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Displaying items by tag: Galway Bay
3rd December 2017

David Whitehead 1942-2017

Irish sailing is mourning the loss of someone very special with the death of Dave Whitehead of Kinvara. In his close and strong family circle, throughout an international circle of friends, and among many more in the Galway Bay area, the loss is made more poignant by the fact that he was a very active 75–year-old, brimming with plans for the future, and keenly interested in every aspect of the world today, both within and beyond sailing.

His life story is a tale of our times. From Monkstown in County Dublin, he was of a technically-minded family – a great-grand-uncle had invented the Whitehead Torpedo, the first in the world. Young David had started his sailing in Dublin Bay, but after graduating in geology from Trinity College, his career path was in mining, which eventually took him to many corners of the globe, some of them very remote, and others also very far underground.

However, an early position in the late 1960s was with Tynagh Mines in the southeast of County Galway, headed by Dave FitzGerald who shared his love of sailing. For a while they were much involved with the little sailing club which functioned at the time on the lake at Loughrea. But the call of the sea and the possibility of a club being established on Galway Bay drew their sailing interests westward, and during the early 1970s David Whitehead contributed much to the early life of Galway Bay Sailing Club, which was being spearheaded by determined enthusiasts like Pierce Purcell and others.

Dave had maintained his friendships with Dublin Bay sailing, and through John Bourke with Jack McKeown’s S&S 34 Korsair, he was able to introduce the new sailors of Galway, who at that time were experimenting with being based on Lough Atalia immediately east of the city, to the invigorating realities of offshore racing with ISORA.

Dave himself was soon to go on to become elected to both the Irish Cruising Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club. But meanwhile in Galway the neophyte club accepted his and David FitzGerald’s advice that they should locate their main sailing base at Renville near Oranmore at the head of Galway Bay, and soon Dave Whitehead was making an active input to the GBSC as a sailor who introduced some interesting craft to the growing fleet at Renville, and as a member of the committee.

david whitehead1aAlways absorbing information. Dave Whitehead taking on board some new facts while on passage from the Azores to Ireland in 2008. Photo: Ed Wheeler

The Honorary Secretary in those early days was Marie White, and in each other they found kindred spirits, and were married. They shared the hope that they would live in due course on the shores of Galway Bay, but to achieve that Dave first had to see through a very concentrated international career in mining. In this, with Marie’s support, he was very successful, working extremely hard both in the field and in board-rooms, rising rapidly through the ranks to achieve positions of significance in the leading global commodities firm Billiton – at the time of his death last week, he was chairman of a number of Billiton’s London-based subsidiaries.

He and Marie had long since also succeeded in returning to Galway Bay, buying The Glebe in Kinvara and turning it into an idyllic family home. As for sailing, his interest was if anything greater than ever, and though he had always made a point of finding the best sailing within reach of wherever his various mining jobs took him, his heart was with Galway Bay, where he went though an intriguing array of boats ranging from the Quarter Tonner Frantic aboard which many young GBSC sailors took their first steps afloat, to the classic miniature S&S 27 Shemite – all of them boats which have remained with the Galway Bay fleet under new owners.

One he’d achieved his dream of finally settling in the west (where, during his and Marie’s absence abroad, the members had built the first GBSC clubhouse at Renville in 1979) Dave Whitehead was able to put experience gained at many other sailing centres to good use. Though he’d never had any formal training in race management, Pierce Purcell fondly recalls that he proved a natural as a Race Officer, providing his services with enthusiasm, and running things afloat very competently and without fuss.

But by now his main enthusiasm in sailing was in cruising, while in life generally it was about learning even more to add to the huge stock of knowledge in his already well-furnished brain, and its deployment on the lively discussions which he relished. Fellow Irish Cruising Club member Ed Wheeler, himself no slouch when it comes to conversations in depth, recalls a voyage home from the Azores crewed by Dave: “The wind-driven autohelm was working very well, so inevitably at mealtimes, and indeed at many other times, there were discussions as we sailed along. You might think you had talked Dave around to your way of thinking, but then he would come up with some totally unexpected but indisputable and perfectly-remembered scientific fact from his warehouse of mental information, and the argument was back to square one”.

david whitehead2The unusual dreamship. While Dave Whitehead’s smaller gunk-holing craft were often of traditional appearance, much of his offshore cruising was done with the highly-individual Oyster Mariner 35 Joyster, a Holman & Pye design which packed an astonishing amount of accommodation into a compact hull which performed very well

Typically of Dave Whitehead, when making a Transatlantic passage as crew with Marie aboard La Contenta in the ARC of 2003, the very fact of the boat being well equipped with the latest in electronic navigation aids prompted him to bring along traditional bits of gear to calculate their position, and by the end of the voyage not only was he getting his calculations absolutely spot on, but he had worked out ways of simplifying the time-honoured methods used by the likes of James Cook and other great voyagers.

For his own principle cruising boat, he was for many years content with the ingeniously-laid-out Holman & Pye-designed Oyster Mariner 35 ketch Joyster in which he voyaged near and far, and was rewarded with ICC and GBSC trophies. But from the moment he settled in Kinvara, he was also fascinated by the miniature cruising possibilities – the “gunk-holing potential” – of the much-indented southern and eastern shores of Galway Bay. To explore them properly, he went through an almost bewildering variety of small specialist cruisers with lifting keels and easily-handled rigs which enabled him to get to places where no cruising boat had ever been seen before.

With his base now in Kinvara, he could also contribute to the changes in the perceptions in the rest of Ireland of the level of sailing in the west, and together with Dave FitzGerald, he was much involved in a major re-balancing of the structure of the Irish Cruising Club. This began with an increase in western-based Committee members, then there was a western Rear Commodore, and eventually Dave FitzGerald served as Commodore from 2000 to 2002, while Dave Whitehead was Rear Commodore from 2006 to 2008, and Vice Commodore from 2009 to 2011.

In his later years, he made the shrewd judgment that the unpretentious but very cleverly-designed Moody 27 was the ideal boat for his main cruising needs, while continuing to work with specialists like boat-builder Tiernan Roe of Ballydehob in West Cork towards creating the perfect gunk-holing cruiser for places “where the water is very thin”.

In sailing the Moody 27 Mystic, he found an ideal crew in the equally individualistic Peter Fernie who lives on Tawin Island, which is well out in Galway Bay, though connected by a causeway to nearby Ireland. As matched spirits, they moved into an ownership partnership which worked very well, and a round Ireland cruise with an extended visit to the Hebrides in 2016 saw them being awarded GBSC’s David Baynes Cruising Award in the face of some formidable competition.

david whitehead3David Whitehead’s last seagoing cruiser was the Moody 27 Mystic, which he latterly co-owned with Peter FernieIt is Peter Fernie’s response to the death of David Whitehead which best captures the essence of this remarkable man, and with his permission, even though it re-phrases some of what we’ve already said, we are honoured to publish it here:

“David Whitehead: A memoir by Peter Fernie

David Whitehead was never lost for words. Whether it was boats, or maritime history in general, mountaineering or rugby, climate change or electric cars, you could be certain that David would have a well thought out position. More often than not, his was a contrary one to the accepted or establishment view, but a position backed up by his incomparable memory.

Despite his losing keys and mobile phones like the rest of us, I often wondered whether David had ever forgotten anything he had read or seen in the past. His prodigious recall was exemplified once when sailing up the Cleddau River in Wales, above Milford Haven. This location was not part of our plan, but we had ended up there en-route to Brittany, owing to a number of engine-related difficulties. David spied a moored wooden cutter, and we sailed across to get a closer look. Triumphantly he said: “That’s Driac” and proceeded to give me a detailed history of the 1930s Nicholson built boat: her original owner and cruises, as well as various assorted related ephemera comprising the establishment of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and the evacuation of the B.E.F. from Dunkirk. I always assumed that he had this stuff printed on the back of his eyelids. In the event I googled Driac when I got back home – he was absolutely accurate.

Moving to Galway in the ’60s, he had sailed up and down the west coast and further beyond with David Fitzgerald (ICC). His training as a geologist found him working with mining concerns around the world but wherever he was, he found time to sail. He was a founder member of Galway Bay Sailing Club and became a member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Irish Cruising Club in 1972. He became a member of the Royal Cruising Club in 2008.

He had raced and cruised many different boats since his days in Trinity College, Dublin. He had owned boats large and small from his first, a 16 foot Paul Gartside designed gaffer to his latest, Goblin, a 16 foot Chesapeake Bay microcruiser which he adapted for gunkholing around Galway Bay creeks.

In 2009 whilst Vice Commodore of the Irish Cruising Club, he was diagnosed with lung cancer which he attributed to working in an Australian uranium mine. Nevertheless, and despite major surgery he was sailing his Oyster Mariner 35 Joyster three months later to Tory Island and Lough Swilly. Despite a continually compromised respiratory system, David never let this get in the way of his sailing, with cruises to Wales, Brittany, the Isles of Scilly and the Aeolian Islands as well as the south and west coasts of Ireland. In 2016 we sailed from Galway to the Hebrides and back around Ireland clockwise to Galway in our Moody 27 Mystic.

This year, he was sailing in Galway Bay several days before a forthcoming hip replacement operation. Next year was to be an extended cruise to Galicia, as well as a gunkholing cruise in Roaring Water Bay.

He was an excellent shipmate and a great companion. He could be uncompromising and pedagogic but was never boring. He was unremittingly positive about life and dwelt always on the future whilst enjoying the past. He will be missed by many”.

Our heartfelt condolences are with David Whitehead’s wife Marie, his son Duncan, his daughters Jennifer and Siobhan, his daughter-in-law Kerry, his grandchildren, and his extended family and very many friends. May he rest in peace.

WMN

david whitehead4The last major cruise. Dave Whitehead at the helm of Mystic in June 2016, emerging from Broadhaven in Mayo, bound for the Hebrides with Eagle Island to seaward. Photo: Peter Fernie

Published in Cruising

#Books - Humble Works for Humble People is the title of a new history of the fishery piers of Galway Bay around coastal Galway and North Clare by Dr Noel Wilkins, a retired professor at NUI Galway.

The book charts more than three-quarters of the small man-made piers and quays built around the bay, the vast majority of them in Connemara at the height of the Great Famine.

The book serves as a timely reminder of “harsh coastal realities”, according to The Irish Times’ Michael Viney, who is prompted to recall his own misadventures with a traditional currach on the shores of South West Mayo.

Also available in time for Christmas is Connemara & Aran, a large-format collection of photographs by the late Walter Pfeiffer, who died this past spring.

The Irish Times has more on both books HERE

Buy the book here.

Published in Book Review

The 2018 ICRA Cruiser National and WIORA West Coast Championships have been launched at the Port of Galway offices.

The national cruiser championships will be organised by Galway Bay Sailing Club and will combine both the Irish Cruiser Racing top event and the West Coast Championships between the 15th and 18th of August, a later date than normal for the annual event and the first time for Galway Bay.

Captain Brian Sheridan from Port of Galway has arranged free cranage and berthage for the duration of the event.

The organising committee for the championships have already launched several very keenly priced entry packages starting with a super early bird from now until the first of February 2018.

Announcing the launch of the super early bird packages, which start at €175, the event chairperson, Martin Breen said: “We are looking forwarding to welcoming boats from far and wide to Galway for ICRA Cruiser Nationals and WIORA West Coast Championships 2018."

"Galway is one of the country’s most vibrant spots during the summer and we are confident that the arrival of a large fleet to Galway for the event will add an exciting extra dimension to the city.” said Mr. Breen. With regard to entering the championships he also said, “We would strongly encourage skippers to avail of the extremely good value entry fees now available and also to book their accommodation early”.

ICRA/WIORA Commodore Simon McGibney said “We are very excited that the ICRA Nationals are coming to Galway for the first time. Galway has a reputation for organising great events and the organising committee is working hard to bring the Galway seal of greatness to our event."

He also added that: "the event also brings forward an opportunity for the Cruiser Racing fleet to contribute to the development of top level racing in areas of the country that are often in need of that extra kick to attract more people to top level racing competition. We expect that these championships will be supported by our fleet and this will contribute to the national effort to promote sailing in Ireland'.

