If you are traveling to Ireland, you might be surprised to see how many hookers you will see in Galway Bay. But these aren’t what you may think! Galway Hookers are small iconic sailing boats that were the basis of local seafaring during the 19th Century and part of the 20th Century.
Galway Hookers are small, tough, and highly maneuverable. Today, these wooden boats are undergoing a resurgence thanks to weekend sailors and enthusiasts. The hulls are jet black, due to the pitch used for waterproofing, while the sails fly from a single mast are a distinctive rust color.
The origins of the Galway Hookers are not clear, but it is thought that the craft has been around for more than two hundred years. There are four types of Galway Hookers-all named in Irish. The Bád Mór (Big Boat) ranges in length from 35 to 44 feet. The Leathbhád (Half Boat) is smaller and is about 28 feet in length. Both the Bád Mór and Leathbhád were decked forward from the mast and were used to carry turf from Galway Bay, the Burren, Aran Islands, Connemara, and Mayo. On the return, the boats would often bring limestone back to counteract the acid in soil to help with farming in the Galway area. The Gleoiteog ranges in length from 24 to 28 feet and has the same sails and rigging as the larger boats. However, it was mainly used for fishing and carrying cargo. The last boat of the Galway Hookers is the Púcán. It is similar in size to the Gleoiteog, but has another sail.
The boatbuilders of the Galway Hookers, built these vessels with the ability to sail in shallow waters and beach where necessary. However, without a cabin, these boats were extremely prone to sinking. It is recorded that eighty-two Galway Hooker shipwrecks occurred between 1750 and 1938.
An event where Galway Hookers race from Connemara in County Galway to Kinvara in County Clare. It will be a once in a lifetime experience and you will have a better appreciation for these little boats-jam packed with a lot of Irish history.
Sample a local brew at the end of the day-the Galway Hooker Pale Ale and say AHOY MATEY. Life is good!