THE MV Kestrel of Belfast was a familiar sight on the waters around Enniskillen and Lower Lough Erne during the Summer months as it ran tours of the island town and Devenish Island.
Visitors could sit back, relax and enjoy the views taking in such sites as Enniskillen Castle and Portora Castle, as well the thriving wildlife which lives by the water’s edge before heading out to the Monastic site on Devenish.
Now, however, the familiar vessel, which is owned by Erne Tours, has been stripped back to a metal hulk as work is currently under way to breath new life into the boat.
Stephen Nixon, of Erne Tours, bought the boat in 2006 and had been operating it up until August, 2020 when he suffered an aneurysm which required two brain operations.
His brother, David, who is secretary with the company, said his brother is making good progress in his recovery and, due to the aneurysm and with Covid wreaking havoc, the boat has not been operational since.
“From death’s door, Stephen is making a good recovery.
“As a consequence of that, and with Covid, the boat hasn’t ran in a few years and we decided to get it refurbished.”
With Stephen still recovering, David’s son, Christopher, will take over the running of Erne Tours this season and the MV Kestrel once the work is complete.
Along with Stephen’s family, David says it has been a real family effort to get the project moving.
The cost of the work is estimated at £50,000, according to David and when all is done it will be a boost again for tourism and hospitality in the county which has been severely hampered by Covid.
“Hospitality has been greatly impacted, and the future is uncertain, but at least there will be an iconic landmark in Enniskillen.”
It will also be a boost for Stephen to see the boat back out again, ‘flying’ across the waters once more, as he continues his recovery.
As for a relaunch date, David says Easter time or possibly May, but agrees that when the MV Kestrel finally reenters the water, it will be a huge boost for tourism in Fermanagh.
For further information on the MV Kestrel, and to keep an eye on when it may be back, see the website at ernetours.com.