#corkharbour – Back in 1992, we were sailing a true cruiser-racer which was moderately competitive despite going off for a proper cruise or two each year. In that year we did Cork Week and lived aboard the boat in true cruiser-racer fashion – in fact, the security man checking my pass at the end of the week said it showed I'd never gone to the landward side of the Royal Cork compound throughout the regatta, which on reflection I had to say was indeed true.
Anyway, on that last day before I finally ventured into nearby County Cork, we had a breezy race with lots of wind between south and southwest, and as the ebb was running hard I can remember taking it easy going out to the start, because for once we had time in hand and the space to avoid the tide rip which develops in those conditions off Roche's Point.
We were trundling along, and suddenly Ted Crosbie's boat (it would have been one of his earlier excursions into the X Boats) came rocketing past heading seaward at full speed carrying all sail. His start was earlier than ours, and he was late. It may be that he wanted to teach whoever had kept him late a fierce message, or maybe he did it for the hell of it, but he just went straight through the breakers at full chat (despite his affable appearance, Ted is one tough cookie) and came out the other side still going strong, and with us marvelling that his boat was still in one piece, and joking about the citizens of Cork having such an excellent boat test tank right on their doorstep.
Mock not, lest your predictions come true. Since 2006, Frank Kowalski and his team at Safehaven Marine in Cobh have been putting their Pilot and Search & Rescue boats through the demanding test bed off Roche's Point, and the success of the company is testament to the thorough nature of the conditions experienced when there's an onshore gale and the ebb is running strong.
It all started with a boat for Cork Harbour, though I should imagine the Cork Harbour authorities have mixed feelings about the way the entrance to their "safest harbour in the world" is now being used to publicise the marque. But fair play to the men of Cork, they backed a winner, and these days the Safehaven boats are sold to harbour authorities and other maritime bodies all over the world, with the company employing 25 highly skilled staff between their factories on Little Island in Cork Harbour, and in Youghal.
It's very much a team effort, and usually when they want to take a boat out to test, other boats may go along to observe and photograph. But if things are just too much, or the factories are extra busy, all they need is one guy with a camera down on Roche's Point.
This recent sequence was taken from another boat, and it shows former naval diver Ciaran Monks putting the newest in the sequence of pilot and rescue vessels through her paces. For once, the word awesome can be allowed. No other word will do. Frank Kowalski and his team are an inspiration to us all.