Displaying items by tag: Ilen
After an arduous voyage of constant fog and one serious storm en route to Greenland, Ireland’s oldest sailing trading ketch Ilen has encountered its first clear evidence of climate change.
“When our skipper, Paddy Barry, was approaching Cape Farewell on Greenland’s southern tip back in 2001, he was met with ice,” crew member and Kerry musician Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich told Afloat by satellite phone.
“We had no such problems, nor have we seen any snow on any hills – Greenland is purely green,” he said. “If anyone doubted climate change’s impacts, they only have to come north.”
The 1200 nautical mile voyage by the Ilen from the Shannon estuary up the west Greenland coast is intended to follow the migratory route of the wild Atlantic salmon. The restored ketch, originally built over 90 years ago by global circumnavigator Conor O’Brien, from Limerick, had proved its worth since it left the Shannon estuary in late June, Ó Beaglaoich says.
Limerick graphic artist Gary McMahon, who spearheads the community project to rebuild the vessel, is on board, along with Barry, Ó Beaglaoich, Mike Grimes, Mantas Seskanskis, James Madigan, Ronan O Caoimh, Mick Ruane, Seamus O’Byrne and Justin McDonagh.
“We had eight to nine days of fog, and we saw neither sun, moon, stars or any other boat, “Ó Beaglaoich recalls. “One of our crew joked we could have been going around in circles, were it not for our navigation.”
“We were about 300 nautical miles off the Greenland coast when we hit a storm, and I think it was probably the worst seas I have ever experienced,” Ó Beaglaoich, who rowed from Ireland to Spain in a Kerry naomhóg, says.
“At one point, Paddy Barry, who is 76 years of age, sat up in his bunk in the middle of the storm, and exclaimed that it was great to be alive,” Ó Beaglaoich says. “My answer was that it was great to be alive, but I’d prefer to be alive somewhere else! “
“When we arrived into Cape Farewell, the Inuit people who welcomed us were so kind and compassionate, and I have discovered that music and being at sea are my two favourite things in life,” he said.
“The Ilen hasn’t done a voyage like this since it was built by O’Brien in west Cork back in the 1920s and taken to the Falkland Islands, so the ketch really proved its worth,” he said.
The crew will deliver a traditional Limerick Shannon salmon-fishing cot which the Ilen boatbuilding school constructed, as a gift from Limerick city to the people of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital city.
The ultimate destination is Disko Bay, western Greenland’s largest open bay, which has been gradually warming since 1997.
Last month, Irish adventurer Jamie Young set sail for Greenland onboard his 15m aluminium yacht Killary Flyer, as part of a two-year Dutch-Irish film project to document the impact of climate change.
After experiencing every sort of condition from Force 8 winds to near calms, the 56ft 1926-built restored ketch Ilen of Limerick has reached her first port in Greenland to conclude 11 days of Transatlantic ocean voyaging, having successfully negotiated the challenging waters around the majestic Arctic super-island’s southerly headland of Cape Farewell.
As Afloat previously reported, although Cape Farewell and its surrounding coastline is totally barren, Ilen’s crew are now relaxing on Greenland’s southwest coast in the relative comfort of Nanortalik (it means “Place of the Polar Bears”), a port town with 1,337 inhabitants which is Greenland’s most southerly municipality. The next stage of the voyage will be northwards towards the Greenland capital of Nuuk, but for now the fact that the hazards of Cape Farewell have been successfully put astern through difficult conditions, in which the Conor O’Brien trading ketch handled very well, is a matter for celebration by the crew of ten and their many supports in Ireland and worldwide.
The Limerick ketch Ilen on her Salmons Wake voyage to southwest Greenland had got to within 200-miles of the huge island’s most southerly headland, Cape Farewell, towards midnight last night (Monday). With her speed held back to 6 knots in order to avoid arriving in the region until a local gale has blown itself out through today, her crew are now considering their options, with the inner channel of Prins Christiansund becoming a favoured choice. Reports indicate that this steep-sided Sound - which can provide safe passage inside the many hazards of Cape Farewell – is reasonably clear of ice, proving much safer access to the coast of southwest Greenland and next stage of the voyage, the passage north to Nuuk.
