Mexican waves as sailors drop anchor
It was (almost) all hands on deck as everyone was welcomed on board the winning ship
THE TALLEST of the tall ships was the last to arrive in Dublin’s docks yesterday, and as the huge Amerigo Vespucci slowly manoeuvred itself into position, thousands of people oohed and aahed along the south quays.
The Italian naval vessel might be the biggest draw at the festival, which is set to bring up to a million people to the city this weekend, but it lost the race, which finished in Irish waters earlier this week. The winner was the Cuauhtemoc from Mexico, which is docked nearby and started inviting the public aboard as its rival finished mooring.
Everyone was welcomed on board with a Mexican wave from navy sailors, and as the crowd climbed the gangway it was all hands on deck. Well, almost all hands – six sailors were skulking under a stairwell staring at iPads, oblivious to the people filtering past them.
Francisco Mundo was not oblivious and was loving the attention. He is a navy cadet and infuriatingly good-looking. How did he get on during the crossing from the ships’ last port in the Galician city of La Coruña? “The race was very short. Well, it was only so short because we were so fast and we won,” he said. “It was all over in three days.”
He had three priorities for his first trip to Ireland: food, shopping and women. “I want to try the food and do some souvenir shopping. And maybe I will meet some pretty Irish girls? Maybe a redhead?”
The chat came to a sudden halt as Mundo stopped a group of 10-year-old Dubliners from damaging his ship. They had clanged the brass bell minutes earlier before attempting to lower a heavy metal anchor on to the brightly polished wooden deck. They were shooed away amiably before Mundo returned to the job at hand – having his picture taken with pretty Irish girls. Some of whom had red hair.
Gavin Murphy, his wife Niamh and his three children were queuing to board the Cuauhtemoc. “I took the day off to come here and I am glad I did; it’s fabulous and even the weather is nice,” he said, looking at the grey skies. “It has brightened up the whole place. And everything is free.”
Well, nearly everything. The kids’ zone beside the Bord Gáis Theatre is charming and has an impressive array of wooden toys dating from a bygone era. The carousels and hurdy gurdys are pleasingly old-school. The prices are anything but. A slide down the Helter Skelter, manned by a bored-looking carny with a cigarette dangling from his curled lip, cost €3 and lasted less than 15 seconds.
Adam Murphy from Dunboyne was at the festival only moments when his young child discovered the ride. “He wants to go again but I’ve told him it’s a once-in-a- lifetime thing,” he said. “Boys and girls are only allowed one go,” he explained to his disbelieving child before muttering: “Three euro? That’s nearly the price of a pint.”
Bernard Caldwell from Lucan is one of 1,400 volunteers working at the festival. He was handing out purple wristbands to children as they came in. Parents can write mobile numbers on the bands, which organisers will call should their offspring get lost. “I was delighted to volunteer,” Caldwell said. “I think it is good to give a bit back to the city, and this is a great event. The wristbands are a great idea too. And I’m getting all the women’s numbers,” he laughed.
Across the river is the Bulmer’s Music Dock, where bands will play for free throughout the weekend. There are fewer boats and fewer people on the northside. A psychic is offering readings for a tenner. These are not private, and a small crowd had gathered to hear the fortune of a man in his early 20s. His last card was “the strength card”, the female psychic said. “This means you are strong,” she said. “You are strong mentally and physically and you will lead a long life. But you should probably avoid rows and people who like rows.” It’s good advice.