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The Royal Irish Yacht Club was the focus on Saturday afternoon for the beginning of celebrations of the centenary of Conor O'Brien's departure in Saoirse from Dun Laoghaire Harbour on his pioneering global circumnavigation.

An Irish Cruising Club/Royal Cruising Club gathering was hosted by Royal Irish Commodore Jerome Dowling and ICC Commodore David Beattie, with O'Brien's restored ketch Ilen moored alongside the clubhouse.

Ilen, built originally in 1926 and rebuilt in 2018, is based in Kinsale and operated by Sailing Into WellnessHistoric ketch Ilen departs Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Constructed in 1926 and rebuilt in 2018, Ilen is based in Kinsale and operated by Sailing Into Wellness

It was also an occasion when Ireland’s sail training gaff ketch fleet, the Ilen, the Leader and Brian Ború, were in the same harbour for the first time and they came together to mark the famous departure by sailing in procession in a misty Dublin Bay.

The three boats left the RIYC and Dun Laoghaire Marina at 4.30 pm, accompanied by a flotilla of ICC yachts and RIBs, and motor sailed down to the Muglins Rock at the southern tip of Dublin Bay before hoisting sail. 

While each of the sail training gaff ketches has sailed alongside one of the others over the past two years, the three have never been together. From left, Ilen, Leader and Brian Ború motor sail out of Dun Laoghaire Harbour in a sea mist as part of commemorations to mark the centenary of the 1923 departure of Conor O'Brien from Dun Laoghaire on his global circumnavigationWhile each of the sail training gaff ketches has sailed alongside one of the others over the past two years, the three have never been together. From left, Ilen, Leader and Brian Ború motor sail out of Dun Laoghaire Harbour in a sea mist as part of commemorations to mark the centenary of the 1923 departure of Conor O'Brien from Dun Laoghaire on his global circumnavigation

As Afloat reports, a hundred years ago, next Tuesday, June 20th, O'Brien took his departure aboard his 42-ft Saoirse from the harbour and headed south. 

Unfortunately, Saturday's tribute saw the boats become shrouded in a sea mist as they reached the edge of the bay.

 Leader is the oldest of the three ketches, built in 1892, a Brixham Trawler based in Newry operated by Silvery Light Sailing Leader is the oldest of the three ketches, built in 1892, a Brixham Trawler based in Newry operated by Silvery Light Sailing

The three ketches bore away to the north east on a starboard reach in a synchronised fashion.

The Ilen then headed south to Madeira as part of the centenary celebrations, Leader headed northabout to Clare Island, and Brian Ború returned to Dun Laoghaire.

Brian Ború is the baby of the fleet at 61 years old and is based in Dun Laoghaire, operated by Dublin Under Sail.Brian Ború is the baby of the fleet at 61 years old and is based in Dun Laoghaire, operated by Dublin Under Sail

The great voyage of the Saoirse is now seen as a cornerstone of world sailing history.

As Afloat reported earlier, in 1923 she was noticed by only a few when she arrived in Madeira, but this time the Ilen – with the initial flotilla expanded to a fleet as Iberian and Mediterranean-based boats of the ICC and the RCC join the trail – will begin an official visit on July 3rd – the Centenary of O’Brien’s arrival – inaugurating a prodigious welcome and round of celebrations.

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Dublin Under Sail has appointed Liam Quinn as Operations Manager and Skipper of the Sail Training Ketch Brian Ború.

Liam started out his maritime career many years ago on fishing boats and, as a young man, learned to sail on Mirror dinghies.

When Asgard II was launched in his native Arklow, he immediately joined as a trainee on one of the first voyages and went on to be a watch leader on Ireland’s beloved sail training vessel, learning from one of the legends of Irish sailing Eric Healy. He continued his sailing career with Jubilee Sailing Trust’s tall ships, Lord Nelson and Tenacious.

In recent years, he has been skipper of the ketch RV Celtic Mist with the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, including skippering the trip from Ireland to Iceland in 2018 and research trips to the continental shelf on the Live on the Edge survey voyages. He is a regular racing crew, including on the gaff ketch Maybird in the Round Ireland Race, Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race and Irish Sea races.

Liam has been on board Brian Ború for some recent voyages and says he is “looking forward to getting back into sail training and skippering Brian Ború on voyages this coming season on the Irish coast and to Scotland and the Isle of Man.”

Liam will work with Engineer Hugh Byrne, Skipper/Instructor Peter Scallan and the entire crew panel to keep Brian Ború shipshape for both day trips and sail training voyages.

