The marina provides complete protection. Safe access is available in all reasonable conditions, at any stage of the tide, with very good leading lights and markers for night access.
Please note although completely protected in the marina, Tralee Bay has a ledge and can be divisive in a big seaway. If in highly adverse conditions a vessel finds itself running for shelter along this coast the best option is the River Shannon. With the exception of strong tides it has easy access and provides complete protection from all conditions within.
Keyfacts for Fenit Harbour
SummaryA completely protected location with safe access.
Position and approaches
Haven position52° 16.230' N, 009° 51.550' W
This is the northeastern end of the pier where a 12 metre high vertical light stands F2 visible 148°-058° for 3 miles.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
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How to get in?
Image: The Irish Drone
Fenit Harbour is situated in the southeast corner of Tralee Bay ⅔ of a mile southeast by east from Little Samphire. Originally, this was a small 10-metre high rock, it has been extensively developed and joined to the mainland by an 800-metre bridge. A 250-metre long breakwater extends east by northeast from the island enclosing a quay where a little fishing village of Fenit resides with a marina. A modern working fishing and manufacturing facility along with fuel tanks will be clearly visible on the island. There is also an RNLI station that launches from the marina, sailing and fishing clubs. The island exhibits a light visible 242°-097°
Vessels approaching from the southwest may take a shortcut into the southern half of Tralee Bay via the Magharee Sound that is described in the aforementioned coastal description and for convenience also discussed here. This lies between the Magharee Islands, or Seven Hogs, and the sandy peninsula that separates Bandon and Tralee Bays. Magharee Sound is narrow and intricate and has a least depth of 4.5 metres. In moderate or clear weather with a favourable tide there is no great difficulty in running through this cut that saves at least an hour from the passage whilst adding interesting sailing.
Image: The Irish Drone
Two transits mark the Magharee Sound’s best water. Admiralty Chart 2739 presents a leading mark shown of 106° T of the rock islet The Rose with Fenit Castle, a ruined square tower, in line with the highest part of Church Hill, upon which stands two prominent churches. This will lead out through the eastern side of the sound. However, this transit may not always be easily picked out by an unacquainted visitor.
Another possibly more easily identified lead through the sound is to give Illauntannig a reasonable berth and then keep Gurrig Island, a flat island that looks like a pan lid almost replete with knob, about its own breadth open to the south of the south point of Illauntannig, providing a line of bearing of 282° T astern.
Once through the cut, a vessel should make a path for the initial fix. Two obstructions that date back a hundred years and have no depth details are situated on the track from the Sound to Fenit harbour. However, if these do not concern to leisure craft, or you have better local information on them, please advise us, and you can make a direct path for Little Samphire Island.
Image: Katja Verhoeven
Approaching from the north by night a vessel should get into the white light sector of Little Samphire lighthouse; visibility: 262°-Red-275°, 280-Red-090°-Green-140°-White-152°-R-172°.
Little Samphire – lighthouse Fl WRG 5s 17m W16M position: 52° 16. 254’N, 009° 52.909’W
The white sector, bearing 140°-152°, will carry a vessel through the dangers on either side of the bay, the shoals off the Magharee Islands on one side and Mucklaghmore, Boat Rock plus the shoal water off Fenit Island on the other.
The Fenit Harbour initial fix is in middle of the Little Samphire lighthouse white sector where it transits the 10-metre contour. Once this sounding is reached alter course to head 180°T as it shallows rapidly to the east of the white sector.
Hold this course past the lighthouse, keeping well into the 5 metre and above soundings until Great Samphire Island, situated two thirds of a mile southeast by east from of Little Samphire Island, is directly east bearing 090° T; by night the quick red situated on the southwestern corner of the harbour will be seen visible 242°-097°.
Then turn hard to port and head directly towards Great Samphire Island giving Little Samphire Island a berth of 400 metres. Do not drift northward between the island as the unmarked Wheel Rock lies to the west-northwest of Great Samphire Island.
Great Samphire Island will be more than conspicuous on approach. Originally a small 10-metre high rock islet it has been extensively developed and is now joined to the mainland by an 800-metre bridge. The little fishing village of Fenit will be seen on the opposite mainland side. Likewise, the modern working fishing and manufacturing facility along with fuel tanks will be clearly visible on the island. On closer approaches, a 250-metre long breakwater will be seen extending east by northeast from the island enclosing a quay. Within the enclosed L-shaped breakwater, with a short overlapping pier, is the custom built marina.
On reaching the island, give the shoreline a berth of 150 metres, then continue along the south wall of the harbour in depths of no less than 5 – 7 metres. Keep about 150 metres off but do not venture any further than 300 metres south or east from the wall as the water starts to shallow. By night this wall will be floodlight and the 2F Red vertical lights will be seen on Fenit pierhead.
On reaching the end of the breakwater alter course to steer north around the pierhead; be on the lookout for exiting traffic all the time. After rounding the head, turn back to the southwest towards where two fixed reds will be seen at the outer entrance to the commercial harbour. The bottom shoals rapidly to the north of the breakwater so keep in the channel.
Image: Tourism Ireland
On reaching the entrance to the inner commercial pier the marina will be seen immediately to starboard, marked by Iso. Red 6s 6m and Iso, Green 6s 6m lights. Berth as directed by prior contact with the marina, Ch 16, 14 or 80 (mob) +353 97460516, or if this has not been possible, raft up on an end pontoon and seek guidance.
