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This year's Crosshaven Trad Sail that that concluded in Cork Harbour today had a packed programme of festival events around the historic boat regatta writes Bob Bateman.

As Afloat previously reported, the celebrations begin at The Oar Bar on Friday evening with live music upstairs from 8 pm.

Racing for all types of craft began at 2 pm and included many traditional dinghy types including a National 18 and a good fleet of Rankin dinghies with the annual Parade of Sail for spectators at 4 pm. 

Sunday racing was cancelled due to a weather alert. 

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Images from today's sailing by Bob Bateman are below

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Published in Historic Boats

West Cork is as much a state of mind as it is a place writes W M Nixon. And when you’re in its bright and cheerfully breezy sailor’s capital of Baltimore, the annual Maytime Festival of Wooden Boats is something very special. Last weekend, they gathered from near and far for a diverse programme afloat, mixed with everything from Boat Building Competitions and Craftwork Shows to Art Exhibitions ashore. It was quite a party, and we’ll let the photos speak for themselves. That said, where on earth did one of the Cork currachs get the name of “Magic Brat”…?

Baltimore wooden boats2Saoirse Muirreann, Lobsterboat, Cormac Levis, followed by An Rún, Mackerel Boat, owner Nigel Towse, skipper Ian Wright. Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Saoirse Muirreann, Lobsterboat, Cormac Levis with Hanora, Lobsterboat, Nigel Towse, in background off Sherkin Island. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Sile a Do, gaff ketch built Hegarty’s, owner Leo McDermott (left) with Saoirse Muirreann (Lobster Boat, Cormac Levis) Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Guillemot, built Skinners, Baltimore, 1893, Brian Marten. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Fionn, Lobsterboat, skipper Rob O’Leary, and Lively, designed, built and skippered by James Baker of Penryn, Falmouth, Cornwall. Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Canóg, built by late George Bushe 1997, skipper Mark Bush, with Galway Hooker An Faoilean, Pat Tanner, built 1912. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2 Pilot Race, with Rogaire Dubh Currach putting pilot onboard Lively for race back into Baltimore (winner of the Pilot Race) Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Racing Maitheal Mara Naomhogs with the blue-hulled Mary Colette Lobsterboat, Micheal O Croalaoi & John Colleran, An Rún Mackerel Boat, owner Nigel Towse, skipper Ian Wright in distant left. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Currach and Naomhogs racing for Baltimore, after rowing from Skibbereen down the Ilen River. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Fionn, Lobsterboat, built in Hegarty’s 1999, first of new-build Lobsterboats, owner Mary Jordan and the late Colm O Cuilleanain, sailed Rob O’Leary, Oisin Creagh Photo: Martyn Blair

Baltimore wooden boats2After the racing, currachs Rinceoir na Greine, Magic Brat and Dlúth Taca on slip, with Sile a Dó, An Faoilean and AK Ilen at the pier. Photo: Martyn Blair

Baltimore wooden boats2Around the mark under the Beacon, Lively, James & Kate Baker (and their two children) followed by Mary Colette, Lobsterboat, Micheal O Croalaoi & John Colleran, Hanora, original Lobsterboat, Nigel Towse, and Fionn (Lobsterboat) in the distance. Photo: Martyn BlairBaltimore wooden boats2Getting ready to start the ‘New Boats’ race on Sunday, They were built on Saturday, with each team getting the same materials, including black plastic for sails. The boats have to row and sail a course if they stay afloat – it’s a highlight of the Festival The Meitheal Mara boats from Cork city are on the right. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Published in Historic Boats

Three million euro - every bit of €3 million writes W M Nixon. That’s what the late Theo Rye, internationally-recognised expert on the restoring and re-building of classic and traditional craft, reckoned that breathing new life into Ireland’s historic 56ft trading ketch Ilen would have cost – at the minimum - if the project had been awarded on a fully professional basis to some comprehensively equipped, properly qualified and economically efficient specialist boatyard in the heartlands of the top end of boat-building skills, in places such as The Netherlands, or at select yards around the Solent, or somewhere up in Denmark.

However, the restoration of the 1926-built Ilen, in a joint effort by the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick and Liam Hegarty’s Oldcourt Boatyard near Baltimore, has certainly produced a fully restored little ship which exudes quality and authenticity. But thanks to special efforts by all involved, there is no way that the cost has been remotely near that jaw-dropping figure of €3 million.

Yet while the sums have been much more manageable, every cent of it has had to be secured from one source or another, and by this stage Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick – the inspiring overall promoter of the Ilen ideal – can probably fill out grant applications and benevolent funding proposals in his sleep.

burns hegarty macmahon2Captain Gerry Burns, shipwright Liam Hegarty and Ilen Project Director Gary MacMahon at the Ilen reception in the Royal Irish YC. Photo: Dermot Lynch

Now, however, the fact that Ilen is in full seagoing commission and properly certified - following her annual inspection by official specialists in Baltimore a fortnight ago - gives people something very tangible to grasp when support is sought.

Rather than the high-flown but inevitably vague talk of times past, and thoughts of increasing respect for Ireland’s sometimes hidden maritime traditions while also honouring the memory of Conor O’Brien whose seafaring achievements directly resulted in Ilen being built in the first place, we now have something real. A proper little ship with which we can all identify. A little ship which nevertheless still needs a steady flow of real money to keep up the good work of adding interest to international school projects, implementing programmes like Sailing Into Wellness, and giving extra meaning to environmental campaigns.

