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Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club

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Overview





Ballydorn is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, within and on the western shore of Strangford Lough and directly west of Rainey Island. It is a beautiful and popular mooring ground with a short-stay pontoon attached to a permanently moored lightship that is a sailing club headquarters.

Ballydorn is located on the northeast coast of Ireland, within and on the western shore of Strangford Lough and directly west of Rainey Island. It is a beautiful and popular mooring ground with a short-stay pontoon attached to a permanently moored lightship that is a sailing club headquarters.

The 'Dorn', as it is locally called, offers complete protection from all conditions. However, it is somewhat exposed to strong northerly winds where it may be a little uncomfortable. The Lough's enclosed body of water provides sheltered sailing in all weather, all tides and ample marks to make daylight navigation straightforward.
Please note

The tides to the west and north of Rainey Island are exceptional and not unlike those of the Narrows.




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Keyfacts for Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club
Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementPublic house or wine bar in the area


Nature
Marina or pontoon berthing facilitiesVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require considerationNote: harbour fees may be charged

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
4 metres (13.12 feet).

Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.



Last modified
November 7th 2022

Summary* Restrictions apply

A completely protected location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Water hosepipe available alongsideShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementPublic house or wine bar in the area


Nature
Marina or pontoon berthing facilitiesVisitors moorings available, or possibly by club arrangementSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require considerationNote: harbour fees may be charged



Club  +44 28 9754 1663      secretary@downcruisingclub.co.uk      Ch.16 [Lightship Petrel] 
Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 29.469' N, 005° 38.961' W

The position of the clubs decommissioned and permanently moored lightship 'Petrel' where you will find the club pontoons on the vessel's seaward side. It is located on the western side of Ballydorn fairway that is to the west of Rainey Island.

What is the initial fix?

The following Dead Man’s Rock Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 28.980' N, 005° 36.200' W
This is set on Admiralty Chart 2156's Track Ⓗ a ¼ mile northeast of Dead Man’s Rock.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details for vessels approaching Strangford Lough from the north are available in northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location. Details for vessels approaching from the south are available in eastern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location. Details of the approaches, tidal timings, the run up The Narrows and onward to Killyleagh, on the Lough's western shore, are covered in the Entering and exiting Strangford Lough Route location route description.


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 Ballydorn and Down Cruising Club for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. White Rock Bay - 0.6 nautical miles SE
  2. Ringhaddy Sound - 2.6 nautical miles SSE
  3. Pawle Island - 3.1 nautical miles SSE
  4. Kircubbin - 3.8 nautical miles E
  5. Simmy Island - 4 nautical miles S
  6. East Down Yacht Club - 4.6 nautical miles S
  7. Don O’Neill Island - 4.9 nautical miles SSE
  8. Holm Bay - 5 nautical miles S
  9. Killyleagh - 5.6 nautical miles S
  10. Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 6.6 nautical miles SSE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. White Rock Bay - 0.6 miles SE
  2. Ringhaddy Sound - 2.6 miles SSE
  3. Pawle Island - 3.1 miles SSE
  4. Kircubbin - 3.8 miles E
  5. Simmy Island - 4 miles S
  6. East Down Yacht Club - 4.6 miles S
  7. Don O’Neill Island - 4.9 miles SSE
  8. Holm Bay - 5 miles S
  9. Killyleagh - 5.6 miles S
  10. Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 6.6 miles SSE
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?
Ballydorn
Image: Michael Harpur


Ballydorn is a rural district in the Civil Parish of Killinchy on the western shore of Strangford Lough. It is surrounded on three sides by the Lough and connected to Sketrick Island and the castle to the east by a road causeway. Overlooked by the old church of Nendrum, on Mahee Island, it is home to the Down Cruising Club which has its base in a converted lightship that is moored afloat and called Petrel.


The club boat 'Petrel' and its pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur


Ballydorn itself offers depths of 3 to 4 metres LAT but the entrance between Rainey and Sketrick Islands has only 1.5 metres at LWS and this is an important consideration for deeper draft vessels as is managing the tidal streams here.


The trapped waters of Ardmillan and Reagh bays above Ballydorn
Image: Tourism NI


All the waters of Ardmillan and Reagh bays are locked within the drumlin islands of the western shore that are mostly connected by causeways that were constructed in the nineteenth century. So these bays can only connect to Lough through the narrow channels between Mahee, Rainey and Sketrick Islands. As the waters ebb and flood between the Lough and Ardmillan and Reagh bays, this causes a tidal surge rushing past Ballydorn to fill or empty the bays that is almost as powerful as that experience in the Narrows. Spring rates can attain speeds of up to 5 knots when forced through the locked channels between the drumlin islands. Consequently, visitors need to be highly conscious of tides when operating here and it should be central to planning a visit.


