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What Is the Galway Hooker?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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A Galway hooker is a specific type of sailing vessel common in Ireland and notable for its distinctive appearance. The hull of the ship is very often a deep black color because it is coated in pitch for protection against moisture, and the sails of the vessel are often a deep red or light brown color. A Galway hooker is designed specifically to handle the rough seas off the coast of Ireland; while this is a traditional sailing vessel, it has become a popular boat design for recreationalists as well.

The sail configuration of a Galway hooker includes a mainsail run up one mast, and two foresails connected to a bowsprit or spar off the front of the vessel. The decks were open, and there were no lower decks in most cases. They were often used to transport turf and other materials to be used as fuel for ships, and the spacious decks allows for such hauling efficiently. The stability of the boat made it a good choice in rough seas, even when loaded down. Some versions of the Galway hooker were used for cargo instead of turf transport, while other models were even used for more daily tasks such as fishing.

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The ships originated in the Galway bay of Ireland, which is on the country's west coast. The design of the Galway hooker, however, may indicate that its origins trace back much further. Some have contended an Arabic or Coptic influence on the vessel, since its appearance resembles many of the ships used in Arab countries. These vessels reached the United States when Irish settlers needed fishing vessels, and since they knew how to build the Galway hooker quickly and efficiently, the vessels became the boat of choice. The Galway hookers built in the U.S. were sometimes called Boston hookers or Irish cutters.

The mainsail is used for powering the boat forward, and the foresails of the Galway hooker are used for steering. One of the foresails extends a significant distance off the bow, or front, of the vessel, which aids in quicker steering. This was helpful in rough conditions at sea, especially when the boat was burdened with cargo. The ship's distinctive appearance often makes it the subject of art, especially paintings, and the color scheme has made the vessel a popular choice for boat enthusiasts looking for a notable and stable craft in all conditions.

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