The Ocean Cruising Club Challenge Grant is Now Accepting Applications for 2020

Devon, UK, 12 August 2019The Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) has established a Challenge Grant to encourage ambitious expeditions for environmental conservation or challenging oceangoing adventures and is now accepting applications for the 2020 season! The OCC Challenge Grant programme consists of two categories, the Conservation/ Environmental Grant and the Adventure Grant. 

The Ocean Cruising Club membership has had a long tradition of adventurous ocean sailing and marine conservation activities. Whether high latitudes voyaging, non-stop solo circumnavigating, sampling ocean waters, or researching threatened species, OCC members’ adventures and conservation efforts, documented in its flagship publication The Flying Fish, have helped sailors dream big and plan exciting and meaningful voyages. 

Now, with decades of storied history, the OCC continues to support these endeavours and is proud to stand behind the individuals and their projects which seek the betterment of the sailing community and maritime environment. Champion of the concept, Commodore Simon Currin, was encouraged by the endorsement of the Board, Committee and members. “I believe that these Grants, when combined with the OCC support that comes with them, will be a potent stimulus to teams and individuals planning exciting projects and adventures for 2020 and beyond. I am delighted that the OCC has chosen to become a patron of conservation and adventure worldwide.”

The OCC Challenge Grant encompasses two categories: the Conservation or Environmental Grant and the Adventure Grant. Grants are intended to help with project costs and range from £250 to £3,000, depending on the size and scope of the project.

Project lead, Baxter Gillespie notes, “The applications will be reviewed and judged by members of OCC who have experience in planning and executing major expeditions and projects such as high latitude firsts, mid-ocean scientific research, and remote island refuse reclamation. Their assessment of candidates’ goals and qualifications will be based in an extraordinary depth of expertise. I encourage candidates to apply as early as possible to secure consideration as we have a limited number of grants each year.”

The OCC Challenge Grant – Conservation

The OCC’s Conservation grant is for members looking to make a difference with a specific conservation or environmental project that is centred around the ocean, marine or maritime environment. 

Conservation projects should:
· Be related to the ocean, maritime or marine environments 
· Have measurable, high impact yet achievable goals
· Incorporate best practices for sustainability
· Improve the marine conservation and/or conservation practices
· Demonstrate “Leave No Trace” practices
· Demonstrate a plan for long-term success
· If possible, engage members of the community to ensure the sustainability of the project
· If possible, have local and national conservation manager endorsement and appropriate local/national licensing where necessary.
· Have a realistic budget
· Incorporate the best ethical practices

The OCC Challenge Grant – Adventure

This Grant is for sailors in pursuit of world-class sailing and sail exploration objectives. Adventure Grants are intended to more significantly contribute towards total expedition costs. 

Adventure Grant Goals:
The Adventure Grant seeks to fund individuals planning expeditions to remote areas, featuring unexplored areas, difficult sailing routes, challenging multi-sport exploits, or similar world-class pursuits. 

For details on how to apply, please visit the OCC Challenge Grant page on the website. 

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The 2018 award winning logs of the Irish Cruising Club
by Winkie Nixon

Donal Walsh’s Ovni 385 Lady Belle from Dungarvan gets the best of the summer weather off Fingal’s Cave in the cliffs of Staffa in the Hebrides during a wide-ranging North European cruise which has been awarded the Irish Cruising Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner CupDonal Walsh’s Ovni 385 Lady Belle from Dungarvan gets the best of the summer weather off Fingal’s Cave in the cliffs of Staffa in the Hebrides during a wide-ranging North European cruise which has been awarded the Irish Cruising Club’s premier trophy, the Faulkner Cup.  Photo: Clare Morrissey
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Dungarvan in the west of County Waterford is in some ways one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets writes W M Nixon. It’s big enough to be considered a real town by Irish standards – it’s the County Town too – yet it isn’t so big as to seem impersonal. There’s a real sense of community, while it’s set in the midst of quietly beautiful scenery beside an array of spectacular hills and mountains. And though the more sheltered parts of its estuary harbour have a tidal element, it’s home to a significant fleet of boats based around the thriving Dungarvan Harbour Sailing Club.
Yet in times past Dungarvan did not figure high in any listing of cruising destinations, as boats on passage along the south coast saw it as being a long diversion from the direct route to and from Cork Harbour, when a very handy overnight berth would be available if you anchored at the entrance to Dungarvan Bay, in the sheltered spot immediately west of the busy little fishing port of Helvick.

