Displaying items by tag: Ilen
With the hull of the 56ft 1926-built ketch Ilen fully restored in Oldcourt near Baltimore, attention has been turning to detailed items of equipment such as the steering system and the stern gear writes W M Nixon. And the “offering up” of the athwartships cathead, which will support the net under the mighty bowsprit as well as other more traditional functions such as lifting the anchor, has continued the migration of shaped wooden parts from the Ilen Boatbuilding School in Limerick to Liam Hegarty and his shipwrights with the hull in West Cork.
As the historic photo taken from aloft of Ilen’s foredeck in her original form shows, the simplified cathead was one athwartships spar, whereas in larger vessels it could be two spars, one each side, and angled at about 45 degrees to the fore-and-aft line. In Ilen’s case, it was long enough to help in the business of keeping the bowsprit in place, while maximizing the amount of clear space on the foredeck and over the rail.
Overall, attention is now also well focused on working out a friendly layout in the capacious accommodation. Originally, in her days as the freight vessel in the Falkland Islands, the best part of Ilen’s roomy hull amidships was taken up with the cargo hold. The crew quarters were cramped places, either right forward, or crowded in down aft at the little deckhouse.
But with the restoration, the deckhouse is enhanced, and though a classic hatchway has been installed right forward, the team have to take decisions on how best to lay out the amidships below-deck area for a vessel which will have to fill several roles
When fully commissioned again, Ilen will be based in Limerick with her programme built around the Shannon Estuary and further afield. But the plan is to have only seven sleeping bunks rather than the twelve which might be possible if she were going to be used only as a sail training vessel.
While the Ilen project may be all about the restoration of a very traditional vessel, doubtless a non-traditional computer will be used to envisage the best possible use of all that lovely space below. And even when CAD facilities have been utilised, the best plan is to make a mock-up before finalising the details, for even the smallest modification of one part of the layout affects the way that everything else falls into place in a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.
It’s worth persevering, for a traditionally-styled yet ergonomically friendly and welcoming layout below would make Ilen the little ship that everyone wants to be aboard.
With the hull of the 56ft 1926-built Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen now restored and painted in the building shed in Oldcourt near Baltimore, attention shifts increasingly to the long list of detail work that is needed to complete the project writes W M Nixon.
Much of this is ideally suited to the facilities available in the Ilen Boat Building School in Limerick, where director Gary MacMahon and his team have assembled a group of all the talents for teaching and learning. These days, the evocative aromas and sounds of traditional ship-building and its associated tasks permeate both the school in the city, and the building shed beside the Ilen River.
Conor O’Brien’s global circumnavigation in the 42ft ketch Saoirse in 1923-25 inspired the Falkland Islanders to ask for a larger sister-ship to the same concept for their inter-island communications vessel, and the resulting Ilen was able - among other things - to transfer up to 200 sheep on the inter-island channels.
With her larger size, she also enabled O’Brien and master shipwright Tom Moynihan of Baltimore to give more space to the steering gear. As O’Brien later admitted, they’d tried to pack so much into Saoirse’s compact 42ft hull that her steering wheel was awkwardly placed for long spells at the helm, so in Ilen they made a point of installing a more substantial arrangement which can now be seen re-created in Limerick.
In both the school in the city and the Old Cornstore in Oldcourt, it’s an immersive maritime experience of being transported back in time to the 1920s and far beyond.
These days, it’s reckoned that chainplates – those vital fittings that attach a sailing boat’s standing rigging to her hull – should be wellnigh invisible writes W M Nixon. Indeed, when you look at some of the latest products of the French marine industry such as Paul O’Higgins’ 2017 Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race winner, the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI, the chainplates looks to be so small that you wonder if there isn’t some large hidden structure within to carry the real load.
But modern boat-building in carbon and composites has become so clever and weight-conscious that everything in a new boat is doing at least three things at once. Innovative designers find ways of carrying the loads on sections which also serve as part of the accommodation layout, while hiding the fundamental nature of the real work being done.
However, when the 56ft ketch Ilen was being built by Tom Moynihan and his shipwrights in Baltimore back in 1926, the function of the simple wrought steel chainplates was to transfer the load as visibly as possible over a significant section of the hull, with the chainplates uncompromisingly attached externally to minimise the chance of leaks.
Yacht builders naturally inclined to have their chainplates fitted internally, as that looked so much neater. But Ilen was of a traditional no-nonsense concept, and far from making the chainplates something to be invisible, the blacksmith of Baltimore crafted them to be simple and highly visible works of art.
