Galway Hooker Club Sailing Smoothly Through the COVID-19 Storm

by Tommy O’Callaghan

Galway Hooker Sailing Club is hoping for a busy summer ahead, despite having to shut down because of COVID-19.

The Claddagh based club, founded in 2018, had been running courses to get more people involved in the sailing industry, but had to suspend the courses because of the ongoing Level 5 COVID restrictions.

The club also run restoration projects, with the current project, Loveen, hoping to be complete come the summer.

“At the moment it is going well,” says Collette Furey, a public relations and youth development officer with the club, speaking about Loveen.

“Obviously when the first lockdown happened everything came to a halt and nothing happened for a couple of months. Then we were able to work on it again because it was the one family looking after it so we’re hoping it will be ready for June.”

The boat arrived in the workshop in September 2019 and the restoration process began. Restoring the boat to its original shape and design is a complex operation that requires incredible skill and craft.

“The boat was in pretty bad shape and it wasn’t seaworthy at all. To restore it, the keel came out first and then we fashioned a new keel from a template of that original keel and then that keel was put into the old boat. The boat was then taken apart rib-by-rib, plank-by-plank, and put back together again rib-by-rib, plank-by-plank,” says Collette.

The restoration of boats is a fascinating element of the club that draws attention from the public. Collette mentioned a primary objective of the club is to restore the boats and to keep their form and their tradition, despite the complexity of the task at hand.

“Our first boat restoration was the Lovely Anne, which was a 138-year-old boat. We’d be huge on the history of the boats and the story behind them, and the backgrounds to them.”

The Loveen restoration
The Loveen restoration. Picture courtesy of Galway Hooker Sailing Club

Their courses have been appealing also, with the club open to membership from all walks of life. They teach a wide variety of aspects associated with the industry and prepare those who want to become members.

“Within our club we focus on restoration of the boats and opening the club up to anybody so you don’t have to come from a sailing background, anyone who just has an interest in boats can join the club,” says Collette.

“From the restoration of the Lovely Anne in April 2019, the club’s original founding members set up what we now call Hooker skills courses. They are basic courses to get members of the public involved and these courses offer basic water safety, history of the boats, a little bit about the hookers and a trip to the workshop to see the restoration process.”

Usually, the courses usually run for over a month with people becoming members for a minimal contribution fee. As the club is run by volunteers like Collette, the fee goes towards the restoration fund for the boats.

“We would run the courses typically from October to March, which is off-sailing season. Then those people would go sailing in the summer because they would be members. This year we are going to do things a little different as we haven’t been able to run courses. When things do open again, we’re hoping come April or May that sailing will be allowed to a certain extent.

“We’ll be advertising the course, running them, and people can join the club.  You can join the club as a non-sailing member and be just part of the whole club scene or as a sailing member.”

Galway Hooker boat
Photo courtesy of Galway Hooker Sailing Club.

Collette, who joined the club in 2019 after taking a career break from teaching, became interested in the boating industry while travelling on a tall ship in Antarctica. Those who are not from a sailing background are very much welcome to get involved.

“I think a lot of people have the fear with sailing that it’s like, ‘I’m not in a sailing club and I haven’t sailed since I was ten’, whereas we have people that join up, but they’re not interested in sailing, but they might be interested in woodwork, or history or photography, so a very inclusive community based club is what we’re trying to promote.

“I only got involved in boats in the last three years, before that I had nothing to do with them. Now people think I’ve been on the water my entire life so a big part of it is trying to say to people just come along and try it out. I do a lot of the PR stuff for the club like through social media, but I could be sanding in the workshop one day and writing a letter the next day.”

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