And as for carefully finding your route all the way into Dungarvan if the tide suited, it seems that any chance of a convivial evening with local cruising enthusiasts would be remote, for once summer arrives, they’re all gone – gone far away to distant parts on fascinating cruises of their own. Or at least that was the impression gained at yesterday evening’s AGM of the Irish Cruising Club, chaired by Commodore Stanton Adair from Belfast Lough, and hosted by Howth Yacht Club.

dungarvan harbour2The hidden port – Dungarvan Harbour, with Helvick Head in the distance

Under the “homeless” 1929-founded ICC’s rules, the Club’s AGM is always to be held in Dublin, though these days with Home Rule the mood of the moment in Fingal, you’d wonder if Howth is truly a part of Dublin at all. Be that as it may, last night it was Dungarvan which was the talk of the town, for not only had Donal Walsh of Dungarvan been awarded the top prize, the Faulkner Cup, for his fascinating cruise to seven northwest European countries with his Ovni 385 Lady Belle, but in receiving it he was succeeding his sister Maire Breathnach as the awardee, as she got the nod in 2017 for her cruise to northeast Greenland with her husband Andrew Wilkes in their 64ft gaff cutter Annabelle J.

Finding any continuity between an Arctic cruise in a hefty classically gaff-rigged cutter, and a detailed largely coastal venture in an ultra-modern alloy-built cruising sloop with a lifting keel, may seem like quite a challenge, but that is typical of the exceptional diversity which the wide-ranging members of the ICC are achieving these days.

In the past couple of decades, they’ve seen several boats go round the world, they’ve seen transits of both the Northwest and Northeast passages such that the Arctic Circle has been circumnavigated, they’ve seen voyages to the far south, deep into Antarctica, and they’ve seen island-hopping explorations of the Pacific.

Donal Walsh’s 80-day 3450 mile cruise

But equally they’ve seen increasingly detailed cruises of the Mediterranean and Europe and the nearby islands of the Atlantic, and for 2018, adjudicator Dan Cross of Crosshaven – a sailing and cruising man of exceptional experience – decided that it was time the best of these got the top award. Donal Walsh’s 80-day 3450 mile cruise with Clare Morrissey and others aboard Lady Belle, from Dungarvan north to the Hebrides of Scotland, then on to the Orkneys, Shetland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, the Channel Islands, Brittany and Cornwall before the final haul across the Celtic Sea back to Dungarvan, fitted the bill to perfection.

lady belle trackchart3The trackchart of Lady Belle’s 3450-mile cruise – everything from the romance of the Hebrides to the distant islands of Shetland, the fjords of Norway, the cosy havens of Denmark, the meandering sandy waterways of the Friesian Islands, the varied channels of The Netherlands, the tide-hustled coast of Brittany, and home via Cornwall across the edge of the Western Ocean

While Lady Belle enjoyed some of the great weather of June and July, the sheer length of time which a 3450-mile cruise of this type involved inevitably saw them experience gales – 12 in all – and the weather was well broken when they returned home in August.

They came back to find that June and July in Ireland had been perfect weather, ideal for cruising home waters, so not surprisingly the other trophies allocated by Dan Cross see an emphasis on those who took best advantage of this, with the Strangford Cup for an alternative best cruise going to Derek White of Strangford for his leisurely and very convivial summery circuit of Ireland with his wife Viv on their vintage Fastnet 34 Ballyclaire.

ballyclaire cape clear4A perfect Irish summer day in the making. Early morning for Derek & Viv White’s Fastnet 34 Ballyclaire (left) on the convenient pontoons at North Harbour, Cape Clear, with Brian & Eleanor Cudmore’s Bavaria 42 Ann Again ICC on right. Photo: Derek White.
derek white5Happy skipper – Derek White gets past the Strangford Bar Buoy.

