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A Complex Round Ireland Cruise Story That Draws You In

30th March 2020
 The King and the special sailing star – the late Patsy Dan Rodgers, King of Tory Island, with Rita Kennedy during her cruising visit to the island in 2017 with her husband Richard on their 34ft steel cutter Seachran The King and the special sailing star – the late Patsy Dan Rodgers, King of Tory Island, with Rita Kennedy during her cruising visit to the island in 2017 with her husband Richard on their 34ft steel cutter Seachran Photo: Richard Kennedy

“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.

2 seachran connemara2Into the west….Seachran anchored off the silver strand on Dinish in Connemara as the local hookers race in the bay. Photo: Richard Kennedy
3 seachran accommodation3The homely comfort down below – over two seasons, Richard and Rita lived on Seachran for five months. Photo: Richard Kennedy

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.

4 richard kennnedy4With some difficult navigation successfully completed, the skipper is in a good mood as Seacrhan approaches Inishbofin on passage from Connemara. Photo: Rita Kennedy

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.

5 seachran north mayo5Seachran making good progress reaching along the coast of North Mayo, bound for Sligo. Note the system for self-tacking the staysail, with the sheet led upwards to a sheave in the mast. Photo: Richard Kennedy
6 seachran new ross6With the help of family and friends, Seachran was given a fresh coat of anti-fouling in record time at mid-voyage in the boatyard at New Ross in County Wexford. Photo: Richard Kennedy
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.

7 seachran kilgarvan7Home again. Her mast having been lowered to negotiate the bridges of Limerick, Seachran has gently made her way under auxiliary engine (a marinised Volkswagen Golf diesel) back to her hidden home port of Kilgarvan on Lough Derg. Photo: Richard Kennedy

Published in Cruising
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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