Category Archives: Restoration and repair

The AK Ilen – a film about her restoration

A film about the restoration of the AK Ilen, designed by Conor O’Brien, an Irish intellectual and aristocrat, who in the 1920s sailed Saoirse around the world under the tri-colour of the Irish Free State, and ship builder Tom Moynihan.

She’s expected to be launched this year, and the plan is as follows:

‘… In the summer of 2016, the Ilen will sail away from the eponymous Ilen Estuary and move more than nine waves out from shore to retake Ireland from the sea. 

‘Clearing Clear Island and Mizzen Head she will enter the mysterious arena of the quick and the dead where Donn, the Bull leads the Cow and the Calf, and all who come under his protection, to another world, to the West, to the end of life and its beginning. Oilean na mBeo and the great temple of Sceillig Mhichil marvel and suggest another way under the bright shining banner of Archangel Michael, Psychopompous and leader of souls.

‘Taking a course West of the Blaskets to view them from the sea and the wonders that brought us here in the first place, we will soon have Cuchulain’s Leap to port as the Ilen enters the Shannon Estuary for the first time in ninety years.

‘Here every care will be lavished upon her as she prepares for her playful role of introducing Ireland’s youth of all ages to the oceans… ‘

O’Brien’s book Sea-Boats, Oars and Sails is available from Lodestar Books. Here’s what yachting and boating novelist Sam Llewellyn, editor of the excellent Marine Quarterly, has to say about it:

‘… his strongly opinionated yet vitally informative and practical book, published in 1941 and now re-published to meet ascendant interest in the sail-and-oar cruiser—particularly the small lugger.
Bristling with ideas born mostly of hard-won experience, sometimes of pure conjecture, and studded with revelatory nuggets of sheer common sense concerning small boat construction, setup and handling, Sea-Boats, Oars and Sails merits its place on the bookshelf of every sail-and-oar practitioner or aspirant.’

The astonishing story of Askoy II, Jacques Brel’s boat…

As this little video shows, the Askoy II is a yacht with a remarkable history.

Originally built by the Vandevoorde shipyard for renowned Belgian architect Hugo Van Kuyck in 1960, Askoy II was named after an island off the Norwegian coast, just off the port of Bergen, and designed by Raymond Derkinderen.

At 20m long, 5m wide and rated at 40tons, she’s said to have been the largest yacht ever to be built in Belgium.

Van Kuyck sailed Askoy II on the Baltic Sea, the coast of Norway and round Scotland, and in 1974 sold her to Jacques Brel, who attempted to sail around the world until he was defeated by illness and forced to tie the yacht up for the last time in the Marquesas.

In 1976 the yacht was sold to two Americans, Cathy Cleveland and Lee Adamsson, who cruised to French Polynesia and New Zealand, and finally Hawaii. She was then bought by Harlow Jones, who used her for fishing in the Pacific Islands, working with local people.

Next she passed to a drug smuggler, who was caught at Santa Cruz carrying a record amount of marijuana, got confiscated in the Fiji Islands and in 1993 was sold by auction to Lindsay Wright, a maritime journalist from New Zealand.

He sailed her solo to New Zealand but near his destination was caught in a storm and was finally stranded on Baylys Beach on New Zealand’s north-west coast and remained in the sand there for many years.

But, amazingly, that wasn’t the end. In 2007 she was rescued by two brothers, Piet and Staf Wittevrongel, who as young men had worked on Brel’s sails, and is now back in Belgium and being slowly being brought back to sailing life. I have to say she looks magnificent – I’m very much looking forward to seeing her back on the water. But then I’m a boat nut who also happens to be a fan of both Belgium and Jacques Brel…

Some more videos can be found here:


Harrison Butler Z4 looking for a new home


Boatbuilder Kyle Abingdon is looking for a new home for his Harrison Butler Z4, having decided that there’s no sense in paying storage fees for a project he has no hope of being able to start in the near future.

He’s happy to negotiate terms but I’m pretty sure that it could be free to someone he is confident will make a good job of fixing her up and will look after her well – and thinks that could be someone who reads .

Kyle says there is no rot on her and that her keel bolts have been done – but there is a lot of work to do, as she needs a deck, cockpit and internals.

Kyle is I am happy to advise anyone thinking of taking her on.

She comes with her mast, boom and sails all in good order, but no other rigging. Her mooring fees are up to date and she is stored under a tent at Faversham, Kent.

Contact Kyle at tel 07737 868421 and email .