The Galway Hooker is a traditional sailing boat used in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland. The hooker was developed for the strong seas there. It is identified by the sail formation, which is extremely distinctive and quite beautiful. It consisted of a single mast with a main sail and two foresails. Traditionally, the boat is black (being coated in pitch) and the sails are a dark red-brown.
Recently there has been a major revival, and renewed interest in the Galway hooker, and the boats are still being painstakingly constructed. The festival of Cruinniú na mBád is held each year, when boats race across Galway Bay from Connemara to Kinvara on the Galway/Clare county boundary.
Classes of Galway Hooker
The hooker refers to four classes of boats. All are named in Irish. The Bád Mór (big boat) ranges in length from 35 to 44 feet (10.5 - 13.5 metres). The smaller Leath Bhád (half boat) is about 28 feet (10 metres) in length. These boats were used to carry turf to be used as fuel across Galway Bay from Connemara and County Mayo to the Aran Islands and the Burren. The boats often brought limestone on the return journeys, to neutralise the acid soils of Connemara and Mayo. The Gleoiteog ranges in length from 24 to 28 feet and has the same sails and rigging as the larger boats. They were used for fishing and carrying cargo. Another boat, the Púcán, is similar in size to the Gleoiteog but has one mainsail and one foresail.
The origins of the craft are not clear. They have been in use for at least two hundred years. The Connamara area had many boatbuilders and it is thought that they formed these boats especially to suit the area. The boats were able to sail in shallow waters and thus were ideal for the areas around South Conamara. It is most likely that the báid have their origin in the area as opposed to being inspired from outside.