The fact that the northerners take their holidays in July while those in the south see August as the holiday time worked in the northerners’ favour with 2018’s weather patterns, as the former got idyllic conditions for several detailed cruises in Irish waters. Another Strangford Lough boat – Peter Mullan’s Sun Odyssey 12m Oyster Bay – simply took advantage of the good weather to cruise gently to West Cork and back with the Voyage Purpose being an inspection of the historic ketch Ilen nearing completion of her restoration at Oldcourt near Baltimore, and he won the Glengarriff Trophy for his charming write-up.

Peter Mullan’s easy-going cruise

As it happens, Ilen figured again in the awards, as the ICC’s Western Committee allocated the Aran Islands Trophy to Gary MacMahon of Limerick for his inspirational leadership of this project. But meanwhile Peter Mullan’s easy-going cruise produced the best of the many 2018 sunset images in the ICC Annual, though perhaps you wouldn’t immediately guess its location – it was taken in the workaday port of Arklow.

mullan arklow6The glorious weather of July 2018 had all Ireland’s harbours looking their best – this is sunset at Arklow. Photo: Peter Mullan

Meanwhile, far to the northwest, Paul McSorley and John Gray voyaged from Lough Swilly out to Rockall and back under sail only in the Westerly Falcon 35 Viking Lord, “sail only” being a requirement as they wished to qualify for the Azores & Back Race.  When they finally got to that distant and lonely rock, like everyone else they were surprised by just how small it is.  But to prove they’d been there, they took an Irish product placement image of themselves with Rockall between them, framed by a packet of Tayto Crisps from County Meath and a bottle of Belfast Ale. Last night, they received the ICC’s Rockabill Trophy for seamanship for a job well done.

mcsorley rockall7A bit of Irish product placement at Rockall – having sailed out from Lough Swilly to the remote Atlantic rock, Paul McSorley and John Gray take a commercial break…

One of the ICC’s most senior and significant trophies is the Round Ireland Cup, and for 2018 it goes to one of the club’s most senior and significant boats, the 1890 Cobh-built 32ft cutter Winifreda, owned for generations by the Villiers–Stuart family. Everyone knows her as Winnie, and she’s all boat – the biggest 32-footer you ever saw – for she was built of double-skinned teak as a workboat in order to transport gunpowder and ammunition from the naval base at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour out to the forts at the harbour entrance.

1890 Cobh-built 32ft cutter Winifreda

It’s said that her hull planking is of such high quality that none of it has ever needed to be replaced, which at 129 years is quite something. But above deck and within the hull, she has been very cleverly altered to become a comfortable Bermudan-rigged cruising cutter, and in this form she has cruised thousands of miles.

windifred at helvick8The 1890-built Winifreda in party mode at Helvick in 2018. A hundred years earlier, she had worked from this West Waterford harbour as a fishing boat, and before that she was a Naval Ammunition Carrier in Cork Harbour.

These days, her custodian is Gary Villiers-Stuart and he has her based at Ulva Ferry on the West Coast of Mull in Scotland. But as she has been in the family since 1918 and was based for many years at the ancestral territory in West Waterford, he reckoned the centenary of ownership year of 2018 merited an anti-clockwise circuit of Ireland with the emphasis on West Waterford and particularly Helvick, where Winnie was worked as a fishing boat before she eventually was converted to a cruising cutter. It was some cruise, challenging at times and hugely sociable when special ports were reached, and the entire project exactly fits the Round Ireland Cup purposes.

helvick sunset9Another of 2018’s superb sunsets – this time at Helvick, looking towards the head of Dungarvan Bay. Photo: Gary Villiers-Stuart

Not everyone stayed in Ireland to avail of the good weather. Peter Fernie of Galway with his little Moody 27 Mystic decided a season or two in the usually more summery weather of Galicia had become a priority, but after a seamanlike crossing of the Bay of Biscay direct from Dingle, he arrived to find the rain in Spain while a call home revealed that summer had come. But he very worthily received the Marie Trophy for the best cruise by a boat under 30ft donated by northern skipper Michael McKee, who in turn was presented with the Wright Salver for his years of service (since 1962) to the club. And meanwhile back in Galicia, summer duly reasserted itself, but even so several ICC boats which have been based there since the club’s Galicia Rally in 2016 decided it was time to cruise home in order to be comfortably in place for the Royal Cork’s Tricentenary in 2020.

