An Truelight, A "Bad Mor" or the big Hooker. 44 ft LOA
“An Húicéir” Hooker day Today was surely a very special day. There are no words that can portray the magic and beauty. Serendipity abound, new friends, culture, beautiful families, traditional sail boats, and history. I met with a family form Carna. A town of around 178 people, it was a legendary port where many Galway hookers hailed from, and were built. Six out of the nine children, from their 20’s to 30’s, are from a local tradition that is unique to the area. Galway hookers, “húicéir“ in Irish. The infamous sailboats that mark every crest of the city of Galway. I guess I was excited. I awoke at 5:45, with the ferry not departing till 8! I slipped onto the ferry, after a gracious morning tractor ride complete with first light and two boarder collies. This being my 7th ferry ride on this particular ferry since I’ve been on Inis Oirr, the crew finally took interest in me, noting all the help I’ve been giving heaving people luggage off the boat. A chore they are grateful to have a hand with. Emer, whom I met in Galway (a great story, below), instructed me to keep an eye out for her sister, Neasa (pronounced Nasa) who was to be my guide and family representative. I hopped off the boat and met eyes with the obvious local looking out for me, with a vehicle that fit the description. I opened the door. Immidiately feeling welcome, I turned to find 4 beautiful Irish children in the back seat. Irish is their first language. Their mother spoke to them, and they replied. Hearing my ancestral mother tongue spoke by children brought me great joy. We stopped at a hardware store to have a can of paint shook. I was pleased to hear the whole store speaking Irish. I was afraid that after leaving Inis Oírr, I wouldn’t be hearing the language regularly. It brings such happiness to my heart. Then we were off. Neasa is the oldest of her 9 siblings. After the hardware store, she opened the local encyclopedia of her knowledge. A fountain of endless names, stories, history and lore. I was in total awe. We drove by the rugged mountains of Connemara. Mountains that I’ve seen in the distance from the Aran Islands, and have always fantasized about visiting. Wave shaped mountains rose from the turf bogs alongside the road. It was happening. She took me to her friends house first, where the Galway Hooker “An Truelight” was on the hard. An Truelight is the largest class of Hookers, referred to as “Bád Mór” or “big boat”, which is around 44 feet in length. Neasa instructed her eldest son, to escort me to the waters edge. I came to find the massive, uniquely shaped black hulk awaiting my inspection. The little boy and I moved our way through the mud and climbed the rocky ledge to gain vantage. This was my first moment being so close to a Hooker out of the water. I was stunned to see her fine curves. None that I’ve ever seen before (and as many of you know, I’ve seen a fair share of sailboats!) had such lines. The bow was proud, and the belly forming almost instantly, and a full wooden keel, save a protective metal strip. Her cockpit mostly open, with ribs and workings exposed. A true vessel built for work. After the quick viewing, we walked up to the house where we were greeted by 3 puppies! One tumbled at my feet, so I scooped the little squirmer up and played a bit with this happy joy of life. Into the house now we go. There I find children swarming like bees! With another Irish Mum basking in duty and love. I knew I came with 4 children, I thought, and tried to count how many of these blue eyed, Irish speaking bolts of life there actually were. It was hopeless. I couldn’t count! I think maybe 8 total. After the warm visit, we hopped back in the car. I noticed we were a few children shy from the start! The two girls stayed behind with their friends and the two boys came with us. Neasa hopped right back into her role as local historian. She took me to the coast, where I was instantly overwhelmed my local lure, stories, and Irish names of many tiny islands. Almost completely bare of trees, the view of the many inlets, curves, mounds and features turned the coast into an untraceable feature. Neasa explained to me the significance of the small islands. She pointed out a small church, tiny, standing alone on a small, rock-grass mound sticking out of the sea. Oileán Mhic Dara, which translates to “the island of Saint Mac Dara”. She explained how Saint Mac Dara took hermitage there in the 7th century. One day ever year in July, every one in the area comes to this little island with the tiny church (I mean Tiny! Like the size of a van) for a pilgrimage. Boat is the only access. What a sight this day must be! She explained that it was the most important holiday of the year; the one that people would come home from abroad to be with family. Some times, the weather is too rough and the locals cannot make it to the island. Neasa has only experienced this in her adult life, and three years in a row. This leaves the locals to question wether climate change is having an affect. Back to the twisty roads lined with stone walks, so thin that one car must pass at a time. In some places, one car must reverse into a drive way and let the other car pass. We go over a small stone bridge. Neasa explains how her great uncle built the original bridge. She points out her fathers house, the house that she and her 