Celtic Mist News Dec 2013

by Deirdre Slevin

In 2011, when IWDG accepted the very generous offer of Celtic Mist, it was agreed to take on the vessel as a 3 year project.  Following a year undergoing a major refit in Kilrush boatyard, the newly renovated steel hulled ketch was officially launched by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group in 2012, as a suitable vessel for marine research and surveying.

Celtic Mist has had a very successful first year – 2013, observing 12 of the 24 species of whales and dolphins recorded in Irish waters, circumnavigating Ireland surveying the waters of all coastal counties.  Leatherback turtle, grey and common seals, yellow finned tuna and sunfish were among the marine life observed throughout the year. Celtic Mist visited 9 of the 17 coastal counties in Ireland this year, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow, Dublin, Antrim and Donegal. Financially Celtic Mist has successfully supported herself through various funding, donations, projects and sponsorships and broken close to even after year one which is an excellent achievement for such a new project.  Also over 250 of our members have sailed on Celtic Mist in our first year.

In January 2012 Celtic Mist sailed to New Ross in County Wexford where she spent the following months providing IWDG members with the opportunity to observe whales and dolphins on their new vessel during ‘large whale season’ off the Hook Peninsula. Members arrived from all over the country for this opportunity, from as far away as Sligo!  Common dolphins and fin whales were observed most days by the excited crew, while keeping warm with the vessels central heating and the ‘always on’ kettle!

In April once the whales had moved on, we took Celtic Mist into dry dock in New Ross Boatyard for a routine  ultra sound following the refit and some annual maintenance including touching up the paint work! Celtic Mist returned to water in good shape in May and sailed to Fenit, County Kerry with a crew of 8 members. On route the crew were accompanied by common dolphins, hundreds of jellyfish and many sunfish and visited Kinsale and Beare Island before safely arriving in Fenit to a warm Kerry welcome.

During May Dr Simon Berrow and our conservation officer Dr Joanne O’Brien worked with the local community in Fenit  and North Kerry to survey and record dolphins and other cetaceans in Tralee and Brandon bays to build a better understanding of how they use the bays. In addition to the surveys 3 CPODS were deployed across the bays to acoustically monitor the area for dolphins.  The bottlenose dolphin population is around 120 to 140 individuals, the Shannon is protected for bottlenose dolphins but Tralee and Brandon bays are not.  Since day one of the project, which was funded by North and East Kerry Development, the team encountered bottlenose dolphins on every trip, photo-id established them to be Shannon dolphins. Celtic Mist proved an excellent platform for this survey and many local members in North Kerry were able to sail on Celtic Mist and experience them for themselves.

During the summer months, Celtic Mist sailed to Rathlin Island to attend their annual maritime festival.  The weather wasn’t kind to the crew en route but the beautiful scenery of Rathlin Island ahead in the distance at sunset was a welcome sight!  Basking sharks and bottlenose dolphins were sighted during the 3 day trip despite poor sea conditions.  The friendly islanders on Rathlin gave the crew a warm welcome, sharing stories about the wildlife on the island including the famous ‘golden hare’ and of sightings of whales and dolphins in the area.

Celtic Mist departed Rathlin Island and Ballycastle after the festival sailing south, visiting Peel, Isle of Man and Kilmore Quay en route and returned to New Ross, County Wexford once again.  The following two weeks of high winds provided us with an opportunity for more maintenance and renovations which included a full engine service for both the main engine and the RIB.

In June, Celtic Mist sailed to Wexford town for the John Barry Maritime Festival organised by Wexford RNLI.  Celtic Mist, along with the Customs Cutter and the HMS charger were greeted at the Wexford ‘bar buoy’ at the entrance to the harbour by Wexford RNLI and Rosslare lifeboat and guided safely into the quayside to join the festivities and promote the work of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and give local members the opportunity to visit their new vessel.  On departing Wexford after the weekend, Risso’s dolphins guided Celtic Mist around Tuskar Lighthouse for hours giving the crew a rare opportunity to witness their behaviour.

Celtic Mist set sail once again in July, this time destination Dun Laoghaire!  The crew visited Arklow on route and were overwhelmed by the welcome they received from Arklow RNLI, they certainly made sure Celtic Mist and the IWDG team would call again! On route to Dun Laoghaire bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise were observed by the crew.  Celtic Mist spent the following two weeks taking members out to survey Harbour Porpoise in the newly proposed Special Area of Conservation. 

On the 16th of July the launch of the IWDG’s Offshore Atlas took place on board Celtic Mist with Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

A few days later Celtic Mist departed Dun Laoghaire as part of The Gathering Cruise 2013, where 14 IWDG members enjoyed the opportunity of two ‘week long trips’ from Dun Laoghaire to Kinsale and Kinsale to Dingle. IWDG sponsored The Gathering Cruise, providing sighting forms and species ID guides to all the boats sailing as part of the cruise and promoted whales and dolphins in Irish waters are they visited ports in each county en route. The crew were delighted to win a prize at the welcome home party for ‘the best dressed boat’!  IWDG members on the trip thoroughly enjoyed their week onboard, taking in the beautiful scenery of the Irish coastline and making new friends with fellow members sharing many laughs and stories to look back on, as they shared all the sailing, cooking and cleaning duties onboard.

Celtic Mist spent August back in Fenit with our Kerry members, who simply couldn’t do enough to accommodate the IWDG team while completing the survey of the bays for bottlenose dolphins before preparations began for her offshore MMO/PAM trip.  The annual offshore cruise was again a very successful trip recording eight species of marine mammals including rare species of beaked whales.

Celtic Mist returned to Kilrush in October, where Dr. Simon Berrow organised a marine research survey with GMIT over a 4 day period in the Shannon, the course was successful with sightings of bottlenose dolphins daily.  Finally the weather turned for the worse which hampered our hopes to do day trips on the Shannon for IWDG members, in particular local members that had helped IWDG with Celtic Mist during the refit.

Once the seas had finally calmed some weeks later, the large whales had arrived in West Cork so we took the opportunity to take Celtic Mist to Baltimore, where members observed harbour porpoise, common dolphins, fin whales and a humpback whale in the area.  Two days were spent filming with Ken Sullivan of Sea Fever Productions, who is preparing a programme on dolphins for RTE.  The programme will include a piece on research on Common Dolphins being carried out by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group in the Celtic Sea.

As the high winds and stormy seas continue, Celtic Mist remains safe and sound in Kinsale Marina. Once the weather calms down, the team will take her to New Ross, County Wexford once again for large whale season in the southeast.  Members are invited to join us onboard in County Wexford in search of cetaceans in January. We look forward to sailing with you all in the New Year surveying whales and dolphins in Irish waters.

Celtic Mist schedule for 2014 will be emailed to all members early in the New Year and will also be available on our website www.celticmist.info

We would like to thank everyone that has helped us out throughout the year.  The support and friendliness of the Irish people has been fantastic.

In particular we would like to thank all the voluntary skippers amongst our members, without whom, none of this would have been possible. Your time and knowledge is invaluable to us.

We would also like to thank Kilrush Creek Marina, Fenit Marina, Baltimore harbour, Kinsale Marina, Dun Laoghaire Marina and last but certainly not least New Ross Marina for their support and generosity to the IWDG, we have been made feel welcome with each and every one of you and appreciate this immensely.

Wishing you a great Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

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