That in turn presented the adjudicator with a selection of fine cruises well worthy of trophies, but the main choices had been made, and in order to reflect the wide scope of the Annual’s contents, Dan Cross recognised cruises by members in non-club boats in more distant areas, including one by John Duggan into eastern Sweden (the Wild Goose Cup) while the Fingal Cup for the log which the adjudicator most enjoyed went to Ed Wheeler for his entertaining account of a jaunt through the remote fjords of southwest New Zealand.

fjordland nz10Like a Dream World – Fjordland, New Zealand. Photo: Ed Wheeler

Much nearer home, the business of boat delivery after a successful purchase in Europe is part of ICC life, and second-generation ICC member John O’Rahilly of Dun Laoghaire made such an efficient yet enjoyable job out of bringing his newly-acquired Wauquiez Gladiateur home from The Netherlands in just eight days that the adjudicator reckoned the project merited the Fortnight Cup, a senior ICC trophy which dates back to the days when people had jobs of regular hours, and with clearly-defined holiday periods.

John B Kearney Cup

Two of the ICC’s most eminent early members were designer-builder John B Kearney and 1925 Fastnet Race veteran Harry Donegan, and they are remembered with the John B Kearney Cup – an open award for an outstanding contribution to Irish sailing – and the Donegan Memorial Trophy, in the gift of the club’s Eastern Committee to honour someone special in their region.

orahilly windward11Businesslike progress. John O’Rahilly’s Wauquiez Gladiateur Rike making to windward down the English Channel in the delivery cruise which was awarded the Fortnight Cup. Photo: John O’Rahilly

The John B Kearney Cup went to Gregor McGuckin, hero of the Golden Jubilee Golden Globe race for his inspiring attempt to rescue an injured fellow-competitor when he himself was sailing under jury rig after dismasting in the Southern Indian Ocean, while the Donegan Trophy celebrated the many achievements of former ICC Commodore Peter Killen of Malahide, whose cruising has included outstanding ventures both to the Arctic and Antarctic, while at home he has been a tireless worker behalf of both the club and the RNLI.

However, for those just new to the game, the ICC offers encouragement to writers of their first log for publication in the form of the Perry Greer Bowl for the best such effort, and for 2018 it goes to Jim O’Meara of Cobh for his informative account of a detailed anti-clockwise circuit of the Bay of Biscay from northwest Spain, with his Jeanneau 37 Second Chance now laid-up in Brittany, poised to sail for home in the summer of 2019.

In all, there are 28 hugely varied cruising logs covering thousands of miles and dozens of cruising grounds in the new ICC Annual, the second one to be edited by Maire Breathnach (it’s Dungarvan again…), and she does it with style and skill.

The 1961 Round Ireland Cruise

One of the most attractive of her additions to the contents is a delve into the archives of cruises past, and this year’s is a gem – the 1961 Round Ireland Cruise from Carrickfergus by the tiny 18ft Belfast Lough Waverley Class keelboat Durward, beautifully written up as “The Time of Our Lives” by Kevin MacLaverty, who was crewed by his younger brother Colm and Michael Clarke.

durward trackchart12History in the making – the trackchart of the 18ft Durward’s round Ireland cruise in 1961

durward kilronan13The tiny Durward at the quay at Kilronan on Inishmore in the Aran Islands, July 1961. In those days, the harbour at Kilronan was much less developed than it is now, and in order to get shelter from a series of gales, Durward had to use a drying berth. Photo: Kevin MacLaverty

Kevin and Colm are alas no longer with us, but Michael Clarke at 78 is still very much part of the sailing scene – at 78 he is Admiral of Lough Erne Yacht Club, Father of the J/24 Class, and a couple of years ago he was cruising round Ireland again, this time with Rob Henshall ICC in the Endurance 35 ketch Inspiration from Lough Swilly.

