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Displaying items by tag: Galway Hooker

The traditional Galway Hooker is usually a much-restored craft writes W M Nixon. The climate of Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard is cruel for wooden boats built using basic materials, and the shipwrights of Connemara are skilled in replacing bits and pieces where necessary, or indeed entire boats, while maintaining the spirit and character of the original vessel.

The 38ft An Lady Mor may date back as far as 1872, and if so, then she is the oldest boat to come on the books of the Classic & Traditional Boats section of MGM Boats, where Ross O’Leary remembers the excitement when they achieved the previous record, selling a boat which dated from 1898.

An Lady Mor2 1Mick Hunt working on An Lady Mor in 1985

It is well remembered simply because most of their large turnover is in the most modern of glassfibre boats, where anything over twenty years might be considered vintage. But when a community group in Derry who had restored An Lady Mor as a vocational training experience in boat-building decided the sale was necessary, MGM Boats came up on their radar as leaders in boat sales, and now they have an 1872 boat of impeccable traditional pedigree on offer at €50,000.

It all rang a bell with me, as I knew An Lady Mor well in Howth, where she received a previous restoration in 1985 in the capable hands of Mick Hunt, whose brother-in-law Johnny Healion pioneered the Galway Hooker revival in the mid-1970s. An Lady Mor was a fine sight as she was craned afloat in the Spring of 1985, but in those days she was still in the classic open plan which facilitated carrying the maximum amount of turf in the traditional runs from Connemara out to the Aran Islands or across Galway Bay to North Clare.

Then in June of this year while briefly in Greencastle in Donegal, there on the quayside all bright and shiny and restored was An Lady Mor, though now fitted with a coachroof which gives her the bonus of proper sleeping accommodation. In her day, An Lady Mor was one of the more iconic of the Galway hooker fleet, and it’s good to know she has been revived again.

Then in June of this year while briefly in Greencastle in Donegal, there on the quayside all bright and shiny and restored was An Lady Mor, though now fitted with a coachroof which gives her the bonus of proper sleeping accommodation. The coachroof was fitted in 1998 by Ben McDonagh in Malahide - he’d bought the boat from Mick Hunt in 1992 – and with other mods for cruising including an 80hp Lamborghini diesel auxiliary, Ben cruised her extensively with voyages to the Continent. In 2005 he sold her to the group in Derry, who commissioned the noted boatbuilders McDonald’s of Greencastle to undertake her recent refit. In her day, An Lady Mor was one of the more iconic of the Galway hooker fleet, and it’s good to know she has been revived again.

An Lady Mor3The newly-restored An Lady Mor – now fitted with a coachroof – in Greencastle in Donegal in June. Photos: W M Nixon

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See the full listing for An Lady Mor on Afloat Boats for Sale

Published in Boat Sales
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“Badoiri”, Joe St Leger’s documentary about the people and the western world of the traditional Galway Hookers, is due for its first screening on Monday May 23rd on RTE One at 7.30pm writes W M Nixon

As Afloat.ie previously reported, The storyline covers the varying fortunes of the traditional craft of Connemara and those who have built them, re-built them and sailed them during the past thirty years. This period has seen a revival of enthusiasm for the traditional sailing boats, which used to be the backbone of the transport system in the Galway Bay region and beyond.

Now used mainly for regatta racing and also for the traditional ceremonial transportation of Connemara turf to Kinvara in the southeast corner of Galway Bay in the annual festival of Crinniu na mBad (the Gathering of the Boats) each August, the documentary’s use of both old film and rare still photographs evokes the spirit of a place, a people and their traditional boats which for many of us express the very essence of Ireland.

 

Published in Historic Boats
Tagged under

'Bádóirí–photographing the last of the Galway Hooker Men’ a documentary by sailor and photographer Joe St. Leger will air on RTE One television on Monday 23rd May 2016 at 7.30pm.

