Notes for the Cool Route and Failte Ireland

Visitor moorings in Clifden
By Daria and Alex Blackwell
Pontoon at Clifden Boat Club makes access easy

This summer, we spent a month sailing Ireland’s beautiful southwest coast. We encountered many foreign vessels, more than we’ve ever seen before, mostly from Britain and France.

The first questions a cruiser asks when arriving in a new destination are:

  1. Are there visitor moorings and are they secure and easy to pick up?
  2. Is the anchorage sufficiently protected from wind and seas and does it offer good holding?  What type of bottom composition does it have?
  3. Where is the access to shore? Is it a pontoon, a pier, or a beach?
  4. How can I dispose of garbage and recycling?
  5. Are there showers and toilets ashore?
  6. How far are the closest restaurants and pubs?
  7. Can I get water and fuel?
  8. Is there a shop for reprovisioning?
  9. Are there laundry facilities?
  10. What's the best thing to do here?

As Port Officers representing the west of Ireland for the Ocean Cruising Club, Seven Seas Cruising Association, and Trans Ocean eV, we heard from members visiting here about their experience. Below are a few observations which we believe need critical improvements in order to support continued interest in Ireland as a premiere cruising destination.

·         Garbage and Recycling are perhaps the biggest challenge for boaters
o   Very few places have facilities to collect garbage and dispose of it. If they do have it, it is often under lock and key, most often in marinas which are few and far between on the west coast.
§  Dingle has a garbage skip behind a locked gate that has to be opened by the marina manager. Only boats in the marina would have access. Although it takes recycling, it does not have separate collection containers for recycling so it is left behind co-mingled with the garbage.
§  Knightstown has a skip on the waterfront but it is locked.  We did not find recycling facilities.
§  Schull and Glengarriff have recycling for bottles and tins but no garbage. Visiting yachtsmen were leaving bags of garbage on the ground next to the recycling containers during the Calves Regatta.
§  Crookhaven has no recycling and no garbage dumpster.
§  Kinsale has the winning example of an excellent facility. They have garbage bins right at the KYC clubhouse and extensive recycling for everything including batteries. It is open to all who need it.
§  Friends from Britain sent us a photo of an Irish trash collection point with the notice “The skips were removed because they were being used.”
§  Whereas local authorities may find garbage collection an issue/inconvenient, and some locals may indeed use provided bins or skips, not providing these is an even bigger issue. It is a serious deterrent to visiting yachts, and cleaning up loose garbage bags left by desperate visitors is a much bigger task.
·         It should also be noted that every poor or developing country we have visited does manage to provide adequate garbage disposal facilities.
·         Local authorities to provide suitable garbage and recycling collection points at all shore access points.

·         Moorings for visitors are welcome but not easily usable
o   Most of the council moorings have no pennants or bridles so visitors have to struggle to get their mooring lines/warps through the small metal loop.  It is impossible to bring the large yellow ball up to the deck of any boat with high freeboard.
o   In Kilronan we saw a small French yacht struggling. A sailor actually got off the boat and stood on the mooring ball to get a rope through it, then gave up and struggled to get back aboard. We gave up when we tried to pick up a mooring when we could not reach down to it and get a line through the shackle. We saw a couple of other boats try to pick up moorings in other harbours using truly bizarre tactics. One looped a rope underneath the yellow buoy and three people dragged it up to the deck while a fourth tried to get a rope through. They gave up but were now tangled up aft to with the mooring. It took a long time for them to get disentangled and their boat kept bumping into the boat next to them. It was not a safe situation. They sailed away afterwards in frustration.
o   Mayo has the winning example of well-supplied visitor moorings.  The moorings now have bright orange pick up ropes with a buoy attached making it very easy to pick up the mooring using a boat hook and secure it temporarily while getting one’s own ropes tied to the shackle. Brilliant!
§  The Mayo moorings are also the only ones observed on the west and south coasts, where the mooring ball appeared to be clean and riding relatively high in the water. This leads one to believe that these are the only moorings regularly serviced.
o   Clifden YC has a similar set up to Mayo on the visitor moorings by the clubhouse where they have pickup ropes streaming from the mooring balls. This is potentially not as safe as having a small buoy on the rope; it is hard to see the ropes in the water and potentially easier to foul the prop.
o   Moorings to be inspected, cleaned, and serviced annually. Preferably this should be organized/overseen on a national level to ensure quality and safety.
o   Orange polyester (floating) pick-up ropes with an adequate eye splice should be shackled to all visitor moorings. Buoys on these ropes are not necessary.

