Displaying items by tag: Ilen
The restoration of the 56ft 1926-built ketch Ilen by Liam Hegarty and Fachtna O’Sullivan and their team in the boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore in West Cork, working in concert with the Gary Mac Mahon-directed Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick, will be moving into the next stage this weekend when the historic vessel makes her debut afloat in her new colours at the Baltimore Woodenboat Festival on Saturday writes W M Nixon.
As with many thing to do with boats and ships, the nearer you move towards the completion of a major project, the slower the final precise tasks seem to become. The devil is indeed in the details. But in Oldcourt, as memories of the long winter recede, impressive marine machinery - like the bronze windlass re-created by specialist David Webster - gets installed on the ship to add to her sense of purpose.
At the stern, where an extra flourish has been given to Ilen’s shapely transom with the gold escutcheon crafted from the sound remains of an original hull timber, wood carver James O’Loughlin of Cobh has been painstakingly creating a classic name and port-of-registry configuration that will elegantly tell everything in properly restrained style to complement the ketch’s new image.
And all those bits and pieces which followers of the Ilen project have seen emerging from workshops in Limerick and elsewhere are now in place to take on their specific tasks as Ilen and her highly individual ketch rig – which manages to be both complex and simple – prepare to test themselves at sea.
Some of the bits and pieces have a special resonance for those who have been involved with the Ilen Project from its earliest days. When the mainboom gooseneck was unveiled, its simple functionality projected a beauty all of its own. And as for the final spar to be delivered from Limerick down to Oldcourt, that is something very special indeed, as it is the square-sail yard which will do its work well aloft.
Ideally, it should be as light as possible while providing great strength, so the late and much-missed Theo Rye, expert in all to do with classic and traditional restorals and reconstruction, agreed to design a sweetly tapered hollow spar whose creation seriously tested the developing skills of the Ilen Boat-Building School. But now, every time the square sail is up and drawing, Ilen’s crew will fondly remember the many kindnesses of Theo Rye.
The final touches are being put to the Ilen at Hegarty’s boatyard in Oldcourt, Skibbereen, prior to her going down the Ilen River this week, heading for Baltimore. There, on Saturday afternoon, at the Wooden Boats Festival, will be her first public appearance since she was restored in a long project, writes Tom MacSweeney.
Work continued on her over the weekend and her appearance at Baltimore is eagerly awaited.
The historic 1926-built 56ft trading ketch Ilen has been undergoing restoration in Liam Hegarty's boatyard for several years. This was supported by work at the Ilen Boat Building School, in Limerick.
The 1926-built 56ft Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen, painstakingly restored in a visionary joint operation by the Gary MacMahon-directed Ilen Boat Building School in Limerick working in concert with master shipwrights Liam Hegarty and Fachtna O’Sullivan at Oldcourt Boatyard near Baltimore, is nearing the stage where she will have her first dip in the sea, most appropriately in the Ilen River itself writes W M Nixon
This procedure is anticipated as happening some time in the next nine days. But it will only be a dip as opposed to a full launching, The plan is to check for any leaks before the little ship is lifted out again for final work, and the installation of the internal ballast, whose presence would make any precise leak-location a difficult task.
Externally, it has been all change in recent weeks, with the top-mast fitted and the massive bowsprit put in place. Conor O’Brien made a speciality of extra long bowsprits, and something similar is seen in his 1922-world-girdling 42ft ketch Saoirse. But with Ilen, everything is on such a significantly larger scale that getting the bowsprit set up was quite an operation in itself. And as for giving it sufficient staying, the reckoning is that it is best to think of it as “an almost-horizontal mast”.
All being well, the Ilen will then be ready to perform duties as the flagship – the “Belle of the Ball” if you prefer – at the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival from May 25th to 27th. The Festival poster features a new-style image of Ilen by Gary and his team. This fresh image is still work-in-progress, with Ilen’s appearance being re-imagined to make her appearance central to an Inter-regional Education Project for schools.
Away back in 1997 I stood on the quayside at Alexandra Basin in Dublin Port, watching a very old boat being unloaded from a freighter … I was the only reporter there. The media generally weren’t interested in the story of an old boat, even if she had been brought back from the war-torn Falkland Islands and was part of Irish maritime history….. The television news camera crew with me thought she looked a bit decrepit and were wondering how I had convinced the RTE News Desk that what was happening deserved coverage. In my turn I had been convinced that it did by a Limerickman who has never lost his enthusiasm for a project that I have followed and reported upon over the past 21 years.
