The Royal Irish Yacht Club – Giving a talk on sailing to Jan Mayen

3rd November 2022 – Dun Laoghaire

I was invited to give a talk about my expedition to Jan Mayen to members of the Royal Irish Yacht Club. Any excuse to visit Ireland is very welcome so I grabbed at the chance. I don’t like flying unless it is really essential and as there is a ferry route from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire it seemed the best way to get there. What I didn’t realise is that the ferries actually go to Dublin Ferry Port nowadays which is a bit of a trek away from Dun Laoghaire.

Nevertheless, it was hopefully a simple matter of booking a couple of return train/ferry trips from Euston to Dublin but sadly it wasn’t that easy at all! Every website said that the tickets were not available. Some were quoting over £800 return each! In desperation, I emailed complaining to the Office of Rail and Road and to Avanti West Coast. They both said that I should allow 28 days for a reply which is hardly helpful. The Office of Rail and Road did reply in a few days and said that it was because AWC hadn’t sorted out their timetable yet.

We eventually managed to buy two returns for about £50 by visiting two railway stations in person. However, the ticket said that the train leaves Euston at 09:30 but by fluke we checked, and it actually leaves at 08:30! AWC eventually sent me an email when I was actually on the train, saying that they note my travel date was for today and I can buy the tickets by following the link. Apparently if I wanted a quicker answer I should have contacted them via Twitter! I then received a questionnaire from AWC asking what I thought of the service – zero marks.

Really the UK rail system is just so chaotic, it’s no wonder people fly everywhere. Rant complete.

The good news was that the ferry journey was to coincide with a full blown storm force 10 in the Irish Sea. What fun! As it happens, the ferry is so big and so well stabilised that you could hardly notice any movement at all. That said, people were throwing up.

Leaving Holyhead into the “storm”?

We arrived a bit late and jumped on the bus and then on the DART train to Dun Laoghaire (I have since learned that DART stands for Dublin Area Rapid Transit). The Royal Irish Yacht Club had kindly booked us into the splendid Royal Marine Hotel and their bar was still serving food so we indulged ourselves before retiring.

My talk was to be in the evening so we had the whole day to ourselves. Grit went off into Dublin to meet a friend and I decided to explore the local museum. But before that, I thought it wise to find the location of the Yacht Club. Easy, I could already see a splendid Yacht Club building straight ahead. I walked across only to discover this was the National Irish Yacht Club. Silly me, I looked along the seafront to my left to see another gorgeous looking Yacht Club, that must be it. No, this was the Royal St George Yacht Club (named after the St George Channel). Another few hundred yards there was yet another amazing Yacht Club. At last I had found the Royal Irish Yacht Club. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere with so many extraordinary Yacht Clubs! There is even another prestigious Yacht Club called the Royal Alfred Yacht Club but they have no clubhouse.

Royal Irish Yacht Club (picture taken from online images)

I was beginning to learn that Dun Laoghaire was a rather special place! My trip to the National Maritime Museum would help me find out more.

Dun Laoghaire was originally called Dunleary, which is helpful to know, especially when it comes to pronouncing the place correctly. The town was renamed Kingstown in 1821 after a visit by King George IV and finally renamed Dun Laoghaire in 1920. The town centres around a purpose built harbour. It was deemed necessary to build the harbour because ships were struggling to make it over the bar to access Dublin’s harbour and were being driven onto the rocks on the south shore. This was to be a proper port of refuge with massive sea walls protecting an area big enough for ships to round up and anchor safely.

Old chart of Dublin Bay showing Dun Laoghaire on the south coast

Ireland’s first railway connected Kingstown to Dublin and was opened in 1834. This made Kingstown the world’s first commuter town.

The National Maritime Museum of Ireland was one of those real treasures. I was immediately welcomed by the friendly staff. You could tell this was a museum curated by people who loved the sea. I say that because certain Maritime Museums seem to be curated by people who are probably excellent “Museum People” but don’t necessarily show any affection for the sea. I can honestly say that this rather modest museum had more things of interest than the massive National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, but I’ll exclude the Royal Observatory from that.