Brian Ború will be busy on sail training voyages from June to September as well as participating in Coastival, the Dun Laoghaire Maritime Festival, from 1 to 9 July.

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Tall ship, The Brian Ború has set sail from Cork's city centre quays today, with 10 young trainee sailors and 3 crew on board, as part of an annual initiative with Sail Training Ireland.

The Sail Training Bursary scheme, supported by The Port of Cork Company as well as Cork City Council and Cork County Council sees two week-long voyages take place each year along the Cork coastline, to teach young sailors new skills.

The Cork Sail Training Bursary scheme was first developed in 2014, to use sail training as a proven youth development and education method and to make sail training on board tall ships and sailing vessels accessible for young people. This year will see around 470 young people across Ireland taking part in thirty voyages, bringing the total number that the charity has helped to almost 2,900. The youth participants are nominated through a network of youth and community groups in Cork and places are available to young people from all backgrounds and of all abilities.

On board, the young people become part of the working crew, fully participate in crewing, steering, maintaining, cleaning and cooking onboard. They learn physical skills and key information about the sea and sailing but the real teachings are in confidence, leadership, communications, resilience and an understanding of diversity.

David Browne, Community Liaison Officer at the Port of Cork, said: "We are thrilled to be involved again this year with Sail Training Ireland and its Sail Training Bursary scheme. Since 2014, we have sponsored approximately 170 trainees through the scheme and look forward to continuing this voyage, helping to equip young people with life-long skills and experiences. It is great to see this group of young sailers setting off today to develop new skills and build new friendships.”

Daragh Sheridan, Chief Executive Officer, Sail Training Ireland, said,“It’s fantastic to see these young people transform from a group of strangers at the beginning of the voyage to a close knit crew by the end of it. They return not just with new experiences but new skills, new friendships and new directions for the future. This amazing opportunity has been made possible thanks to the support of our terrific sponsors The Port of Cork Company, Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Ardmore Shipping, NMCI and the Irish Institute of Master Mariners.”

The Cork Sail Training Bursary scheme is one of the largest and most active on the island of Ireland and runs in parallel with similar schemes now in operation in Belfast, Drogheda, Dublin, Waterford, and Wexford.

At the end of the voyage, an awards ceremony takes place where participants are presented with certificates and a number of trainees speak about how the experience has impacted on them. This year, the ceremony will take place in the National Maritime College.

For further information visit Sail Training Ireland's website here.

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The sixth annual Drogheda Sail Training Bursary Voyage set sail on Sunday 9 June when a new group of local teenagers boarded the tall ship Brian Ború at Fiddle Case Pier.

The teens, aged between 15-17, were nominated by their local schools Greenhills, Sacred Heart, St Mary’s and Gormanston and were raring to give it a go, having heard great things about the experience from previous trainees.

Skipper Peter Scallan greeted the trainees and quickly got to work with the safety briefing and emergency drills. Within hours the trainees, who were all strangers to each other, had begun to mix well and were busy in the ship’s galley preparing dinner.

Afterwards they assisted the captain in preparing the navigational plan for the week ahead and spent their first night onboard in Drogheda.

At 8am the following morning their adventure began. The first stop was Clogherhead — and a VIP tour of the village’s RNLI station to see one of Ireland’s newest lifeboats, the Shannon class Michael O’Brien.

From there the journey took them to Lambay Island — home to a colony of wallabies — then on to Howth.

The trainees had by now become a great team and strong friendships were forming. They were learning and growing in confidence with every nautical mile — 54 at this point.

Scrubbing the decks (also known as ‘Happy Hour’), preparing meals, keeping watch, writing logs, the young crew were working flat out.

After passing Ireland’s Eye and the Bailey Lighthouse, the Brian Ború arrived in Wicklow for some well-earned relaxation time spent fishing, swimming and enjoying the beauty of life at sea.

From Wicklow, the return passage took them to Dun Laoghaire Harbour for the night, then another overnighter, this time at Malahide Marina for some yacht-spotting, before the final 26 nautical miles homeward bound last Friday morning 14 June.

The newly skilled sailors received a warm welcome home at Harbourville from family, friends and bursary schene sponsors Irish Cement, Fast Terminals, Louth County Council and Drogheda Port Company.

The sponsors in association with Sail Training Ireland presented trainees with a certificate of achievement and commended them on embarking on this challenging adventure.

Next year’s voyages promise to be every bit as exciting. If you are interested in taking part, contact Drogheda Port Company for details.

