by Jon Persson
The Irish soul longs always for the green hills of dearest Ireland, and the ways and traditions which call home her wayward sons and daughters. Perhaps this is how an ages-old tradition of small boats has found its way to the New London shores, in shades of grey-green salt that mark a pathway home in heart if not in body.
Currachs, long the boats of fishery, commerce, travel, and contest on Ireland’s lumpy waters, first appeared in New London back in the summer of 2006. This was the result of a determined (and international) effort to preserve the tradition of Currach rowing. A local effort was organized to underwrite and build the first Currach seen on these local shores.
Amongst the original movers was Diarmuid Hanifin, who with Geoff Kaufman annd Janet Buck-Marusov organized the project; construction took place at the Crocker House on New London’s State Street.
Currachs, once constructed of animal hides over a wooden frame, are these days built of canvas, treated with a waterproofing coating. The wooden frame virtually identical to the ancient craft.
The oars used on Currachs are unique in a number of ways. To start, the blades are essentially the same width as the looms (shafts) of the oars, their working face left flat for best effect. The Currach can be rowed by one to four oarsmen, each with two oars. There is no rudder, nor coxwain to steer, and so each rower participates in the steering of the Currach: a fact which quickly exposes the novice crew when a holy-show of poor navigation leaves them suitably mortified. But there are plenty of chances to have a craic when messing about in a Currach, and while the experience will doubtless leave one flah’ed out and knackered, one can always have a short kip once they have returned to the strand.
The New London Currach Rowers practice twice a week, Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 9 a.m. at the small beach opposite Stash’s Cafe on Pequot Avenue. Further information is available at Row.firstname.lastname@example.org, or find them on Facebook at: New London Currach Rowers.