The committee is already very well advanced in their planning and looking forward to sharing more details in the coming weeks.

The Notice of Race is now available for download below.

Published in ICRA

#MarineScience - Transition Year pupils from Coláiste Croí Mhuire in Spiddal learned recently that a tracking drifter device they were using to measure the surface currents of Galway Bay before it was lost ended up off the coast of Scotland, where it was found by a local fisherman.

The device was part of a marine science project carried out by TY students Páraic Ó Cualáin, Cian Colfer, Ruarc Ó Comhghain in the run-up to the SciFest Exhibition at GMIT.

The three students working on ‘Project Canister’ released four canisters into Galway Bay, each with a GPS transmitter and battery, designed as simplified Lagrangian drifters.

“Seeing if the drifters would make it to the Aran Islands, the students collected data to better understand the circulation and movements of the surface currents within the Bay and how the currents are influenced by other factors such as tide and wind,” explained Conall O'Malley, scientific and technical officer at the Marine Institute, whose ocean modelling team assisted the student with background research on tide and wind data.

“The visit helped the students gain an appreciation of the amount of data and work that is required to produce reliable ocean current models, which in turn helped the group in deciding where to deploy the drifters in the bay.”

Four drifters were deployed in total, each with its own unique identifier so that they could be tracked efficiently. Two of the drifters ended up off the coast of Clare at Fanore, where they made landfall within 1km of each other three days apart. A third canister was recovered from Rossaveal in Connemara after 10 days.

"Remarkably, the fourth canister, which was deemed to have been lost somewhere in Galway Bay after three days when its GPS transmitter failed, was recently recovered 136 days after its launch in Scottish waters by a fisherman named Donald Brown," said O'Malley.

Alan Berry, team leader at the Marine Institute added: “After traveling 600km in the ocean currents around the west coast of Ireland and then recovered from Gott Bay off the Isle of Tiree, the most westerly of the inner Hebridean Islands off the coast of Scotland, it has been a great end to the tale of the lost drifter.”

“The students were delighted that the lost drifter was found so far away, and this adds to their on-going scientific learning and understanding of the ocean. This experiment certainly shows the importance of the ocean and highlights how we are all interconnected by the sea locally and internationally," said Dr Margaret Keady, science teacher at Coláiste Croí Mhuire.

Colaiste Chroi Mhuire principal Triona ní Mhurchu also thanked the Marine Institute’s ocean energy team, who assisted the Transition Year class with three other SciFest projects.

“Having the SmartBay Observatory in Galway Bay, which is the only place in Ireland and one of the few places in Europe where we can see, hear and count what is happening under the water, in real time, is certainly a welcomed resource for our school, our community as well as researchers at a local and national level,” she said.

Other marine science projects by the TY class were a study to determine whether Galway Bay supports its own population of dolphins, by Tessa Croke, Róise Nic Dhonnagáin, Rachel Nic Oireachtaigh; a smartphone app for sea swimmers in Spiddal, by Marcus Reinhardt, Bianca Ní Dhonabháin, Dylan Whelan, Elana Nic Fhannacha; and a study to determine the age of the fish we eat, by Máire Ní Fhrighil, Líadh Robertson, Caomhín Ó Sé, Aoife Nic Chormaic, Rosie Ní Dhubhghaill, Rebecca Ní Allúráin.

“The projects completed by the students also showed the amazing variety and potential opportunities that there are in marine science research and careers, particularly for those who are interested in ocean industries and technology development involving ICT, engineering, marine science and environmental studies,” said Berry.

Published in Marine Science

#Rescue116 - A lifejacket and helmet washed up on a beach near Blacksod in Co Mayo this weekend may belong to one of the two missing crew from the Rescue 116 tragedy earlier this year, as RTÉ News reports.

The items, which were attached together, were discovered on the shore near An Clochar yesterday morning (Saturday 30 September).

A detailed search of the area has been hampered by poor weather, with no other items found.

Winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciaran Smith have been missing since the Irish Coast Guard helicopter went down at the island of Black Rock, west of Blacksod, on 14 March.

Capt Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered at the scene but was pronounced dead in hospital shortly after. The body of Capt Mark Duffy was recovered some days later.

Elsewhere, the body of a middle-aged man was found washed up on Inis Meáin in Galway Bay last night.

RTÉ News says the discovery comes almost a fortnight to the day after a Russian national was swept into the water while sea angling near Doonbeg, some 36km south of the Aran Islands.

There was better news for the families of two fishermen feared missing in Galway Bay overnight, as the Irish Examiner reports.

Aran Islands RNLI and the Shannon-based coastguard helicopter Rescue 115 were involved in the search last night and early this morning for the pair when they were reported overdue.

But the search was called off around 10.30am when the small fishing boat, which has suffered technical issues in “challenging” conditions, returned to port under its own power.

Rescue 115 was earlier requested for a medevac from Inis Mór to University Hospital Galway.

Published in Coastguard

#MarineNotice - The latest Marine Notice from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) advises of the decommissioning of the wave energy test site in Galway Bay.

The decommissioning of the Marine Institute's wave energy site will involve the removal of four cardinal marks and a wave monitoring data buoy, and the establishment of a new special mark denoting the presence of the Galway Bay Subsea Observatory on the seabed at the site off Spiddal.

The Chateau Thierry (Callsign EIHK6) was scheduled to arrive in Galway Bay this week between Monday 11 and next Monday 18 September. This operation is expected to last two days, depending upon weather or other operational conditions.

It is anticipated that the decommissioning operation will be completed on or before Tuesday 19 September.

The Chateau Thierry will display appropriate lights and markers. The work vessel will be broadcasting and listening on VHF Channel 16 during the decommissioning.

Full details of co-ordinated of the relevant work areas are included in Marine Notice No 38 of 2017, a PDF of which is available to read or download HERE.

