By Sean O’Riordan
A new fast ferry which can accommodate nearly 100 passengers has been commissioned to serve Cape Clear Island and provide adventure tourism trips around the Fastnet Rock lighthouse.
The Dún na Séad II, which was bought in Norway, is capable of speeds of up to 20 knots with an operating speed of 18 knots.
It has a crane and can carry six tonnes of cargo.
It will reduce the current 45-minute journey time to Cape Clear Island significantly.
The new vessel has airline-style seating, large windows, a comfortable saloon, and air conditioning.
The Dún na Séad II is licensed to carry 97 passengers with upper deck seating and 360° views.
The ferry has been commissioned for Cape Clear Island Ferries after completing various surveys and sea trials and a number of modifications to comply with Irish maritime safety standards.
Cape Clear Ferries is owned by local shareholders on Cape Clear Island and Baltimore and was founded in 2007.
Its management, shareholders, and staff are all from the immediate area.
Séamus Ó Drisceoil, who manages the ferry service, said the new acquisition is a substantial investment for the company which owns three other passenger vessels, Dún an Óir II, Dún Aengus, and Cailín Óir: “The Dún na Séad II will operate primarily on the Schull to Cape Clear route but it is planned to also use her, occasionally, on the Baltimore to Cape Clear route which is the main, year-round service to the island.”
He said the faster operating speed will allow for a quick turnaround during peak times and scope to provide bespoke tours to groups.
The company has, in recent years, focused on adventure tourism surrounding the Fastnet Rock lighthouse.
Cape Clear Island is known as the ‘Gateway to the Fastnet’.
Tours do not land on the rock but there is a shuttle service to an interactive display in the Island Heritage Centre.
While the company does not offer specific whale-watching trips, whale and dolphin sightings are a frequent occurrence.
“The larger vessel together with the shorter time more than doubles the potential passenger capacity of the company and the focus will be on larger groups, bus and coach tours,” said Mr Ó Drisceoil.