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Transatlantic Rower Damian Browne Returns to Sea after Rescue to Row Cushlamachree Into Galway Docks

4th October 2022
Hours after he was located by three gardai on rocks at Na Forbachas (Furbo) and taken home to Renmore, Damian Browne returned to the docks in his boat for the official celebrations planned in his honour
Hours after he was located by three gardai on rocks at Na Forbachas (Furbo) and taken home to Renmore, Damian Browne returned to the docks in his boat for the official celebrations planned in his honour Credit: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Well over a thousand people turned out to welcome transatlantic oarsman Damian Browne home to Galway docks yesterday morning after he survived his fifth capsize and was washed ashore in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Hours after he was located by three gardai on rocks at Na Forbachas (Furbo) and taken home to Renmore, he returned to the docks for the official celebrations planned in his honour.

The extreme adventurer and former Connacht rugby player is the first man to row from New York to Galway.

A flotilla took Browne through the lock gates to the blare of ships’ horns, flares, drum beats and cheersA flotilla took Browne through the lock gates to the blare of ships’ horns, flares, drum beats and cheers Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

He is also one of only a handful of people to have rowed solo across the Atlantic in both directions.

Browne and his boat was located by three gardai on rocks at Na Forbachas (Furbo)Browne and his boat was located by three gardai on rocks at Na Forbachas (Furbo)

Browne was not injured, and his vessel, Cushlamachree, was later refloated from rocks at Na Forbacha (Furbo) by Ciaran and Patrick Oliver and a number of local vessels.

Even as this effort was underway, a flotilla organised by Port of Galway harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan took Browne through the lock gates to the blare of ships’ horns, flares, drum beats and cheers.

Damian Browne, his daughter one-year-old Elodie and her mother Rozelle greet the rower who became the first person in history to row from New York to Galway after 112 days at sea. Photo:  Photo: Joe O'ShaughnessyDamian Browne, his daughter one-year-old Elodie and her mother Rozelle greet the rower who became the first person in history to row from New York to Galway after 112 days at sea. Photo:  Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Pupils from his former secondary school, “The Bish”, who were among many schoolchildren at the event, formed a guard of honour with oars.

Dr Karen Weekes, who became first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic, was among the many wellwishers.

Transatlantic oarsman Damian Browne with Dr Karen Weekes, the first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic, at the Galway docks homecoming Photo Joe O'ShaughnessyTransatlantic oarsman Damian Browne with Dr Karen Weekes, the first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic, at the Galway docks homecoming Photo Joe O'Shaughnessy

Browne could have made his landfall in Kerry, but reached the Aran islands on Monday night where a bonfire was lit on Inis Oírr and he was delivered ham and cheese sandwiches made by his mother Mary.

A bonfire was lit on Inis Oírr for BrowneA bonfire was lit on Inis Oírr for Browne Photo: Paddy Crowe

Swaying slightly after 112 days at sea, he described how he had to crawl ashore at Na Forbacha (Furbo), but felt he wasn’t in any great danger.

He encountered a force nine south-westerly gale with wind gusts of up to 44 knots as rowed from the Aran islands to Galway in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Browne reached the Aran islands on Monday nightBrowne reached the Aran islands on Monday night Photo: Paddy Crowe

He said he misjudged how close he was to two large rocks. As he tried to row back out, several large breakers capsized his boat and snapped one of his last two oars.

He said used a broadband satellite link to raise the alarm with weather router Chris Martin, and saw a flashlight about 20 minutes later.

Damian Browne with his father Joe at Galway DocksDamian Browne with his father Joe at Galway Docks Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Garda Micheál Ó Ráinne from An Spidéil, Garda Vincent Kelly from Indreabhán and Garda Eoin O’Malley from Carna located him, and ensured he was checked out by emergency first responders.

He was then driven home to Renmore in Galway by his team manager MacDara Hosty.

“So I am knocking at my parents’ door at 2.30m and my partner Rozelle put her head out,” he laughed.

His teammate Fergus Farrell drove out to Na Forbacha with boatbuilder Justin Adkin and Martin, and they confirmed that the Seasabre 6.2m craft Cushlamachree was not seriously damaged.

Fellow Project Empower team mate Fergus Farrell with Damian BrowneFellow Project Empower team mate Fergus Farrell with Damian Browne Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

The craft was refloated by a number of vessels, coordinated by Ciaran and Patrick Oliver of the Claddagh, and towed into Galway shortly after midday.

Browne was then brought out to sea again by RIB and boarded Cushlamachree. Ships’ horns sounded up as he rowed into the lock gates just before they closed on a dropping tide.

Browne rowed east-west solo from San Sebastian to Antigua in 2018.

However, he said this crossing was much longer and far harder as he encountered headwinds and currents for much of the route.

This year’s west-east crossing was to have been completed with his close friend Fergus Farrell after the pair left New York in mid-June for Galway.

However, Farrell had to be evacuated at sea after 13 days, when his oxygen levels dropped to 86 per cent, and he was at risk of blood clots.

Farrell said he was “thrilled for Damo” and delighted to know he was safe.

Entitled Project Empower, the row has raised funds for four charities: National Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, Ability West, Madra and Galway Simon Community.

Browne has completed the six-day, 257km-long Marathon des Sables across the Sahara Desert - also known as “The Toughest Footrace on Earth”.

He has also climbed five of the seven summits or highest peaks on each continent and had planned to attempt Everest last year, but both he and his Sherpa got Covid.

“Everyone should do an ocean row,” he said, describing how much he learned about himself.

“You learn to appreciate the small things we take for granted,” he said.

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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