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Lusitania-Linked Historic Ketch Aigh Vie Safe Home to Connemara

14th August 2018
Aigh Vie at Letterfrack Pier in Connemara, making final preparations to sail for the Isle of Man Aigh Vie at Letterfrack Pier in Connemara, making final preparations to sail for the Isle of Man Photo: W M Nixon

The historic 45ft ketch Aigh Vie, built in the Isle of Man in 1916 as an anonymous gift for a fishing skipper who had saved many lives after the sinking of the Transatlantic liner Lusitania in May 1915, is now back in Connemara after a very special voyage which took her back to her birthplace, and ended up becoming a round Ireland cruise as well writes W M Nixon.

The story of the restoration of Aigh Vie in an ocean-side workplace at Renvyle in Connemara has been followed through many postings on over the years. Multi-talented owner Paddy Murphy - officially he’s a blacksmith, but he can turn his hand to anything - funded the project with a variety of other jobs and continued with the massive task on Aigh Vie (it’s Manx for “good luck” or “fair wind”) when he could find the time, aided now and again by welcome invasions of members of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association, who brought extra skills and much encouragement with them.

Finally, the Aigh Vie was re-launched in April of this year with commissioning being completed at Letterfrack Pier in the natural shelter of Derryinver Harbour. Then Paddy and a crew of two set off to round the south coast of Ireland to join the DBOGA flotilla at Poolbeg in Dublin to go to the Traditional Boat Weekend in Peel in the Isle of Man at the end of July.

aigh vie poolbeg2We’re getting there…….Aigh Vie at Poolbeg in Dublin, well on her way from Connemara to the Isle of Man. Photo: W M Nixon

One of the crew’s time ran out, and he’d to leave at Dingle. But Paddy and his grandson Conor pressed on in what was to be the last of the summer’s exceptionally good weather, and arrived into Poolbeg, on time and very welcome. They departed sailing in company for the Isle of Man with extra guest crew, including DBOGA member emeritus Tim Magennis, who’d known Aigh Vie as a fishing boat working from Ardgass in his childhood, and subsequently went on to sail round the world in the Colin Archer ketch Sandefjord, which surely makes him the Old Gaffer’s Old Gaffer.

Despite Tim’s sacred status, the weather was deteriorating, and by the time they’d got safely into Peel Harbour, it was clear that a weekend of seriously foul weather was upon them. But the presence of Aig Vie was something for special celebration among aficionados.

aigh vie at peel3Historic destination achieved. Aigh Vie berthed outside Naomh Cronan in Peel Harbour

And as it happened, the enforced harbour stay was a blessing, as Aigh Vie had been living with one of those persistent leaks you can get with traditional wooden boats. But the crew of the Poolbeg-based Galway Hooker Naomh Cronan - which had sailed up to Peel with Aigh Vie - included master shipwright Donal Green of Carna in south Connemara, who served his time with the late great boatbuilder Colm Mulkerrins of Mweenish Island. So it was decided to dry out Aigh Vie at low water, and see about letting Donal fix that leak.

It was some caulking up forward in an awkward location which needed replacing and sealing, but the job was soon done, and after that it was a question of waiting for the weather to settle so that everyone could head for home. While most boats were only bound for ports in the Irish Sea, Aigh Vie’s core crew of Paddy Murphy and grandson Conor wanted to finish the job properly by bring her home to Renvyle round the top.

So as soon as Aigh Vie had got an easing of the weather and with it an aigh vie – a fair wind – she was away like a rocket, sailing like a racing yacht from Peel round the North Coast of Ireland direct to Arranmore off the west coast of Donegal in something like 29 hours or less. Nobody’s too precise on time, the crew of two are only certain that she sailed even better than they expected.

aigh vie august4Home again. Aigh Vie on the summer mooring at Renvyle, with the mountains of Achill in the distance. Photo: Cormac Lowth

From Arranmore on southward, it was a matter of plugging into everything the Atlantic could throw at them, but eventually the mighty cliffs of Achill were put astern and gradually the familiar hills and houses of Renvyle were brought nearer, until finally they were able to secure Aigh Vie to the summer mooring off Paddy’s waterside house.

As Paul Keogh, skipper of the Naomh Cronan, has commented: “The rest of us have been hoping to do a round Ireland cruise for years. These guys end up doing it almost by accident, and at their first attempt too…….”

paddy and conor5Paddy Murphy and his grandson Conor – they’ve become round Ireland circumnavigators “by accident”. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Historic Boats Team

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