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May 08, '22


A currach (Irish: curach [ˈkʊɾˠəx]) is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched, though now canvas is more usual. It is sometimes anglicised as "curragh".

Boyne Currach Heritage Group.........

Ag tabhairt ár

n-oidhreacht chun beatha......

The Boyne Currach Heritage Group is based in the world heritage site of Brú na Boinne. Its aim is to rediscover ancient skills and crafts used by our Neolithic passage tomb ancestors who brought their civilisation and culture from Europe to our Irish shores, and left behind them threads of evidence that we now work from to try to explore who these people were and how they lived along the banks of the River Boyne.

It's time to call it a day...... but just as we began to arrange the crew to help lift her out, the winds began behaving themselves, as if they knew too well how to tease us back in again. The boat is back on the beach ready to take advantage of every opportunity, but for the occasional blow that sends us retreating behind the wall waiting for the first chance to stick our noses back out again. They have been early morning sails on the idyllic bay, beneath the Cooley mountains. Now that the boat has begun to quicken, the leeboards used to stop it drifting have come into play and a frantic feeling has overcome the crew to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's. So finally, the last sail shape has been hoisted, the one that for me I favoured as being more inline with what perhaps nomadic mariners would have called a 'Dragon's Wing'. It is an equilateral triangle that has poles attached on two of the three sides. It allowed us reach across the water with ease this morning without the usual concerns. So its back to the workshop to add another 6 ft to its length  before we can get back on the water and try it again. A quick run to Waterford was fitted in during the week to collect 10 black heavy-duty plastic pipes that are to be used as rollers for taking the boat up the beach. Thanks to the guys at ITFS!

The spuds are being harvested along the coast road that looks across the bay at the Mourne Mountains, a site where dozens of flint arrow heads and scrapers were found years ago. Below the road, the rocky beach is frilled with a silky green scarf, churned out of the sea on each returning tide.  Diving gannets and terns have the men thinking that the mackerel have begun to arrive. A single motor sailer unties its moorings to be there first to catch the seasons prize, such sons of men who laboured hard once on giant schooners which they owned and filled with coal to carry from liverpool back across the Irish sea to the now broken up pier of a merchant family called Jones. The occasional salmon breaks a flooding tide to begin its journey back from where it first begun.  Gusty westerlies have me thinking summer is over, until a brief spell the sun appears, just enough to make the rolling sea change your mind about lifting the boat for another little while at least, 3 months will be enough for the boats first outing, bleached and haggered from the weather. I look forward to oiling it up once its home. Beneath its hull, crustaceans have begun to grow on the wooden skids, I use a leeboard to slide in under to follow the footprints of an old harbour rat whose tooth marks make for fine cave art as it slices off the white tallow that coats the underbelly of the craft. I hope he has had his fill and returns to eating seafood soon. A barrel of lanolin has arrived from the factory to seal off the rawhide seams from within its weeping hull. But for now I am content to make another size of sail from the green glossy canvas and the brass coated eyelets to find out which size sail best suites our slow moving cow still on her way home to the dairy with the herd.......     

“Anything with a west in it....”, that's what they say on this side of Dundalk Bay - a huge bite out of the northeast coast of Ireland before the mountains of Mourne but an end to the sea's hunger. It's 11miles wide and when the sea empties and when the sun shines you could mistake it for a flat desert coated with a good dose of rain. And there it stays for hours and hours being dried out with the sun and sea breezes until it floods again from both the north and south of the Irish sea. Little is written about it and sailors tend to avoid it, instead cutting across to Carlingford where a comfortable depth of water is always assured. The wooden wreck of a ship sits beside where I'm presently beached, like so many others in the bay they were locally owned and used to draw coal, bricks and grain over and back to Liverpool. Some men are still alive, I am told, that lived and worked out of these wooden crafts now ship wrecked on the shore.

The Newgrange Currach has moved on in leaps and bounds. It is difficult to know now what is left to alter or tweak, perhaps the rudders' shafts could be slimmed or the ballast reduced, the boat is slow but very steady and fun to steer. The winds are to change, they say, next week but don't hold your breath, it has been northeasterly for the best part of 5 weeks now. The worm in my head still slithers and slimes - the rawhide seams could break anytime. But each day I check for weaknesses in each seam and all seems good so far, for as much as I can get to from the outside. It has always been the greatest question in all of this archeological experiment....will the seams holdout????   

A boat of the Nuragic People - Sardinia

“You should have called it B.C.”, he said after wading through the water to climb up onto the boat. The boat represents ‘Before Christ’ and also the first letters of the Boyne Currach from which the method of its construction was originally contrived. John could have had a lot more to say when he arrived down to the beach only to find we had returned too late to reach sand or mud and instead we left the boat was sitting in a maze of stones. If I was to make another boat, I would spend every spare minute devising new lighter skids, as without them a skin boat would only last a week. Now granted the ones presently being used are strong and take the abuse dished out by the 5 ½  tonnes resting above them and of course it goes without saying no metal is used to brace them to the craft’s undercarriage but we can’t help thinking that a little more finesse could have upped the speed and lowered drag. Each skid has three 30ft alder trees braided together with leather which replicate the craft’s curves from beneath, making them very strong and hard wearing, but the Stone Age were sleeker and were naturally more aware of what rawhide or leather could do.

