The Asgard is a 51-foot (16 m) yacht, formerly owned by the English-born Irish nationalist, and writer Robert Erskine Childers (DSC) and his wife Molly Childers. It was bought for £1,000 in 1904 (£84,000 in 2006) from one of Norway's most famous boat designers, Colin Archer. The interior was custom built to the specifications of Childers and his wife.
Molly, an invalid from early age, sometimes took the helm of Asgard, strapped onto the deck with harnesses so she could navigate the rough waters of the Irish Sea. Its most famous trip was the Howth gun-running in 1914. Childers, his wife and a small crew, made the channel crossing with a hold full of rifles from Germany into Howth harbour just north of Dublin, to arm the Irish Volunteers in response to the arming of the Ulster Volunteers by the Larne gun-running in April. There is a plaque on dock wall in Howth as a memorial to this historic boat journey. Shortly after the Easter Rising, the Asgard was put into long-term dry-dock in Northern Wales, where it was sold in 1928.
In 1961, the Irish Government procured the ageing vessel and returned it to Howth on 30 July 1961 in a re-enactment of the 1914 landing, using some of the original rifles and surviving members of the Irish Volunteers. It was used for sail training until 1974, when it was dry-docked and installed inside Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin where it remained as a museum attraction, until 2001.
As of December 2007, the Asgard Restoration Project was under way in Collins Barracks, Dublin. The focus of the restoration was on preserving the original wooden hull and its metal supports, before replacing pieces with new material. Once completed, the Asgard will be fully rigged for the first time in over forty years. The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin is creating a permanent "boathouse" for the yacht.
The Asgard is often confused with the "Dulcibella"; the boat in Robert Erskine Childers's classic novel The Riddle of the Sands. The "Dulcibella" was a totally different vessel.
Asgard II was the Irish national sail training vessel, until she sank in the Bay of Biscay in 2008. A brigantine, she was commissioned on 7 March 1981 and purpose-built as a sail training vessel by Jack Tyrrell in Arklow, County Wicklow. She was named after the Asgard, a yacht which smuggled weapons for the Irish Volunteers in 1914.
The vessel was owned by the Irish state and operated by Coiste an Asgard (a founding member of Sail Training International). Asgard II had a traditional figurehead in the form of a carving of Granuaile.
Asgard II sank in the Bay of Biscay on 11 September 2008, 20 nautical miles (37 km) southwest of Belle-Île-en-Mer, at 47°18"03'N 3°33"02'WCoordinates: 47°18"03'N 3°33"02'W.
The five crew and twenty trainees had earlier abandoned the vessel after she started taking on water. Asgard II was heading from Falmouth to La Rochelle for some routine maintenance. Assistance was given by Haldoz and Arklow Venus and two lifeboats from Belle Île, Morbihan, France.
Before the end of 2008, a plan to raise the ship was put to the Irish cabinet. It was hoped that the €3.8 million costs would be paid for by the insurers, with the vessel being raised in spring 2009, given favourable conditions.
The vessel was in a relatively good condition on the sea bed with one of her hull planks damaged; it is unclear whether this damage was caused by impact with the sea bed, or was the cause of the sinking, possibly from a collision with a semi-submerged container. She rests under 80 metres (260 ft) of water on a sandy seabed with no rocks, and she was "upright on the seabed and salvageable" in September. An early salvage was desirable before damage from winter storms and fishing nets. On 23 February 2009 the minister announced that the Asgard II would not be raised. Jimmy Deenihan, spokesperson for the opposition Fine Gael part expressed disappointment:
"It is over five months since the Asgard II sank in the Bay of Biscay. In that time any chance that the vessel would be recovered were seriously undermined by the Ministers' own hesitancy on the matter. Not one but two salvage feasibility surveys were commissioned in that period and the available weather windows were wasted when a salvage operation was possible."
The loss of Asgard was investigated by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board and its final report was released on 27 September 2010. The most likely cause of the accident found was that the ship collided with a submerged object. Although the maintenance and operation of Asgard II were found to be in excess of that required by the then-current regulations, a recommendation was made that the practice of classing sail training vessels as cargo ships rather than passenger ships should be reviewed.