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Asgard chef at home in Greencastle 16.09.08

THE Greencastle-based 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 holiday.
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
Kevin O'Leary
working life.
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 water.
The five crew and 20 trainees escaped in the ship's life-rafts.
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 that.
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...
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