Tag Archives: workboat

Floating faithful

An entry in J W de Courcy’s The Liffey in Dublin (Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 1996) alerted me to the existence of the Port of Dublin Society for the Religious Instruction of Seamen. It bought, he tells us, the hull of the appropriately named Danish vessel the Prince Christian, and used it as a floating chapel.

The National Library has an engraving of the vessel. I haven’t seen it, but de Courcy says it shows the chapel moored at the corner of Hanover Quay and Grand Canal Quay in the Grand Canal Dock, Ringsend.

In 1833 the Society moved ashore to the new Mariners’ Chapel in Forbes Street. That was sold to the Gas Company in 1889; the 25″ Ordnance Survey map shows tanks on the site.

The Mariners' Church, Forbes Street, Dublin (OSI ~1838)

The Mariners’ Church, Forbes Street, Dublin (OSI ~1838)

In The Picture of Dublin or Stranger’s Guide to the Irish Metropolis. Containing an account of every object and institution worthy of notice, together with a brief description of the surrounding country and of its geology. New Edition. With a plan of the city and thirteen views (William Curry, Jun and Company, Dublin 1835) we read this:

MARINER’S CHURCH — In the year 1822, the Episcopal Floating Chapel, for the especial use of seamen, was fitted up and opened under the sanction of the late Archbishop of Dublin, and a Chaplain appointed, whose duty is not only to perform divine service, but to visit the vessels frequenting this port, and otherwise to attend to the spiritual wants of seafaring persons.

The Floating Chapel being old and decayed, and requiring frequent and expensive repairs, it was at length determined to substitute for it a Chapel on shore, to be built in the immediate neighbourhood. The first stone of the Mariner’s Church was accordingly laid by Vice-Admiral Oliver, July 18, 1832, in Forbes-street, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.

This neat and commodious edifice, capable of containing 500 persons, cost, including school-rooms, &c, about £2000. It was opened for divine service, Sept 15, 1833. Hours of service on the Sunday, half-past ten AM, four PM; Lectures on the evenings of Wednesday and Friday, at seven o’clock. In winter there is a daily evening school for seamen, and a Sunday-school throughout the year.

It is in contemplation to erect another Mariner’s Church at Kingstown, immediately.

The National Archives have the society’s regulations, from October 1822, amongst the Chief Secretary’s papers [Record 3435]; the National Library has a report of proceedings from 1824 and another for the years 1837 to 1842. I found various items, mostly ads seeking funds, in Dublin newspapers of the 1860s; I found none for earlier years, which may suggest that a different variant of the name was used — or that the society was in less need of assistance.

In Britain, the Boaters Christian Fellowship keeps the faith afloat on the inland waterways; some of the Canal Ministries boats are pictured here. I am not aware of any similar organisation or activity in Ireland.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

Matters of minor importance

Some recent(ish) discussions amongst the People’s Representatives. I haven’t time to analyse them all. All links courtesy of the estimable KildareStreeet.com.

Brendan Smith [FF, Cavan-Monaghan] wants a sheugh in Clones; he got the usual answer. And he allowed Jimmy Deenihan [FG, Kerry North/West Limerick] to announce, on 19 December 2013, the death of the suggested extension of the Erne navigation to Lough Oughter [loud cheers]:

Brendan Smith: To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has received the feasibility study on the proposed extension of the Erne navigation from Belturbet to Killeshandra and Killykeen; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Jimmy Deenihan: I am informed by Waterways Ireland that it commissioned a Strategic Environment Assessment for the possible extension of the Erne Navigation from Belturbet to Killeshandra and Killykeen.

On reviewing the environmental information from this process, Waterways Ireland considers that the environmental designations of this lake complex make the feasibility of the proposed navigation extension highly unviable. For that reason, I am advised that Waterways Ireland does not propose to pursue this project any further at this time.

Well, that’s one minor victory for sanity. Here’s how a dredger got to Lough Oughter in 1857.

Maureen O’Sullivan is anxious to recreate the economy of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by using canals for carrying cargoes. Especially on the Shannon–Erne Waterway, where commercial carrying was so successful before. [What is it about the Irish left?] Thank goodness that the sainted Leo Varadkar gave not an inch: someone should make that man Taoiseach, President and Minister for Finance. And Supreme Ruler of The Universe and Space.

