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The latest photos of the restoration work on Ireland's only remaining Sail–Trader Ilen reveal wonderful new Larch planked bulwarks are begining to embrace the 56–ft sailing ketch. They will be expected to shoulder many an Atlantic sea, according to Gary MacMahon, of the Ilen restoration school. 

Ilen is expected to be a show–piece attraction at July's Glandore classic boat regatta, As Afloat.ie reported earlier.

The ketch was built in 1926 in the Baltimore Fishery School Boatyard for the Falkland Islands Company.

She was designed and sailed to the Falkland Islands by Conor O'Brien, who in 1925, was the first Irishman to complete a circumnavigation of the world in the 42-ft ketch, Saoirse, also built in Baltimore.

Ilen ketchAbove and below these new Larch planks were put in place today on the Ilen. 

Ilen ketch

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Glandore Classic Boat Regatta celebrates its 25th anniversary this July with a Parade of Sail that will feature the fully restored AK Ilen, Ireland's sole surviving Sail Trader.

There will be four days of first class racing, with eight different classes so far plus a ‘cruise in company’ to Castletownshend from July 23–28 as part of the Glandore regatta line–up.

A demonstration of ‘synchronised sailing’ from the Dublin Bay Water Wags will also be a regatta highlight.

Ilen, a centre–piece of the West Cork event, is a 56-ft sailing ketch that was built in 1926 in the Baltimore Fishery School Boatyard for the Falkland Islands Company.

She was designed and sailed to the Falkland Islands by Conor O'Brien, who in 1925, was the first Irishman to complete a circumnavigation of the world in the 42-ft ketch, Saoirse, also built in Baltimore.

The Ilen served seventy years as a trading vessel in the tempestuous seas of the South Atlantic before being brought back to Ireland in 1998.

Now nearing completion, Ilen is the focal point for a remarkable maritime project embracing the A.K. Ilen School for wooden boatbuilding in Limerick and Hegarty's boatyard in Oldcourt.

Joining Ilen in Glandore, elegant classic boats like Peggy Bawn, Celtic Mist, Spirit of Oysterhaven, Peel Castle and Big Momma will also be part of the historic parade of sail. 

One very interesting participating boat will be the Naomh Lua, a 1954 Watson which served as the lifeboat for Shannon Airport for 30 years, built to rescue 120 passengers from the Shannon estuary.

Glandore harbour from seaGlandore harbour from sea. Photo courtesy: Dennis Horgan

The 25th anniversary regatta will be opened by Dee Forbes, the Director General of RTÉ, the first woman to hold the role in the state broadcaster.

Classic cars will be coming through the village on Sunday 23rd, and there will be classic West Cork craic in the pubs and restaurants after each daily prize giving, including music and dancing in the street.

For hungry sailors coming off the water there will be food trucks on the pier for instant snacks, and BBQ facilities will be available in the GHYC yard for those living on board who are self-catering. 

For non-sailors guided walks will be available, including to the famous Drombeg Stone Circle. Sea kayaking, deep sea fishing, and whale watching are all available from Union Hall, across the harbour.

Published in Ilen

The restoration of the 57–ft traditional multi-cargo ketch Ilen, built in Baltimore in 1926, has taken a significant step forward through the formal closing of her deck with the ceremonial fastening home of the final plank at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt beside the River Ilen.

The ceremony, hosted on Saturday by the Ilen Project, Limerick, marked a significant milestone in a re-build project whose primary goal is to bring Ireland’s sole surviving wooden sailing ship back to Limerick. It was Limerick man Conor O’Brien of Foynes Island who secured the order for the Ilen when he called by the Falkland Islands after rounding Cape Horn in 1925 in his world-girdling 40ft Baltimore-built Saoirse. The islanders decided that a larger version of Saoirse would provide an ideal inter-island communication, transport and ferry vessel for their rugged archipelago, and within two years Conor O’Brien had returned with the Ilen to fulfill their commission.

