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Dublin Bay 21 Class Restoration in Kilrush Honoured in Annual Wood Awards Ireland

13th January 2021
The Dublin Bay 21 Naneen on her first sail after restoration, slipping effortlessly along on the Shannon Estuary off Kilrush The Dublin Bay 21 Naneen on her first sail after restoration, slipping effortlessly along on the Shannon Estuary off Kilrush

The continuing restoration of the Dublin Bay 21 class of 1902, in the longterm project guided by Hal Sisk and Fionan de Barra of Dun Laoghaire, has seen the work of Master Shipwright Stephen Morris of Kilrush and his team (which includes several trainees) being celebrated in the latest annual round of Wood Awards Ireland.

Designed to encourage the increased and more imaginative use of wood in construction projects of all kinds, this special awards assessment process may seem to function in a low-key and specialist style. But in reality, it's a decidedly high-powered adjudication, as the panel is chaired by the State Architect Ciaran O'Connor, who is also the current President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.

A daunting prospect – Naneen (built Dun Laoghaire/Kingstown in 1905) arrives pre-restoration in KilrushA daunting prospect – Naneen (built Dun Laoghaire/Kingstown in 1905) arrives pre-restoration in Kilrush 

Steve Morris: the results he has achieved with his team in restoring the Dublin Bay 21s has now received national recognition with the latest Wood Ireland AwardsSteve Morris: the results he has achieved with his team in restoring the Dublin Bay 21s has now received national recognition with the latest Wood Ireland Awards. Photo: W M Nixon

The other panel members include internationally-recognised Irish experts in several fields, a necessary lineup as the variety of structures of many types and sizes has involved a profound insight into the problems being faced, with the solutions expected to reflect the true nature and enormous potential of wood in all its forms.

In all, the Wood Awards Ireland adjudication is divided into seven categories, and while each provides a Winner, in most cases there are so many quality entrants that there are two additional prize levels – one Highly Commended, and sometimes several Commended.

The re-birth of Naneen is under way…The re-birth of Naneen is under way…….

…….with the hull built up with diagonal skins so thin that a temporary fabric layer was used to ease the removal of the staples.…….with the hull built up with diagonal skins so thin that a temporary fabric layer was used to ease the removal of the staples.

The DB21's classic hull shape is now much in evidence, with the first strip of the second diagonal layer in placeThe DB21's classic hull shape is now much in evidence, with the first strip of the second diagonal layer in place

The Dublin Bay 21 Project has received the High Commended Award in the Restoration-Conservation Category, where the winner was the extremely detailed and historically very correct restoration of the roof of the Great Keep in the 12th Century Norman Castle at Carrickfergus on the shores of Belfast Lough. By contrast, the Dublin Bay 21s' project has used modern wood engineering techniques, and the judges remark:

"Central to the project has been the combination of the traditional skill of the shipwright and the application of the latest technical knowledge in timber conservation and innovative wooden boat construction.

The result clearly illustrates the effectiveness of wood as a structure and as a lightweight skin, capable of withstanding the toughest of marine environments.

The innovative uses of laminated beams and frames and epoxy resin have combined to create a stiff, watertight, low maintenance monocoque hull, without nails or screws, which allows the use of durable two-pack polyurethane finishes. The species used include iroko, yellow cedar, Douglas fir, African mahogany and Sitka spruce, as well as salvaged pitch pine and greenheart".

A masterpiece – the finished interior of NaneenA masterpiece – the finished interior of Naneen. Photo: W M NixonThe work continues – the restored Garavogue's final topside finish is in very unforgiving black, yet it shows no blemishes.The work continues – the restored Garavogue's final topside finish is in very unforgiving black, yet it shows no blemishes. 

Garavogue on her first launching day in Portrush, 1903. Original owner W.Richardson is believed to be second-left, while it's thought that builder James Kelly is at the rudder. Photo courtesy Robin RuddockGaravogue on her first launching day in Portrush, 1903. Original owner W.Richardson is believed to be second-left, while it's thought that builder James Kelly is at the rudder. Photo courtesy Robin Ruddock

The initial phase of the DB21 project will see four of the original boats restored, and while the first one, Naneen (built James Clancy of Kingstown 1905) was sailing by December 2019, the second – Garavogue (built James Kelly of Portrush 1903) - was unable to be sailed until August 2020, owing to the pandemic-truncated season, but as with Naneen, she sailed like a dream.

For people usually focused on wood as a boat-building material, this linking of the Dublin Bay 21 project to the Wood Awards Ireland programme has given a refreshing insight into other often remarkable applications of timber. Thus the overall winner is something quite mind-blowing, as it's the enormous new €233 million Center Parcs Ireland complex hidden away in the forest near Ballymahon beside Lough Ree in County Longford.

Wood has been used throughout in the construction, with some extraordinary and stylish feats of timber engineering being achieved. And for those of us who like a bit of connectivity and coincidence in all our stories, it's entertaining to note that the main contractors in this major project are John Sisk & Son (Holdings) Ltd,

It's also worth noting that Hal Sisk's first truly international standard classic yacht restoration was the re-birth in 2005 of the 36ft cutter Peggy Bawn, superbly restored by Michael Kennedy and a talented group in Dunmore East to the original designs by G L Watson, which had first seen the light of day in 1894 on Belfast Lough in John Hilditch's boatyard, which was just across the harbour facing the mighty walls of – you've guessed it – Carrickfergus Castle.

Hal Sisk aboard the newly-restored Peggy Bawn in Dublin Bay in 2005, when you might still see the Jeannie Johnston out sailing. Photo: W M Nixon Hal Sisk aboard the newly-restored Peggy Bawn in Dublin Bay in 2005, when you might still see the Jeannie Johnston out sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

Carrickfergus Harbour in the 1920s, with the sheds of John Hilditch's boatyard (centre) still in the northwest corner, though he had died in 1913Carrickfergus Harbour in the 1920s, with the sheds of John Hilditch's boatyard (centre) still in the northwest corner, though he had died in 1913. The recent restoration project on the roof of the Great Keep in the 12th Century Norman Castle (right) took the main award in the Restoration/Renovation Category in the latest Wood Awards Ireland.

All the latest news on the Dublin Bay 21 project in this handy link here

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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