Suddenly, it’s summer in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Oh for sure, we all well know that, meteorologically speaking, it seems to have been bright sunny summer in Dun Laoghaire town since at least Easter, and maybe earlier. But in the Harbour, it isn’t really officially summer until the anchorage within the curve of the East Pier – The Bight as it’s known – is well-filled with a colourful array of yachts and boats lying serenely to their moorings. And the first stage of that vital marker took shape on Saturday, with the annual lift-in - COVID-19 delayed for two months - at the National Yacht Club, with forty boats going afloat in a steady day’s work.
Led by Commodore Martin McCarthy - who looked every inch The Gaffer with a decidedly rakish and stylishly white customised NYC hard hat - it was a communal members’ effort, focused around the professional skills of a William O’Brien crane whose driver seemed doubly-determined to prove the accuracy of firm’s motto: “O’Brien Can Shift It”.
The crane had an apparently endlessly-extending jib which would have disappeared into the cloud base, had there been one. But it was a day of searing sunny heat, despite which everyone kept their cool and worked in compliance with the Industrial Outdoor Covid Restrictions – in other words, Building Site Regulations.
Having a long-jib crane is central to the operation, as its use maximises the boat-deck storage area. Instead of space-consuming trailers, the members’ boats can be neatly dropped from high above into and out of spaces only slightly bigger than their basic support cradles, in what is for all the world like a continuous “Beam me up, Scotty” procedure.
Well, it wasn’t quite continuous, as the tidal times meant there was insufficient depth in the launching bay for two hours around the lunch-time low water. But although the clubhouse itself is shut, the kitchen is open, and the ubiquitous manager Tim O’Brien was on had to make sure that the creations of club chef Cormac Healy were rolling out for al fresco lunches in some welcome shade.
The it was back to work with the continued steady splashing-in of everything from the class of vintage Ruffian 23s (“We’re classics now, y’know”), right up to the flotilla of J/109s, including the Hall family’s distinctive dark blue Something Else, Dun Laoghaire’s senior boat of the marque.
As late afternoon drew on, the boat-deck space emerged as newly-cleared, and it seemed enormous. There’ll be tidying up for a while and a bit of re-organisation, but by Thursday (June 4th) the space will be ready for dry-sailers and dinghies and the fleet of Flying Fifteens, finally released from their extended hibernation in storage in the Wicklow Mountains.
Meanwhile on Saturday after a day of mega-achievement, there was the return to the current reality, with the realisation that there was no question of everyone adjourning to the club bar for some very refreshing and well-earned pints. But useful alternative arrangements may have been in place on an individual basis, and anyway there was nothing to beat the refreshing feeling of a complex communal job very well done.
Summer will continue to return officially to Dun Laoghaire Harbour in the coming days with the Royal Irish YC boat-deck open for use to dry-sailers and dinghies from Tuesday June 2nd onwards, while as mentioned just now, the National YC’s deck is in business from Thursday. Then on Saturday June 6th there are big crane lift-ins at the Royal St George YC and the Dun Laoghaire Motor YC, and on Sunday it’s the turn of the Coal Harbour Boatyard to make use of the crane which will have been at the DMYC on Saturday.
As to sailing, it is of course already available for those who can comply with some quite strict restrictions, and in theory some limited racing will be possible for these compliers. But now that the boats are getting afloat again, we can expect a greater focus on clarifying what is possible. To revert to Star Trek, it may not be racing as we know it, Jim, but it will be some sort of racing nevertheless.
Additional photography by Michael Chester below