Ilen deckAmerican shipwright Matt Dirr, one of the many international talents who has contributed his skills to the Ilen project, does some final tidying-up before the ceremony.

Saturday’s very special occasion revealed the beauty of the vessel to all those who attended - the high quality materials, the exemplary craftsmanship, and most significantly the marine educational role the vessel can be expected to play when she takes up her operational life on the Shannon Estuary and beyond, from her new home port of Limerick.

Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey, a key promoter of the Ilen Project, officiated at the ceremony and said that what has been achieved so far showed that there was not alone a great work ethic in the Ilen Project but also a spiritual commitment to the work being done. "This is an amazing act of faith and commitment come to fruition. This boat, and the people involved with it, rock. It is heading for the sea, like a salmon, and it will not be stopped, even if some of the financial people have still to solve their problems of calculus and apply their mathematics. The faith, energy and skill of Liam Hegarty, John Hegarty, Fachtna O’Sullivan, and their team at Hegarty’s Boatyard are sufficient to tell a tree to be uprooted and launched into the sea, and see it happen. Their work is a phenomenon which outside administrators might better observe and study rather than direct or control.”

Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal Abbey has been a key promoter of the Iken Project since its inception, and spoke with enthusiasm of all that it meant to those involved and to Limerick generally.

Ceremony guest speaker Lord David Puttnam said that "the project underlined what could be done by a determined community, a community that could make their decisions for themselves, not to be dependent upon others beyond their community, but to be self-sufficient, and the project of the Ilen showed that. It also demonstrated that the skills involved, and which were being taught, were skills which younger people could learn, use and remain in their community, without having to leave, and thus strengthen communities. This is a message from the Ilen project."

Gary MacMahon, Ilen Boat-building School David TuckerThe supporters of the Ilen Project come from a wide range of backgrounds – this is Gary MacMahon, a director of the Ilen Boat-building School, with former Irish Cruising Club Commodore David Tucker of Kinsale.

Dr Edward Walsh, founding president of the University of Limerick, also spoke, and told of how he had at the outset of the project exhorted all to simply “go ahead and buy the boat” and “pretend” that the money was there, and it was a source of great pride for him to see how it had advanced so far.
The good ship Ilen has advanced to this moment in time where she happily accepts this final plank. It has been a long journey, an arduous journey, which continues, but one which has reached a plateau, a place and time of wonder and of thanks.
In 1926 the Ilen, Ireland’s sole surviving wooden sailing ship, sailed from Limerick to an active 70 year working life in the South Atlantic, and the completion last Saturday of her new weather deck brings her return to seafaring a lot closer.

Dr Edward Walsh IlenDr Edward Walsh has a look-see down below. The founder of Limerick University encouraged the project from the start with his initial advice of “go head and buy the boat”, and since then funds have been raised from a wide variety of sources to keep the show on the road.
Saturday’s decking-out ceremony afforded all those who attended the unique opportunity to view the classic lines of the vessel, feel the reel of the heaving keel, admire her sheer, walk the new old growth Douglas Fir deck, or stand below deck amid her massive Irish oak frames - a tactile experiences unique to big wooden sailing ships.

And so Sinead Hegarty and Mary Jordan of Baltimore, hammered home the final deck plank with blows swift, sweet and true. The ship seemed imperceptibly to roll a little, looking forward to her sea trials.

Mary Jordan of BaltimoreJob done. Mary Jordan of Baltimore drives home the final deck fastening. All photos Kevin O’Farrell, Baltimore

Published in Ilen
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A 22–foot long bowsprit is an impressive sight. ‘Wow’ was my first reaction as I stood on the deck of the historic Ilen looking at it during the ‘decking-out’ ceremony for the vessel which I report on the new edition of THIS ISLAND NATION. It is not a bowsprit to be challenged and it will give the Ilen a distinctive and dominant presence when she goes in the water again. I am looking forward to that day at Hegarty’s Boatyard in Oldcourt near Skibbereen, in West Cork.

