Big cheer as ferries are finally loaded up for trip
Twenty-four days after the first instalment of the Galway ferries saga, the Thor Gitta cargo ship will this morning set sail for Mauritius with its cargo of ferries securely on board at last.
The Danish-registered ship is expected to embark on its 25-day passage to the Indian Ocean after the Clan Eagle 1 joined its sister ship Clann na nOileain on the deck of the cargo ship at lunchtime yesterday.
The apparently straightforward project to transport the two former Aran Island passenger ferries hit choppy waters from the off.
The original cargo ship, the Pantanal -- which was due to pick up the boats from Galway and deliver them to a new owner in Mauritius -- ran aground off the Connemara coast on the last day of March.
The Thor Gitta was called in to replace the stricken vessel, but its first attempt to lift the ferries was spoiled when a lifting strap failed, sending the boat crashing back into the water and injuring three men on board.
Some days later, the Thor Gitta was placed under arrest by order of the Irish Admiralty Marshal, a move similar to a High Court order which means that the ship cannot sail until legal difficulties are sorted out.
A second attempt at lifting the ferries last Saturday came to a halt after a crane alarm sounded during the operation.
The Thor Gitta has a troubled history. A crew member was crushed to death on board the ship when cargo shifted in rough seas off the west coast of Australia in May 2009.
But yesterday afternoon a volley of cheers sounded as the Clan Eagle 1 was secured to the deck of the ship. According to Galway harbourmaster, captain Brian Sheridan, she will be ready for the open seas early this morning.
"Thankfully, the final lifting operation went without a hitch today," Mr Sheridan said. "The wind speed climbed gradually all morning to 25 knots, but the second ferry was lowered in time.
"High tide is around 9am, so we expect the Thor Gitta to sail then."
As part of the estimated 25-day voyage, the Thor Gitta will stop in Les Sables d'Olonne in France, Pointe Noir in Congo, Cape Town in South Africa and Pemba in Mozambique, before reaching its destination in Mauritius, 540 miles east of Madagascar.