Seeing the images of the current Galway-Aran freighter Blath na Mara (translation ‘Flowers of the Sea’ – ie seaweed!), perplexed me as I had a huge stab of recognition, but could not recollect where I knew her from and her name I didn’t recognise.
Nor did I know her previous name Mamaia, which has Turkish or Middle Eastern echoes. There isn’t much about her on the web and none of it helped. And then a distant memory resurfaced after 15 years or so of neglect… I had seen this ship or one just like her in Norway.
She is distinctive in appearance. One year’s Lloyds Register had her as a supply tender, but she is a quarter the size of an oil rig vessel and with a big derrick for self-unloading, not needed on a rig boat. Then at last I remembered where it was I’d seen her. She had passed me in the beautiful Lukksund in SW Norway which separates the island of Tysnes from the Norwegian mainland and is a short cut between the inner Hardangerfjord and Stord, Bergen and the West Coast. She had passed down the sound light, but within 24 hours returned with a prestigious deck cargo of several brand new enclosed motor lifeboats and cruise liner dual lifeboat-tenders.
She had collected them from the fjord-side factory of ‘Schat-Harding’ at Ølve on the South side of Hardangerfjord and would be taking them for transhipment, probably to a Nor-Cargo shuttle freighter heading toward Germany where big classy cruise liners were being built. So my memory wasn’t playing tricks.
But more research discovered she was built as one of a small class of sisters at Galati Romania, and I guessed it was a sister the Zenita I had seen which is still at work on the Norwegian coast. Incidentally, I noted on the web that back in 2002 both Mamaia and Zenita were in use together on the Irish Sea. A contract to connect a gas pipeline from Ireland to the Isle of Man required 10,000 tons of steel pipes which Arklow Shipping had brought to Drogheda from Dunkerque. Both Zenita 314,’83 and Mamaia 330,’83 are recorded therein as pipe carriers which duly delivered the pipes from the Town Quay Drogheda in 300 ton lots to Tog Mor, a crane barge which laid them. Mamaia and Zenita each made a return trip per day between Drogheda and Manx waters over a four month period.
It is unlikely to be a pure concidence that not many months after working in the Irish Sea, the Mamaia, name unchanged, was working in Galway Bay and only later renamed Blath na Mara.