It will be some occasion and there is no doubt that it will happen. That was made clear at the ceremony where Conor O’Brien’s famous ketch, the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships, now beautifully restored was the focal point of attention.

“There’s a lot still to be done, but this ship is building herself towards going in the water as the skilled people at this yard restore her and she will go in the water, of that you can be certain,” Gary told me. You can hear him on the programme and also Brother Anthony Keane from Glenstal Abbey who summarised the skill of wooden boat building which Liam Hegarty’s yard has demonstrated in the restoration project. And when you listen to the programme here, he has a bit of news for the Minister for Finance!

I have designed THIS ISLAND NATION to be a reflective, informative and entertaining programme about maritime matters… That’s what is regarded in radio land as a “niche programme…” and it’s one where your comments are always particularly welcome… by Email to: [email protected] or by phone to 0872 555197.

In this new edition you can also hear the words of Damien Brazil, Instructor in the Marine, Offshore Safety and Survival sector of the Fisheries and Marine Institute at the Memorial University of Newfoundland: "We always knew who we were. We came here Irish and we didn't change a whole lot.” He is a man with great knowledge of Ireland's maritime/historical connections. His people emigrated from Ballylongford in Co.Kerry.
With a little bit about jigging for squid; the story of what happened to a Lifeboatman on his wedding day and news about a development to prevent the theft of Ringbuoys as well as new volunteer rescue services in Sligo and Clare, this is an edition packed with maritime news, discussion, comment and information.

Published in Ilen
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We well know from running stories now and again about the restoration of the Conor O’Brien 57ft ketch Ilen at Oldcourt near Baltimore for Limerick’s Ilen Boat-building School just what a high level of interest it arouses at home and abroad writes W M Nixon. So when this Community Invitation for the decking-out ceremony in nine days time pinged through the inbox, we thought for a moment about how best to publicise it. Then the spotting of a little typo allowed us to send a pompous email telling them that the curve of the top of the hull is the sheer, but if you want to shear, then you need sheep.

Sheep cargo Ilen KetchShip sheep. Ilen takes aboard woolly passengers in her working days

 Ilen wool cargo Ketch sailing shipJob done. After a successful shearing session, Ilen heads for home with bags of quality wool

You don’t pull the wool over the Limerick men’s eyes for long. Within minutes there came back the photo of Ilen’s deck well-filled with sheep during her working days in the Falkland Islands, and then another one with her foredeck topped-up with bags of wool after a successful shearing expedition.

That was followed in due course by a typo-free invite for the ceremony. It will be quite a party.

Ilen Invite4Ilen invitation all present and correct

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Last Saturday, October 2nd, at 5pm on the River Shannon in the heart of the city, the idea of a significant international rally and rowing race event for traditional craft was realised.

It’s a developing concept, an event in the making that has the potential to promote to the wider world the special pleasures of rowing Limerick’s many hidden waterways.

Thirty boats gathered on O’Callaghan Strand slip. They were all wonderful vernacular craft of the best traditional types, imbued with their owners’ characters, and manned with equally characterful crews who had travelled with their beloved boats from Cork, West Clare, Limerick and the adjacent boat-beds of Clarina, Coonagh, Ringmoylan and Askeaton, to make up a generous inaugural King’s Island Race fleet. The best of October weather came out in support as the rowers pulled east towards Thomond Bridge, to begin a wonderful inaugural King’s Island Race in warm sunshine.