The web-footed inhabitants of the midlands, who have discovered that they live in a flat area with rivers, keep wittering on about Shannon flooding, failing to realise that it is a message from The Lord, telling them to either (a) move to higher ground, eg Dublin, or build arks. On 15 January 2014 Brian Hayes told Denis Naughten, inter alia, that info from the recent OPW/CFRAM monitoring of water levels on Lough Ree (which I think was when the levels were lowered) would be placed on the OPW website “in the coming days”; I haven’t been able to find it yet so I’ve emailed the OPW to ask about it. And on 21 January one James Bannon said that he intends to introduce a bill setting up a Shannon authority, which will have magical powers. Well, if it doesn’t have magical powers it won’t be able to stop the Shannon flooding, but perhaps it’s designed to allow the unemployed landowners of Ireland another forum in which to demand taxpayers’ money to prop up their uneconomic activities.

Finally, a senator called John Whelan wants a longer consultation period on the proposed amendments to the canals bye-laws. I suppose I’d better read them  myself.

Grace’s Guide and the Brunswick Dockyard

William Watson, of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, held patents for a double canal boat, capable of being shortened to pass through locks, and for a form of composite construction for boats, with iron ribs and wooden planking. I found recently that at least one composite boat was built for the CoDSPCo at the Brunswick boatyard in Ringsend, Dublin.

The invaluable Grace’s Guide had no entry for the Brunswick boatyard/dockyard but, when I mentioned the matter, undertook some research and produced a page about it. Grace’s and I would welcome any more information about that yard; as the Guide says:

The precise location of the dockyard has yet to be identified.

Pat Sweeney’s Liffey Ships and Shipbuilding (Mercier 2010) just mentions Henry Teal [sic]; Irish Maritime History’s list is light on early nineteenth century construction.

I would welcome information about other yards that might have built vessels for the CoDSPCo.


Composite construction on Irish inland waterways

I wrote here about Watson’s Double Canal Boat, saying inter alia that, in 1839, William Watson, manager of the inland department of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, patented:

an improvement in the construction of ships, and which improvement is also applicable to all kinds of sea-going vessels; and also certain improvements in the construction of boats and other vessels intended to be used on canals and inland navigations. [1]

I quoted the Mechanics’ Magazine of December 1839, which said that:

Three canal barges have already been built upon Mr Watson’s plan of construction, of 60 tons burthen each, and with eminent success.[2]

I said that the size suggested that these canal barges were for the CoDSPCo’s Irish inland operations, but that I had no information about where they were built.  I have now found information about one builder.


On Thursday, the 22nd instant, a fine new trade boat, built with iron ribs, according to the patent of William Watson, Esq., and belonging to the City of Dublin Steam company, also a new smack, 50 tons measurement, were launched from the Brunswick dock-yard, Ringsend Docks.[3]

I would be grateful for more information.

[1] “List of patents granted for Scotland from 18th March to 18th June 1839” in The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal , exhibiting a view of the progressive discoveries and improvements in the sciences and the arts Vol XXVII No LIII — July 1839; “List of English patents granted between the 25th of May and the 25th of June, 1839” in The Mechanics’ Magazine No 829, Saturday, June 29, 1839

[2] The Mechanics’ Magazine Vol XXXII No 855 28 December 1839

[3] The Freeman’s Journal Saturday 24 July 1841. An almost identical note appeared in the Dublin Evening Mail of Monday 26 July 1841.

Slightly Foxed

WI says today, of its sale of surplus barges:

The ” Fox” workboat/barge currently located at Roosky has been withdrawn from the Sale .

Ballinlaw ferry

A visitor to my page on the tidal Barrow is a descendant of ferrymen at Ballinlaw on the Barrow. He would like to find a photograph (or, presumably, other illustration) of the ferry boat and I would welcome more information about the service (eg when it ended).

Ballinlaw ferry (OSI ~1840)

Ballinlaw ferry (OSI ~1840)

If anyone knows of a possible source of information or illustration, I will pass it on to the enquirer.

Update January 2019: much information about Ballinlaw Ferry from Andrew Doherty here.

My OSI logo and permit number for website

Ticking all the boxes

Sometimes an idea comes along that is just so good, so right, so advantageous on all counts that it is simply irresistible. This idea comes from the Americas, from the US Coast Guard. Adapted to the Irish inland waterways, and specifically to the Shannon, it could:

  • help to promote industry in recession-hit rural areas
  • create direct employment
  • help to stimulate indirect employment
  • promote Irish energy independence by reducing reliance on imported hydrocarbons
  • counter pollution of water-courses
  • reduce the number of heavy trucks using remote rural roads
  • use environmentally-friendly water transport, by barge along the Shannon
  • honour and promote the industrial heritage of Co Leitrim and the transport heritage of the Shannon
  • help to defray the costs of maintaining the Shannon Navigation
  • solve Dublin’s water supply problem, at least for non-potable water.

How could anybody resist?

