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West Cork is as much a state of mind as it is a place writes W M Nixon. And when you’re in its bright and cheerfully breezy sailor’s capital of Baltimore, the annual Maytime Festival of Wooden Boats is something very special. Last weekend, they gathered from near and far for a diverse programme afloat, mixed with everything from Boat Building Competitions and Craftwork Shows to Art Exhibitions ashore. It was quite a party, and we’ll let the photos speak for themselves. That said, where on earth did one of the Cork currachs get the name of “Magic Brat”…?

Baltimore wooden boats2Saoirse Muirreann, Lobsterboat, Cormac Levis, followed by An Rún, Mackerel Boat, owner Nigel Towse, skipper Ian Wright. Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Saoirse Muirreann, Lobsterboat, Cormac Levis with Hanora, Lobsterboat, Nigel Towse, in background off Sherkin Island. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Sile a Do, gaff ketch built Hegarty’s, owner Leo McDermott (left) with Saoirse Muirreann (Lobster Boat, Cormac Levis) Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Guillemot, built Skinners, Baltimore, 1893, Brian Marten. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Fionn, Lobsterboat, skipper Rob O’Leary, and Lively, designed, built and skippered by James Baker of Penryn, Falmouth, Cornwall. Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Canóg, built by late George Bushe 1997, skipper Mark Bush, with Galway Hooker An Faoilean, Pat Tanner, built 1912. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2 Pilot Race, with Rogaire Dubh Currach putting pilot onboard Lively for race back into Baltimore (winner of the Pilot Race) Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Racing Maitheal Mara Naomhogs with the blue-hulled Mary Colette Lobsterboat, Micheal O Croalaoi & John Colleran, An Rún Mackerel Boat, owner Nigel Towse, skipper Ian Wright in distant left. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Currach and Naomhogs racing for Baltimore, after rowing from Skibbereen down the Ilen River. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Fionn, Lobsterboat, built in Hegarty’s 1999, first of new-build Lobsterboats, owner Mary Jordan and the late Colm O Cuilleanain, sailed Rob O’Leary, Oisin Creagh Photo: Martyn Blair

Baltimore wooden boats2After the racing, currachs Rinceoir na Greine, Magic Brat and Dlúth Taca on slip, with Sile a Dó, An Faoilean and AK Ilen at the pier. Photo: Martyn Blair

Baltimore wooden boats2Around the mark under the Beacon, Lively, James & Kate Baker (and their two children) followed by Mary Colette, Lobsterboat, Micheal O Croalaoi & John Colleran, Hanora, original Lobsterboat, Nigel Towse, and Fionn (Lobsterboat) in the distance. Photo: Martyn BlairBaltimore wooden boats2Getting ready to start the ‘New Boats’ race on Sunday, They were built on Saturday, with each team getting the same materials, including black plastic for sails. The boats have to row and sail a course if they stay afloat – it’s a highlight of the Festival The Meitheal Mara boats from Cork city are on the right. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Published in Historic Boats

There was more for historic boat fans at today's Crosshaven Traditional Sail festival in Cork Harbour

Afloat's Bob Bateman captured both the classic boat fleet and spectator craft (below) on another lovely afternoon at Crosshaven.

See day one Traditional Sail photos here and day two below.

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Published in Historic Boats
Tagged under

#STBFestival – The village of Portsoy in North-east Scotland is buzzing with excitement for the much anticipated return of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival on 22 and 23 June 2013, but long after the crowds have disappeared the festival's PORT project (Portsoy Organisation for Restoration and Training) hopes to leave its mark on the area for generations to come.

PORT was established by a group of volunteers including James Crombie, Pete Danks and Lorna Summers in 2005 with a view to preserving traditional boat building craft skills whilst also engaging young people with the important maritime heritage of the area. The project has since gone from strength to strength and shows no signs of slowing down.

James, Pete and their small team of volunteers initially set about teaching children the art of traditional boat building skills by launching the Faering Project. This focused on the Norwegian Faering, or 'four oar' boat as it is otherwise known – a boat with a simple design which is straight forward for youngsters to build, and which is the ancestor of our local types. The children who ventured on the first project have grown up with it and now, as teenagers, are involved in building much more complex designs.

James attributes the success of PORT largely to the volunteers. He adds, "We established this project eight years ago, and the success we have seen over the years has been unbelievable. We have a fantastic team of volunteers who work tirelessly to support the project and who will do anything for it.

"A major turning point for PORT arrived when we were gifted the Boatshed - a derelict harbourside building from which all training and restoration activities can take place - from the Portsoy Maritime Heritage Society. This development will allow us to expand our efforts and will mean that we can begin working on different types of boats, including the Optimist Dinghy, which is the world's most popular children's dinghy.

"The Boatshed will give us a spacious workshop which allows training and restoration to be undertaken in full view of the public. The renovation of the Boatshed is a £420,000 project funded by Aberdeenshire Council, CARS (a collaboration between Aberdeenshire council and Historic Scotland) and AEFF Axis 4 funding and will take place over the coming year.

