Cork Harbour tours to make waves

A man who dipped his toe in the adventure boat business after beating cancer hopes to create waves with his new Cork Harbour tour-boat venture linking the city to Cobh.

Ocean Escapes co-founder, Andrew O’Riordan, 30, said he hopes the new business which sets sail tomorrow, and which offers a return rail-link option, will encourage more people to experience the beauty of one of the world’s great harbours: “We are an island nation and we have the second largest natural harbour in the world here in Cork, yet about 90% of the people we bring out on our boats have never been out on the water before.

“I’ve been driving boats since I was eight. I love going out on the water, getting out and having fun, and I hope to share that with our customers.”


In 2011, a year after he got married, Andrew was diagnosed with stage three high-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma and embarked on an intensive six-month regime of intensive chemotherapy.

When he began to feel well enough in 2016, he decided to do something he loved. He co-founded Ocean Escapes and bought his first rib, Saoirse, to take people on high-speed adventure trips around the harbour.

When he got confirmation several months later that he was in full remission, he bought a second rib, Sláinte.

Both ribs are now working flat out, taking up to 1,000 customers a month on sea safaris around Cork Harbour. But Andrew felt there was a gap in the market for larger tours: “It has been tried a few times before but just never caught on — it was the right idea but just launched at the wrong time, or with the wrong boat.”

With backing from Cool Running Events, the team behind Cork on Ice and The Nightmare Realm, and businessman Daniel O’Donoghue, who will operate as Ocean Escapes’ marine engineer and technician, Ocean Escapes is investing €500,000 in the new venture.

They have secured the 72-seater Cailín Óir, the former Cape Clear ferry, on a lease-to-buy option, and following several weeks of trials, it begins its new life tomorrow, sailing from the Port of Cork marina at 11.30am and 4pm and from Cobh at 9am, 2pm, and 6pm, seven days a week until September 2.

Highlights of her 90-minute tour will include Blackrock Castle, Haulbowline Naval Base, Spike Island, Roche’s Point Lighthouse, and Camden Fort Meagher, with onboard guides explaining the harbour’s maritime history.

Prices start from €16, with the boat and rail option priced at €25. Family deals are available.

The head of Visit Cork, Seamus Heaney, said services like this will open up new markets and help retain tourists and cruise passengers in Cork when they arrive at the Cobh cruise terminal.

Cork Business Association CEO, Lawrence Owens, also welcomed the service, saying there has been a huge demand from the business community for a tourism offering that connects the city with Cobh, to tap into the huge potential that the cruise market offers.

About 100,000 cruise ship passengers and 40,000 crew arrive in Cobh annually. Figures show the passengers spend an average of €73 a day while on shore.

Meanwhile, Fáilte Ireland has announced €300,000 in funding for St Mary’s Collegiate Church, the Old Cork Waterworks, Fota House, and Cork Public Museum from its new Storytelling Interpretation Grants Scheme. It is expected to lead to new resources at the visitor attractions, including video and interactive technology.


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