Prepare to 'sea' it all in Galway over the first weekend in July as the city welcomes SeaFest, Ireland's national maritime festival, and plunges into a weekend overflowing with ocean-themed activities and entertainment.
There's never been a better time to get onto the water with family-friendly activities galore and no need to splash the cash, for most are free!
A key goal of 'Harnessing our Ocean Wealth: An Integrated Marine plan for Ireland', SeaFest is all about increasing participation and engagement with the sea, showcasing Ireland's abundant maritime resources and celebrating its proud maritime heritage – but there'll be plenty of light-hearted fun too.
Preparing to sail his quirky craft straight into maritime history will be artist Frank Bôlter. His 'On A Voyage' project is a whimsical, epic and heroic attempt to build and sail a giant paper boat which he has made with members of the Kinvara Sailing Club.
The craft is a grown-up, giant-scale and, hopefully, seaworthy, version of the traditional folded paper yachts made by children. Despite its unlikely appearance, crew confidence in its reliability is high, for Frank has travelled the world with his project creating giant paper boats in Europe and Sri Lanka. Here in Galway, 'On A Voyage' is a pilot programme within the Galway 2020 project 'Every Place', a project devised by Neil Butler, Artistic Director of UZ Arts, and produced in partnership with TULCA for Galway 2020.
The giant paper boat will be launched at Kinvara Pier on Saturday 2 July at 12noon and will sail proudly into Galway Harbour alongside a flotilla of Galway Hookers. Always a favourite with locals and visitors alike, the Hookers will be showing off their speed and style with a series of races including the chase for the historic Galway Plate.
When you've done your share of cheering from the shoreline, there will also be opportunities to step on board craft which are usually closed to the public. Tours are free of charge but capacity will be limited.
The 15m survey catamaran, The RV Keary, will be berthed in Galway docks throughout SeaFest. With an open invitation to step on board, visit to see how and where seabed data is acquired and gain an insight into the work of marine surveyors. The aluminium boat is crewed by scientists from the Marine Institute and the Geological Survey of Ireland as part of the joint seabed mapping project – INFOMAR. Equipped with state of the art sonar mapping systems as well as seabed sampling capabilities, The RV Keary works mostly in inshore waters which can be as shallow as 2 metres. The vessel has also played its part in charting our maritime history, hosting archaeological dives on historical wrecks around the coast.
The Commissioner of Irish Lights, who maintain all the lighthouses across the country, will be bringing their exhibition of the role of Irish lighthouses from 1911 to 1923 and their own ship, The Granuaile, to SeaFest, providing a unique opportunity to see on board one of the most advanced marine vessels of its kind in the world.
Both of the Marine Institute's (Foras Na Mara) Research Vessels, the Celtic Explorer and the Celtic Voyager will also dock at Galway, with the Celtic Explorer conducting hourly open house tours throughout the festival weekend. The national research vessels will be a familiar sight to many locals as Galway Harbour is their home port between surveys which include fish stock assessments, mapping Ireland's seabed, surveying deep sea habitats, and oceanographic research, including the survey of the Whittard Canyon system with NUIG scientists earlier this month. The 65m RV Celtic Explorer can accommodate up to 35 personnel including crew and scientists and can spend 35 consecutive days at sea. The 31.5 m RV Celtic Voyager will also be open to the public. The Marine Institute's unmanned submarine, the ROV Holland I will be on display alongside the research vessels. It's normally deployed from the deck of the RV Celtic Explorer and piloted remotely to capture high definition video footage of the deep ocean as well as collecting samples from the seabed.
Adding drama to the line-up of vessels in port will be the naval service ship, L.É. Niamh. She is built to the successful RóisÁn design which optimises her year-round patrol performance in Irish waters which are among the roughest in the world. For that reason L.É. Niamh has a greater length overall (78.8m), giving the ship a long sleek appearance.
If its appearance is dramatic then so too are the roles of the vessel and its ship's company. During a 10-week mission to the Mediterranean late last year 2015 the L.É. Niamh crew delivered a baby, named Destiny, rescued more than 4,100 people at sea and had to recover 39 bodies in the course of tasks requested by the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre.
If you're tempted to have a go on the water, then try Tri Sailing. A 20 foot keelboat (also known as a Sonar), will be close by the Tri Sailing promotional stand in the Inner Harbour, ready to give experiential trips for up to five people at a time. Demand is sure to be high, but the experience promises to be well worth a wait – especially as the Inner Harbour area will be packed with entertainment.
If you'd prefer to keep your feet on dry land while you gain your maritime experience, then what about captaining a remote control boat? There will be five fabulous model craft doing duty at the weekend at the Inner Harbour, with experts on hand to help 'newbies' get to grips with the complexities of steering and manoeuvring the mini-vessels.
As any seafarer will confirm, the sea demands our respect, with safety always the key priority. The RNLI will reinforce that message with their engaging Respect the Water Campaign Roadshow and a packed programme of activities both on and off the water, including an awe-inspiring Air/Sea Rescue demonstration staged in collaboration with the Coast Guard and RNLI on Saturday 2 July, starting at 2.30pm.
To see the full SeaFest programme and check out 'On The Water' events visit www.seafest.ie.
Notes to the Editor
A range of business and innovation events are taking place in Galway as part of SeaFest from 30th June -2 July. The third annual Our Ocean Wealth Conference is taking place 1st July with the theme 'Into the Blue – Innovating for Our Marine Future'. The conference will investigate how Ireland can innovate in each of the three goal areas of Ireland's Integrated Marine Plan – Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth, namely: a thriving maritime economy, healthy ecosystems and engagement with the sea.
BIM's National Seafood Conference will take place 30th July at the Radisson hotel, Galway. The Digital Ocean will take place 30th July at the Meyrick Hotel, Galway. A Sea Change Researcher Workshop will take place at the Marine Institute and the Marine Industry Awards will take place at the Radisson Hotel, also on the 30th.
SeaFest is an initiative of the inter-departmental Marine Coordination Group and supports the Goals of Harnessing Our Wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland in relation to engaging with the Sea.