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Old 27 May 2001, 16:33   #1
Country: Ireland
Town: Ireland
Boat name: Ally Cat
Make: Several
Length: 6m +
Engine: Several
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 333
Beginners ....A Danger to Themselves ...or Not

The following article was carried in Yesterdays National Newspaper in Ireland - The Irish Independent .

It makes interesting reading particularly since Ireland will shortly require all RIB Drivers to hold a mandatory Certificate of Competencey.

The article is at
You can cut and paste this url into your browser .

Best wishes ,



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Old 27 May 2001, 16:36   #2
Country: Ireland
Town: Ireland
Boat name: Ally Cat
Make: Several
Length: 6m +
Engine: Several
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 333
This is the text of the Irish Independent article ( The URL did not come through in the original Message ).

Why today's Boatmen are getting out of their depth

They are taking to the water in their thousands. Dressed in brand new designer gear, they speed around the east coast in gleaming vessels. Some even use road maps to find their way across choppy waters in their floating gin palaces.

Harbour authorities and seasoned deck hands are concerned that the Celtic Tiger boom has spawned a new generation of marine dabblers who have little experience of good boating practice.

Many of these tyros would think nothing of splashing out 50,000 on a spanking new powerboat, according to one enthusiast, but they are reluctant to spend even a day learning how to helm it.

It is important to note that the victims of last weekend's Dublin boating tragedy were experienced sailors rather than yuppie novices. They had pursued their hobby for many years and were familiar to sailing club members.

However, the Dublin Harbour Master Captain Bob Wiltshire this week warned that the booming economy has led to an influx of inexperienced sailors into Dublin Bay. Some display "questionable" behaviour, according to the harbour master.

He is concerned about the number of people with no sailing experience taking small pleasure craft through a bay that has become increasingly congested.

Boats are among the favourite playthings of the new rich, not only in Dublin but across the country. According to figures from the Irish Sailing Association, the memberships of Irish sailing clubs has shot up from 17,000 to 24,000 since the start of the boom five years ago. The overall number of boating enthusiasts is now estimated at over 90,000.

While inflatable second-hand powerboats can be bought for 5,000, motor cruisers with sleeping accommodation are advertised by boat suppliers such as BJ Marine in Dublin for up to 250,000.

Some of the boating beginners, with more money than sense, are even using road maps to find their way along the frequently treacherous Irish coastline, according to Stuart McNamara, a powerboat trainer with the Irish Sailing Association.

"They don't even realise that there are dangers under the water and that they can easily hit rocks. The problems are not being caused by the yachties, the old sweats who have learned to sail over a long period of time. People are picking up powerboats, because they think they don't have to learn how to use them."

Traditionally sailors have learned boating practice as children or in their teens, working their way up from dinghies to larger vessels. In order to get the vessel to move, you have to have a certain amount of training.

"People are making a lot of money in a short space of time and they are looking for ways to spend it," says William Nixon, sailing correspondent of the Irish Independent. "The advantage of the powerboat or the motor cruiser is that you can climb into one and go."

The novice sea dogs frequently spend hundreds of pounds on the latest designer gear: Helly-Hanson trousers and coats for over 200; wrap-around Bolle shades for 114; and Rockport deck shoes for over 100.

They might spend up to 100 on a designer label lifejacket, but when they are out in the sea they frequently do not bother to wear it, according to Stuart McNamara.

Killcords, which immobilise the engine automatically if one of the crew goes overboard, are frequently not used.

Sailing enthusiasts say the novices also create problems for other boat users, travelling at great speed close to harbours and creating a back wash. Some of the new power boats travel at speeds of well over 60mph.

They dress to look fashionable, but many of them do not dress for the environment that they are sailing in, according to Stuart McNamara.

"People don't seem to realise how cold it can be out in the Irish Sea in a boat.

"Some of these boating enthusiasts will just look out the window in the morning and think that it is a good day for sailing. They forget that the weather can suddenly turn nasty. In many cases, they don't bother listening to the weather forecast."

On a sunny day, Dublin Bay can look calm and inviting, but the changes in the tide and the currents can make it one of the most treacherous stretches of coastline in Europe.

The Irish Sailing Association advises all those using powerboats and motor cruisers to take one of the many courses in how to use them. Boat owners can take one or two day courses, covering all the basics. Sailing instruction is also easily accessible, both for members of clubs and non-members.

Most genuine sailing enthusiasts are at pains to point out that the pastime is not just an activity dominated by feckless free-spending yuppies on the one hand, and snooty yacht club members who look down their noses at them.

'Many of the yuppies buy their boats and really don't last long," says a member of a Skerries sailing club. "They might just go out a few times and then they lose interest. A lot of Dublin sailors buy and sell second hand boats for modest prices and do them up themselves. Compared to an activity such as golf, sailing can be inexpensive. In a club like Skerries you get a real mix of people."

While golf club memberships can cost thousands of pounds, sailing club memberships tend to cost under 500.

Stuart McNamara says: "There is a perception that the sport is full of gin-and-tonic drinking snobs, but that is really in decline. There may be a little bit of snobbery in one or two Dublin clubs, but increasingly there is an open door policy."

Kim Bielenberg

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