Yet their seeming simplicity is itself a blind. The chainplates come up over timber channels which guide their load-carrying section clear – though only just – of the bulwarks. It all has to be worked to a very fine tolerance, as Liam Hegarty and his team discovered in recent days in the Old Cornstore at Oldcourt where Ilen’s restoration is shaping up, and the new chainplates – made this time round by specialist Colin Frake – have been fitted in a painstaking process.
Definitely not a job to be rushed. You get only one chance of marrying the chainplates, channels and hull to perfection.
When the restoration project on the 1926-built 56ft Conor O’Brien/Tom Moynihan Falkland Islands Trading Ketch got under way at two locations – Liam Hegarty’s boat-building shed in the former Cornstore at Oldcourt near Baltimore, and the Ilen Boat-building School premises in Limerick – it was expected that final jobs such as making up the rigging and creating the sails would be contracted out to specialists writes W M Nixon.
But while the plan is still in place to have the sails made in traditional style by specialist sailmakers, Gary MacMahon and his team in the Ilen Boat-building School came to the realisation that they’d made so many international contacts over the years while the restoration has been under way that, if they could just get the right people’s schedules to harmonise, then they could learn how to make up the rigging in their own workshops as part of the broader training programme.
As a result, the Ilen Boat-building School became a hive of activity over the Bank Holiday Weekend and beyond, for that was the only time when noted heavy rigging experts Trevor Ross, who is originally from New Zealand, and Captain Piers Alvarez, master of the 45-metre barque-rigged tall ship Kaskelot, were both available to make their voluntary instructional contributions to the project.
Trevor Ross was professionally at sea for ten years, during which time he became fascinated with traditional rigging techniques. Though he now works ashore, his interest in traditional rigging and sail training is greater than ever - so much so that he worked with the late Theo Rye in finalizing the design of Ilen’s rig to match the original from Conor O’Brien’s day, while ensuring that it is practical in modern terms both for requirements of efficiency and safety.
Piers Alvarez grew up in English cider country near the broad River Severn, but his personal horizons were far beyond apple growing. When he was 15, the captain of the famous square rigger Soren Larsen came to live in the village, which gave Piers’ father the opportunity to sign on his restless son as an Able Seaman at least for the duration of the school holidays, but the boy became hooked on the sea.
More than thirty years later, the love of seafaring and traditional ships is undimmed. Although Piers’ maritime career has also taken in tugs, superyachts and ice-classed research vessels, his current role in command of the Kaskelot perfectly chimes with his most passionate interests, and he has been fascinated by the entire Ilen project from an early stage.
So when the possibility arose of spending time in Limerick working along with his old shipmate Trevor Ross on the rigging for Ilen as a training project for the Ilen School’s intake, he readily gave up a week of his leave to teach the Ilen’s build team and future crew everything he knows, while moving a key part of the Ilen plan along the path of progress.
Modern amateur sailors, accustomed to today’s rigging where a terminal can be fitted in a seemingly-simple machine with the press of a button, can scarcely imagine the patient effort and skill which goes into making an eye splice in wire rigging which is of such a weight that, to most of us, it looks more like working with steel hawsers.
This is hard graft, but very rewarding in the result, and the satisfaction found in the effort expended. Much of it is done entirely by hand, but now and again that lethal multiple tool, the angle-grinder, will speed up a finishing job.
When finished, the neatly parcelled eye-spliced shrouds will fit the re-shaped mast like a glove, while at the other end, the shrouds will be tensioned by traditional lanyards through dead-eyes which have been made in Limerick from tough greenheart timber. It’s a long way from a drum of raw steel wire and a still squared hounds area to be progressed into something which will function on the massive mast in smooth partnership, providing Ilen with her sailing power. And in Limerick over the holiday week, it provided an unusually satisfying way to learn something new and useful.
There are those who think that attributing characteristics of sentient life to the appearance of a boat is quaint to the point of serious irritation writes W M Nixon. So those opposed to such hyper-anthropomorphism may as well look elsewhere from here on in.
The fact is, fans of the historic 56ft ketch Ilen currently being restored in the Cornstore building at Oldcourt Boatyard near Baltimore reckon that she’s smiling to herself in the new paint job she’s been acquiring in recent days, and they won’t hear it of it being explained in any other way.
Certainly when we look back to those early days of the restoration rather longer ago than most of us care to remember, and the way that every job completed revealed that two more needed to be done, it is surely a matter for a quiet smile of satisfaction that this stage has at last been reached. So maybe it’s time for us all to cheer up just a little bit and see the brighter side of life as personified in this new colour scheme.
The mood in the Corn Store at Oldcourt Boayard near Baltimore where the Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen is being restored may still be distinctly ghost-like writes W M Nixon. The old place would make a good setting for some tales of the otherworld even with clear air. But with the mist of busy spray-painting tingeing the scene, Ilen is emerging from her bare-wood state in a spectral climate where all things are possible.
