Thursday 18 July 2019

Black tie ball to keep Helen Blake project afloat

Gary Thompson, John Colfer, Ryan Cairns, Brendan Power, Joanne Waters and Gary Lacey
Gary Thompson, John Colfer, Ryan Cairns, Brendan Power, Joanne Waters and Gary Lacey

David Looby

On Saturday, February 16, The Helen Blake project, a voluntary steering committee tasked with building a 100-year-old replica boat lifeboat, is holding an exclusive black tie ball at the Brandon House Hotel.

Her Excellency, Else Berit Eikeland, Ambassador of Norway to Ireland who has taken huge personal interest in the project will be in attendance.

Chairperson of the committee Brendan Power said: 'This is a very exciting time for us to be able to share with the public why we are all so passionate about this historic and exciting project. The courage the lifeboat crew showed that night when in 1914 the Norwegian schooner Mexico went aground on the Keeragh Islands off the coast of Wexford was simply extraordinary. The Helen Blake lifeboat, from Fethard on Sea, went to its aid but was swamped by a freak wave and nine men lost their lives.'

In their honour the project committee wanted to preserve their memories by building a replica of the lifeboat, which will commence in the coming weeks and will be launched in 2020.

Over the past three years The Helen Blake project have been fundraising to raise matching funds to build the replica lifeboat.

'We have received fantastic support from our community and Bord Iascaigh Mhara through their Flag Programme (Fisheries Local Action Group). This funding enabled a feasibility study which identified the replica Helen Blake as a great community project.'

Flag also provided funding towards the capital costs of the build. Wexford Local Development are sponsors of the Tús Programme and have provided Tús participants to assist in the building of the lifeboat, as well as gaining valuable training in boat building.

Currently the team are working on a 15ft hand-crafted Canadian Hiawatha Canoe which uses the same build techniques and shipbuilding methods that will be used on the replica Helen Blake. 'This is providing invaluable experience to the team ironing out any issues encountered, as well as being a huge asset to the project. A number of expressions of interest have been received in relation to purchasing this beautiful craft, from which the funds will be put into the replica Helen Blake.'

The canoe is a general purpose recreational 15ft cedar strip build, coated using the West epoxy system. The design is Canadian and called the Hiawatha.

Mark Brennan of the Helen Blake project said: 'To date the Helen Blake is fully lofted (marked out) and mounds are currently being made to start the strip planking. Also since starting in July the team have crafted four crosses from Azobe an African Hardwood to go on the graves of some of those brave men who lost their lives.'

A sample of the hull of the Helen Blake has been prepared for inspection by the Department of the Marine for the procurement of a P3 license for the Helen Blake.

Mark said: 'We have been amazed with the take up of tickets and this has now become our major fundraiser of the year, during which all attendees of the function will be entered into a 'Super Draw' and raffle with high-value prizes. The finished Canadian Hiawatha Canoe will also be revealed and proudly displayed on the evening.'

There will be special guests, a live auction, a live band followed by a DJ. To book visit or contact Brendan on 087 9861756.

New Ross Standard