"Visiting rowers to the city were more than surprised with the splendour of the city’s river environment, and particularly with how being in a small boat can so quickly put it in a fresh context” said Gary MacMahon, director of the Ilen School which hosted the event. “In fact” he added, "they were a bit disappointed we had not shared this metropolitan rowing pearl with them earlier…….At any rate, the secret has now escaped the city, as we at the Ilen.ie School plan to develop this King’s Island Race as a quality international annual river event for Limerick.” he confirmed.

kings island2Kings Island on the north side of central Limerick provides an ideal course for a rowing race, but you need to time it such that you take the last of the flood tide going northeast, and the first of the ebb returning southwest. Photo: Google

From time immemorial, the waterways of metropolitan Limerick have been noted for their turbulent character, a dynamic confluence of strong Atlantic tides and flooding land-waters. This can make making it an implacable waterway, indifferent to the locomotion of local boats and their pilots. Accordingly, the sagacious Limerick boater will always go with the favourable tides and floods, the great elemental currents that in synchronised use will sweep a boat and her crew 'like the clappers' around King’s Island.

For the few who take pleasure in Limerick City’s local boats, their construction, maintenance and handling, a row around the city's King’s Island is an eagerly awaited seasonal outing which they now wish to share with others. For the energetic boater, it is a magnificent 45 minute dash over fast water, along ever changing river topography. And for the leisurely rower, which seems the greater number of city boaters, it is an inimitable row to another world - one that lies where the built city surrenders to the wild river banks, near the meeting of the Shannon and the Abbey Rivers.

The Ilen School and Network for Wooden Boat Building in Limerick City has for many years taught the craft of building local boats, and it also diffuses the skills of boat handling, particularly as they map on to waters that flow uniquely through the city. The Ilen.ie school also serves as a network for local river folk, a sort of assembly for new ideas and conversations around all things to do with local boats, and which from time to time has entertained the idea of an around Kings Island boat race.

For many of the crews taking part, it was more of a reasonably briskly-paced row-in-company than an out and-out-race. But some were undoubtedly very competitive, none more so than the winners, Michael Grimes and his crew of currach men who hail from Coonagh, a secret little “boat bed” on the north bank of the Shannon Estuary just a mile west of Limerick City. None could match the Coonagh crew.

kings island3In the end it was Michael Grimes’ currach from Coonagh which won, and the fleet included a good selection of classic black currach types, with four of them here together with three grey Shannon gandelows. Photo: Gary MacMahon

Published in Coastal Rowing
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The re-decking of the 57ft Conor O’Brien ketch Ilen (originally built Baltimore 1926) is the latest stage of this major restoration/re-build project to be nearing completion at Liam Hegarty’s boatyard at Oldcourt on the Ilen River between Skibbereen and Baltimore writes W M Nixon. It is expected that the deck will be signed off by October 15th, and work will then proceed on more detailed work.

As part of the project, the new bowsprit – built by trainees in the Ilen Boat-building School in Limerick – was delivered down to Oldcourt last Saturday, and Ilen School Director Gary MacMahon reports a magic moment when Baltimore sailing legend Dermot Kennedy, owner himself of a similar ketch the Richard, called by Oldcourt on Saturday to give the deck his blessing and welcome the bowsprit to West Cork.

ilen deck2One for the road…..the massive new bowsprit for Ilen about to depart for Baltimore from Limerick, where it was made by trainees in the Ilen Boat-building School. In the photo (from left) are Cyril the Driver, Brother Anthony Keane of Glenstal, Robert Smalle, and Gary MacMahon

ilen deck3Combined effort. While the hull and deck of the Ilen have been re-constructed in the boatyard at Oldcourt in West Cork, all the deckhouses and hatches have been built in the trainee workshops of the Ilen Boat-Building School in Limerick. Photo: Gary MacMahon

All the deckhouses, hatchways and similar “cabinet” work in the Ilen project has been done in Limerick and then trucked to Oldcourt. There, the main part of the hull and deck re-building has been progressing steadily, sometimes drawing on the talents of international traditional boat-builders who have been enticed to the magnet of West Cork by the quality and scale of the workmanship being produced by Liam Hegarty and his team.

ilen deck4 While you wouldn’t expect to find a forehatch like this on a modern offshore racer, on the traditional ketch Ilen the new Limerick-built forehatch housing looks very much at home. Photo: Gary MacMahon

IIen was originally commissioned in 1925 by the Falkland Islanders to be their inter-island communications vessel after they had been properly impressed by her smaller sister, Conor O’Brien’s own-designed 42ft ketch Saoirse, which called to the Falklands in 1925 after rounding Cape Horn during his pioneering global circumnavigation.

