Ireland’s only surviving wooden sail cargo vessel embarked on a symbolic series of sustainable wind-powered supply trips to islands on the south and west coasts last week.
The Ilen, which was originally built in Baltimore in West Cork in 1926, is Ireland’s last wooden cargo vessel with a hold, and heir to a centuries-old trading tradition which is now being revived worldwide as an eco-friendly sustainable alternative.
The two-week voyage of cargo and community left Baltimore with a cargo of locally produced cheese, coffee and whiskey to pick up gin at North Harbour on Cape Clear – from where the vessel originally left for the Falklands, crewed by locals Con and Denis Cadogan.
The cargo ketch served for over 70 years transporting sheep and goods between the Falkland Islands before being brought back to Ireland 20 years ago and restored by a team led by Limerick man Gary MacMahon.
The rotating crew of four is this week sailing to Co Clare and will then travel up the Shannon estuary to Limerick on August 31st.
There, the local Ishka water, Limerick beer and whiskey will be loaded for the journey to Kilronan in the Aran Islands on September 2nd.
More supplies will be unloaded at Dingle on September 5th before the Ilen completes its journey to Cork city on September 7th to deliver the remainder of its cargo.
‘All over Europe, sail cargo deliveries are springing up and people are using the trade winds to travel to Madeira and the Caribbean, bringing back rum and coffee,’ said Mr McMahon.
‘Worldwide, eco-trading is a growing movement and serious design time is being put into designing full sized modern cargo ships that can harness the wind and reduce fossil fuel use and air pollution.’