Displaying items by tag: Ilen
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
It recounts ocean voyaging, navigating ice fields, coastal sailing off West Greenland and the way of a big timbered traditional Irish sailing ship going about her community business.
The video was shot and edited by Ilen project manager, Gary McMahon.
The 1926-built 56ft Conor O’Brien trading ketch Ilen of Limerick has had an exceptionally busy first season in 2019 in her restored condition as achieved by the Ilen Boat-Building School of Limerick, and Liam Hegarty’s Oldcourt Boatyard in West Cork.
This ambassadorial sailing ship has continued her 2019 community work - work which began last April on first departing Limerick Docks in full seagoing commission. Intertwined with many other objectives, the Ilen Project’s theme for this year was Salmon’s Wake, a concept whereby the ship’s voyaging shared 2019 with the International Year of the Salmon.
An international and local awareness around the declining numbers of Wild Salmon had prompted many communities around the North Atlantic to reflect on this reality - and to explore what the causes and effects might be. With a voyage along the salmon migratory routes to West Greenland, the Ilen was able to provide a central theme for the many salmon studies.
"This ambassadorial sailing ship has continued her 2019 community work"
Yet it is indicative of how busy the Ilen has been – and still is – that in her first year of operation in her restored condition, the Greenland Voyage has only been a highlight – albeit a very significant one – in a complex and varied programme to provide a productive first year of operation.
Ilen’s dedication to community educational initiatives has thus seen her visit up to twenty ports, complete two transatlantic crossings, cruise the West Coast of Greenland, and engage with hundreds of individuals and with numerous educational and care organisations across Ireland.
Even with the swift arrival of Autumnal weather, her mission continues, and recently she sailed into Cork City Centre – her first visit to the city, as Kinsale provides her south coast berth - to join in with Cork Mental Health Festival, where she was warmly welcomed and lauded for her work with youth and recovery groups. This was a joint visit by the Ilen Project and its partners Sailing into Wellness. Both organisations share a common community mission, and also find project expression in sailing ships upon the coastal waters of Ireland. – (Gary MacMahon - Ilen Project)
The long story of the re-birth of the 1926-built 56ft Conor O’Brien trading ketch Ilen of Limerick was acquiring an almost wraith-like aspect until in 2019 – the restoration job completed – she undertook the very tangible 5000 miles Salmons Wake voyage to Greenland for inter-cultural exchange, research into salmon migration, and data-acquisition on climate change. Project Director Gary MacMahon – whose unflinching faith has kept this extraordinary concept moving ahead – was skipper for the outward passage from Ireland, whiled seasoned voyager Paddy Barry – who was aboard throughout the time away from Ireland – brought Ilen home safely across the restless North Atlantic in unsettled early Autumn conditions.
This past summer’s successful Salmon’s Wake voyage by Limerick’s 56t traditional ketch Ilen to Greenland worked productively in many ways in high mountains, on the sea, and in ports where the crew interacted with Greenlanders on several cultural programmes.
But for Project Manager and skipper for the outward voyage Gary Mac Mahon, a particular aspect of Ilen’s fascinatingly varied sailing across oceans, along the coast of Greenland, and off the coast of Ireland, is that it has been done in a trading ketch of traditional Irish type, the only one currently sailing.
Here he reflects on this aspect of Ilen’s busy year, and makes links to previous sailors of “obsolete” craft:
SALMONS WAKE, 2019
“Let past times become pastimes”- James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, (1939)
“The venturesome pastime of sailing relatively small obsolete wooden traditional vessels towards remote parts in the pursuit of climbing, or just communing with lonely coastal mountains, is very much the business of a small group of individuals writes Gary Mac Mahon.
These individuals were favoured or perhaps inflicted with a singular character, and while often perceived misanthropically, were rather just the individual expression of an inscrutable humanity.
For this piece reflecting on the origins of the Ilen Project, I have plucked out two from a very small group, and they are mountaineer and round-the-world voyaging pioneer Conor O’Brien of Foynes (b.1880), and mountaineer/sailor Bill Tilman (who latterly lived in the mountains in North Wales, b.1898). Both were men of extraordinary fortitude and energy who shared a rich capacity for writing, ocean voyaging, mountaineering and the maintaining of big timbered sailing boats.
Both these men seemed at variance with the epoch they were inescapably thrust into, exemplified by their singular and similar life choices, but specifically for this specialized role: the nostalgic retrieval of boat forms of times past for deployment in the pursuit of adventurous pastimes. A not uncommon if atavistic response from individuals in the face of a world which would otherwise change too fast.”
The Limerick ketch Ilen returned safely from Greenland to berth at an Irish quayside for the first time in more than two months when, at 0400hrs this morning, skipper Paddy Barry and his crew brought the 56ft 1926-built “little ship” safely alongside the facilities beside the Trident Hotel in Kinsale writes W M Nixon. This will be Ilen’s base for the Autumn as – with command now passing to James Lyons - she works with the Sailing into Wellness Programme and sail-training projects with trainees from the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick.
2019 has been an achievement-filled and extraordinary busy year for the much-loved restored vessel, for in addition to sail training courses earlier in this, her first full season, she has now completed a voyage of around 5,000 miles to and from Greenland, a voyage which included extensive intercultural and educational exchanges with the people of that enormous Arctic island.
Ilen Project Director Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick and his supportive colleagues and donors deserve every congratulation for the achievements of all involved, while Ilen’s current crew in particular deserve special credit for the skilled way in which they chose the optimal weather window in which to return across the ocean at an unceasingly difficult time in the Atlantic weather cycle, for even as they were relaxing on finally being secured in Kinsale this morning, the weather was already deteriorating rapidly in the open Atlantic west of Mizen Head.
With such a busy ongoing programme, there’s scarcely time to take stock before moving into the next stage - the training programmes operating from Kinsale. But the word is that later today, most if not all of the 26 different people who were involved in getting Ilen to and from Greenland, together with extensive coastal exploration of the southwest and west Greenland coasts, will be gathering in Kinsale later today for some well-earned celebration.