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How Many Coats of Varnish for a Wooden Boat?

14th July 2019
The restored Cliona The restored Cliona

How many coats of varnish would you put on a wooden dinghy?

“Ten if I had the chance,” so Owen O’Connell answered when he told me the story of the Cork Harbour ‘T’ Boats.

“And there’s ten years. in time, between them and the Rankins, but a thousand years in build technology,” he said when he showed me a T-boat which I had never seen before, but had heard about from time-to-time. This followed the gathering of the Rankins which I wrote about in this blog last month and the celebration by Cove Sailing Club of its centenary, which brought the T-boats to my attention when one of them, beautifully restored, was on display outside that event.

OWEN OCONNELLWooden boat restorer Owen O'Connell

That point about technology was emphasised by Maurice Kidney, one of the group who has led the revival of the Rankins. The man who built the first of the T-Boats moved onto to become involved in the building of the Rankins with the Rankin family in Cobh. “It was an indication of how forward-thinking he was in moving from the clinker-built T-Boats to the moulding and adhesives in the Rankins. Boat builders were planning and preparing for the future and the Rankins, though similar to a T-Boat when you look at them, reflect that forward-thinking.”

The first of the T-Boats, named Dairne, was built in 1945 by Eddie Twomey who was Postmaster at the Harbour Row Post Office in Cobh. The second was called Cliodna, which made its first appearance on the water in 1947 at the first event for this Class held by Cove Sailing Club.

The Class later moved away from Cobh up to Cork Boat Club at Blackrock, near the city and continued sailing there until the 1960s when the T-Boats “faded away” as Owen O’Connell told me.

On my Podcast this week he tells me their story and how the Cliodna has been beautifully restored.

Listen to the podcast below

Tom MacSweeney

About The Author

Tom MacSweeney

Email The Author

Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for He also presents the radio programme Maritime Ireland on radio stations around Ireland.

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