The Jeanie Johnston is a replica of a three masted barque that was originally built in Quebec, Canada in 1847 by the Scottish-born shipbuilder John Munn.
The original Jeanie Johnston was bought by Tralee, Co. Kerry-based merchants John Donovan & Sons, as a cargo vessel and traded successfully between Tralee and North America for a number of years. The trading pattern was to bring emigrants from Ireland to North America, and then to bring timber back to Europe.
She made her maiden emigrant voyage from Blennerville, Co. Kerry to Quebec on April 24, 1848, with 193 emigrants on board, as the effects of the Famine ravaged Ireland. Between 1848 and 1855, the Jeanie Johnston made 16 voyages to North America, sailing to Quebec, Baltimore, and New York. On average, the length of the transatlantic journey was 47 days. The most passengers she ever carried was 254, from Tralee to Quebec on April 17, 1852. To put this number in perspective, the replica ship is only licensed to carry 40 people.
Despite the number of passengers, and the long voyage, no crew or passenger lives were ever lost on board the Jeanie Johnston. This is generally attributed to the captain, James Attridge, not overloading the ship, and the presence of a qualified doctor, Richard Blennerhassett, on board for the passengers.
In 1855, the ship was sold to William Johnson of North Shields in England. In 1858, en route to Quebec from Hull with a cargo of timber, she became waterlogged. The crew climbed into the rigging, and after nine days clinging to their slowly-sinking ship, they were rescued by a Dutch ship, the Sophie Elizabeth. Even in her loss, she maintained her perfect safety record.
The building of the replica ship began with in-depth research in 1993, and culminated in the completion of the vessel in 2002. An international team of young people, linking Ireland North and South, the United States, Canada and many other countries, built the replica under the supervision of experienced shipwrights.
The ship was designed by Fred Walker former Chief Naval Architect with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. The recreation project was modelled closely on that of the 17th century ship, the Batavia.
The ship is built with larch planks on oak frames. To comply with current international maritime regulations, some concessions to modernity had to be made. She has two Caterpillar main engines, two Caterpillar generators, and an emergency generator that is located above the waterline in the forward deckhouse. She is fully compliant to the highest standards of modern ocean-going passenger ships, with steel water-tight bulkheads, down-flooding valves, and fire-fighting equipment.
When several of the oak frames were inplace and planking was being applied, the density of the oak was checked and the floatation levels estimated. These checks revealed that the ship would float higher than anticipated in the water, causing stability problems. To rectify the problem, several centimetres were cut from the top of the frames, and a steel keel was attached beneath the original oak keel. This is the reason that the Jeanie Johnston draws more water than most ships of her size. One significant consequence of this is that the current draft severely limits the ports into which the ship may enter, ports the original ship would have been able to visit, e.g. Nantucket.
In 2002 the replica Jeanie Johnston sailed from Tralee to Canada and the USA. She has taken part in the Tall Ships Race and is currently operating as a sail training ship.
Other notable Irish tall ships or sail training ships are the Asgard II(lost in the Bay of Biscay in 2008), the Dunbrody, the Lord Rank(N.I.) and the Creidne(I.N.S.).
A wooden plaque is mounted on the foremast listing some of the many people involved in the physical building of the ship. Many people gave time, money and support to the project. The reconstruction efforts involved the labor of trainees from different religious and political backgrounds in Northern Irelandís disadvantaged areas who were funded by the International Fund for Ireland. The aim of the fund being to promote economic and social advance and to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland.
The replica is currently owned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. In recent years she was operated on their behalf by Rivercruise Ireland and would make regular visits to ports around Britain and Ireland, and also undertake several trips to Spain each summer, often carrying voyage crew who intended to join the Camino de Santiago. In between these voyages she would offer day-sails in Dublin Bay. In early 2009 the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and Rivercruise Ireland could not reach agreement. DDDA then offered the Department of Defence use of the ship as a training vessel for free (as a replacement for the sunken Asgard II), but the offer was turned down. The Department of Defence declared the Jeanie Johnston unsuitable because of her lack of speed, her required crew size of 11 and her inability to participate in tall ships races. No alternative operator was found until mid-2010, when Galway-based company Aiseanna Mara Teoranta was appointed to operate the ship as a museum. As of 2010, the ship is not in seagoing condition.
Replica SpecificationsJeanie Johnston:
Type: Three Masted Barque
Built: 2002, Blennerville, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Homeport: Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Sparred Length: 154 ft (47 m)
Length on deck: 123 ft (37 m)
Beam: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Draft: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Rig Height: 92 ft (28 m)
Displacement: 510 tons
Sail Area: 6,943 sq ft (645.0 m2)
Number of sails and material: 18; Duradon
Length of rope used in rigging: 3,280 ft (1,000 m)
Wooden materials used: Oak frames, larch planking, iroko and Douglas fir decks, and Douglas fir masts and spars