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Howth Harbour Gets Sisk the Builders In

6th October 2020
Howth Harbour from the north. The new quay wall will be constructed on the west side of the Middle Pier (just right of the centre of photo) to create an extra 135 metres of berthing space. Howth Harbour from the north. The new quay wall will be constructed on the west side of the Middle Pier (just right of the centre of photo) to create an extra 135 metres of berthing space.

"Getting the builders in" is a challenging prospect on land at the best of times. Add in the sea, and it's then a challenge-plus. Thus when you're working on and in the waterfront to implement a project within a busy fishing/sailing harbour which has found itself becoming something of a cult tourism magnet, the problems are magnified tenfold for contractors and harbour users alike.

Certainly, this is the prospect at Howth, where this week Sisk the Builders will be starting to move in to set up a new operational site on the Middle Pier. This will – in just 13 months, it is hoped - provide a completely new 135 metres of proper quay wall along the currently rock-armoured west side of the Middle Pier, with dredged material from the new "long berth" being deposited in a revetment-retained infill on the Middle Pier's East Side, thereby providing much-needed extra shore space for vehicles serving the boats using the new berths.

Part of Howth's attraction for visitors is the colourful but often very crowded scene along the main fishing boat area on the West Pier. It's entertaining to be feasting off seafood at one of the many characterful restaurants along the pier, as forklifts with fishing gear go buzzing closely past. And every so often, a seemingly enormous fishing boat makes her stately way across the quay in slow style on the Syncrolift trolleys to receive the attentions of Johnny Leonard and his skilled staff in the shipyard. There's never a dull moment. But there are times when it's all just too much of a good thing. A safety valve of alternative berthing and extra shoreside space was becoming urgently needed.

Howth's Fish Dock may provide a colourful setting for a quayside array of characterful seafood restaurants along the West PierHowth's Fish Dock may provide a colourful setting for a quayside array of characterful seafood restaurants along the West Pier, but extra berthing space is urgently needed. Photo: W M Nixon

Down along the west side of the Middle Pier was the only option. This would be simple enough if everyone was game to close off substantial parts of the harbour to let the contractors have a free run at the job. But it says everything about the spirit of Howth that this doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone. From the beginning, the assumption was that virtually all of the harbour's activities could continue with as little interruption as possible, and Harbour Master Harry McLoughlin and Howth Yacht Cub Commodore Ian Byrne, together with representatives of other interests, set themselves the task of facilitating the contractors while keeping the floating show on the road.

As Ian Byrne became our "Sailor of the Month" back in May for deciphering the multiple rules for exiting the first Covid lockdown in a way which was comprehensible to all sailors, he was ideal to speak for the consumers, while Harry McLoughlin - a widely-experienced harbour master who has a real vision for Howth - ably filled the role as the human face of officialdom. Between themselves and the contractors, they worked out a viable scheme despite having to include extra elements made necessary by the space requirements of COVID-19

Site plan showing (red line) the agreed limits of the boundary of the works. This will enable much of the harbour – including the public slipway beside the Lifeboat StationSite plan showing (red line) the agreed limits of the boundary of the works. This will enable much of the harbour – including the public slipway beside the Lifeboat Station – to continue to function, but inevitably there will be some reduction in car parking spaces.

Of course, those who know Howth well appreciate that while this new project will – if all goes according to plan - give the fishing fleet a very welcome and useful Christmas present at the end of 2021, it is just the beginning of a process in which the long-overdue dredging of the harbour – more needed in some parts then in others – is steadily moving up the agenda.

But if this scheme goes according to plan in a spirit of harmony, it will, in turn, create the atmosphere in which other mutually beneficial works can be undertaken with an attitude of realism and a mood of mutual respect. And if by some happy chance the pandemic subsides and visitors are allowed back to Howth in their previous numbers next Spring, well, the fact that there's an interesting bit of maritime contracting work underway will give them something extra to look at, for the main attraction of Howth Harbour seems to be that people on holiday enjoy nothing more than watching other people doing unusual work…

Howth_middle_pier_from_northBy the beginning of November (COVID permitting) this end section of Howth's Middle Pier will be a hive of activity with the rock armour on the Fish Dockside being converted into a quay wall.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Howth Yacht Club information

Howth Yacht Club is the largest members sailing club in Ireland, with over 1,700 members. The club welcomes inquiries about membership - see top of this page for contact details.

Howth Yacht Club (HYC) is 125 years old. It operates from its award-winning building overlooking Howth Harbour that houses office, bar, dining, and changing facilities. Apart from the Clubhouse, HYC has a 250-berth marina, two cranes and a boat storage area. In addition. its moorings in the harbour are serviced by launch.

The Club employs up to 31 staff during the summer and is the largest employer in Howth village and has a turnover of €2.2m.

