Cruising Club, took the fleet past the famous Blue Cabin on Islandmore. The Cabin was acquired in 1969 by the late Brian Faulkner, the last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and it served as a haven for him and his family during the tumultuous years which followed. The sight of 30 Wayfarer dinghies threading through the moored boats was great. After rounding Rainey Island and passing the lightship, the home of the Down Cruising Club, before the tide was too low, there was a glorious return leg passing Darragh and Castle Islands.

The change in the weather on the last day to a southeasterly Force 3 to 4, which funnelled up the Narrows, made for a sparkling beat across the lough to the eastern shore at Ardkeen. Ardkeen includes a fine example of a Bronze Age double-ditch hill fort, which was subsequently developed by John de Courcy as a principal Norman castle. The 30 Wayfarers beating into the narrowing Dorn at Ardkeen was a fine sight that seemed to bring out some racing tendencies! There are other places called Dorn in Strangford Lough; the word is from the Gaelic for a narrow channel.

Awards to Ralph Roberts (L) and John Miller (EDYC) and lead organiser Monica Schaefer, the UKWA Irish RepresentativeAwards to Ralph Roberts (L) and John Miller (EDYC) and lead organiser Monica Schaefer, the UKWA Irish Representative

The Rally concluded with a farewell meal at which a special award was made to Ralph Roberts, the International Rallies' originator. He has attended all but a couple of the 30 held.

At the event were representatives from sister associations of the UKWA (UK Wayfarer Assoc): NEDWA (Netherlands Wayfarer Assoc), and North American Wayfarer Assoc. The Chair of UKWA, John Mellor, also visited as did the Chair of NEDWA, Joke Peers. During the week, it was learned that the RYA has awarded John Mellor a Lifetime Commitment Award.

Published in Wayfarer
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Hot on the heels of the very successful Leisure 17 50th Anniversary event at East Down Yacht Club on Strangford Lough, a fleet of 12 Impalas and Sonatas gathered for a two-day Open Event last weekend (27th/28th May.

The club lies on the western shore of Strangford Lough.

Imp, owned by Grant McCullough, Philp McIlvenna and David Maxwell, won the Impala eight strong event with two firsts and a fifth.

Ian Smyth’s Sonata, MouseMary Martin’s Sonata, Mouse

In the Sonatas, the top boat was Mary Martin’s Mouse posting three firsts and a second from the five races.

The first four races were windward/leeward, and the final race was around the fixed Strangford Lough racing marks.

Commodore Keith Carr was pleased with how the event went. “A very successful event; a wind shift on the first day added fun to it. Breezy enough on the second day".

Leisure 17s form a sizeable fleet at East Down Yacht Club, which is tucked away on a nine-acre site on the western shore of Strangford Lough, with an anchorage in Holm Bay between Island Taggart and the coast. It is reached by a laneway off the Killinchy to Killyleagh Road.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Leisure 17s at East Down, with the first being introduced in 1973 via the then Ireland distributor for Leisure 17s, North Down Marine, Dundonald, County Down.

Last year was the 40th anniversary of the Leisure Owners Association, for which there were multiple local events across the UK and Ireland. EDYC hosted a 40th anniversary day sail in August last year, followed by a BBQ at the club.

East Down has enjoyed much L17 activity over the last half century, with at times a 30-strong fleet in a very active club and Strangford Lough Regatta Conference racing scene. Since 2019 EDYC has seen a resurgence in numbers of Leisure boats, growing from 15 in 2019 and now numbering 25 plus two Leisure 20s.

Leisure 17 crews raft up for lunch at East Down Yacht Club on Strangford LoughLeisure 17 crews raft up for lunch at East Down Yacht Club on Strangford Lough

The fleet began the anniversary year with the first of the cruising activities on Sunday, 7th May. It was a glorious start to the season on Strangford Lough, with blue skies and a steady breeze in the late teens. Five of the 25-strong fleet embarked upon the 15-mile round trip from their anchorage in Holm Bay to Whiterock farther north.

