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Displaying items by tag: Ilen

When the restored 56ft ketch Ilen of Limerick gets worthwhile wind conditions, she can give a good account of herself in terms of sailing speed. Yet no-one would claim that her rate of knots on passage afloat remotely compares to the speed and raw efficiency of pollution-emitting lorries ashore, buzzing along Ireland’s roads.

But Ilen Project Director Gary Mac Mahon – current holder of the Irish Sailing Presidential Award for his unflinching determination in restoring the Conor O’Brien-designed, Oldcourt West Cork 1926-built ketch to full seagoing conditions – reckons that the steady global movement in slow food and local artisan products makes for a good fit with Ilen’s ability to carry cargo to remote little quays - or indeed quays of any kind – at a leisurely but environmentally-friendly pace.

Gary Mac Mahon of LimerickGary Mac Mahon of Limerick – current holder of the Irish Sailing Presidential Award – aboard the restored Ilen in Nuuk in Greenland, July 2019

In this he is partially inspired by the example of the last Shannon sail-only cargo vessel, the trading cutter Alzina, owned and sailed by Captain John Davis of Labasheeda, that useful little port on the Clare coast midway between Limerick and the open Atlantic.

Alizina was working under sail until the 1950s, and Gary’s father Joe got some photos of this intriguing vessel and her activities in the mighty estuary. In those days, when “Just In Time” was an unimaginable concept in the deep heart of rural and coastal Ireland, there were enough consignments and cargoes and harvested crops coming in from the west at a leisurely pace to keep Alzina in business.

The sailing trading cutter Alizina of Labasheeda on the Shannon EstuaryThe sailing trading cutter Alizina of Labasheeda on the Shannon Estuary, seen in the early 1950s in Limerick making best use of the guaranteed power of the tide. Photo: Joe Mac Mahon

However, an element of urgency came into it all when she was docked in Limerick and gradually taking on board outward-bound cargo and goods, for the ideal was to have everything together and destined for Labasheeda for a single unloading at the quay there, as John Davis prided himself on being able to do the Limerick-Labasheeds passage on one good ebb tide.

So to emphasise the extra urgency - even in the already bustling atmosphere of Limerick - Alzina carried a ship’s bicycle, and it was the task of the ship’s boy – or whoever happened to be available – to hop aboard this iron steed as high water approached, and race round any shops where they knew specific personal orders for folk downriver were being put together at the last moment.

Despite the inevitable bicycle race, it all suggests an environmentally-friendly way of doings things which increasingly chimes with some of today’s mood, and Ilen in turn can become part of that.

When she made her first voyage in restored form last year to West Greenland – a voyage which in itself garnered several awards – the theme was Salmons Wake, as 2019 was the Year of the Atlantic Salmon, and any cargo carried on Ilen was cultural and creative material to strengthen links with schools and communities in Greenland.

Ilen's SailsAboard Ilen in Greenland, with the squaresail doing great work. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

But for 2020’s necessarily shortened season, a project has been devised which gives an acknowledgement of Ilen’s first sixty-five years of life as the freight and passenger vessel for the Falkland Islands, and combines it with the central concept one of her 2020 roles – four days as a youth educational vessel with the Limerick & Clare Education & Training Board.

Ilen’s main cargoes were sheep and people For the first 65 years of her working life in the Falkland Islands, Ilen’s main cargoes were sheep and people – in that order. Photo courtesy Ilen Project

The concept that’s emerging is the Ilen Community and Cargo Voyage 2020, whose final form is still taking shape. Currently, Ilen is back with builder Liam Hegarty in Oldcourt near Baltimore for her annual refit and some adjustments. But on August 24th she’ll head west with a first call at North Harbour on Cape Clear, home port of Conor O’Brien’s 1926 Ireland-Falklands crew of Con and Denis Cadogan, where she’ll take on board her first consignment, Cape Clear Gin.

Then it’s on for a long hop to Kilrush in the Shannon Estuary (August 26th), followed by a crossing to Foynes (August 29th) for the first time berthed there since 1926, Kilrush and Foynes being among the focal points for the Education & Training Board involvement, and Foynes Island being home for Conor O’Brien, who died there in 1952.

Ilen Cargo SymbolA symbol for all sailing cargo vessels? Ilen’s new Community & Cargo Voyage logo

Then from Foynes it’s upriver to Limerick itself, where some of the Cape Clear Gin will be discharged, while additional products taken on board will include Ishka Spring Water, Limerick Beer, and Thomond Gate Distillery Whiskey, while other specialist quality products will doubtless be added as the voyage plan develops.

