The Replica Project
The Helen Blake Replica Project are a community based group focusing on the development of community skills in boat building, carpentry and marine tourism. The boat is being built by a team of participants from the Ballycullane Community Employment Scheme, Wexford Local Development TÚS workers and volunteers, under the guidance of master shipwright and craftsman, John Colfer.
Participate in the build
Buy a foot of planking for €10 & be named on the roll of honour
About the Boat Build
In 2014 at the hundredth commemoration memorial of the sinking of the Helen Blake Lifeboat, the vision of The Helen Blake Replica Project was born. Thanks to the generous support of the Fethard-on-Sea community, various grants and funding, including FLAG, and assistance from the Ballycullane Community Employment Scheme, this vision came to life in 2018.
Designs for the boat were carefully drawn up to closely replicate the original boat, with only slight adjustments made to account for the fitting of an engine and other safety elements required to meet current marine regulations. Construction on the Helen Blake replica commenced in 2019. The boat is being constructed by hand,
using traditional methods to replicate the original.
The boat is being built under the guidance of master shipwright and craftsman, John Colfer. Each board and piece of timber has been carefully handcrafted, shaped, sanded and fitted by John and the team. The care, attention to detail and craftmanship has resulted in a truly beautiful piece of art. See the boat take shape and come to life from start to finish on our Facebook page or in our gallery.
Our vision of constructing a replica boat is almost complete, with the boat anticipated to be completed and seaworthy by 2023.
Looking to the future
Looking to Summer 2023, we plan to run sea tours to the Keeragh Islands, adding to Fethard-on-Sea’s existing maritime attractions, adventures and experiences. We are excited to share our beautiful boat and it’s story with the community and visitors to the area.
Our team has developed & mastered their boat building and carpentry skills which will be used to maintain the boat in the off season. We also have plans under development for the team to continue mastering their carpentry and boat building skills in other works and activities.
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The 100 year anniversary commemoration was held, and the Helen Blake Committee was formed under Hook Rural Tourism.
The committee were awarded a FLAG grant to carry out a feasibility study, with the outcome to build a replica of the Helen Blake lifeboat that would be used to take visitors on trips out to the Keeragh Islands.
The Helen Blake Community Group CLG was formed to develop and manage the project.
Fundraising events were run with terrific response from the community.
The project was awarded a grant under the Bord Iascaigh Mhara FLAG program. Shipwright John Colfer was engaged to build the boat and a trainee program commenced with a combination of participants from a Community Employment scheme and TUS.
A wooden Canadian Canoe was built as a precursor to the boat build using the same materials and techniques as for the replica boat to give the trainees some experience prior to the main boat build. The detailed design drawings of the boat were completed by Pelagic Design of Plymouth, UK
The build of the Helen Blake Replica commenced with the lamination of the keel and main frames using Sapele Hardwood and epoxy glue system. Under the BIM regulations, a P3 licence application was submitted to the Dept., and a marine Surveyor makes regular visits during construction to monitor quality.
Building of the boat continued with considerable time lost due to Covid lockdowns
The external planking was completed
The hull was turned right side up and work on the internal structure started.
The Boat will be complete in the summer when sea trials and stability tests can be carried out and a P3 licence issued.
The Helen Blake Replica will launch in April and visitor trips will commence.