O’Brien agreed to be involved with the Ilen project with Tom Moynihan the master shipwright of Baltimore, and then when the vessel was completed, her sailed her out to the Falklands. Because his only qualification was as a yachtmaster, for the delivery voyage the Ilen had to be registered as a yacht for insurance purposes, and she made the voyage under the burgee of the Royal Irish Yacht Club.

ilen deck5 The Ilen on her launching day at Baltimore, 1926. She had to be registered as a yacht for insurance purposes, as her skipper Conor O’Brien’s only qualification was as a yachtsmaster, so he made the delivery to Ilen’s new owners in the Falkland Islands sailing under the burgee of the Royal Irish YC. This also obliged him to carry the RIYC’s then-recognised British blue ensign. But a look at this photo soon reveals the Irish ensign under the bowsprit, celebrating the fact that in making his 1923-25 circumnavigation with Saoirse, Conor O’Brien became the first captain to sail on any major voyage under the Irish tricolour

Published in Ilen

The season is upon us for goodwill and dreams of very special gifts. And for many Irish sailors, the dream Christmas present would be an elegantly classic or solidly traditional wooden boat, with all maintenance and running costs somehow covered by Divine Providence into infinity……W M Nixon goes down the Yuletide timber trail.

Love of wood is part of what we are. It’s in our genes. At some times and some places in the remote past, an instinctive fondness for wood, and an inherited ability to do something useful with it, would make all the difference between survival and extinction. So though today the availability of other more purposeful materials may have transformed boat-building, a new boat without some sort of wood trim is a very rare thing indeed.

At a more personal level, many of today’s generation of sailors cherish family memories of the communal building of wooden DIY kit boats at home. Here, there and everywhere, a drawing room or little-used dining room found itself a useful new purpose as a boat-building salon, with Mirror dinghies and occasionally larger craft taking shape in domestic settings throughout the land.

“Our daddy the boat-builder” became a household name in his own household. And for those who sometimes wonder why today’s adult sailors can become misty-eyed at the very thought of the Mirror dinghy (which really was and is a wonderful design and concept), the answer surely is that at a significant stage of their sailing and family life, a Mirror dinghy was centre stage, the symbol of a family’s shared values, hopes and interests.

But maybe the most important thing about the Mirror is that she is so eminently practical. So perhaps at Christmas we should allow our imaginations to take flight and soar high to envisage the complete wooden dreamship. And there she is as our header image, introducing this week’s meandering thoughts. That schooner at the moment is total fantasy. But any sailing enthusiast who looks at that concept design and doesn’t think: “Now there’s my dreamship”, well, he or she just doesn’t have a true sailing soul.

The origins of Eirinn, as she is named for the time being, go back to 2012, when the nascent Atlantic Youth Trust sought suggestions as to what a new sail training vessel for all Ireland should look like. But with their proposals recently getting the first real hints of a fair wind from both governments, the AYT have gone firmly down the route of a 40 metre steel barquentine.

Ilen at Oldcourt

The Ilen as she was in the Spring of 2015 in Oldcourt...