Thus last weekend’s extended visit to Dublin, with target points for shoreside interactions with well-wishers at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club in the Liffey, the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, and the heart of Howth Harbour during the annual Prawn Festival, were all occasions with multiple purposes.

riyc with ilen3When the Ilen arrived at her berth at the RIYC, it had only recently stopped raining, but by the time the reception got underway, the sun was shining. Photo: W M Nixon

At its most basic, there was the opportunity for people who had a vague feeling of goodwill towards the ship to actually see her and go aboard. Then for those who knew something of what the restored Ilen really meant, there was an opportunity to inspect and wonder at the quality of the restoration, and the skills of creative design which have been used to turn a little freight and ferry ship into a proper long distance voyager with comfortable crew accommodation, yet with enough space to be a floating classroom.

This weekend, Ilen is the star of the annual Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival. But while many memories are vivid from last weekend’s time in Dublin, there’s no doubt the highlight was the re-launch ceremony at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, a club with which the Foynes Island sailor Conor O’Brien from County Limerick had special links.

ilen berthed ahead4A seriously traditional ship – Ilen at the RIYC berth with the sun coming through and visitors beginning to flock on board. Photo: W M Nixon
ilen astern above5Ilen’s localised area of sunshine lasted for most of the reception at the RIYC. Photo: Deirdre Power

However, as this interaction was at its height in the 1920s, it’s clear that for many of today’s sailors, knowledge of O’Brien and his achievements are vague in the extreme, so the background to the story provides a useful context for the speech of welcome and encouragement which came from RIYC Commodore Joe Costello.

joe costello6RIYC Commodore Joe Costello welcomes the Ilen back to his club’s fleet after an absence of 93 years. Photo: Deirdre Power

Conor O’Brien of Foynes Island in the Shannon Estuary in County Limerick lived from 1880 to 1952. A grandson of William Smith O’Brien of the Young Ireland movement, he was firstly a mountaineer who then became a pioneering ocean voyager when he was the first amateur sailor to circumnavigate the world south of the Great Capes including, of course, the legendary Cape Horn.

conor obrien sailing saoirse7Conor O’Brien at the helm of Saoirse during the 1923-1925 round the world voyage, which began and ended at the RIYC

He did all this in 1923-1925 in the little 42ft gaff ketch called Saoirse, which he designed himself and had built by Tom Moynihan and his master shipwrights in Baltimore in West Cork. She was called Saoirse – “Freedom” as it is in English - to celebrate the establishment of the Irish Free State, of which he was a strong supporter – so much so, in fact, that he had aided Erskine Childers in the Howth gun-running of 1914, although he and Childers took opposing sides on the acceptance of the post War of Independence Treaty of 1921.

O’Brien withdrew from active political involvement, and instead devoted himself to getting his ideal of an ocean voyaging vessel built in Baltimore in 1922. Although he claimed that, in the first place, all his voyages really started and finished at his home port of Foynes Island, officially it was from his club, the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire on the 20th June 1923, that Saoirse’s great voyage got under way. And exactly two years later, on Saturday, June 20th 1925, Conor O’Brien and his little ship returned in triumph to this same spot, his magnificent voyage achieved.

Being a Saturday, Dublin Bay Sailing Club would normally have had a full racing programme in action. But in honour of O’Brien’s return, they cancelled racing, and their fleet provided Saoirse with a Guard of Honour as she returned to the harbour. Dublin Bay Sailing Club do not take such cancellations lightly – this was a very signal honour.

One unexpected outcome of the voyage was that when Saoirse had put into the Falkland Islands after rounding Cape Horn and sailing non-stop from New Zealand, the islanders were so impressed with the little ship’s seaworthiness that they advocated that they should have a larger version to be their inter-island ferry and freight vessel.

ilen 1926 baltimore8The newly-built Ilen sailing in Baltimore Harbour in 1926. Photo: Alice Foy
The result was that in 1926, Conor O’Brien found himself working again with Tom Moynihan in Baltimore, this time to create the 56ft ketch Ilen, which was undoubtedly Saoirse’s bigger sister.

Conor O’Brien personally delivered Ilen to the Falklands in 1926, crewed by two Cape Clear men, Con and Denis Cadogan. She was to give great service in those very rugged waters as a workboat for many decades, and when she was finally retired in the 1990s, Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick - who is both a Conor O’Brien enthusiast and a very considerable force of nature - decided that she should be shipped home to Ireland and restored to full seagoing condition in order to undertake voyaging with people who would benefit from such an experience, and also to remind us of our sometimes forgotten but nevertheless very great maritime traditions.

ilen may98 dublin bay9Aboard Ilen sailing in Dublin Bay in May 1998, a few months after she’d been shipped back from the Falklands. At the deckhouse and living for the moment is Tim Magennis, possibly the only person in Ireland today who has sailed round the world under gaff rig Photo: W M Nixon

tim magennis10Tim Magennis – who recently celebrated his 90th birthday – at the RIYC after seeing the restored Ilen for the first time. Photo: Dermot Lynch
It was in November 1997 that Ilen was brought home. The fact that two decades later she was finally making her debut in this superbly restored style at the Royal Irish Yacht Club was doubly appropriate. Not only had Conor O’Brien used this as his start and finish point for his Saoirse circumnavigation in 1923-25, but when he came to deliver Ilen to the Falklands in 1926, he discovered that he was only insured as a Yachtmaster, and not as the Captain of a commercial vessel.

So when Ilen sailed out over the many thousands of miles of ocean to the Falklands, it was as part of the fleet of the Royal Irish Yacht Club – she flew the club burgee, and her club allegiance was proudly inscribed across her transom.