Published in Power From the Sea

Irish sailors don’t need their attention mesmerized by the horses and people clattering around the Galway Races Week to be well aware that in sailing matters too, it’s not a question of whether or not the West’s awake writes W M Nixon. On the contrary, you’d wonder do the hyper-energetic sailors around Galway Bay ever sleep as they implement one bright new idea after another, for these days the coastal facilities are being developed at a pace which few other popular sailing areas can match.

drascombes kilronan2Just a week after the WIORA fleet had been in town, the Drascombe flotilla were one of the first cruising groups to use the new pontoons at Kilronan on Inishmore. Photo: Jack O’Keeffe

Until recently in southeast Connmemara, Rosamhil (or Rossaveal as the East Coast might know it) was mainly thought of as a busy fishing port and the ferry port for the Aran Islands. But a while back, it acquired a 34-berth marina which has proven so popular that in October this year the Harbour Master, Captain John Donnelly, will be overseeing the official opening of a brand new facility, a fully-serviced 160-berth marina which will be attractive both to locals and those from further afield and abroad who are taken with the notion of berthing their boats on the threshold of some of the most enchanting sailing waters in the world.

wiora kilronan3Packing them in. A week before the Drascombes arrived, the WIORA fleet had landed in on Kilronan big time

Rosamhil marinaMeanwhile across on the mainland, the new marina at Rossaveal is nearing completion

But while this is now almost completely in place, towards the head of Galway Bay the port of Galway itself is contemplating another expansion with marina facilities, while across the bay at Renville, as we’ve mentioned on Afloat.ie, Galway Bay SC has recently made a very clever job of improving its clubhouse, and it is surely only a matter of time before developments in waterfront berthing take place there too.

But the extra-special breakthrough which has best expressed the Spirit of the West has been the installation of the long L-shaped pontoon in the much-extended Kilronan Harbour on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. This was planned to be done in time for the mighty successful West of Ireland Offshore Racing Association Championship just over three weeks ago, and the new setup accommodated the 44-strong fleet in such style that a casual observer might gave though that this was all a permanent new fixture.

Certainly the way that the WIORA sailors partied for their après sailing there and in downtown Kilronan would if anything have reinforced such a view. Yet in theory those pontoons are just a temporary arrangement. And they were put there in a shared voluntary effort which would put some of our more hidebound maritime communities to shame for its sheer enthusiasm and energy.

Those who were promoting the Kilronan Berthing Project - not least WIORA Championship Organiser Cormac Mac Donncha – argued that with all of the new berthing capacity in the city and in Rossaveal, those boat owners would need somewhere to visit and berth safely. This is where the pontoon in Kilronan comes in, with the benefits going well beyond recreational sailing. The users will include the small ‘pot haulers’ owned by the local fishermen, commercial angling boats, commercial charter sailing yachts, visiting motor vessels, and yachts.

Galway County Council were very supportive of the project. Patrick McDonagh, Kilronan Harbour Master, provided supervision and advice throughout. Ciarán Wynne, Harbours Engineer, Galway Co Co, provided the promoters with the various permissions to go ahead with the project. The pontoon was installed by the voluntary effort of local business men and volunteers, in a heartening community spirit.

kilronan pontoon5As soon as it was very competently installed, the new Kilronan pontoon had a fleet in port to show it at its best.

The pontoons themselves were supplied on loan by Inland & Coastal Marinas, based in Banagher on the Shannon. Iggy Madden Transport of Galway, provided the transport without charge. Galway Harbour Board supported the storage and crane operations at Galway Docks and Lasta Mara Teo transported the cargo to the Islands and dropped 16 mooring blocks. LM Keating installed the pier beams, and OceanCrest Marine supplied the special pontoon to H-Beam bracketry. ThermoKing, the Beatty family and Club Seoltóireacht Árainn provided the skilled crew to install the pontoons and make them safe.

Inland & Coastal has extended the loan of the pontoons so that the local committee can attempt to put a plan together to purchase and upgrade them to form a permanent facility. A very significant proportion of the project’s cost lies in the selection, transportation and installation of the pier beams and pontoons. Galway Co Co are working with the committee to try to find a funding solution to upgrade the existing ‘marina’. It has been recognised that, if the pontoons are returned to Inland & Coastal at this stage, then a large percentage of the cost will need to be duplicated in order to reinstate the marina at a later stage.

kilronan pontoon6A touch of the Med in Kilronan. WIORA even had St Pat’s Brass Band (left) to welcome them in.

So efforts to seek funding are currently underway. You just can’t see it not happening, and a longer term objective might be the installation of an access bridge, as the 5 metre tidal range can make that quay wall seem very high. Once the sportsmen and revellers of WIORA had gone on their way, there was ample and much-valued space for local boats of all type, and then a week later the Drascombe Association of Ireland arrived in a fleet from Roundstone in the midst of their week-long Galway Bay Cruise-in-Company. Even though a Drascombe can be hauled up a beach if need be, every last one of them was delighted with the convenience and comfort which the new pontoon provided.

drascombes kilronan7Drascombes and other boats at Kilronan pontoon – as convenient as possible for the pub. Photo: Jack O’Keeffe

Seen from a go-anywhere Drascombe, Galway Bay becomes the cruising paradise its advocates have always insisted is there, waiting to be discovered. The Drascombes, co-ordinated by Jack OKeeffe of Cork and Brian Park of Limerick, had mustered at Kilkieran, and then cruised along the coast to Finnish Island before heading for Roundstone. Mac Dara’s island came up on the programme, and then there was an open water passage out to Kilronan and the luxury of a secure marina berth at the end of it.

They’d hope to cruise among the Aran Islands in detail, but the weather was going to pot and they decided to get on with the next stage of their programme. So as pre-arranged, the open boats headed back to Kilkieran and the cabin Drascombe boats made a passage across to Ballyvaughan in the foothills of The Burren in County Clare, which left them well-placed for detailed exploration to fresh places such as Leenane’s renowned seafood bar at New Quay, followed by the winding waterways of Bell Harbour.

Kinvara was a natural stopover port, and they finally brought it all to a successful conclusion back at Galway Bay SC at Renville, firmly convinced of the unique attractions of the greater Galway Bay area as a cruising ground, and one hundred per cent supportive of the notion that the new pontoons at Kilronan should be a permanent feature.

