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Baltimore’s the Place for the Best in Traditional Wooden Boats & the Great Folk Who Sail Them

30th May 2019
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It’s early summer in West Cork, and time for the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival’s eclectic collection of timber craft to show their style. Typical of the mix are (left to right) Kevin O’Farrell’s Scottish Islands Class Mylne-designed McGruer-built sloop Canna, the Falmouth-based Dandy type Lively (James Baker), and the Mackerel Boat An Run (Nigel Towse, sailed by Ian Wright) It’s early summer in West Cork, and time for the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival’s eclectic collection of timber craft to show their style. Typical of the mix are (left to right) Kevin O’Farrell’s Scottish Islands Class Mylne-designed McGruer-built sloop Canna, the Falmouth-based Dandy type Lively (James Baker), and the Mackerel Boat An Run (Nigel Towse, sailed by Ian Wright) Photo: Robbie Murphy

West Cork is as much a state of mind as it is a place writes W M Nixon. And when you’re in its bright and cheerfully breezy sailor’s capital of Baltimore, the annual Maytime Festival of Wooden Boats is something very special. Last weekend, they gathered from near and far for a diverse programme afloat, mixed with everything from Boat Building Competitions and Craftwork Shows to Art Exhibitions ashore. It was quite a party, and we’ll let the photos speak for themselves. That said, where on earth did one of the Cork currachs get the name of “Magic Brat”…?

Baltimore wooden boats2Saoirse Muirreann, Lobsterboat, Cormac Levis, followed by An Rún, Mackerel Boat, owner Nigel Towse, skipper Ian Wright. Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Saoirse Muirreann, Lobsterboat, Cormac Levis with Hanora, Lobsterboat, Nigel Towse, in background off Sherkin Island. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Sile a Do, gaff ketch built Hegarty’s, owner Leo McDermott (left) with Saoirse Muirreann (Lobster Boat, Cormac Levis) Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Guillemot, built Skinners, Baltimore, 1893, Brian Marten. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Fionn, Lobsterboat, skipper Rob O’Leary, and Lively, designed, built and skippered by James Baker of Penryn, Falmouth, Cornwall. Photo: Robbie Murphy
Baltimore wooden boats2Canóg, built by late George Bushe 1997, skipper Mark Bush, with Galway Hooker An Faoilean, Pat Tanner, built 1912. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2 Pilot Race, with Rogaire Dubh Currach putting pilot onboard Lively for race back into Baltimore (winner of the Pilot Race) Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Racing Maitheal Mara Naomhogs with the blue-hulled Mary Colette Lobsterboat, Micheal O Croalaoi & John Colleran, An Rún Mackerel Boat, owner Nigel Towse, skipper Ian Wright in distant left. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Currach and Naomhogs racing for Baltimore, after rowing from Skibbereen down the Ilen River. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Baltimore wooden boats2Fionn, Lobsterboat, built in Hegarty’s 1999, first of new-build Lobsterboats, owner Mary Jordan and the late Colm O Cuilleanain, sailed Rob O’Leary, Oisin Creagh Photo: Martyn Blair

Baltimore wooden boats2After the racing, currachs Rinceoir na Greine, Magic Brat and Dlúth Taca on slip, with Sile a Dó, An Faoilean and AK Ilen at the pier. Photo: Martyn Blair

Baltimore wooden boats2Around the mark under the Beacon, Lively, James & Kate Baker (and their two children) followed by Mary Colette, Lobsterboat, Micheal O Croalaoi & John Colleran, Hanora, original Lobsterboat, Nigel Towse, and Fionn (Lobsterboat) in the distance. Photo: Martyn BlairBaltimore wooden boats2Getting ready to start the ‘New Boats’ race on Sunday, They were built on Saturday, with each team getting the same materials, including black plastic for sails. The boats have to row and sail a course if they stay afloat – it’s a highlight of the Festival The Meitheal Mara boats from Cork city are on the right. Photo: Robbie Murphy

Published in Historic Boats
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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