1926 ilen10aFor her 1926 delivery voyage from Ireland to the Falklands, insurance requirements made it temporarily necessary for Ilen to be a yacht

For six months, she was a yacht of the RIYC. Then she belonged in Port Stanley, and was a working boat. But now she is a Limerick ship. A little ship, perhaps, but undoubtedly a ship nevertheless, and a characterful one at that. She is very expressive of Conor O’Brien’s notions of what a hard-working seagoing vessel should look like, particularly in the matter of bowsprits. Like Saoirse before her, Ilen has a bowsprit which extends into the middle of next week, for that is the O’Brien way.

As we’re now in 2019, it is self-evident that the restoration of Ilen has been a long and challenging task, at times run on a shoestring. But thanks to the profound faith of Gary and his friends, Ireland has got to this remarkable stage of having a fully-certified seagoing traditional vessel which is currently in the midst of one of the very commendable Sailing into Wellness programmes,

charlotte stephanie11Although Conor O’Brien had no children of his own, his relatives are spread throughout Ireland – this is his grandniece Charlotte O’Brien Delamer with Stephanie O’Brien in Dun Laoghaire. Photo: Dermot Lynch

Then in July she’ll undertake a nine week educational voyage to Greenland from Limerick in the wake of the Atlantic salmon - a timely reminder of that splendid fish’s threatened status – while at the same time strengthening links which the Ilen Network has been building up between schools in the greater Limerick area and schools in southwest Greenland.

brogan cunnane12Experienced sailors of the west – Mick Brogan (left) and Jarlath Cunnane of Mayo will play a key role in bringing Ilen back from Greenland. Photo: W M Nixon

For the Ilen is now the symbol of a broad movement which has re-kindled awareness of the unique traditional vessels of Ireland, particularly those of the Shannon Estuary and West Cork. But were it not for this wonderful vessel at the centre of it all, the entire project would lack focus.

With the extraordinary balance of talents and almost magical chemistry between Gary Mac Mahon and Liam Hegarty and their respective teams, this restoration of exceptional authenticity has been achieved, aided in no small way by the spiritual support and guidance of Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey.

brother anthony and others13Celebrating the Ilen restoration at RIYC were (left to right) Patrick Keane SC, Deirdre Kinlen, Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, and Dr Sheila Javaepour. Photo: Donal Lynch

So we now have a proper flagship for the traditional and classic boat movement in Ireland, and we have a symbol for a form of sailing which is accessible to all - as such, the Ilen Project received the warmest praise from President Michael D Higgins when he visited the ship in Limerick last October.

This high-powered support for the “Ilen Ideals” was much in evidence at Dun Laoghaire’s gathering, where the presence of Dr Edward Walsh, founder of the University of Limerick, was matched by people like former RIYC Commodore Terry Johnson, whose remarkable record of service to sailing is augmented by work he has done on behalf of sail training, the lifeboat service, and other key pillars of the maritime world.

johnson begley14Former RIYC Commodore and maritime multi-tasker Terry Johnson (foreground) with renowned musician Brendan Begley (left) aboard Ilen. Photo: Dermot Lynch

Also present were people who have given much practical assistance, such as Captain Gerry Burns of Irish Ferries, who in his leave periods served as a relief captain on the training Ship Asgard II. Since Ilen went afloat again, he has been journeying to Limerick to give master-classes in ship-handling to future Ilen skippers.

Another attendee was Tim Magennis, one of the few people who has sailed right round the world under gaff rig. When Ilen sailed briefly in Dublin Bay in May 1998 after she had been shipped back from the Falklands, Tim - a stalwart of the Old Gaffers Association – was one of those on board, and now 21 years later, having recently celebrated his 90th birthday, his delight in Ilen’s restoration was a joy to behold.

harbison macmahon deegan15Ilen Project supporter Harry Harbison, Gary Mac Mahon, and Sheila Deegan, Arts Officer of Limerick City & County Council. Photo: Dermot Lynch

ross limerick flag16Rigging expert Trevor Ross ensures that the Limerick flag is aloft and flying. Photo: Dermot Lynch

Although Conor O’Brien had no children, many people are related to him, and among those present were Charlotte O’Brien Delamer, his grandniece, and Stephanie O’Brien, married to another O’Brien relative.

For them, restoration of the Ilen was an intensely personal matter. But it was equally clear that many folk attending the RIYC reception found it especially moving that Ilen had been restored, and had now come to visit the club which meant so much to Conor O’Brien’s sailing.

Yet she’s a busy ship. Soon it was time to move on to Howth for a visit arranged by Wally McGuirk, where on Monday morning skipper Paddy Barry took a group of trainees from the inner-city Westland Row CBS out for some sailing experience on Ilen arranged through the Atlantic Youth Trust. Then in the afternoon, it was time to depart for Baltimore with the gift of a tankful of diesel from Howth Boat Club, on down to West Cork where the Wooden Boat Festival will serve up its own quota of emotional associations.

paddy barry ilen howth17High latitudes veteran Paddy Barry with the Ilen in Howth on Monday morning. He’ll be aboard for the entire nine weeks voyage to Greenland. Photo: W M Nixon

As a reminder of how things have slowly but steadily progressed, here’s a video by Paul Fuller of the then recently-launched and still largely unballasted Ilen making her debut at last year’s Festival in Baltimore. Now she is in full properly-ballasted seagoing order, ready and willing for further work at home before the voyage to Greenland gets underway from Limerick in July. It’s anticipation of this which will give the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival 2019 an added dimension and an even more vivid flavour.

Published in Ilen

King of the Claddagh Michael Lynskey (88) and his community took to the Galway waterside at the weekend to welcome home a historic workboat which plied the Atlantic during two world wars writes Lorna Siggins

The 8m-long gleoiteog named Lovely Anne has been restored for sail training by Bádoirí an Cladaig.