Ilen Boatbuilding School….while in the Ilen Boatbuilding School in Limerick, spars and deckhouses were taking shape

Ilen in Oldcourt

Deckhouses built in Limerick are offered up on the Ilen in Oldcourt

However, down in Limerick where they were busy with moving forward the restoration of the Conor O’Brien 1926 ketch Ilen at two sites – the hull with Liam Hegarty in Oldcourt near Baltimore in West Cork, and the deckhouses, spars and other smaller items being built at the Ilen Boat Building School in Limerick – they gave some thought in 2012 to the possible form of a new sail training vessel. They came up with the concept of a classic 70ft schooner which they knew, thanks to the work on Ilen, that they could build themselves using the skills learned and deployed in re-building the O’Brien ketch.

classic schooner

A classic hull for a classic schooner – Theo Rye’s profile and general arrangements plan for the schooner concept of 2012

But with the Ilen project moving steadily on towards the vessel’s commissioning next summer, and with other directly-related new proposals at an advanced stage in the pipeline, that sublime schooner concept is in a sort of limbo, truly a fantasy.

Yet she’s such a lovely thing that we’re happy to use her as our symbol of Christmas cheer. Her creators are Gary MacMahon of the Ilen Boatbuilding School, and Theo Rye, who is best known as a technical consultant in naval architecture, and on clarifying matters of design history and detail in boat and yacht design. But he can turn his hand to all sorts of design commissions if required. He came up with the clever concept for the CityOne dinghies in Limerick, and when Gary started musing about a classic training schooner, within the scope of what the Ilen school could do, as their answer to the AYT sail training vessel query, Theo came up with the goods and then some.

In fact, the design of the hull is so perfect that we’ll run it again right here to save you the trouble of scrolling back to the top. The overhangs at bow and stern are in harmony, but it is the sheerline which is the master-stroke. There isn’t anything you’d want to change in it, yet when you look at other famous schooners such as the fictional Southseaman (in real life she was Northern Light) in Weston Martyr’s masterpiece of maritime literature The Southseaman – the Story of a Schooner (1926), we see a sheerline which is too flat in the way of the foremast. But with Eirinn, the curve is just right, and it’s something achieved by tiny adjustments and balances which the eye can’t really perceive, yet somehow it registers the sublime harmony of the total concept.

Eirinn schooner

Worth a second look – and then a third one. The longer you look at the lines of Eirinn, the sweeter they seem. But her overall appearance might be improved with a slight rake of the masts

Southseaman schoonerA schooner sheer not quite right – Weston Martyr’s Southseaman (aka Northern Light) could have done with a livelier sheerline abeam of the foremast.

So Theo Rye not only writes critiques of other people’s designs, but if given the chance he can personally come up with something which is wellnigh impossible to fault. Of course, we mightn’t quite go for the same rig – a little bit of rake in the masts wouldn’t go amiss - and for private use you’d want something a little different from the dormitory layout of the training ship. But that said, this is a beautiful yet not excessively pretty-pretty hull, a boat which sings. And the fact that she’s beyond just about every private owner’s reach only adds to the mystique.

But to redress the balance, last week we’d an inspiring evening’s entertainment and information about a dreamship which really is being re-created. It was the December gathering of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association in the ever-hospitable Poolbeg Y & BC, and a full house was there to hear about how Paddy Murphy of Renvyle in the far northwest of Connemara is getting on with his mission of bringing the famous Manx sailing nobby Aigh Vie back to life.

Paddy himself is something special. When asked his trade, he says he’s a blacksmith. But he can turn his hand to anything. Originally a Dub, his early sailing experiences included owning a Flying Fifteen and a Dragon, though not – so far as I know – at the same time. But then got the gaff rig traditional boat bug, and a sail on Mick Hunt’s Manx nobby Vervine Blossom sent him in pursuit of near-sister Aigh Vie. She was reportedly for sale, having for a long time been the pet family cruising boat of Billy Smyth and his family at Whiterock Boatyard on Strangford Lough, after spending her final working years fishing as a motorized vessel out of Ardglass.

