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Ilen
Ilen heads seaward down the Ted Russell dock in Limerick yesterday evening
The long Shannon Estuary and a strong ocean-going ebb tide enabled the restored traditional trading ketch Ilen of Limerick to make good progress westward yesterday evening on the voyage to Greenland despite a near-gale from ahead which came in with…
Ilen departs Limerick bound for West Greenland to follow salmon migration and highlight their decline
Ireland’s sole surviving ocean-going wooden sailing ship, the ‘Ilen’, which was re-built through a community educational programme in Limerick, will set sail from Limerick Docks this evening to follow the migratory journey of salmon in the Shannon River to West…
The 56ft traditional ketch Ilen of Limerick making good speed. The restored vessel - the only surviving example of an Irish trading ketch - will depart Limerick on Sunday afternoon for her multi-purpose nine weeks voyage to southwest Greenland
It is 1200 nautical miles across the Atlantic from Loop Head at the north side of the long Shannon Estuary to Cape Farewell, the southernmost point of Greenland, writes W M Nixon. While the originally 1926-built ketch Ilen of Limerick…
The restored Ilen of Limerick sails into Dublin Bay for the first time in 21 years for visits to Poolbeg, Dun Laoghaire and Howth. This weekend, she’s back in her birthplace of Baltimore
Three million euro - every bit of €3 million writes W M Nixon. That’s what the late Theo Rye, internationally-recognised expert on the restoring and re-building of classic and traditional craft, reckoned that breathing new life into Ireland’s historic 56ft…
Ninety-three years after she was briefly a member of the fleet of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, the restored ketch Ilen visited the historic clubhouse for a special reception this weekend
In 1926, the newly-built 56ft trading ketch Ilen was for six months part of the fleet of the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Built in Baltimore in West Cork under the inspiration of pioneering global circumnavigator Conor O’Brien of Limerick to…
A fair wind from Dunmore East for the historic Limerick ketch Ilen returning (after 21 years) to Dublin Bay.
The Limerick Ketch Ilen arrived back at Dublin yesterday after a 21-year absence. She departed Dunmore East on Friday, where she had been joined by a group from Aiséirí, a dynamic residential treatment centre for adults affected by addiction. This…
Ilen in Kinsale this week
The Ilen will be setting course for Dublin this weekend for a high profile launch at Dun Laoghaire on Friday of next week. She arrived at Kinsale this Wednesday night after what was described as a “bouncy bouncy run from…
Check out the video below to see Ilen depart Limerick City down the Lower Shannon and on towards Baltimore, West Cork.
The historic ketch Ilen of Limerick put to sea again from her home port on April 20th at the beginning of a complex 2019 sailing programme which will see the restored ship voyage in July towards southwest Greenland. Check out the video below to see…
Symbol for a voyage – the Salmons Wake logo inscribed on Ilen’s squaresail in the Ted Russell Dock in Limerick
The historic ketch Ilen of Limerick puts to sea again from her home port this weekend at the beginning of a complex 2019 sailing programme which will see the restored ship voyage in July towards southwest Greenland writes W M…
The Ilen with sails set at Limerick Docks
After an eleven year rebuild, last Saturday offered a first opportunity for sending up ‘Ilen’s’ entire suit of sails, save her square sail - a headwind at Limerick Docks precluded its participation. It might be observed how ‘Ilen’ seems to…
The Square sail set on Ilen in Limerick
Joseph Conrad wrote many stories and novels with a nautical setting, based on his time in the British and French merchant marine and in the old sailing ships. They depict trials of the human spirit and one of his memorable…
The jaunty look. Miraculous mid-winter calm for the first setting of Ilen’s new squaresail in the dock at Limerick
In ancient Greece, the Halcyon Days were a mythological seven day period of calm clear weather at the mid-winter Solstice writes W M Nixon. Down Limerick way, they’ve been making the best of the Halcyon Days, with the blue River…
Somewhere, under the rainbow…..the bright side of the rainstorm favours the Ilen in the Ted Russell Dock in Limerick – she has her own private rainbow, when everyone else was facing flash flood warnings
When we’d flash floods pestering the country recently with wayward downpours, Gary MacMahon went to check out the beloved Ilen in Limerick docks, and found the old girl sitting serenely under her own private rainbow writes W M Nixon But…
 Ilen in search of wind as she heads seaward past Scattery Island in the Shannon Estuary
Foynes Island in the Shannon Estuary exerts an almost supernatural attraction for the O’Brien family writes W M Nixon. The great circumnavigator Conor O’Brien always regarded it as his one and only true home. And though his voyagings and other…
Everyone Welcome to Limerick Party to Celebrate Restoration of Sail Trader Ilen
The return of the restored trading ketch Ilen to Limerick after 92 years has been a matter of quiet celebration among all involved since the 56ft “small tall ship" sailed up the Shannon Estuary from Baltimore at the beginning of…
 Ilen secure for the winter in the Ted Russell Dock in Limerick, where there are daily reminders that this is very much a working port, and Limerick is a manufacturing town
The restored 1926-built 56ft ketch Ilen proudly tells us on her transom that her home port is Limerick writes W M Nixon. And while Limerick may have come to prominence as a raiding base and trading centre for the Vikings…