The Limerick visit has an added significance as it is hoped that on September 1st in a ceremony in the Hunt Museum (originally the Customs House), the official registration of Ilen (No 146843) will see the Port of Registry formally transferred from Skibbereen to Limerick.

The Hunt Museum in LimerickThe Hunt Museum in Limerick - formerly the Customs House – will see a celebration of the official transfer of Ilen’s Port of Registry from Skibbereen to Limerick on September 1st.

The business done and cargo stowed away, Ilen heads down the estuary and then sails north around Loop Head for Kilronan in the Aran Islands, where more of the Cape Clear Gin will be unloaded. The course is then shaped south for Dingle where the spirit of Cape Clear is awaited, and then if time serves there’ll be a call to historic Derrynane, much associated with Conor O’Brien and last visited by Ilen in 1926. However, the primary purpose of the second half of the voyage is the delivery - under sail - of cargo from Cape Clear and primarily Limerick to Cork City, and the date set for the completion of that at the Cork quays is September 7th.

Conor O’Brien used to say that he always preferred to have a purpose over and above the pleasure of simply sailing when he went to sea, and it looks as though the Ilen Community and cargo Voyage 2020 is going to be fully in line with his philosophy. Meanwhile, dare we suggest that the manufacturer or distributor of a handy little transport bicycle might find a promotional opportunity in Ilen’s Community and Cargo Voyage 2020…….

Almost-laden Alzina awaits the last of her cargo for Labasheeda“On your bike!” The pace quickens as high tide approaches in Limerick, and the almost-laden Alzina awaits the last of her cargo for Labasheeda. Photo Joe Mac Mahon

Published in Ilen
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The restored Limerick trading ketch Ilen may have already voyaged to Greenland in 2019, but this year the distinctive vessel – or at least a model of her – has also been seen sailing on the Rhine in Germany. For as the Lockdown closed in, Ilen Project Director Gary Mac Mahon came up with the idea of challenging house-bound kids and their families to re-imagine Tetra Pak cartons as the Ilen, complete with the iconic Salmons Wake logo on the squaresail. The response has been both international and impressive, with Gary – no slouch himself when it comes to off-the-wall creativity – very taken by the ingenuity of today’s young people, some of them very young indeed.

And like Gary, they’re thinkers outside the box – one junior boat-builder preferred to work with miniature “planks” re-purposed from flat lollipop sticks. Either way, whoever has made the best was initially going to win a €150 Amazon voucher, and since then the additional prize of their own preference from the sought-after range of Dubarry sailing footwear has been put into the awards-box. The competition closes this Friday, May 22nd, it doesn’t involve getting a model to Limerick, you just send photos, full story here.

ilen model2Another take on the model of the Ilen – somewhere in there are a lot of little planks which once thought they were going to be in a lollipop

Published in Ilen
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Our story last week, about how Gary Mac Mahon of the restored trading ketch Ilen of Limerick has launched a unique ship’s model-making competition to express the Ilen spirit, has rung a bell in Ballinasloe in County Galway, at the headquarters of the international outdoor footwear and clothing company Dubarry of Ireland

The Ilen competition offers a prize of a €150 Amazon Gift Voucher for children (or children and their families) who can create a model which best captures the spirit of Ilen and her original crew with a simplified miniature of the ship based on a very re-purposed Tetra Pak carton, the other materials involved being hopefully available in any contemporary family home.

ilen tetrapak model2 The essence of Ilen with her original skipper Conor O’Brien and his crew is expressed in this model based on a very re-purposed Tetra Pak carton

The idea is to provide the kind of imagination and ingenuity-testing challenge that will help us all get through the National Lockdown. And when the idea was revealed in Afloat.ie last week, Michael Walsh of Dubarry quickly responded: “What a great idea. I’d very much appreciate it if you would pass on to Gary Mac Mahon that Dubarry would very happily pitch in with a pair of Dubarry Boots or Deck Shoes for the winner”.

Dubarry boots3 The Ilen Model competition has been greatly expanded with a choice of Dubarry Sailing Boots (above) and Dubarry Deck Shoes added to the prize

Now Dubarry of Ireland is Official Partners in the Ilen Project Model Competition, which makes the already good prize into a very worthwhile proposition. So folks young and old, once you’ve finished browsing the Dubarry range to find the Dubarry boot or deck-shoe of your choice, let’s get back to work on those models – the closing date is May 22nd.

