Tag Archives: Mountshannon

Spring is sprung …

… the grass is riz.
I wonder where the brand new fleet of aircraft is.

I would welcome news of sightings of the fleet of (presumably) floatplanes/seaplanes/amphibians that Harbour Flights is to have operating “early in the new year … from [sic] destinations nationwide”.

There is some discussion on Boards.ie here, by folk who appear to know one end of an aeroplane from the other; the later posts on the second page discuss suitable types of craft.


Some bastard at Ballinderry …

… shot a Lough Derg eagle.

The amazing success of Harbour Flights

I have written before about Harbour Flights, which operated a seaplane (floatplane) at Mountshannon on Lough Derg and conducted trial flights hither and yon. I was a little confused about whether Harbour Flights was “fully operational” but its redesigned web page (there were once several pages) carries the impressive news that the company has been so successful that it has ceased operations, at least temporarily.

But it will be back, and instead of operating a single aircraft, which was actually owned by somebody else, it will have a veritable fleet “operating from [sic] destinations nationwide” and will be “fully operational again”, which suggests that it was fully operational before. I wonder how many of the “50 new Irish jobs” were created when it reached that point.


The Southern Star

The Southern Star is West Cork’s indispensable source of news and information. I don’t know whether its masthead still proclaims that it incorporates the Skibbereen Eagle, or whether, in the print edition, its news from Bandon is still headed “Bandon Brieflets”, but it is — as we would expect — keeping up with digital technology with a website, a FaceBook thingie and a napp.

It reports today on another “trial flight” by what it terms “A newly formed company, Harbour Flights”, which I wrote about here. The aircraft shown in the photo is EI-CFP [which is registered, incidentally, as a land aeroplane [.xls]], so Harbour Flights does not seem to have acquired a larger plane — or the use of one: the register shows that EI-CFP is owned by Kieran A O’Connor, not by Harbour Flights.

Being ignorant of aviation matters, I don’t know what constitutes a trial flight — or how it is to be distinguished from a promotional flight.

I note a slight contradiction in the Southern Star‘s report:

The company […] has taken five years to grow from its initial concept to become fully operational last July. […]

When it becomes fully operational, Mr Heaps estimated that the company could create up to 50 new Irish jobs […].

So is it, or is it not, “fully operational”? I am confused.






Mountshannon seaplane

News from the Clare Champion about the possible cessation of commercial seaplane activities at Mountshannon. The article reports comments by Mr Emelyn Heaps, chief executive officer of Harbour Flights Ireland Ltd.

Harbour Flights

The Companies Registration Office finds four occurrences of the term “Harbour Flights”, all giving their address as 13 Parnell Street, Ennis, Co Clare. One is a business name; the others are:

  • Harbour Flights (Ireland) Limited
  • Harbour Flights (Couriers) Limited
  • Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited.

According to the B1 Annual Return for Harbour Flights (Ireland) Limited to 30 September 2012 [the most recent available], the directors of the company are:

  • Ronan Connolly of Ennis, Co Clare, who is the Secretary; he holds seven other directorships of companies, two of which are Harbour Flights (Couriers) Limited and Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited
  • Emelyn Heaps of Tulla, Co Clare; he holds nine other directorships of companies, two of which are Harbour Flights (Couriers) Limited and Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited.

In the Clare Champion article, Mr Heaps “said the four directors and five shareholders will meet this weekend”; it is to be presumed that the two extra directors have recently joined the Board. The B1 return does say that the company had five shareholders:

  • Mr Heaps with 300000 ordinary shares
  • Mr Connolly with 300000 ordinary shares
  • Mr Adam Cronin of Cobh, Co Cork with 300000 ordinary shares
  • Mr Stewart Curtis of Bodyke, Co Clare with 100000 ordinary shares
  • Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited with 4152 “A” ordinary shares.

The company’s authorised share capital is €105000 made up of half a million “A” ordinary shares at 1c and ten million ordinary shares, also at 1c; the issued share capital is €10041.52, of which €41.52 is the “A” ordinary shares and the rest the one million ordinary shares at 1c.

The financial statement of Harbour Flights (Ireland) Limited

The company has lodged abridged financial statements for the year ending 31 December 2011 [they refer to the company as Harbour Flights Limited, omitting “(Ireland)”].

The independent auditor said:

There is an excess of liabilities over assets, as stated in the Balance Sheet, and, in our opinion, on that basis there did exist at 31 December 2011 a financial situation which under Section 40(1) of the Companies (Amendment) Act 1983 requires the convening of an extraordinary general meeting of the company.