The film relates the story of these unique Irish workboats and the men who sailed them using black and white photographs taken over 35 years ago when St. Leger was starting out as a photographer with the Irish Press in Dublin

Using still images and film footage taken over thirty years ago photographer St Leger tells the story of photographing the last of the hooker boatmen of Connemara.

For centuries Galway hookers sailed the waters of Galway Bay transporting people, goods and animals and connecting remote coastal communities with the Aran Islands, Galway city and market towns like Kinvara.

Transport and fishing once provided work for hundreds of these boats and their crews but by the 1960s their working days were coming to an end and many old boats were abandoned.

In the 1980’s attempts were made to revive interest in the craft starting with the annual Crinniú na mBád or Gathering of the Boats in Kinvara and to preserve for for future generations the skills needed to build and to sail them.

This film uses photographs taken during the revival to document what remained of the Galway hookers and of the people and places associated with them.

Published in Maritime TV

The revival of Portaferry in Strangford Narrows as a mid-summer focal point for classic and traditional sail afloat, combined with traditional music and festivities ashore, is set to take place from Thursday June 16th to Sunday June 19th this year with the newly branded and re-vamped Portaferry Sails & Sounds Festival 2016 writes W M Nixon

Time was when the highlight for traditional sailors at Portaferry, where the tides sluice with some strength in and out of Northern Ireland’s saltwater lake of Strangford Lough, was racing by restored Galway hookers - they came north in substantial numbers in late June from their home ports in the greater Dublin area. But it is the new Dublin-Galway motorway – of all things - which has seen numbers of traditional craft around Dublin Bay decline as they migrated back to their newly-accessible true heartlands around Galway Bay, such that now if you want to be sure to see hookers - including many Dublin-owned ones - racing in strength, you need to go Macdara’s Island off Connemara for St MacDara’s Day – July 16th – or to Kinvara at the head of Galway Bay for Cruinniu na mBad, which in 2016 is August 19th to 21st.

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Alan and Irene Aston’s Cornish Crabber Golden Nomad in Portaferry Marina, while beyond with bowsprit housed is Joe Pennington’s famous Manx Longliner Master Frank

But there are other places in the Irish Sea where traditional craft and interesting old gaffers are to be found, notably in North Wales and particularly in the Isle of Man, where Joe Pennington has restored the last Ramsey Longliner – Master Frank – into superb sailing conditions, while Mike Clark continues to maintain the Manx nobby White Heather under her classic labour-intensive lugger rig.

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Naomh Cronan in Portaferry Marina

As well of course, the big Clondalkin-originated Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan continues to make the Irish Sea her home base, sailing from Poolbeg in Dublin, and there’s an increasing number of classic restored gaff yachts at many centres all round the Irish Sea and the Firth of Clyde, which link together through the Old Gaffers Association. This will provide a real increase in the fleet which this year will make Portaferry a major happening again, the interest further heightened by the presence of Strangford Lough’s fleet of nine-plus Iain Oughtred-designed four-oared skiffs, which have a regular racing programme in the lough.

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The Strangford Village Rowing Club’s skiff in action at their home port, with Portaferry just across the narrows. Photo: W M Nixon

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Gary Lyons’ ketch Ocean Dove in party mode in Portaferry Marina

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Adrian “Stu” Spence, one of the main movers and shakers behind the new-look Portaferry Sail & Sounds 2016 in June.

The two powers in the land who are making sure it all takes off are Garry Lyons of the Northern Ireland Old Gaffers Association, skipper of the vintage ketch Ocean Dove, and another northern sailor, the legendary Adrian “Stu” Spence, who in 2014 finally parted from his incredibly old Pilot Cutter Madcap (she may have dated back as far as 1873), which over many seasons he’d cruised to places as distant and different as Greenland and Spain.

