17th March

Visitors' moorings - an opportunity

Norman Kean

Two yachts, visitors to Ireland, arrive in two widely separated bays of a summer evening. The forecast is bad. The crew of Silent Night is very glad to find a row of big yellow buoys, each with a pickup buoy and a hefty bridle attached along with an information tag.

10.1Yourview marina

Clare Island: busy but room for all                                                             Photo Geraldine Hennigan

Securely moored, they enjoy a pub meal and a pint or two ashore, pay their tenner for the mooring and head back to their bunks in the knowledge that no matter how hard it blows, they aren’t going to be wakened by that awful yaw and scrape that speaks of a dragging anchor.

Restless finds one of the same yellow buoys in her bay, but as she approaches it she is gruffly warned off by someone who seems to regard it as his own. They hurriedly turn about and go in search of an anchorage where they have a sleepless night, disturbed as much by the memory of the threatening reception as by the rising gale.

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Where is Ireland's marine leisure infrastructure?

Norman Kean, marine consultant, author and editor

Ireland has some of the finest sailing waters in the world, yet its marine leisure industry is hugely underdeveloped. But trying to invest in it is usually a bureaucratic nightmare. Planning guidelines are vague; planning decisions are made in a knowledge vacuum, and foreshore licensing can take years and cost fortunes.

The Government report: Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth shows a sign of good intention, but so often in maritime matters, the devil is in the detail and the agencies of the State just don’t seem to get it.

Schull - was ever a marina more needed? Planning permission has been granted, but many challenges remain. Photo Geraldine Hennigan

Schull - was ever a marina more needed? Planning permission has been granted, but many challenges remain. Photo Geraldine Hennigan

By ‘marine leisure infrastructure’ I mean visitors’ moorings; pontoons; piers; harbours; slipways and – at the top end of the scale – marinas of (say) 50 berths and more.Here are some key points about marinas in particular:

• they’re not necessarily profitable. A marina smaller than 200 berths has a struggle to remain viable as a stand-alone business

• they provide the nucleus for a lot of economic activity. The annual Reeds Marina Guide carries adverts for 43 different types of businesses - everything from pubs to haulage contractors. Marinas create jobs

• they are (at worst) environmentally neutral. They don’t cause pollution; they don’t disrupt wildlife and they aren’t noisy or dirty. And despite the previous point, they seldom look busy with people.

Read more: Where is Ireland's marine leisure infrastructure?

Mismanagement behind marina development setback

A controversy has erupted over an EU Interreg harbour project in Donegal after marine consultant and pilot-book editor Norman Kean asked some pointed questions at a conference in September.

It made front-page headlines in the local press. “Donegal County Council, as the lead partner in the €7m Sail West/ Malin Waters programme, was allocated €1.6m – the biggest single share of the capital budget – for construction of a ‘marina’ at Bunagee in Inishowen.Bunagee pier

Bunagee pier. Was a €1.6m marina at this rocky and exposed place ever feasible or justifiable? Photo Geraldine Hennigan

“The other eight capital projects under the programme, in Northern Ireland and Scotland, including marinas, facilities buildings and a world-championship-standard slipway, were completed on time and on budget; however the Bunagee project has not started and it is very likely that the money will be forfeited,” he told Inshore Ireland.

“This is now, unfortunately, water under the bridge. But we need to make sure that future decisions are made in a well-informed, objective and transparent manner, and that this mismanagement is not repeated,” he said.

All at sea

 Tom Lawlor

At the age of 56, Bill Tilman took up sailing to the Arctic and Antartic searching for new mountains to climb. Trying to manage the dreded mal de mer as I watched the Atlantic climb the rock faces on Cork’s west coast, I felt it was time for me to give up sailing and take up mountaineering...

Leaving Courtmacsherry the crew face into heavy weather, bound for Dingle. Photo Paul Calvert

Leaving Courtmacsherry we face into heavy weather, bound for Dingle. Photo Paul Calvert

We had set sail from Monkstown, Co Cork. Our plan was to spend many idle hours cruising west with no particular destination in mind, just to enjoy visiting the many harbours sprinkled along the southwest coast.

Passing Cobh, Spike and Crosshaven we meet some boats arriving into the shelter of Cork harbour. Their crews looking tired and their rigging a little tattered.

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The Gathering Cruise

Gathering Cruise yachts at Courtmacsherry. Photo Geraldine Hennigan

Gathering Cruise yachts at Courtmacsherry. Photo Geraldine Hennigan

Norman Kean

Under cloudless skies on 17 July, two dozen boats from Ireland and England gathered in Dun Laoghaire to begin The Gathering Cruise. They were joined by another dozen, including the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s Celtic Mist and the Dutch sail training brig Astrid, as they made their way south and west. For many, it was a first visit to Ireland, and for others, a chance to bring home friends and family for a cruise together.

The fleet enjoyed the new facilities and the warm welcome at Dunmore East, and an excellent barbecue at Oysterhaven. The mood at the reception in Kinsale was overwhelmingly one of celebration at the safe rescue of the crew of Astrid, tinged by sadness at the loss of a fine old ship.

It was in Kinsale that the cruise’s founder Gail MacAllister, Cruising Officer of the ISA, demonstrated her genius for team-building by awarding every boat an individual prize for being best in the fleet at something.

Read more: The Gathering Cruise

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