Published in Tall Ships

This week sees the announcement of new funding approved by Cabinet for young people with disabilities and from disadvantaged backgrounds to have opportunities to embark on tall ship training voyages.

Minister of State with Responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, and Minister of State with Responsibility for Disabilities, Finian McGrath, will launch the new youth development funding in conjunction with Sail Training Ireland from the Brian Ború docked at Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club in Ringsend tomorrow lunchtime, Friday 11 January.

It’s believed that the new initiative would benefit young people many of whom have been referred to the sailing charity by judges, Garda, Tusla and other groups working with vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

In November, Sail Training Ireland was shortlisted in the National Inclusion Awards, welcoming the news as “recognition of the fact that 86 people or 25% of our trainees [in 2018] had a disability of some kind”.

Published in Tall Ships

Tony McLoughlin, owner and operator of the ketch Brian Ború, recounts an epic series of sail training voyages that took the “fantastic little ship” on a circumnavigation of Ireland last summer

The sailing ship Brian Ború is a beautiful wooden-hulled, traditionally built and rigged gaff ketch. Descended from the legendary sailing drifters of the late 19th century, she is a roomy and powerfully built vessel of 40 tons displacement and 20 metres overall length, originally launched in 1961. Following a Leader-funded restoration and conversion project in 2014, she now operates under Irish licence as the sole passenger and sail training vessel of her type around the island of Ireland, carrying up to 12 passengers and three crew – a sturdy and able ‘small tall ship’ in the true spirit of our much loved Asgard 2.

Following an appearance at the Cobh Traditional Boat Festival in June 2015, I (the operator) was approached by Michael Byrne of Sail Training Ireland to undertake sail training voyages administered by them on the Brian Ború around the Irish coast. After an upgrade of her accommodation and licence over the winter of 2015, the ketch commenced sail training voyages in June 2016, carrying young Irish people from 15 to 30 years of age. The vessel was an immediate success, providing a safe yet challenging experience for young people from all backgrounds, irrespective of class or gender. The 2016 season was a good start for the Brian Ború as a sail training ship.

brian boru traineesTrainees take a break on board the Brian Boru ketch Photo: Traditional Boat Charters/Facebook

The first of June 2017 saw the mighty Brian Ború set out on the first leg of an eventual circumnavigation of the island of Ireland. Departing at 4am from her home port of Waterford, the vessel and delivery crew quickly settled into the four-hour watch routine on a ‘shakedown’ cruise up to Dublin.

The secret of making a safe, swift and comfortable trip eastwards from Hook Head, past Kilmore Quay and the Saltee Islands, around Carnsore Point, and then northwards to Dublin, is in the passage planning. Skipper Peter Scallan of Wexford knew this very well and timed the voyage to perfection. On a broad reach eastwards, the tide helped pull us around Carnsore Point, then a gentle gybe allowed the Brian Ború to run ahead of the wind northeastwards past Rosslare and then further north along the Wexford coast towards Wicklow Head, still with a good tide in our favour.

Running before the wind in a gaff-rigged, canoe-sterned, heavy displacement wooden ketch can be a joyous experience. The long keel and easy run aft combine to allow the vessel to steer comfortably, with little giddiness or shearing away. This is particularly true when the wind is slightly on the quarter, which it was. When you happen to look up at the massive sheeted out main and mizzen sails, you get a true feeling of the power of a gaff rig, with the maze of sheave blocks and running rigging suddenly making sense. The backstays, the peak halliards, the topping lifts, the throat halliards, the preventers, the mainsheets all working in harmony to support the great bellies of the main and mizzen sails. The easy yet continuous swaying motion against the backdrop of the blue summer sky, could hypnotise you into believing that you were back in the Age of Sail, where engines were unknown.

Following a stop-off in Wicklow Harbour, we sailed again with the tides along the coast inside the Arklow Banks, with their impressive stand of wind turbines; north past Bray Head; through the gorgeous Dalkey Sound; and into the historic and picturesque Dublin Bay.

With logical and clear instructions from Dublin Port control, we took our place in the Parade of Sail among the tall ships coming into Dublin Port for the city’s annual Riverfest. In bright sunshine, it was a magnificent feeling to be part of a great display of seamanship as these beautiful vessels made their way under sail right into the Liffey. The skill of the captains and crews of these traditional vessels was evident as, one after another, we dropped sail and went alongside to our allotted berths on the North Wall. No showmanship, just good solid maritime teamwork.

