Saturday 20 January 2018

New lease of life for Haughey's 'Celtic Mist'

Nick Bramhill and Lloyd Gorman

Charlie Haughey told the McCracken Tribunal in 1997: "My work was my life. There was no room for an extravagant lifestyle."

Well, except for Abbeville, the Gandon mansion in Kinsealy on 270 acres, Inishvickillane, the private island off the coast of Kerry and Celtic Mist, the elegant yacht on which the Squire enjoyed life on the ocean waves.

After the former Taoiseach died, the future of Celtic Mist seemed uncertain -- until it was generously donated to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group ( IWDG) by the Haughey family.

However, the new owners of Celtic Mist have admitted that they might not be able to afford to run it.

The 52ft ketch was donated to the IWDG back in April and will be used for its research in Irish waters.

But the group said yesterday that it might have to hand the boat back in three years' time if it can't meet the running and maintenance costs.

The IWDG -- which up to now has had to make do with a six-metre rib -- has just put out a tender to refit the steel-hulled boat to make it suitable to conduct offshore conservation work and detailed monitoring of whale and dolphin movements.

And it said it wanted to make the vessel, which has four cabins and six berths, available to the public for cruising around the British Isles to spot basking sharks from next March.

But the group's co-ordinator, Dr Simon Berrow, said yesterday that securing a major corporate sponsor would be key to whether they will be able to afford to keep the boat in the long-term.

He said: "It's in very good condition, but we will need to spend between €25,000 to €50,000 before it's ready to use. The biggest job will be to get the deck recorked and sealed. We'll probably also remove the bath and shower in CJ's old cabin and put some more bunks in there.

"We'll also need to make space and provisions to put scientific equipment in. There's basically a lot of small jobs, but they all add up. For example, when you go in the main door, there is no wet locker for your gear."

There are also plans to paint the vessel royal blue and put images of dolphins on its exterior when it is lifted from Kilrush Creek marina in Co Clare in October.

But Dr Berrow said the boat, which recently sailed in the Tall Ships race, would still have reminders of its former owner, including his beloved clock complete with the initials 'CJ' on its face.

He added: "Since we've taken it over, there's been a phenomenal reaction from the public, who have turned up in their droves to view it.

"It's a beautiful boat and we have great plans for it, such as introducing a basking shark cruise from next May around Scotland and the Isle of Man.

"Our belief is that it should be as available to the general public as possible.

"But my fear is the costings. If the money isn't there in three years' time and if we can't get a sponsor, we shall have little choice but to hand it back."

Before Celtic Mist was donated to the IWDG, it had been on sale for €175,000 in the Isle of Wight in southern England.

It was originally purchased by the late Taoiseach after his previous yacht ran aground on rocks off Mizen Head in west Cork. He used it mostly around his Blasket Island retreat of Inishvickillane.

Running costs for the vessel are estimated to be at least €20,000 a year.

Sunday Independent

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