The 56ft Limerick traditional ketch Ilen, on her Salmon’s Wake voyage from the Shannon Estuary to Greenland (2019 is the Year of the Salmon), has been making good progress since heading seaward past Loop Head on Monday afternoon writes W M Nixon. In fact, at the moment the sailing is so good, running in a 20-knot easterly, that the crew may ease off the speed in order not to arrive at Greenland’s most southerly point of Cape Farewell any earlier than next Wednesday, when weather conditions at the iconic headland are expected to have improved from the current inclement situation.
The voyage outward has so far gone well, so much so that the most rugged part came in the first 12 hours after passing Loop Head. Generally, the Atlantic has been in a fairly benign mood, but as they come within the weather ambit of Greenland itself, more variable and possibly adverse conditions become increasingly possible.
The long Shannon Estuary and a strong ocean-going ebb tide enabled the restored traditional trading ketch Ilen of Limerick to make good progress westward yesterday evening on the voyage to Greenland despite a near-gale from ahead which came in with a frontal system from the Atlantic writes W M Nixon.
As Afloat reported earlier, Ilen departed from Limerick as planned despite brisk conditions late on Sunday afternoon. But with a softening of the weather and fair winds for the Greenland passage expected, it made sense to overnight within the outer estuary at anchor in the shelter off Carrigaholt, a special place for project leader Gary MacMahon as the most conspicuous building at the quay is the former castle of the Mac Mahons.
Although the stop was brief, it provided an opportunity for a raft-up with the locally-built Shannon Hooker re-creation, the famous Sally O’Keeffe. But there’s a strong sense of purpose to this initial stage of the Salmons Wake Educational Voyage, and Ilen was planning to head seawards at 3.0pm this afternoon.
Ireland’s sole surviving ocean-going wooden sailing ship, the ‘Ilen’, which was re-built through a community educational programme in Limerick, will set sail from Limerick Docks this evening to follow the migratory journey of salmon in the Shannon River to West Greenland. ‘Salmon’s Wake’ is the title of The Ilen Project’s Community and Schools Education Programme which is highlighting the decline of salmon during the International Year of the Salmon.
The Ilen Project operates the wooden sailing ship ‘Ilen’ as a community learning platform from her home port of Limerick. The rebuilding of the Ilen and her preparations for sea were completed in June and the crew from all parts of Ireland are looking forward to her longest ocean voyage since 1926.
The voyage follows a creative programme which saw building workshops and community days take place at multiple locations across the city with local schools, artists, craft makers and institutions all playing a role in bringing this majestic ship back to sea. Young people from Limerick and West Greenland are participating in this project and discovering what both communities share as North Atlantic maritime island peoples.
Sean Canney TD, Minister with responsibility for Inland Fisheries said: “The ‘Salmon’s Wake’ project is just one of a number of initiatives taking place across the country as part of International Year of the Salmon to raise awareness of what humans can do to ensure salmon and their habitats are conserved and restored against a backdrop of several environmental factors. Inland Fisheries Ireland is co-ordinating International Year of the Salmon in Ireland and is supporting the The Ilen Project’s Salmon Wake initiative to generate interest in the status of salmon populations and the role they play in Ireland’s economic and cultural heritage”, he added.
Atlantic salmon populations are widely distributed throughout Irish freshwaters with over 140 such systems designated as salmon rivers. While in the 1970s, the number of Atlantic Salmon returning to Irish waters peaked at 1,800,000, the numbers returning have decreased by 70 per cent in recent decades.