Some ten nationalities were involved in refurbishing the gleoiteog, built by the well-known boatwright Patrick Brannelly in 1882 when German leader Otto von Bismarck and British prime minister William Gladstone were in power.

Master shipwright Coilín Hernon, who led the restoration with Ciarán Oliver, said Brannelly built a fleet of fine Galway hookers, with just three, including this gleoiteog, An Tonaí and the Morning Star surviving.

Brannelly died in an accident in his early 30s, when the Lovely Anne was being used to transport oysters between Bertraghboy Bay in Connemara and Rosmuc.

It passed through a number of owners in Connemara and on the Aran islands, was restored by Colm Breathnach at Camus, and was then acquired by Jim Parkinson of Killybegs, Co Donegal, who used it to fish salmon.

Gleoiteog re launch Galway 5The traditional Gleoiteog, the Lovely Anne, was re-launched at the Claddagh in Galway. Pictured on board the 137-year-old boat are Ross Forde, owner of the boat (left), and Pat Brannelly, both decendants of Patrick Brannelly who was the builder of the boat Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy/Connacht Tribune

Brannelly’s great great grandson, Ross Forde, who is involved with Bádoirí an Cladaig, traced the vessel to Killybegs and persuaded Parkinson to part with it. The refurbishment took five months, with Hernon and two of his sons cutting the sails and equipping the rig.

The Lovely Anne sailed over to Black Weir in Oranmore in the company of Mr Hernon’s gleoiteog, Nora Bheag, before returning to the Claddagh quay for its official welcome.

Mr Forde said that while over in Oranmore, he was told that the vessel had been named after an American woman named Anne, who was given a passage to a small island on it in rough conditions and described it as a “lovely boat”.

Bádoirí an Cladaig has endeavoured to extend its skills to non-sailing / fishing families through courses run with the Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board, and also held its inaugural festival in 2017.

Simon Wood, who had lived in Uganda for many years, and Harald Schlindwein from Germany are among the volunteers recruited by Badóirí an Cladaig, along with Liz Power, who is originally from Galway, and Niamh Moloughney, a Claddagh resident.

“I had been away from Galway for a number of years, and when I returned I wanted to get involved in something a bit bigger than me, “Ms Power explained.

Gleoiteog re launch Galway 8Michael Lynskey, King of the Claddagh, sits at Claddagh Quay during the re-launch of the Geloiteog, the Lovely Anne. Michael was the owner of the Galway Gleoiteog, Annie Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy/Connacht Tribune

“We did a fair bit of sanding and a fair bit of watching Coilín Hernon doing his expert work,” Ms Moloughney laughed.

Relatives of both the boatbuilder and former owners of the vessel had attended the launch, including Mary Tipton, a relative of Brannelly, who flew from Cornwall, England.

“Not only is this an incredibly moving story of bringing our Galway heritage back to life, but we are extremely delighted to also announce that the Lovely Anne is now our dedicated training vessel,” Ciarán Oliver said. “We will be offering skills training classes for adults and children throughout 2019,” he added.

Gleoiteog re launch Galway 7Coilin Hernon at the re-launch of the Gleoiteog, the Lovely Anne, at Claddagh Quay in Galway. Coilin was one of the restorers of the 137-year-old boat. He and his sons Coilin Og and Einde also cut the sails for the Lovely Anne Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy/Connacht Tribune

Published in How To Sail

The historic ketch Ilen of Limerick puts to sea again from her home port this weekend at the beginning of a complex 2019 sailing programme which will see the restored ship voyage in July towards southwest Greenland writes W M Nixon. She’ll be following in the wake of the migratory salmon which have journeyed since time immemorial between the Shannon and Greenland’s only salmon river, the Kapisillit at the head of a fjord at Nuuk, Greenland’s capital and Ilen’s primary destination.

Ireland’s last surviving sailing trading ketch, the 1926-built 56ft Ilen was originally designed by global circumnavigator Conor O’Brien to be the inter-island freight and ferry vessel in the Falkland Islands, and he sailed her out there after she’d been built by Tom Moynihan and his men at the Fishery Schools in Baltimore. When Ilen was retired from active service in the islands in the 1990s, Conor O’Brien enthusiast Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick set about trying to bring her home for restoration.

In November 1997 he achieved his first goal when Ilen was finally lifted off a ship in Dublin Docks. After wintering in the city’s Grand Canal basin, she sailed for the first time in many years in Dublin Bay in May 1998, and soon made the passage to West Cork for the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival and the Glandore Classics Regatta.

ilen 1997 unloaded2Ilen unloaded in Dublin Docks, November 1997 Photo: W M Nixonilen may1998 dublin bay3 Ilen under sail for the first time in very many years, Dublin Bay May 1998. Photo: W M Nixon

paddy barry jarlath cunnane4Paddy Barry and Jarlath Cunnane aboard Ilen in Dublin Bay, May 1998. They are still very much involved in the Ilen Project. Photo: W M Nixon

ilen db98 tim magennis5Aboard Ilen on that historic sail in Dublin Bay in May 1998 were several classic and traditional boat enthusiasts, including (left) Fionan de Barra, with Tim Magennis at deckhouse and Paddy Barry on the right. The restored Ilen returns to Dublin Bay in May 2019. Photo: W M Nixon

