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Fethard On Sea

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Overview





Fethard Harbour is on the southeast coast of Ireland, 6 miles northeast of Hook Head Lighthouse and on the west side of Bannow Bay. The tiny drying quay, located close to the peninsula’s main village, is too small and confined for the vast majority of leisure craft. It does, however, offer an excellent anchorage with good holding, or a borrowed mooring, immediately outside the harbour.

Fethard Harbour is on the southeast coast of Ireland, 6 miles northeast of Hook Head Lighthouse and on the west side of Bannow Bay. The tiny drying quay, located close to the peninsula’s main village, is too small and confined for the vast majority of leisure craft. It does, however, offer an excellent anchorage with good holding, or a borrowed mooring, immediately outside the harbour.

Fethard affords good protection from southwest through west to north. The drying harbour provides shelter, but is congested and prone to a surge in heavy southeast or southerly conditions. Access is straightforward with a clear path of approach, save for an easily avoided rock that has 1 metre of water above it on a low spring tide.
Please note

Small boats planning to stay in Fethard Harbour must be prepared to dry out and cannot rely on space being available. Fethard Harbour, similar to all locations on the east side of the Hook Peninsula, should not be approached in any winds above Force 3 from the northeast, east and southeast. Be watchful for lobster pot markers, which are prolific in this sailing area.




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Keyfacts for Fethard On Sea
Facilities
Top up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaInternet café in the areaDoctor or hospital in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
3 metres (9.84 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
May 2nd 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
Top up fuel available in the area via jerry cansShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaInternet café in the areaDoctor or hospital in the area


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderJetty or a structure to assist landingQuick and easy access from open waterSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pier



Position and approaches
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Haven position

52° 11.584' N, 006° 49.350' W

At the end of the pier at the harbour entrance.

What is the initial fix?

The following Fethard-On-Sea initial fix will set up a final approach:
52° 11.490' N, 006° 48.586' W
This is to the south of the midpoint of Shoal Rock and Innyard Point.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southeastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Fethard On Sea for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Bannow Bay - 0.9 nautical miles NE
  2. Baginbun Bay - 1 nautical miles S
  3. Templetown Bay - 3.2 nautical miles WSW
  4. Dollar Bay - 3.3 nautical miles W
  5. Lumsdin's Bay - 3.7 nautical miles SW
  6. Duncannon - 4.6 nautical miles WNW
  7. Slade - 4.8 nautical miles SW
  8. Creadan Head - 4.8 nautical miles W
  9. Arthurstown - 5.6 nautical miles WNW
  10. Passage East - 6.2 nautical miles WNW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Bannow Bay - 0.9 miles NE
  2. Baginbun Bay - 1 miles S
  3. Templetown Bay - 3.2 miles WSW
  4. Dollar Bay - 3.3 miles W
  5. Lumsdin's Bay - 3.7 miles SW
  6. Duncannon - 4.6 miles WNW
  7. Slade - 4.8 miles SW
  8. Creadan Head - 4.8 miles W
  9. Arthurstown - 5.6 miles WNW
  10. Passage East - 6.2 miles WNW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
Fethard Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Fethard-on-Sea, locally known as Fethard, is a small tourist village with a nearby fishing quay. It is located 6 miles northeast of Hook Head Lighthouse, on the east side of the Hook Peninsula and the west side of Bannow Bay.


Local fishing boats alongside Fethard Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


The tiny quay, lying about ½ mile from the village, is probably one of the smallest ports in the country and dries out entirely on springs. For those prepared to work the tides, 4.7 metres can be expected at high water springs, or 3.2 metres at neaps, but it is congested and suitable only for very small boats. In nearly all cases it is best to anchor outside the harbour in the mooring area situated about 100 metres north. Local people are generous and you are in most cases free to borrow one of the existing substantial moorings just outside the harbour.


How to get in?
Fethard Quay around Innyard Point with Baginbun Head in the background
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southeastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location for seaward approaches. Vessels approaching from all directions will see the prominent Hook Head lighthouse upon Hook Point as a guide, with Baginbun Martello Tower on Baginbun headland 5 miles northeast by east. Fethard quay is located around and upon the north face of the Innyard Point headland, situated a mile from Baginbun Head.


Baginbun Head with Innyard Point in the background
Image: Michael Harpur


A southerly line of approach, or further out in the bay, will find no dangers except for the occasional lobster pot marker; these are prolific in the entire area and a careful watch should be maintained for them. Innyard Point should be given a wide berth as it is foul to a distance of 300 metres to the northeast of the point.


The low-lying Keeragh Islands
Image: Burke Corbett


Vessels approaching from the east should give the two low, rocky Keeragh Islands and their reefs a wide berth. Continue on the same path south of the Keeraghs (not passing north of a direct line between the islands and Fethard Quay), and keep south of other dangers here such as Selskar and Shoal Rocks. Shoal Rock is uncharted, with 1 metre of water above it on a low spring tide. It lies ½ mile north by northeast of Innyard Point, outside of the harbour.


