Category: Archive

Famine ship replica Jeanie Johnston is now due in August

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

It will be "sail ahoy," but now in August, for the replica Famine ship Jeanie Johnston.

The sailing ship is now expected to depart Ireland in early July for a four-week transAtlantic voyage. The first port of call is likely to be Quebec, the city where the original Jeanie Johnston was built in 1847.

The Echo reported recently that delays in the Jeanie Johnston project had resulted in the original schedule for visiting ports in the U.S. and Canada being scrapped. Originally, the ship was to make Washington, D.C., its first port of call June 7-10, with President Clinton going aboard. Most significantly, the delay means the ship will not be in New York for the July 4 holiday, when it was scheduled to take part in the OpSail 2000 Festival of Tall Ships.

The delay stems from time needed to install a wide range of sophisticated equipment on board the vessel. The original schedule was also blown off course by a late launch.

The launch delay was caused by two weeks of stormy weather off the Kerry coast in April that closed a window of opportunity for favorable tides. Before its formal launch in Fenit, the ship had to be moved on a barge from the shipyard in Blennerville, near Tralee. The ship’s insurers urged a delay until calm weather returned, Jeanie Johnston Project Chief Executive, John Griffin, said.

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But since the launch, by President Mary McAleese on May 7, sea trials and fitting have been proceeding smoothly, according to Griffin.

At the same, Griffin admitted that the final fitting out of the ship was "taking a while."

"This is the first time that a ship of this kind had been built and the Irish Department of the Marine is demanding the highest standards," he said.

Griffin said that installing the equipment below decks in particular was taking time because only so many technicians could work below decks at a given time.

"We have to make absolutely sure that everything is properly in place. We have to finish the ship to the highest possible standard," he said. "The rigging is now complete and the crew of 40 is engaged. Once the interior is fitted out, the Jeanie Johnston is going to be the most sophisticated sailing ship afloat. It will be a showpiece of Irish craftsmanship."

The ship’s equipment is a mix of 19th and 21st century technology. In addition to sail power above decks, the ship will be able to rely on two engines below decks that were built by the Caterpillar company in Peoria, Ill. Air conditioning is also being installed in the ship’s interior, along with sophisticated navigation and guidance equipment.

Griffin said that the new, revised schedule, will include extra ports of call in the southern U.S. The president is still expected to visit the ship, probably in October.

Once it crosses the Atlantic, the Jeanie Johnston will spend a year touring U.S. and Canadian cities. It will double as a museum depicting daily life and living conditions aboard a Famine-era ship.

According to Griffin, the ship is now expected to visit 30 cities and possibly more.

"We’re receiving an average of two new invitations a week. The interest in the ship is phenomenal," he said.

The original Jeanie Johnston, built in Quebec in 1847, was famous in her day for making 16 voyages across the Atlantic and never losing a passenger. This clean sheet allowed the original Jeanie Johnston to avoid the doom-laden sobriquet of "Coffin Ship."

A much lauded undercurrent during the building of the new Jeanie Johnston was that technicians and craftsmen from both sides of the community divide in Northern Ireland worked side-by-side at the shipyard in Blennerville.

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