In the Autumn of last year he came into Poolbeg with his new Mediterranean-acquired vessel, a rakishly clipper-bowed Vagabond 47 ketch which Skipper Spence currently refers to as “The Love Boat” – we look forward to learning of the official name in due course. The new ship was in Poolbeg in order to access the specialist talents whom Stu Spence has got to know during his long years with the Old Gaffers, in order to make the big ketch fit for anything before she finally goes on to her home mooring at Ringhaddy in Strangford Lough, and she’ll admirably fulfill the role of one of the flagships for Portaferry Sails and Sounds in June.

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Stu Spence currently refers to his newly-acquired Vagabond 47 ketch – seen here in Poolbeg Marina – as “The Love Boat”. Photo: W M Nixon

Run jointly by the Northern Ireland Old Gaffers Association and Portaferry Sailing Club, Portaferry Sails & Sounds 2016 promises the perfect mixture of sport and spectacle, sailing and singing, and dancing and divilment to make the Midsummer Weekend pass merrily in the classic and traditional style.

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Mike Clark’s traditionally-rigged Manxy Nobby White Heather from Peel is expected in Portaferry in June

Published in Historic Boats

#GalwayHooker - Tune in to TG4 tonight (Saturday 2 January) at 8.30pm for a special look back at the first Galway Hooker race from Aran to Kerry almost three decades ago.

Rás na Húicéirí go Ciarraí 1987 features highlights of the event – and catches up years later when four boats lined up to retrace that historic race.

Published in Maritime TV

#ClassicBoats - A classic Galway hooker being restored by Claddagh boatmen is to be renamed in commemoration of murdered student Manuela Reido.

As Galway Bay FM reports, the boat currently known as Fiona will be renamed Manuela after a unanimous vote by Galway City councillors, in honour of the 17-year-old English language student who was killed just days after arriving in the city in October 2007.

The boat is currently being restored as part of the new Claddagh boatbuilding project, reviving a tradition of boatcraft in the district not seen since the 1930s, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Historic Boats

#WoodenBoats - With classic wooden boats in the spotlight this weekend, one hotspot that shouldn't be left out of the story is Galway – where the biggest Galway Hooker ever built is sparking a renewed enthusiasm for legacy vessels.

According to The Irish Times, the restoration of the 14-metre Naomh Bairbre is "the focus of feverish activity down in Galway docks" where the Bádóirí an Chladaigh, or Claddagh Boatbuilders, are busy working on a series of classic craft in time for the city's bid for European Capital of Culture status.

The Naomh Bairbre herself is all the more impressive being the work of one man, Steve Mulkerrins, who crafted her between 2003 and 2006 while an expat in Chicago as his first ever boatbuilding project.

That boat – which completed a transatlantic voyage upon her launch - is now providing inspiration for a new generation of novice boatbuilders developing their skills through what's become a community employment scheme.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Historic Boats

#classicboats –  The Crosshaven Traditional Sail event on the Irish south coast celebrates twenty years of age this season in Cork harbour when dozens of classic sailboats, traditional currachs and a vintage steam boat will line up at the Hugh Coveney pier in Crosshaven.

The Traditional Sail event takes place on the weekend of Friday 19th to Sunday 21st of June.

The classic regatta is a family favourite for landlubbers and seadogs alike with in-harbour racing, followed by barbeques and music in pubs throughout Crosshaven village all weekend. In keeping with seafaring tradition, there is a pirate theme to the regatta, with prizes for the best dressed pirates, salty seadogs, wenches and young admirals of the fleet.

The line-up also includes kids knot-tying and crab fishing competitions and informative lectures and talks on restoration projects past and present are held for the timber junkies among us! Traditional wooden boats which include Pat's Tanners own Galway Hooker, "An Faoilean" constructed over a century ago in Co. Galway and Ray Heffernans St Bridget built by Tyrells of Arklow are among the craft which will take part.

The fleet will assemble at the Hugh Coveney Pier from Friday evening, June 19th and visitors can see the boats up close by calling by on Friday evening or Saturday morning. Shore side spectators can watch the in-harbour racing from vantage points at Camden Fort Meagher or enjoy the parade of sail from Crosshaven village as the fleet will sail along the Owenabue River on Sunday afternoon.