Michael Clarke came up with the goods for Maire Breathnach to beef up the 1961 log of Durward, and it’s a treasure trove of memories from 58 years ago. In those days, detailed cruises of Ireland’s west coast were a rarity, and for many sailors from elsewhere, the occasionally-sighted currach and even rarer Galway Hookers were much more a matter of wonder than they are nowadays, when new boats of all sizes to the traditional designs are being built, and people such as ICC member James Cahill of Westport have gone to the trouble of assembling a collection of 14 small craft to cover every known currach type.

durward currach14The first sight of a currach for Durward’s crew – “coming in from the Great Blasket under a makeshift sail”. Photo: Kevin MacLaverty

durward hooker15It is 1961, and when a traditional hooker arrives into the Aran Islands laden with a cargo of turf from Connemara, it is business as usual. Photo: Kevin MacLaverty

But back in 1961, there was a pessimistic assumption that such boats would disappear in the face of progress, and even though Durward met her first currach in Blasket Sound, with the little black boat sailing in from the then-inhabited Great Blasket Island, within three years the last islanders had left to live on the mainland.

Now we know much more of these boats and their places and people, and hooker and currach racing is a feature of many parts of the coast. But in 1961, it was a very different world, a world in which taking an 18ft keelboat totally unaccompanied round Ireland required courage of a high order, and in recognition of this, the inclusion of the 1961 Durward log in the latest Irish Cruising Club Annual is something very special indeed

durward sheephaven16On the home stretch – Durward in Sheephaven in Donegal. A few days later, she was back in Belfast Lough, and as it was a Saturday and the day of the Royal North of Ireland YC Regatta 1961 at Cultra, she was quickly stripped of her cruising gear and temporary “coachrooof”, and took second place in the Waverley Class’s regatta racing

Published in W M Nixon
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From Norman Kean:

In many places, Easter is a very handy time to launch a boat for the season, not only because there’s a long weekend holiday, but because there’s always a spring tide – or close to it.

This odd but useful situation arises from the method of determining the date of Easter – the fact that it is, in the original sense of the term, a moveable feast. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon after the spring equinox (which is arbitrarily fixed at 21 March for ecclesiastical purposes). Easter Sunday is therefore, on average, four days after the full moon, i.e. two days after the top of spring tides. In most years, the top of springs occurs some time between Good Friday and Easter Monday; this year, it fell on Maundy Thursday. The first Council of Nicaea made the rules in 325AD. Perhaps there was a sailor on the committee.

This convenient coincidence does not, unfortunately, apply in Greece and eastern Europe, where the Orthodox Churches use a modified Julian calendar to determine the date of Easter. This year, the two Easters happen to coincide, but next year the Orthodox Easter is a week later. The ancient Celtic Churches also maintained their own views on the date of Easter until the 8th century, when the sailors appear to have won the argument.

 


Was This The First Round Ireland Voyage?

An article by Winkie Nixon – with acknowledgements to Afloat Magazine

olivia
William Power’s 45ft Olivia in Sligo Bay during her second round Ireland cruise. Her first circuit of Ireland in September 1860 seldom enjoyed gentle weather like this.

Sailing round Ireland, whether cruising or racing, is a fascinating and uniquely satisfying experience for any Irish sailing enthusiast.  Who did it first from an Irish port?  W M Nixon introduces a possible candidate from 1860.

We try to tell ourselves that cruising round Ireland is no big deal these days.  And even though the biennial Round Ireland Race from Wicklow (this year’s starts on Saturday June 28th) throws crews straight into whatever the weather happens to be providing on our exposed Atlantic coasts, when you’ve become accustomed to hearing the tales of extreme sailing off Cape Horn by Volvo racers and the like, Ireland’s west coast in summer seems like an old pussy cat by comparison.

Yet despite the all-round sailing abilities of modern boats, the safety and convenience factor provided by reliable auxiliary engines, and the proliferation of new or improved harbours with convenient pontoon berths on every coastline, cruising round Ireland still has the capacity to feel very special indeed.  This is particularly so if you allow yourself at least four weeks to do justice to the extraordinary variety of ports, harbours and coastlines that you’ll encounter during a voyage which can be 1200 miles long if you give the most interesting areas the attention they deserve.

 As for racing round, most Irish sailors would like to have at least one racing circuit in their CVs.  Others become almost addicted to the guaranteed satisfaction of being there in the start at in late June in every even-numbered year, while the bonus of completing the course is still magic. And as for getting among the trophies, well, that’s simply ecstatic.