The abridged balance sheet shows a loss of €103944 in 2010 and €295130 in 2011. The Capital and Reserves section showed

  • Called up share capital 10042
  • Share premium account 26946
  • Profit and loss account (295130)
  • Shareholders’ funds (258142).

The other two companies

The balance sheet of Harbour Flights (BES Nominees) Limited as at 31 December 2011 showed current assets of 100 financed by called up share capital of 100. The company had two directors, Mr Connolly and Mr Heaps, and two shareholders, Mr Connolly and Mr Heaps, each with 50 shares.

The balance sheet of Harbour Flights (Couriers) Limited as at 31 December 2011 showed current assets of 100 financed by called up share capital of 100. The company had four directors, Messrs Connolly, Cronin, Curtis and Heaps, and four shareholders, the same four people, each with 25 shares.

Almost 21 months have passed since then and it is possible that all three companies have prospered greatly since 31 December 2011, especially after flights began in July 2013.


In January 2013 the Irish Independent reported that the company hoped to acquire a seaplane and its own website suggests that it made its first flight in July 2013 and intended to carry 10000 passengers in its first year. However, it seems that the Air Operator Certificate is held by National Flight Centre, Dublin, which says it will be operating the floatplane (seaplane) “in conjunction with Harbour Flights“.

I know nothing of aeroplanes, but the plane seems to be EI-CFP, a Cessna 172, which is said to carry three passengers. Assuming a seven-month tourist season (April to October) and seven-day-a-week operation, there are 214 days available for carrying passengers. The target of 10000 passengers a year would mean carrying 47 passengers a day, which means 16 flights a day, every day.

However, the first year’s operations do not seem to have started until 10 July, leaving only 113 days to carry 10000 passengers. That would mean 89 passengers a day, which would require 30 flights. The shortest flight time is 20 minutes (at €85 a head; longer flights are available) but I imagine that at least ten minutes are required at start and finish for boarding, so the operation must have been working 20-hour days all summer. I haven’t been in Mountshannon for some time, so I was unaware of the frenetic level of activity, but it must have been exciting.


I see that RTÉ reported, on 3 September 2013, a “test flight” to Galway. Such “test flights” have taken place to other locations, eg Cork, although it is not clear what distinguishes a test flight from, say, a marketing opportunity. RTÉ said that the flight was by a Cessna 206, which takes five passengers, but the photo shows EI-CFP, which is not (as far as I can tell) a Cessna 206 but a smaller Cessna 172.

There have been earlier announcements of services, eg to Limerick, where services were to begin in summer 2011. This website mentions an earlier proposed start. Some folk don’t seem confident of the soundness of the original business model.

Lakeland Seaplane Tours, based on Lough Erne, seems to have ceased operations.



Searching Lough Derg

Last Friday evening, 21 June 2013, was not a good time to be out on Lough Derg. We were heading north, with the waves behind us, and had little difficulty until entering port, but we could hear on the VHF what must have been one of the biggest search and rescue operations on the Shannon in recent years.

We had switched on at what seemed like a fairly early point in the proceedings, and kept listening until the Coast Guard were assured that everybody was accounted for. We weren’t able to attend to the whole thing, as manoeuvres during and after berthing occupied our attention for some time, but we got a pretty clear picture. The Irish Times report (which will probably disappear behind a paywall at some stage) is here; I think it has some minor details wrong but the gist of it is correct; its later report is here. The Clare Herald has a very detailed account here, the Clare Champion account is here and the Limerick Post adds some information here.

The event was said by the Irish Times to be “hosted for FISA in Ireland by St Michael’s Rowing Club of Limerick” but I can’t see anything about it on either organisation’s website. I presume that the boats were something like this one.

Quad at Clonlara in 2011

It’s a quad, with each rower using two oars; it carries a cox and it’s used for touring rowing, so it’s not as slim as a standard racing shell.

By the way, just to be clear, none of the photos on this page were taken during last Friday’s operation.

RNLI Lough Derg lifeboat

From what we could hear, the operation involved volunteers from Killaloe Coast Guard, the RNLI at Dromineer, the Community Rescue Boats from Mountshannon and Limerick and at least one yacht, which (I think) took one of the rowing boats in tow; that yacht’s participation and careful provision of information to the Coast Guard was admirable.

Killaloe Coast Guard RIB

Killaloe Coast Guard RIB

We heard discussion of proposals to ask the Civil Defence to participate as well, and the Clare Herald confirms they did turn out. It seems that the University of Limerick Activity Centre boat was out too, as was Peter Hooker of RNLI in his own boat.

Limerick Marine SAR Land Rover

Limerick Marine SAR Land Rover

That’s just the volunteers, and if I’ve left anybody out I’m sorry; let me know and I’ll amend this.