The event was the brain child of local sailor and Boatyard owner Wietze Bowalda and some local publicans and has enjoyed fleet sizes of in excess of 40 boats. Over the last 20 years the event has been chaired by Mark Bushe and Pat Tanner who are also on the committee for the 20th anniversary celebrations.

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Pirates at the Oar Pub

This year we have engaged the Drascomb Lugger class, the Heir island sloops and we are arranging a cruise in company from baltimore to encourage West Cork based boats to make the journey east. For the shore based, there will be Tall ships on the Hugh Coveney Pier and we are planning a fireworks display on the Saturday night to add to party atmosphere which takes over the village for this weekend each year.

"Crosshaven is a great host village for this classic event" explains event organiser James Fegan "There is excellent sailing waters in Cork harbour and as a spectator if you were to never leave the dock you can still get an appreciation of these classic boats. We have a loyal following of boat owners who come annually to the event from all along the coast.

"There's always a great atmosphere in Crosshaven on this weekend" explained Denis Cronin of Cronin's Pub "Everyone from the kids to the local business owners really embrace the spirit the event. Here in the pub we even exchange our regular glasses for jam jars... because pirates always drinks from jaaaaarrs!"

Published in Historic Boats

#historicboats – These days we're told of the growing disparity between the economic recovery of Ireland's eastern region, and the relative economic stagnation of some of the rest of the country. But W M Nixon suggests that, for one part of the western seaboard at least, there's a special vitality to life around boats which challenges this perception, and could usefully be emulated elsewhere. And he signs off with a thought-provoking conclusion.

Connemara, Conamara. Spell it as you wish, but The Land of the Sea on Connacht's most westerly coast fires the imagination and inspires the spirit. It's a place of the mind as much as a place of wild mountains where rocky inlets wind their way deep into rugged country. So while purists might define it exclusively as the much intertwined coastline with its myriad islands between Spiddal and Killary, many of the rest of us can be so inspired by that special Connemara quality that we reckon it runs all the way from Galway Bay to Achill. And anyone from that magic coastline, or indeed anyone who has been inspired by it, carries the spirit of Connemara with them wherever they may be.

The boat people you meet out there, each with their own unique and often ambitious maritime agenda, will send you on your way re-enthused about boats and places and their many possibilities. And when someone from another place or indeed another country decides that it's in Connemara their true self and fulfilment is to be found, far from being seen as exiles they are instead seen as a new focal points for their old groups, and their soul-mates from times past descend on them in Connemara for inspiration and mental re-birth.

This weekend, the boat men from Clondalkin in outer Dublin are journeying to Renvyle on the furthest far west coast to help one of their own in his boat restoration programme at a storm-battered corner on a bit of coast which was almost washed away in the winter's seemingly endless climatic violence.

The men of Clondalkin are the community group who built and sail and continue to lovingly maintain the large Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan. Recently, they've been busy enough with replacing some planks on their hefty big boat. But their key organiser Paul Keogh is mindful of the fact that one of their own, Paddy Murphy, is in the west, living on an Atlantic point out beyond the old Oliver St John Gogarty house which is now the hotel at Renvyle.

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They dreamed the dream, and they made it happen. Key movers in the Naomh Cronan story were Stiophan O Laoire (left) and Paul Keogh, seen here at Poolbeg Y & BC as they come forward to accept a prize on behalf of the crew from Johnny Wedick, Hon. Sec. of the Dublin Bay OGA. Photo: Dave Owens

And between Paddy's house and the sea, beside a little hidden slipway which serves small boats which undertake the risky but rewarding challenge of harvesting Ireland's most fish-filled waters, the restoration project on the Aigh Vie is proving to be a demanding task. So this weekend the Keogh team – precise numbers unknown until everyone checks in this morning – are on site to re-caulk the Aigh Vie in a wild weekend of communal energy.

