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Displaying items by tag: Strangford Lough

Portaferry RNLI launched to the aid of four people across three callouts on Strangford Lough over the weekend for the Northern Ireland volunteer lifeboat crew.

The first call came just after 1am on Saturday morning (28 May) when a spoken-word mayday was picked up by Belfast Coastguard reporting an incident on Strangford Lough. There were no other details provided.

Helmed by Chris Adair and with three crew members onboard, the inshore lifeboat was launched for a search of the Portaferry shoreline. The HM Coastguard helicopter Rescue 199 from Prestwick was also tasked.

After three hours of searching and with nothing found, the lifeboat was stood down and the incident was declared a false alarm with good intent.

The second callout came at 4pm on Saturday after Belfast Coastguard reported that a person on a small punt had got into difficulty in shallow waters.

After emerging from the vessel and attempting to drag it to shore, the person had reportedly got stuck in mud in Cadew Bay, south of Whiterock on Strangford Lough.

The lifeboat helmed by Adair launched and made its way to the scene, where approach was made tricky by the low water conditions.

Portaferry and Bangor Coastguard mud rescue teams were also tasked and helped bring the person and their boat ashore, and the RNLI volunteers were subsequently stood down.

The lifeboat crew were called out once again on Sunday morning (29 May) at 5.21am following a report that a 30ft yacht with three people onboard that had run aground outside Portaferry Marina.

Adair again helmed the lifeboat along with three crew members and after assessing the situation on scene, they decided the best course of action was to establish a towline and bring the grounded vessel to the nearest safe port at Portaferry Marina.

Speaking following the three callouts, Portaferry RNLI’s lifeboat press officer Jordan Conway said: “This has been a busy weekend for our volunteer lifeboat crew and we would like to commend them and out colleagues in the coastguard for their efforts in going to the aid of those in difficulty.

“We would also like to commend the person who raised the alarm with good intent for the first call out. While nothing was found, we would always much rather launch and find nothing rather than not launch at all.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

There’s certainly a great variety of racing this season in Strangford Lough.

The Strangford Lough Racing Calendar has just published its fixtures for 2022 and the very busy months till the end of September kick off with the two-day Quoile YC Spring Series hosted at the end of April by the club at the southern end of the Lough.

Eight of the clubs on the Lough will run a variety of events and regattas during this season.

Following on in mid-May are the Squib Northerns at Killyleagh on the western shore of the Lough with the classic 102-year-old River Class holding its Anniversary Series on 25th and 26th June at Strangford Lough Yacht Club at Whiterock, where the following weekend the Club hosts the Ulster Laser Championships, an event which always attracts a big turnout.

That six-mile stretch of fast strong tidal water, the Narrows, at the mouth of the Lough will be the scene in mid-July for the traditional Narrows Series when sailors from all around the Lough and visitors from farther afield, take part over the four days – 11th till 14th July.

The first club to appear in that area was Strangford Sailing Club in 1946 on the west shore of the Narrows and opposite in Portaferry the Cooke Street club appeared, possibly also in the 1940s. It closed in 1956 and re-emerged as Portaferry SC in 1970. From a photograph in James Nixon’s excellent River Class History, it seems that the Narrows Series existed in the 1950s.

The series is made up of four events hosted by Strangford and Portaferry. As told in the history of the River Class. “As with many coastal and lakeside Irish towns and villages, there is a tradition of holding ‘regattas’ in the summer. Both villages probably did so from the early 19th century. Commenting on the long-standing event Fiona Hicks, a lifelong sailing member of Strangford Lough Yacht Club; “There have been regattas in the Narrows since they were invented I would imagine!” Last year this series attracted a big fleet of 140 boats.

The first race on 11th July is the Bar Buoy Race run by Strangford Sailing Club. Again, according to the River Class book, it dates back to the 1950s when Punts and Wychcraft raced between the two towns on the ‘Ferry Course’. When bigger boats wanted to join in a more expansive course round the Bar Buoy outside the mouth of the Lough was set up.

The three regattas, Strangford SC, Portaferry SC and Portaferry Town follow.

Interspersed with regattas and open events are coastal races, namely a race round the South Rock off Kearney Point on the Ards Peninsula eastern coast, the Ardglass race to the fishing port of that name south of the Narrows on the County Down coast as well as the Isle of Man race and cruise.

And an interesting addition to the fixture list this year is the stand alone pre - 50th anniversary of the birth of the Ruffian class in the early 70s designed by the legendary the late Billy Brown with his brother Dickie building the hull of the new boat. It was followed by the smaller Ruffian 23 (produced by the newly formed Weatherly Yachts) and it was to the launch of this successful Quarter Tonner that William was invited for a sail test of the prototype at Portaferry. 