"Also the architects Brown + Brown are generously donating their professional services as they are so supportive of our aims".

As well as providing an outlet for training and restoration, James hopes that the development of the Boatshed will move the project forward to become an attraction for visitors to the area. He adds, "The PORT Boatshed is one of the few of its kind in Scotland, and we hope that this will become a must-see attraction for tourists to the area. There is a real emphasis nowadays on tradition and local heritage, and I believe that visitors will be keen to learn about the traditional craft skills of our forefathers, as well as learning a few new skills along the way. These activities are a wonderful vehicle for teaching the skills needed in life for the 21st century".

Whilst the project was launched to educate young people on traditional craft skills, but in addition to craft skills, participants also learn basic geometry, interpersonal skills and teamwork.

The training programme takes participants from the initial stages of boat building right through to learning to sail the boats they have helped to create. James comments, "It is a real added bonus that our course participants are able to see all of their hard work come to fruition. Learning to sail - and eventually sailing the boats that they have put hard work into - that's something really special."

In order to advance the project, PORT bought a kit to build a St Ayles skiff – a traditional small boat. The skiff kit was purchased with the intention of teaching youngsters to build skiffs, however, in the end it was their mothers and grandmothers who took up the challenge. Following a visit to the Festival by the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project in 2011, a group of Portsoy 'quines' decided to learn the craft skills required to build a traditional skiff and based themselves at the PORT Boatshed. This led the ladies to establish a rowing team called the Portsoy Skiffettes on their own handmade boat, 'Soy Quine'.

The PORT team is on the brink of an ambitious project – they plan to build a full sized replica coble salmon fishing boat which is a completely different design to the other craft they have created to date. Whilst it is still a traditional boat, the coble is a much more sophisticated design and is more technically demanding to build.

Since its humble beginnings eight years ago, PORT has become an integral part of the Portsoy harbour and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival. Founded in 1993 as a community event to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the creation of the harbour, the Festival now puts a special emphasis on the preservation of craft skills, boat building, restoration and sailing, and on associated authentic skills such as knitting, weaving and embroidery.

This year the Festival is a key event in the Year of Natural Scotland – a partnership between the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, EventScotland and Scottish Natural Heritage which aims to showcase the country's unique natural environment.

For more information about the Festival and to buy tickets click here

Published in Historic Boats
Tagged under
10th July 2012

Controlling The Canals

I wrote recently that the terms of Waterways Ireland's licence agreement for the "Extended Term Serviced Mooring Vacancies" at Shannon Harbour could be easily adapted for use elsewhere on the canals. That might allow WI to begin to bring the long-term berthers, residential or otherwise, under control. And so it proves. We have received this press release from Waterways Ireland.


WI Press Release

Waterways Ireland has recognised that many boat owners wish to stay for a more extended period in a single location than the 5 days the annual Canal Mooring and Passage Permit (under the Canals Act, 1986 (Bye-laws), 1988) currently allows.

In response, Waterways Ireland intends to issue an Extended Mooring Licence granting a boat owner the right to leave their boat in one location for longer than 5 days. This permit will enable the holder to moor in a position allocated by Waterways Ireland on a soft bank area of navigation property for a period of up to 1 year. The Extended Mooring Licence will cost e152 per annum.

The application process for the Extended Mooring Licence will open in the autumn when all existing permit holders will be contacted.

All boat owners will still require an annual Canal Mooring and Passage Permit allowing the holder to cruise and pass through locks. Boat owners with a Canal Mooring and Passage Permit proposing to stay longer in one location than 5 days can then apply for the Extended Mooring Licence. The total fee to hold both the Permit and the Licence in 2012/2013 will be e278.

For boat owners with the Canal Mooring and Passage Permit who do not hold an Extended Mooring Licence, the 5-day rule (in the one place or within 500m of that location) will still apply. Waterways Ireland will enforce this bye-law from autumn 2012.

Waterways Ireland will be contacting permit holders regularly between now and autumn 2012 to ensure they are kept up to date with the roll-out of the new permit. All queries about the enforcement of the current bye-laws or the Extended Mooring Licence should be directed to Shane Anderson, Assistant Inspector of Navigation: Tel no +353 (0)87 286 5726, Email [email protected]

These changes are necessary steps to improve the management of the canals and waterway amenities for both the navigational and recreational user, so that investment in the new infrastructure and facilities which Waterways Ireland has undertaken is maximised for every user.


About time too. I welcome this development: WI has to be able to control who uses its waterways and the uses they make of them.

The proposed charge is surprisingly modest. It is the same for all areas, those of high and of low demand: it might have been difficult to implement differential charging. However, the new licence does not apply to hard-edged areas; I presume therefore that WI intends to keep them clear for visitors.

It is significant that the new control mechanism is a licence, not a permit. Waterways Ireland had been hoping to bring in a single set of bye-laws to cover all its navigations, but it proved to be very difficult to do that within two jurisdictions. Accordingly, I understand that WI now intends to seek amendments to the bye-laws for the Republic, allowing it (inter alia) to increase the charges for various permits. However, the Canals Act 1986 allows WI to issue licences, and they are not subject to the restrictions in the bye-laws.