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On the Atlantic frontier at Renvyle, the Aigh Vie is under her roof, tilted over to port to facilitate work under the starboard side of the hull. Photo: W M Nixon

For the Aigh Vie is one very special vessel. She's one of the Manx fishing nobbies which reached their ultimate state of development in the first twenty years of the 20th Century before steam power and then diesel engines took over. The nobby evolved to an almost yacht-like form through vessels like the 43ft White Heather (1904), which is owned and sailed under original-style standing lug rig by Mike Clark in the Isle of Man, and the 1910 Vervine Blossom, now based in Kinvara, which was restored by Mick Hunt of Howth, but he gave her a more easily-handled gaff ketch rig which looked very well indeed when she sailed in the Vigo to Dublin Tall Ships Race in 1998.

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Mike Clark's Isle of Man-based 1904-built Manx nobby White Heather sets the original standing lug rig.

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The 1910-built Manx nobby Vervine Blossom was restored by Mick Hunt in Howth, and is seen her making knots under her gaff ketch rig at the start of the 1998 Tall Ships Race from Vigo to Dublin. Photo: David Branigan

It takes quite something to outdo the provenance of these two fine vessels, but the story of Aigh Vie (it means a sort of mix of "good luck" and "fair winds" in Manx) is astonishing. It goes back to the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U Boat off the Cork coast in May 1915, when the first boat to mount a rescue was the Manx fishing ketch Wanderer from Peel, her crew of seven skippered by the 58-year-old William Ball.

They came upon a scene of developing carnage. Yet somehow, the little Wanderer managed to haul aboard and find space for 160 survivors, and provide them with succour and shelter as they made for port. In due course, as the enormity of the incident became clear, the achievement of the Wanderer's crew was to be recognised with a special medal presentation. And then William Ball, who had been an employee of the Wanderer's owner, received word that funds had been lodged with a lawyer in Peel on behalf of one of the American survivors he'd rescued. The money was to be used to underwrite the building of his own fishing boat, to be built in Peel to his personal specifications, and the result was his dreamship, the Aigh Vie, launched in 1916.

Over the years, the Aigh Vie became a much-loved feature of the Irish Sea fishing fleet. Tim Magennis, current President of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association, well remembers her from his boyhood days in the fishing port of Ardglass on the County Down coast. In time, she was bought by the legendary Billy Smyth of Whiterock Boatyard in Strangford Lough, who gradually converted her to a Bermudan-rigged cruising ketch with a sheltering wheelhouse which enabled the Smyth family to make some notable cruises whatever the weather. His son Kenny Smyth, who now runs the boatyard with his brothers and is himself an ace helm in the local 29ft River Class, recalls that the seafaring Smyth family thought nothing of taking the Aigh Vie to the Orkneys at a time when the average Strangford Lough cruiser thought Tobermory the limit of reasonable ambitions.

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Aigh Vie as she was when bought by Paddy Murphy from Billy Smyth of Strangford Lough.

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First sail with the newly-bought ship. Aboard Aig Vie heading for Dublin down Strangford Lough, the crew includes Paddy Murphy (left) and Tim Magennis (centre)

It's some years now since Paddy Murphy bought the Aigh Vie, and sailed her back to Dublin with his crew including Tim Magennis. But around the same time, Paddy was moving his base west to Renvyle, where he reckoned his skilled trade as a blacksmith, and his talents in traditional music and folklore, would provide him with a living in the area where he felt most at home.

As for the Aigh Vie, clearly she was reaching an age where work needed to be done. And he was minded to restore her to something more nearly approaching her original 1916 configuration. So somehow or other, he took the big boat west on a truck, managing to negotiate those little winding roads through Tully Cross and down to his place by the sea, where she went under a roof and work began.