The essence of the round Ireland mystique lies in doing it from an Irish port in an Irish boat.  The earliest known distance race along the Irish coast occurred in 1860. It was from Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour, with one of the smaller boats winning despite there being no handicaps.  This “first of the first” was the 39-ton cutter Sybil (Sir John Arnott), sailed by the renowned amateur skipper Henry O’Bryen.  But despite the race being sailed again in 1861, 1862 and 1888, and despite the enthusiasm from the 1850s onwards for “cross channel matches” between the east coast of Ireland, the North Wales/Liverpool area, and the Isle of Man, the notion of a round Ireland race, if it did arise, simply didn’t get any significant support, and thus the first race round came as part of something else.

In the extravagant golden days of 19th Century yachting with enormous craft sailed by large professional crews, Ireland might be taken in as part of a circuit cruise of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. And the first race round all the islands took place in 1887 in an anti-clockwise marathon from Southend in the Thames Estuary, organised by the Royal Thames YC to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

olivia2

The 80-on Genesta (right) was winner of the first Round Britain and Ireland Race in 1887. She is seen here two years earlier in her unsuccessful America’s Cup Challenge against Puritan

In a fleet of eleven starters, the smallest was the 40-ton cutter Sleuthhound, while the largest was the 255-ton schooner Selene. Only six of this pioneering fleet finished, and the winner was the 80-ton cutter Genesta (Sir Richard Sutton), which had unsuccessfully challenged for the America’s Cup two years earlier. Inevitably, one muses on the prospects for current America’s Cup challengers, successful or otherwise, in sailing this offshore course….But enough, the fact is that this was, in a sense, an early round Ireland race. And as for cruising round Ireland, that doughty cruising trailblazer R T McMullen, a Royal Thames member, had not been permitted to take part in the Golden Jubilee Race as his 16-tonner Orion was considered too small. But he sailed the course anyway as a long high-speed cruising passage, and thus in 1887 we had an early round Ireland “cruise”.

So that bit of information goes into the fascination of the story of sailing round Ireland. And the more we know of the pioneering days of sailing, the more we are astonished by what some of the early cruising folk achieved when the sport was undeveloped, and the secrets and local knowledge of the remote coastlines of Ireland, the bits that were barely outlined in the official charts, were jealously guarded by people who didn’t want them known. Smugglers and pirates for instance, or those who hoped to sell local knowledge on a regular basis, such as those retained as personal pilots by strangers cruising the coasts.

Then too, the development of cruising round Ireland has been much affected by the turbulent national history. Cruising and simply sailing along the coast are quintessentially activities of peace and prosperity. You need peace to cruise, and you certainly need some level of individual prosperity for the yacht owners themselves, though speaking personally a general air of prosperity ashore when you get to port is something which adds greatly to cruising enjoyment – “picturesque poverty” gives me the creeps

When we first cruised round Ireland in 1964, the western and southwestern seaboards were only just beginning to come to life after many decades of low economic activity, and it was good to see it. But it’s much more enjoyable to cruise those areas these days, when – despite the recent recession – there’s a lot of life about the place, and local sailing is thriving. And for those who would suggest that it’s getting too crowded, I can only say you’re not trying. There are many wide open spaces and secluded uncrowded anchorages if you look for them, and have a boat capable of self-sufficiency with proper anchoring arrangements which don’t rely onpontoons or visitor’s moorings.

But every time you do the circuit, the curiosity about who did it first from an Irish port becomes ever greater. Until the Great Famine of 1845, there had been flowerings of recreational sailing along the Atlantic coasts, with theRoyal Western of Ireland Yacht Club emerging from a regatta at Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary in 1829. In an era when those who had wealth and free time had lots of it, and the entertainment industry was in its infancy, the yachts of the time were kept busy.

At its most prosperous, the Royal Western had eighteen substantial yachts based in Kilrush Creek in 1838. It’s surely likely that in some seasons their delivery passages to the early regattas in Galway Bay, Belfast Lough, the Clyde, Dublin Bay and Cork Harbour inevitably became round Ireland “cruises”. But as the Royal Western faded away in the horrors of the late 1840s, such things were forgotten.