However, it was obvious that a huge project of restoration work was required to make the ship compliant with survey requirements for regular sea-going, and for several years she was virtually moth-balled. But in time a programme was devised – the Ilen Project – whereby the main hull restoration would be undertaken by master shipwright Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt Boatyard on the Ilen River above Baltimore in West Cork, while 180-kilometres away in Limerick, Gary Mac Mahon and the Ilen Network established an international project, the Ilen Boat-Building School, which made many of the detailed items such as the hatches and deckhouses, and the spars and rigging came out of this extensive Limerick workshop as well.

ilen restoration6Liam Hegarty (left) and Gary Mac Mahon at an early stage of Ilen’s hull restoration in Oldcourt
All that work was in addition to other smaller boat-building projects undertaken in the School by a wide variety of trainees, many from an international background. These included a new fleet of the traditional Shannon gandelows, and other small craft including a Shannon angling cot and a flotilla of the economically-built yet very effective CityOne sailing dinghies, designed by the late naval architecture legend Theo Rye, who was an enthusiast for the entire Ilen programme.

gary and theo rye7Gary MacMahon with the late Theo Rye and a new CityOne sailing dinghy in Limerick. Photo: W M Nixon
The Ilen Project in its broadest sense was by no means a matter of never-ending boat-building work. There was fun to be had. The gandelows were regular visitors to the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival as well as other events back north on the Shannon Estuary, while the CityOnes made their mark at the Glandore Classics and several regattas. Two of the Ilen seniors, Liam O’Donoghue and Tony Daly, travelled the length of the Erne and the Shannon from Belleek in Fermanagh to Limerick in an angling cot they’d built in the school, and of course when the Thousandth Anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf came up in 2014, as defenders of the proud Limerick memory of Brian Boru, the Ilen gandelow crews and their boats had to put in triumphant appearance on Dublin Bay.

shannon angling cot8Liam O’Donoghue and Tony Daly with the Ilen School-built Shannon Angling Cot they rowed from Belleek in Fermanagh via the Erne and the Shannon all the way to Limerick

However, undoubtedly the most off-the-wall episode was taking the gandelows to one of the Festivals of the Sea in Venice. Folk from elsewhere may come up with ready wisecracks about “gandelow” being no more than the Limerick version of “gondola”, yet the citizens of the Serenissima went out of their way to make the Limerick crews and their boats welcome, and the entire visit was carried out with style and elan.

gandelows racing venice9The new traditional Shannon gandelows built by the Ilen School made a memorable visit to Venice.

But meanwhile, as resources permitted the restoration work on Ilen’s hull continued. The detailed joinery-work built in Limerick was added in as required, and finally, in January 2018, Ilen emerged re-born from the old Top Shed at Oldcourt. There was still much work to be done, but she was able to put in an appearance at the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival in May, and then finally at the end of September she was sufficiently ready for sea to voyage round to her home port of Limerick where, in a hectic first week of October, visiting well-wishers included President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina.

ilen baltimore beacon10 Finally brought together – the restored Ilen off Baltimore Beacon, September 2018. While the hull had been restored in Oldcourt, everything above deck except the sails had been made in Limerick. Photo: Declan Lynch

Ilen had spent all her life as a working boat, but now that she was so superbly restored, there was no way she was going to be treated as an ornament. On the contrary, it was planned that she would work in the areas of education, special assistance, and national and international cultural interaction, helping people young and old to develop as they learned to understand the ways of the past, the lore of seafaring, the story of Limerick’s magnificent waterborne trading history, and the mysteries and wonders of nature.

In an age of multi-faceted, continuous and wall-to-wall entertainment – electronic and otherwise – this was a tall order, and a “Big Idea” was needed to bring it into focus. Early projects with a variety of schools and other groups in the Greater Limerick area have produced encouraging results. It was and is evident that interacting with something as tangible as a traditional sailing vessel in almost any way can be a very rewarding experience for those new to it, and so the idea developed that a major flagship project for the summer of 2019 would clarify the focus on Ilen and all that she did – and all that she might do, too.

sabina and crew11Almost immediately after returning to Limerick last October, Ilen enjoyed a Presidential visit
In an era of increasing awareness of the environment and the need for conservation and climate awareness, the “Big Idea” was right there, hidden in plain sight. While the numbers of Atlantic salmon passing through Limerick may have decreased markedly since the Ardnacrusha dam was built in the late 1920s and for other reasons, the salmon in the Shannon going to and from the sea are still very much part of the city’s culture. And it is known that while Atlantic salmon migrate to many rivers in several countries, in all of Greenland, they go to only one, the Kapisillit.

So why not sail Ilen in the salmon’s wake to this one special river with an Ilen Boat Building School-constructed Shannon angling cot as deck cargo, and thereby create a unique link around which a vibrant cultural interaction can be built between the schools and young people of Limerick and their counter-parts in southwest Greenland? The idea took hold, and it has developed as a busy project with schools in the greater Limerick area.

letter to greenland12In anticipation of the Salmon’s Wake voyage, schools in Limerick have been exchanging letters with their new pen-pals in Greenland
This ambitious Salmons Wake Voyage will take over Ilen’s 2019 programme at the end of June. But meanwhile, the first part of the 2019 season involves Ilen interacting with the Sailing Into Wellness movement, with a series of short voyages along Ireland’s south and east coasts.

To position her for this and as part of the preparations for the Greenland voyage, over this Easter Weekend she’ll be making the passage from Limerick back to Baltimore and the Oldcourt Boatyard for a pre-season haul on Tuesday with a hull inspection, following which she’ll be making coastal passages with Sailing Into Wellness via ports such as Kinsale, Waterford and Howth until on Friday, May 17th she’s in Dun Laoghaire for a major presentation.

