Asgard chef at home in Greencastle 16.09.08
head chef of the ill-fated Asgard II has described
his relief that nobody drowned when the ship sank
last week in the Bay of Biscay.
Kevin O'Leary who has worked on the sail training
ship for the last four years, was on shore leave
last Thursday when he heard the news that the vessel
had sunk off the coast of France.
"I was at home in Greencastle and was just about to
go out the door, when a neighbour rang me up and
said 'you're boat just sank'," said Kevin, as he
reflected on the fact he is now out of a job.
He was due to join the ship this Thursday in La
Rochelle but is now waiting to hear from
headquarters about what is to happen next.
The 47-year old was a
year into his second three-year contract as Asgard
chef and had disembarked on July 22 for a four-week
Ironically, the ship's last landfall in Ireland was
in Greencastle when it arrived to take part in the
Tall Ships race in July.
Minnesota-born Kevin who has rented a 450-year old
cottage at Poundtown, Greencastle, for 19 years,
said it was one of the best places he has ever
worked. He has long years of experience working in
the fishing industry including Greencastle.
"I've been a sea cook nearly all my
I've worked in Arctic
Norway, Alaska and Iceland but the Asgard was an
amazing ship. We were all very well trained but we
also had great fun."
The brigantine floundered in the early hours of last
Thursday and finally sank around 7.25am Irish time.
She had earlier been abandoned after taking on
The five crew and 20 trainees escaped in the ship's
Kevin said he took part in a major safety check on
board the ship on July 12.
"We checked absolutely everything that day. We went
through all the safety gear to make sure everything
was in perfect working order. Thank God we did all
He has high praise for the ship's captain, Colm
Newport whom he describes as a "maritime genius".
"That guy is so smart and is one of the best seamen
I've ever worked with. It was a text-book evacuation
and nobody got hurt."
Reading from his sea journal, Kevin outlines the
last meals he cooked in the Asgard's small galley
kitchen. "I cooked a big breakfast for everyone.
Lunch was a chicken puff pastry pie with garlic
potatoes, salad, coleslaw and fresh bread; dinner
was Norwegian pork, spuds, stuffing and there was
also prawns and other fish. Dessert was a peach
crumble." He laughs at how he would receive a yell
from the deck 'we're going to tack (change
direction)' that would warn him to secure his
simmering pots, pans and baking trays.
He says he will have to build up his professional
equipment again after his two cleavers, sharpening
stone, his whites, chef shoes and stereo went down
to the seabed with her. "But it's just stuff."
Meanwhile, he has great praise for the 27-year old
Asgard II and all who sailed on her.
"It is a tremendous loss to the people of Ireland
and the world to lose her because she was a one-off,
there was no other ship like her. She was a great
ambassador for Ireland and she served her country
well. It is very sad that she is gone."
But he is philosophical about his own future. "I've
had the wheels fall off the wagon many times. If I
ask myself, what's the worst thing that can happen,
I can say 'well I've seen that'," he says, referring
to the loss of three siblings to cancer.
He also jokes that he will now have plenty of time
to work on the renovation of an old cottage he
bought years ago in Redcastle. As for work, he says
'something always turns up' although if anyone out
there needs a chef with great sea legs...