Having a boat with a holding tank and no bypass system, we take a keen interest in the availability of pump-outs on the Shannon. We used that at Dromineer before heading upriver, but then found that:
- that at Castle Harbour, Portumna, seemed to have disappeared, probably as part of the harbour renovations; no doubt it will return eventually
- that at Banagher was not working. There was no notice to say so and the Waterways Ireland patroller who visited the harbour was not aware of the fact. We notified WI but a repair team did not arrive
- that at Shannonbridge was blocked by a private cruiser. A hire-boat tried to use the pump-out but the hose would not stretch to any position other than that occupied by the private boat. The hire-boat folk even tried to tie their boat to span the gap between the cruiser and the boat behind it, but the hose would not stretch far enough
- at Athlone the pump-out on an outside hammerhead pontoon had been disconnected as the berth was now allocated to a trip boat. There was a pump-out at the inner end of the pontoon fingers but, while it might be possible to get in safely, getting out would have been pretty well impossible without hitting someone else’s boat.
We were not inconvenienced by this: we went to Quigley’s at Killinure and got pumped out there. But I was struck by the fact that the only other boats we saw trying to use the pump-outs were hire boats, so I looked at the Carrick Craft Captain’s Handbook [PDF/Flipbook] where I found, on page 8, that hirers are given pretty definitive advice about using their holding tanks and the pump-outs:
All boats are equipped with holding tanks for sewage. Tanks should only be emptied at pump-out stations. It should be noted that it is illegal to dispose of sewage overboard. Never moor alongside pump-out stations for longer than required to empty the holding tank.
There is more detailed advice on page 26.
The poor benighted foreigners take all of this seriously, not realising that, in Ireland, illegality is no reason not to do something — an instance perhaps of what Brian Lucey called a “preference for discretion“. But the point is that those I saw were taking considerable trouble to obey the Irish laws and were being frustrated in doing so. It seems unfair that they should waste an hour or so in trying to get a pump-out — or should endanger themselves in trying to get near the pump.
- hirers might be advised to use the facilities at IBRA bases as much as possible, but not to rely on being able to do so on change-over day
- Waterways Ireland patrollers might check the condition of pump-outs (and other harbour facilities) when checking boat numbers; they might report to the appropriate engineers
- keeping pump-out locations free at all times would be a waste of space, but they might have markings asking boaters to move when someone does want to use the facilities
- the operators of the Athlone marina might be asked to put a pump-out on an outside berth.
Oh, and folk might be advised not to swim in harbours ….