The potential round Ireland sailing craft included another Shannon Estuary boat, the Knight of Glin’s notably successful racer Rienvella, a 30-tonner which in 1834 was recorded as winning in both Galway Bay and at Cork. And of course the Corkmen were no slouches in racing and in cruising to races. In 1830 Caulfield Beamish of Cork turned up in Belfast Lough with his cutter Paddy (which he’d designed himself) to race against the boats of the nascent Royal Northern YC, a group which in 1838 became totally Clyde-based, though that is not necessarily attributable to the fact that the Cork boat beat them all back in 1830.

olivia3
Caulfield Beamish’s Paddy from Cork winning a race in hectic style in Belfast Lough in 1830.

Be that as it may, boats like Paddy and other top racers of subsequent decades in the 19th Century regularly made long passages to the main racing venues, and a west coast boat returning from events in the Irish Sea/North Channel area would naturally contemplate going northabout. But while some owners enjoyed doing these voyages, they were thought of as cranks by their peers, who expected inter-event deliveries to be done by professional crews, while the gilded owners just turned up to strut their stuff at the regattas.

olivia4
Judge Boyd’s 34-ton yawl Aideen on her mooring in Howth in 1889, the year he cruised her round Ireland.

Thus it was a long time before round Ireland cruises as we recognise them today were being undertaken, and for many years the earliest proper round Ireland cruise we definitely knew of wasn’t undertaken until 1889, when that great man Judge Boyd of Howth (he figures in Joyce’s Ulysses) cruised round in his 34-ton 50ft yawl Aideen. And the only reason we know of it was because it was mentioned in a profile of the Judge in a Yachting Monthly of January 1910. Yet the way it was mentioned suggests that, while rare, by 1889 Round Ireland cruises were by no means a complete novelty. But how on earth to find out about earlier ones?

Enter Wally McGuirk with a Christmas present. The loan of an interesting book may strike you as a weird Christmas present, but when the lender is Wally McGuirk, it’s a gem. Wally’s business card says it all: “We buy and sell anything marine”. He’s also a certifiable innovator, and serial boat builder – his current craft, the handsome big steel cutter Swallow, is the eighth boat he has built for himself, and is doubly interesting through being the last boat designed by O’Brien Kennedy.

But that’s by the way. Somehow in his mega-busy life, Wally finds time to trawl through second-hand bookshops, and in one in England he came across a facsimile printing of a jewel of early cruising which, to my shame, I’d never heard of, but we’ll try to make amends now.

You may know of the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, a private journal of 1906 which was a runaway success when it was published in facsimile in 1977. Well, The Log of the Olivia, published in facsimile by Richmond Press in England in 1983 from the original which had come down the ages to distant relatives of the author, is cruising’s equivalent to the Country Diary, except that it’s even more historically significant as it dates from the period 1859 to 1867. It is the personal sailing diary, illustrated with his own skilled and charming sketches, of one William A Power, who sailed from Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) on Dublin Bay in his 25-ton cutter Olivia.

olivia5
The many voyages of William Power’s 25-tonner Olivia from Dublin Bay between 1859 and 1867, which included two round Ireland cruises They sailed so many times through the Irish Sea and the North Channel that they may well have worn a groove in the ocean. “RMYC” refers to Royal Mersey YC, despite the fact that Olivia was based in Dublin Bay, but Power later also listed the Royal Irish as his club.

This excellent facsimile is primarily for print connoisseurs and bibliophiles. As someone who thinks books should be devoured rather than venerated, this is strange territory for me. And equally, in our era of Google, the virtually total blank which was drawn in 1983 in filling in the background to William Power and his fine cruising yacht is almost bewildering. Yet even in 1983, a quick look at the two volume guide to Yachting, first published by the Badminton Library in 1894, would have revealed that Olivia’s builder, Michael Ratsey of Cowes, was well known in sailing circles as a boatbuilder and designer, and very active through the middle decades of the 19th Century, with one of his best known racers, the cutter Myosotis, being built as late at 1877.

Thus in being the owner of Olivia, William A Power clearly knew his stuff, but whether he commissioned the boat new or bought her second hand we still don’t know. At 25 tons Thames Measurement, she would have been around 45ft in overall length, for the 1860s preceded the era when TM yachts became absurdly narrow and thus unreasonably long in order to exploit the measurement rule.