In the company of two like-minded Drascombes on a flooding tide with a southerly wind, they headed north through the main body of Strangford at a comfortable 7 knots SOG. Eddie McWatters’ Bumblebee sailed faster as he deployed her spinnaker.

All seven boats made for the windward north shore of Conly Island near Strangford Lough Yacht Club dropped anchor and rafted up to enjoy refreshments and banter. Then it was home through Ringhaddy Sound, in the face of a stiffening breeze.

Further cruising dates are 1st July, 6th August, 9th and 23rd September, alongside Wednesday night and Saturday afternoon Club racing. These cruises will be mostly inside Strangford Lough with one through the Strangford Narrows out of the Lough to Ardglass Marina on the southern County Down coast.

The 50th year of activities will be celebrated with a gathering at the club.

Class Secretary, Stephen Perry said, “To encourage participation from farther afield would be wonderful. It is understood, although not verified, that at East Down, we are the largest fleet of Leisure 17s in the UK and Ireland. There are many more L17s in England, with a concentration on the East Coast, but no one club on record has the numbers of EDYC”.

Strangford Lough in East County Down is the largest sea lough in the British Isles, and last week the lough's bottlenose dolphins were joined by a Scottish visitor called Squiggle, previously known as Tyler from Moray Firth.

The dolphin with the white marking on its fin is Squiggle. It was last seen at Port Appin north of the Lynn of Lorne in Western Scotland on January 23rd.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group in Northern Ireland say that this information shows the power of Citizen Science recordings of coastal bottlenose dolphins to help track individual animals around the UK and Irish coasts. Citizen science is scientific research conducted with participation from the public.

Both top marine predators, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises, are highly protected in Northern Ireland, so it is important not to approach these animals on the water or try to interfere with their natural behaviour.

More information here

Published in Marine Wildlife
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A pilot scheme on Strangford Lough, which is trying to stimulate seagrass growth on the seabed by testing alternative mooring systems, has been reported by BBC News NI.

Last April, Afloat highlighted a project initiated by the Strangford and Lecale Partnership which started a new pilot study of Advanced Mooring Systems in Strangford Lough. It was the first study of its kind in Northern Ireland to focus on eco-friendly moorings which could avoid or limit the damage caused to the seafloor habitats and species by the swinging chain of traditional boat moorings

Seagrass is a flowering plant able to live in seawater, and its ability to absorb carbon is thought to be greater than that of trees.

The moorings had been laid in Ballyhenry Bay just north of Portaferry on the Strangford Narrows, which DiveNI describes as “a well-established seagrass (Zostera marina) bed with large blades, although it can be patchy in places, especially due to scouring from moorings”.

Dr David Smyth, who inspected the area, says each mooring ship is damaging around a 6m (19.7ft) circle of seabed Photo: BBC News NIDr David Smyth, who inspected the area, says each mooring ship is damaging around a 6m (19.7ft) circle of seabed Photo: BBC News NI

BBC NI News says, “According to Darren Rice of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council's geopark team, the traditional mooring system can scar the bottom of the seabed and get rid of the seagrass”. It seems that the mooring systems laid last year are now the subject of the survey. He continues, “We are currently surveying two new advanced mooring systems to see which ones are best for Strangford Lough. So we are hoping these systems will lift the chain off the seabed and allow the seagrass to recover, and that will allow all of the biodiversity to rush back in."

Zostera marina or Seagrass Photo: National Museum of Nature and Science,Tokyo Zostera marina or Seagrass Photo: National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo 

On inspection of the trial moorings Conservation Officer Dr David Smyth found, “Beyond the chain of the mooring the seagrass is in pretty good shape; it has a good root system and is well intact into the substrate. But where the chain has swung around the mooring block, it is pretty scarred up. One on its own isn't a particularly big problem, but if you have 10 to 15 of them, you are taking out a six-metre circle with the chain moving in the tide. That's removing that seagrass, that carbon capture plant that everybody is very excited about."