Gary MacMahon, Director of The Ilen Company said: “The Ilen is today setting off for its longest voyage in decades. It is the culmination of a lot of hard work by so many in our community who helped us realise our vision of reimagining this impressive ship. Throughout this journey, participants in the project have shared and learnt skills through the build which will remain with them for a lifetime. It is a symbol of what can be achieved when people work together and it is fitting therefore that our ‘Salmon Wake’ journey is highlighting the decline in salmon populations.”
Dr Ciaran Byrne, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland said: “We know that for every 100 salmon that leave Ireland to go out to sea, 95 don’t make it back due to a range of challenges which they face at sea. The Ilen Projects ‘Salmon’s Wake’ programme is a timely tribute to this iconic species during International Year of the Salmon and it is hoped that it will help create awareness around their decline in Ireland and across the northern hemisphere.”
The Captain of the Ilen will provide updates on the ship’s progress as it follows the route of salmon migration to West Greenland as a guest blogger on Inland Fisheries Ireland’s blog www.fishinginireland.info. For more information about the Ilen Project, visit www.ilen.ie and to learn about International Year of the Salmon, visit www.fisheriesireland.ie/iys .
It is 1200 nautical miles across the Atlantic from Loop Head at the north side of the long Shannon Estuary to Cape Farewell, the southernmost point of Greenland, writes W M Nixon. While the originally 1926-built ketch Ilen of Limerick may have made the much longer voyage to her working life in the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic in her first year afloat, the voyage to Greenland will be the first time that this special little ship has been in remote northern waters.
In recent months, Ilen Project director Gary MacMahon and his team have been testing Ilen as they visited several Irish ports and fulfilled a programme implemented with the Sailing into Wellness organisaton.
But since June 18th, Ilen has been back in Limerick making final preparations for this Salmons Wake venture to Greenland, tracing the migratory routes of the Atlantic salmon. It’s a multi-faceted concept which has developed from the building of informational interactions between schools in the Limerick area and schools in southwest Greenland, going on to include maritime studies and sea monitoring, and spreading into cultural exchanges and the promotion of ancient skills.
One of the purposes of the outward voyage will be the delivery of a traditional Limerick Shannon salmon-fishing cot, a creation of the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick city, to the people of the Greenland capital of Nuuk. And when Greenland has been reached, it has been planned that the hosts will have opportunities to sail on Ilen, while specialists in Ilen’s crew of ten will undertake mountaineering expeditions in the Nuuk locality, among several other shore ventures.
There are very many skills and special talents combined in Ilen’s ship’s complement which - for the outward voyage - will comprise Gary Mac Mahon, Paddy Barry, Mike Grimes, Mantas Seskanskis, James Madigan, Ronan O Caoimh, Breanndan Begley, Mick Ruane, Seamus O’Byrne and Justin McDonagh.
Ilen takes her departure from the Ted Russell Dock in Limerick at 5.0pm on Sunday, June 30th, and her many supporters in Ireland and worldwide will be united in good wishes for this special ship and her crew in their unique and visionary venture.
Three million euro - every bit of €3 million writes W M Nixon. That’s what the late Theo Rye, internationally-recognised expert on the restoring and re-building of classic and traditional craft, reckoned that breathing new life into Ireland’s historic 56ft trading ketch Ilen would have cost – at the minimum - if the project had been awarded on a fully professional basis to some comprehensively equipped, properly qualified and economically efficient specialist boatyard in the heartlands of the top end of boat-building skills, in places such as The Netherlands, or at select yards around the Solent, or somewhere up in Denmark.
However, the restoration of the 1926-built Ilen, in a joint effort by the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick and Liam Hegarty’s Oldcourt Boatyard near Baltimore, has certainly produced a fully restored little ship which exudes quality and authenticity. But thanks to special efforts by all involved, there is no way that the cost has been remotely near that jaw-dropping figure of €3 million.
Yet while the sums have been much more manageable, every cent of it has had to be secured from one source or another, and by this stage Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick – the inspiring overall promoter of the Ilen ideal – can probably fill out grant applications and benevolent funding proposals in his sleep.