Published in Galway Harbour

The Sino-Irish Volvo Racer Green Dragon has been having a somewhat checkered career since leaving Ireland, and though she took Transatlantic line honours in the ARC in December as the beginning of a Portuguese involvement in future Volvo Races, more recently she had the indignity of being dismasted.

Fortunately there’s a spare mast in her old home port of Galway, and she arrived in there yesterday to have it fitted. Afloat.ie will have more on this story as the week goes on.

green dragon back in galway2“I’m sure we left a spare mast here somewhere.....” Green Dragon returns to her old home port of Galway on a very specific mission. Photo: Pierce Purcell Jnr

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

The impressive upgrade of Galway Bay Sailing Club’s clubhouse at Renville New Harbour near Oranmore at the head of Galway Bay was officially opened on Sunday by Hildegarde Naughton TD as the highlight of a sunny afternoon’s celebration of a very efficiently completed project, brought in on time and within budget.

The complete revamping of the changing rooms and other ancillary facilities has greatly enhanced the club’s ability to host major events.

galway bay6People who make things happen in Galway Bay SC include (left to right) Mark Kelly (Hon Treas), Tricia Hogan (PRO), Hildegarde Naughton TD, Phyllis Hayes (Rear Commodore Training), Alan Donnelly (Rear Commodore Dinghies) and Paul Ryan of Accessible Sailing Photo: Murt Fahy

While the clubhouse retains the friendly atmosphere of its well-established social areas which are renowned for their hospitable gatherings, the changing rooms, boat storage and workshop facilities have been up-graded to an international standard through a visionary scheme seen through by GBSC members Pat and Emer Irwin – she was the Architect while he was the Project Manager.

galway bay6A job well done. Hon Treas. Mark Kelly (left) with husband and wife team Pat & Emer Irwin, (Project Manager and Architect respectively) and Hildegarde Naughton TD. Photo: Murt Fahy

The entire building and design job, and the general up-grading of the clubhouse, has been under the overall direction of former Commodore Gary Allen, who heads the building group with notable efficiency, so much so that it has been suggested they should now be tasked with advising on solving the national housing shortage....Be that as it may, there’s no doubt that when they decide to do something at GBSC, they do it properly.

galway bay6It’s official. Cutting the tape at GBSC are (left to right) former Commodore Gary Allen (Chair of GBSC Building Group), Vice Commodore John Murphy, Hildegarde Naughton TD, and former Commodore Piece Purcell. Photo Murt Fahy

galway bay6Shedding the tie of responsibility.....The only one wearing a tie in Galway Bay’s hot sunshine was former GBSC Commodore Pierce Purcell, who was additionally there in his role as the outgoing Western Member of the Board of the Irish Sailing Association. Once the new clubhouse was officially opened, Ciaran Murphy (left) the ISA’s Regional Development Officer for the West & North, supervised the handover of the official tie to incoming western Board Member Rory Carberry (centre), while Pierce Purcell (right) finally gets a chance to cool down

Published in Galway Harbour

There is really no reasonable comparison between Ireland’s eastern and western seaboards writes W M Nixon. The east coast is quite densely populated, and while it has some areas of impressive scenery, in general it lacks the majestic inlets and islands which make sailing the Atlantic seaboard such a joy. That said, there’s no getting away from the fact that, taken overall, the east coast leads in economic activity, and at the very least there’s no doubting it has much less rain.

But when the rain in the west clears to reveal the coastline in all its glory, the extra precipitation seems a small price to pay for such visual natural abundance. And then too, while there are fewer people, they’re all so much larger than life, and bursting with innovative and entertaining ideas, that you’re inclined to think one western person is worth a dozen easterners.

However, those of us living and doing most of our sailing on the humdrum old east coast have one inescapable and total advantage over those in the west. When our east coast life gets too stressed and samey, we can escape for a while to the big country, fresh air and crazy attitudes of the west.

If you live in the west, you simply can’t genuinely experience this moment of release. But on the east coast, if life gets tedious, all that is necessary is head west for a day or two. The moment you cross the River Shannon, the spirits lift, and as you crest the watershed between the Shannon and Galway Bay, the big generous country of the west is rising on the horizon, and all is much better with the world.

In the west, too, they operate on a different time scale. And they do it in a different time zone. Until the railways of the 19th Century made some national co-ordination of time essential, local time meant that the recognised noon was later the further west you moved. As is only natural, Galway was twenty minutes later than Dublin. It was only with the exigencies of the Great War in 1916 that an Official Act was passed making uniform time-keeping a legal requirement. Oddly enough, no-one seems to have discussed what effect this draconian measure might have had in provoking the outbreak of the Easter Rising in 1916. Be that as it may, all we know for now is that in Galway, they still operate on a local time zone which is at least twenty minutes later than everyone else’s time, and is probably nearer half an hour.

Galway hooker connemara 2Galway hookers racing hard off the Connemara coast. This is the popular image of sailing in the west, but while vivid and true, the complete story of western sailing is much broader. Photo Paul Harris

This became apparent last week when I wheeled into the car park at Galway Bay Sailing Club to give a performance of the current illustrated warblefest, which is about Ireland’s unique relationship with gaff rig and how it has emerged that Irish sailors led the switchover to Bermudan. The details of that will have to wait for another blog, but on this particular night, the immediate concern – with less than a quarter of an hour to go to the advertised start time – was that there just one other car in the car park, and that was Vice Commodore John Murphy, who was there a minute earlier to open the place up for the night.

“Oh Jaysus, Nixon” thought I, “you’ve bombed tonight, there’s not going to be a soul here.” But there wasn’t a moment to brood on the prospect of a showbiz flop, for I was with Pierce Purcell the mover and shaker of the west, and he wanted to show me the almost-finished refurb job they’ve been doing on the ground floor setup in the clubhouse, where they’ve managed to greatly enlarge the floor-space and rationalise its use for a state-of-the art changing room and multiple-use room and boat and equipment store setup.