And all things include the revelation of the final colour scheme chosen by Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Boatbuilding School. We’re told the 1927-built 57-footer will have blue-grey topsides, while the covering board and capping rail will be very soft grey, and the bulwarks will be white.
It has to be admitted it looks rather attractive. Subtle certainly. Yet I’m sure a majority in the Ilen/Afloat.ie poll voted for darkish green. I know I did, with the stipulation that she be given a classic white boot-top.
In conversation with the great voyager/mountaineer Paddy Barry last night, originally on another topic, it seemed he too had voted for the dark green. So much so, in fact, that it led to a discussion of the origins of the colour English Racing Green in international motor racing. The answer is: think Counties Wicklow and Kildare, and Gordon Bennett. But that’s by the way. Meanwhile, the news on Ilen is she’s a class of blue-grey. We’d better get used to it.
When Gary MacMahon of Limerick brought the 57ft Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen back from the Falkland Islands in 1998, the 1927-built former inter-island trading and passenger transport vessel was in danger of becoming a ghost ship writes W M Nixon.
Since then, the long road of fund-raising and planning for this significant vessel’s useful future has taken time, but in due course a full restoration/rebuild was undertaken by Liam Hegarty and his master-shipwrights at Oldcourt. This most appropriately is on the Ilen River, just above Baltimore where Ilen was built to designs by Tom Moynihan and Conor O’Brien.
Work has progressed, and in recent days Ilen has entered an intensive painting stage to make best use of the dry atmospheric conditions of this unusually warm and sunny weather, which is some consolation for those of us who think the current meteorological phase is just too bright and hot altogether.
The application of the primer has resulted in her emerging in real ghost ship mode. What with the mist of from the painting work in Ilen’s current home in the Old Corn Store, and the overall blanking effect, the result is decidedly spooky.
But very soon the Ilen as she is going to be in her finished form will begin to emerge. Whether or not she will follow the people’s choice as revealed by the Afloat.ie Ilen Colour Poll on March 8th 2017 remains to be seen. Personally I would have inclined to the dark green if it could be complemented with a classic white boot-top. All will be revealed very soon. But for now, Ilen really is haunting Oldcourt Boatyard.
The annual Baltimore Wooden boat Festival this weekend (full dates are Friday 26th to Sunday 28th May) provides the perfect setting for a remarkable range of craft of all shapes, sizes and rigs writes W M Nixon. It brings with it all sorts of celebrations and activities afloat and ashore to match an occasionally – indeed, frequently – eccentric gathering of traditional and wooden boat fans.
Scroll down this story to read the full programme below.
In fact, there’s noting quite like it on sea or land anywhere in Ireland, as it’s a heady mixture of craft of types sometimes half as ancient as time itself, testing themselves afloat and against each other, with all of it including the inter-boat banter which is so much part of the sport.
Best of all, the meteorological portents are good - it looks as though it is going to happen in what might well be a weekend of better than reasonably good summer weather, so we can expect the hospitable sea-minded West Cork port to be totally en fete afloat and ashore.
They’ll be coming from all over Ireland and beyond, and a significant presence will be the Ilen Boat Building School from Limerick. Not only is their 57ft ketch Ilen nearing restoration near Baltimore at Oldcourt, but they will be bringing a collection of craft built by trainees in the school, where they also built the deckhouses and spars for the Ilen.
A focus of close attention will be one of the smallest boats of all, the 10ft Valentine Punt, which is assembled from a laser-cut kit based on marine plywood. The basic design used is a 10ft dinghy built in the 1920s in Passage West on Cork Harbour for John Valentine Sisk, and it his grandson, maritime historian Hal Sisk, who vividly remembers what a special pleasure it was to row this elegant yet practical little boat.
Thus he got the idea of making building kits available, using edge-glued (with epoxy) plywood “planks” to emulate the original’s traditional clinker construction, thereby providing a boat which is lighter yet more durable with much less maintenance.
When Hal heard the Ilen people were looking for a dinghy to act as tender for their vessel, he donated one of the kits to the school. And this newest Valentine Punt, which will debut in Baltimore at the weekend, has been built in the Limerick school by Elan Broadley from Donegal.
He had no experience of boatbuilding when he started, yet with patience he has learned as he worked, under instruction when needed. It may have taken 500 hours in all for him to complete the job, but the result is a lovely little boat. Among those there to celebrate with her proud builder at Baltimore this weekend will be his mother down from Donegal, and Hal Sisk, who learned to row in the original boat more than sixty years ago.