After that, the Sailing Into Wellness programme continues with a return to West Cork and the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival (24th May to 26th May), with an SIW Ilen base then established in Kinsale. But as June progresses, the ship will return to Limerick with preparations for the nine-week Greenland voyage being finalised.

angling cot in build13This traditional angling cot, currently in build at the Ilen School in Limerick, will be taken to Greenland as deck cargo on the Ilen. Photo: Gary MacMahonCommunication with the local Greenland community and two schools in Nuuk has been active, and in July it is planned that Deirdre Power of the Ilen Project and artist Chelsea Canavan from Limerick will be in residence in Nuuk to help in co-ordinating Ilen’s reception. That will include the visit to the Kapisillit River where the new-built Shannon angling cot currently being created by the Ilen Boat-Building School and brought to Nuuk by Ilen herself as deck cargo will be put afloat as a tangible symbol of many interacting links.

With such a programme, which will see Ilen sail between 5,000 and 6,000 miles by season’s end and dozens of ports visited, obviously very many people will be actively involved at different stages. But for the major ocean voyages, Gary Mac Mahon has been able to call on the services of a unique group of people who combine traditional boat sailing skills with extensive Arctic voyaging experience.

ilen all sail14On a gentle day early in 2019 in Limerick, Ilen is finally able to set her complete new suit of fore-and-aft sails. Photo: Gary MacMahon
He himself is a veteran in this area, as one of his Arctic experiences was with the legendary Paddy Barry aboard the Galway hooker St Patrick, sailing far into northern latitudes.

Paddy Barry has been involved with the Ilen project from an early stage, as he was there at that special moment in November 1997 in Dublin Docks when Ilen was finally unloaded back in Ireland, he was in command when Ilen sailed again for the first time in very many years in Dublin Bay in May 1998, and over the long, challenging years of the restoration, he has been a ready source of encouragement and help.

He and Gary will both be in the ship’s complement for the outward passage to Nuuk and the many activities in Greenland itself. In fact, Paddy will be aboard for the entire nine weeks. But Gary’s time is limited, so for the return passage in August and early September, Paddy Barry will be joined by his partner in the Arctic circumnavigation of the Northabout, Northabout’s original builder, owner and skipper Jarlath Cunnane, and they will share the hugely experienced company of Dr Mick Brogan. These days, he’s best known as an organiser of Cruinnui na mBad at Kinvara, but like the other three, Mick Brogan is a seaman extensively versed in the ways of the Arctic and the needs and challenges of a traditionally-rigged ship.

1997 paddy barry15Paddy Barry at the unloading of Ilen in Dublin Port, November 1997. In 2019, he will be aboard throughout the nine weeks Salmons Wake voyage to Greenland. Photo: W M Nixon

With Ilen’s departure today (Easter Saturday) from Limerick bound for Baltimore, these latest chapters in an extraordinary story get underway. Conor O’Brien’s account of the original voyage in 1926 from Foynes to the Falklands produced some of his best writing. But now that the old ship has become the Ilen Project, we find the story extending in several directions which somehow take in many places between Venice and Nuuk. It seems that when Gary Mac Mahon gets hold of an idea, all things are possible.

Published in Boatyards
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Yachts are marvels of engineering…. So I have been told – many times – at boat shows; by designers; builders; by sales staff; by sailors, amateur and professional; by proud owners….. Yachts are also nice to look at … I’ve liked, at various times, all the boats I’ve owned – my present Sigma 33, whose looks were the first to attract me … the Sadler 25, the Ruffian 23 I owned previously; even the Vagabond and Mirror dinghies I sailed in younger years…

On all of them, I learned about sailing…..Generally, they behaved well .. a “good sea boat” I was told, can look after itself, even if the sailor isn’t able to do so…!!!

Gradually over the years, I acquired more of the modern technology which made sailing better, safer, easier, so I was assured.

The design and construction of yachts accommodate them to their domain, the sea, which will, assuredly, challenge them at times….. The traditional techniques I learned included how to heave-to; to lie a-hull; to be aware of being over-canvassed; learning the approaching weather signs; when to reef and how to do it quickly and correctly and that there are times when the management of a small boat in a big sea, must be learned and understood….. hearing all that from those with more knowledge and experience….

As modern technology has taken over – and that continues to be the case, much of what was basic years ago has been changed - charts, paper and pencil to electronic navigation have been replaced…., GPS, Plotters and so on are great but what if they succumb to electronic faults…? The sea has many moods, so does the sailor and, perhaps at times, even electronic equipment….

"No qualifications are required to be produced to buy and own a yacht"

Yachtmaster and training courses are pathways to knowledge and skill, so too are experience and traditional techniques …. As yachts are built with materials better than ever before we are told and implanted with more and more technology, are traditional skills being passed on… maintained, preserved ….?????

No qualifications are required to be produced to buy and own a yacht and, while more regulatory controls are not particularly welcome in what is one of the last bastions of freedom… that of sailing…. Let’s not forget the traditional sailing techniques…..

Published in Historic Boats
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Darryl Hughes’ renowned 43ft ketch Maybird, built by Tyrrell of Arklow in 1937 and superbly restored in substantial works project-managed by the owner himself in 2009-2011, has had – at 81 years old - probably her best year ever for awards in 2018 writes W M Nixon.

