Schooner serenity on the waters of Newry Canal
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
Slipping peacefully up Newry Canal towards Carlingford Lough on the tall ship SV Soteria, it was easy to see the appeal of the maritime life.
From watching swans and herons beat their way into flight, marvelling at the beauty of the woodland that rises up from the bank and gazing at the misty Mournes in the distance, the experience needed little selling to this particular journalist.
Amiable skipper, Chris Wren explained that the ship, currently berthed opposite the Quays shopping centre, is a 1932 Danish built fishing boat which was converted to a schooner in 1980.
“I am told that the boat would have almost certainly have been used for fishing for plaice originally. It is built oak on oak, so it is very heavy - it displaces about 60 tonnes which is a lot for it's size. It means that you get a very smooth ride in rough weather," he said.
“The ship will remain in Newry until July 14 when it will set sail, via Holyhead, for the Douarnenez festival in France which is a very large festival for traditional vessels," he added.
The SV Soteria is a registered charity which in turn is part of a larger charity called YWAM - Youth With A Mission. First mate, Paula Finlayson, who is part of the the crew along with her husband, second mate, Derek Finlayson outlined the work of the charity: "YWAM is a huge international charity. Anything that you can think of they will have a branch that do it. They are into education, child sponsorship, digging wells, helping in the Third World, drug rehabilitation, hospital visits. Each part of YWAM is run autonomously so we are under this umbrella, so we can feed into their legal services for example. They will also have common policies on things like child protection for instance."
Schooners were also traditionally the vessels of choice for pirates due to their manoeuvrability and speed. As an echo of this, the ships' crew, will host a pirate themed fun day on board the ship on Saturday July 12.
As Paula explained: "We are really looking forward to our fun day. We will all dress up as pirates and get the kids on board and show them around. There is no charge for coming on board.
“It is just donations because this is charity so if people want to leave a donation, then that would be great. At two o'clock we will sail up the canal and we will ask for £3 per adult and £1.50 for children. That would just be to cover the cost of the diesel," she said.
If the reaction to the ship leaving and returning to its' berth is anything to go by then this should generate a lot of interest. People along the canal bank waved, motorists beeped and Quays shoppers lingered to watch this magnificent ship in action.
The crew of the ship are welcoming and knowledgeable and a visit to the vessel and perhaps a sail in it are heartily recommended.
When the SV Soteria sails off from Newry, bound for Holyhead on July 14, people can also avail of the chance to sail on the ship to Holyhead at half price (£35 per person per day) July 14-16.
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