So in Baltimore this weekend, the mood in the sunshine will be of nostalgia and anticipation. Soon, the Ilen will launch. And once she is in full commission, the focus will turn to building a re-creation of Conor O’Brien’s famous world-girdling 40ft ketch Saoirse, originally built in Baltimore 95 years ago. Her re-birth comfortably in advance of her Centenary in 2022 is a very worthy target.
The Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival 2017 from Friday 26th to Sunday 28th May will feature a remarkable selection of old, restored and new craft - traditional and classic alike - all reflecting the many aspects of the arts and crafts of the boatwright and shipwright writes W M Nixon.
The hospitable setting is highly appropriate, as there are more skilled boatbuilders beavering away in hidden workshops in West Cork than in any other comparable part of Ireland. And a few miles upriver from Baltimore on the River Ilen (which in due course brings you to the Olympic Medal-winning Skibbereen Rowing Club), you’ll find the boatyards of Oldcourt, where among other projects, Liam Hegarty and his craftsmen are bringing the restoration of the 1927-built ketch Ilen of Conor O’Brien fame to completion.
It’s the Ilen which provides a link to a notable debut at Baltimore by a new small boat in three weeks’ time. With both his world-girdling 40ft Saoirse of 1923, and the 57ft trading ketch Ilen which he delivered to her satisfied customers in the Falkland Islands, O’Brien felt that a robust and stable 10ft dinghy – or punt as he would have called it – provided all that he needed in the way of a ship’s tender.
He wasn’t alone in this view. At the same time in 1926 on Cork Harbour, John Valentine Sisk, owner of the substantial motor-launch Culleann, ordered a new 10ft punt for use as Culleann’s tender from noted Passage West boatbuilder Pierce Power. Cullean already had a 10ft punt, but it was considered too unstable. So Pierce Power faced the considerable challenge of creating a boat only 10ft long with firm midships sections for stability, yet with bow and stern artfully shaped to retain her predecessor’s ease of rowing.
He succeeded brilliantly, so much so that the Sisk family kept the punt after Cullean had moved on. Before John Valentine Sisk’s death in 1957, his three grandsons George, Hal and John had learned to row in this very special little boat. Then with his son John G Sisk now moved to Dublin, the Valentine Punt followed to be the tender to his Dun Laoghaire-based yachts Marian Maid, Stern and Sarnia until 1970.
She then went to a son-in-law Schull, and eventually was bought by fishermen on Long Island, where her yacht-style varnish was painted over, and finally tarred. She was reckoned past her working days when Hal Sisk found this fondly-remembered boat of his childhood and youth on the island, and had her restored. In time, she became part of the collection in the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire as representative of a type once found at every yacht and fishing harbour on Ireland’s south coast, and many other ports and anchorages elsewhere.
However, it was the ease of rowing the Valentine Punt which was the fondest memory, so the late Michael Tyrrell of Arklow took off her lines for Hal Sisk with a re-creation in mind. But it was reckoned that real benefit would be conferred if the lines could be used, yet instead of the inevitably heavy traditional clinker construction with ribs (timbers), much lighter construction could be achieved by building instead with glued clinker ply.
Alec Jordan in Scotland is an acknowledged expert in creating laser cut marine ply kits, which are then built into a boat with the “lands” of the lapstrake planks now bonded and sealed with impervious gap-filling epoxy resin. The result of this project was an elegant hyper-light and easily-rowed yet stable 10ft punt which has been the ideal tender for Hal Sisk’s classic cutter Peggy Bawn and his innovative motor-cruiser Molly Bawn.
The Valentine Punt is a concept which could have many uses, and when the notion of having one as the tender to the restored Ilen came up, the Ilen Boatbuilding School director Gary MacMahon in Limerick leapt at the chance, as the school is always enthusiastic about testing new methods of wooden boatbuilding to broaden its syllabus.
This latest model of the Valentine Punt has been built in the school by Elan Broadley, a trainee boatbuilder from Donegal, and he and his attractive creation will be making their debut in Baltimore during the Wooden Boat Festival, with a bit of a party involving all the main players, and his mum down from Donegal. After that, the little boat won’t have far to go to be united with her mother ship, the Ilen herself, preparing for launching at Oldcourt.
The new Larch hull of the ketch Ilen nearing completion in West Cork has had its first coat of primer, only after much plugging, filling and sanding. Preparation, as all painters know, is the difference between a good job and a not so good one.
In a few weeks it will be time to follow the undercoat with a good finish or topcoat. And apart form the many paint types one has to choose from, comes the additional aesthetic choice - which hull colours might the good ship Ilen ultimately carry.
A wide hull colour selection process has been narrowed down to two distinct options - Green and Grey. Let us know what you think in the poll below:
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