Ruffian 23 debut in 1973Ruffian 23 debut in 1973 photo W M Nixon

The Ruffian anniversary will be organised by Portaferry SC as part of the Sails and Sounds festival in the town on 6th and 7th August.

Event organiser Maura Ritchie said, “We are inviting all Ruffian boats to Portaferry for a fun challenge race and opportunity to see the area where their boats where created; to enjoy the festival and prepare for big one next year where there will be exhibitions, talks, tours and lots of water activities”.

The family of the late Billy Brown and will be in attendance this year and on the actual Anniversary in 2023. Maura continued “They are delighted with the whole programme”.

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At the end of March, the Strangford and Lecale Partnership started a new pilot study of Advanced Mooring Systems in Strangford Lough. It is the first study of its kind in Northern Ireland, and these eco-friendly moorings will avoid or limit the damage caused to the seafloor habitats and species by the swinging chain of traditional boat moorings.

The Partnership covers the whole of the Strangford and Lecale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, taking in much of the Ards Peninsula, Strangford Lough and Lecale. It brings together statutory authorities to improve heritage management across the whole of the area and is underpinned by the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Newry Mourne and Down District Council and Ards and North Down Borough Council.

The Sterling mooring system uses floats to keep the chain off the seabed

Two different types of advanced mooring systems were installed in Ballyhenry Bay following condition assessments of the Seagrass around the existing swinging chain moorings. The site is just north of Portaferry on the eastern shore of the Lough near the Narrows.

A Seaflex Mooring unit about to be deployedA Seaflex Mooring unit about to be deployed

The diver video recorded the seagrass condition around the entire circumference of the mooring, the old mooring was removed and the new mooring installed.

The two different systems being trialled are Seaflex, an elastic and environmentally friendly mooring solution and Sterling which uses floats to keep the chain off the seabed.

The area will be resurveyed next year to see which has been more successful in allowing the seagrass to re-establish. This work is being carried out by Cuan Marine Services Ltd, in partnership with local mooring owners, and funded through the NIEA Challenge Fund. This fund supports the Water Quality Improvement Strand of the Environmental Challenge Fund which seeks to support projects that help people connect with and seek improvements to their local aquatic environment.

Cuan Marine Services are carrying out the Strangford Lough studyCuan Marine Services are carrying out the Strangford Lough study

Cuan Marine Services were employed by Newry Mourne and Down District Council to deliver a feasibility study ‘Potential for advanced-moorings as management option for Strangford Lough Marine Protected Areas (MPA)’

Hen Island lies in Whiterock Bay near Sketrick Island on the west shore of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland and used to be the location for a popular raft race.

Now post Lockdown the Strangford Lough Raft Race is back by popular demand and will be held on Friday 3rd June on the 2022 Jubilee Weekend. Places are limited.

There will be about 20 entries open to teams (max of 6 people) from Strangford Lough Yacht Club members, so if you are interested, start preparing to build your rafts - no sail, power or boat hulls allowed! It should be noted that any materials used must be suitably cleaned of any toxicity so that there is no damage to the Lough.

More details, raft and team rules will be released shortly on the new website, but meanwhile, do start the necessary preparations.

The Club hopes everyone will be ready for a fun-filled family Jubilee Weekend

The first of the BBC NI Series, The Chronicles of Strangford aired on Monday, 17th January.

The maritime TV series will cover the four seasons on this stunning part of Co Down, beginning with this week's episode on Autumn. It will ultimately follow a year on the almost landlocked sea Lough, the largest in the UK.

Autumn is the time when grey seals visit and use the sheltered Islands to breed and raise their pups before returning to the open sea. It also celebrates the arrival of the migrating Brent Geese, an annual event familiar to many who live and work on the shores of the Lough. The geese travel from arctic Canada and the Lough is a vital stopover when thousands arrive to feed on the shores at low tide.

Brent Geese on Strangford Lough Brent Geese on Strangford Lough Photo: National Trust

The programme also featured songwriter Brigid O’Neill who finds inspiration from the natural surroundings and performs at a gig in a small, converted church. RSPB Ranger Mark McCormick explained how his work looking for endangered species has helped him overcome PTSD which he suffered after seeing the attack on Westminster Bridge. And in Portaferry on the Narrows near the mouth of the Lough former ferry Captain, 84-year-old John Murray was seen hauling out his boat, the St Brendan.

Next week (Monday 24th) on BBC NI at 19.30 will be about Winter on the Lough. National Trust Ranger Hugh Thurgate moves livestock between islands and Ulster Wildlife’s Katy Bell looks after barn owl boxes at Mount Stewart Gardens. Boatyard owner Kenny Smyth winterises his yard near Whiterock and shed to work on his 100-year-old River Class yacht Laragh in which Kenny races regularly.

