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Ships That Sail The Air

a radio feature produced by Lyn Gallacher

There’s a long tradition, or maybe many long traditions, of ships that sail the sky. They’ve been turning up in different parts of the world for around 1000 years. Two of these ancient magical vessels are particularly intriguing: the Broighter Boat from Ireland and the Ales Stenar from Sweden. Both of these ships are connected through poetry to a similar story, where for some reason the air anchor becomes hooked on the ground below. In both cases it means the sky ship cannot sail on and the crew will drown if they are not set free.


Seamus Heaney and Yves Bonnefoy each tell this story in relation to a different ship, but they do not tell us why floating galleons are so strong in our collective imaginations, or why they are a spiritual connection between one world and another. Or maybe they do.

Ship setting Ales Stenar near Ystad, Skane, Southern Sweden, Sweden

Listen to the program here …

Ships that sail the air



Shaun Tan


Roger Wilson


Raymond Watson





Lyn Gallacher, Producer


David Treddinick, Actor

Filed under: radio features, works