The highlight of her season was in July, when she became the first gaff-rigged boat to complete the 704-mile Volvo Round Ireland race from Wicklow. For this achievement, she received an immediate award from Wicklow SC and was immortalized in the gallery of ships’ portraits on the wall of Wicklow Pier itself, a special honour in a series created and lovingly maintained for many years by “Pat the Post”.

pat the post2Wicklow’s “Pat the Post” creates one of his special portraits on Wicklow Pier in honour of Maybird.maybird painting wicklow3Maybird immortalized on Wicklow Pier

While this work was under way, Maybird meanwhile returned to her birthplace of Arklow for a week of celebration with Arklow Sailing Club and Arklow Sea Scouts, with sail-training sea-going groups availing of her presence for instructive gaff rig sessions, while the skipper and his round Ireland crew were honoured at the father-and-mother of all come-all-ye parties in ASC.

maybird making knots4Aboard Maybird making knots during the Round Ireland race

After this, the handsome ketch then sailed north, visiting several ports on a cruise which culminated in an Irish Cruising Club Rally at Rathlin Island on Ireland’s most northeasterly corner, and then in various ventures through the rest of the year she gradually got herself to Crosshaven where she has now been laid up for the winter, with her complex gear carefully stored.

arklow sea scouts5Arklow Sea Scouts out in strength on Maybird during the post-Round Ireland celebrations in her birthplace of Arklow

But with the end of the summer season, the flow of awards if anything increased. There was another trophy from Arklow Sailing Club at their annual awards ceremony. And then in November, Darryl Hughes found himself at the very convivial annual prize-giving of the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association in the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, a black tie affair noted for its array of historical trophies.

Maybird had been obliged to do some ISORA Races in order to qualify for participation in the Round Ireland Race, and her crew enjoyed these events even though they hadn’t knowingly won anything in them. But in the NYC on that November Saturday night, it turned out they had – at the end of it all, Maybird’s name was called out as the winner of the Penmaen Plate.

The Penmaen Plate goes to the boat which best exemplifies “The Spirit of ISORA”. As Dun Laoghaire’s Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA, puts it: If you asked them to define the spirit of ISORA they’d be hard put to do so, but they know it when they see it, and in 2018 Maybird and her crew were the very embodiment of what they sought.

darryl anne marie6Darryl Hughes receives the Penmaen Plate from Anne-Marie Ryan, wife of ISORA Chairman Peter, at the ISORA Prize Giving Dinner in the National YC in Dun Laoghaire in November. Photo: gphoto

Darryl Hughes was busy in the late Autumn with voluntarily organizing the Irish Meteorology Society/Royal Institute for Navigation’s successful Weather & Sailing Conference in the Royal Irish YC on November 23rd. But after that he could relax back into normal life, and in late December he went along to the annual Christmas Party of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association in Poolbeg Y&BC in the heart of Dublin, whose marina is Maybird’s home port when she’s on the East Coast.

And there, the season was finally fully rounded out when he found Maybird had become the 2018 winner of the Arthur Hughes Trophy, the top annual award of the DBOGA, named in honour of the memory of one of its key founders. So although Maybird already had been mightily honoured in Wicklow. Arklow and Dun Laoghaire, it was at Poolbeg in the final days of 2018 that she received the ultimate accolade as the top-achieving gaff rigged boat of the year

groom hughes7It’s Christmas! Maybird is recognized as the top-achieving gaff rigged boat of 2018 at the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association Christmas Party in Poolbeg Y&BC, with the Arthur Hughes Trophy being presented to Darryl Hughes (right) by Negley Groom of DBOGA.

Published in Historic Boats
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There is a new World Champion following the running of the Crosbie Cup / Heir Island Sloop World Championships in Baltimore Harbour in West Cork at the weekend.

David Townend having achieved four race wins and two seconds secured the title ahead of "Brigid" Declan Tiernan in second and "Sarah Aoife" raced by Anne and Grahame Copplestone.

The Heir Island Sloop is designed for local one-design racing and day sailing on the semi-sheltered waters of Long Island Bay and Roaring Water Bay, South West County Cork. 

Download full results below

Published in Historic Boats

It’s a long story of the sea and ships, a story which began with the World War I sinking of the luxury Transatlantic liner Lusitania by torpedoes from a German submarine off the Old Head of Kinsale in 1915 writes W M Nixon.

Much has happened since, but the saga moved into a new chapter this past weekend, when Paddy Murphy of Renvyle in the furthest point of northwest Connemara re-launched his 45ft former Isle of Man fishing nobby Aigh Vie into the Atlantic right off his house.

The Aigh Vie has spent two decades in an often storm-battered shed beside the house, being painstakingly re-built as Paddy’s personal dreamship. While he describes himself as a blacksmith, he can turn his hand to anything, and his multiple skills have enabled himself and his partner Siobhan to make good their escape from the claustrophobic life of Dublin, and settle in this magnificently remote frontier post of the Atlantic seaboard.

aigh vie3Aigh-vie as she was when Paddy Murphy bought her

They brought the Aigh Vie with them overland, for she was then at a very early stage of the re-build. But with the heavy part of the restoration work now completed, it was time and more on Saturday to get her launched into the Atlantic while a southeast wind obligingly provided smooth water for the beach launch, and that noted storehouse of maritime lore Cormac Lowth was there to record the scene and put it all in its historical perspective.

aigh vie4The work at an early stage. Photo: W M Nixon

paddy murphy5Paddy Murphy, a man of many talents. Photo: W M Nixon

With the help of a local fishing boat, Aigh Vie was then moved round to the nearby natural shelter of Ballynakill Harbour and the pier at Derryinver for her first night afloat in many years. But Derryinver pier is a busy place, so Aigh Vie has since been moved up the bay to a fitting-out berth at another quay where there’s less demand on space, and work can proceed uninterrupted on the finishing of many tasks.

