26th December: Michael Hearne was an esteemed member of Hooks & Crookes and was with us from the start. Unfortunately he passed away in November 2006 not long after the 2005 visit of the Tall Ships to Waterford in which he sang heartily with us. However he is not forgotten, and his wife Siobhán organises an annual swim in memory of Michael which also raises money for cancer and particularly the Solas Centre in Waterford, a centre that provides much needed support and assistance for cancer sufferers. So it is always nice to convene in Dunmore East on St. Stephen's Day to remember Michael, whatever the weather. We remember too John Quann, another esteemed member of Hooks and Crookes who predeceased Michael by a few months in 2006. We salute you both on this day.
25th December: Need we say more!
14th December: The Waterford Winterval Festival is in full swing and the City is definitely buzzing, especially at the weekends, when families are around to avail of all the various stalls, activities and the Ice Rink. As part of the Festival, a Viking ship, carefully constructed by local craftsmen, is on display right beside the iconic Reginald's Tower (to which entrance fees are waived for the Festival). And what a mighty boat it is too. See Winterval Festival for more details of what is on and where. And don't forget that Hooks and Crookes are singing at the Medieval Museum on the 15th December at 4pm. Aye
16th September: An exhibition on the ill-fated Shackleton Antarctic Expedition is currently on show in the Ferry Terminal in Dun Laoghaire (times are 10am-7pm Monday to Saturday & 11am to 6pm on Sunday). There is a nominal charge (€5 for adults, €12 for a family) but it is well worth it to see all the photographs taken by the ships photographer Frank Hurley and other artifacts from the expedition. There is also a full size replica of the rescue lifeboat, the James Caird. See Shackleton Exhibition for more details.
23rd November: Isn't it great to be retired, foot-loose and fancy free. The H&C WC members were off about their business again today. Having walked most of the east Waterford coastline in the last few weeks, they have now turned their attention to the mid-Waterford coast. They began today on the west side of Tramore Bay at Newtown Cove and the Guillameene, both deep water coves that are used throughout the year for swimming by hardy annuals (well certainly those who swim there in winter!). 'Tis highly unlikely that any of our walkers went swimming there but what a good day it was for walking and for admiring the confused sea. Aye
22nd November: Ireland are playing Argentina this coming Saturday 24th November, in a rugby international, one of a series of autumn internationals in November between northern hemisphere teams and those form the southern hemisphere. So what, I hear you say. Well there is some significance to the Ireland/Argentina game in that the outcome may determine seedings for the next World Cup. However there is another maritime aspect to the weekend game and that is that the winners will be presented, for the first time, with the Admiral William Brown Cup. Admiral Brown is widely considered to be the father of the Argentine Navy and he is considered to be a national hero in Argentina, with streets, buildings, ships and a host of other entities named after him. He was born in Mayo, Ireland in 1777 and there is a fine statue of him on St John Rogersons Quay in Dublin. What a man...and may the best team win!!
26th November: For the record Ireland won the Admiral William Brown Cup 46-26, and yes, the best team did win. Aye
12th November: There are two active ferries in County Waterford, both in the east of the County. One carries tourists, residents, golfers, workers and diners across the Suir to The Island, an island in the river, just downriver of Waterford City. There is no direct charge and it operates continuously every 15 minutes or so. The other ferry is at the mouth of Waterford Harbour and plies between Passage East on the Waterford side and Ballyhack on the Wexford side. It too operates contunuously during daylight hours only and there is a charge for each journey. How well they look too on a good day, even in winter when the sun shines.
11th November: Didn't the Hook look well last night. There were more lights than the usual lighthouse beacon to illuminate the night sky. And what a night it was too, clear, crisp and stars galore. The old Waterford City dredger, the Portláirge, looked well too. Well if it is possible for her to look well, abandoned as she is on the mudbanks of Bannow Bay, and left to decay unceremoniously, after a long career keeping the berths in Waterford City clear of the extensive mud that gathers as the Suir deposits its silt all along its shores.