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The hull of the 1916-built Aigh Vie as seen in Renvyle shows the remarkably yacht-like lines of the Manx nobby.........Photo: W M Nixon

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.........in what was one of the last of the sailing type to be built before steam power took over. Photo: W M Nixon

It has been going on for some time now. The problem with being right on the frontier of Ireland's Atlantic weather is that no sooner do you start on some new area of timber repair and replacement, than the previous restoration section almost immediately starts to become weathered. Working largely on your own, you end up feeling you're going round in circles. So that's why the men from the Naomh Chronan are in Renvyle today to give the Aigh Vie project a mighty push forward.

For there's no doubt that while there's a lot done, there's a lot more still to do. But it does get done eventually if you keep the faith, and I was there back at the beginning of December to cheer Paddy along with all the usefulness of a hurler on the ditch. But at least I was accompanied by Dickie Gomes, who knows a thing or two about long-term boat restoration, as it took him 27 years to bring his 102-year-old Ainmara successfully back to life. But he did it so well that she won the Creek Inn Trophy for "Best in Show" at last summer's Peel Traditional Boat Weekend in the Isle of Man.

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A bit of mutual support between two owners of vintage wooden boats – Paddy Murphy and Dickie Gomes in Aigh Vie's shed at Renvyle. Photo: W M Nixon

Nevertheless I've to confess that sometimes I wonder if wood is worth the trouble. Before getting to Renvyle, we'd called by with Jamie Young at Killary Adventure Centre for bit of a love-in with his alloy-built Frers 49 Killary Flyer which - as Brian Buchanan's Hesperia IV - was winner of the Round Ireland Race 1988 under the command of Dickie Gomes. Except that you won't see that fact in histories of the Round Ireland. Because for 1988's race, she sailed as the sponsored entry Woodchester Challenger, and thus was not entitled to the top prize, despite having the best corrected IOR time in the fleet.

But everyone in the know knows that Gomesie won, particularly the crew of Denis Doyle's slightly larger Frers sloop Moonduster. The two boats had been neck and neck running past the Blaskets, and suddenly Hesperia's spinnaker shredded. But Dickie had his crew so well drilled that one half of them had a replacement chute up and drawing before the other half had finished getting in the remains of the torn sail. The boat scarcely missed a beat in her rapid progress, and when the whole business was completed in about three minutes flat, there was a round of applause from Moonduster. You'd sportsmen doing the Round Ireland in those days.

As it happens, one of Hesperia's crew for that neat bit of work was Kenny Smyth, so it made it more than appropriate that we were going on to see the Aigh Vie on which he cut his offshore sailing teeth. But it was good to linger for a while at Jamie's snug place, and marvel at how he, with aid from the ingenious folk of the west, had contrived a slip and an angled trolley so that Killary Flyer can be hauled on site into a sheltered corner, for she's a big lump of a boat to be handling ashore.

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She's a big boat to be hauling on a slip in a remote corner of Mayo. Early December beside Killary Fjord, and Jamie Young of the Adventure Centre with Deirdre and Dickie Gomes and the Frers 49 Killary Flyer ashore for the winter. Deirdre was a fulltime member of the boat's crew when Dickie successfully skippered her offshore as Brian Buchanan's Hesperia IV. Photo: W M Nixon

It was some time in the New Year that we heard the shocking news. One of the most severe storms had twirled the Flyer up like a toy boat from her sheltered corner, and deposited this Frers masterpiece on her ear. Jammed in against the steep shore, she was trapped as the tide came in, and the hull was flooded with severe damage to the electrics and electronics.

But this is the west, where they're accustomed to overcoming massive challenges. The extraordinary Tom Moran of Clew Bay Boats played a key role in a salvage project which saw a temporary road being built so that a giant crane could be positioned for the delicate job of inching the big boat back upright. That done, she could then be moved to Tom's place at Westport for restoration to begin.