We can get a very good idea of what Olivia looked at by considering the bare hull of The Nita, which was retrieved from rural seclusion in the Irish Midlands by Hal Sisk and his team in 2006. The Nita was designed and built in iron in 1868 by Bewley, Webb and Co of Dublin for the Dopping-Hepenstal family of Lough Gowna in County Longford. Despite the fact that in her long sailing life The Nita never left the waters of Lough Gowna, she was of an able seagoing shape very typical of her time, and as she too was 25 tons TM, 44ft LOA and 12ft beam, the similarities to the Olivia are remarkable.

olivia6
The Nita, designed and built by Bewley, Webb and Co in Dublin in 1868. In her dimensions and lines, she is remarkably similar to the Olivia. Photo: Iain McAllister

However, in every other way, the life of the wide-ranging Olivia was totally different. At the moment we know nothing of William A Power except that he was initially recorded in Hunt’s Universal Register of Yachts as a member of the Royal Mersey YC (cross-channel inter-club links were strong in those days) and the Royal Western of Ireland YC, which by the 1860s had moved its base from the devastated western seaboard to Dublin Bay. Then Hunt’s in 1868 records Power as being a member of the Royal Irish YC, which begins to make more sense, and also the Prince Alfred, later the Royal Alfred YC.

Writing this in the midst of the two week midwinter shutdown, we have no means of accessing membership records of any of these clubs, but it something which will be a fascinating trail to follow. As to William A Power, inevitably you’d guess he was a Power of Power’s Whiskey, for the extent of his cruising suggests someone who was on an unearned income. But not an excessively generous one – by the standards of her time, the Olivia was a very modest cruising yacht, and Power cruised her with himself in command, and one or two paid hands, plus any sea-minded friends he can persuade to come along.

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Grabbing some shut-eye in the crew’s quarters during Olivia’s round Ireland cruise in September 1860. While reasonably comfortable, this was no luxury yacht

Yet despite the limited resources, the cruising he did in the period 1859-1867 was simply sensational. South to Spain, east to Norway, north to the Faroes, and just about everywhere else in between. In a programme like this, in which the Olivia carved her own private roadway up and down the Irish Sea and North Channel, almost inevitably a round Ireland cruise was fitted in, but it seems to have been done in 1860 almost as an afterthought, as the Olivia had already cruised that year north to Orkney and Shetland.

It was Thursday August 30th 1860 when they sailed south from Dublin Bay, so it was a September cruise – not a month normally chosen for a round Ireland venture. And while the coasts they’d visited in the cruises of 1859 and the other cruises of 1860 had been relatively prosperous, the west coast of Ireland in 1860 was anything but.

Thus you get a feeling that the cruise was being done almost out of a sense of duty rather than in anticipation of enjoyment. And as knowledge of any special cruising attractions along the west coast had not yet been assembled in published form, by the standards of today’s round Ireland cruises the experiences “enjoyed” by Olivia’s crew were very thin indeed. In Cork Harbour, for example, the peak of the season was clearly well past, and up the west coast they were stuck in Cleggan for almost a week as one wet gale followed another.

After three very mixed weeks, they returned to Dublin Bay. But in due course, Power and the Olivia did another round Ireland cruise which seems to have afforded him more pleasure – that’s when he did the summery sketch of the boat in Sligo Bay. In a brief initial scanning of this remarkable book, you can very quickly see where the author is enjoying himself – the word count increases and the sketches become lively, whereas when the weather is bad, you can have about four words devoted to an entire week stuck in port.

Power tells it all, including the fact he put Olivia aground on a falling tide in Achill Sound (many cruisers have done the same since), but as he carried legs they were able to keep themselves upright. To pass the time, the crew hunted down a seal that provided a very high protein diet for the rest of the voyage, which reminds us this was a very long time ago – it’s surely not something a contemporary crew would contemplate.

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Caught out by a falling tide while straying from the channel in Achill Sound, William Power and his crew put out the legs to keep Olivia safely upright, and then bagged themselves a seal to supplement their diet for the non-stop passage the rest of the way home to Dublin Bay.

All this is just from an initial brief impression of The Log of the Olivia.  It was the night before Christmas Eve when Wally appeared out of the dark with this extraordinary book. With 2014 upon us and festivities finally drawing to a close, it’s clear that one of the top questions will now be:  Who was William A Power?