Yes, it has been that long as he determinedly followed his aim but this week when I was marking a centenary of sort of my own – presenting the 100th edition of my current radio programme, This Island Nation, that man brought me a bit of very good news. Gary McMahon, who has determinedly led the project I have covered for 21 years, told me of its final stages being reached -. The restoration of Ireland’s last traditional sailing ketch and that “sailing ILEN is looking “all the more achievable this Summer…”
It was a great piece of news to get and it really made my day as I looked at the photographs he had sent me from Liam Hegarty’s boatyard in Skibbereen, with the message:
“After a long and challenging winter on the ‘Ilen’, it was not unpleasant to draw back the big tarpaulin covering ….. affording a glimpse of what an uncovered Ilen might look like, it was also an opportunity to discern if weeks earlier the bowsprit had been steeved up appropriately. Happily it had. As this is more an aesthetic appraisal, than a structural one.
“Main mast rake was another of today’s considerations, as progressive tension was slowly introduced to the rig over the previous week. Mainly from two load-bearing chain blocks, acting in unison on two opposing wire shrouds on opposite sides of the ship. At any rate Ilen’s new rig responded very capably to the increased loads placed upon it - the credit for which is directly attributable to the dedicated team who designed, made and assembled it at the Ilen Workshop, LEDP, Limerick over the previous four years.
“But for now, it’s hardly time to rest on one’s laurels as many weeks of rigging work lie ahead. Nonetheless a sailing ‘Ilen’ for summertime 2018 is looking all the more achievable, on each passing week.”
What great news!
Gary is self-effacing, always praising those who have worked with him, supported him and kept the project going, while keeping himself in the background. The work at Hegarty’s yard has been astounding, so has that at the Ilen Workshop in Limerick, but every project needs a leader who surmounts challenges …
Ireland’s boating history owes a lot to Gary McMahon
Having seen the Ilen as she was when landed 21 years ago and what has been achieved, Ireland’s boating history owes a lot to Gary McMahon.
Pictured, in another piece of history, are the crew, including Gary McMahon, which sailed Ilen from Dublin Port to West Cork after she had been landed in 1997:
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The restoration of the 56ft ketch trading ketch Ilen (1926) and the re-build of world-girdling 42ft Saoirse (1922) at Oldcourt in West Cork has become a focal point of interest of what might seem to an outsider to be a secret brotherhood of the maritime world writes W M Nixon
It’s not that these people set out to be mysterious or secretive. It’s just that they operate on a different level to the rest of us. Typical of them is Jarlath Cunnane of Mayo. He’s always building boats for himself. He built the special aluminium 15 metre (49ft) exploration yacht Northabout with which he and Paddy Barry and a rugged crew transitted both the Northwest and the Northeast passages.
Yet despite Northabout’s alloy build, he’s very much a fan of traditional craft. So when he heard that Gary MacMahon of Limerick and his team were undertaking the ticklish job of stepping Ilen’s new masts in West Cork in a very limited time frame earlier this month, he and frequent shipmate Dr Mick Brogan (he owns the giant Galway Hooker Mac Duach and is much involved in Cruinniu na mBad at Kinvara) simply appeared at just the right time at Oldcourt, and their help was much appreciated.
On the opposite side of the country from Mayo, Wally McGuirk of Howth is another enthusiast for traditional boat-building who nevertheless was not slow in using basic steel construction for his 40ft dream yacht Swallow, the last design by O’Brien Kennedy. Wally built her himself, and since then has introduced all sorts of inventive additions, a notable one being the legs which support the boat if she is going to dry out at low water.
Wally reckoned the traditional legs bolted on to the outside of the hull amidships are an unsightly nuisance. So he built a couple of hefty steel casings at a sight angle inside Swallow, and these neatly house the legs which are retracted virtually out of sight when not in use.
Yet although he enjoys the freedom of innovation which steel construction permits, Wally’s heart is in wood. And as he happens to be a property developer of sorts, quantities of choice vintage timber have come his way over the years. Thus when he was making major alterations to a 1798 building which had once been a brewery in Brunswick Street in old Dublin, he ended up with some lovely perfectly-seasoned pine of hefty proportions which he stored carefully, such that the rain has never fallen on it.
He could never think of a suitably idealistic use for it until the Ilen Project developed, and that hit the target. So last weekend the beautiful timber of 1798 journeyed to West Cork, and in time it will make a characterful cabin sole in the handsome ship.
Meanwhile, Gary MacMahon had sourced some quality Douglas fir of 1831 from a building in Limerick, and that has already been deployed to good effect in Ilen’s cabins, where seven proper seagoing bunks will be provided.
As for the Ilen Project generally, the recent flurry of news about the re-development of the land around the Ted Russell Dock beside the city centre has reminded everyone that Limerick is now Ilen’s home port, and very well it looked too on a mock-up applied to Ilen’s handsome transom this week.
Much of Ireland may seem to have endured one bout of meteorological mayhem after another for most of the winter, with this weekend being no exception writes W M Nixon. Yet the Guardian Angel of the Ilen Project has always intervened in a very helpful way when this fascinating two-strand restoration of a 1926-built 56ft ketch needs some gentle weather conditions for everything to go according to plan.
