18 May 2020
Continuing our #StayHome series, well-known ferry cruises entrepreneur Eugene Garrihy talks about life in the new normal and getting his boat back to the open waters of Dublin Bay.
I found my interest in the sea through salmon fishing with my dad, the late Jack Garrihy, in the west of Ireland. It eventually grew into commercial fishing and trawling on boats with my brothers and then into ferry boats with my siblings running out of Doolin, County Clare beside the famous Cliffs of Moher. We now run five ships from Doolin Harbour, taking in the Doolin2Aran Ferries, Cliffs of Moher Cruises and trips to the three Irish-speaking Aran Islands of Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr.
I used to captain a tugboat in Dublin Bay and along the River Liffey in the 1980s and that gave me knowledge of the workings of Dublin bay, Dublin Port and the docklands. Back in 2013 nobody was connecting the suburban coastal resort of Dún Laoghaire, the city and the scenic fishing village of Howth. So I acquired a ship, the St Bridget, which is licenced for 100 passengers, and got going with Dublin Bay Cruises.
Dún Laoghaire, where our cruises start from, is a beautiful place and it has a worldwide reputation for yachting and yacht racing. It is usually bustling with boats and is full of people from all over the world. Now, it’s as quiet as can be. All of the moorings within the harbour are vacant, which is a very, very unusual sight at this time of year.
Dublin Bay is a fantastic C-shaped bay on the edge of the city with beautiful islands to the north and south and loads of wildlife, including seals and dolphins. During voyages our passengers discover aspects of Dublin that are just not possible from the land. The bay is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which is an area where humans and industry work in harmony with nature. It's a very pleasurable place to be on a summer’s day, so we are privileged to work, live and operate in that area and to represent the local culture and heritage, which is there in abundance.
You have three harbours – Howth, Dún Laoghaire and Dublin Port – and a lot of built heritage. Passengers are always interested in the Martello towers – there were about 50 of these coastal defence forts built around Ireland in the nineteenth century and about 20 of them still exist along the Dublin coastline. The James Joyce Tower and Museum is particularly intriguing. Joyce stayed in it for a while, and his masterpiece novel Ulysses opens on the top of that tower overlooking Dublin Bay. It’s still a place of pilgrimage for literary enthusiasts.
Then you have many famous lighthouses: Poolbeg Lighthouse, the Baily Lighthouse, the Kish Bank Lighthouse – all bursting with maritime history – and as you travel into the city you have the Poolbeg Chimneys and all of the ships in Dublin Port. We are also allowed to go through the East Link Bridge, which is opened by Dublin Port and is always intriguing for passengers. I worked in the building of the East Link Bridge as a Tug Skipper almost 40 years ago, and little did I think then that I would eventually be going through with passengers so many years later.
The most difficult things about this #StayHome period is the same for lots of businesses and that is not being able to open and all the uncertainty around the future of business. On a personal level the fact that my wife and myself not being able to hug our grandchildren is sad. On the positive side I do a bit of poetry here and there, and I’ve used my time to do a bit more writing. One of my daughters has even recorded a new poem for me. It’s called ‘Grazie’ and is dedicated to the frontline medics in Bergamo Italy. The people of Lombardy have taken a hammering with this virus, and their experiences have left an impression.
At the moment all of the work that has gone into Dublin Bay Cruises for the start of the season is ‘frozen’, but we can't wait to get the boat sailing again so we can show people the beauty of the bay and let them enjoy the open waters and fresh air. There is no doubt we are missing our international passengers. But with our amazing heritage, culture, music, landscapes and food, Ireland, and certainly Dublin Bay Cruises, will be ready when people want to travel again.
Bailey Lightouse, County Dublin
Dublin Bay Cruises
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