23rd October

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.


The Boat Club’s barbecue at Courtmacsherry, followed by full Irish breakfast, was voted a highlight of the cruise, and the fleet sailed for Glandore, Castletownshend and Baltimore in continuing perfect weather.

Sherkin Island gave a chance to drop the pace a little, and the magic of West Cork began to take effect. The attractions south of the Mizen and the delights of Schull, Crookhaven and Carbery’s Hundred Isles proved just too compelling for some, but others pressed on, and eight crews enjoyed the final reception in Dingle.

This was a tremendous success for the reputation of Ireland as a cruising destination. From Poole came the feedback: “…one of the very best holidays we have ever had….we enjoyed everything – we want to give everyone 11 out of 10.”

And from Bangor: “…extremely welcoming and helpful…It was very interesting to hear our English visitors being so appreciative of the organization and helpfulness of the Irish.”

The benefit to the economy may be hard to quantify in crude financial terms, but that kind of response is the clearest possible indication of success. Let’s make sure that this is just the first of many Gathering Cruises.


John Leahy, Cruising Association of Ireland commodore has congratulated Gail MacAllister of the ISA for “conceiving” the gathering cruise concept in late 2012, with the assistance of the Irish Cruising Club, the CAI, the Irish Marina Operators’ Association, and others.

“The concept grew into something really tangible by this spring when support became available from Failte Ireland for marketing. Without this, we would never have had the reach that we did into the UK and Europe.”

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