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A couple of dents in aluminium? No problem. Following her brief episode of aviation, Killary Flyer's hull is already made good at Clew Bay Boats in Westport. Photo: W M Nixon

The whole business has been a marvellous advertisement for the effectiveness of hull construction using modern marine alloys. When aluminium was first created as the "Metal of the Future" two centuries ago, only the Emperor Napoleon could afford to have a cutlery set made in this exotic stuff. And though an early alloy boat put afloat in Lake Geneva performed reasonably well, as soon as a boat built with it was put into the salty sea, it just melted away.

But over the years the formulas have been adjusted to be corrosion proof in sea water, such that nowadays it's the ideal material for little boats which are going to have hard usage yet little maintenance, such as angling boats and the nippy craft used by rowing coaches.

And if you have a low-maintenance alloy hull yet give it a bit of cosmetic attention, it will look very well indeed, but it's not essential. As for the rough and tumble of life afloat, if you crash into a quay wall with a traditionally built wooden boat, she'll become shook from bow to stern – you never really know where the underlying structural damage ends, if at all. As for GRP and carbon or whatever, the damage will be more localised, but it still gets holed, and messily with it at that, while bulkheads may shift to an unknown degree

But a steel or aluminium hull will generally just be dented, and very locally at that. Repairs are manageable, even if it's skilled specialist work. So there's a lot in favour of steel and alloy. But steel rusts, and it never rusts quicker than in hidden pockets in the structure. But with remarkable advances in alloy welding and building techniques, the advantages of modern corrosion-free alloy construction become more evident every year for boats that are really going to be used, and not just seen as marina ornaments.

The Killary Flyer experience is ultimately a telling argument in favour of alloy construction. The hull was only dented in a couple of places where it was actually in direct contact with outcrops on the foreshore. Any dents have already been repaired by Tom Moran and his team, for they're able for anything to do with boats in any sort of material - I reckon if you wanted to build your dreamship out of resinated peat moss, then Tom would be game for the job.

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Can-do people of the west – Mary and Tom Moran of Clew Bay Boats have successfully taken on many marine problems and projects. Photo: W M Nixon

Sorting out the interior systems is going to be more of a challenge, for Hesperia was originally Noryema X, built for Ron Amey in 1975. In a sense, there's a feeling of homecoming in the fact that she's being restored in Westport. If you head directly inland from that lovely little town, you're soon up in the mountains in the Joyce Country. And way back in 1975, the alloy hull of Noryema X was built by the renowned Joyce Brothers. Their fabrication workshop may have been in Southampton, but the family wasn't that long out of the mountains of far Mayo.

However, once the innovative Ron Amey had taken delivery of the hull of his latest Noryema from the brothers Joyce, he then took it to Moody's big shed at Bursledon on the Hamble for completion by the boatyard's craftsmen. I happened to be Bursledon-based in the early summer of 1975, and it really was all a wonder to behold.

Amey had installed a caravan in Moody's shed, and he lived in it while overseeing every detail of the new boat's fitout, while at the same time running his business empire of Amey Roadstone from a telephone in the caravan. It was said that the great man wouldn't be really happy with his new boats until the final jobs were completed just before the Fastnet Race in August, and after that he'd then start to think of the next one. But Noryema X was something special. She became the last of the racing line, and despite her enormous rig, Ron Amey then used her for eleven years of cruising in the Mediterranean which concluded with her sale to Brian Buchanan of Belfast Lough at Marseilles in 1986. She has been based on our island ever since, the source of much seagoing pleasure for hundreds of Irish sailors.

So bringing her back up to Amey standards is quite a challenge, as she's now part of Ireland's sailing heritage. But with Tom Moran they've someone who seems to have links with every maritime specialist in the country, and if he draws a blank in Ireland, his connections around the Solent marine industry seem pretty hot too.

