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inside dublin port

In pictures: How to overhaul an Irish tallship in 8 easy* steps

*Actual steps may not be easy.

DUBLIN LANDMARK THE Jeanie Johnston will be back at her berth alongside the IFSC in the next few days, after a brief holiday.

She hasn’t been too far away…

The tall-ship — which is run as a Famine museum and tourist attraction at Custom House Quay — has been down-river at Dublin Port since the start of last month for an overhaul; a necessary step, if she’s to be re-certified to take to the open seas once again.

Photocall Ireland Photocall Ireland

So what happens during that process?

As the Jeanie’s general manager John O’Neill explained to us — it’s pretty involved….

As you can imagine — it’s not like you can simply hand the keys of your three-masted vessel over to a back-street garage, and ask them to send you a text once everything’s been sorted…

Step 1: And we’re off…


We headed downriver to the dry-dock on 8 October. We had to close the museum up, put all the exhibits away, and get everything, I suppose, ‘ship shape’ ahead of the move. Two tugs from Dublin Port — the Shackleton and the Beaufort — helped steer us down-river, and the Samuel Beckett Bridge was opened for us so we could travel down. We tied up for the night at the number 18 berth, beside the East Link, before heading in to start the process.

Step 2: Into the dry-dock…

The following morning we were into the dock — again, the tugs brought us around. What happens is they get the ship into position, and pump out all the water. When that happens, the vessel comes down on special blocks that are put in place to keep the keel steady. Before the last of the water is emptied, a series of poles — known as ‘shores’ — are put in place, which is a pretty traditional way of doing things. That keeps her upright for the period she’s in dry-dock.

Step 3: Bye-bye barnacles…

Once the ship is dried out, she’s power-washed to get rid of all the weed, dirt and barnacles that have built up over the years. It’s a pretty arduous job — probably took us around a day and a half…

Step 4: Inspection time…

The serious business can get under way after that… We brought a surveyor on to assess her, plank by plank — to check out the timbers and the condition of the hull in general. Officially, his title is a ‘chartered marine surveyor’. He’d then hand us a report on her condition, noting any items that might need special attention.

Step 5: Fetch me the paint can. Actually, fetch me a few…

Once the ship is fully dry and inspected, we can get ahead with the painting… The timber on the hull gets treated with a timber-specific primer. The steel below the hull then gets its own specific primer coat. As work continues, we move on to the hull above the water line. The ship is ​40 metres ​long and ​8 metres​ wide, so this all takes a while — 6 to 7 days. We used around ​460​ litres altogether. The last coat to go on was an anti-foul paint, which stops marine growth, like barnacles and weeds.

Step 6: Odd jobs…

A view of the ‘Arklow Ranger’ from the Jeanie’s spot in the dry dock. 

As the painting process takes place — and afterwards — we also have a chance to carry-out all sorts of other essential maintenance works. Basically, all of the machinery that’s positioned below the water line needs to be checked to verify its condition. These aren’t the sorts of jobs you can do when a ship is afloat, so we have to make the most of our time in the dry-dock to make sure everything’s looked at.

Step 7: The final check…

Once we’re happy, there’s another check of the ship to make sure we’ve addressed everything we need to. She’s then ready to leave the dry dock… Water gets pumped back in, she lifts off the keel-blocks, and is re-floated.

Step 8: The voyage home…

We’re out of the dry-dock now, and we’ve been placed back at a standby berth down-river.
Today, at the earliest, we’ll be heading back up the Liffey and through the Sam Beckett to our usual berth near the Convention Centre. We should be back in business properly by the end of the week — looking a bit more spruced up than before..

Update: The Jeanie will be moving back upriver at 9pm tonight. The Samuel Beckett Bridge will be closed to motorists as a result.

First posted at 7.45am.

Read: Against the tide: Liffey-side industries battle on

Read: From 1000 AD to Samuel Beckett: Dublin’s bridges in 10 fascinating facts…

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