So on Saturday night there was a mighty hog roast party to celebrate

No-one has any doubts about the amount of work which still has to be done, and often it will be by Paddy working on his own. But much has been done. The launching has been achieved. So on Saturday night there was a mighty hog roast party to celebrate in the recently-vacated shed, attended both by locals and by people from places more distant whose lives have been intertwined with the story of Aigh Vie.

aigh vie afloat6The restored Aigh Vie sits beautifully on her marks. Photo: Cormac Lowth

And it is an extraordinary story. When the Lusitania was torpedoed, the nearest vessel was the fishing ketch Wanderer from Peel in the Isle of Man, skippered by William Ball. The Wanderer and her crew saved many lives, and some time afterwards Skipper Ball – who was an employee of the fishing company that owned the Wanderer – received a lawyer’s letter informing him that a sum of money had been anonymously lodged from America to a bank account in Peel for his benefit. The stipulation on the funding was that it was to be used for the building of his own vessel, the fishing boat of his dreams.

The Aigh Vie (it means “Fair Winds” or “Good Luck” in the Manx Gaelic) was the result, and she was launched in December 1916 and registered as a fishing boat in January 1917. But she was so elegant in her hull lines that she was always described as being more like a yacht than a fishing vessel, and after she finished her working career fishing out of Ardglass in County Down, she ended up being owned for recreational use by Billy Smyth of Whiterock Boatyard on Strangford Lough, who cruised her every summer with his family, usually to the west coast of Scotland and sometimes beyond to the Orkneys.

aigh vie derryinver7Aigh Vie in a temporary overnight berth at Derryinver Pier on Ballynakill Bay. Photo: Cormac Lowth

It is many years since Aigh Vie was bought from Billy Smyth by Paddy Murphy, and he based her for a while in the Dublin area. For now, though, in her re-born state the coast of Connacht provides her home waters. And who knows, but maybe when the fitting-out is finally completed, the far horizons will call. Meanwhile, it’s good to know that the challenge of getting her out of the shed and into the Atlantic has been met.

Yet the mystery still remains as to who it was in America who so appreciated the wonderful rescue work done by the Wanderer in 1915 that they willingly paid for the building of Aigh Vie in 1916. One-hundred-and-two years down the line, it seems their identity remains as elusive as ever

Published in Historic Boats
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The restoration of the 56ft ketch trading ketch Ilen (1926) and the re-build of world-girdling 42ft Saoirse (1922) at Oldcourt in West Cork has become a focal point of interest of what might seem to an outsider to be a secret brotherhood of the maritime world writes W M Nixon

It’s not that these people set out to be mysterious or secretive. It’s just that they operate on a different level to the rest of us. Typical of them is Jarlath Cunnane of Mayo. He’s always building boats for himself. He built the special aluminium 15 metre (49ft) exploration yacht Northabout with which he and Paddy Barry and a rugged crew transitted both the Northwest and the Northeast passages.

northabout clew bay2Northabout returns to Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick after completing the transits of the Northwest and Northeast Passages in 2005. Photo: Rory Casey

Yet despite Northabout’s alloy build, he’s very much a fan of traditional craft. So when he heard that Gary MacMahon of Limerick and his team were undertaking the ticklish job of stepping Ilen’s new masts in West Cork in a very limited time frame earlier this month, he and frequent shipmate Dr Mick Brogan (he owns the giant Galway Hooker Mac Duach and is much involved in Cruinniu na mBad at Kinvara) simply appeared at just the right time at Oldcourt, and their help was much appreciated.

swallow steel3The 40ft O’Brien Kennedy-designed Swallow, which Wally McGuirk built himself in steel. Photo: W M Nixon

wally mcguirk4Wally McGuirk in his on-board workshop in Swallow. Photo: W M Nixon

On the opposite side of the country from Mayo, Wally McGuirk of Howth is another enthusiast for traditional boat-building who nevertheless was not slow in using basic steel construction for his 40ft dream yacht Swallow, the last design by O’Brien Kennedy. Wally built her himself, and since then has introduced all sorts of inventive additions, a notable one being the legs which support the boat if she is going to dry out at low water.

Wally reckoned the traditional legs bolted on to the outside of the hull amidships are an unsightly nuisance. So he built a couple of hefty steel casings at a sight angle inside Swallow, and these neatly house the legs which are retracted virtually out of sight when not in use.

swallow legs5Wally McGuirk with one of his special legs on board Swallow. Photo: W M Nixon

swallow legs6The internal housings for Swallow’s legs intrude very little on the accommodation. Photo: W M Nixon

Yet although he enjoys the freedom of innovation which steel construction permits, Wally’s heart is in wood. And as he happens to be a property developer of sorts, quantities of choice vintage timber have come his way over the years. Thus when he was making major alterations to a 1798 building which had once been a brewery in Brunswick Street in old Dublin, he ended up with some lovely perfectly-seasoned pine of hefty proportions which he stored carefully, such that the rain has never fallen on it.

He could never think of a suitably idealistic use for it until the Ilen Project developed, and that hit the target. So last weekend the beautiful timber of 1798 journeyed to West Cork, and in time it will make a characterful cabin sole in the handsome ship.

ilen interior7Ilen’s interior has been finished in Douglas fir of 1831 vintage. Photos: Gary MacMahon

Meanwhile, Gary MacMahon had sourced some quality Douglas fir of 1831 from a building in Limerick, and that has already been deployed to good effect in Ilen’s cabins, where seven proper seagoing bunks will be provided.

As for the Ilen Project generally, the recent flurry of news about the re-development of the land around the Ted Russell Dock beside the city centre has reminded everyone that Limerick is now Ilen’s home port, and very well it looked too on a mock-up applied to Ilen’s handsome transom this week.

Published in Ilen
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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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