Back at the beginning of January, the world watched and waited with bated breath for suitable tidal conditions and a usable weather window to coincide. This was needed to move the 30-ton vessel from her re-build shed to her fit-out berth in the hyper-crowded circumstances of master shipwright Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt in West Cork.
The winter weather onslaught abated for a day, the complex move was made with even a tiny glimpse of January sunshine to brighten its progress, and then with the historic ship secure in her new shore berth, the weather closed in again with renewed vigour for a week, until it relented sufficiently for a robust deck-tent to be erected to allow work to continue.
The presence of the deck tent meant that when the new masts arrived from the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick for almost immediate stepping, gentle conditions were once again required, as the job of craning them in was in effect being done blind.
This week, everything that could be done to the masts in the Limerick workshop was completed. And the weather portents indicated that a smoothly-executed transport job, with 200 kilometres of trucking for the spars, would do the trick provided they were on their way from Limerick on Thursday, and everything was in place for the main part of the stepping on Friday.
This may all seem fairly straightforward to those accustomed to major industrial projects with abundant resources and every possible sort of equipment. But the Ilen Project is none of these things. It’s more of a wing-and-a-prayer shoestring operation. Yet despite their very limited resources, Gary MacMahon and Liam Hegarty and their teams at both locations have succeeded in restoring a fine little ship, and one of considerable historic significance, thanks to her links with Conor O’Brien.
And as the photos show, once again as soon as it was needed, the weather served up conditions even gentler than the most optimistic forecasts. The entire mast move from Limerick to West Cork, and the blind stepping, went like clockwork.
The process demanded the participation of 14 individuals, two forklifts, a 45ft foot road trailer, and a crane and a shorter trailer on arrival at the boatyard. Today, Ilen has two new masts, a prodigious bowsprit, and a very happy crew.
Photos: Deirdre Power, Dermot Lynch and Gary Mac Mahon
You might well say that the Ilen Project has been galvanised into further action writes W M Nixon. The historic 1926-built 56ft ketch’s restoration has been a matter of the hull being re-born at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore, while the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick has moved forward in tandem, building smaller items including deckhouses, which have then been taken to the ship for fitting. And today (Thursday) the mighty mainmast and topmast are being trucked southwestward from the school for early stepping in the ship.
For modern sailors accustomed to silver aluminium extrusions or black carbon fibre, the sight of the beautifully-crafted wooden spars gives pause for thought. But in some ways even more impressive are the traditionally galvanized steel fittings. One upon a time, galvanizing steel fittings for marine use was looked on as something of a luxury. Indeed, it was argued that the “right kind of rust” was in itself a sort of protective coating. But then we went through a stage where galvanizing for everything maritime made in steel was the done thing, while the height of luxury was having bronze fittings in special marine grade.
Quite when stainless steel started to take over is hard to say, but these days grade A316 is the minimum standard stainless steel expected. But traditionalists would have it that if you’re restoring a traditional ship, you must have traditional galvanized fittings. So that was the code followed in assembling the steel bits and pieces which work together to make the Ilen’s mainmast assembly a thing of power and purpose.
Firstly they were made up as naked steel. Then they were given a test fitting. And then when everything had shown itself as right and proper, off they all went went to the nearby galvanizing works, for that’s the way you can do it in the heart of Limerick city.
This week it has all been coming together in its finished form in the boat-building school, and the Thursday journey to far West Cork is a time for mixed feelings. Those spars had become part of the character, the very soul, of the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick. The place won’t seem the same without them, centrally present at some informative stage of their creation. But their departure is part of the continuing creative process. Now, a safe journey is the priority.
Efficient travel between the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick and Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt near Baltimore, where work continues on restoring the 56ft 1926-built ketch Ilen, has been a key factor in progressing the project writes W M Nixon.
All the more detailed parts are assembled in Limerick before being transported to Baltimore for installation in the ship. The recent exceptionally bad winter weather saw the link disconnected for a few days, but now it’s running smoothly again. And next week will see Ilen’s massive mainmast being transported to Oldcourt for early stepping, as her new location in the open – albeit under a special tent structure which withstood the bad weather very well – enables work to proceed in all areas.
The impressive propellor has been fitted, work on the interior has seen Limerick-made tankage of all kinds being installed, and once the mast is in place we’ll be seeing a ship reflecting the Ilen in her working days, though in a much brighter paint scheme to reflect her future educational role.
Once in place, the rig will appear to have it own delicate tracery, but as the images from the Ilen workshop reveal very clearly, the spars and their rigging are on a really heavy and workmanlike scale.
The restoration has been followed with increasing interest by the Falkland Islanders she used to serve, and recently they sent Gary MacMahon in Limerick some photos from the 1970s showing Ilen berthed with the other inter-island communications vessel, the German-built Penelope ex-Feuerland, which like Ilen has been re-patriated to the land of her berth for restoration, in this case in Hamburg.
