A fascinating survey into cruising in these waters has been carried out under the auspices of the “Cool Route” Project working with Cork Institute of Technology. (“Cool Route” is a registered trade mark.) A summary follows …
The survey data was collected between Oct 2015 and March 2016 and the report was published in June 2016. The focus is on examining the yachting industry on the European Union’s North Western Seaboard.
The “Cool Route” concept seems to be a maritime equivalent of the “Great Western Way” … or a secular sailing version of the “Camino”! Whatever it is, the results are fascinating and well presented. Given that the vast majority of respondents (from a total of over 500) were from Ireland, this data is of particular interest to us. Here is a summary:
- About 30% of the vessels were in the 12 metre bracket with about 28% around 10 metres and about 24% in the 14 metre category.
- Over 60% of vessels had AIS equipment (40% receivers and 23% transponders).
- The preferred duration of a cruise was around the 2 weeks mark with the preferred daily distance around 25 nm. This day-sail distance has important implications for the location of marinas around our coast.
- Stopover patterns were what we might expect: average of one night en-route and about 3 nights at destination. (We all know Irish weather has ways and means of extending one night stopovers!)
- 63% of our sailors said they would consider chartering a yacht in some areas of the Cool Route.
- Asked about mooring preferences, the rank order from most preferred to least was: Marina, Pontoon, Anchorage, Public Mooring Buoy and Quay Wall! (As a bilge keeler I take note that the wonderful option of drying out on the beach was not included!) Better mooring facilities (e.g. at 25nm/4hr intervals) would encourage cruising sailors to venture further, according to 78% of respondents. This had important safety and comfort implications.
- So what shore-based facilities are preferred? In order of preference these were: water, shower/wc, electricity, pub, Wifi, waste disposal, shopping, restaurant, marked diesel, public transport, laundry, white diesel, petrol, disabled access facilities. (The low ranking of disabled access is an example of one of the weaknesses of a survey such as this. If there are poor facilities for disabled sailors, there will be fewer disabled sailors and so there will be few survey responses from disabled sailors.)
- Important facilities such as chandlery, gas supplies, boat repairs were mentioned in comments but do not seem to figure in the quantitative results.
- A similar ranked list shows favourite things to do and see and these were: local restaurants, pubs, local foods, cafes, museum/culture and music/entertainment. Skerries would do very well in these stakes with so many of these attractions so close at hand. Less than 50% of respondents rated the following additional features: outdoor activities, industrial heritage, crafts, guided tours and golf (only 2%).
- The average spend per night by a cruiser in a port came to about €100.
- As for destinations, apart from home waters, Scotland, England and Wales in that order were favourites.
- Regarding future cruising plans of respondents, most involved neighbouring areas. Scotland was considerably more popular for Irish sailors than England or Wales.
Although the report’s editor offers an explanation, the exclusion of the Isle of Man from this survey borders on the unbelievable! Even if it is somehow excluded from the “Cool Route”, its presence as a great cruising destination for these islands enhances the cruising potential of the entire area. Similarly there seems to be no reference to the possibility of exploring internal waterways, another positive asset of the Cool Route.
The focus of this survey governed the type of questions and quantitative analysis applied to the responses. Issues such as crew availability, home mooring facilities and costs, overlaps with racing interests, training/certification in yacht skippering were mentioned here and there in comments but would have been of great interest as formal parts of the survey. The surveyors’ perspective is also apparent in the exclusion of berthing fees from the questions asked. An overseas visitor reported in a well-published article that he had decided to skip the coast of the Republic of Ireland due to the high fees. At least one marina did significantly reduce its fees in the wake of that article.
This survey does make interesting reading and its existence underlines the importance of cruising not only as a leisure pursuit but also as a vital dimension of an area’s tourist potential. The researchers have done a good job!