Dublin Riverfest was host to a selection of traditional sailing vessels and classic tall ships, from the magnificent Earl of Pembroke to the pirate ship Phoenix to the classic ketch Maybe, with many more vessels in between, and with the Brian Ború proud to be present as the sole Irish-flagged sail training vessel. Another Irish vessel present was the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s ketch Celtic Mist. The Oliver Hart-operated Spirit of Oysterhaven was sadly missed, but she was otherwise engaged in an Atlantic crossing.

On the Sunday afternoon we welcomed onboard our group of trainees from Sail Training Ireland’s Drogheda Bursary Scheme. Following introductions, safety procedure instructions, accommodation and watch assignments, our 10 new crew members relaxed and happily made themselves at home, initial shy nerves quickly dissipating. Sunday evening was devoted to enjoying the last night of the Dublin Riverfest, and fun was had by all.

Monday morning and normal sail training ship routines kicked in: breakfast, then ‘happy hour’ cleanup, then captain’s inspection were completed. Our allotted time for departing the port with the other tall ships was noon, so the intervening time was used to refresh safety procedures, hoist and lower sails, and generally introduce the trainees to as much as possible on the vessel in the calm waters of the berth 

We departed the River Liffey under engine, joining the exiting parade of ships. As we passed Poolbeg Marina, the sails were hoisted by our trainee crew in the following order: Mizen; Main; Staysail; and Jib. Already, the looks on the faces of these 10 young people showed how self-confidence, of the best kind, is immediately instilled through teamwork on a sail training vessel, as the red canvas sails billowed powerfully out to starboard. On reaching clearwater we bade farewell to the fleet and set a course southwards. 

Changeable weather was forecast for the week, northerlies for the early part and westerlies for the latter expected. Accordingly, our passage plan needed some changes. But this is the real beauty and pleasure of coastal voyaging in a sail training vessel like the Brian Ború. Her moderate draft of 2.5 metres allows the vessel to access most Irish ports, big and small, and so we chose to visit the very pleasant and welcoming port of Wicklow once again. A freshening northeasterly wind allowed the Ború to really ‘lift her skirts’ on a broad reach down to Wicklow.

Brian boru wexfordYoung trainees on the Brian Boru ketch

Our young crew were excited and exhilarated by such a fantastic first day at sea. To really cap it off we were invited to join an ‘open mic’ evening in Wicklow Sailing Club, with three of our trainees delighting the audience with songs.

Next morning, an invitation to visit the Wicklow RNLI station was eagerly accepted and enjoyed by everybody. The weather had badly deteriorated and so the day was spent in port. But boredom was never an issue with swimming in the harbour, diving from the bowsprit, fishing for mackerel, learning to row the ship’s boat, learning basic navigation, knot-tying, engine maintenance, cooking, and generally ‘chilling’ being the main occupations.

What many of us take for granted — being used to the sea, sailing, or boating in general — is often totally unknown and fascinating for these young sail trainees from all backgrounds. Sail Training Ireland is to be complimented on its current policy of making voyages accessible to all young people, of carefully choosing a cross section of the population for its trips at sea, and ensuring inspirational social integration.

Under Asgard 2 in WicklowUnder Asgard 2 in Wicklow Harbour

The rest of the weeks’ voyage proved to be exceptional, with the vessel sailing back northwards exploring Ireland’s Eye, Lambay, Howth, and finally entering the ancient River Boyne, dividing the counties of Meath and Louth, and up to the historic Port of Drogheda.

Midday Friday saw our trainees packing up and leaving the vessel, but only temporarily. RTÉ Nationwide programme was filming the Irish Maritime Festival being held over the weekend in Drogheda and the Brian Ború had been asked to sail down the Boyne Estuary with the film crew on board. What an opportunity for the young trainees to return to the ship early on Saturday morning, to cast off the lines and raise the sails whilst being filmed for a national television show. They expertly raised, then lowered and furled the sails, then took the mooring lines and efficiently tied the vessel back alongside. In a short sail training week, these young people had not only learned the basics of sailing the ship, but also experienced real teamwork first-hand, and consequently gained hugely in self-esteem, self-confidence and social skills. Every young person should have such an opportunity.

The ‘little ship’ Brian Ború was kept busy during the weekend in Drogheda plying up and down the estuary, bringing various groups out on the river for a traditional sail experience. For many, it was their first time to see their hometown from the water. Great hospitality was shown to the crew by the festival organisers as we thoroughly enjoyed the festivities on Saturday evening and had the opportunity to reunite with the crews of many of the ships from the Dublin Riverfest. A hard life!

