Rita and Richard Kennedy pictured at the launch of Richard’s new book ‘Round Ireland by Slow Boat’ with their friend Tom Mackey who launched the book. Tom built the boat some years ago and used it h
Birr solicitor Richard Kennedy launched a book about a sailing trip he took around the coast of Ireland in Dooly’s Hotel, Birr on Friday evening.
There was a massive turnout of people for the launch with a number of them saying they had already read a bit of the book and were loving it.
This was the view too of Richard’s friend Tom Mackey who officially launched the publication. “I have read a lot of sailing literature over the years,” commented Tom, “and this is right up there with the best of them.”
“Round Ireland by Slow Boat” is a captivating and entertaining story about Richard’s sailing voyage, accompanied by his wife Rita. The couple had long harboured a dream of completing a leisurely circumnavigation around the beautiful coastline of our wonderful island. Finally, after many years of dreaming, there came the moment when they had the money and the time and could seize the bull by the horns.
Their voyage started in the fishing harbour of Rossaveal in Connemara, in their yacht “Seachrán”, and they set out into a world of “exquisite sailing and formidable challenges, mingled with moments of wonder and serendipity.”
“Ireland from the sea is another country,” said Richard, “and one that most of us never see. Our voyage followed its meandering coastline with its rich variety of landscapes, from the stark and lonely shorelines of Mayo and Donegal to the gentle coast of the east; the sweeping vistas of the south to the rugged unforgiving splendour of the western seaboard.” Their voyage lasted for five months, spread over two summers. Throughout the trip Richard kept a diary which became the basis for his book.
Tom pointed out that this is more than an account of a sailing voyage. It’s interesting, funny and informative and non-sailing readers will be charmed, intrigued and touched by the unfolding tale. The book has drama and tension, embarrassment and exhilaration, interspersed with anecdotes, reminiscences and the author’s self-deprecating sense of humour.
He is also modest. “This book is as much about Rita as it is about me,” he told the audience in the ballroom of Dooly’s. “What I hope is that readers will enjoy sharing in our adventures and misadventures, and that you will also be touched by the kindness and humanity of the various people we met on our journey. What I wanted to do as well by writing this book was to convey my love for Ireland and its beautiful landscape, and my love for the sea. This is more than a sailing book. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
He thanked Tom Mackey for agreeing to launch the book. “Tom is a friend, an engineer, a sailor, pilot, musician and boatbuilder. Tom built Seachrán, which is a thirty-four-foot cutter rigged sloop made of steel and built to a Bruce Roberts’ Spray design. It has a long keel and because of its relatively shallow draught, we have a lot of flexibility in choosing our anchorages. Tom built the boat in 1980. It’s a perfect size for Rita and myself; not too large to handle and yet big and robust enough to keep anxiety at bay in the roughest weather. Tom often sailed the boat to the Scilly Isles and along the coast of southern England. We bought it from him 15 years ago.
“When I asked him to launch the book,” joked Richard, “Tom said could he lambast the book as well as launch it! Therefore it is with considerable tension that I now ask Tom to officially launch ‘Round Ireland by slow boat’!”
Tom said he had no intention of lambasting the publication. “It’s a terrific book. I hugely enjoyed it. In fact it was one of the best reads that I had in a long time. One of the signs of a good book is that it gets you thinking. As I read it I thought to myself that most of us lead very regular, routine lives where we are in our comfort zone; but there are some of us who step out of that zone and take risks and take on challenges, which is a good thing. Later on in life you won’t remember the routine stuff, but you will remember the exciting, beautiful moments.
“You also won’t have anything to impress the other people in the nursing home!” he joked.
Tom said it took him three years to build Seachrán and it has often been put through the ringer in the sometimes difficult weather conditions in the seas around Ireland.
“One of the themes which the book touches on is that when you are sailing things don’t always work out the way you want. You can wake in the morning and the weather is really poor. It’s important to be patient and adaptable. It’s also important to be diplomatic because life on a small yacht out on the ocean can be cramped and testing.
“Richard meets lots of decent, kind people in the book, but he also meets quite a few crotchety people as well, and he is very wise and diplomatic when dealing with them. Of course, one of the best ways of dealing with crotchety people is to avoid them, but this isn’t always possible.”
He urged everyone to buy a copy of the book. “You would be mad,” he joked, “to leave tonight without buying at least one copy! If there is someone you know, who is a bit crotchety then buy it for them because it will definitely cheer them up!”
Richard quotes two writers in his book who have widely differing opinions about sailing and the sea. Jacques Cousteau, the famous marine explorer, believed that the sea, “once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Samuel Johnson disagreed. The sea, he believed, was “like being in jail, with a chance of being drowned.” After completing his five month voyage with Rita, Richard was happy to relate that he is still firmly on the side of Jacques Cousteau. “As we made our long, slow, sailing voyage around our beautiful isle, we were pretty firmly on the side of Jacques Cousteau, as the sea once more cast its spell over us, and we are still happily caught in that net of wonder. There was the best of sailing in fresh sparkling seas and there was the contentment of sailing quietly into secluded harbours in the setting sun. There was excitement, laughter and music, and, in between, there were precious spaces of splendid, peaceful isolation.” There were plenty of testing moments, of course, but the overall feeling after completing the trip was positive: “These were just fleeting moments of shadow in a venture that was otherwise awash with lightness. Together, that light and shade combined to make up a glorious, unforgettable picture, and left us with an experience to be treasured.”