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Not quite where you'd expect to find an Arctic voyaging vessel, but Northabout seems at home in the Moylure Canal in the midst off Mayo fields. Photo: W M Nixon

Much encouraged by all this, for Clew Bay Boats is the sort of place where many good things seem possible, we then headed down to the Moylure Canal, a drainage waterway near Rosmoney at the head of Clew Bay where the great Jarlath Cunnane has created a tiny boat harbour and beside it a little place where, if so minded, he can build himself a boat.

Jarlath is the quintessential Connacht mariner, yet you'll never find him being sentimental about wooden boats. On the contrary, in the time I've known him he has built himself a steel van de Stadt 34ft sloop which he cruised very extensively, and more recently he took on the challenge of alloy construction to build the 44ft Northabout. Aboard this special boat, in teamwork with Paddy Barry, he has made cruises to remote and challenging places in voyages which, for most people, would have required full military logistical support.

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The new dreamship. Plans of the 37ft Atkins schooner which Jarlath Cunnane has been building over four years.

Knowing the scale of what he has done with her, it was bizarre to see Northabout sitting modestly in her berth in the little creek beside a Mayo field. But the presence of the long distance high latitude voyager was only part of the Moylure package. A few feet away in "the shed which isn't really a shed" was the new Cunnane boat, a sweet 37ft–Atkins schooner which, if you haven't yet appreciated the potential of good alloy boat construction, would surely win you over in a trice.

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Good alloy construction, as seen here in the stemhead of the new schooner, can withstand comparison with any material. Photo: W M Nixon

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The new schooner has a workmanlike and handsome hull......Photo: W M Nixon

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....which is aimed for comfort as much as speed, but she should be able to give a good account of herself in performance, and will be very comfortable for longterm periods on board. Photo: W M Nixon

Jarlath has taken four years on the construction, and when he gets to sailing the new boat, I'd say that the motto will be: "When God made time, he made a lot of it". This is a boat for leisurely cruising, a boat to enjoy simply being on board. In her finished state, she'll give little enough in the way of clues as to her basic construction material. Like Killary Flyer, and like Northabout too, she is in her own way a great advertisement for the potential of good alloy construction.

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As completion nears, it becomes ever less apparent......Photo: W M Nixon

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.....that the hull construction of the new schoner is in aluminium. Photo: W M Nixon

So we'll sign off this week with a special thought. As Irish life begins to move again, doubtless we'll soon hear increasing mutterings about the desirability of building a new Asgard sail training brigantine. Maybe we should keep the government out of it this time round, and build her through a voluntary trust organisation supported by public subscriptions and corporate donations. But however it's to be done, we should be starting to think about it.

And like many others, I've long thought that the ideal way forward would be with a steel hull built to Jack Tyrell's original Asgard II lines, which have a magnificently timeless quality to them. But I've changed my mind on that. Having seen what can be done with good alloy construction down in Mayo, and knowing the quality of alloy workboat construction being produced by firms like Mevagh Boatyard in Donegal and by the descendants of Jack Tyrrell among others at Arklow Marine Services in County Wicklow, it's difficult to escape the conclusion that the hull of the new ship should be built in aluminium.

It would be initially expensive, but it would confer great longterm maintenance advantages. And by going that way, we'd be able to provide all the double skins and safety bulkheads which will now be required without using up all available hull space, and without producing a boat so heavy she wouldn't be able to sail out of her own way. So let's hear it for an aluminium-hulled Asgard III.

Published in W M Nixon

#AnTostal - Galway's An Tostál maritime festival will take place on 26 May after strong winds forced the postponement of the originally scheduled date last Sunday, according to the Galway Independent.

Cian O’Lorcáin of the organisers said the decision to delay the event was made "for the benefit of water safety. We were really thinking of the crews on the water because, with the winds, it could have proved hazardous...

"Safety is the number one thing for us so when that couldn't be guaranteed, we decided to postpone."

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the festival - reactivated in 2011 after a 50-year gap - celebrates Galway's maritime traditions with currach racing along the Salthill promenade. This year's event is also set to feature a Galway Hooker parade of sail.

Published in Maritime Festivals
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