Lunch at Lambay IslandLunch at Lambay Island

Sunday afternoon saw the arrival of the next group of trainees from the Drogheda Bursary Scheme and our crew, now with Captain Victor Whitty in command, kicked into action once again with our introduction procedures. On Monday, we cast off yet again and sailed down the river with the fleet to cross out over the Boyne Bar on the high tide. All sails set we turned southwards in a good fresh westerly breeze. The week flew by, with the vessel adventuring down to the magnificent Dublin Bay area, overnighting at Poolbeg Marina; anchoring off Lambay Island; thundering up to Carlingford Lough, overnighting in Warrenpoint, and finishing finally in Carlingford Marina on Friday 16 June. Another fantastic week with inspired young Irish trainees, albeit in very changeable weather.

In Carlingford MarinaIn Carlingford Marina

The next ‘job’ for the ship was on Belfast Lough at its own Maritime Festival, starting on Saturday morning 17 June. With no time to lose, we departed Carlingford Lough, the magnificent scenery of the Mournes on the northern shore and the legendary Cooley Mountains to the south, and headed up along the Co Down coastline, past Strangford Lough and towards the mouth of Belfast Lough. Night had fallen, but we decided to proceed right in to the Port of Belfast. A well-lit channel and a decent Raymarine plotter on board allowed us to confidently proceed up the Lagan to our berth in the Titanic Quarter. We swung around to starboard and went portside alongside on the pontoon. We smiled to find ourselves astern of the pirate ship Phoenix once again – truly déjà vu!

Two days of taking young people out on Belfast Lough for a traditional sail experience, socialising with the organisers and with our friends on the other ships, and it was time to set sail once again for our next charter in Sligo. With a delivery crew of three, the Brian Ború motored gently off her berth in the Titanic Quarter and downriver past the busy commercial docks. It was inspiring to see massive conical sections of giant wind turbines being carefully loaded on to waiting ships. Nowadays, instead of shipbuilding, the well known Harland and Wolff company is engaged, apparently, in the building of these columns for wind turbines. A sign of the times, for sure.

Down the estuary, leaving Bangor on our portside, we rounded northeast and then north. The sun was shining and a nice Force 4 to 5 was blowing, but from right ahead. We accepted our fate and resigned ourselves to motoring along the coast at six knots, with our trusty Volvo Penta 6 cylinder diesel thumping out her steady rhythm. Checking our position on the chart, we grinned to find ourselves 11 nautical miles from Rathlin Island and just 10 from the Mull of Kintyre and Scottish shores. It is no wonder that the traditional links between Ireland’s orthern counties and Scotland are so close. A strong giant could nearly hurl a rock from one shore to the other. 

Having made good time along the ruggedly beautiful Antrim and Derry coastlines and with darkness falling, we overnighted and refuelled in Greencastle, Co Donegal. The wind was still not co-operating as we turned to the northwest next morning; it stayed steadily on our bows. But we pushed on towards Tory Island. Alas, even with the wind gradually coming around in our favour, we had the misfortune of running over a long floating potting rope. Our delivery skipper Oisín Cahill immediately slammed into neutral, but the rope was well and truly wrapped on our propeller shaft. The culprit fishing vessel came to help us and managed to get a large quantity of the rope out. Nevertheless we had an uneasy feeling about what possible damage had been done.

We gingerly motor-sailed ahead under mizzen and staysail until a second mishap befell us. The motor began to lose revs for no reason. We stopped it and sailed on while checking for an airlock or other possible explanation. Diesel engines need only air and fuel to keep running and our experience told us to check for these – no apparent fault. We tried the ignition again and she started up as normal, but when she seemed to slightly stall again we decided to call for assistance. Mevagh inshore RNLI rib and Lough Swilly all-weather RNLI vessel came rapidly alongside and advised us to proceed in to Mevagh Boatyard to check things out. This was, of course, the perfect course of action, and both vessels accompanied us as we motored gently up the winding creek to the safety of a calm anchorage just off the boatyard.

The friendly welcome we received from both lifeboat crews was a real credit to the RNLI and to the Donegal people. Tea, coffee, biscuits and even a tour of the most up-to-date offshore lifeboat imaginable was given to us in the Mevagh RNLI station, before we were ferried back to welcoming bunks on the Brian Ború.

A diver and a mechanic rowed out to us first thing in the morning from the boatyard. The diver reported no apparent damage to the stern gear or rudder, but the mechanic reported a faulty connection on the fuel line which was air-locking the system. This replaced, he waved us off on the high tide back out of the channel. The wind had rounded once more into the west and therefore onto our bows and so we motored on westwards through Tory Sound, past the Bloody Foreland, and eventually round the coast of Donegal to the Port of Sligo and new adventures.

