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Caitríona’s Voyage

A Wonderful Excursion 

My name is Caitríona Cogan, I am 15 years old and I am in transition year in Gaelcholáiste Charraig Uí Leighin, Co. Cork. As part of my work experience I sailed around Dublin Bay aboard the Brian Ború, a traditionally built, two masted gaff ketch. I arrived at the Dún Laoghaire marina at 2:30 on the 10th of October 2021. It was a clear, mild autumn afternoon and approaching high tide.

I walked down the Dún Laoghaire marina to the Brian Ború and I got shown around the boat by Hugh and accompanied him turning on the engine to warm up and going through all the procedures and safety checks regarding the engine, fuel and getting rid of trip hazards such as ropes on deck etc. I then met the skipper Frank who came on board. We all had a cup of tea before we got ready to bring the passengers on board and set sail.

At 3:30, we headed back to the entrance of the Dún Laoghaire marina and greeted the 11 passengers with a life jacket for each of them. We handed them all out and made sure they fit everyone. After a few short words from Hugh we walked back out to the ship. On the deck, we got a short safety brief such as trips and hazards, lifeboats, and what to do in the unlikely event of a man overboard. As well as a summary of the history of the Brian Ború. Shortly afterwards we started to make our way out of the marina and into Dublin Bay.

It was my job after we set off to ask for all of the passengers’ names, the numbers on their life jackets and whether they wanted tea or coffee later on. I then re-wrote their names into the logbook next to the number of their life jackets which is done every day the Brian Ború sails to keep a record of who was on board.

At that point it was time to put up the sails. We started with the sail at the back of the boat called the mizen sail and Hugh demonstrated how to hoist it. It took four of us to heave it up to the top of the mast. There were two ropes used, and two people pulling each one. One person was sweating; pulling the rope to lift the sail, and the other person was tailing; pulling the slack off the rope as the person sweating released. The same procedure happened with the mainsail on the mast in the centre of the boat and in no time we had picked up speed.

Frank then handed the wheel over to me and explained how to read the electrical charts which were on an iPad and a compass which was next to the wheel. Steering the ship was one of my favourite parts of the entire experience as we sailed between the Dún Laoghaire coast and Dalkey Island. The exact location and direction of the ship was visible on the chart and Frank would tell me to turn 5 degrees or 10 degrees to port or starboard which you could read on the compass to avoid smaller boats, rocks and shallow waters which could also be seen on the charts.

Hugh and Frank had made tea and coffee for all of the passengers and had given out biscuits. I had to multitask between steering the wheel, reading the charts and drinking a cup of tea! Coming close to Muglin’s lighthouse, past Dalkey Island, I handed the wheel over to one of the passengers just as Mark Flynn, the musician on board, started playing the guitar and singing. We all sat and listened to the wonderful music with cups of tea and coffee as the sun set behind the Dublin mountains.

Mark played a few original songs as well as others that everyone was able to join in with, there was a lovely atmosphere as everyone on board listened and applauded. I got the chance to take in the breathtaking view from the top of the cabin, next to the boom of the mainsail. It was incredible being up there, being able to see the Dún Laoghaire coast from such a different perspective and watching the sun set behind the mountains. Some passengers also got to lie in the bowsprit, a net at the bow of the boat as we sailed.

Near the end of the journey, I interviewed four of the passengers about the experience and which part they enjoyed the most. They were all very enthusiastic and said that it was amazing which I completely agree with. 

We sailed back into Dún Laoghaire harbour as the last beam of sunlight was still visible and the crescent moon had made its appearance. We tied all the fenders on to the port side of the boat as we approached the marina. After we docked, I said goodbye and thank you to all of the passengers before Hugh and Frank walked with them back to the entrance to Dún Laoghaire marina. I got started on washing all of the cups and dishes in the cabin and saw some fireworks up in the sky from a distance.

Over this summer, I started learning to sail in the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Cork, however sailing on the Brian Ború was quite a different experience to what I had done before. The boat was much steadier than a dingy boat or a sailing yacht. Aswell as that, the sails didn’t fluctuate as much due to the wind and only one tack was necessary throughout the entire journey compared to fifteen or twenty in a sailing yacht race. I learned a lot from sailing on the Brian Ború as well as amazing memories that I will keep forever. I’m deeply grateful to have been able to partake in such a wonderful excursion as part of my work experience as I know that not many people would get the chance to experience this opportunity.

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