8 brothers and sisters grew up in. After a couple of windy turns, we arrive at her brothers house, Aongus, where he and his wife greeted me with coffee (Dunkin Donuts Coffee made in a French press!) and cake and.... you guessed it! More babies! The bolts of life swarmed around our feet as we shared pics of boats, our sailing lives, and stories upon stories of the human experienced the sea. I was proud to speak of my mother, Darby Moynagh, and how she taught me to sail, as well as so many of my uncles and aunts and their time at the tiller! A cool fact about Aongus was that he and his family were just in the Boston area a few months ago! His uncle lives in Quincy, and his friend brought over an authentic “corrach” the Irish traditional row boat used for transport and fishing. They actually have corrach races in America, which his friend was partaking in. There was a race in Philly, if I recall, in which they placed well. I wish I met them before they came to America! It would of been great to show them Schooner Tyrone and Cape Cod sailing culture!! After a bunch of Irish words I didn’t understand, it was time to get into another car and go see “Bláth na hÓige” (Flower of Youth), a 120 year old Hooker; the families pride and joy. Bláth na hÓige is the next size smaller class of Hookers, revered to as a “Leathbhád “ or half boat. We zipped down the his fathers construction yard. Heavy equipment abound, we hoped a stone wall and braved the mud. After a few tractor trailer trucks and other heavy equipment, we arrived at the sacred boat, put neatly away for the winter. Her smooth, black hull defined her make, with her unique belly shape. Her tarp was neatly tied, with love and skill, to protect her from the winters moisture. Her rigging was all packed neatly, boom, mast, and gaff. All neatly wrapped in plastic. Stored near by in boat stands, I was surprised to see yet another full sized Hooker! Humbly resting, she begs for some attention to save her life. “Famaire” is her name, and she is in need of repair. This was another family’s or friends boat. They are storing it here with her little sister, “Bláth na hÓige” (Flower of Youth). Aongus and I pop back into the car, chatting away at how passion and interest is what keeps the boats alive. The Hooker sailboats are a historical signature of the area. If they are not preserved, they could be lost forever, taking away the unique history of the area. We chatted about the upkeep of a wooden boat. The time and money. The reality. Yet the dismal reality was quickly quelled by passion. Passion for a brisk breeze and flat sea. As Del McCoury says “there’s no turning back once the salt hits the veins. Their spirits fly free as a dove”. At Aongus’s house, I was again reunited with my generous guide, Neasa. We zipped the now familiar roads to her sister Cliona’s pub Tigh Mheaic, pronounced “Max”. Upon entry Neasa eldest son directs me to what my eyes met first! A miniature model of a Galway hooker! His little brother De Darragh, quickly grabbed all the rigging and Christmas decorations on the model. We barely coerced him away into the back room where a man who was clearly Aongus’s brother Rónán was playing an Irish version of pool as his girlfriend Niamh chatted with him, in Irish. After greetings and a quick chat, we quickly organized and all ordered food. Before seating I was shown the relics that decorated the bar in the Irish style any Bostonian knows well. I was shown a 100 year old genuine bailer made of wood used on a Hooker (a bailer, any sailer would know, is used to remove unwanted. Water from inside a boat). Pictures of sea hero’s decried the walls. One in particular would not accept a plaque or award for saving the lives of two sea men. Later it was told to me that the local Carna seafarers believe that if you save a life that was to be taken by the sea, your life would be taken. A life for a life. This may have played into why this man had no interest in receiving any praise. That or he was stoic with humility. Of course most pictures were of the Hookers; their black bellies and red sails upon the blue. We sat for lunch and I had the chance to get to know Rónán. He, like many other people from the area (and the Aran Islands as well) go off to find work in other countries for the winter. We chatted about work and enjoyed our lunch. I attempted to pay but to my surprise it was covered! After the friendly meal, we got back into Neasa’s car. The windy roads again, and then arrived at her family home, where her father lives. He was in England attempting to bring home his elderly sister. She was having a hard time leaving, as she spent so many years over there. Neasa was on a mission. To clean the house and warm it with fires so that they would return to a clean cozy house. We got right to work, and her eldest son joined me in lighting the fires in the wood stoves. One in the kitchen and one in the living room. I thought “ok I’ve built coal fires” but alas! They burn “turf” in the Carna area! I’ve never started a turf fire! I’ve never even seen turf! My 9 year old companion loved to do things, and he knew turf. He had some things to teach me! We went to a he shed and there was a large pile of turf. We loaded bags up and stocked the rooms. I was surprised to see how easy this party of dirt and grass lit. I was also amazed at how long it burned. As the chill left the house, we