Liam Begley, a teacher at Mayfield Community School, Cork, brings us this report from the second Dublin Bay OGA Junior Gaffers event held over the weekend 23 - 24 May 2015. OGA members may read more about the students' activities in the September issue of Gaffers Log.
Eight students and two teachers arrived at Poolbeg Marina as guests of the OGA to take part in a training weekend organised by the Dublin Bay OGA to introduce young people to the joy of traditional sailing vessels. There were two boats, ‘Tír na nÓg’, a Heard 28 Falmouth Oyster Boat replica belonging to Sean Walsh, president of the OGA and ‘Naomh Crónán’, a group-owned Bád Mór Galway Hooker. The boats were tied to the marina in Poolbeg at the mouth of the River Liffey and in the midst of a busy port. There were ferries, cruise ships and cargo vessels arriving and departing all night. It took the students quite a while to settle down for the night, slowly adjusting to the constant motion and the strange sounds.
Last year, a similar group from the school took part in the first Junior Gaffers traditional sail-training programme and had a wonderful time. The event was a success and Sean Walsh invited the school to participate again this year. The school was delighted to accept for the following reasons where the students:
- learn how to sail and really enjoy the experience;
- get to know and love these historic craft;
- learn to appreciate the teamwork involved in sailing and living aboard these boats;
- broaden their horizons;
- achieve a basis from which to develop a longer-term interest in maritime activities;
- meet new and interesting people, hearing first hand tales of seafaring adventures.
All of the students were impressed by the boats and by the experience of sailing them, but particularly inspired by the OGA members giving so freely of their time, their knowledge, their friendship and their trust. They were all made to feel very welcome by Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. It was made clear to the students from the start that they would be treated as full members of the crew for the weekend, expected to take part in all aspects of operating the boats.
For boys and girls too young to drive a car, this is no small undertaking.
As a teacher I get a kick out of watching how well teenagers respond to being given adult responsibility. Each student got to steer and work the sails, to secure lines and stow gear. They learned by doing. One student even got to ride a bosun’s chair up the mast of ‘Tír na nÓg’ in order to re-rig a staysail. They sailed to Dun Laoghaire and back again on the Saturday. They motored up the Liffey to pass under the East Link bridge on the Sunday.
The students crammed a lot of learning into one weekend and a tired, but happy group made their way back to Cork on Sunday 24 May at the end of another very successful DBOGA Youth Sailing event.
The OGA can feel rightly proud of passing on the gaff sailing torch to these young people.