After Storm Emma wrought extensive destruction through the seven Howth Seventeens stored in their much-damaged shed on Howth’s East Pier at the beginning of March 2018, it was feared that several of the boats – which since 1898 have been the very heart of Howth sailing – would be written off writes W M Nixon.
But in the end only one – David O’Connell’s Anita built in 1900 by James Clancy of Dun Laoghaire – was assessed as needing a complete re-build.
Anita is a very special Seventeen - for very many years from 1965 onwards she was the personal boat of the late Brendan Cassidy, the long-time Honorary Secretary of HYC. So the Howth Seventeen Association set about making resources available for her re-build, and the class’s action man Ian Malcolm negotiated a deal in France through the Government boat-building school scheme, whereby the customer has only to cover the cost of the materials, while the school provides the premises and the trainee labour under the direction of qualified instructors.
The boat-building schools like to test their pupils and staff through building a variety of boats. So although Skol ar Mor near the Morbihan has already built the new Howth 17 Orla, for Anita’s re-birth the Howth 17 Association went to Paul Robert’s Les Ateliers d’Enfer in Douarnenez in Brittany.
It is called the “Workshops of Hell” through its location in the midst of what was formerly the fish-smoking area of this ancient fishing port, where for centuries at least 25 massively malodourous smokeries used to make the place seem truly hellish. But today the boat-building school is a little piece of heaven, and when the re-born Anita emerged this week to spend a symbolic day afloat in the bay, she was clearly a divine bit of work.
The re-born Anita is to return to Howth via road trailing and ferry, and all being well she’ll be back in her home port by Saturday evening.