The legendary Irish curragh skin boat is still used for fishing and racing on the remote and beautiful Dingle Peninsula
My good friends Jim and Eileen Van Den Bos recently visited Eileen’s family in Ireland, and along the way Jim managed to bag these photos showing important details of modern curraghs.
There are some features to notice here: the traditional square-section, non-feathering oars are still clearly in use for auxiliary power, but the boats have outboard wells in what is otherwise very much the hull form you see in old photos and books. Also, these are long, narrow hulls with very round sections, and they also have no skeg and no more than a very slight rubbing strake. These features will allow seas to slide under the hull rather than throw it around, and their low wetted area will also contribute to these boats’ speed under oars or outboard. I’ve several times heard these boats described as canoes, although they’re not really paddling boats.
I’d guess that on such an exposed Atlantic coast these are exactly the characteristics that have enabled this amazing ancient boat type to survive into the 21st Century.
I’m also struck that there may be a suggestion that these boats may have a raised sheer compared with earlier boats, as seen in the post I’ ve linked to below. Could it be that replacing oars with outboards for power most of the time has allowed the fishermen who use these boats to make their sheerlines a tad higher in order to give themselves just a little more protection from the water and cold wind?
And now a question: would you want to make your living fishing on such wild and rough waters in a tippy little skin boat? When I look at these little boats I can’t help but reflect on how brave these people are – or how brave professional fishermen everywhere must be.
Many thanks for some very interesting shots Jim!
For more on curraghs, see an earlier intheboatshed.net post: The curraghs of Ireland
Also, Amazon has this curragh print and some copies of Tim Severin’s excellent book The Brendan Voyage about recreating St Brendan’s long-ago voyage to North America by skin boat not unlike the boats in the photos above.