A Cork teenager has been welcomed home to a very different world by his parents after almost a month at sea.
Conor Walsh set sail on the tall ship SV Tenacious as part of a volunteer crew, back in early March.
The Jubilee Sailing Trust ship can be sailed by a mixed ability crew, including people with a wide variety of physical impairments and health conditions. It is currently the only ship in the world of its kind.
Conor, who’s from Crosshaven, was one of eight Irish teenagers on board the vessel, who were brought safely back to Cork on Tuesday.
The group left Ireland for Antigua via the UK by plane on March 7. The ship's original route was due to be from Antigua to Greece, stopping in Gibraltar. However, the ship had to divert due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They had been due to divert to the UK, but managed to stop off in Cork first.
Captain of the Tenacious Simon Caterson said: “The health and safety of our crew is always of paramount importance, and getting our crew home safely was of course our priority as we completed our transatlantic voyage with our mixed ability crew.
“That's why we decided to make a short stop in Cork, Ireland so that our eight sail trainees from Ireland, all aged 16, were able to get home as quickly and as safely as possible.” The Port of Cork facilitated the ship, and the students were brought ashore at Kennedy Pier in Cobh at around lunchtime on Tuesday.
Conor’s parents Sue and Nick Walsh were waiting for him. They said they were delighted to have him home: “It’s a major relief to not have him land in the UK with more exposure to the virus,” Sue said.
The group were aware of what was happening, but had very little phone coverage to gain a full understanding of the situation in Ireland.
“They’ve been isolated now for four weeks. They were probably the only people coping in the country. They were a bit freaked out by everybody backing away from them when they came on shore,” she added.
Conor’s father Nick thanked the Port of Cork for facilitating the students’ return.
“It went like clockwork, it was very good. They came in in twos and threes on the pilot boat,” he said.
The family have had a busy few days, as their company Acme Blinds in Blackpool started making face-shields on Monday, following a deep-clean of their business over the weekend.
“It’s great to be busy, and it’s great to be doing something positive. Sitting at home wasn’t sitting well with us,” Nick said.