Aigh Vie

Aigh Vie as she was in Whiterock Boatyard when Paddy Murphy bought her, her elegant huul shape clearly in evidence

Aigh VieAigh Vie in her final working days as a motorised fishing boat based at Ardglass

The deal was done, an ideal buy for a special man like Paddy Murphy, for the Aigh Vie is one very special vessel. The Manx fishing nobbies reached their ultimate state of development in the first twenty years of the 20th Century before steam power and then diesel engines took over. The nobby evolved to an almost yacht-like form through vessels like the 43ft White Heather (1904), which is owned and sailed under original-style dipping lug rig by Mike Clark in the Isle of Man, and the 1910 Vervine Blossom, now based in Kinvara, which was restored by Mick Hunt of Howth, but he gave her a more easily-handled gaff ketch rig which looked very well indeed when she sailed in the Vigo to Dublin Tall Ships Race in 1998.

Manx nobby Vervine Blossom

It was a sail on Mick Hunt’s 1910-built Manx nobby Vervine Blossom which inspired Paddy Murphy to go in pursuit of Aigh Vie

It takes quite something to outdo the provenance of these two fine vessels, but the story of Aigh Vie (it means a sort of mix of “good luck” and “fair winds” in Manx) is astonishing. It goes back to the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U Boat off the Cork coast in May 1915, when the first boat to mount a rescue was the Manx fishing ketch Wanderer from Peel, her crew of seven skippered by the 58-year-old William Ball.

They came upon a scene of developing carnage. Yet somehow, the little Wanderer managed to haul aboard and find space for 160 survivors, and provide them with succour and shelter as they made for port. In due course, as the enormity of the incident became clear, the achievement of the Wanderer’s crew was to be recognised with a special medal presentation. And then William Ball, who had been an employee of the Wanderer’s owner, received word that funds had been lodged with a lawyer in Peel on behalf of one of the American survivors he’d rescued. The money was to be used to underwrite the building of his own fishing boat, to be built in Peel to his personal specifications. The name of the donor has never been revealed, but the result was William Ball’s dreamship, the Aigh Vie, launched in December 1916 and first registered for fishing in January 1917.

Over the years, the Aigh Vie became a much-loved feature of the Irish Sea fishing fleet. Tim Magennis, former President of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association, well remembers her from his boyhood days in the fishing port of Ardglass on the County Down coast. Her working days over, Billy Smyth gradually converted her to a Bermudan-rigged cruising ketch with a sheltering wheelhouse which enabled the Smyth family to make some notable cruises whatever the weather. His son Kenny Smyth, who now runs the boatyard with his brothers and is himself an ace helm in the local 29ft River Class, recalls that the seafaring Smyth family thought nothing of taking the Aigh Vie to the Orkneys at a time when the average Strangford Lough cruiser thought Tobermory the limit of reasonable ambitions.

After he’d bought the Aigh Vie and brought to her first base in Howth, Paddy Murphy soon realised he’d still a lot to learn about sailing and about keeping hard-worked old wooden boats in seafaring condition. But he’s such an entertaining and inspirational speaker that you’re swept along in his enthusiasm and empathise with his admission that, now and again, he felt things were getting on top of him.

Vervine Blossom and Aigh Vie

Sisters - Vervine Blossom (foreground) and Aigh Vie in Howth

Sailing days on the Aigh Vie

Sailing days on the Aigh Vie from Howth, before it was decided that she needed a major restoration

Following several seasons with increasing evidence of problems, he decided that a virtual re-build was necessary. It was then that the Dublin wooden boat owners’ perennial problem shot to the top of the agenda. In our very expensive city, the space and shelter to work long hours at an old wooden boats is almost impossible to come by, and he’d to shift the big Aigh Vie several times. On one occasion, he was asked to move in a hurry out of an ESB shed, but was offered £1,000 (this was pre-Euro days) to do so. He moved heaven and earth and finally found somewhere else at considerable expense, got the Aigh Vie installed there, and then went back to collect his thousand snots. Only to be laughed at. The manager told him it was the only way he could see to get the old boat moved out, but there were absolutely no funds available at all for such a thing, and surely Paddy would have guessed that?

deckhouses boat frames

The re-building under way at Renvyle, using the technique where hull shape is retained by first replacing every other frame

