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Peter’s Sea Tales

Reading the Cranes

I remember the first time I sailed on Dublin Bay. I was racing a Dublin Bay Mermaid, a 17ft sailing boat as the name suggests is designed for the wind and waters off the coast of our capital city. I was a very junior third in a crew of three. Old Salt was the ‘second hand’ and Hot Racer on the helm, driving the boat hard. Hot Racer had the bit between his teeth; he was after silverware and would do anything to win the race. Old Salt wasn’t on board for his athletic ability, that was my job as the young lad. Old Salt had an uncanny ability to read the wind and sea, essential for sailing effectively and specially to win races.

Years later, I’m a Skipper on the wonderful traditional sailing ketch Brian Ború, I still remember how I learned to read the Dublin Bay winds on that day.
When construction cranes across the city, to the west of the bay are not in use, the crane operators let them swing in the wind with the short arm pointing towards the wind. As Old Salt said, “watch the swing of the cranes”.

Tall Ship Skipper 

Like many of Ireland’s sailors I learnt my trade from the wonderful Capt. Eric Healy, universally known as The Skipper. Standing a full five feet high and of slightly rotund stature with a mop of curly white hair he carried the air of a man comfortable with command.

He was a formidable sailor and was master of the original Asgard in her time a sail training yacht in the 1960s and 70s, followed by time on the Creidne (still operated by the Irish Naval Service) and then many years on the sail training brigantine Asgard II.

Skipper Healy had a traditional approach to sail training and abhorred the engine, operating the Asgard II under sail alone whenever he could. We had a memorable sail down from Campbelltown in Scotland one fine and windy day in the summer of 1984 under full sail. We came around the Baily Lighthouse at the northern entrance of Dublin Bay, hardened up on the wind making our best attempt to brace the yards and trim the sails with some sort of synchronicity. We didn’t quite achieve the perfection he expected as he expressed himself with a slight grunt and a characteristic tilt of the head.

Between the majestic piers of Dun Laoghaire we sailed, gradually reducing canvas, a lot of heavy work for us young trainees. Approaching the East Pier, still under sail, he swung the Asgard II so that the bowsprit swept over the pier, allowing a nimble young lad to drop off and take the lines from the rest of the crew, as the craft drifted gently into her berth. Not once did we use the engine.
To this day, as Skipper of Brian Ború, I have the spirit of Skipper Healy at my shoulder guiding me as we care for the young trainees on board and always striving to reach his levels of seamanship.

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