The initial fix is south of the centre point between the end of the drying area off Innyard Point and Shoal Rock, the latter being more of a concern for leisure craft at low water springs. There is a distance of approximately 250 metres between these, with 5 metres of water in all of this area, so it is easy to come safely in.


Fethard as seen from the approach
Image: Burke Corbett


Initial fix location From the initial fix proceed northeast until the small harbour of Fethard, close within Innyard Point, comes on the port beam. Then steer towards the quay.


Fethard Quay
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor outside the harbour in the mooring area situated about 100 metres north of the harbour. Several local mooring buoys make this area readily apparent and excellent holding in clear sand will be found here. Local people are generous and you are free to borrow one of the existing substantial moorings just outside the harbour. Land in the harbour or on the beach close east.

The entrance as seen at low water
Image: Burke Corbett


Short-term visitors can make use of the tide to come alongside the harbour. Those planning on doing so should target an arrival between half flood and half ebb tide.


Why visit here?
Fethard derives its name from the Irish Fiodh Ard meaning ‘high wood’. Although locally known as Fethard, pronounced FET – erd, it became Fethard-on-Sea in the early part of the 20th century to distinguish the village from Tipperary’s Fethard in the aftermath of the Mexico tragedy, outlined below.


The remains of the Motte & Bailey to the rear of the Bishop’s castle
Image: Michael Harpur


The story of the village of Fethard begins in earnest with the coming of the Anglo-Normans to Ireland in 1169. The borough of Fethard was granted to Hervey de Montmorency, uncle to invasion leader Strongbow, after the conquest was complete. He built one of the first Anglo-Norman Motte & Baileys here in Fethard. In later years the family gave the land to Christ Church Canterbury, which, at the beginning of the 13th century, granted the town to Richard de London. De London started the first stone castle on the Norman site, which in turn was built over with the current 15th-century castle when it passed to the Bishop of Ferns. Today all that remains of the original Norman Motte & Bailey is the large grassy mound behind the castle.


The bishops’ castle
Image: Michael Harpur


This bishops’ castle was an L-shaped fortified hall house with a prominent four-storey round tower set upon its southeastern corner. It was one of six episcopal manors in the diocese of Ferns and the bishop used it as a summer retreat. The castle was important as it acted as the seat of a bishop and held the remains of Bishop Alexander Devereux, the colourful last Abbot of Dunbrody, confirmed by King Henry VIII, who died in Fethard on 19 August 1556. The bishops’ ownership came to an end a century later, after the Confederate Rebellion. When Oliver Cromwell decisively defeated the Catholics and Royalists, he redistributed the castle and estates to the Loftus family. They lived here for a short time before taking up residence in nearby Loftus Hall. The castle was then occupied by tenants of the Loftus estate and was finally abandoned at the height of the 1922 civil war, when it fell into disuse. Shortly before this Fethard had changed its name to Fethard-on-Sea, in the wake of the Mexico disaster.


The rear view of the bishops’ castle
Image: Michael Harpur


The Mexico was a Norwegian three-masted, steel-hulled schooner that in the winter of 1914 was carrying a consignment of mahogany logs from South America to Liverpool. Caught in a thick mist and driven by a fierce southwesterly gale, the vessel went up on the southern side of the western-most Keeragh Island at 4pm on Friday 20 February. Seeing the vessel was doomed, the captain gave orders to hoist distress signals and lower the vessel's lifeboat. Two crew members set to the lifeboat when a wave broke over the ship carrying away davits, men and lifeboat. By some miracle the small lifeboat and men were thrown between the two islands, clearing both to capsize on the mainland shoreline at Cullenstown Strand, bringing the two men ashore alive.


The Keeragh Islands as seen from the northwest
Image: Burke Corbett


Despite the atrocious weather, the Fethard lifeboat, with a crew of 14, launched the 11-metre Helen Blake and attempted a rescue. Approaching the stricken vessel in a big seaway, the lifeboat itself capsized and was immediately cast up onto the rocks. The boat quickly smashed to pieces alongside the wreck of the schooner and nine Fethard lifeboat men lost their lives. The remaining five, along with the eight surviving sailors of the Mexico, succeeded in scrambling up the rocks of the Kerraghs. These offered cold comfort as the small, low-lying rocky islets are little more than raised reefs, attaining an elevation of just 6 metres at their highest point. The Kilmore lifeboat then attempted a rescue but was driven back by the raging gale breaking in the confused currents around the islets. Seeing a rescue was impossible, they were forced to run for survival. So, the 13 men were left to spend a dark and stormy night clinging to the rocks for their lives.