Now, however, the fact that Ilen is in full seagoing commission and properly certified - following her annual inspection by official specialists in Baltimore a fortnight ago - gives people something very tangible to grasp when support is sought.
Rather than the high-flown but inevitably vague talk of times past, and thoughts of increasing respect for Ireland’s sometimes hidden maritime traditions while also honouring the memory of Conor O’Brien whose seafaring achievements directly resulted in Ilen being built in the first place, we now have something real. A proper little ship with which we can all identify. A little ship which nevertheless still needs a steady flow of real money to keep up the good work of adding interest to international school projects, implementing programmes like Sailing Into Wellness, and giving extra meaning to environmental campaigns.
Thus last weekend’s extended visit to Dublin, with target points for shoreside interactions with well-wishers at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club in the Liffey, the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, and the heart of Howth Harbour during the annual Prawn Festival, were all occasions with multiple purposes.
At its most basic, there was the opportunity for people who had a vague feeling of goodwill towards the ship to actually see her and go aboard. Then for those who knew something of what the restored Ilen really meant, there was an opportunity to inspect and wonder at the quality of the restoration, and the skills of creative design which have been used to turn a little freight and ferry ship into a proper long distance voyager with comfortable crew accommodation, yet with enough space to be a floating classroom.
This weekend, Ilen is the star of the annual Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival. But while many memories are vivid from last weekend’s time in Dublin, there’s no doubt the highlight was the re-launch ceremony at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, a club with which the Foynes Island sailor Conor O’Brien from County Limerick had special links.
However, as this interaction was at its height in the 1920s, it’s clear that for many of today’s sailors, knowledge of O’Brien and his achievements are vague in the extreme, so the background to the story provides a useful context for the speech of welcome and encouragement which came from RIYC Commodore Joe Costello.
Conor O’Brien of Foynes Island in the Shannon Estuary in County Limerick lived from 1880 to 1952. A grandson of William Smith O’Brien of the Young Ireland movement, he was firstly a mountaineer who then became a pioneering ocean voyager when he was the first amateur sailor to circumnavigate the world south of the Great Capes including, of course, the legendary Cape Horn.
He did all this in 1923-1925 in the little 42ft gaff ketch called Saoirse, which he designed himself and had built by Tom Moynihan and his master shipwrights in Baltimore in West Cork. She was called Saoirse – “Freedom” as it is in English - to celebrate the establishment of the Irish Free State, of which he was a strong supporter – so much so, in fact, that he had aided Erskine Childers in the Howth gun-running of 1914, although he and Childers took opposing sides on the acceptance of the post War of Independence Treaty of 1921.
O’Brien withdrew from active political involvement, and instead devoted himself to getting his ideal of an ocean voyaging vessel built in Baltimore in 1922. Although he claimed that, in the first place, all his voyages really started and finished at his home port of Foynes Island, officially it was from his club, the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire on the 20th June 1923, that Saoirse’s great voyage got under way. And exactly two years later, on Saturday, June 20th 1925, Conor O’Brien and his little ship returned in triumph to this same spot, his magnificent voyage achieved.
Being a Saturday, Dublin Bay Sailing Club would normally have had a full racing programme in action. But in honour of O’Brien’s return, they cancelled racing, and their fleet provided Saoirse with a Guard of Honour as she returned to the harbour. Dublin Bay Sailing Club do not take such cancellations lightly – this was a very signal honour.
One unexpected outcome of the voyage was that when Saoirse had put into the Falkland Islands after rounding Cape Horn and sailing non-stop from New Zealand, the islanders were so impressed with the little ship’s seaworthiness that they advocated that they should have a larger version to be their inter-island ferry and freight vessel.
The result was that in 1926, Conor O’Brien found himself working again with Tom Moynihan in Baltimore, this time to create the 56ft ketch Ilen, which was undoubtedly Saoirse’s bigger sister.
