The Irish Maritime Festival - report on last weekend




So that's it ... the ships have sailed out of Drogheda Port, gone but not forgotten.  

What takes a year to plan, five days to build and two days to run takes just a couple of hours to dismantle and disappear.  

And yet, the memory of the 2016 Irish Maritime Festival will loom large.  

Huge numbers of visitors of all ages thronged to the festival. From the Drogheda Pantomime Society cast to the vicious Vikings and Captain Jack Sparrow to the dueting pirates the festival was a feast of colour, energy and activity.  Friday night opened with a Craft Brewing and Tasting experience. Local Brewers and distillers explained how they craft their product and everyone had a taste. The culinary team from The West Court Hotel paired up canapés with each drink and the music of Fran Thornton's Fuzz Gigolo created a great atmosphere.  Saturday saw the Irish Maritime Festival, in association with Maxol, open to the public. They jumped as the Pirates fired their canons. They marvelled as the Vikings went into battle. They wondered as the fly boarding Ironman and pirate flew through the air. They watched live on Facebook and the festival big screen as the brave swimmers took to the water for the 2.7km long Boyne Swim. They cheered and cheered as Drogheda man, and ex-Olympic swimmer, Colin Lowth won this gruelling race.They ate, drank and were merry in the Artisan Food zone. They watched Chef Tara Walker create culinary delights in the demo kitchen. They kicked back and enjoyed brilliant live music all weekend on the two festival stages.  They met the creatures of the deep in the Marine Touch Pool and dug for historic artefacts in the archaeology zone. They enjoyed complimentary treatments, makeovers and fashion shows in the Fuschia Fashion, Health and Beauty marquee. 

And all weekend the festival fun continued with so much to see and do. The weather forecast for the weekend certainly threatened to ruin everyone's fun but thankfully each big cloud burst quickly passed. Over 200 volunteers, including medical and off-shore crews gave of their time, energy and skill to run the Festival this weekend. An event of that scale just wouldn't be possible without their commitment and it's great to see the volunteer team growing year on year with the festival. 

 No matter how much activity you have on land, it's always the ships that steal the show. The Customs Cutters and lifeboats were hugely popular as ever. The dastardly pirates were as bold as ever swash-buckling and battling away on the river. The Spirit of Oysterhaven brought a crew of young sailing trainees back to Drogheda on Friday and departed with a new crew on Sunday while The Celtic Mist team explained the work they do protecting Ireland's whale and dolphin population. And the yachts sailed elegantly in from around the country and moored for the weekend. 

It was also wonderful to see the skilled local currach makers display their boats and promote their tours for the public. And of course the team from the RNLI and Clogherhead Lifeboat Station were there to promote water safety. 

But the star of the show was The Phoenix, one of the world’s most famous tall ships. Visitors flocked on board both afternoons to view her for themselves. And then on Sunday evening, as if in a dream, she raised her 2,000sq ft sails and this beautiful brigantine lead a parade of sail out of Drogheda Port - gone but not forgotten. 

The multi-award winning Irish Maritime Festival, in association with Maxol, is hosted by Louth County Council and Drogheda Port Company. It is supported by Virgin Media, Aura, Coca-Cola International, Fáilte Ireland, Glanbia, Flogas and Irish Rail. So now all that remains is to check the timetable of tides for 2017, pick next year’s date and start planning. Roll on Irish Maritime Festival 2017!  

Watch more of the 2016 festival here