With one thing and another, he moved to Renvyle in Connemara where he liked the big country and the open spaces and the friendly people right on the edge of the Atlantic, and in time Aigh Vie came too, and found herself being slowly re-born under a special roof. But it was demanding work for one man, so every so often a team led by Paul Keogh of the famous Galway Hooker from Clondalkin, the Naomh Cronan, together with a good selection of DBOGA specialist talent, descends on Renvyle to put in a ferocious day or two of work, and then on the Saturday night they put a fair bit of business the way of the pub at Tullycross.

boat planking

The planking was more easily restored by laying the Aigh Vie over on her side

boat building galway

Agh Vie upright again, and the deckhouses are being put in place

DBOGA workteam boat buildersDBOGA workteam of all the talents descends on Renvyle. Paul Keogh of the Naomh Cronan (left) and Paddy Murphy himself (second right). Photo: Cormac LowthPerkins diesel install

Old Gaffers Association International President Sean Walsh (right) and Peter Redmond install Aigh Vie’s new Perkins diesel. Photo: Cormac Lowth

classic lug ketch

One of the options for Aig Vie’s rig is the classic lug ketch as shown here with Mike Clark’s 1903-built White Heather

So now, many years later, the journey towards the restored Aigh Vie is getting near its destination. But it will never be fully ended. Thanks to sails, spars and rigs donated from other boats, Paddy has the choice of either gaff ketch or classic lug rig, so she’ll always be work in progress. Which is good news. Because every couple of years or so, the DBOGA can guarantee a full house to hear Paddy Murphy talking about how the Aigh Vie story is going.

He’s a wonderful speaker, sometimes almost messianic, and he shares his every feeling. Thus he mentioned that one day he was feeling a bit low, and he just went out to look at the big boat down by the shore, seeking some sort of inspiration. His mind had been elsewhere with the details of completing the interior, but he suddenly realised that he was at the stage of thinking of putting the white paint on the topsides. So he just set to with a big paint brush and a bigger tin of paint, and Aigh Vie was transformed. So was he. “That’s the secret” says he. “If you’re feeling a bit down, just go out and slap on some white paint. It works wonders.”

white paint on the boat

Feeling a bit down? Then just go out and slap a coat of white paint on the boat – it works wonders

Aigh Vie’s sweet linesA very special boat – Aigh Vie’s sweet lines can now be fully appreciated again. Photo: Cormac Lowth

Published in W M Nixon

An international gathering at the Ilen School, Roxboro, Limerick of expert marine traditional riggers, sailmakers and classic boatbuilders, might induce one to speculate that a sailing ship is somewhere in Ireland nearing completion. And yes, this gathering of last Friday, clearly marks a significant juncture in the rebuild of Ireland’s 1926 wooden sailing ship Ilen. The way has now been mapped, essential tasks identified, and if rebuilding milestones are achieving, then there is no reason to think that the good ship will not be plying a new trade in Education of the Sea by late summer 2016.Ilen IrishSailingShip

Published in Ilen
Tagged under

#anglingcot – The Ilen School, Roxboro, are today celebrating a great River Shannon adventure. This adventure involved 180–miles of rowing from Belleek in Fermanagh to Limerick City, over a two week period, by a team of two Ilen School boatmen - Tony Daly and Liam O'Donoghue, both residents of Ballynanty.

Not only did this intrepid duo navigate their traditional 23ft–wooden City Angling Cot to Limerick, through ever-changing river terrain, great lakes and canals, but they also built the beautiful craft using traditional skills over the winter months at the Ilen School.

This adventure further exemplifies the life-long learning philosophy of the Ilen School, which valorises the direct experience of individuals above all else. The school is planning many such adventures in the years ahead, and welcomes the "youth of all ages" with a sense of adventure for building in wood, community building and voyaging on rivers and sea to get involved. 

 

Published in Historic Boats
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