8th November: Some of the crew have lately taken to highways and byways for recreation, usually in a coastal setting in our beautiful county here in Waterford. They were out again today and they ventured off towards Ballymacaw to see The White Lady, she who has been looking out to sea for lord knows how many years. They passed Old Ship's Cove on the way, so named because of the distinctive offshore rock, which has a passing resemblence to a ship, and was once an old smugglers paradise. Mind you those three fogies probably didn't know all this. Two are immediately recognisable; the third, alas, remains hidden behind the camera lens. And no, there is no truth in the rumour that they intend to spend a few nights with the White Lady and join with her in watching over the seas offshore. Aye
6th November: The Cruise Ship, Wind Surf, will be in Waterford next year, on July 16th to be precise. She is so big that she has to anchor off Dunmore East when she arrives. She weighs in at 14,745 ton and she is unusual for cruise ships in that she sports 25, 000 square feet of computer-operated sails. Despite her size, she has room for only 312 passangers (down 78 on when she was first built in 1990, to make room for extra amenities). She will look well off the harbour wall at Dunmore East when she arrives next year. Aye
30th October: There is a veritable glut of spratts in Waterford Harbour at the moment and several boats are out harvesting them. No sign of whales yet, but a fin whale, a minke whale and 30-40 common dolphins were seen off Helvick Head last weekend. Maybe they are on their way east to feast on the bounty. Speaking of bounty, what a pity is is that the replica tall ship, Mutiny on the Bounty, had to be abandoned in the face of Hurricane Sandy, which caused so much damage and loss of life off the east coast of the United States last evening.
21st October: The twelfth annual Ernest Shackleton Autumn School will be held in the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum from Friday 28th to Monday 31st October. There will be a series of lectures by prominent writers, authors and scientists with a passionate interest in Arctic exploration. Cultural evenings, fieldtrips, music and exhibitions are all included in the weekend's activities and the School will be officially opened by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. For more details see Shackleton Autumn School.
23rd Aug: Appingedam in the north of Holland is the place to be over the weekend 24th-26th August for shanties and sea songs (that is if you are not in Dublin at the Tall Ships Festival). There are a lot of groups there this year and the packed program suggests that it will be a mighty weekend of singing and craic. See Bie Daip 2012 for all the details.
20th Aug: There is a big maritime event on this week in Dublin and the City will be graced by Tall Ships, big and small. The four day Festival associated with the Tall Ships Race promises to be exciting and fun-filled with events for all the family, and more besides. The ships are already arriving (some are even already on their moorings) and many more are sailing up the Irish Sea. These ships were in Waterford last year and what a magnificent event that was so to see them again in Dublin in 2012 is absolutely fantastic and demonstrates how important this island nation of ours is for maritime events. Have a look at Dublin Tall Ships Festival for a full list of all the activities and make sure you participate. You won't be disappointed.
19th August: of course when boats come to visit, they must also depart and a Tall Ship (the Stavros S Niarchos) and a Cruise Liner (The Ocean Princess) did that tonight, more or less at the same time. What a sight! Aye.
18th August: As expected, the Stavros Niarchos sailed upriver overnight on her way to Dublin and is berthed at the Port of Waterford wharf on the Quay, opposite the Granary Building. And what a beauty she is too. She may not be there too long as she has to move upriver a bit to the wharf opposite Days Hotel to make way for the Lord Nelson when she arrives later on today.
The Lord Nelson moored off Passage East to wait for the tide to bting her upriver.
16th August: Cruise liners are big and impressive, costly too, but they offer oppulent surroundings on coastal voyages and are an attractive propisition for anyone who likes to visit continental ports at a reasonable cost, while offering comfortable accommodation and sumptuous dining. They also bring in valuable tourist revenues to coastal areas and they are an attractive sight offshore or at moorings. So how good is it to have two of them arriving here in Waterford this coming Sunday, 19th August. The Ocean Princess will be at Belview, while the Prinsendam will be moored off Dunmore East. Both boats are arriving around 0800 and will be here all day, leaving around 1800. See Cruise Ships for a full listing of all the cruise liners visiting Waterford in 2012.