Then there were the professionals: the Coast Guard staff on VHF, the Gardaí on shore, the helicopter crew. And, again, the Clare Herald makes it clear that lots of other people were involved too: fire brigade and ambulance units, paramedics and a hospital consultant.

All in all, this was a major operation and a lot of people put in a lot of effort that night, in bloody awful weather.


I formed the impression that communication amongst the members of the rowing fleet, and between them and the rescue services, was poor. It was difficult to establish what rowers were where and how many were unaccounted for. The Clare Herald story seems to support that conclusion: it says that Gardaí had to travel to the rowers’ hotel to make sure that everybody had turned up and that the search was not formally stood down until 11.30pm.

I don’t know what communications equipment and what sort of organisation and safety procedures the rowing group had, so I’m not going to comment on them. Instead, I want to go off at a tangent. It struck me that life would have been easier for everybody if each boat had had a handheld VHF and someone able to operate it. Such sets can be bought for as little as £50 in the UK or €75 in Ireland.

So the technology is now very cheap and, for short range work as on Lough Derg, a handheld VHF should be adequate. But if you want to be legally entitled to use a VHF set, matters are much more complicated. I’ll discuss that in another post.

Lake flights resume …

… at Mountshannon.

Marina occupancy

Practical Boat Owner, a magazine, reports [in its June 2013 issue, published in April] that the British Marine Federation surveyed its members in February and March 2013 to ask about gross capacity and actual occupancy of their marinas in January 2013. The BMF press release is here.

It got 145 valid responses, a 56% response rate; it reckons that that means 31% of all UK marinas and 38% of all UK marina berths.

The total capacity of the marinas was 29118 and the occupancy 23462, which the BMF says is an 80.5% occupancy rate and a 19.5% vacancy rate.

Of those marinas, 69 [or perhaps 68] were tidal or coastal, with a total capacity of 17604 berths and the occupancy 14227 berths: an 80.8% occupancy rate and a 19.2% vacancy rate.

There were 53 responses from marinas on C&RT waterways; they had 7710 berths, 6122 of them occupied: 79.4% occupancy and 20.6% vacancy.

There were 23 responses from marinas on the waters of other navigation authorities, including the Environment Agency, the Broads Authority and some national authorities responsible for lakes. They had 3804 berths, 3113 occupied: 81.8% occupancy and 18.2% vacancy.

I don’t know what difference it would have made if the survey had been conducted at some other time of year. Should we assume that British boaters all book marina berths for the full year?

I don’t know whether the Irish Marine Federation or its associate group, the Irish Marina Operators Association, has published anything similar. While the IMOA has members on coastal and estuarial waters, it doesn’t seem to have any on non-tidal waterways. It would be interesting to know the vacancy rate on inland marinas, although there are definitional problems (does a block of flats with some moorings constitute a marina?). Maybe the only way to find out is to get HarbourAir to take aerial photos on one of their flights.



In the Foreword to his latest book, Portraits of Mountshannon (East Clare Heritage, Tuamgraney 2012), Ger Madden writes of the changes to Mountshannon since 1993:

The Aistear, the children’s playground, the pre-school building, the floating jetties at the harbour, additional restaurants and shops have been hugely positive and successful. The same cannot be said for housing. Ten years of reasonable prosperity for some, has resulted in new private holiday homes built on the fringes of the village and others planned. They are not associated with the needs of the community. The majority of the owners have not the slightest interest in the history, culture or welfare of the community they have chosen to display their wealth.

Any such owners wishing to develop an interest in the history of Mountshannon could not do better than to start with Ger’s book. It’s A4 landscape, with an aerial colour photo of Mountshannon on the front and a map on the back. Inside, the foreword gives a brief overview of Mountshannon’s history. Then follow 52 pages, each with a black and white photo and each covering a building, a tree or a place of interest in and around Mountshannon. Their locations are shown on the map on the back cover.

But, although architectural information is provided, the book is not about the buildings per se. Each page is a window into Mountshannon’s history and, together, they provide a rich account of the place and its people over the centuries. Part of the interest is in the fact that buildings you might pass by without noticing turn out to have interesting stories attached to them. Nor are they all about the distant past: I was glad to see that Mountshannon’s more recent claim to fame, as the last telephone exchange in the country to be automated, was recognised here (although I suppose that too may seem like the distant past to younger readers).

I highly recommend the book. If you’re in the area, you’ll probably know better than I where to get copies; if you’re not, you might ask East Clare Heritage.

Ger runs boat trips to Holy Island during the summer.


Commercial operations

An example I hadn’t come across before.