Conor O’Brien personally delivered Ilen to the Falklands in 1926, crewed by two Cape Clear men, Con and Denis Cadogan. She was to give great service in those very rugged waters as a workboat for many decades, and when she was finally retired in the 1990s, Gary Mac Mahon of Limerick - who is both a Conor O’Brien enthusiast and a very considerable force of nature - decided that she should be shipped home to Ireland and restored to full seagoing condition in order to undertake voyaging with people who would benefit from such an experience, and also to remind us of our sometimes forgotten but nevertheless very great maritime traditions.
It was in November 1997 that Ilen was brought home. The fact that two decades later she was finally making her debut in this superbly restored style at the Royal Irish Yacht Club was doubly appropriate. Not only had Conor O’Brien used this as his start and finish point for his Saoirse circumnavigation in 1923-25, but when he came to deliver Ilen to the Falklands in 1926, he discovered that he was only insured as a Yachtmaster, and not as the Captain of a commercial vessel.
So when Ilen sailed out over the many thousands of miles of ocean to the Falklands, it was as part of the fleet of the Royal Irish Yacht Club – she flew the club burgee, and her club allegiance was proudly inscribed across her transom.
For six months, she was a yacht of the RIYC. Then she belonged in Port Stanley, and was a working boat. But now she is a Limerick ship. A little ship, perhaps, but undoubtedly a ship nevertheless, and a characterful one at that. She is very expressive of Conor O’Brien’s notions of what a hard-working seagoing vessel should look like, particularly in the matter of bowsprits. Like Saoirse before her, Ilen has a bowsprit which extends into the middle of next week, for that is the O’Brien way.
As we’re now in 2019, it is self-evident that the restoration of Ilen has been a long and challenging task, at times run on a shoestring. But thanks to the profound faith of Gary and his friends, Ireland has got to this remarkable stage of having a fully-certified seagoing traditional vessel which is currently in the midst of one of the very commendable Sailing into Wellness programmes,
Then in July she’ll undertake a nine week educational voyage to Greenland from Limerick in the wake of the Atlantic salmon - a timely reminder of that splendid fish’s threatened status – while at the same time strengthening links which the Ilen Network has been building up between schools in the greater Limerick area and schools in southwest Greenland.
For the Ilen is now the symbol of a broad movement which has re-kindled awareness of the unique traditional vessels of Ireland, particularly those of the Shannon Estuary and West Cork. But were it not for this wonderful vessel at the centre of it all, the entire project would lack focus.
With the extraordinary balance of talents and almost magical chemistry between Gary Mac Mahon and Liam Hegarty and their respective teams, this restoration of exceptional authenticity has been achieved, aided in no small way by the spiritual support and guidance of Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey.
So we now have a proper flagship for the traditional and classic boat movement in Ireland, and we have a symbol for a form of sailing which is accessible to all - as such, the Ilen Project received the warmest praise from President Michael D Higgins when he visited the ship in Limerick last October.
This high-powered support for the “Ilen Ideals” was much in evidence at Dun Laoghaire’s gathering, where the presence of Dr Edward Walsh, founder of the University of Limerick, was matched by people like former RIYC Commodore Terry Johnson, whose remarkable record of service to sailing is augmented by work he has done on behalf of sail training, the lifeboat service, and other key pillars of the maritime world.
Also present were people who have given much practical assistance, such as Captain Gerry Burns of Irish Ferries, who in his leave periods served as a relief captain on the training Ship Asgard II. Since Ilen went afloat again, he has been journeying to Limerick to give master-classes in ship-handling to future Ilen skippers.
Another attendee was Tim Magennis, one of the few people who has sailed right round the world under gaff rig. When Ilen sailed briefly in Dublin Bay in May 1998 after she had been shipped back from the Falklands, Tim - a stalwart of the Old Gaffers Association – was one of those on board, and now 21 years later, having recently celebrated his 90th birthday, his delight in Ilen’s restoration was a joy to behold.