And don't be surprised either if a Tall Ship or two visits Waterford City over the next few days. The recent strong winds have pushed the boats to the finish line of the last leg of the Tall Ships Race 2012 in great time and since they don't have to be in Dublin till next Wednesday, some of them may pull in somewhere handy on the way. Wouldn't it be nice to see one or two of them sail upriver to Waterford: that would bring memories of their visit in 2011.
12th August 2012: The North Sea Shanty Festival, is taking place this coming weekend (17th-19th August) on the beautiful Island of Fanoe in Denmark and Hooks and Crookes are delighted to be taking part. See North Sea Shanty Festival for more details.
9th August 2012: Gráinne Mhaol, the famous Pirate Queen of the west of Ireland, was a mighty woman, who lorded over the bays, inlets and coasts of Galway and Mayo during her long and fruitful life. And she had to be a tough woman too given how indented, rugged and dangerous that coast is. However it is just as beautiful now as it was when she saw it and it is especially pictueresque when the sun shines on it. Good weather brings the best out in people too and it adds enormously to their efforts at promoting their own areas. So fair dues to the people of Cleggan and Claddaghduff on the Galway coast for organising a Festival of the Sea, now in its 30th Year. It is a two-week festival of events and you still have time to savour some of the activities as it runs until the 12th August. See Festival of the Sea for all the details. And, by the way, it is hard not to be mesmerised by the Conamara scenery, no matter where you go there. Some place indeed....and if you fancy a feed of oysters, don't forget to wash them down with copious quantities of Guinness. Aye
1st August: Are you in Germany thiis coming weekend and if so are you anywhere near Vegesack, Bremen on the banks of the Wesser? Well if so you are in for a great weekend of music and song and associated activities as the annual Festival Maritim takes place over three days, 3-5th August. Some great groups and choirs will be providing the entertainment (including 'old' friends such as Paddy's Passion, Armstrong's Patent, Four 'n Aft and De Kaapstander). See Festival Maritim 2012 for more details.
26th July: It was nice to see the Meander, a pleasure craft heading up the Suir this morning having travelled down the Irish Sea from Dublin. Evoked memories of 2011 in Waterford when similar boats and much larger ones arrived in Waterford for the Tall Ships Festival (The Tall Ships will be back in Ireland at the end of August in Dublin, which will be worth a visit).
21st July: Well isn't it great to see the sun at last and to enjoy a warm day into the bargain. It is fantastic to see people out and about and enjoying the warm weather with blue skies and tolerable temperatures. A nice day too to be down in Dunmore East where all sorts of activities were taking place from boats out sailing, people swimming and getting ready to go diving, fishermen painting boats, trawlers lying tight in the harbour and eejits like me just rambling around. A great day indeed. Summer has come a bit late though for the unique colony of kittiwakes that nest on the cliffs in Dunmore East. This has been one of the worst years for this ocean wanderer (that is when it is not breeding). Prolonged wet weather caused many nests to collapse and birds to forsake eggs that either became waterlogged resulting in the cooling of eggs or the demise of small young. The big Three Sisters rivers of southeast Ireland (the Barrow, Nore and Suir) have been in flood too for the last two months and have deposited massive sediment loads into Waterford Harbour and the sea around Dunmore East which seems also to have affected marine life offshore, on which the kittiwakes depend to feed hungry young. It looks like the young remained hungry and perished. But the flood has more or less gone now so the remaining young should fledge. But all this is only of academic interest. Now that the sun has started to shine get out there and enjoy it, visit a local beach or harbour and savour the coastal ambience. Aye.