Published in Ilen
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Junior and very junior sailors who’d like a special indoor Do-it-Yourself Challenge in these locked-in times will find something of special interest in the latest idea from current Irish Sailing Presidential Award holder Gary MacMahon of Limerick.

Gary received his award for his twenty-years of dedication in getting the 1926-built 56ft ketch Ilen of Conor O’Brien fame restored to such good seagoing order that, last summer, she voyaged to Greenland from Ireland and back, and collected other awards for that achievement.

This year the plan had been to have Ilen busy in and around the Shannon Estuary for the first half of the season, visiting all the local ports as part of her regular “Sailing into Wellness” programme. Then, on July 19th, she was to depart for Madeira to replicate the 1926 voyage Conor O’Brien made there with the ship, on his way to the Falklands, where Ilen was to spend her 40-year working life.

crew and ilen2Still seeing things differently through young eyes – Ilen’s delivery crew, and the ship herself

But the COVID-19 lockdown has put that on hold for a year. However, one ray of hope is that if some sailing does resume in August, then Ilen may be able to make her first visit to the Cruinniu na mBad festival in Kinvara on Galway Bay – if it happens, this year’s is scheduled for 14th to 16th August.

Meanwhile, the Ilen team have been prevented from assembling in any way by current regulations in what would normally have been be a very busy time of joint effort for her fit-out programme, and thus the ship is effectively moth-balled in Limerick when she should already be sailing.

So in the meantime, one day Gary was idly observing a Tetrapak and got to thinking how it might be completely re-purposed to be the basis of a kids’ home project and competition for a €150 Amazon Gift Prize to create a pint-sized version of Ilen, complete with Conor O’Brien and the Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear, who crewed with him on the long voyage of 1926.

And yes, we know that a standard Tetrapak actually holds a litre, but for most of us “pint-size” has a much more resonant meaning. Take the basics off this pdf, and then you’ll just need a few little things that “should be readily available in a modern household….”

Ilen tetra pak boat craft for kids3 1This is the cut-out-and-get-to-work department - Scroll down to the end of the article to download a PDF to make your own Ilen

Oh yeah? We can see some mums and dads having kittens as they try to get their colour printer to work in order to create the cut-outs on a standard sheet of A4 paper, but not to worry, all will be well in the end. Have a care, though, when applying the specified Super-Glue – a kid-friendly paste from a squeezy tube or painted on with a sponge pen might be safer.

The key thing is to have the square-sail properly printed with the evocative Salmon’s Wake logo which set the tone for the Greenland voyage, and now seems to be the symbol for the entire Ilen project. Get that right, and then it’s Bon Voyage and good luck with the €150 prize. The competition ends on May 22nd. 

Ilen in greenland4Award winner every which way – Ilen in Greenland. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

Published in Ilen
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There were several notable Irish sailing families with their names up in lights more than once at Saturday evening’s virtual awards ceremony for the annual achievements in Irish sailing. But none could match the seaborn diversity of an ancient tribe whose ancestral lands are in south county Clare along the north shore of the Shannon Estuary, where they have developed a long and vibrant association with Limerick city.

2 carrigaholt castle2Carrigaholt Castle, stronghold of the Mac Mahons, was built around 1480 – twelve years before Columbus arrived in America.

Yet like all Irish families of note, these days the Mac Mahons (or MacMahon or McMahon) also have a global presence, their most notable expats being in France. There, a descendent of one of the Wild Geese who left Ireland after the defeats of the wars in the 17th Century was Patrice de MacMahon (1808-1893), 6th Marquess of MacMahon and 1st Duke of Magenta, a noted soldier who rose to become a Marshal of France and then, on going into politics, was President of the French Republic from 1875 to 1879.

3 gary mac mahon3Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick aboard Ilen at Nuuk in Greenland
Back home meanwhile, the MacMahons who stayed on in Ireland gradually emerged from the years of conquered oppression to re-build their lives over generations, and they have long since been in roles of distinction in many areas of local and national life. But nevertheless Saturday’s awards were something special in the family’s long history, as Gary MacMahon of Limerick received the President’s Award for his many years of devotion to the cause of restoring the 56ft 1926-built Conor O’Brien trading ketch Ilen with such success that she was able to voyage to Greenland in 2019.