Although Conor O’Brien had no children, many people are related to him, and among those present were Charlotte O’Brien Delamer, his grandniece, and Stephanie O’Brien, married to another O’Brien relative.
For them, restoration of the Ilen was an intensely personal matter. But it was equally clear that many folk attending the RIYC reception found it especially moving that Ilen had been restored, and had now come to visit the club which meant so much to Conor O’Brien’s sailing.
Yet she’s a busy ship. Soon it was time to move on to Howth for a visit arranged by Wally McGuirk, where on Monday morning skipper Paddy Barry took a group of trainees from the inner-city Westland Row CBS out for some sailing experience on Ilen arranged through the Atlantic Youth Trust. Then in the afternoon, it was time to depart for Baltimore with the gift of a tankful of diesel from Howth Boat Club, on down to West Cork where the Wooden Boat Festival will serve up its own quota of emotional associations.
As a reminder of how things have slowly but steadily progressed, here’s a video by Paul Fuller of the then recently-launched and still largely unballasted Ilen making her debut at last year’s Festival in Baltimore. Now she is in full properly-ballasted seagoing order, ready and willing for further work at home before the voyage to Greenland gets underway from Limerick in July. It’s anticipation of this which will give the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival 2019 an added dimension and an even more vivid flavour.
In 1926, the newly-built 56ft trading ketch Ilen was for six months part of the fleet of the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Built in Baltimore in West Cork under the inspiration of pioneering global circumnavigator Conor O’Brien of Limerick to be the ferry and freight vessel for the very distant Falkland Islands, Ilen was of course ultimately going to be a working vessel. But as part of the contract stipulated that she be delivered to the Falklands under Conor O’Brien’s command, because his seagoing qualification was only as a yachtmaster and not a professional skipper, the only way insurance could be secured was through the new vessel’s registration as a yacht.
Conor O’Brien was of course already a highly-regarded member of the RIYC, as his famous 1923-1925 global circumnavigation with the 42-ft Saoirse (built in Baltimore in 1922) had officially started and finished from the Royal Irish clubhouse. Thus in 1926 the authorities in both club and officialdom readily agreed to Ilen having yacht status, and the voyage was completed flying the RIYC burgee.
During the long restoration programme for Ilen during the past decade and more under the partnership of the Ilen Boat-building School of Limerick under Gary MacMahon’s direction, and the renowned boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore run by Liam Hegarty, the thought was always there that when Ilen had been re-created in authentic style as a research and educational vessel, she should “make her number” back at the club where she was briefly part of the fleet 93 years ago, even though Limerick is now her home port.
After a swift voyage up from Baltimore last weekend, Ilen had been berthed in Dublin at Poolbeg, but on Friday she crossed the bay and preparations began for the reception at the RIYC. Even the unsettled weather cleared locally to provide sunshine for the welcome by RIYC Commodore Joe Costello, his fellow flag officers and many members, in addition to dozens of special guests who were there to see the superb restoration project completed with a very special ship, and to help the Ilen ideal on its way.
WM Nixon’s Sailing on Saturday blog on May 25th will link Ilen to this coming weekend’s Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival and take a more in-depth look at the remarkable attendance during her welcome to the RIYC.
The Limerick Ketch Ilen arrived back at Dublin yesterday after a 21-year absence. She departed Dunmore East on Friday, where she had been joined by a group from Aiséirí, a dynamic residential treatment centre for adults affected by addiction.
This ‘voyage of recovery' was organised by Sailing into Wellness, the organisation with a mission towards inspiring positive change in individuals and communities through the medium of the sailing upon the sea.
The Ilen Project, which operates the Ilen as a community learning platform, also supports similar organisation who share its mission and values, and all involved are more than happy with collaboration with Sailing into Wellness making this voyage towards Dublin a success.