A Breeches Buoy, with presumably the hauling eye to the front

One of their many exhibits is to do with cliff-to-ship rescue equipment. I have been aware of how Schermuly did a lot of work developing this type of gear because I own an old Neo Belay Patent Pulley. I had never really realised why they were called Breeches Buoys, but thanks to the bear, I now know!

One of the museums excellent display boards

The boards in the museum are IMO just perfect. Enough information to pique your interest with a decent typeface and font size so you can actually read the things!

The board above talks about a “Faking Box”. I have never seen a “Faking Box” before. Personally I would have probably called it a “Flaking Box” because in theatres we used to “Flake Cloths” by folding them back and forth. I also flake down my sails and might flake out my anchor chain on deck before deploying it. So one thing leads to another, and it seems “Faking” and “Flaking” are pretty much interchangeable words. Which do you use? I find these things fascinating!

A pump
Made by J Stone, Deptford

Talking about one thing leading to another. I live on the border of Deptford so this pump grabbed my attention. I looked up J. Stone & Co and the company still exists and is based in nearby Charlton. They established Stones Rowing Club in 1923 for their employees. When the company got a bit mean and refused to buy more equipment for the club, the members set up independently, eventually basing themselves in The Globe Pub in Royal Hill, Greenwich and renaming themselves “The Globe Rowing Club”

The Globe Rowing Club still exists and is based on the Thames in Greenwich

But I’m digressing away from Dun Laoghaire. With such a splendid harbour and no tidal restrictions the Dublin Bay was a first class place for sailing. In fact Hal Sisk describes it as the “Cradle of Yacht Racing” in his excellent book.

The Water Wag

The Water Wag is the world’s first one design class, developed in 1887 for racing from Dun Laoghaire. How amazing is that! The Yacht Clubs in Dun Laoghaire also were fundamental in setting up standard racing rules. It really is an astonishing story of how Dun Laoghaire contributed the modern sport. Did you know races once started with all the yachts tied to buoys in a row, it was in Dublin Bay where the flying start was introduced.

But the museum is not just yacht racing, just look at these lovely old outboards.

A beautifully restored British Seagull
On the left the outboard has a feathering propeller and a moving rudder and, on the right, the little trolling motor starts by wrapping a cord around the prop!

I could have spent all day in the museum but hunger eventually dragged me away.

In the evening I arrived at the Club House to be greeted by Winifred who is the Club’s Flag Officer. Winifred had already shown herself to be super helpful in making our stay in Ireland relaxing. We had allowed some time to set up the AV. I always expect anything concerning computers to go wrong, so much so, that I normally print out my notes in case everything fails and I need to continue under candle light. In this instance all seemed to work fine and Winifred showed us around the historic clubhouse which was built in 1851. There were several marine paintings by Beechey decorating their walls. There is also a sculpture of Conor O Brien made from the vertebrae of a blue whale in the foyer. I must read more about this adventurer who sailed around the world in his 42ft ketch Saoirse, departing from the Royal Irish Yacht Club. I still haven’t read Tim Severin’s book about the Brendan Voyage so it looks like I will be busy.

I gave my little talk to the club members. Given that they were all seated on very comfortable sofas and chairs it was a miracle no one fell asleep! There were club members there who had sailed to Jan Mayen which is unusual. After answering a few questions, I was treated to an excellent dinner followed by brandy in the bar. It was a very enjoyable evening. Winifred presented me with a copy of Hal Sisk’s book which is absolutely fascinating.

We were up very early to catch our ferry home. I must say, I was really impressed with everything in Dun Laoghaire and it is rather tempting to swing by in Sumara next year!

One response to “The Royal Irish Yacht Club – Giving a talk on sailing to Jan Mayen”

  1. […] talks to yacht clubs and I really enjoyed my trip to Dun Laoghaire to give a presentation to the Royal Irish Yacht Club. It almost tempted me to divert my planned sail of Sumara from sailing down the East Coast of […]

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