The many sailing clubs around the Lough have mooring sites in dozens of locations, and there are many private moorings as well.

Commercial diver Jonathan Connor was also among those inspecting the trial site, and they found that a few pieces of the chain were missing, so they were replaced.

This pilot scheme is expected to continue for several years to change nothing above the water but stimulate life below.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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A country park doesn’t readily come to mind as a venue for a weekend of St.Ayles Skiff racing, but Delamont lies on the shores of Strangford Lough near Killyleagh and has proved an ideal base for this activity in the past.

St. Ayles Skiff (pronounced Saint Isles) is a four-oared rowing boat designed by Iain Oughtred and inspired by the traditional Fair Isle skiff. The boat is clinker built, 6.7 m long with a beam of 1.7 m. and is normally crewed by four sweep rowers with a cox.

This season’s event, hosted by the Down Coastal Rowing Association, is on the weekend of the 5th and 6th of August and will include land and water-based activities for the whole family.

The schedule is for 33 races covering several age categories.

A scene from the 2022 Skiffie FestivalA scene from the 2022 Skiffie Festival

1,500 rowers are expected to race in a mixed male and female format. David Larmour of the Association says, “As well as interest from eight or nine local clubs, we have had enquiries from fifteen Scottish clubs, one from England and a couple from Holland”.

The event is free to enter and supported by Newry and Mourne District Council and Sport NI.

In a great development for the St Ayles skiff class of Coastal Rowing Boat, four existing national associations have agreed to form an International Class Association, with a view to promoting the Class worldwide, ensuring the continuing success of SkiffieWorlds, and keeping the same high standards wherever St Ayles skiffs are raced. A Minute of Agreement was signed at SkiffieWorlds 2019 by Down Coastal Rowing Association (the Class Association for All Ireland), the Australian St Ayles Skiff Community Rowing Association, the Dutch St Ayles Rowing Association and the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association.

The agreement brings mutual recognition for each association and commits them to work together for the International Association.

For more information on how to enter or to see what's planned click here 

Published in Coastal Rowing

The Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is looking for Youth Rangers. Lecale is a peninsula in the east of County Down and lies between Strangford Lough and Dundrum Bay. It was designated an AONB in 1967 and was merged with the Strangford Lough AONB in 2010 to form the new Strangford and Lecale AONB.

The area is located between the Lough and the Mourne Mountains in South Down and has a low sandy, rocky or grassy shoreline. Its southern tip lies along an extensive sand dune system at Dundrum Bay.

The AONB Youth Ranger Programme 2022/23 is looking for young people aged between 14 and 17 who would like the opportunity to learn outdoor adventure and practical conservation skills. The programme will extend to the Ring of Gullion Landscape west of Newry in South Down, lying around the mountain’s mystical ring dyke formed over 60 million years ago.

The Programme will run for five days in each of the AONBs, starting on Saturday, 14th January 2023 in Strangford and Lecale. It is designed to give the opportunity to learn outdoor skills such as navigation and canoeing, whilst exploring the Ring of Gullion and Strangford and Lecale AONBs; learning about how it formed and its rich biodiversity and heritage. Most importantly of all, it’s an opportunity for to learn practical conservation skills and contribute to the environmental management of the area.

Some past Youth Rangers had these comments to make about the programme:“It was very educational and fun and helped me learn how to help the environment more.” “Great for CV, thanks” “It was brilliant fun and I would definitely come back and recommend it!”

The programme is part funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council.

The application deadline for our Youth Ranger programme has been extended to 5pm on 6th January 2023 and you can download the application pack here 

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World Sailing Information

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World Sailing is made up of 144 Member National Authorities, the national governing bodies for sailing around the world and 117 World Sailing Class Associations.