“If you find a good crew, marry her”.
It may sound flippant. But when you think of all the challenges of keeping any ship’s company in a friendly and effectively-functioning form, and add to that all the challenges of a happy marriage in these increasingly long-lived times, then that piece of crisp advice is pure gold.
Yet in the case of Richard Kennedy of Birr in County Offaly – not exactly Ireland’s most nautical town – it was Rita Hopkins of Inishowen in Donegal who introduced him to sailing, and over the years they’ve become a devoted cruising couple in every sense.
There has been an element of compromise. When Rita became Mrs Kennedy, they settled far from the sea in Birr, where Richard is a solicitor and arbitrator. But they soon had boats which they kept on nearby Lough Derg – arguably a proper inland sea – and in time became the proud owners of the characterful steel-built 34ft Bruce Roberts-designed Slocum Spray-type cutter Seachran.
With their young sons Paul and David they had both inland and sea cruising with this boat, which had become a cherished member of the family. But with the boys growing up and making their own way in life while their parents saw retirement age approaching, the plan began to take place of Richard and Rita making a proper round Ireland cruise, with Richard maybe even writing a book about it
This will sound familiar to Afloat.ie readers, for back on September 2nd we ran this preview of the book’s launching. Many readers responded to it, and the book went into a second printing. Yet in these very peculiar times, ‘Round Ireland by Slow Boat’ really does hit the spot, and more folk should know about it.
Cometh the hour, cometh the book…….This is just the kind of reading you need these days, for ultimately it’s all-absorbing escapist literature. For sure, in what became a five-month cruise spread over the two seasons of 2017 and 2018, Richard and Rita’s clockwise circuit of our extraordinary island saw them once or twice in potentially dangerous situations which Richard, with a self-deprecatory candour, admits they shouldn’t have been next or near in the first place.
Yet despite those occasional but very real hazards, you’re with them every mile of the way in a well-spiced read. For at other times when he comes upon a strange and maybe unpleasant aspect of life at some port or other, Richard is not at all backward in coming forth with an adverse opinion. Then too, their passionate interest in traditional music and other areas of Irish culture adds a dimension lacking in many cruising narratives, and through these interests, he introduces us to people well beyond the normal sailing circles.
In time, this special two-season cruise takes on such a strong character of its own that neither the participants nor the reader want it to end. I was reading it at the same time as another longtime cruising shipmate, and as we both neared the ultimately successful conclusion with Seachran back in her home port of Kilgarvan on Lough Derg, we found ourselves exchanging emails about how we were reading it in ever-shorter segments, as it so perfectly removed us from the unimaginable realities of life today.
The core of it all is the clearly very special relationship between Richard and Rita. It’s not impertinent to suggest that in the final analysis, ‘Round Ireland by Slow Boat” is a love story and a refreshingly self-aware one at that. It will do you a world of good to read it in it entirety.
Published by Throughthechair Publishing, it’s on sale for €15 including post and package, details at roundirelandbyslowboat.net, or contact Richard Kennedy direct at [email protected]
As for what Richard and Rita might do next? The cruise has been successfully completed. The book has been written and well received. So now they might get together with their seisiun friends in those special little pubs close under the Slieve Blooms, and compose some music of the voyage.