Celtic Mist represents Ireland in Tall Ships 2011

By Dr. Simon Berrow

Celtic Mist the new flagship of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group was berthed in Waterford city for the Tall Ships weekend. Gifted to the IWDG in May 2011 by the family of a former Irish Prime Minister, Charles Haughey, who declared Irish waters a whale and dolphin sanctuary in 1991.

IWDG members Assumpta Halligan and Deirdre Slevin from Wexford presented the Tall Ships race communications ship, the Irish Naval vessel LE Aoife’s Duty Officer James Doherty with a whale and dolphin identification guide book and poster for the ship’s crew at the Waterford Tall Ships 2011.

Celtic Mist left Waterford on Sunday morning in glorious sunshine on passage down the River Suir for the Tall Ships Parade of Sail off Dunmore East watched by thousands of people from the river bank at Passage east, Duncannon and Dunmore East.

The Tall Ships fleet was reviewed by Flag Officer Commanding Naval Service Commodore Mark Mellet and Sean Flood Sail Training Ireland (Board) and a Goodwill Ambassador for Sail Training International past the LE Aoife. Over 1200 young people, many who have never been to sea before, are onboard the 50 tall Ships sailing to Greenock.

On board Celtic Mist are Captain Fiacc O’Brolchain, Gary Davis, Eithne Griffith and trainees Conor Ryan (24), Siobhan Ardener (19) from Killarney, Co Kerry, and Keith Cleere (19) from New Ross, Co Wexford.

The race started slowly at 15.00hrs, five miles south of the Hook Lighthouse in 10 knots of wind and blue skies and headed for the Irish Sea to Scotland.

The Celtic Mist crew will be encouraging other Tall Ships vessels and the public to report whale and dolphin sightings in online to their website.

IWDG Members report their experience onboard

Racing in the Tall Ships 2011 by Siobhan Ardener Having received an email from the IWDG offering members the opportunity to join a team on-board RV Celtic Mist for the hugely amended Tall Ships Race, I wasted no time in prepping myself with basic sailor terms and techniques. Not having previous experience in sailing or information on the practices, it was a challenge which I was both excited about and determined to take on. Celtic Mist arrived from the UK to Dunmore East Harbour a few days prior to the teams arrival. Waterford city, at the time was thriving on the theme of the moment, with live music, shopping stalls, theme parks and scenic tours all attracting thousands of eager minded people, there to enjoy the spectacle that was the Tall Ships.

Arriving to the boat on Thursday, I was introduced to the crew and we spent the weekend prepping for Sunday, when the Race began. All relevant supplies were gathered and collected as well as final adjustments and preparations made to the Ship itself. When all the team had arrived, a number of safety guidelines and general information about sailing was given by first mate Garry Davis, who was hugely valuable to have onboard.  Along with preparing the ship, numbers of families were given the opportunity to board the Ship and take a look around the boat itself. On Sunday morning, the morning of departure, the scene was eerie cool with a dense covering of fog waiting to be burned off by the Sun. Slowly moving down river out towards the coast salutations were given by the many thousands of people standing in huge groups at varying points along the coastline.. The weather was perfect; the sea resembled a “glass” like appearance, the scene was set for the next four day race to Greenock.

Sailing across the Irish Sea was an incredibly challenging ordeal but one that I will never forget. Some of the many incredible experiences included my first chance at seeing a baleen whale. Being a Wildlife Biology Student with a huge interest in cetaceans, I wanted to have a career linked to or someway involving cetacean research and conservation. The moment the whale was spotted; Conor Ryan immediately confirmed the species as a Minke whale. That visual of a dorsal fin cruising along the surface is the one which constantly comes back to mind when I am at sea. It was also extremely interesting to learn about all the Avian Species that were encountered along the way, as well as seeing the bioluminescent Plankton during the night. Conor talked about all of these sightings in great detail! The 3 hour shift was another experience which I hadn’t experienced before and at times challenged me. At several moments I can recall nearly falling asleep during the day when not on shift! There was one day in particular where weather conditions turned on us and the sea threw up the largest swells than I had ever encountered, as well as rain pouring from the skies! It was certainly a challenge to get up at midnight and head out into the rain for a three hour shift, but I’m really glad I got to experience this as it really gave me a good idea of the sailing experience.

Cooking was done by two team members each day; I have to mention that the food was one part which I enjoyed extremely! It felt great to sit down to eat together as it really felt like a team effort and a reward for the work we were doing, especially the day which we arrived into Greenock. On this particular day Conor caught us some mackerel on a hand-line and Garry prepared a super tasty homemade brown bread. One of the highlights of the trip was docking on Lamblash Island, where we ate and had a few drinks in the local pub. Eithne and I enjoyed a walk around the beaches. The Boat itself was fantastic in that no considerable work had been done on it and we were able to sail, sleep and eat comfortably without any complications.

Overall the Tall Ships race was a challenge and a learning experience filled with moments which I will never forget, stories I will re-tell and emotions I have never felt – including being quiet nervous when strapped onto the guides at night.  More importantly, I was a part of a voyage that took place on-board the RV Celtic Mist in its early days. The people I met were all incredible; each had their own unique personalities that brought something new to the team. The expertise of the experienced members was invaluable at certain points along the line and without them; we certainly wouldn’t have made it to Greenock.


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