TS Leader delivery crew, Gloucester 2023-11

TS Leader – Update, January 2024

TS Leader, the Brixham Trawler that featured last year in our adventures, is currently undergoing winter work in Gloucester Docks. She is “enjoying” a complete hull recaulk and after that, some woodwork repair and other maintenance jobs and she’ll be back afloat by mid-February.

At the end of last season, Simon and I sailed as part of the crew, to deliver her to the well-known Nielsen’s yard where she is currently in Dry Dock. (The famous Schooner Kathleen and May of the Odenin Line fame is beside her. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Onedin_Line).

As we are all aware a ship like Leader will have significant maintenance work to do each year, although she is in remarkably good condition for her 130 years! In February there will be a team of volunteers, under the supervision of the bosun, living aboard. They will do major antifouling and varnishing jobs so by April she’ll be good to go. In addition, there are many upgrades and modifications in the plans.

I’d like to take a moment to explain why Leader is significant and why I believe she is of interest to our members. Leader has two missions: the preservation of a heritage vessel; and youth development through sail training.

As a heritage ship, she is being preserved as the largest Brixham Trawler ever and this class of sailing vessel was a pioneering design in the 19th century. There is also an amazing connection with Ireland where hundreds were built at that time in Ringsend. See Cormac Lowth’s fantastic book on Ringsend Sailing Trawlers. Now I know why the Leader is always made so welcome there alongside Poolbeg!

So many of us started our sailing through Asgard or Asgard II, two ships that hold special memories for many CAI members. Today the idea that connecting young people with the sea can be so life-changing and positive is well understood. As sailors we appreciate the sea and our maritime environment, however nationally we are not a sea-going nation. Ask anyone whose career is in the maritime and they’ll tell you of the struggle to find young seafarers these days. Organisations like Sail Training Ireland or Atlantic Youth Trust play an important role. Leader is one of the very few Sail Training vessels in Ireland; she has an all-Ireland remit; and all her voyages are cross-border. (Expect a Club Night Talk on the work at some point…)

So this is where the Cruising Association of Ireland comes in.  I know that CAI sailors can help in a very positive way aboard Leader (ask Simon about his famous tin whistle classes!). The Trust needs adult volunteers to sail in support of the professional crew throughout the year.

There will also be other opportunities to experience the very different types of sailing and work aboard a large traditional ship.  Currently, the 2024 season calendar is in preparation. There will be a voyage to the Brixham Trawler Festival, for example, and others. I have suggested that she might be able to attend our Three Bridges Cruise in September too!

I like our headline on the homepage at cruising.ie setting out our purpose: The Cruising Association of Ireland – A merry band of sailors with the common interest of cruising. All bound together with a love of the water, memories, and friendships to last a lifetime. The CAI’s policy of welcoming new members and encouraging all to make the most of their boats and the opportunities presented by our sailing adventures is very positive. The online WhatsApp forums and the willingness of members to help others is one of the key advantages of membership.

The CAI provides opportunities to expand our sailing horizons, to encourage and support young people, learn about all that available through our association with Sail Training and TS Leader. Let me know if you’d like to know more about this and perhaps become a Volunteer.

John Murphy vicecommodore@cruising.ie 0868101263