You know the feeling you get when you’re looking at a job which is going very well indeed. It’s heartening. The re-furb in GBSC is precisely that. It’s being overseen by members Pat and Emer Irwin - he’s the Project Manager and she’s the Architect – and is being done with exemplary efficiency, on time and within a budget of only €160,000, which is the best value in building work I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Galway Bay Sailing Club 3Galway Bay SC is nearing the completion of a clever refurbishment project which is within time, within budget, and excellent value. Photo Pierce Purcell

We emerged much encouraged from seeing all this to be further cheered by the fact the club was warming up with its famous big stove in the middle of the bar getting into its stride, and the place filling up with people from near and far. For of course I’d temporarily forgotten that Galway’s in a different time zone and it wouldn’t be until around 8.30pm that we’d have some idea of the real turnout, and how effective it might be for the yellow welly collection. This is an idea imported from Poolbeg Y & BC which provides the most painless way of raising funds for the lifeboats. You just provide one yellow RNLI seaboot and request the audience to see how many €5 notes they can get into it. Usually it concludes with some worthwhile figure inevitably ending in either zero or five, but Galway being Galway, the night concluded with the boot yielded up a sum ending with six euro and eight cents……

The show became something we all had to go through with, just in order to justify being there, so it went ahead and finally got to its meandering conclusion. Then the lights went up to reveal even more people had arrived. Pierce Purcell had certainly done his stuff in the phonecall chivvying department, for despite all your modern means of instant total-cover communication, the personal phone call seems to be more important than ever, and the photo below gives some indication of the coverage he achieved, while also hinting at the conviviality of an evening in which a shared love of boats and sailing and a good club atmosphere completely obliterated any feeling of it still being winter outside.

west coast sailors 4Western gathering. In Galway Bay SC are (back row, left to right) Simon McGibney (Commodore ICRA & ISA Board Member), John Leech (Commodore, Lough Derg YC), Afloat.ie’s W M Nixon, Adrian McConnell (Royal Western YC, Kilrush), Peter Fernie (Rear Commodore Irish Cruising Club) and Richard Glynn (Commodore, Royal Western of Ireland YC). Front row left to right Elaine O’Mahony, (outgoing Hon Sec Foynes YC, 2016 Volvo ISA Training Centre of the Year), Cormac McDonnacha (Chairman, WIORA Week), and Gary Allen, outgoing Commodore GBSC. Photo: Pierce Purcell

It was good to talk again with Barry Martin of Galway who made such an impact as bo’sun on the Asgard II many years ago that he found himself being recruited into the same role for both the much larger Britsh sail training schooners Winston Churchill and Malcolm Millar, a job in which he was so successful that he ended his sail training career as a senior officer on the Churchill.

There too were Jim Grealish and Barry Heskin, against whom we used to race inshore and offshore in the days when we each had boats around the 35ft size, boats of very different type yet rating notably similar, so if the Morrisssey-Grealish-Heskin squad appeared on the starting line with Joggernaut, aboard Witchcraft of Howth we knew we were into a boat-for-boat battle in which no quarter would be given, yet everyone would be the best of friends afterwards.

But if there was ample opportunity in GBSC for memories of good times past, equally there was plenty of discussion of the here and now, and it was fascinating to meet up with Dan Mill who runs the busy boatyard in the industrial estate beside Galway Docks. Dan’s story is such that we’ll be developing it into a complete blog in due course, sufficient to say at the moment that his links to Ireland are extraordinarily complex, for although he was born in England, at the age of three his parents together with another family set off to sail to New Zealand from Lymington in the then-bermudan-rigged 43ft Tyrrell ketch Maybird, and Maybird of course is now back in Ireland fully restored as a gaff ketch, and well-known in the ownership of Darryl Hughes.

Maybird Bermudan ketch 5Maybird as a Bermudan ketch. It was under this rig that Dan Mill sailed on her from England to New Zealand while still a child

As for young Dan, growing up in New Zealand he naturally moved into boat-building in what is probably the best boat-building school in the world, the New Zealand marine industry. But then Mna na hEireann took a hand in his life-path.

It would be difficult to overestimate the influence that the charms of the Women of Ireland have had on the development of a small yet top-level boat-building industry in this country. But there’s something about marine craftsmen and Irish women which gets them together and entices the craftsmen to settle in Ireland despite the fact that, let’s face it, anyone trying to produce such top quality work here is ploughing a lonely furrow a long way from the great centres of the specialist industry, such as the Solent district, parts of the Baltic, certain places in Brittany, and particularly New Zealand.

Yet the women get them, and they get them home to Ireland, and they keep them. Thus we have the likes of Dan Mill in Galway, Steve Morris in Kilrush, and Bill Trafford in the hidden depths of the country near Mitchellstown, all three of them trying to ensure work of the highest quality in a country where “Ah sure, ’twill do” is sometimes the defining motto in woodwork.

Having arrived in Galway, Dan Mill found himself within the orbit of the formidable John Killeen, with whom all ideas are possible, and somehow they found themselves setting out to build a cruising version of an Open 60.

Nimmo yacht construction 6The galley area in Nimmo under construction

Nimmo Yacht table 7Beauty in detail – Dan Mill’s craftsmanship in evidence on a table for Nimmo.

In the end she became a very one-off 68-footer named Nimmo in honour of the great Scottish harbour engineer Alexander Nimmo, who is one of John’s heroes. When she was eventually finished after four years with Dan being responsible for virtually every bit of skilled work in her complex construction and superb finish, he was exhausted, but his reputation in Galway was well established at a very high level, and he’s now the man to go to with boat maintenance needs and problems. He’s not above undertaking a mid-level job such as putting a new deck and coachroof on an older fibreglass hull, but as for launching another project on the Nimmo scale, that would require some thinking about.

Launching day Nimmo 8Launching day for Nimmo, built in a very basic shed in Galway
Dan Mill 9Dan Mill this week in the boat yard in Galway

Nevertheless, talking with the man who built Nimmo was an eloquent reminder that there’s a lot more to sailing in the West than Galway Hookers and other traditional craft. But equally it was a reminder that the traditional skills are still being maintained and indeed nourished out beyond the Pale. So after a leisurely breakfast next morning with Pierce and Susan Purcell in their dream house in Clarinbridge, with a busy red squirrel feasting on the bird table close outside the generous window, there was time to inspect Pierce’s boatshed out the back, one of those green steel sheds which sit so well in the Irish countryside, particularly when – like Pierce – you have your 26-footer comfortably winterised in it, and a fine well-equipped workbench right to hand.