Ireland's Trading Ketch Ilen

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

Designed by Limerick man Conor O’Brien and built in Baltimore in 1926, she was delivered by Munster men to the Falkland Islands where she served valiantly for seventy years, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties.

Returned now to Ireland and given a new breath of life, Ilen may be described as the last of Ireland’s timber-built ocean-going sailing ships, yet at a mere 56ft, it is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

Wooden Sailing Ship Ilen FAQs

The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

The Ilen was designed by Conor O’Brien, the first Irish man to circumnavigate the world.

Ilen is named for the West Cork River which flows to the sea at Baltimore, her home port.

The Ilen was built by Baltimore Sea Fisheries School, West Cork in 1926. Tom Moynihan was foreman.

Ilen's wood construction is of oak ribs and planks of larch.

As-built initially, she is 56 feet in length overall with a beam of 14 feet and a displacement of 45 tonnes.

Conor O’Brien set sail in August 1926 with two Cadogan cousins from Cape Clear in West Cork, arriving at Port Stanley in January 1927 and handed it over to the new owners.

The Ilen was delivered to the Falkland Islands Company, in exchange for £1,500.

Ilen served for over 70 years as a cargo ship and a ferry in the Falkland Islands, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties. She stayed in service until the early 1990s.

Limerick sailor Gary McMahon and his team located Ilen. MacMahon started looking for her in 1996 and went out to the Falklands and struck a deal with the owner to bring her back to Ireland.

After a lifetime of hard work in the Falklands, Ilen required a ground-up rebuild.

A Russian cargo ship transported her back on a 12,000-mile trip from the Southern Oceans to Dublin. The Ilen was discharged at the Port of Dublin 1997, after an absence from Ireland of 70 years.

It was a collaboration between the Ilen Project in Limerick and Hegarty’s Boatyard in Old Court, near Skibbereen. Much of the heavy lifting, of frames, planking, deadwood & backbone, knees, floors, shelves and stringers, deck beams, and carlins, was done in Hegarty’s. The generally lighter work of preparing sole, bulkheads, deck‐houses fixed furniture, fixtures & fittings, deck fittings, machinery, systems, tanks, spar making and rigging is being done at the Ilen boat building school in Limerick.

Ten years. The boat was much the worse for wear when it returned to West Cork in May 1998, and it remained dormant for ten years before the start of a decade-long restoration.

Ilen now serves as a community floating classroom and cargo vessel – visiting 23 ports in 2019 and making a transatlantic crossing to Greenland as part of a relationship-building project to link youth in Limerick City with youth in Nuuk, west Greenland.

At a mere 56ft, Ilen is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

©Afloat 2020

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