The US Coast Guard has proposed that wastewater from fracking [PDF] should be transported by barge, rather than by truck or railway train, from the fracking sites to remote storage or treatment facilities. So, when fracking begins around Lough Allen, the wastewater could be carried down the Shannon by barge and, if necessary, pumped to Dublin.

It sounds like a winner to me.


In June 2013 I reported on the sinking of a DUKW in Liverpool, the second of the year, and in September on the fire aboard a DUKW in London. Oddly enough, it seems that the two accidents had a common element: the foam added inside the hulls to improve buoyancy.

The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch has found that the DUKWs in the Liverpool fleet had not been fitted with enough foam to provide 110% buoyancy, enough to keep the vessel afloat when flooded. MAIB’s tests on the Liverpool vessels

… raised serious questions about whether the operators of DUKWs could fit sufficient foam internally to comply with the current requirement for 110% buoyancy without compromising the safe operation and the practical day to day maintenance of these vehicles.

The “safe operation” part affected the London vessels. In July 2013, a DUKW had to be towed in after a drive shaft universal coupling failed when it overheated and ran dry of lubrication: engine bay temperatures were too high because of the volume of foam inserted. And a report commissioned by the London Fire Brigade into the September fire concluded that:

… the most likely cause of fire was the action of the rotating drive shaft (or other moving parts) on the oil contaminated surfaces of the buoyancy foam blocks.

MAIB has issued a safety bulletin [four-page PDF] with this conclusion:

The MAIB identified significant difficulties in fitting a DUKW with the volume of foam required to meet the buoyancy standards set out in MSN 1699 (M). Further, the nature of these old amphibious vessels, specifically their weight in relation to their size and the complexity of their propulsion arrangements, makes it difficult for operators to comply with the standards applicable to more conventional craft by solely using internal foam buoyancy. An alternative standard, ensuring that DUKWs have the necessary level of damage survivability, therefore needs to be established if they are to be operated safely.

It has recommended that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency should

… ensure that the means used by DUKW operators to achieve the required standard of buoyancy and stability for their vessels does not adversely impact on their safe operation. Furthermore, these vessels should not be permitted to operate until satisfactory levels of safety can be assured under all feasible operating conditions.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s website doesn’t seem to be working, but there is a BBC report here quoting an MCA person as saying

We will not be permitting the vessels to operate until we are satisfied that the necessary safety measures have been achieved.

VikingSplash DUKW in Dublin

VikingSplash DUKW in Dublin

All of this may help to explain why the VikingSplash DUKWs operating in Dublin are fitted with additional external buoyancy.

The Washington gandalow

See here.

Elfinsafety and DUKWs

In October 2011 I was in Liverpool, where I took a couple of photos of DUKWs taking trippers around the still waters of the no-longer-used docks.

DUKW in the Salthouse Dock, Liverpool

DUKW in the Salthouse Dock, Liverpool

DUKWing under the bridge into the Albert Dock, Liverpool

DUKWing under the bridge into the Albert Dock, Liverpool

In Dublin, Viking Splash offers similar tours, with the regrettable addition of horned helmets, as not worn by Vikings. The Dublin operation seems to have added two other items that were not discernible on the Liverpool DUKW.

VikingSplash DUKW Thor 18_resize

Extra buoyancy on the Dublin DUKWs

First, before they enter the water at Grand Canal Dock, Ringsend, the DUKWs are fitted with extra buoyancy in cylinders that slide into racks along their sides. I saw the VikingSplash crew removing the cylinders from the yellow DUKW; it took only a couple of minutes, and I presume that it didn’t take much longer to put the cylinders on.

VikingSplash DUKW Thor 25_resize

Buoyancy aids being collected after the trip around the dock

Second, the Dublin passengers are issued with buoyancy aids before they take to the water. I can’t see any buoyancy aids on the Liverpool passengers, although it’s possible that they are out of camera shot.

Sometimes we complain about extra health and safety (which often means insurance) requirements. Then something like this happens: a yellow DUKW sank yesterday in Liverpool — for the second time this year. I don’t know whether the precautions taken in Dublin would have averted the accident or enhanced the safety of the passengers but it does suggest that the Maritime Safety Directorate bods in Dublin do have a point.

Addendum: the speaker on this clip says that passengers began putting on buoyancy aids, which suggests that aids were issued but not worn. Given how quickly the vessel sank, and how constricted the space inside is, it seems to me that passengers should wear their buoyancy aids throughout the waterborne trip.

Later: scary video.

Later still: a BBC story saying that a tyre may have caused the problem, the Liverpool mayor’s opinion (and some good photos) and the firm going into administration.