It is possible to anchor in 3 metres to the lee of the island and harbour near other moored boats out of the way of harbour traffic. There is plenty of swing room and holding is very good. It can be choppy in any developed conditions especially from the east, northeast plus southeast. It should also be noted that, although on a chart it appears protected to the west, by the causeway between the island and the mainland, this is an open bridge. Hence it offers little protection to anchored craft from a southwesterly seaway.
Why visit here?Fenit derives its name from the Irish An Fhianait meaning ‘The Wild Place’. The seaport dates back to 1887 but maritime connections go back to early Christian time, for this is the birthplace of St. Brendan ‘The Voyager’, the Patron Saint of Sailors, Fisherman and Travellers.
Born in 484 AD St. Brendan learned boat making and seamanship in and around Fenit Island. He was ordained around 512 AD and founded many monastic cells throughout Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Central amongst these achievements was the great school of Clonfert. In honour of his achievements many of the places where he stayed are believed to have been named after him such as Tralee Bay’s Mount Brandon.
Brendan’s epic feat of seamanship came about in his later years. Then in Westport, Co Mayo, he built a large currach of wood and leather and took this out into the Atlantic on an ambitious westbound voyage. It is believed that during this incredible expedition he was the first western European to discover the then unknown continent of America. Latin texts of Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis, ‘The Voyage of St. Brendan, the Abbot’, dating back to at least 800 AD recount this voyage. It tells the story of Brendan’s seven-year voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the new land and his return. Descriptions in his manuscripts describe the volcanoes of Iceland, the fauna of the Faeroes, the Icebergs of Greenland and the fogs of Newfoundland. It is alleged that Christopher Columbus was so influenced by the story of St. Brendan’s voyage, that he relied on Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis as proof of Americas’ existence and was a central driver of his ambitions.
Likewise the maritime adventurer Tim Severin was so convinced that the legend was true that he chose to replicate the voyage. In 1976 he built a 36 foot two masted replica of Brendan’s currach that was entirely handcrafted by traditional tools from Irish ash and oak. It was hand-lashed together with nearly two miles of leather thong, wrapped with 49 traditionally tanned ox hides, and sealed with wool grease. Between May 1976 and June 1977, Severin and his crew sailed the Brendan 4,500 miles from Ireland to Peckford Island, Newfoundland, stopping at the Hebrides and Iceland en route. His recreation of the voyage helped identify the bases for many of the legendary elements: the Island of Sheep, the “Paradise of Birds,” pillars of crystal, mountains that hurled rocks at voyagers, and the Promised Land. His account of the expedition, ‘The Brendan Voyage’, became a TV documentary and an international bestseller that was translated into 16 languages.
Image: godo godaj
At the age of 93, Brendan entered his final voyage to the Promised Land. He was then taken to Clonfert, where he was buried and now rests in peace. Today St. Brendan is the patron saint of the U S Navy and is commemorated in Fenit by a five metres high bronze statue at the Saint Brendan Heritage Centre by the harbour.
In later history, Fenit traditionally served as the merchant port for Tralee being the only deep water port between Foynes, on the river Shannon, and Cork. In the middle of the 19th-century large-scale emigration to the USA and Canada took place from Tralee by the sailing ship Jeanie Johnston. To commemorate the exodus a magnificent replica of the ship was built in 2000 with its home berth in Fenit harbour.
Today the port continues to cater for commercial shipping, fishing, and since 1997 the marina. Fenit village only has basic amenities but does have the all-important grocery shop for restocking of provisions, and restaurants, pubs and hotels. Visitors can enjoy the Irish charm of the area by walking the unspoilt blue flag beaches or follow the St. Brendan historic trail. An interesting excursion is to take a 20-minute tour boat trip from Fenit harbour to Little Samphire Island lighthouse that is now open for visitors to explore along with the fascinating history of the island.
From a technical boating perspective, Fenit is a completely sheltered harbour and marina with adequate provisioning and with the principal town of Tralee, six miles eastward, there should be more than enough capabilities immediately to hand. From a leisure perspective it is surrounded by an area of outstanding natural beauty, and it makes the perfect base to engage this coastline either by land or sea.
What facilities are available?The modern marina and Tralee Bay Sailing Club who have a slipway and clubhouse overlooking the harbour and bay can offer visitors showers and changing rooms and a licensed bar. Electricity and water are available on the pontoons. There is a diesel berth on the north part of the marina. Disabled sailors have a lift for getting on and off a pontoon. Gas is not stocked but the marina manager can organise Camping Gaz. An all-terrain mobile crane (80 tonnes) facility is available, rates available upon request. Tralee Bay Sailing Club may have a visitors' mooring available, and the club has a slip and a drying pontoon that welcomes visitors.
The small village has the basics to cater for a local population of about 430 via one general store/PO with limited supplies. More can be obtained at Tralee which is 12km (8m) away. Tralee has a main line railway station with direct links to Dublin and Cork. The national bus network has a hub in Tralee, with several daily connections to the airports at Shannon and Cork. Kerry Regional Airport is 30Km from Fenit, with daily flights to Dublin and London, and flights to other European destinations throughout the week. Shannon International Airport is 140Km away, and Cork International Airport is 134Km from Fenit.
The roadway system to Fenit is excellent, having been upgraded to accommodate the transportation of large crane components. Tralee is serviced by national routes N21, N22, N69 and N70 allowing stress-free driving to the airports at Cork and Shannon, both two hour’s drive away.
Any security concerns?Fenit marina features a security gate and CCTV surveillance.
With thanks to:Batty McCarthy, Fenit Harbour Master.
An aerial view of Fenit Harbour (i)
An aerial view of Fenit Harbour (ii)
An aerial view of Fenit Harbour and its surrounds
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