Sunday afternoon, 25 June, and a group of young people from the Safehaven Ireland organisation joined the ship. Yet again, the crew kicked into gear with the essential introductory procedures. We were honoured to welcome the excellent Captain Liam Keating as guest captain for the two upcoming West Coast voyages. A native of Waterford, Liam has been a true inspiration to the sail training world ever since his early days as mate on Asgard 2, then captain of the Prince William, and for many years captain of the Stavros Niarchos. Needless to say, the Brian Ború performed admirably under the command of Capt Keating, and he was heard to mutter to himself “What a fantastic little ship.” Keeping a close eye on the weather, we explored the coast right down into Galway Bay.

Hugely memorable was our visit to Clare Island, formerly home to the ‘pirate queen’ Grainne Uaile, whose castle still stands in the lee of the hill just beyond the harbour. Such was our welcome that the community hall was opened for us to use showers and laundry facilities, and play billiards. Crystal-clear seawater and a genuine smiling welcome are the author’s memories of Clare Island.

brian boru sail trainingThe ketch Brian Boru under full sail

With deteriorating weather, we sailed into Arranmore and found a good sheltered berth for the night. While it would have been fun and interesting to explore the area the next day, the weather dictated that we should sail for Galway City without delay. So we said ‘slán’ to the island, hoisted the sails and ran before the mounting wind into Galway.

What a busy scene awaited us, as the Port of Galway was already into the colourful early stages of the SeaFest weekend. Capt Keating showed us great seamanship as he manoeuvred the vessel, in a tightly packed harbour, using the gusting wind to our berth alongside the Celtic Mist. A bowsprit is a wonderful spar and adds great beauty to a vessel, but sometimes in a crowded port it would be useful if it could be retracted, or pivoted up from its inboard end, as is very common in French traditional vessels.

SeaFest in Galway was a colourful and informative gathering, and our crew had the pleasure of resting and enjoying the festival. But Sunday afternoon came quickly and the new trainees for the week arrived on board. Monday morning saw the Brian Ború sailing out through the lock gates of Galway Port and heading west towards Inisheer, one of the Aran Islands. A large group of dolphins had been sighted there a few days beforehand and we were hoping to sail with them as well as visiting the island. However, our plans had to change once again due to an approaching weather front. With darkening skies, we sailed into sheltered waters in Blacksod Bay and dropped anchor for the night. With first light, our young crew winched in the anchor and we set a southerly course for Loop Head and the Shannon Estuary.

Discretion was the better part of valour and Capt Keating’s decision to sail directly down past Loop Head and across the mouth of the Shannon to the shelter of Fenit Harbour was exactly the right one, with heavy southwesterly seas developing overnight. The ensuing days were like pages from a tourist brochure, with us swimming, mackerel fishing, sailing around Brandon Bay, dolphin watching, exploring the hinterland, and anchoring overnight against a backdrop of stunning Kerry scenery. The final leg of our passage took us back over towards Loop Head and along the ancient cliffs, up the Shannon to the lock-gated Kilrush Marina, and Friday 7 July marked the end of yet another sail training adventure.

Our young trainees departed, and a group of friends of the Brian Ború found their way to Kilrush to help sail the ship back, once more under Capt Whitty, to her home berth in Waterford. What a stunning voyage, across the turbulent seas which greeted us at the Shannon mouth, through the Blasket Sound and into the calm waters of Dingle Harbour. The following morning, Fungie the famous dolphin swam to our bows as we departed on our way east. Our decision to ‘heave to‘ for lunch at the Skelligs was a great one. It was truly a spiritual feeling to drift gently in the lee of Skellig Michael. On again to an overnight stay in Castletownbere Harbour – good food and a boisterous sing-song!

We continued eastwards the following day, past the Fastnet Rock to anchor with a glorious setting sun off Glandore. Our final day saw the mighty Brian Ború surging along in bright sunshine and a fine southerly breeze past Cork Harbour and on to Dunmore East. The wind gradually swung to the west and carried us on a broad reach upriver past Hook Head, Creadon Head and up to Duncannon on the Wexford shore. Sails lowered and furled, we motored gently upriver past Passage East, Ballyhack and Cheekpoint to our home berth on the marina in Waterford City. By 13 July, our circumnavigation of the island of Ireland was completed.

