It was the pilotage instructions for the passage between the Saltee Islands that gave me my first taste of inshore navigation. Sometime in the late 1960s on my first passage from Dún Laoghaire to Dunmore East, the late Frank Ryan gave me a copy of the ICC’s Sailing Directions and said: “Here professor, have a look for how we make it through here and give me the compass headings.”
It would be hard to imagine trying to navigate strange waters without the benefit of a good pilot, and the pleasure of exploring new havens and making good landfall is greatly enhanced by these publications. There is barely a creek that is not described in full, while many of Ireland’s smaller harbours are drying, this does not mean they are not in sheltered areas.
The Directions give sufficient information of all types of facilities so that in the right conditions, a safe anchorage and a run ashore can be organised to a place that might not otherwise be ‘discovered’.
Photographs, chartlets and a most useful series of waypoints add to the safety and confidence that increases the pleasure of cruising.
The ICC series, which were started in a simpler form in the 1950s, are up to a standard that is rarely exceeded in my experience. Built up by dint of collecting knowledge from the sailing fraternity over the decades has meant that the Directions have a high state of reliability as well as increasing confidence to explore a new berth when on passage.
And not just for the cruising crew either! Details of the counter-current on the north coast of Rathlin helped in reducing sail after a high speed run across the top before going onto the wind in over 50 knots of wind on a Round Ireland some years ago, these Directions have something for all sailors.
With the companion South & West Directions re-published last year, this means that the series are right up-to-date, and even mention the proposed offshore windfarm off Port Oriel; the new harbour at Greystones and the new pier at Tory, which I can testify is a fine new facility.
Along with the ‘new’ Greystones there are also details of many harbours that have been added to or have gained marinas in the last few years. Glenarm in Antrim is a case in point as is the extended harbour in Rathlin which is well worth a visit.
One of my personal favourites on the east coast is Strangford Lough. This is one of the most amazing water bodies to be found anywhere. With the pladdies, currents and extraordinary landscape, it makes for very fine sailing no matter what size of vessel. The welcome in this part of the world is also not to be missed.
We are lucky to have Norman Kean and his assistants Geraldine Hennigan and Kevin Dwyer who are responsible for the photographs to back up the text in their most useful way.