In 1971 a French yachting enthusiast commissioned naval architect Frederick Parker to design a large ocean going going yacht to meet the exacting Lloyds 100A1 classification.
The hull was bult in the Hamble by Joyce Brothers, a small shipyard specialising in 60 -70 foot yachts and motor cruisers. Once completed the was shipped to St Malo in France for the interior to be fitted out in Burma teak pannelling, walnut doors and teak and holly sole boards.
Commissioned in 1972 and named Senouire she was sailed to the Mediterranean where she was used for private use and charter for several years. Her history was about to become much more colourful…
Around about 1980 she was purchased ostensibly for “archeological salvage”. The prospective purchaser claimed to have located a treasure trove of submerged artefacts and needed a vessel to operate from. It came as a surprise to the broker who had negotiated the sale to learn some years later that Senouire had been impounded by the US coastgard, allegedly for drug smuggling, and lay deteriorating in Fort Laudedale.
Offered for sale by public tender she was then bought by an English sailor who sailed her out of Fort Laudedale for several years. Unfortunately one sunny Sunday, anchored off a reaf in the Bahamas, she was caught in a tropical storm and foundered. Battered by pounding surf for two to three days she was finally hauled clear and towed by tug back to Fort Lauderdale. The owner had her stripped out, replaced the engine and rewired her and had her sailed back to Europe, fetching up in East Ferry in Cork harbour for a winter.
My own involvement began at that time as I was looking for a vessel to provide Sail Training for a Professional Watersports Instructor course that I was running in Oysterhaven at the time. I had been looking worlwide for a suitable vessel and then came across a single line ad in Afloat magazine “70 foot steel schooner - lying Kinsale.” A ten minute car journey brought me to the marina where I saw what was then Senouire for the first time. The rest they say, is history! Except it wasn’t plain sailing.
After our initial survey we discovered the extent of the storm damage and quantified the cost of repairs. Long negotiations lasting some 3 months ensued, resulting in our purchasing her at a price we could afford - even if we couldn’t afford the repairs at that stage
Over the winter of 1999 she underwent a complete refit in Cork Dockyard under the scrutiny of the Department’s surveyor and in the spring she was launched bearing her new name of Spirit of Oysterhaven and carrying the full Passenger Licence.
During that summer Spirit of Oysterhaven featured in Derek Davis’ TV series “Out of the Blue” and the following year sailed to the Tall Ships event in Dublin. In 2002 she sailed across the Atlantic, returning from Antigua to Kinsale and inspiring Theo Dorgan’s lyrical account of the voyage in his book “Sailing Home”.
After a facelift and refit in Spain Spirit set off once more across the Atlantic, this time via the Cape Verde islands, landing in Tobago, and sailing up along the island chain as far as Antigua, where she once again sailed in Antigua Classic Regatta.
Following a more extensive refit in Trinidad Spirit sailed back to Ireland via the Azores in the spring of 2010 and began the process of upgrading her systems to meet the new Passenger Boat Comsail regulations.
In 2012, with her new licence, she set off for the Tall Ships in Dublin with a crew young people, some able bodied and some with disabilities, as part of a Club initiative.
In 2013 she sailed to Barcelona, Toulon and La Spezia participating in the Mediterranean Tall Ships Regatta.
Since then Spirit has been in active service working closely with Sail Training Ireland, attending Maritime Festivals and developing sail training programmes around the country, from Drogheda to Bantry.