Depiction of a lifeboat from the period
Image: Public Domain
On Saturday morning a young Portuguese sailor, who had just joined the Mexico at Porto, died from exposure. An axe that had floated ashore from the lifeboat was used to scrape out a shallow grave for his remains. By then the steam tug Wexford had towed the Rosslare Fort lifeboat to the scene, where it joined the Dunmore East plus Kilmore lifeboats to pursue another rescue attempt. The storm continued unabated and all attempts failed that day in the mountainous seas. The boats once again had to retreat to shelter in Fethard Harbour, Kilmore Quay and Cheekpoint. It is hard to imagine the desolation of the beleaguered 12 upon seeing the lifeboats disappear once more. Wet and bitterly cold, with icy waves sweeping the rocks, sleet and rain falling in torrents from the skies, and with a meagre ration of salvaged tinned meat and raw island limpets but no fresh water to sustain them, the stranded men once again clung onto the rocks in the darkness for another night.


The ruin of a building dating back to 1800 intended to give shipwreck survivors some sanctuary
Image: Burke Corbett


Worse was to come on Sunday. The conditions intensified so that no boat could put to sea. The little harbour of Fethard offered no comfort to its people. The full extent of the disaster had yet to reveal itself to the community. The Bannow coastguards had the island under observation through a telescope and from the numbers they could already discern that this could not end well for Fethard. A sense of foreboding had enveloped the harbour, but the people of Fethard were not willing to accept the worst for their men. Yet all they could do from the harbour walls was, from a great distance, helplessly watch the seamen clinging to ice-cold rocks, hoping that their loved ones were amongst those the storm relentlessly mauled. But the black mood began to sink precipitously deeper as the news of the bodies washing ashore came home.

Memorial to the lost lifeboat men
Image: Michael Harpur
Another attempt was made on Monday, but it was still too dangerous for the lifeboats to approach the rocks of the low islets. However, a line was fired onto the island by means of a rocket, which was used to haul a strong line on to the island. A rickety boat was attached to the line and sent in but it smashed to pieces on approach, leaving only its lifebuoy. The lifeboat crew tried to persuade the men, one by one, to be dragged through the water to the lifeboat using the lifebuoy. They were, however, very reluctant to attempt this and only two men were saved by this method.

Finally, two Rosslare Fort lifeboat crew managed a successful approach using the tug boat’s small punt. Picking out small lulls in wave patterns, they got in close enough to the rocks to get hold of two men. They dragged them into the punt and navigated them back to the lifeboat. The successful approach established, they then ferried the exhausted survivors, two at a time, five journeys in all, to the lifeboats standing off the breaking waves surrounding the islands. Most remarkably, on the second attempt their punt was holed by the island reefs. The stalwart Rosslare lifeboat men managed to plug the leak by wedging a loaf of bread wrapped in oilskins into the opening, and continued their rescue unabated until they took all remaining survivors to safety.

News of the dramatic event spread and a relief fund was set up for the widows and orphans of the lost men. Contributions were made far and wide, including Norway’s King Haakon and Queen Maud, who made personal donations. Sadly, some of the contributions ended up in Tipperary’s inland town of Fethard and the coastal village’s official name was subsequently changed to Fethard-on-Sea to distinguish it. A memorial to the lost was erected in late 1915 and Fethard’s RNLI Lifeboat Station was closed owing to the concentrated impact of the loss of life upon the small village.


Fethard Quay is thought to be one of the smallest ports in the country
Image: Michael Harpur


Today Fethard is 10 minutes’ walk from the picturesque and tiny Fethard Quay. Built in 1741, the tiny quay is thought to be one of the smallest ports in the country. The village’s small main street has a mini market, a hotel, café and two pubs, making it the largest on the Hook Peninsula, and it derives its income from fishing and tourism. Fethard Castle stands an unusual edifice amidst a small public park area off the north end of the main street. It has in recent years been acquired by Wexford County Council as a historic monument.


Yachts tucked in for the evening at Fethard
Image: Michael Harpur


In 1995 the RNLI reopened the station and placed an inshore lifeboat there. The boat is housed in the original 1886 boathouse, which was refurbished. In the centre of the village, there is a 1915 memorial to the lifeboatmen, noting that Fethard has some of the bravest and most self-sacrificing lifeboat men in the world.


What facilities are available?
There is little available in Fethard Quay except for a landing pier and a slipway leading down to its small beach. Fethard-on-Sea village, however, is a tourist destination with a mini supermarket, fuel, café, hotels and bars, and is a 1km walk from the harbour.


Any security concerns?
There has never been an issue known to have occurred at Fethard-on-Sea.


With thanks to:
Declan Hearne, long-term fisherman and retired area Coastguard leader. Photography with thanks to Michael Harpur and Burke Corbett.





Fethard Quay, County Wexford, Ireland
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Local fishing boats at Fethard Quay
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Local fishing boat alongside Fethard Quay
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The tiny Fethard Quay
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The slip adjacent to the quay
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The mooring area off the quay
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Fethard as seen from the anchoring area
Image: eOceanic thanks Burke Corbett

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Add your review or comment:


Ron Lub wrote this review on May 26th 2019:

Very nice spot for anchorage! Dropped our anchor at 52.11.610 N - 006.49.23.200 W very good holding nice walkings on the shore.
there was a big ZW swell but no problem here

Average Rating: ****

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