We’ve been having a serious heatwave in Galway: I usually have to qualify that and say “of course by Irish standards” but this time it was about 33 degrees, which is warm no matter where in the world you are. Us Galwegians were revelling in it, and Galway Docks and the orange, yellow and blue SeaFest flags around the perimeter of the docks looked beautiful in the sparkling sun. For my first sketch I climbed to the top of the Granuaile, the first ship I saw; I had no idea what her purpose was. It turns out the Granuaile (pronounced Grawn Ya Wale) is responsible for maintenance of buoys and all other navigational aids around the coast, including lighthouses. A polite young woman in dress whites suggested I go up to the monkey island (the what?) at the top of the ship, where I’d have a good view. I met the captain on the way up. “Plenty of sunscreen, I hope?” he said. I assured him I had everything I would need and off I went. On the monkey island I was alone, save a lone member of staff who spoke on his phone nearby. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but he was there for ages.
[twitter-follow username=”roisincure” scheme=”dark” count=”yes”] I was asked to sketch SeaFest 2018 by Galway’s Marine Institute. SeaFest is the annual celebration of all things marine in Galway – we are, after all, on the Atlantic Coast – and it took place over the weekend of 29th June to the 1st July in Galway Docks. The annual SeaFest is one of my favourite assignments, because I find the sight of beautiful big ships (often with flags flying somewhere) very enticing. Trouble is, the docks are usually a place where it’s hard to roll up and park – they’re busy working areas with all kinds of dangerous activity going on – so all I usually do is drive past and look longingly at the ships. During SeaFest I would wear a “media” tag around my neck, so that I could sketch anywhere I liked, for as long as I liked, over the entire weekend. Happy days. The only caveat was that I had to sketch different things from last year’s SeaFest, but that wasn’t a problem. This is a PREMIUM access article. We use a simple to use web wallet that can be filled up using a credit card, PayPal or with XLM using a secure payment system. Once you have paid, you will have ongoing access to the article from the device (tablet, phone, PC) that you used to pay for it. You can access the post by topping up your web wallet with 20 stellar lumen tokens (the price of a stellar lumen is currently [price id=”stellar” fiat=”usd”] ) if you haven’t already done so and then making a micropayment of 2 lumens to continue reading this post Remember: NO subscription required, NO monthly fees, NO personal information, just a new secure micropayment mechanism for content you want to see.
I suggested that the LEDs weren’t half as pretty as the incandescent bulbs.
“No,” said Brian, “but imagine – it used to take three or four men to change an incandescent bulb, five times a year, in all kinds of weather. They are run on mains and they give us 2000 hours. Compare that with the LEDs, which run on batteries, for 50 000 hours – and need changing once a year…by one man.”
Fair enough. Then Brian went on his break and I got talking to one of his colleagues, Damien. He seemed to really like the sketch of Brian and the lamps.
“What’s your job description?” I asked, “I’d like to write it here.”
“Electrical design technician,” he said, “for now.”
“What do you mean, for now?” I asked. “Just for the day?”
“No,” he said, “From today onwards, I’m an electrical design engineer – I’ve just been promoted. I was telling my wife on the phone when you were up sketching on the monkey island!”
I was so happy to share his good news. I solemnly put a strike through the word “technician” and wrote “engineer” underneath.
We were joined by another visitor who stopped to listen.
“Would you like to hear a romantic story?” asked Damien. We said we would. “See this lighthouse on the wall?” he said, pointing to a photo of a very lovely lighthouse. “That’s the Maidens Lighthouse. In the 1830s, there were two built side by side, 800m apart. The assistant keeper of one lighthouse fell in love with the daughter of the keeper of the other. They visited each other and everything went well until the two families fell out. No more visits…but the young lovers eloped, getting into their little boat and sailing away…”
“I’d love to know how they got on after that,” I said, wondering aloud if they made it out of the bay without having a row, but it wasn’t in the spirit of the story so no one replied.
The war ship the William Butler Yeats was one of the ships that we could visit and look around. This sketch was made on her deck, and you can see the captain bidding people farewell as they leave the ship. She was in her party clothes, with the pennant flags that decorated the ship looking beautiful as they flapped lazily in the sunny breeze.
As I wrote down and drew each item, it felt a bit like a Where’s Wally exercise. I thought that the shark, and the sketch I made, were a really novel way to get people to think in a concrete way about what we are putting into the oceans. I used to surf, and I think if my line had snapped and my board had floated away I would not have thought about it as litter, as something that was adding to the revolting mess that over-consumption and horrible plastic have left in the sea. Different times, perhaps – it was twenty years ago and more – but still, trash is trash, and very little of it breaks down to nothing. For the record, I never lost a surfboard in the sea. My dignity, not so certain…
Then the cookery demonstration started. The chef, George Stevens, runs some fish shops in the Midlands and on the East Coast, and he showed us how to prepare and cook some easy fish dishes.
I need no converting – I love fish in all its manifestations – but I was reminded how easy and fast it can be to prepare fish.
(George isn’t a triplet, by the way – I just drew him three times doing different things to his meals.)
You can see the white post at the top of the Granuaile – that’s the monkey island where I had been sketching the day before.
“A big hand for Cooper, all the way from the US of A!” said the tannoy. “And remember folks, keep your children in front of you where you can see them – the water in the docks is very deep!”
Cooper started his routine, and a family of two parents and two children, one a babe in arms, took up position beside me on the deck. It was just them and me, but we were a bit unfriendly towards each other, neither acknowledging the other. Their son, about four or five, slipped away from them as they stood transfixed by the display. He inched towards the railing at the edge of the ship…which was more than wide enough for an adult to slip through, never mind a toddler. It occurred to me that the parents must know their child very well to allow him such freedom. It didn’t occur to me that they hadn’t seen him there, nor to grab him from the edge myself. At the last second his mother noticed him, shrieked angrily at him and pulled him from the edge. It was only afterwards I realised that in one false move his little body would have sunk to the bottom of the docks, deep enough to accommodate the massive hulls of great seagoing vessels. I hope I am more vigilant the next time (not to mention his parents).
I found my next subject, and was soon joined by Ciara, one of the fantastic Urban Sketchers Galway crew. We drew happily side by side. This was one of the pretty, colourful craft set up to promote Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the seafood promotion board of Ireland.
There were stacks of promotional leaflets on tables, and gusts of wind kept taking the top one or two and blowing them to the ground. A uniformed girl with a litter-picker kept putting the ones that blew down into her big rubbish bag. It struck me as wanton waste. I told another uniformed lad to put a stone on top. He seemed a clever lad so I hope he did. I seem to be full of good intentions for others. There’s a lesson here somewhere.
Lastly I drew a bit of fun – a group of lads in oilskins were teaching children about water conservation through a bit of play. The kids had to fill an area with buckets as fast as they could…but the rules were too complicated for me. Still, I enjoyed the smiling lad in yellow.
Over the hot weekend, I had to tweet the sketches I was making. This would have been fine except that I couldn’t see my phone screen in the sun (how do foreigners do it?)
It was an amazing weekend for an urban sketcher. Roll on next year’s SeaFest!