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Displaying items by tag: Seán Mac an tSíthigh

When Kerry Blasket islanders built the naomhóg for fishing, they would never have dreamed the same craft might transit Nova Scotia writes Lorna Siggins

However, four Irishmen have now rowed and sailed a similar design across Cape Breton in northern Canada.

The voyage has been undertaken by musician Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich, fellow Kerrymen Eamonn O Muircheartaigh and Seán Mac an tSíthigh and Kilkenny-based artist Liam Holden.

The 8-metre craft was constructed in Cape Breton last year as part of a Celtic Colours International Festival, Ó Beaglaoich explains.

naomhog sail(Above and below) The 8-metre naomhóg has been rowed and sailed across Nova Scotia's Cape Breton by a four-man Irish crew

Naomhog oars

Nova Scotia artist Rosie MacKenzie issued the invitation to Ó Beaglaoich, who, with Holden, completed the “Camino by sea” voyage from Ireland to Spain between 2014 and 2016 in a Kerry naomhóg.

That three-summer voyage in the Naomh Gobnait involved Kerry poet Danny Sheehy, Breandán Moriarty and musician Glen Hansard, and Sheehy died the following year during a continuation of the journey to the Portuguese border.

Sean Mac an tSíthigh, an RTÉ and TG4 journalist on this Nova Scotia crew, is a nephew of the Kerry poet.

Naomhóg crewman Sean Mac an tSíthigh in cape with Nova Scotia lightkeepers grandson John MurrayNaomhóg crewman Sean Mac an tSíthigh (left) with Nova Scotia lightkeepers grandson John Murray

The crew have received a very warm welcome during their transit, and made the front page of the local Cape Breton Post newspaper, which observed that the naomhóg was constructed from five types of local wood.

“We camped en route, made music and we were like a magnet for people, “Ó Beaglaoich said.

“I think the simplicity of the naomhóg has a particular appeal,” he said.

The crew began their voyage in late July in Louisdale and participated in a prayer meeting with the Mi’kmaq indigenous community when they landed on Chapel Island. They continued on to Roberta and Crammond islands.

Among Cape Breton residents who have assisted them is John Murray, who was reared on a remote Cape George lighthouse where his grandfather was a keeper.

Murray was one of 13 children, reared on deer and rabbits, wearing buffalo skin during winter when the road was often under four metres of snow. At the age of 14, he left to work on ore freight vessels on the Great Lakes.

file3 13The County Kerry naomhóg ashore in Cape Breton

“We’ve been using the sail as much as we can, and the rowing has been wonderful in these waters,” he said.

The crew has just returned from St Paul’s island, about 24 km north-east of Cape Breton, which is uninhabited.

The crew were supported on that trip by Ron Ingram (99), who had fished on St Paul’s but hadn’t been back there for 30 years, according to Ó Beaglaoich.

“He was a most wonderful man, still hanging nets at we were leaving, he said to me with a happy face that he never thought he would see the sunshine over St Paul’s anymore...”

Published in Historic Boats

Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.


While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset


While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

© Afloat 2020

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