The 17-metre, steel-hulled Celtic Mist was gifted to the group by the Haughey family and sailed to its new home in Kilrush last July.
The yacht is undergoing a customised refit in preparation for its return to sea as a maritime research vessel.
When the group took possession of the vessel, it had been estimated that the refit project would cost about €60,000, while between €20,000 and €30,000 a year would be required to operate it.
Following a fundraising effort and receiving LEADER programme money, the group confirmed it has secured €47,900 in funding, which accounts for the 75% it was eligible for.
Following a lengthy tender and evaluation process, which attracted bids from England and Scotland and from around Ireland, a contractor has been appointed and work has commenced.
Group co-ordinator Simon Berrow said: “This funding is critical to the success of this project but we still have to raise the other 25%, which works out at about €17,000.
“We have a lot of work to carry out on the yacht before we can take it out for research. It has already been lifted from the water and the refitting is well underway in the dry-dock.”
The RV Celtic Mist will be used for research and surveying whales, basking sharks, dolphins and other marine wildlife in Irish waters. It will also be used for training people to carry out marine surveys.
“Cathal Blunnie from Doonbeg is the main contractor and he has a number of sub-contractors, including our electrician Tom Hand from Dingle, which is good because we are maintaining that strong link Celtic Mist had with Kerry,” said Dr Berrow.
The group hopes to relaunch the yacht in May. One of its first engagements will be a cruise to the edge of the continental shelf in the summer to search for offshore bottlenose dolphins and fin whales.
Dr Berrow said: “The biggest job is to recaulk the wooden teak deck and to convert the ‘admiral’s’ cabin, formerly used by Charles Haughey, from a double bunk, bath and shower to a skipper’s single cabin and two additional berths.”