The 1.5 metres LWS area off the northeast end of Sketrick Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Ideally, a first approach should be carefully timed to coincide with slack water. But if the vessel is carrying any draft it will be caught by the 1.5 metres at LWS in the approaches to off the northeast end of Sketrick Island and between it and Rainey Island. Hence the approach will need to be on the rise or at high water to be assured of sufficient depth and moderate streams. Making an entry with a following tide will make the approach swift and more challenging.


Boats on moorings in Ballydorn
Image: Michael Harpur


The very strong currents effectively rule out anchoring in the channel. There are four visitors' moorings available and should these be occupied the club will do their best to arrange a suitable vacant mooring. There are short-stay berths on the extended pontoons to the seaward side of the converted lightship.


'Petrel' and its pontoon
Image: Michael Harpur


This is moored off the west shore within the entrance channel between the islands. It has a 100 metres long pontoon and an extended dinghy dock and there is a gangway to the shore. Depths of 3 to 4 metres will be found on the outside berths. It is always best to contact Down Cruising Club in advance [VHF] Ch.16 [Lightship Petrel], Landline+44 28 9754 1663, E-mailsecretary@downcruisingclub.co.uk. If this is not possible report to the Bar Steward or a club Flag Officer/Council Member as soon as possible.


How to get in?
Inishanier, Inisharoan and Trasnagh Islands seen out through the entrance
between Sketrick and Rainey islands

Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use the approaches, tidal timings, the run up The Narrows and onward to Killyleagh, on the Lough's western shore, as covered in the Entering and exiting Strangford Lough Route location route description. Proceed up the deep water fairway on the Lough’s eastern side using Admiralty Chart 2156's Track E, F and H, to the Dead Man’s Rock Initial Fix. This is located a ¼ mile to the northeast of Dead Man’s Rock which is marked by a perch. Keep the perch on Dead Man’s Rock to port and proceed to the initial fix.


The channel between Sketrick and Rainey islands as seen close approaches
Image: Michael Harpur


[If] From the Initial Fix the path turns west by northwest for 1¼ miles passing Inishanier, Inisharoan and Trasnagh Islands to port (southward), until the channel opens between Sketrick and Rainey islands.
Please note

Keep a sharp eye out for half-submerged mooring buoys when in the approach channel and whilst manoeuvring in Ballydorn as when the tide is running hard it can pull buoys down.




Petrel seen through the gap between the islands
Image: Michael Harpur


When between Sketrick and Rainey islands the helm should be watchful for unpredictable tidal flows that occur over the uneven channel contours. In addition to the strength of the current, the central current tends to flow very strongly one way whilst along the shores it can be streaming in the reverse direction. There are many moorings in the approaches to gauge the flow and closely moored boats can be seen to unaccountably pull in opposite directions at times on account of this.


The shallowest part of the approach off the northeast end of Sketrick
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Visitors should come alongside the pontoon and enquire if there is a spare visitor berth available, berth as instructed according to top prior contact. Take care when approaching the pontoon as the tide runs hard past it.


Ballydorn opening up between the points of Rainey and Sketrick islands
Image: Michael Harpur


Once the vessel is well secured, report to the bar aboard where final berthing arrangements will be made. Berthing as instructed by the club offer.


The Dorn
Image: Michael Harpur


All moorings in Ballydorn Bay are private and controlled by Ballydorn Fairway Committee under lease from the Crown Commissioners and should not be used by visitors without permission. If you need a mooring please approach the club manager to see if accommodations can be made. To help towards the lightship’s continuous maintenance there is a club charge to visitors.


Approaching Petrel and the pontoon from the south
Image: Michael Harpur


It is possible to enter and exit to the north between Mahee and Rainey islands. However, there are a couple of points that are very narrow on the northern exit and currents may be further accelerated here.


Mooring in the south end of Ballydorn
Image: Michael Harpur


At certain states of the tide, a standing wave will be seen to appear between Mahee and Rainey islands.


Why visit here?
Ballydorn derives its name from the words 'Baile' and 'dorn'. 'Dorn' in Scots Gaelic for 'narrow channel' and 'Baile' means 'townland of' so the conjunction means 'townland of the narrow channel'. The place name would have perfectly described the Medieval settlement around Sketrick Island's castle and the anchorage. During this period, Sketrick Island was the site of an ancient tower house, church and graveyard the remains of these can all be seen today.


Sketrick Island to the south connected by a causeway
Image: Michael Harpur


The entire area is steeped in history but none more so than Mahee Island close north. Soon after St Patrick's arrival in the neighbourhood of Downpatrick he met and converted a young man named 'Mochaei' [Mohee]. His mother was 'Bronach', daughter of the pagan chief 'Milcho', with whom the saint had spent seven years of his youth in captivity. After having baptised 'Mochaei', he tonsured and dedicated him to the Church and was the first of the Irish saints to whom St Patrick presented a crosier and a book of the Gospels. This 'Mochaei', who was also called 'Caelan', meaning 'a slender person', became very distinguished and ultimately attained the rank of bishop. Before he died, in the year 497, he built a church and established a school of Nendrum on Mahee Island, with the island 'Inis Mochaci' retaining his name to this day.