21st July: There is a week-long festival in Bantry, west Cork, featuring an international contest of seamanship involving, slalom events, rope work, navigation, rowing races and a pirate flotilla. There is an associated fringe festival with music, pageants, fancy dress, food markets, dog racing and a final night of fireworks. Twelve Bells are performing shanties on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd so hurry along there now and enjoy all the fun and frolics. The Festival began on Friday 20th July and runs for a week. See Bantry 2012
13th July: If you happen to be down in Kerry, in southwest ireland, this weekend then why not make a detour to the King Scallop Festival that is being held on Valentia Island on Saturday and Sunday. There are a multitude of events including open angling competitions, seafood demonstrations, busking events, cook-offs, cricket matches (yes!), triathlons and blessing of the boats. While it might be a long way down, it is certainly a beautiful part of Ireland and particularly when the sun shines. You might also consider a visit to Skellig Michael by taking a boat from either Portmagee (it had a shanty festival last year and an award-winning public toilet!) or Knightstown, two beautiful villages full of charm and steeped in nautical history. Enjoy!
9th July: Brest is the largest city in Finistere in Brittany, northwestern France and is home to a huge port, which is also an important naval harbour. It hosts a huge maritime festival every four years, where the emphasis is very definitely on boats, boats and more boats of evey shape and size, usually from every country in the world, though the emphasis this year is focussed on boats from Mexico, Norway, Morocco, Russia and Indonesia. The place will be thronged with people and there are all sorts of fringe events around the main activity, which is the display of boats. Music is an important component of the Festival and shanties too are catered for: Les Souillés de Fond de Cal (who were at the Waterford Seafaring Festival in 2010) and The Exmouth Shantymen (they were in Waterford for the Tall Ships in 2011) are performing there, among others. So if you happen to be in Brittany or you are looking for somewhere to go from the 13th-19th July, then Brest is the place to be. It is also the 20th Anniversary of the event so it'll be extra special this year. See Brest Maritime Festival for more details.
2nd July: The Norwegian shanty choir, Riggerloftets, recently visited Ireland to participate in the Rosses Point Shanty Festival and it was an emotional visit in some respects when they went to Coney Island in Sligo. It was there that the Norwegian ship, Narayana, ran aground many years ago, which it turned out was from their own home port in Norway. So they were delighted to sing their own composition and to thank the people of Coney Island who look after the shipwrecked Norwegians, all of whom survived. An RTE crew, from the Irish television station Radio Teilifís Éireann, were on hand to record Riggerloftets singing their song in memory of the Narayana.
28th June: The replica Viking Ship Oseberg was launched recently to great fanfare in Tonsberg, Norway, a fantastic event which was graced by the presence of the King and Queen of Norway, in superb weather conditions. The quays were packed with people who were all there to celebrate this historic occasion. Hooks and Crookes had the great honour to be given a guided tour of the early stages of the reconstruction of this iconic ship by our good friends Riggerloftets when we visited Tonsberg in June 2011. You can follow the Oseberg launch from the homepage of the project. Enjoy!!
1st July: The French Boat Inis Mór (what a wonderful name for a French boat) won the overall Race. She finished on Thursday 28th June at 20:16, and her her corrected time was Friday 29th June at 08:59, just 21 minutes ahead of Tonnere de Breskens 3). All 36 boats finished the Race too!
28th June: Green Dragon was first home this morning at 05:01:16 to claim line honours. The rest of the fleet are well scattered, having endured heavy rain and severe thunder and lightning overnight. (Parts of Cork and Belfast were severely flooded as a result of the prolonged, torrential rain: so much for summer and June 2012 in Ireland is the wettest on record).
26th June @ 1700 BST: The leading two boats are near Tory Island in Donegal, two more are off Mayo but the majority of the boats are west of the Aran Islands and are sailing at up to 11 knots in fresh winds. You can track the Race, which shows the position of the participants in real time.
