independent

Monday 18 June 2018

Small but pretty set sail for Boyne

Margaret Roddy

Ireland's smallest, but arguably prettiest, sailing vessels will make a welcome visit to Drogheda as part of the 2018 Irish Maritime Festival.

Anyone who has ever spent a sunny afternoon in Dún Laoghaire will recognise the colourful little boats bobbing and racing about. Over 130 years ago, Dublin lawyer Thomas Middleton had the idea of building a fleet of identical boats to race together in Dublin Bay. Called "Water Wags" these light weight little sailing boats are native to Ireland and are always a beautiful sight.

Now these very special vessels are coming to Drogheda for a very momentous occasion.

The Boyne Canal has been closed to vessels for many years.

The Canal had been used primarily as a transport route for bringing cargo and produce to Drogheda Port from Navan. But the development of the railways in the early 1900's saw the demise of river transport and by 1932 the Boyne Canal gates were decaying and sealed up.

Over the past 15 years, the Boyne Navigation Branch, part of Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, have been working to re-open the channel of the Boyne that leads up to Oldbridge. This has been a labour of love requiring both investment and many, many hours of hard graft by a dedicated team of skilled volunteers.

Through the efforts of the volunteers, the Boyne Canal is gradually re-opening to small vessels, both sail and motor. To celebrate this, the Water Wags are coming to Drogheda as part of the Irish Maritime Festival. They will set out from the Boyne Fisherman's Rescue on Saturday morning, sailing through Drogheda and will then approach the Boyne Canal in a procession. The sailors will disembark for a visit to Oldbridge before sailing back down the river after the Boyne Swim. On Sunday the Water Wags will sail in a Regatta on the River Boyne to delight the festival going audience.

The invitation to the Water Wags to visit Drogheda is an initiative of Drogheda Port Company and Louth County Council. It is facilitated by the teams at the Boyne Navigation Branch (IWAI), Boyne Fisherman's Rescue and the Office of Public Works.

Speaking on behalf of Louth County Council, Colette Moss explains "The Irish Maritime Festival offers local people the opportunity to connect with our maritime heritage. But it also offers a great opportunity to promote Drogheda to a maritime/tourist audience. The opening of Fiddle Case Pier last year has created an opportunity for leisure sailors to visit Drogheda for daytrips and overnights."

Drogheda's Harbourmaster Capt. Martin Donnelly continues "The new slipway at the ramparts and the opening up of the Boyne Canal makes the river accessible to smaller vessels. Ultimately the Boyne Branch of the IWAI want to make both Oldbridge and Newgrange accessible by boat from the Irish Sea. The River Boyne is one of Drogheda's greatest attributes and we're proud to use the Irish Maritime Festival to showcase these features to the sailing community and invite them to discover our town and the Boyne Valley region."

The Irish Maritime Festival takes place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June and is hosted by Louth County Council in conjunction with Drogheda Port Company.

The Festival is proudly sponsored by Virgin Media and supported by Flogas, Glanbia and Fáilte Ireland.

The Festival commences with a Parade of Sail up the Boyne on Friday 15th June and the Stowaway Sessions on the deck of the Earl of Pembroke that night.

For more information visit www.MaritimeFestival.ie

The Argus

News