HYC normally provides an annual programme of club racing on a year-round basis as well as hosting a full calendar of International, National and Regional competitive events. It operates a fleet of two large committee boats, 9 RIBs, 5 J80 Sportboats, a J24 and a variety of sailing dinghies that are available for members and training. The Club is also growing its commercial activities afloat using its QUEST sail and power boat training operation while ashore it hosts a wide range of functions each year, including conferences, weddings, parties and the like.

Howth Yacht Club originated as Howth Sailing Club in 1895. In 1968 Howth Sailing Club combined with Howth Motor Yacht Club, which had operated from the West Pier since 1935, to form Howth Yacht Club. The new clubhouse was opened in 1987 with further extensions carried out and more planned for the future including dredging and expanded marina facilities.

HYC caters for sailors of all ages and run sailing courses throughout the year as part of being an Irish Sailing accredited training facility with its own sailing school.

The club has a fully serviced marina with berthing for 250 yachts and HYC is delighted to be able to welcome visitors to this famous and scenic area of Dublin.

New applications for membership are always welcome

Howth Yacht Club FAQs

Howth Yacht Club is one of the most storied in Ireland — celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2020 — and has an active club sailing and racing scene to rival those of the Dun Laoghaire Waterfront Clubs on the other side of Dublin Bay.

Howth Yacht Club is based at the harbour of Howth, a suburban coastal village in north Co Dublin on the northern side of the Howth Head peninsula. The village is around 13km east-north-east of Dublin city centre and has a population of some 8,200.

Howth Yacht Club was founded as Howth Sailing Club in 1895. Howth Sailing Club later combined with Howth Motor Yacht Club, which had operated from the village’s West Pier since 1935, to form Howth Yacht Club.

The club organises and runs sailing events and courses for members and visitors all throughout the year and has very active keelboat and dinghy racing fleets. In addition, Howth Yacht Club prides itself as being a world-class international sailing event venue and hosts many National, European and World Championships as part of its busy annual sailing schedule.

As of November 2020, the Commodore of the Royal St George Yacht Club is Ian Byrne, with Paddy Judge as Vice-Commodore (Clubhouse and Administration). The club has two Rear-Commodores, Neil Murphy for Sailing and Sara Lacy for Junior Sailing, Training & Development.

Howth Yacht Club says it has one of the largest sailing memberships in Ireland and the UK; an exact number could not be confirmed as of November 2020.

Howth Yacht Club’s burgee is a vertical-banded pennant of red, white and red with a red anchor at its centre. The club’s ensign has a blue-grey field with the Irish tricolour in its top left corner and red anchor towards the bottom right corner.

The club organises and runs sailing events and courses for members and visitors all throughout the year and has very active keelboat and dinghy racing fleets. In addition, Howth Yacht Club prides itself as being a world-class international sailing event venue and hosts many National, European and World Championships as part of its busy annual sailing schedule.

Yes, Howth Yacht Club has an active junior section.

Yes, Howth Yacht Club hosts sailing and powerboat training for adults, juniors and corporate sailing under the Quest Howth brand.

Among its active keelboat and dinghy fleets, Howth Yacht Club is famous for being the home of the world’s oldest one-design racing keelboat class, the Howth Seventeen Footer. This still-thriving class of boat was designed by Walter Herbert Boyd in 1897 to be sailed in the local waters off Howth. The original five ‘gaff-rigged topsail’ boats that came to the harbour in the spring of 1898 are still raced hard from April until November every year along with the other 13 historical boats of this class.

Yes, Howth Yacht Club has a fleet of five J80 keelboats for charter by members for training, racing, organised events and day sailing.

The current modern clubhouse was the product of a design competition that was run in conjunction with the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland in 1983. The winning design by architects Vincent Fitzgerald and Reg Chandler was built and completed in March 1987. Further extensions have since been made to the building, grounds and its own secure 250-berth marina.

Yes, the Howth Yacht Club clubhouse offers a full bar and lounge, snug bar and coffee bar as well as a 180-seat dining room. Currently, the bar is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. Catering remains available on weekends, take-home and delivery menus for Saturday night tapas and Sunday lunch.

The Howth Yacht Club office is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm. Contact the club for current restaurant opening hours at [email protected] or phone 01 832 0606.

Yes — when hosting sailing events, club racing, coaching and sailing courses, entertaining guests and running evening entertainment, tuition and talks, the club caters for all sorts of corporate, family and social occasions with a wide range of meeting, event and function rooms. For enquiries contact [email protected] or phone 01 832 2141.

Howth Yacht Club has various categories of membership, each affording the opportunity to avail of all the facilities at one of Ireland’s finest sailing clubs.

No — members can join active crews taking part in club keelboat and open sailing events, not to mention Pay & Sail J80 racing, charter sailing and more.

Fees range from €190 to €885 for ordinary members.
Memberships are renewed annually.

©Afloat 2020

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