·         Anchorages are full of legacy moorings limiting space where yachts can anchor safely.
o   Many of the harbours (e.g. Kerry) have no visitor moorings anymore yet the anchorages are often so full of legacy moorings, pots, and other gear that finding a safe spot to drop the anchor without fouling can be difficult. Designated anchorages should be kept free of debris to encourage anchoring.  
o   Inishbofin is a good example.  There are no official visitor moorings but finding space to anchor between the various buoys is quite a task. There are even ropes without buoys floating up from mooring blocks on the bottom.
o   As visitor moorings are rated for 15 tons, larger yachts must anchor.  Clearing designated anchorages would encourage larger vessels to visit. In Scotland, many anchorages have one mooring designated for larger vessels.
o   Lift and remove all unused mooring blocks. Arrange private and visitor moorings to optimize space.

·         Water availability is often good but rarely by hose.

o   Marinas at Dingle, Kinsale, Kilrush, Galway, Fenit and Lawrence Cove on Bere Island have water available on the docks.  Even the pontoon in Knightstown has water (but no electricity).
o   Many harbours, especially those with active fishing fleets have water available at or near the piers.  We found access in Crookhaven, Schull, Castletownsend, etc, where we could fill a water container to bring aboard by dinghy. 
o   In some cases the spigots were fancy looking, but ill-suited for filling canisters.
o   It would be helpful to have a guide/sign to where to find the water access point.

·         Diesel and petrol are hard to come by.
o   The only marinas that we know of on our route with diesel fuel pumps are in Kinsale, Lawrence Cove, Kilrush, and Fenit.
§  A few places one can get fuel in by truck (Dingle, Galway, Killybegs)
§  Fuel is otherwise only accessible using road transport and jerry cans.
§  The fuel dock in Kinsale is currently occupied by a disabled racing boat and so was difficult to access.
o   Petrol for the dinghy engine has to be obtained by jerry can from petrol stations if they can be found nearby. Glengarriff for example has a petrol station right on the harbour. Petrol fuelled power vessels would be likely to have difficulty cruising in the west.
o   Taxed white diesel, which is legal for yachts to use, is not available anywhere dockside.
o   Provide adequate dockside diesel and petrol purchasing points at key locations along the coasts.
o   Green/Red diesel vs white diesel: see submission from Norman Keane (Irish Cruising Club and Irish Sailing Association) regarding green diesel vs white diesel.

·         Propane/butane virtually inaccessible
o   We came across a few sailors asking how to refill propane or butane tanks. None of the marinas had facilities available or publicized.
§  Yachts generally have non-standard gas tanks to fit the available space that need refilling
o   Fittings for systems other than Calor gas tanks are unheard of and unavailable.  The marina manager at Fenit can apparently organize Camping Gaz. 
o   As cooking aboard is essential especially in the more remote regions where self-sufficiency is key, access to cooking gas must be communicated.
o   Work out arrangements nationwide with commercial propane providers to have filling stations at key locations.

·         VHF radio coverage is spotty
o   CG radio reception for weather forecasts and marine advisories is hard or even impossible to hear due to static or lack of signal in many locations.
o   Hailing the coast Guard in these locations is conversely also impaired or not possible. There is a serious marine safety issue here.
o   As AIS vessel tracking is collected by shore stations, this is also impeded/impossible depending on VHF communications with the CG shore stations (local ship to ship is, of course, unaffected)
o   For example:
§  In Inishbofin we could hear the general CG announcements but we couldn’t hear Clifden for the detailed forecasts.
§  Bantry Bay and SW Cork had intermittent static, like an open mike, starting at 9 am daily for 3 weeks while we were there; squelch didn’t help. 
§  In Westport and just about anywhere inside Clew Bay (just inside Clare Island) there is no Coast Guard VHF reception.
·         AIS tracks of vessels entering Clew Bay stops inside Clare Island.
o   These types of failures of VHF cause boaters to rely on mobiles instead of VHF.
§  The result is that no one is listening if there’s a problem on a vessel.
§  Mobile signal is often unavailable in remote coastal areas.
§  It’s a self-perpetuating issue.
§  It is a serious safety issue.
o   Coast Guard to do a comprehensive survey of the coastline; determine the black or grey spots and develop the necessary infrastructure.

·         Shore access by dinghy can be challenging
o   In some places it can be easy to find your way ashore. In other places, it’s very challenging.  Some of the fishing piers have good stairs or ladders and space for dinghies to tie up.  Pontoons are definitely preferable, especially for an aging cruising population.
o   Where they are available, the visitor’s pontoons in July/August were severely overcrowded, often by very large RIBs that are quite outside the definition of dinghy.
o   Provide pontoons, communicating their location and instituting rules for their use would be very helpful in getting the boater’s ashore to spend their money eagerly.

·         General / Other points to be addressed:
o   Access to shopping and re-provisioning
o   Toilets and Showers
o   Chandleries and sail services

Overall Recommendation:

Conduct a detailed, independent survey of the entire coastline to map out available infrastructural elements, as well as what state these elements are in, and what is missing/needed.

Laundromat in KYC a little overused

Recycling in KYC was exemplary

Even battery and oil recycling in KYC

Garbage skips in KYC are welcome

Ladies toilets in KYC

Facilities are much better than they were

Ball of hair in the shower, need tokens for shower


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