Coastal Treasures | The Iconic Galway Hookers

As an island Ireland naturally has a long tradition of boat building.

From the early skin covered and wooden boats that still work the seas through to the impressive ocean-crossing giants of Harland and Wolff. Fishing vessels have always been important part of the fleet and this has led to the evolution of some distinctly Irish boats. Perhaps most notable among these are the iconic red-sailed Galway Hookers.

galway hooker

The Galway Hooker is the traditional boat of Galway built of strong and hardy oak to withstand the rough seas of the Atlantic. The boats are easily recognised by their strong sharp bow and sides that curve outwards. They have one main sail and two foresails all on a single mast. It’s a gaff-rigged sailing boat meaning the sail is four-cornered, fore-and-aft rigged, controlled at its peak by a pole called the gaff.

galway hooker

Traditionally painted black with eye-catching red sails these beautiful boats are something to behold. Along with the Claddagh ring, they have become a much-loved symbol of Galway, something unique to the county.




galway hooker

There are four types of Galway Hooker: Bád Mór (35 – 44 ft) and Leath Bhád or “half-boat” (28 ft), being the two bigger varieties, were used to transport turf across Galway bay. Gleoiteog  and the Púcán (both 24 – 28 ft but differently rigged) were used more commonly for transporting people and fishing.

Cruinniú na mBád

While the name Hooker comes from a dutch word the exact origins of the distinctive boat is not clear. They may have originally come from Norse or Cornish designs but they have evolved today into something unique and distinctive that Galway is proud to call their own.

cruinniú na mBád poster

If you want to see these majestic boats in action there’s a great festival we recommend. Make sure you visit Cruinniú na mBád (the Gathering of the Boats) in Kinvara Co. Galway. The annual festival, founded in 1979, celebrates these beautiful boats with races and displays pitting these traditionally crafted vessels some nearly 150 years  old against newer built crafts. The festival runs on the 9th – 21st August and is a must see for any maritime enthusiast.

Want more Irish maritime festivals? Check out Best of Irish Maritime Festivals: 2016 Edition

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me ann@coastmonkey.ie or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22

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