swept the kitchen and tidied up the place. Da Darragh, the youngest of Neasa’s children, came in to show us the jar of jam he had opened. His little paws had been deep in the jar. Waddling about, as if he just learned to walk a few months ago, his baby face was plastered in jam. Neasa showed me how the House was expanded. The original house was modest in size, and they pretty much built right off it. There were pictures of Hookers all over the house, along with calendars showing these beautiful boats. A true Seaman’s house. While cleaning the house, Neasa and I spoke about keeping the ancient language of Irish alive. Her children are learning Irish as their first language, as they did when her and her brothers and sisters where growing up. Irish is one of the most ancient languages in the world. It has no Latin roots, as English, French, and Spanish do. I’ve been studying some of this language, and hope to learn enough to speak. It’s very difficult. Into the car satisfied that the house was clean and cozy, Neasa brought me back to the family pub, Tigh Mheaic, or “Max” where we was to be left off and talk with the next eldest, Oscar. He was surrounded by his friends, all jolly and laughing, leaning on the bar enjoying the “crack” (fun times) and some drinks. I fit right in with the working guys, and started chatting away about the sea. Oscar bought me a Fanta. Laughs abound, a solemn mood appeared. A fellow and I began sharing sea stories. Then the phones came out and one of his friends presented a YouTube video of a helicopter rescue at sea. The video shows a fishing boat about to sink. She’s on her side, with the bow fully submerged. Her stern is only available, as one soul rides as others are evacuated. The man I was talking to is in the water in the video. Waves crash and rock the boat. As the boat finally takes it dive, the last sole jumps off into the sea. The prop is visible, spinning away as she heads for her new home at Davey Jones’s locker. I asked the man about the details. He said that they think their wooden boat popped a plank. He said the water came in fast. They had 6 bilge pumps going. They were able to keep the boat up for an hour. Enough time to radio the coast guard. Once the battle was lost, it was just a matter of minutes. They were full of herring, and the whole catch was lost. I asked the man if he continued to fish. He said he finished off the season, but then gave it up. Here is the link to the video.https://youtu.be/BaKWQP6qA7Y Funny thing. The night before I visited Carna, I was on my back from Inis Mór on a ferry. A coast guard helicopter practiced a rescue at sea by lowering one of their people on the the ferry then retrieving him! Neasa came back to fetch me. We drove by the turf friends. Her ancestors used to harvest turf there. They loaded it in Galway Hookers and we deliver it to the Aran Islands. It brought me joy to think about her ancestors delivering turn to my friend Paraic’s ancestors on Inis Oírr. We went to a local gas station to look for a book. Strange, I thought. To look for a book in Galway hookers at a gas station! She was happy to see the book there for sale, and I purchased it. She inscribed it to me in Irish which translates to something like “may the wind be always at you back”. She dropped me off at the ferry. I thought of how appropriate it was. I took a ferry to meet a Galway hooker family, and then I took the ferry back to Inis Oírr. The local connection is so beautiful. Neasa and her family were so generous to me. They made me feel so welcome. The amount of awe I had for their beautiful story is unmeasurable. I’ve traveled the world many times, and have some fantastic stories. This is one of my favorites. I hope that someday any member of this historic family comes to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and enjoys a sail with me in my home waters. A truly inspiring meeting!
How I met Wild Atlantic Adventures I first met with Emer about two weeks ago. My Business partner, Tim, I got in touch with her online in regards to her family sailing business. Wild Atlantic adventures. They own to traditional Galway sailboats named “Hookers”. My first day in western Ireland o had an appointment with her to discuss us hiring her family’s business. (Unbounded Adventures is a company my Roomate from college Tim started, and asked me to join the team. We’ve been putting together a tour of Ireland for this coming June). I had minutes to spare as I hopped off the bus from Dublin, excited to meet with Emer and discuss these rare and beautiful sailboats. Our meeting was at Hotel Meyrick in Eyre square. I entered, approached the reception, and kindly asked if they knew of a man named “Emer” whom I was to meet, apologizing for not knowing the true Irish pronunciation. Just then a beautiful, red haired woman says “hello I’m Emer”, extending her hand for a greeting. I was in utter shock and embarrassment! We sat and talked business possibilities over a cup of tea. I showed her cape cod, and the boats I sail; Tyrone, Lucy Lou, Halia, the Black Rose, First Light boat Co. And other NE sailing culture. She showed me her families boats. A Galway Hooker named “An Truelight” and the little sister ”The Flower of Life”. We enjoyed our meeting, and she invited me to visit Carna where the boats are, and where her family has been hailing for generations. Typed in my iPhone.