“The event had a fantastic turnout and the atmosphere among the community and visitors was one of palpable excitement and enjoyment,” said Gwen Ryan, one of the people behind the project.
The launch allowed people to see Realt na Maidne, the 12-seater passenger ferry, taking part in a demonstration sailing followed by an inaugural crossing of Galway Bay.
The service was launched by Professor Kevin Leyden of the Whitaker Institute of Innovation and Societal Change at NUI Galway. He spoke about the renewed interest in combining old and new in sustainable modes of transport and the importance of connectivity between people and their places and how these connections resonate through time and experience, between past users of the bay and future passengers.
Carol Gleeon of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark was also in attendance. She spoke about how the ferry service fits with the objectives of the TransTourism Project, which is funding the trial and the potential of linking visitors and local communities. Mary Hawkes Greene spoke on the sense of community and having the tenacity to do things for ourselves.
“Any latent fears or apprehensions were laid to rest as the passengers settled into a fantastic journey across the bay. Thirty minutes later, the passengers disembarked at the new pontoon in Galway Harbour, invigorated by this old-meets-new method of crossing.
“The general feeling was one of amazement of the convenience and the short distance between Ballyvaughan and Galway City Centre. They all loved the journey and were surprised at the comfort of the crossing. After a short stop-over to toast the journey, the ferry returned to Ballyvaughan, where the party was still going strong,” Gwen outlined.
The boat arrived back in Ballyvaughan 25 minutes later.
“Those left behind celebrated launch by zumba-ing with Finola Costello and the kids had a ball on the mechanical bull and the water zorbs. By the time the ferry returned, any doubting Thomases on board were confirmed believers that this type of connection between Ballyvaughan and Galway City could work and were envisaging the service as becoming a way of life in the future,” Gwen added.
Speaking after the pre-trial launch, Clare TD Pat Breen said, “This innovative idea is the brainchild of the Ballyvaughan community, whose aim is to improve access into North Clare for the many tourists who visit annually and to facilitate an alternative to the car or bus for people living in the area.
“I was delighted to attend the pre-trial launch, when I had the opportunity to experience what travellers can expect on their journey and enjoyed a ferry trip on the bay with Liam O’Brien at the helm,” he said.
“The beauty of this service is that as well as being able to leave the car at home, travellers will be able to take in the many scenic views along the North Clare coast on their journey,” Deputy Breen added.
The Fine Gael TD paid tribute to Gwen Ryan, Liam O’Brien and the community in Ballyvaughan for pursuing the project.
“If this trial period proves successful, a regular commuter service from Ballyvaughan to Galway could be established on a sustainable basis, which would be very good news for Ballyvaughan and for tourism in North Clare,” he said.
The trial service will run for two weeks, starting next Monday with a morning and evening sailing.
Passengers can expect the crossing to take approximately half an hour.