24th June: The Round Ireland Yacht Race is held every two years by Wicklow Sailing Club in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club and it begins today at 12 noon from Wicklow Harbour on the east coast of Ireland. The boats face a 704 nautucal mile journey through some of the finest scenery in Europe and difficult conditions, especially off the west coast, if the winds are high. The race is marked by a series of waypoints around the Irish coast at which each boat must report their time and position. The current record for the Race is almost 66 hrs to complete the course. See Round Ireland Yacht Race. There is also an associated festival around the Race in Wicklow Town. See Sailfest 2012 for more details.
22 June: John Barry was born in Tacumshin, Wexford in 1745, and went to sea while still a boy. He ended up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the USA in 1760, where he initially had command of merchant ships before joining the Continental Navy and later the United States Navy. He was Commodore of the US Navy in the West Indies before returning to live in Pennsylvania. He is generally considered to be the father of the US Navy.
His life and times will be celebrated this weekend in Wexford, his county of birth. There are a multitude of activities (rowing, sailing, lifeboat activities, dancing and arts and crafts but alas, no shanties) all along Wexford Quay. See John Barry Festival for more details.
12 June: Well isn't it well for some shantymen. Singing shanties and songs of the sea, then a sup of grog followed by a few hours in the cot and then up at cock crow to launch the Waterford City baloon over the mighty Suir. And how well the Mighty Suir looked too at dawn this morning. Luckily Olly was there to capture the moments as this iconic Tall Ship of the sky took to the heavens. Aye.
9th June: Isn't is great to see cruise liners coming right into the centre of the City, rather than having to moor off Dunmore East, which the larger vessels must do as there isn't sufficient depth in the river Suir for such huge vessels. The Silver Cloud spent two days in the City and what a sight she was with all lights blazing on the far side of the Quay on a dark Friday night (8th June). She left on Saturday 9th on the morning high tide. Hopefully the largely American passengers enjoyed their stay in the City (despite the cold!)
29th May: Two great Festivals are taking place in Ireland in June, at either end of the country. The Fastnet Maritime and Folk Fest takes place from the 15-17 June in Ballydehob, west Cork and hosts a range of fine musicians with an emphasis on maritime and other folk music. See Fastnet Fest for more details of venues and performers. Meanwhile up in Sligo in the northwest of the country and, unfortunately, on the same weekend (15-17 June), Rossess Point hosts the 3rd Shanty and Seafaring Festival, which should be mighty crack, and especially for our Norwegian friends, Riggerloftets, who are performing there this year.
Elsewhere across Europe, the Langesund Shanty Festival takes place this coming weekend (1-3 June) and that is always a lively event in a beautiful part of Norway. The Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival is on the go now for several years and this very popular festival takes place from the 15-17 June (a popular weekend for shanty festivals!). Always well-run and well attended, there is an exciting line-up of performers there again this year (and, as usual, all in aid of the RNLI).
30 May 2012: The tall ship Lord Nelson arrived in Waterford this morning for a short visit. Berthed opposie the Munster Express offices, she is quite an impressive sight, and she definitely will be at high tide when all her considerable bulk will be obvious. Along with her sister ship Tenacious she is designed and built to cater for people of all physical abilities. So do wander down the Quay for a closer look, especially now that the weather is warm and sunny. She left the following day on the morning tide. Aye!
17 May: The Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival takes place in West Cork from the 25th-27th May. Now in its 10th year, it is a celebration of the traditional timber sailing boats of Ireland. There is rowing, racing, boat building and a Parade of Sail takes place on Sunday. Tim Severin is giving a talk on the Saturday night on Building the St Brendan (a traditional boat he used to cross the Atlantic). It is part of the Baltimore Seafood Weekend so as well as boats and sailing, there will also be a celebration of local food (and drink too!). Look out for cheese makers, fish smokers and organic gardeners. Looks like it could be a great weekend of fun and frolics. A great place too is Baltimore. See Wooden Boats Festival for further details.
