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Crew of the Irish ship Eithne finds a second home in Boston
By Christopher A. Szechenyi and Shane O'Neill, Boston.com Staff, 07/12/00
BOSTON –- It took eight days for the L.E. Eithne to cross the Atlantic from Ireland, a journey that became longer and more hazardous than the naval vessel's crew of 96 expected as they headed through rough seas and rain.
But now that they’ve finally arrived in Boston, the men and women aboard the helicopter patrol vessel have a much bigger concern: their dwindling supply of beer.
How much is left of the 100 kegs they brought over?
“That’s confidential,” said one of the Irish sailors. “That’s our secret weapon.”
In fact, the 1,500-ton ship, docked next to the World Trade Center, is down to 35 kegs after stopping in New York and Newport, R.I.
Some of the beer was consumed last night as the crew toasted the Boston Police Department’s pipe band, which played a few tunes, including Amazing Grace.
The ship opened to the public today at 2 p.m.
Don’t worry about their dwindling supply of Guinness, Heineken and cider. The lads and ladies aboard the ship from Cork have invitations in hand from several Irish pubs in Boston to come ashore for free food and beer.
“The reception on shore is fantastic. It’s like being at home,” said Mick Kennelly, a sub lieutenant on board the craft, which handles everything from fisheries protection and search and rescue missions to arms and drug interdiction in Ireland.
Tonight, the Eithne (pronounced Etna) will host 250 people, including the organizing committee behind the construction of the Jeanie Johnston, a replica of an original Irish famine ship.
The Jeanie Johnston was supposed to arrive with the other ships as part of Sail Boston 2000. But “it wasn’t ready for the trip,” Kennelly said today.
But the ship’s absence hasn’t stopped the Irish sailors from enjoying their visit.
“This is a trip of a lifetime. We don’t get to come to America often,” said petty officer Michael Hickey, who’s in charge of Eithne’s gunnery department and who is visiting the states for the first time.
The Eithne last visited America in 1986, two years after being built. Although she normally carries a crew of 65, for this journey the number is up to 96.
“The boys all get along,” noted Hickey.
But as some are wont to do, Able Seaman Cormac Whelan ran into a tad of trouble. He went AWOL for two days in New York, and now he’s prohibited from drinking for the rest of the trip.
“What did I do for two days,” he asked rhetorically.
“I met a lady!”