Clarenbridge Pierce purcell 10What price a facility like this at your house on the East Coast? Pierce Purcell in “the little shed out the back” at Clarenbridge Photo W M Nixon
It’s the sort of ideal setup very few can manage on the over-crowded East Coast, and I headed south musing on the east-west imbalance, and readying the thinking for something entirely different - the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick. This started as the backup service for the restoration of the Conor O’Brien 57ft ketch Ilen by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt near Baltimore, and recently in the Ilen School they’ve produced deckhouses for Ilen to the highest standard, and are currently finishing the last of the new spars.

But under the inspiration of Gary MacMahon (who personally was responsible for bring Ilen home from the Falklands) and others such as Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, the Ilen School has become a remarkable educational and training resource undertaking a wide variety of projects such as creating replicas of the traditional Shannon Estuary gandelows, and building a class of the very handy CityOne sailing dinghies to a design by the late Theo Rye, a successful project which further revealed the multiple talents of that much-mourned expert in every aspect of naval architecture.

grand banks dories Ilen BoatbuildingCourses constructing traditional Grand Banks Dories provide popular night classes at the Ilen Boatbuilding School in Limerick. Photo W M Nixon

Another handy course which the Ilen School offers is through building traditional Grand Banks dories, simple yet effective boats which must have seemed very small indeed as you were left behind in the Grand Banks fog by the Bluenose fishing schooners to get on with the day’s business of ling-lining for cod. By the time the schooner found you again towards evening, your little dory would be dangerously laden with a great catch of wet and scaly silvery wealth.

In fact, the Ilen School is a whole host of experiences, for there in the main work-space were the mighty new spars for Ilen together with the distinctly aged original gaff which goes all the way back to Tom Moynihan and his shipwrights in Baltimore 91 years ago. And in another workspace, the Ilen team are building two very able little dinghies to the Valentine type from dimensions supplied by Hal Sisk, and they will in time be Ilen’s boats. But before you get to these sensibly–shaped little dinghies, you’ve to take on board the Hildasay, the Ilen school’s latest acquisition.

Valentine dinghy Hal sisk 12The Valentine dinghy, from plans provided by Hal Sisk, has been built at the school to be a ship’s boat for Ilen. Photo W M Nixon

Ilen gaff boom 14Ilen’s new main gaff boom (left) and the original (right), which was shaped in Baltimore in 1926. Photo W M Nixon

mainmast Ilen 13The mighty mainmast for Ilen, with topmast temporarily in place in Limerick, is ready for dismantling and transport to Baltimore. Photo W M Nixon

We all know that Limerick is a Viking city, in fact there are those who would argue that it still is, and in its rawest state too. But nevertheless it takes a while to get your head round how a boat like Hildasay, of the very purest Viking descent, should have ended up in a big shed in a trading estate in Limerick.

Hildasay was built in Shetland as a sailing development of the traditional clinker-built sixareen (six oars) in 1951, and is such a sweet little 26-footer that your heart falls for her, even if your head tells you that the slim Viking stern mean there’s very little space just where you most need it most, while the classic clinker construction poses its own special maintenance problems in a vessel which is a semi-keelboat.

Jack Hawks Shetland sixareen 15Jack Hawks with the Shetland sailing sixareen Hildasay, whuch he has donated to the Ilen Boatbuilding School. Photo: W M Nixon
She has been in and around the Shannon Estuary for abut 15 years, but owner Jack Hawks was recently seriously ill, and though he has fully recovered he felt the demands of Hildasay were getting a little too much for him, and wondered if the Ilen Boat Building School would be interested in her as a gift.

She’s an ideal gift, as she’s of a size to be very manageable, she provides special maintenance problems which, while not enormous, are very educational as part of the school’s courses, and each summer when she’s in commission she could be based either on Lough Derg, or somewhere down the Estuary.

Team Ilen School 16The “day team” at the Ilen School with their new acquisition Hildasay include Luki O’Brien, Jack Hawks, Elan Bromley, Owen Lacey, Sid Dorchenas, Matt Diss, Gary MacMahon and Luna MacMahon. Photo W M Nixon
The problem in Limerick is that though the Shannon is very much in the midst of it, access to it in the heart of town is limited, and in any case below the weir the big tides are a problem. But up on Lough Derg or further down the Estuary, there are all sorts of opportunities to get conveniently afloat, and having the use of an interesting sailing boat which is bigger than a CityOne or a gandelow is a natural add-on to the Ilen School’s activities, providing a broadening of the mind for some young would-be boatbuilders who may have spent too much time solely at the workbench without seeing what the resulting use of the end product is all about. And who knows, but they might even manage a race with the lovely gaff cutter Sally O’Keeffe built by Steve Morris of Kilrush with the community team from nearby Querrin as a replica of the traditional Shannon Estuary trading hooker.

Having seen the possibilities of mind-broadening in Limerick, the final part of this western tour took in a project which is mind-blowing. Admittedly the good people of the townland of Skenakilla would never for a minute think of themselves as being in the west, but for the rest of us this hidden spot beyond Mitchellstown in North Cork seems to be in the middle of nowhere. But then when you’ve found it, and spent a bit of time with the ebullient Bill Trafford in his remarkable Alchemy Marine boat workshop in Skenakilla, you feel you’re at the hub of the universe.

Bill is another case of Mna na hEireann reeling them in – a classic yachtbuilder and particularly an enthusiast for the International 6 Metre Class, he met an Irish girl and that was that. He made a living plying his highly specialized trade the length and breadth of our island working from a van, and then discovered his own niche in doing interesting, indeed extraordinary things, with old fibreglass boats.

Bill Trafford Elizabethan 23 17Bill Trafford’s transformation of an Elizabethan 23 won international awards last year.