The 2017 sail training season had other adventures in store for the Brian Ború, bringing two further weeks of voyages with trainees from Sail Training Ireland’s Waterford Bursary Scheme, plus a late season three-day voyage from Dublin to Warrenpoint and back. This latter voyage was a charter for The Atlantic Youth Trust, whose director Neil O’Hagan had managed to organise a voyage socially integrating young people from both sides of the border. The BBC series Songs of Praise also spent a day filming the young crew as they sailed aroundngford Lough on the Brian Ború which, when not on voyages around the coast, was kept busy taking groups out on the historical waters of the Waterford Estuary.

Looking back on 2107 and on the year before, it really has been a great privilege to introduce young Irish people to the beauty of our coasts, to the supreme emotion of living and sailing in a powerful traditional vessel, and to the self-discovery which is an automatic result of the sail training experience. In this author’s humble opinion, this type of sail training is about much more that skills learning, it is about giving young people an opportunity to express themselves, discover themselves, and to develop themselves in an atmosphere which removes much of the normal peer group pressure, and which promotes respect for themselves and others. All this in a short five- or six-day voyage which can be really challenging, but which has been shown to change lives, in the very best way.

Sail Training Ireland for Youth Development is working hard to develop bursary schemes around the country, securing funding from port authorities, city and county councils, corporate and many other sources, so that more and more young people can avail of this fantastic experience. Such a positive educational opportunity should definitely be recognised for Government funding.

The current CEO of Sail Training Ireland, Daragh Sheridan, is working tirelessly with his team of Sindy and Judy to organise as many voyages as possible with a range of big and small tall ships for the 2018 season. Please support them in any way you can. Fair winds in 2018, and hopefully you too will get a chance to sail on the mighty Brian Ború.

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#TallShips - Sail Training Ireland’s 2017 Waterford Bursary Scheme voyages came to a successful conclusion on Friday at a presentation ceremony held in the historic Mayor’s Parlour in Waterford city’s town hall.

Mayor of Waterford City & County Council Pat Nugent presented certificates to the 20 trainees who took part in two week-long sail training voyages.

The Waterford trainees sailed on board local ketch Brian Ború, skippered by owner Tony McLoughlin. After a six-day voyage they sailed into Waterford city to be met by friends, family, and supporters.

The voyage had some challenging sailing conditions that the newly formed crew faced down with growing confidence as they formed a tight knit team who overcame adversity, which is a key part of a good sail training programme.

The happy participants told tales of sightings of dolphins and even a whale, along with monkfish suppers, sing alongs and storytelling. They urged others to get involved in the opportunity of a lifetime.

A note received by Sail Training Ireland from Faye Kennedy who took part really illustrates the essence of the experience:

“Although I am an average 17-year-old teenager from Waterford city, I am different to most, as I have had to deal with a chronic illness. My illness does not define me; however, it does challenge me. Sail Training Ireland has pushed me to overcome the challenges of life at sea. It has also encouraged me to believe in my own potential. I take away a new-found love of sailing with memories of the best week of my life.”

The bursary was established in 2016 in partnership with Port of Waterford, Waterford City and County Council and Waterford Area Partnership, who have generously supported the scheme again this year.

The scheme provides access to the life-changing experience of a sail training voyage for young people from the Waterford region aboard large sailing vessels and tall ships.

A key objective of Sail Training Ireland is to raise financial support to ensure that no young person is excluded from participation due to financial constraints.

The development of Regional Bursary Schemes has proven to be a very successful approach to providing this support.

Daragh Sheridan, chief executive of Sail Training Ireland, also spoke of his “delight at seeing a group of strangers at the beginning of the week becoming great friends by the end of it.”

Sail Training Ireland hopes that with the continued support of the existing supporters and the addition of some new sponsors that the scheme will be expanded next year. Visit for more information or contact the charity at 01 816 8866 or [email protected].

Published in Tall Ships

#TallShips - Sail Training Ireland has announced details of its tall ships voyages for youth sailors in 2016.

Three voyages are scheduled on board the 46m brig Morgenster in May and June – Cork to the Netherlands for under-18s (calling at Waterford and Wales), Belfast to Cork for over-18s (calling at the Isle of Man and Dublin) and an open delivery voyage from the Netherlands to Belfast.

Smaller crews will be welcomed on board the Dutch ketch Maybe for a series of 11-day voyages from April to June under the Leargas Youth Exchange programme for under-18, taking in Oban in Scotland, Belfast, Galway, Dublin and ports between.