Published in Maritime TV
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It’s nearly two years since the Strangford Ferry was transformed into a Carol Ship in celebration of the Christmas Season, its last transformation being in December 2019 before Covid restrictions were imposed

There has been a ferry crossing the fast-flowing tide in the Strangford Narrows since 1604 when it was manned by ‘four able and efficient ferry men for the transportation of men, horses and other cattle and oxen’.

It has evolved into a busy car and passenger ferry between the two towns on opposite sides of the mouth of the Lough and is said to be the oldest continuous ferry crossing in the world.

Now this weekend, you can join this Christmas musical event on December 3rd, 4th and 5th between 5 pm and 9 pm. It is supported by Ards and North Down Borough Council and the Portaferry and Strangford Trust.

The Strangford ferry will be illuminated and Christmas music, recorded by local schools and choirs, will also amplify across the Lough, creating a magical winter atmosphere, with a backdrop of illuminated buildings and boats - an event the windmill won't be left out of in what is sure to be a warming festive event.

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Marine wildlife in Strangford Lough faces a “real risk” from an increase in recreational watersport, as The Irish News reports.

Rangers from the National Trust in Northern Ireland recorded a record number of grey seal pups and a “stable” population of Brent geese in their latest annual survey of the Co Down inlet.

But despite this good news, the Designated Special Area of Conservation could be put under pressure by a marked increase in paddle boarding and kayaking — particularly close to seal pupping areas and bird nesting sites.

Lead ranger Hugh Thurgate says: “There’s work to do to educate outdoor activity leaders about wildlife disturbance, to ensure they are aware of the risks and understand what areas of the lough to avoid during breeding season.”

The Irish News has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Last Saturday (16th October) saw the final races of Strangford Lough Yacht Club's Frostie 2021 series. In all over five Saturdays, ten races were completed, with the organisers pleased to have returned to some sort of normality.

The event which Vantage Health and Life sponsored attracted boats from all over Strangford Lough and from Belfast Lough.

Seven firsts assured Peter Thompson and Michael Watson of East Down YC in Alcyone of an emphatic top place in the seven-strong Impala class and in NHC another East Down boat, Frank Petticrew's Magdaleyne had a narrow 1.5 point lead on Mike Stephens Glen day boat, Glenoe. In IRC Mike Spence's AC 35 Le Basculer from Killyleagh, tied on points with SLYC's Peter Holden's Farr 36M Go to Red with the tie broken in favour of Le Basculer.

Le Basculer (Mike Spence) winner of the IRC class in the SLYC Frostie SeriesLe Basculer (Mike Spence) winner of the IRC class in the SLYC Frostie Series

NHC RS was won by Ryan Kelly's Scampi Scampalong with wins in half of the races and in the RS Elite class it was the Gunning, Polly and Kelso trio from Royal Ulster and Ballyholme in Storm who clocked up six wins to top that class. Ian Smyth of the host club in the Sonatas had the most firsts in the whole series with eight wins giving Mouse from top position.

The ten races in all types of conditions produced exciting racing for the 46 boats entered in six classes.

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Portaferry RNLI were called out yesterday evening (Thursday 26 August) at 5.44pm after members of the public reported three people in the water after their small punt capsized on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

Helmed by Fergal Glynn and with two crew onboard, the lifeboat was on scene close to the Walter rocks within minutes and the volunteers recovered the casualties from the water one by one.

After ensuring they did not require any medical assistance, the lifeboat crew took the casualties ashore and transferred them into the care of Portaferry coastguard rescue team.

The lifeboat crew then returned to the capsized punt to right it and take it under tow to Cook Street Quay.

Less than 24 hours before, on Wednesday evening (25 August), the lifeboat volunteers were called out to reports of two kayakers thought to be in difficulty off Kilclief in Co Down.

The lifeboat, helmed by Chris Adair and with two crew onboard, launched shortly after 8.30pm and was on scene at the Strangford Narrows within minutes.

However, after a thorough search of the area the volunteer crew found nothing of concern and returned to station at 9.25pm.

Commenting on both callouts, Portaferry RNLI press officer Jordan Conway said: “Our initial callout turned out to be a false alarm with good intent. The second callout was also initiated by a concerned member of the public and we would like to thank all members of the public for being so alert and taking the appropriate action.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Portaferry RNLI launched to the aid of two people early yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 21 July) after their leisure boat broke down and was left adrift at the Narrows on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

The volunteer lifeboat crew’s pagers sounded just after 12.45pm and the inshore lifeboat, helmed by Fergal Glynn and with three crew members onboard, launched immediately.

Reaching the scene within minutes, they assessed the situation and found two women on board the leisure boat were safe and well.

The lifeboat crew then quickly established a towline and the leisure boat was brought into Portaferry Marina in Co Down.

Speaking following the callout, Glynn said: “The casualties made the right decision at the right time when calling for assistance. Their quick thinking and calm actions made the rescue simple and kept them out of harm’s way.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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