Relaunch of Haughey's 'Celtic Mist' by whale and dolphin protection group


JUST OVER a year after it was donated for whale and dolphin research, the ketch once sailed by former taoiseach Charles J Haughey will be relaunched tomorrow having undergone an extensive makeover in Co Clare – or “makeunder”.

Gone are the bath and double berth in the master’s cabin, and gone is the ship’s wheel once turned by him in the Celtic Mist’s saloon.

However, the plate denoting the “Admiral’s” quarters remains in place as do the leatherbound logbooks recording the vessel’s many passages around this coastline and beyond.

The €80,000 transformation, to meet Marine Survey Office (MSO) standards, was 75 per cent funded by the Leader scheme, with the 25 per cent balance provided through donations and fundraising by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

The work was undertaken over the past eight months in Kilrush, Co Clare, where Shannon Development has provided the IWDG with a marina berth for the ketch.

The cream-coloured hull has been replated and painted in several shades of blue.

Artwork by Kerry-based artist Michael O’Clery includes a dolphin on the bow and a fin whale running along its beam.

A group of contractors and up to 20 volunteers worked on the project led by Cathal Blunnie. The IWDG has applied for a passenger licence.

Mr Blunnie told The Irish Times how the vessel was lifted out of the water over the winter and stripped down. New electrics, rigging and pipework were installed.

The skipper’s double bunk was replaced by two single berths in two cabins, the bath was replaced by a shower and an environmentally friendly toilet, or “head”, includes a holding tank.

The saloon remains true to the original, with mahogany and teak fittings. But a clock with a photograph of Mr Haughey off the Breton coast may be removed. The saloon’s wheel has been replaced and the original fitted with a plaque for presentation to the Haughey family.

The ketch’s electronics include an automatic identification system, which will enable its passage to be tracked online. The old timber railings on deck have been replaced, and the deck recaulked and varnished.

A section of the original railings has been given by Dr Simon Berrow of the IWDG to Dingle fisherman Seán Hand, who was hired by Mr Haughey as steward/boatman for his Blasket retreat on Inishvickillane. It is expected that Conor Haughey may accept an invitation to attend tomorrow’s “relaunch” of the ketch by marine journalist Tom MacSweeney and its blessing by Fr Michael Sheedy of Kilrush at 2pm in Kilrush marina.

The Haughey family offered the vessel to the IWDG over a year ago after it had been put up for sale.

The ketch has no major sponsor but it is hoped that maintenance will be funded through research and whale and dolphin trips. The Celtic Mist will leave Kilrush next week for the Dingle Regatta in Co Kerry.

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