In addition, the two established bursary schemes for young people in Ireland will hold their own voyages this summer, with the Drogheda Bursary Scheme scheduling two short adventure sailing trips on board the Spirit of Oysterhaven (Waterford–Drogheda and Drogheda–Derry), and the Cork Bursary Scheme sending participants on the same 70ft classic schooner around the South West.

During these five-day excursions young people will learn about the maritime environment, develop their sailing skills and challenge themselves both physically and mentally.

In addition, the 70ft ketch Brian Boru will embark on five discovery voyages for under-18s and over-18s between Waterford, Dublin and Drogheda beginning in March.

Places on these voyages are limited and expensive, but come part-funded thanks to local and European bursary schemes, individuals and sponsoring organisations, topped up by donations raised by each trainee.

Sail Training Ireland has more on its 2016 sailing training voyages HERE.

Published in Tall Ships
A second drill-rig platform, the Pauline was positioned in Dublin Bay on Friday, to investigate suitable conditions for an outfall discharge pipe from the Ringsend wastewater treatment plant, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The work is part of a Dublin City Council project to evaluate an extension at the Ringsend plant where treated water will be released into the bay. The council are conducting detailed feasibility studies which will be examined for an Environmental Impact Assessment.

To date the project has involved two other rigs, the Aran 250 and the larger Excalibur which remains in the bay. The barges will be towed to 20 pre-determined bore-hole locations in the bay where the jack-up rig barges operate 'legs' to sit on the seabed which enables a steady working platform. The rigs are operating on a continuous basis in an area covering most of Dublin Bay and close to the Burford Bank on the eastern fringes.

In addition a buoy will be positioned 300-metres of the barge during drill operations, which is expected to take approximately one week for each drill. For information on the location of the bore-holes, they can viewed from the Dublin Port website by clicking HERE The project is expected to be completed in late Spring.

Several support craft are engaged in the project that recently included the Seabed Worker, a 3,923 gross tonnes Norwegian anchor-handling tug supply vessel (AHTS) the tugs Multratug 7, MTS Valiant and Trojan and the RIB-craft sisters, Brian Boru and James Joyce which are on standby duties. Like the Trojan, the 12-seater RIBS are based at the Poolbeg Yacht Club Marina where in the tourist season the craft provide excursions in Dublin Bay for Sea Safari Tours. In October the project also required the services of the yellow-hulled catamaran, Xplorer to carry out a bathymetric survey of Dublin Bay. The larger tugs and rigs are based opposite in Alexandra Basin / Ocean Pier.

The largest drill-rig working to date on the project, the Excalibur arrived under the tow of the Multratug 7 on a misty morning on Christmas Day. Due to the weather conditions the red-hulled craft slipped quietly into the port. Several days later the imposing looking craft re-emerged with its six-towering jack-up 'sea-legs' that jutted skywards into an otherwise horizontal expanse of Dublin Bay.

The sight of the rig has presented many onlookers to mistakenly believe the drilling was for oil!...Not so but the assumption is not surprising given the reports last year of an oil-field discovery named the Dalkey Island Prospect. The name for the oil-field was referred to Dalkey, as the coastal suburb on the southern shores is the nearest landfall to the exploratory well sites at the Kish Bank Basin.

In fact this kind of exploratory activity was again to confuse residents throughout the bay when the drill-ship, Fugro Synergy was offshore at the Kish Bank between December 2009 and early Spring of 2010. Though on this occasion the search was not for oil but coal!

During this period the 5,200 tonnes vessel equipped with a drill-tower, seemed to be a near permanent feature on the horizon. A series of drill-wells up to 3,500-metres were conducted when the 2009 built ship was contracted to Irish based VP Power Ltd, to determine the commercial viability of extracting coal from the sea for generating electricity. The Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) project is a process where coal is heated in underwater rock reservoirs to extract gas, essentially converting gas-from-coal energy. Otherwise this method is commonly referred to as a 'clean' technology.

In addition to last year's search for deposits of large coal seams under the seabed, there was reports of a significant natural resource in the form of oil!... when several exploratory blocks again in the Kish Bank Basin were surveyed. The company behind this venture, Provident Resources, another Irish based exploration company, conducted initial oil surveys using air-born craft and as such no actual drill-based ships or rigs were used. Though should any oil flow, such an operation would be required.

Incidentally the Excalibur is designed also to perform offshore wind turbine installation work and is equipped with a 250-ton crane to hoist the wind-farm components. The vessel is operated by Fugro Seacore, a subsidiary of the Dutch parent company, Fugro, which also managed the drill-ship Fugro Synergy.

Published in Dublin Bay