The sailing tjalk Bona Spes is reputed to have been built in the Netherlands in 1908. She was motorised with an MVM 12 cylinder engine and was brought to Ireland via England under her own power in 1988 by John Dunne. He then converted her for use as a tour hotel under the company name Shannon Barge Line.
The tour went from Strokestown Park House to Athlone over seven days. This extract from the promotional brochure gives a flavour of the facilities that were available when she was for hire. “The 10-passenger Bona Spes is the largest quality vessel capable of navigating the Upper Shannon River and newly renovated Ballinamore Canal. Captain John Dunne a capable and inspiring Irishman, has an immense knowledge of the Emerald Isle and is assisted by an accomplished chef and crew who prepare sumptuous, traditional and international dishes all drawn from fresh, local produce and accompanied by fine wine.
Bona Spes is best described as first class rather than luxurious as four of her five cabins have bunks rather than a lower bed. The compact cabins all have en-suite facilities and there is a spacious deck-level saloon with picture windows as well as an equally large dining room below decks and two sun-decks.”
It was subsequently sold to Liam Finnegan who continued it as the Bona Spes Hotel Barge.
In 2000 the Carlow Nationalist reported on the Lough Ree environment School: “It is this environment which lured the party to voyage with dick Warner on Liam Finnegan’s barge Bona Spes, on this magnificent July morning, with the swans gliding along Ballyclare Lake into Lough Ree, and the ducks flying overhead. So tranquil.”
In late 2006 it was purchased by John Connon, who started on a radical refurbishment programme to turn it into a luxury liveaboard and she is now moored in Carrick-on –Shannon.