Etchells 22 lengthened 20Bill Trafford’s current project at Alchemy Marine is the transformation of an Etchells 22 into a weekend cruiser by raising the freeboard, and providing a beautifully-made coachroof (foreground) Photo: W M Nixon

Bill TraffordBill Trafford – he is as enthusiastic about the full potential of glassfibre construction as he is about using classic yacht joinery work. Photo W M Nixon

He’s unusual in that he’s as enthusiastic about the wide potential of glassfibre construction as he is profoundly satisfied by working in wood to the highest classic yacht standards. While his special abilities were well known to a select few, he came to international notice last year when one of his masterpieces, the complete re-working of a seemingly tired little Elizabthan 23 into an elegant 26ft sloop with a classic New England style, was awarded a top prize in the Classic Boat annual competition.

His current project for a Cork owner is even more intriguing, the transformation of an ordinary and no longer young Etchells 22 into a 34ft LOA day cruiser of unique appearance. He has raised the topsides using glassfibre moulding to give her a completely fresh sheerline, he has transformed the stern by giving it a new-look counter with a curving transom which gives more than a nod in the direction of the unique sterns of the Friendship sloops of Maine, and he has built the most beautiful coachroof in the best Knud Reimers style to provide a boat which comes with a heady combination of Down East and Scandinavia to her.

Etchells 22 lengthened 20The lengthened stern has seen the rudder being moved aft by half a metre to provide a much roomier cockpit. Photo: W M Nixon

west sail21While compact, the accommodation provides for weekend cruising, but it’s expected to be comfortable day sailing which will be the best use of the “new” boat. Photo: W M Nixon

The stern is lengthened such that the LOA is now 34ft instead of the original 30.5ft, and the possibilities this has provided for a large cockpit to match the very pleasant accommodation (including a proper toilet compartment and a Beta diesel auxiliary) have been met by moving the entire rudder half a metre aft.

With his experience of tweaking boats this way and that, Bill reckons the sailing balance will if anything be improved by this re-location of the rudder. Personally, in the standard Etchells I’d always thought it too far forward anyway, so I could live with this change, yet found it entertaining to note that while he talked of moving the rudder aft by half a metre, when I asked him how he calculated the perfect-looking camber in the new deck, he said his rule of thumb is one inch for every four feet of beam. This is as near as dammit one in fifty, but his mixture of measurement systems makes him just like the rest of us who are mere bodgers, for when we’re measuring something we just use the side of the steel rule which comes up first, be it metric or imperial…….

deck camber 22Under the new foredeck – Bill’s rule of thumb is a deck camber of one in 48. Photo: W M Nixon

This is very much a bespoke project, so Bill has been able to introduce all sorts of quirky little features, a very attractive one being the ports for the navigation lights, which are set well into the hull either side of the stemhead, and look for all the world like the eyes put in Mediterranean boats to ward off evil spirits. In fact, they give such an appearance of good cheer to this new-old boat that when you see her from ahead, she looks for all the world as though she is smiling so much that she’s about to burst out laughing.

ports navigation lights 23The Watchful One…….it was a Bill Trafford’s idea to build special ports for the navigation lights. Photo W M Nixon

There’s still quite a bit to do before she’s ready for the water, but Bill is now in such a rhythm of working on his own that he can put in long productive hours without really noticing it, so we hope to get back to Skenakilla sooner rather than later. As for those around him, one unexpected advantage of being near Mitchellstown is you’re right in the heart of the dairy engineering industry, where the use and working of stainless steel is second nature. In fact, down there they sometimes use stainless steel which is of a superior grade to the 316 which is usually good enough for the rest of us.

Truth to tell, I didn’t know there were types of stainless steel superior to 316, but you learn many things down in Skenakilla, and it was encouraging to hear that the best workers in the stainless steel fabricating shops are happy to lend their skills in their spare time to bring Bill’s self-made stainless steel fittings up to professional standards of finish.

stainless steel yacht fittings 24Thanks to the local presence of high-grade stainless steel engineering for the dairy industry, it has been possible to make these fittings in Skenakilla. Photo: W M Nixon

Yacht coachroof 25A work of art in its own right, the new coachroof will be fitted any day now. Photo: W M Nixon

All being well, the new boat will be a star at the 25th Anniversary Glandore Classics Regatta from July 23rd to 29th, in fact Bill rather hopes the owner might consider taking her to the Classics Regatta celebrating the Bicentenary of Dun Laoghaire Harbour from July 6th to 9th as part of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta.

The good news here is that Cathy MacAleavey, chair of the Dun Laoghaire Classics organising committee, and Sally Wyles, who heads up the Glandore organisation, got together last weekend to see about selling their two events as a sort of package, as the clear fortnight between them makes participation in both a very realistic proposition.

Certainly the Dun Laoghaire Classics is beginning to look impressive, particularly if you go by the measuring method of counting the number of famous designers involved. The recent interest shown by Rob Mason of Milford Haven to come over with his newly-restored 36ft Alexander Richardson-designed 36ft Myfanwy brings a once-famous Liverpool designer back into the limelight. It’s where he deserves to be, for Richardson designed John Jameson’s all-conquering Irex in 1884.

Alexander Richardson 36 footer MyfanwyRob Mason with his restored 1897 Alexander Richardson 36-footer Myfanwy off Milford Haven. He has indicated interest in participation in the Bicentenary Regatta in Dun Laoghaire in July

In Dublin Bay, Myfanwy would see this Richardson creation shaping up to designs by G L Watson, Alfred Mylne, William Fife, John Kearney, O’Brien Kennedy, Arthur Robb and others, and that’s the list already with the net only newly cast.

As for what Glandore can offer, there’s at least one unique proposition. A special race will be sailed to honour the memory of Theo Rye, the fleet including the CityOnes from Limerick and a host of other boats, new and old. On each and every one of them, Theo would have had something new and of real interest to say, for that’s the kind of devoted student of naval architecture he was throughout his far-too-short life. He is much missed.

Theo Rye 27Much missed. The late Theo Rye aboard the 1887 Fife cutter Ayrshire Lass, which was restored by Michael Kennedy at Dunmore East. Theo Rye will be commemorated in a special event at the 25th Anniversary Glandore Classics Regatta from July 23rd to 29th. Photo: Darryl Hughes

Published in W M Nixon
Page 2 of 21

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