14 May: If you have an interest in the sea and spend any time around harbours, piers, out on the ocean or even just looking at it from land, then you are sure at some stage to see many of the animals that live in the sea. None are more impressive that the whales and dolphins that are now regularly recorded off our coasts. Harbour porpoises are probably the most abundant of the sea mammals that occur here in Ireland but the dolphins are probably the best known of all, as they regularly come close inshore and they love to bow-ride around boats and ferries. The nine dolphin species recorded in Irish waters are common, bottlenose, Risso's, Atlantic white-sided, white beaked, striped, killer whale, false killer whale & long-finned pilot whales but some of these are quite rare. The commonest species is the bottlenose dolphin, the best known of which is Fungi, that lovable creature that many thousands of people come to watch down in Dingle Bay in Kerry. Bottlenose dolphins are very playful, acrobatic and they love to be near people (but they can be aggressive and are best admired from a distance). They can grow to almost four metres and are quite an impressive mammal and very graceful in the water. So the next time you are looking out to sea, keep a careful look out for them and you'd never know too but that they might closer than you think!
8 May: William Hobson, the son of the eminent barrister Samuel, was born in William Street in Waterford in 1793. Before he was 10 he was dispatched to sea on the frigate La Virginie as a volunteer, second class. He became a midshipman, then he gained the rank of master's mate and when he was promoted to acting lieutenant he had spent 13 hard years at sea, without any shore leave. Apparently he had the ability to combine discretion with sound judgement and was to become a distinguished seaman, having survived crushing piracy in the Carribean and then the Napoleonic wars. He eventually rose to the rank of Commander (in 1824) and was commissioned to HMS Rattlesake to serve in the East Indies. His was posted to Australia where he was instrumental in surveying the harbour around Victoria (Hobsons Bay was named after him there). He responded to a request for help from nearby New Zealand, which was in turmoil from wars between Maori tribes. He was instrumental in drafting the Treaty of Waitangi and he was eventually to become Governor of New Zealand. He died at a relatively young age (49) in 1842 after a stroke (yellow fever had also take a toll on him). He is buried in Symonds Street Cemetery, Central Auckland and he is remembered in Waterford by the nameplate on the wall of the house he was born in over 200 years ago.
8th January: Today, Sunday the 8th of January was a great day. The temperature was a balmy 13 or 14 degrees, there was no wind and the Suir looked lovely as it flowed serenely to the sea. People were out with their boats, cleaning them, revving the engines, rowers were on the river and there was even a few yachts out, despite the lack of wind. One crew forgot themselves as they sauntered downriver and ended up stuck on the mud off the Island. They had to wait then for 3 or 4 hours for the tide to drain and then fill so the yacht lifted off the mud at around 1.30 pm. You would think that a local boat would know of this hazard around the Island and how important it is to keep out in the channel. Anyway, they were able to have a chat and watch their surroundings on this beautiful morning. One queen bumble bee was out and about the river too, aroused by the mild weather and prompted to head off in search of a nest site. We must also wish Admiral Deevy fair sailing as he leaves our shores for foreign lands. A couple of months down under will no doubt rejuvenate him. So bon voyage and return in good voice for the joys that are ahead. Aye.
4 January: On the 4th January 1912, exactly 100 years ago today, Robert Falcon Scott, ordered that Tom Crean, that gallant man from Annascaul Co Kerry, along with Teddy Evans and William Lashley, should return to base while he himself and four others should carry on to the South Pole, which they reached successfully on the 17th January 1912, only to find that Roald Admundsen had been there some five weeks before him. Worse was to follow when Scot and his four companions perished during horrendous conditions on their way back to base. The Terra Nova expidition was ill-fated from the start, it seems.
On the return journey Tom Crean and his companions encountered difficult conditions as they attempted to reach their base, including a wide detour around a large icefall, snow blindness, lack of food and illness and they also had to haul one of their comrades the last 160 kilometres of the journey. Conditions were so bad that Crean himself had to walk alone for the last 56 km, with little or no food, so that his two companions could eventually be saved. Some people say that if Tom had been with the group who successfully reached the Pole, that they would never have perished, such was the strength and indomitable spirit of the man. What a man he was too. A fine Kerryman indeed.