Sea Echoes: Progress on the restoration of the famous Ilen

Sea Echoes: Progress on the restoration of the famous Ilen
The Ilen in Hegarty's Boatyard. Pic: Gary McMahon.

Good news this week from Skibbereen where Gary McMahon, leader of the project, says that work on the restoration of the famous Ilen, the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing schooners, has progressed so well at Hegarty’s Boatyard in Oldcourt that “it is planned she will depart the shelter of the shed in approximately four weeks.” 

“The project has reached an interesting stage which demands continuous solutions from the build team. The current main area of focus is the design and build of the cockpit area - bringing together steering, engine controls, helm pump, instruments, footwell, compass binnacle and crew seating, in as ergonomic a working area as is possible on a traditional ship."

"Also getting attention, in the workshop, is the big rig - with spar bands fitted up snug, before commencement of the galvanising process. The rudder pintles and rudder head fittings are about to be fabricated in silicon bronze.

“The rebuild project is progressing well, but has a long way to go - at least until the nation sees Ilen as an operational and fully rigged sailing ship,” he told me. Next March is the target for launching into the water.


It was a shock to hear John Leech, Chief Executive of Irish Water Safety, say this week that “every hour, every day, more than 40 people lose their lives worldwide by drowning and those under five-years-old are at greatest risk.” 

“There is no easy answer. Drowning is a serious and neglected public health threat, claiming the lives of 372,000 people a year worldwide,” he said on my radio programme, This Island Nation, describing the biennial World Conference on Drowning Protection held in Canada. 

Eight hundred delegates attended “to devise new strategies to change people’s attitudes and improve behaviour when they are on, in and near water.” 

John, a former Naval officer said that, in Ireland, it “could be one of the better years in loss of life from drowning. There are 24 fewer victims at this time of the year compared with last year.” 

But he warned: “There are still six weeks remaining and tragedies could occur if people are not aware of the risks to prevent drowning.” 

His remarks came as the report from Irish Sailing, the national organisation for the sport, is awaited into the decision to take young dinghy sailors out for training as Storm Brian struck Dun Laoghaire with winds gusting 40 knots. 

They were part of the national Optimist team, in very small dinghies. Rescue services had to be alerted and dinghies were smashed by the storm as the youngsters were brought ashore. Not a good image for the sport in the week of Ophelia when windsurfers in Dundalk and swimmers in Galway had been castigated and there were public demands for action against irresponsibility on the water.


Despite all the environmental worries, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration has reported that the hole in the ozone, Earth’s protective layer, is shrinking and is now at its smallest since 1988. Banning the emission of ozone-depleting chemicals is being credited for the improvement.


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