The early Gauchos who, with their skills in rawhide braiding, made horse bridles and saddlery an art form, were standing on the shoulder of their Spanish invaders who in turn had been groomed by the Moors who brought this highly skilled craft from the Sahara. I can’t help thinking anymore that we also snuck in behind the Neanderthals to only improve on what they had begun 100,000 years before us, when tripping over the Mediterranean to far off islands where they dined out on pigmy hippos and there are indications that leather or skin boats had continued to be used on the Mediterranean for much longer than we think. Hazel grew plentifully as in Ireland and with so many similarities between our currachs and their early crafts of both on land and sea, it’s impossible not to want to be lured into the unanswered questions surrounding the builders of the great brochs of the islands to our north and those dotted throughout Sardinia. Were these the culture of people we call the ‘Fir Bolg’ - raiders and pirates from the sea, a lingering civilisation from the late Bronze Age that just wouldn’t go away? I’d imagine the people who built Newgrange had the same tenacity, unwilling to change from a way of life that had seen them succeed and prosper for at least 2,000 years. The present civilisation occupying the fertile plains and glens of Europe continue to harvest what they had sewn 5,000 years ago, organised religion and hosting from the domesticated animals they had chosen. But they say everything changes in, give or take, 2 millenniums, so who knows, perhaps the forests of Europe may find favour once again over our present form of food production and the new mind set of veganism, being accepted now so openly in the holy lands, will perhaps give a new impetus to finding where human evolution has us going.  We are but wishful gold fish, seeking to find other ways round the same old bowl.....

If the wind will not serve.....


As the ancient Latin proverb says - "If the wind will not serve....take to the oars!"

And so with winds abating for a while, light airs allow us to resort back to the oars and work continues....

One of our rowing sea currachs sits patiently to one side and when tides allow, we take her out for a row - while Bovinda's oars sit, at the ready!

     A tiller is a leaver attached to the rudder stock of a boat that provides leverage in the form of 'torque' (turning force) for the helmsman to turn the rudder. The magnitude of the torque depends on three quantities, the force applied, the length of the lever arm connecting the axis to the point of force and the angle between the force vector and the lever arm. Torque is the force applied at right angles to a lever multiplied by its distance from the levers fulcrum (length of arm)….engineers continuously drool over this stuff since Archimedes and I suppose someone has to, as it’s the stuff that our present civilisation is made up of, still doesn't really float my boat if you are not learning you aint living, so let’s just put it into the backpack for now and move on.

     There is a balance to be found between imagination and realisation of a dream, I have quantum amounts of imagination and equal amounts of ambition for to dream. The realisation on the other hand sometimes is like watching a jackdaw beating its way home against the gusts of a storm, frustration at the best of times but in my years of using the retiring flock of jackdaws as a cue to clock out of work and for myself to retire for a welcome cup of tea. I believe those birds are up for any challenge, swooping high and swooping low to offset invisible forces which they can only feel and react to instinctively. Fortunately, if I am to take sustenance and inspiration from a jack daw, I think one of my companions through the years of building the boat, has perhaps been the long sighted vision of the hovering buzzard that is seen daily hovering above the work shop. The only one I have got to know, lands occasionally when he is assured the tea is just about to be poured. Many's a time, over the years, it would have been easier to fob him off with an excuse, but as time passed the old buzzard would turn up with a sandwich wrapped in tinfoil just in time for tea. And as assured that I will hear it calling from afar as I work, the children, some of whom are now adults, will sense his arrival a day or two before me. 'Be careful what you wish for' has always been my mantra, knowing full well I'll talk myself into doing it and only realise what I've done when I hear the tinfoil being crinkled up and the wooden legs of the chair being reversed from the table cringing across the cottage tiles on the floor. That is why the boat happens to have a three legged mast, skids for landing and now a six foot tiller that would do Fred and Barney from the Flintstones proud. Platted and woven leather belts holding extending slat oak prongs to a six foot pole, finished with what looks like prongs of a harpoon. This gigantic tuning fork is lowered over the neck of the rudder stock, and then squeezed tightly with the help of a leather tong wrapped around the protruding carved hooks of the harpoon. Two giant wedges of Elm slip neatly together between the rudder stock and the bound tonging to create an expanded area that becomes the axis for which the helmsman can exert his turning force. ‘He should be down again soon’, my son commented, as we dug clay from yet another project that needs doing before the boat does. I smiled with wonder how they can guess it, as the jackdaws flew low over the shed roof on their way home. Life is like a box of chocolates you never do know what's inside until you open it……



May 08, '22
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