4 eve mcmahon4Eve McMahon of Howth, the new Youth Sailor of the Year
5 eve mcmahon sailing5At home on the water – Eve McMahon with her Laser
In a completely different area of sailing, Eve McMahon of Howth was honoured as Youth Sailor of the Year for taking Gold in the U17 Division in the Laser Youth Worlds in Canada and other successes, while her brother Jamie McMahon was the Junior Sailor of the Month for April on the strength of his victory as Laser Radial overall title-holder in the Irish Youth Championship in Crosshaven.

6 jamie mcmahon6Jamie McMahon, Junior Sailor of the Month for Aril 2019 after his convincing victory at the Irish Sailing Youth Championship at Royal Cork.
7 jamie mcmahon sailing7In control – Jamie McMahon on his way to winning the Youth Championship at Crosshaven. Photo: Robert Bateman
All these successes are very much of our time. But there was a special salute to the Mac Mahon history as Ilen took her departure from Limerick for Greenland in July 2019. Her final anchorage in the Shannon Estuary before taking on the Atlantic was at Carrigaholt, where the stronghold of Mac Mahons in southwest Clare – Carrigaholt Castle built around 1480s – still stands, now maintained by the office of Public Works as a well-preserved if empty shell which eloquently serves – as does Ilen herself – as a tangible link to times past.

8 ilen woodenboat8A Mac Mahon dream fulfilled – Ilen in Greenland provides a very memorable cover image for the current WoodenBoat magazine. Photo: Gary Mac Mahon

Published in Ilen
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The Limerick ketch Ilen has received the ultimate accolade among classic and traditional boat restorations by being chosen as the cover star for the March/April 2020 issue of WoodenBoat, the American magazine which deservedly has a global reach and reputation in the challenging world of authentic restorations and re-builds.

The striking photograph of the 56ft 1926-built Conor O’Brien trading ketch was taken by Gary Mac Mahon off the mountainous coast of Southwest Greenland last summer, during Ilen’s Salmon’s Wake voyage of 2019 from her home port of Limerick to the Arctic mountains and small ports of West Greenland, and on to the capital city in the port of Nuuk

The sparkling and memorable image was a special reward for the photographer, as it was Gary Mac Mahon’s own unflinching belief in the Ilen Project which saw this unique vessel repatriated from the Falkland Islands to Ireland in 1997, with funds eventually being raised to restore her to full seagoing condition two decades later in a programme shared by the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick and Hegarty’s Boatyard at Oldcourt on the Ilen River near Baltimore in West Cork, Ilen’s birthplace.

The magazine includes an account of Ilen’s restoration by Arista Holden, a traditional boat enthusiast from Maine (Belfast, would you believe), who led a group of fellow devotees last May to the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival, where Ilen had made her restored debut in 2018.

This isn’t the first time that a notable Irish boat restoration has been given the honours in WoodenBoat. The May/June 2008 issue featured Hal Sisk’s 36ft gaff cutter Peggy Bawn, designed by G L Watson of Glasgow, built by John Hilditch of Carrickfergus in 1894, and meticulousy restored under Hal’s overall direction by Michael Kennedy of Dunmore East with input from several noted specialists.

peggy bawn woodenboat2The image of Peggy Bawn in American waters in 2007 was created by legendary marine photographer Ben Mendlowitz, long associated with WooodenBoat. Photo: Benjamin Mendlowitz

Published in Historic Boats
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The Skibbereen boatyard where Ireland’s last trading schooner was painstakingly restored has been immortalised in a new book of photography, as The Irish Times reports.

Hegarty’s Boatyard, on the River Ilen near Skibbereen, is the last surviving traditional boatyard in Ireland and remains a hive of activity, mostly servicing the local fishing industry.

Its bigger jobs include the Cill Airne, a 1960s cruise ferry tender refurbished as a restaurant and bar that’s now moored on the Liffey in Dublin, and the ketch Saoirse — “the first boat to take the tricolour around the world in 1923”, according to Liam Hegarty — which is hoped to be ready for Baltimore’s Wooden Boat Festival next year.

But the yard that’s now the subject of a ‘photographic essay’ by Kevin O’Farrell is probably best known for Ilen, the rebuilt sailing ship that carried Limerick’s flag across the Atlantic to Greenland last summer and was more recently recognised at the best restoration project of 2019.

