Monday 23 April 2018

CJ's Celtic Mist to sail again as research vessel

Lynne Kelleher

Charlie Haughey's famous yacht is poised to set sail in its new guise as the country's newest marine research vessel.

The finishing touches to the Celtic Mist are being completed to turn the ocean-loving former Taoiseach's vessel into a hub for marine biologists and wildlife experts for its final assignment.

The boat has undergone a €80,000 makeover since it was gifted to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) by the Haughey family but a clock -- which has a photo of Haughey in his skipper's cap on its background --will take pride of place in his old cabin as a nod to the sailor politician.

The co-ordinator of the IWDG, Dr Simon Berrow, said the organisation is very pleased to hit the high seas with the research vessel.

He said: "We are finishing off the renovations at the moment and we're hoping to have it back on the water in the next few weeks.

"We estimate it will cost around €80,000 by the time it is finished.

"It will have gone from a six-berth boat to an eight-berth boat and there will be two bathrooms, a kitchen and a big wheelhouse," he added.

"It will still be named the Celtic Mist and will still have a lot of the features CJ had in his day. We're giving him due acknowledgement but it will be a research and training boat from now on.

"There is a clock over his cabin with his face in the background. He has his skipper's hat on and I think Brittany is in the background.

"We are keeping that in his cabin and the wheelhouse will look pretty similar. We are going back to cobalt blue with a white wheelhouse for the boat. Charlie's double cabin is being rebuilt into two berths," he added.

Dr Berrow said the politician's logbook, which is still in the boat, gives a revealing glimpse into the ex-Taoiseach's deep love of the sea.

He said: "From a whale and dolphin point of view we think it is really good he was so interested in the sea and wildlife.

"We have been going through his logbook. It is interesting to see his encounters with seaman, fisherman, and foreign vessels.

"He was a great ambassador. I met him in Killiney Hotel once and we have been dealing with his son Conor Haughey, who has been fantastic and very helpful."

The IWDG intends to use the Celtic Mist to train and teach its members how to survey and record whales and dolphins, including using acoustic survey techniques.

The vessel will also be used for dedicated research projects, and professional training and development, along with educating school children about the rich marine life in Ireland and marine conservation.

Dr Berrow said the group will have turned the boat into one of the country's top research and training vessels, able to cater for six scientists, a skipper and crew.

He said: "We're hoping to have the official launch in August. We will be doing some cruises for members in August and in September we will be carrying out training courses on passive acoustic monitoring and marine mammal observation.

"It will work out of Castletownbere. We started working on it in January and we received 75 per cent from the Clare Local Development Group who administer Leader funding and we've had some other donations," added Dr Berrow.

It is hoped that President Michael D Higgins, who is patron of the IWDG, will launch the famous vessel in August.

Last week video footage of seven Orca whales in Lough Swilly, Co Donegal, became an internet sensation.

The video, posted by a local angler, caused a stir as only three killer whales have been spotted in the area in the last 40 years.

The video was shot by Kevin Doherty, a local angler and member of the Irish Basking Shark Research Team.

Sunday Independent

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