The remains of the Nendrum Monastic Site on Mahee Island
Image: Tourism NI


The site thrived and the monks were believed to have occupied the site sometime between 974 and 1178. Between the 7th and 10th Centuries Nendrum was one of the great maritime monasteries of Ireland. In the 8th Century the 'Litany of the Saints' suggested that Nendrum had "nine times fifty monks under the yoke of Mochoe of Noendruin", implying that it had a community of four hundred and fifty monks, to which number could probably be added a large lay population of labourers, craftsmen, servants and tenants. The monks, lacking any freshwater streams on their island environment, turned to tidal power to grind the corn to feed the large monastic population – building a succession of three tide mills on the intertidal zone adjoining the monastic complex.


The remains of the Nendrum
Image: Tourism NI

But disaster would come from the north as the Four Masters record that in the year 974 "Sedna Ua Demain, Abbot of Nendrum, was consumed in his own house" meaning that 'Sedna was burnt, perhaps during a Viking raid'. This would have been a recurring danger thereafter as the Danes continued to traverse Strangford Lough. It was later noted that John de Courcy, in 1178, leader of the Norman invasion, takes the liberty of making it over to the monks of an English abbey. The church served as a parish until the site was abandoned in the 15th century. Its site, on the west side of Mahee Island, has now been restored so that the foundations of the church, round tower, crafts huts and monk's cells can be seen. It is a beautiful silent place where the ruins can be explored over a green carpet of close-cut grass amid the beautiful surroundings of the island scenery.


Classic boat on a mooring off of Rainey Island
Image: Michael Harpur


Rainey Island on the east side of the 'Dorn' takes its name from the Gaelic Oileán-raithnighe, 'ferny island'. It was inhabited during the Mesolithic period as by chance animal burrowing exposed densely packed concentrations of oyster shells at several locations on the island's northern side. Today Rainey Island has a heronry adjacent to the anchorage, which offers visitors a wide range of opportunities to come across these beautiful birds fishing in the shallows. The north-facing cove on the west side of the island offers the easiest landing place.


Petrel is the jewel of the 'Dorn'
Image: Michael Harpur


The most remarkable feature of Ballydorn has to be the Down Cruising Club's lightship 'Petrel'. The historic iron ship was built by skilled craftsmen of the Dublin Dockyard Company in 1911 using the traditional riveted and caulked method. When in 1968 'Irish Lights' withdrew the vessel from service the Down Cruising Club purchased it. She was towed in on a high spring tide into the 'Dorn' and tied up at the Quay. In the November of that year, they floated her to the present berth using her deck winch, two club boats and a very long cable made fast to a tree on Sketrick Island to act as a 'hand-brake'.


Pretty 'Petral' home to the Down Cruising Club
Image: © alphazeta


In the years since the friendly club, of approximately 100 members, have modified and fitted her out, generally by voluntary labour, into the very comfortable and highly unusual Club House that can be enjoyed today. A notable feature is its deck has a bowed nature that is not level and inside the bar stools have been modified to have two shorter front legs to stand vertically. An important feature of membership of the club is the maintenance of the lightship, which relies heavily on the revenue generated by the bar where visitor patronage is highly appreciated. 'Petrel' is the only lightship still afloat in Ireland.


Ballydorn is another beautiful anchorage with ample to explore and enjoy
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, Ballydorn is another breathtakingly beautiful anchorage immersed in the rounded 'drumlin' topography of Strangford Lough. It is very much an out-of-the-way that offers very good protection, with all the resources of the club close at hand and some excellent restaurants ashore.


What facilities are available?
The Down Cruising Club headquarters in the lightship "Petrel" has a bar, plus showers and toilet facilities that are available to all visitors when the Club is open. Opening times, from May 1st to September 30th, Fridays; 19.45hrs to 23.00hrs and opening at the earlier time of 16.00hrs hours on Saturdays and Sundays. However, in summer there are usually members on board outside of these hours.

Water is available at the pontoon from a hose. There is a fuel berth that is exclusively for the use of Club Members at the stern of the ship. In situations of duress visitors from outside Strangford Lough may be able to obtain fuel by a special arrangement with the club. Yachts can dry out alongside the old stone Ballydorn Quay nearby.

Fresh provisions including vegetables, fruit, butchery, dry goods, gas and petrol are available in Balloo Village 3.5 KM away. Newtownards somewhat further has a wider selection, including laundry facilities. Likewise, chandlers, a sailmaker and a restaurant are in the vicinity.


Any security concerns?
The Down Cruising Club grounds are a secured area.


With thanks to:
Charlie Kavanagh - ISA/RYA Yachtmaster Instructor/Examiner. eOceanic would like to thank Quoile Yacht Club External link for hosting our survey boat during the survey of Strangford Lough.






















Nendrum Monastery Mahee Island



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