Winner of Union Chandlery Offshore Gear

ISA Cruising Conference Hit the Spot

90 cruising sailors sat mesmerized by the excellent talks from experienced sailors and professionals in their field on Saturday.  The quality of speakers, wealth of their knowledge, impeccable timing and a great atmosphere made for an enjoyable and informative day for the delegates at the inaugural ISA Cruising Conference at Howth Yacht Club. Generous sponsorship from Union Chandlery and support from Cruising Association of Ireland helped to made the day a great success, along with the contributions and support from Nicky’s Place on Howth Pier, ICC Publications, Wild Atlantic Way, Met Eireann, INFOMAR, DTTAS, RNLI, Helly Hansen, IWDG, Cool Route & Howth Yacht Club all combined to give every delegate a bag full of fun goodies and useful information.

David Lovegrove opened proceedings and Keynote speaker Eddie Nicholson and his crew entertained us with an excellent show on their adventures to Greenland, with stunning photography, video footage and some eye opening tales of ice movement and local culinary delights. Simon Berrow, of Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and Galway / Mayo Institute of Technology, shared his knowledge of the biodiversity of whales and mammals along our Irish Coastline and gave advise on how leisure boat should approach them and help to ensure their safety. Experienced offshore sailor and author, Daria Blackwell, made a number of male skippers stop and think, with a talk on Women at the Helm. Many women take on the role of crew on board and never actually helm or rather I should say, skipper. The question that had many male skippers thinking was “If you fell overboard, would your crew be able action a safe ‘man over board?”. Not to mention how much easier it is helm a yacht in to a marina than to be the one jumping off with a line in one hand and a fender in the other. Norman Kean, Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and ICC Publications Editor, gave an excellent explanation of the difference between Vector and Raster Electronic Charts, that left the audience assured that maintaining their knowledge of paper pencil navigation alongside their electronic navigation is always a good idea.

Clifford Brown of the Cruising Association of Ireland brought the room up to date with CAI’s “Crew Together” programme, where the East, West and South coast sailors match crew with boats and give sailors a chance to cruise in eachothers waters. Round the world sailor, Pat Murphy, entertained everyone  with his tips on caring for, training and communicating with crew for cruising. In the ethos of the ISA programme of Try Sailing, cruising sailors were encouraged to welcome new crew on board and give them a chance to ‘Try Crewing’.

Vera Quinlan of the INFOMAR project at the Marine Institute, and experienced skipper, had everyone amazed by the detailed information available on the sea bed and the idea of being able to know just where your anchor is landing and what you are sailing over. She had everyone eager to learn more. The final talk on weather could have lasted all day as we all know how important forecasting is for sailing, especially in Irish waters. Willemien Phelan of Met Eireann and Volvo Ocean Race participant, gave a fantastic explanation of weather forecasting with John Leahy, Yachtmaster instructor and pilot.

While it is great to get the professionals to share their knowledge, it is equally important to here what the sailors out there have to say. Before lunch Gail MacAllister broke the delegates out in to small groups to get some inter-sailor discussion going on subjects everyone finds relevant, then at the end of the day a spokesperson from each group gave a summary of their discussions to the entire audience.
Here is a brief summary of their output –

  • Ireland’s Coast for Cruising Sailors – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats –
    • Strengths – Huge coastline, Excellent weather forecasting, Airport access, Rail / Buss network, Incredible West Coast;
    • Weaknesses – Weather, Tide, Lack of Government support;
    • Opportunities – More pontoons, More charter companies;
    • Threats – Distance between safe harbours on West Coast, Over regulation by Government.
  • Difficulties of Yacht Registration –
    • Expense of Gov. registration, Need for clear step by step guide to Gov. registration process, Dept. appear reluctant to facilitate small craft.
  • Boat Purchase Difficulties & solutions –
    • Tips – Title, Where you plan to sail, No of crew, Money, Insurance, Survey, Rigging, On-line comparisons, Boat shows.
  • Personal Discoveries of Anchorage Gems or Problem Locations –
    • Inishkee flora, flora, fauna, history, tranquility, beaches, whaling station – no pub, Fishing harbours (Dunmore East, Castletownbere) now welcoming to_AMC6222 yachts, Colraine and Portrush both good spots.
  • The Needs of Cruising Sailors in Ireland –
    • Pontoons, Waste disposal, Diesel access, Public transport, WIFI, Pharmacy & GP access, Restaurant & Pub access nice.
  • Crew Management Tips
    • Communicate all details to potential crew, Get next of kin, Compatibility of characters, Skills mix (brawn & brain), House rules, Train, Team building, Never assume knowledge, Enjoy.
  • Difficulties at Sea – How to Overcome Them –
    • Possibly in trouble but not sure? – contact coastguard so they can decide and be on standby; What to do when single handed and snagged by a pot? – chain hung from port to starbord from the bow and slowly bring to the stern to pick up line; Illness on board – training, first aid, planned bolt holes.
  • New On Board Equipment and Apps –
    • AIS useful, low cost, safety; Apps on mobiles are vulnerable due to network, battery, water; INFOMAR seabed info availability interesting & reassuring; Charts & VHF are a must and should not be replaced; Boom stabliser good; Para sail spinnaker useful; Electric outboards easier; Lidl yogurt pots!!
  • Common Difficulties Cruising in Ireland & Solutions –
    • Weather, Shortage of marinas/pontoons/moorings, Waste disposal.
  • Lobster and Shrimp Pot lines –
    • Floating lines are the biggest problem, Parliamentary question was logged in Dail.

Every delegate had the opportunity to enter in to a draw to win a full set of Helly Hansen offshore gear, courtesy of Union Chandlery, and sign up for their Crew Card to get 10% off, or one of three copies of ICC Publication’s excellent cruising guide companion Cruising Ireland. Terry McCoy of Howth Yacht Club and Skerries Sailing Club was the lucky winner of the offshore gear.

It was a long and information packed day, yet everyone stayed until the last piece of information was shared. Feedback came back with and overwhelming “More Please”, so I guess we will be back to give more.

Here are some of the presentations given. They obviously don’t give you as much as the real thing with comentary, but may inspire you want to learn more. thank you

1. Whales, dolphins and porpoises in Irish coastal waters – Simon Berry – IWDG – ISA Cruising Conference 2016

2. Women at Helm – Daria Blackwell – Author – ISA Cruising Conference 2016

3. Electronic charts – Norman Kean – ICC Publications – ISA Cruising Conference 2016

4. CAI Activities – Clifford Brown, Pierce Purcell – CAI – ISA Cruising Conference 2016

5. Taking Care of Crew – Pat Murphy – Howth Yacht Club – ISA Cruising Conference 2015

7. INFOMAR and Hydrographic Activity – Vera Quinlan – ISA Cruising Conference 2016

8.2 Meteorlogy – Willemien Phelan Met Eireann – ISA Cruising Conference 2016

8.1 Meteorology – Willemien Phelan Met Eireann and JohnLeahy CAI – ISA Cruising Conference 2016




A few useful links –


hyc cruising conference 1