Royal water

The fragility of the water supply to the Royal Canal was shown in April, when Waterways Ireland closed the summit level of the canal because of low water levels; the 34th and 35th levels were also closed for emergency repairs. At time of writing, WI is hoping to be able to re-open the summit level on 1 June. Some boats that had intended to go west along the Royal to the Shannon were forced to go east instead, through Dublin and along the Grand Canal; happily, Effin Bridge, the lifting bridge at North Strand Road, worked properly this year.

The Royal always had fewer feeders than the Grand. The summit level was fed from Lough Owel, north of Mullingar, but while the canal was closed, Westmeath County Council found it needed more drinking water for the Mullingar area. In dry conditions, the Lough Owel feeder cannot meet both needs.

With great foresight, CIE (which then owned the canal) got the Council to agree that, if the canal was to be re-opened, it would provide an alternative supply.

Nowadays, environmental regulations mean that water abstraction needs more thought, more planning and more factors to be considered. Extensive studies were carried out and WI and the County Council agreed that the best possible alternative source was Lough Ennell, which is south of Mullingar: water could be pumped from there to the canal. The Council had to apply to An Bord Pleanála for permission; it has just completed oral hearings in Mullingar.


Traditional boats

In the first half of the nineteenth century, anyone travelling to the seaside resort of Kilkee could take the steamer to Kilrush and travel onward by road. But the passenger traffic was initially established by the turf boats of the Shannon Estuary: most of Limerick's fuel came from Poulnasherry, west of Kilrush, and was carried by small sailing boats, which also carried a few passengers.

A 24' replica of one of these boats was launched recently at Querrin, at the entrance to Poulnasherry. The Sally O'Keeffe was built by the Seol Sionna group, which grew out of the West Clare Currach Club. The boat will be used for sailing training. The Shannon Estuary, which is insufficiently appreciated, has a wealth of traditional boat types, but there were no extant Shannon hookers, so it is nice to see their return.

On the same weekend, another of those traditional boat types was featured in Limerick. The Ilen Wooden Boat Building School had built five gandelows, boats used in the upper reaches of the estuary, and conducted races in the city.

And the Thomastown Regatta, on the Nore, will feature traditional cots and racing boats: the 1905 racing cot Nore Lass, owned by the O'Farrell family, will be on display at the Grennan Mill Craft School.


Here are some updates I wrote about recently...

Water charges

The EU Commission sent a Reasoned Opinion to Ireland in November 2011, suggesting that Ireland had not correctly implemented the provisions of the Water Framework Directive that require "a cost recovery policy for water services that includes the environmental and resource costs of water use". The Commission believes that cost recovery should be extended to many other water uses, including hydroelectricity generation and the supply of water to navigations. Having got an extension of the deadline for replying, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government responded to the Commission. I asked for a copy of the response, but the department won't tell anybody what it's doing. I am appealing that decision, but without much hope.



Waterways Ireland has kindly given me the Shannon traffic figures for the first four months of 2012. The numbers of movements in those months are always low, and can be significantly affected by the weather, so there can be quite a lot of variation between one year and another without its indicating any long-term trend. For example, back in 2002, there were 4875 boat movements in the first four months; the figure was up to 6204 in 2003 but back down to 5304 in 2004. It's important therefore not to read too much into the figures, but a five-year moving average suggests that traffic has been falling since 2007. The figure for 2012 was 4052. It will be interesting to see whether better weather balances economic gloom in the rest of the year.


Mineral Oil Tax

In the last issue, I gave the figures for the numbers of Mineral Oil Tax returns received by Revenue from owners of diesel-powered boats in the first two years of the scheme's operation. They told me that they got 38 returns in 2010 for the year 2009 and 41 in 2011 for 2010. I now have the figure for the following year, the returns made in 2012 for the year 2011. There was a very significant change, of 46%, but unfortunately it was downward, to 22. The Revenue Commissioners tell me that "[...] there were 22 returns received by 1 March 2012 for 2011, amounting to e53,398.58 MOT [Mineral Oil Tax] on 141,503.29 litres oil." That's an average of 6432.1 litres each, which is a lot, so I suspect that much of the total came from the hire fleet, with less than twenty private owners making returns.


Royal and Ulster Canals

I said, in the last issue, that I did not understand how the cost of the restoration of the Royal Canal, 146 km with 46 locks, could be less than the expected cost of the canal to Clones, 13 km with one double lock. It has been explained to me that the figure for the Royal was essentially only the marginal cost, recorded (initially) under Civil Service accounting procedures, so that it understates the total cost. It would be a huge job to try to find the full cost using modern accounting conventions, but unfortunately that means that we have no usable figure for the cost of the Royal, no basis for estimating the return on investment and no guideline on the value of any future restorations.

Published in Brian Goggin

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