Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Spread Their Wings

11th November 2020
The 1937 Tyrrell-built 43ft ketch Maybird is now Crosshaven-based, but her owner-skipper Darryl Hughes somehow manages to be the new Honorary Secretary of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association. In 2018, Maybird became the oldest boat ever to complete the Round Ireland Race The 1937 Tyrrell-built 43ft ketch Maybird is now Crosshaven-based, but her owner-skipper Darryl Hughes somehow manages to be the new Honorary Secretary of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association. In 2018, Maybird became the oldest boat ever to complete the Round Ireland Race

The recent 2020 Annual General Meeting of the Dublin Bay Old Gaffers Association was a successful exchange of proposals and decision-making among enthusiasts who share a delight in classic and traditional craft which set rigs of the most ancient style.

This makes it something of an irony that such people often turn out to be folk who are right on top in the IT department. Thus – like other organisations - the proceedings of the DBOGA have for some time now been conducted through Zoom and other sessions of similar type. But within the Dublin Gaffers, those who might find themselves confused very quickly discover that they can tap into the advice and assistance of some of the hottest technological brains in town.

Except that often they're not in town, for inevitably this expertise in technology, in turn, means that actually being in or near Dublin is no longer a primary requirement, as everyone operates on the WFH approach. So when we talk of the DBOGA spreading their wings, what it really means is that the new lineup of officers and committee in some instances has only a very tenuous link to the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club, which in pre-COVID days was thought of by most of us as being the heart and soul of the DBOGA.

And come to that, although all of those involved have at some time had a very close relationship with gaff rig and wooden boats and ships, some of those on this list have moved on to newer construction materials in craft where four-sided mainsails are conspicuous by their absence.

Adrian Spence's Vagabond 47 ketch at PoolbegAdrian Spence's Vagabond 47 ketch at Poolbeg. Normally the boat is based in Strangford Lough, but he is a current member of the DBOGA Management Committee as his previous boat was the 1873-built gaff-rigged Pilot Cutter Madcap, with which he voyaged to Greenland and Spain. Photo: W M. Nixon

Adrian Spence's 1873-vintage Pilot Cutter Madcap off Greenland in 1998Adrian Spence's 1873-vintage Pilot Cutter Madcap off Greenland in 1998. Photo: Frank Sadlier

Be that as it may, we're dealing with an association of like-minded souls who are never happier than when they're communicating with each other, whether electronically or in person. And in retaining Johnny Wedick of Poolbeg as President, they've maintained their sense of location even if these days he's seen afloat on a Moody Carbineer, a 44ft deck saloon cruiser of a certain vintage which certainly exudes character, yet she manages to do so without a gaff rig.

DBOGA Committee Member Sean Walsh has become Kinsale-based, home port for his Heard 28 Tir na nOgDBOGA Committee Member Sean Walsh has become Kinsale-based, home port for his Heard 28 Tir na nOg. Photo: Dave Owens

Dennis Aylmer's Mona in Dun LaoghaireDennis Aylmer's Mona in Dun Laoghaire

His fellow officers reflect how the DBOGA has become - like the Shaw's department stores of yesteryear - "almost nationwide", as Honorary Secretary Darryl Hughes has now made his Irish homeport in Crosshaven. And though Honorary Treasurer Jimmy Murphy is Dublin-based, the Managing Committee of Adrian Spence, Dave Neilly, Michael Weed, Sean Walsh, Negley Groom, Dennis Aylmer, Paul Keogh, Gerry Keane, John Elston, Mark Sweetnam, Joe Foley and Cormac Lowth can include counties Down, Donegal, Wicklow, Wexford and Cork among their home places, even if the majority are in the Greater Dublin area.

This means that a fleet assembly of genuinely gaff-rigged boats registered with the DBOGA would present quite a logistical challenge with – to take a few examples – Darryl Hughes' 1937-built Tyrrell ketch based in Crosshaven, Sean Walsh's Heard 28 Tir na nOg in Kinsale, Dennis Aylmer's Mona in Dun Laoghaire, and Michael Weed's new Bray Droleen in Bunbeg in Gweedore in Donegal.

DBOGA Committee Member Michael Weed's Bray Droleen nearing completionDBOGA Committee Member Michael Weed's Bray Droleen nearing completion. Photo: Michael Weed

The new Droleen – seen here sailing off the coast of Dorset – is now based in Gweedore in Donegal The new Droleen – seen here sailing off the coast of Dorset – is now based in Gweedore in Donegal

And of course, the mention of a new gaff-rigged boat to an ancient One-Design class design such as the Droleen is a reminder that boats with rigs involving gaff booms are in fact thriving in numbers throughout Ireland, it's just that where their primary purpose is the provision of racing, people think of them as racers first and gaffers second.

Thus if we were to add the Shannon ODs, the Howth 17s, the Dublin Bay Water Wags, the Cork Harbour ODs, the Castlehaven Ettes, the Ballyholme Waverleys, and the Lough Erne Fairies to the grand total of Irish gaffers, we'd be looking at a sizeable fleet of gaff-rigged boats of impeccable vintage and ancestry.

Idyllic summer evening racing for the Fairy Class on Lough Erne.Idyllic summer evening racing for the Fairy Class on Lough Erne. Though a perfectly-setting gunter rig may look Bermudan to the casual eye, these 1906 boats are in fact old gaffers.

And that is before we even presume to consider the wonder and the numbers of the Galway Hookers and the Achill Yawls in Connacht, and the traditional sailing fishing craft of West Cork. That's sacred territory, and while the various clubs and organisations involved with the Galway Hookers - with the revered GHA in its central role – will look on the OGA in a friendly way, the fact is that they're so dynamically involved with their own boat type that it's their own associations which are their organisational focal point. So in the final analysis, the Old Gaffers Association is seen as being for those boats which otherwise have no natural homes to go to - which is all part of its charm.

Galway Hooker racing in Connemara, where these traditional craft thrive with an active regatta programmeIn a league of their own. Galway Hooker racing in Connemara, where these traditional craft thrive with an active regatta programme. Photo: Richard Kennedy

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

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.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Car Brands

subaru sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton dob
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

quantum sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating