BY SARAH CANTY
SHE looks new, resting there at Roaring Water Pier, like her hull has not yet tasted the salt of seawater. Yet under her perfect finish are the memories of bygone voyages, regretful neglect and finally, painstaking renewal.
Happy Return, a majestic example of the classic Stella ‘one-design’ yacht modelled after the Nordic folkboat, is finally ready to re-launch just short of her 55th birthday.
Her previous owner, Fred Rogerson, recalls boyhood summers sailing her down to Schull from Dublin with his father. In those days, she was one of the very few yachts in Schull harbour, participating in all the local regattas in Schull, Baltimore and Glandore.
She came to Rui Ferreira, a bespoke boat builder and furniture maker based in Ballydehob, in 2008. When Rui took possession of her she had been out of the water for more than fifteen years and in need of serious TLC.
At that time, Rui and his partner Anke Eckardt were building and restoring a number of Castletownshend Ettes, a class of traditional 16ft sailing boats originally built by the Mahony brothers of Castletownshend. They enjoyed this work but dreamed of having a bigger boat with which to cruise and sail further.
Rui set about restoring Happy Return from the bottom up – an overwhelming task that involved gutting her completely, dismantling everything and removing every single piece of rot. Because Rui worked on the boat in his spare time, progress was slow and sometimes disheartening.
Now that Happy Return is indeed ready to return to the sea, Rui is very pleased that he persevered. Not only has he restored her to beyond her former glory – he has enriched his knowledge of boatbuilding and restoration in a way no one could have taught him.
Now, after many years waiting idly in a Wicklow garden and six years in Rui’s workshop enduring what sometimes seemed like ‘mission impossible,’ Happy Return will sail again. Rui, Anke and their son Fionn, who was only ten when they acquired her, will quietly re-introduce her to the sea in the coming days.
At her official launching party at the Glandore Classic Regatta on July 18th, the Ferreira-Eckardt family will be joined by Mr Rogerson, and his father’s memory.
To follow progress on Happy Return and learn more about their work visit Rui and Anke’s blog at www.westcorkboats.com