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Shannon Estuary's Traditional Cutter Sally O'Keeffe Celebrates Ten Years Of Maritime Community Service

5th July 2022
Multi-purpose gaff cutter. The design of the 25ft Shannon Hooker Sally
O'Keeffe was developed from the Estuary's traditional cargo-carrying
craft, and now she carries a human cargo of enthusiasts keen to learn
more of the sea and sailing
Multi-purpose gaff cutter. The design of the 25ft Shannon Hooker Sally O'Keeffe was developed from the Estuary's traditonal cargo-carrying craft, and now she carries a human cargo of enthusiasts keen to learn more of the sea and sailing

Sally O'Keeffe, the 25ft re-interpretation of the Shannon Estuary's traditional sail-driven cargo-carrying cutters which could usefully find their way into the smallest ports along both sides of the majestic waterway, is this year celebrating ten years of quietly useful service afloat.

It takes an effort to accept this time span, for her very complete and jaunty appearance still seems as fresh as a daisy. Yet it's a decade and more since naval architect Myles Stapleton of Malahide put his own characterful and stylish interpretation on the brief from the Querrin Community Group on the Loop Head Peninsula. They hoped to re-capture the spirit of a little ship which had been key to their area's well-being, and with Steve Morris of Kilrush to guide the building project in a farm
shed at Queerin, the result exceeded all expectations.

A well-balanced hull shape. Regardless of the sail trim, Sally O'Keeffe remains light on the tiller. Photo: Con EganA well-balanced hull shape. Regardless of the sail trim, Sally O'Keeffe remains light on the tiller. Photo: Con Egan

As a "Boat of the People", Sally O'Keeffe has become a familiar sight at many Shannonside ports large and small, and she has been much-admired when taking part in the Wooden Boat Festival at Baltimore, and the Cruinnui na mBad at Kinvara in Galway Bay. These photos taken by Con Egan while on mark-boat duty at the recent WIORA Championship at Kilrush tell us why people like sailing the Sally so much. There are some gaff cutters which hang heavy on their helm when there's a bite to the breeze. But in these images, you'll note that despite the varied conditions and the different rig set-ups, Sally's tiller is sweetly fore-and-aft as evidence of her well-balanced hull.

Smokin' along....Sally cutting a dash with a bone in her teeth near a couple of contenders in the WIORA Championship at Kilrush. Photo: Con EganSmokin' along....Sally cutting a dash with a bone in her teeth near a couple of contenders in the WIORA Championship at Kilrush. Photo: Con Egan

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Shannon Foynes Port Information

Shannon Foynes Port (SFPC) are investing in an unprecedented expansion at its general cargo terminal, Foynes, adding over two-thirds the size of its existing area. In the latest phase of a €64 million investment programme, SFPC is investing over €20 million in enabling works alone to convert 83 acres on the east side of the existing port into a landbank for marine-related industry, port-centric logistics and associated infrastructure. The project, which will be developed on a phased basis over the next five years, will require the biggest infrastructure works programme ever undertaken at the port, with the entire 83 acre landbank having to be raised by 4.4 metres. The programme will also require the provision of new internal roads and multiple bridge access as well as roundabout access.

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