To the quiet pleasure of the Ilen team, the word from the islands is that Ilen was always the faster of the two, even when her skipper was the youngest commander of all, the recently-recruited 16-year-old Stephen Clifton.
The historic 1926-built 56ft Conor O’Brien trading ketch Ilen is now comfortably under shelter again after her midwinter adventures (on the Ilen River, naturally) at Oldcourt near Baltimore writes W M Nixon.
With her hull, deck and deckhouses restored in a project shared between Oldcourt and the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick, Ilen had to vacate the top shed (aka the Old Grainstore) to provide space for boat-builder Liam Hegarty and his team, with senior shipwright Fachtna O’Sullivan, to begin work in January on the re-construction of Conor O’Brien’s world-girdling 42ft Saoirse. She was originally built in Baltimore in 1922, and is now being re-created at Oldcourt for leading Hong Kong sailor Fred Kinmonth.
Space is so limited ashore in the Oldcourt boatyard that the only way Ilen could be moved to her new berth in the yard was by the river, using Vincent O’Driscoll’s West Cork islands ro-ro freight ferry. We’ve detailed all this in recent postings on Afloat.ie, but with the operation being undertaken as December became January, nobody liked to dwell too much on the strong possibility of extreme weather seriously disrupting the various moves, let alone the chances of serious damage to the 30-ton Ilen herself.
With patience, and then remarkable group efforts when brief weather windows occurred, the entire delicate operation was completed in different stages. And if the photos give the impression that West Cork usually enjoys exceptionally balmy and gentle sunny conditions in late December and early January, then that is clear evidence of the shrewd way in which the moving team made their decision day choices.
But West Cork is no stranger to rain even if it seldom sees snow, so it was essential to get a robust tent-style structure erected over the ship in her new berth as soon as possible. The basic of this waited in Limerick where it had all been pre-made in the Ilen School, and then in some gentle weather last week, James Madigan and Tony Daly zapped down to Oldcourt and the new “house” was in place before the weekend’s rain arrived.
It’s provides a bright and airy place that is now one of the workshops for the installation of Ilen’s interior, which will be of a modified design to facilitate her new role as a marine educational centre. And while she won’t have the ancient Raeburn stove which was a feature in her working days in the Falklands, there’ll be a comparable Canadian marine stove which will be the heart of the vessel.
As to the business of starting the project in cramped conditions which have since been had to be vacated for the move to a compromise outside berth, that’s central to the way the Ilen ideal has been moved along. It simply wouldn’t have happened if it had been launched as some grand project, seeking some anonymous place with a huge boatyard shed. But by growing it organically in a crowded little place where the ships of Conor O’Brien have a special meaning, it has now reached a viable stage where the Ilen and the Saoirse have a new international significance, a deeper spirit to which like-minded people worldwide are positively responding.
The east coast of Ireland may have endured vile weather on Saturday, but in West Cork there was almost a touch of sunny spring in the air when the historic restored ketch Ilen completed the final stage of her short but complex journey from the building shed to her shoreside completion berth writes W M Nixon.
Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt is such a crowded place that it required some lateral thinking to work out how to move the Ilen. She weighs well north of 25 tons, and the ultra-simple four wheel trolley ultimately assembled under her is far indeed from the multi-wheel vehicle which had been hinted at as the complex nature of the move became clear.
But doing such things in unusual ways is the norm at Oldcourt, and the absence of a proper slipway to receive Ilen at the access end of the Top Shed had been solved many years ago by bringing her in at high water on Vincent O’Driscoll’s inter-island freight ferry.
It was roll-on, roll-off when Ilen arrived all those years ago, and it was the same again on Saturday. But the old ketch herself has now been born again. And Vincent and his crew have a new ferry, memorably called the Sabrina II.
Having been given full approval by the Top Shed yard cat, the Ilen waited patiently for the right conditions, while inside the shed work got underway on the first stages of the re-build of Ilen’s more famous older but smaller sister, Conor O’Brien’s world-girdling Saoirse.
Came Saturday, the sun rose up, the wind went down, the tide lifted high, and Sabrina II thrust her ramp in under Ilen’s stern and the characterful old ketch was taken on board with style. Then with textbook efficiency, after a very short voyage up the Ilen River, she was taken off the ferry in another part of the yard with the tide at a height that ensured a very smooth progression.
Ilen is now comfortably in the shore berth which she’ll only leave to be put afloat. Meanwhile in Limerick – home base of the Ilen Project – director Gary MacMahon has overseen the assembly of a pre-fabricated roof structure which will be assembled at the yard to protect the Ilen work from the West Cork weather. For even in Oldcourt, the sun doesn’t shine all the time.