The Irish Times has much more HERE.

Published in Book Review
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Limerick's Ilen Project has been presented with the Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland's Award for “Best Restoration of 2019” with its visionary management of the rebuilt sailing ship Ilen, and the associated community education work in Limerick. The Association’s President Paul McMahon presented the trophy at the IHAI Awards 2019 in the ESB Archive Building in Finglas. The ESB sponsored the event, and Michael English (IHAI Board Member) read the citation.

The Ilen during 2019 carried Limerick’s flag across the Atlantic to Greenland and back on the Salmons Wake research voyages, and having also confirmed that things are indeed cold within the Arctic Circle, she may set sail southwards for the islands of Madeira in 2020, as it was a port of call for Ilen during Conor O’Brien’s delivery voyage to the Falklands in 1926. The Ilen Project's marine educational programme has already extended to the islands, and the possible arrival of the ship has aroused local interest. It is now some ninety-five years since she last docked there, and her return visit to Funchal is eagerly awaited.

ilen award2Ilen in Greenland in the summmer of 2019. In 2020, a southward voyage to Madeira is an increasing possibility. Photo: Gary MacMahon
The ship has turned out every bit as well as anyone expected. She has handled with equanimity whatever the North Atlantic threw at her this past summer. Her combination of sturdiness, elegance and speed win admiration wherever she goes.

The Ilen has also had a very full first operational season conveying community groups and individuals around the apectacular coast of Ireland. Her utility and attraction as a floating classroom and educational platform give credit to Limerick City and County Council, who provided funding through the Social Intervention Fund, to the JP McManus Benevolent Fund, and to all others who gave so generously of their time and treasure to bring her to where she is now.

Published in Ilen
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A winter night's gathering in the familiar setting of Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club in Ringsend in the heart of maritime Dublin can make it seem like summer again for a few magic hours, and this year’s programme, put together by Talks Organiser Darryl Hughes of the classic gaff ketch Maybird, is setting the bar high for his successors.

He has persuaded a varied, entertaining, informative and knowledgeable selection of five speakers to provide four shows, and it starts with renowned local and marine historian Cormac Lowth giving an impressive presentation on Dublin Port on Thursday, November 14th, and concludes with the historic Ilen Project’s Salmons Wake Voyage to West Greenland by Gary MacMahon on Thursday 19th March.

Published in Dublin Bay
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Scribbler, my Sigma 33 yacht, was hauled ashore this week. Now she stands in her cradle in Castlepoint Boatyard in Crosshaven in Cork Harbour for her out-of-the-water winter rest. It is the annual end-of-season ritual. There are owners who don’t any more do an off-season haul-out. They winter on a marina, or on sheltered moorings and only haul for a hull-clean prior to the start of the new season. There are the particularly fortunate owners who can ‘winter’ their boats close to their homes, nicely at hand for the off-season maintenance work!

I come from the ‘old school’ thinking that it is best to ‘give the boat a dry-out.’ GRP, the plastic boats, benefit from it, I was told from the first boat purchase I made. Not everyone agrees these days but, whatever the off-season decision for your boat, the atmosphere that is about is definitely ‘end-of-season,’ with Autumnal and October cruiser Leagues concluding this weekend at clubs around the country.

More boats will be hauled ashore over the next week or so. There are the hardy souls in cruisers who sail on into December, when the weather can often be magnanimous, the dinghy sailors who do so year-round and the Lasers who ‘frostbite’.

As Scribbler was ‘laid-up’ this week I got to thinking about the perennial questions – why do we have boats, why do we go out in them and, of course, are they worth the expense and the effort needed to keep them going?

One of the best – and humorous – answers to those questions which I have heard came from Bro. Anthony Keane, who has been so much involved in the restoration of the famous Ilen. From Leitrim originally, he has been a monk at Glenstal Abbey since 1965 and his study of theology and wood in which he is quite an expert, as shown in the Ilen project, has enabled him to enjoin the topics with the maritime sphere and boating. I’ve admired the content of speeches he has made at the various stages of Ilen’s restoration and its launch and reported them here.

He was particularly outstanding at the launch of the restored Dublin Bay 21, Naneen, in Kilrush last month when I recorded his dissertation on why we have boats and go to sea. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to broadcast it, which has come with this week’s ‘hauling’ reflections.

Bro. Anthony’s thoughts on boats are worth listening to!

Listen to the Podcast below

Published in Boatyards
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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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