Non-WI workboats means workboats other than those in the Waterways Ireland fleet, which is already covered here.
This is not a complete listing: for example, there are no Corrib boats, no Lough Neagh eel-fishing boats and not enough of the work-boats used by various marinas and boatyards. The listing does not include hire-boats; nor does it include ex-working boats that have been converted for use as pleasure or residential boats. And the listing of trip-boats does not purport to be either accurate or complete: the focus here is on the boats, not on their current services. However, I will happily correct anything I’ve got wrong: please leave a comment at the bottom of the page if necessary.
Update January 2013
Update 1 December 2011
There are some photos of small workboats (several from Wexford) here, dredging the Shannon in Limerick.
Updates 5 August 2010
I’ve added better photos of Shannon Princess and Spirit of Lough Derg, a (possible) additional cattle ferry and new photos of the skippered charter boat Travel Blue and the Carrybridge Boat Co’s workboat. As you’ll see, several pics were taken by people other than myself; I’m happy to add such photos to try to make this listing as comprehensive as possible. Anyone up on L Neagh and the Bann with a camera?
Update 6 May 2010
Added two photos of Cadhla, the new trip-boat on the Grand Canal in Dublin, courtesy of Beth O’Loughlin.
Update 5 May 2010
Added the new Killaloe trip-boat Spirit of Lough Derg.
Joe Carroll has photos of some WI (and other) workboats on his site on this and other pages.
Update November 2009
Some extra photos of workboats on the Erne; many thanks to Tina of Wasserrausch, who took them in September 2009.
Minor update 22 September 2009
Princess Marcel II added.
Minor update 2 September 2009
I’ve corrected the description of a small ESB workboat and moved it to the appropriate section.
Update 26 July 2009
I’ve added a cattle ferry under Freight, half of the Shannon Queen under Hotel boats, a Carrickcraft dory under Small workboats, two Athlone-based Trip boats, two boats used for research under Environmental bodies and, er, two 4WD vehicles under Rescue boats.
If you just want to skip to the new vessels, get your browser to search for “July 2009”.
Updated 5 June 2009 to add the Holy Island ferry (Lough Derg) and to mention the River Run trip-boat in Athlone: the boat was formerly the Sliabh-an-Iarainn Sunset.
Updated 8 June 2009 to add a better photo of the St Ciaran and some extra information.
Updated 16 June 2009 to add two more boats and a link.
Updated 25 June 2009 to add several photos of workboats, mostly from the Erne, kindly supplied by Tina from Wasserrausch. Her website has material on Irish waterways in both English and German, and lots of photos. The copyright in those used here is owned by Wasserrausch and I am very grateful to Tina for permitting me to use them. The photos include three Lough Erne ferries, five photos of workboats on the Erne and two photos of boats used by environmental bodies.
There are no freight-carrying vessels on Irish inland waterways — but there are some cattle-carriers.
Cattle ferry on the Shannon below Shannonbridge
This vessel is towed by a lake-boat. Once we met it after the lakeboat’s engine had broken down; several cruisers were attempting to assist.
Cattle ferry on Lough Ree (July 2009)
I photographed the next one at the upstream end of Sally Island (above Portumna) in July 2010. I’m guessing that it’s a cattle ferry; if anyone knows for sure, I’d be glad to learn more.
Thanks to Euroloot, they have something rather more sophisticated on the Upper Erne.
Islander cattle ferry on Upper Lough Erne
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds manages several islands on Lough Erne; its work includes moving cattle on and off the islands. Here is its cattle ferry.
And here’s a hay-carrier.
Hay being loaded at Dromineer
This dumb barge was loaded with hay, to be hauled across the lake to Co Clare by 68M, to mark Heritage Week some years ago. This boat, ESB No 2, and its sister-ship, were used by Siemens in building the power-station at Ardnacrusha and were later bought by the ESB. Both are now in the hands of 68M’s owner Gerry Burke.
Here is 45M, one of the last three ex-Grand Canal Company motor-barges that still have Bolinder engines, and one of only two that are unconverted.
And this is thought to be the last of the Guinness Liffey barges still afloat. The wheelhouse is not original and the engine-room has been shortened; it has a Rolls-Royce engine and its characteristic worm steering gear. Fitted with a dragline on the bow, it spent many years excavating sand from the bed of the River Suir.
Former Guinness Liffey barge on the Suir in Waterford
This boat was bought by the Garda Siochana, the Irish police force, to combat all sorts of evilitude that was allegedly occurring on the River Shannon. There will be a reward of a bottle of German beer for anyone who can produce a cost-benefit analysis for this vessel, taking account of the cost of purchase, maintenance and staffing of the vessel on the one hand and the number of crimes solved or prevented (if any) on the other. In July 2012 the boat was being used in Galway Bay for some purpose not entirely clear; there is an account here.
Garda boat at Athlone
This boat belongs to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and is seen here at Enniskillen on Lough Erne.
PSNI boat at Enniskillen
This is one of the two hulls on which a static floating hotel, called the Shannon Queen, was erected in Athlone. The two hulls were Dutch barges; the hotel had 22 bedrooms, a 150-person function room, kitchens and a bar. It operated as a hotel from 1968 to 1971 and was then a floating pub for some time. This hull is below Killaloe. The Athlone Live forum [which seems to be no longer extant] had a discussion of its history.
Half of the Shannon Queen
And this next photo is, I believe, of the second half, in the Inner Lakes above Athlone.
The second half of the Shannon Queen in the Inner Lakes (July 2009)
There were several floating, moving hotel boats: one fleet, Weaver Boats, was based on Grand Canal Company M-boats (like 45M above) and another on former Shannon tugs and imported hulls. Neither fleet is still in operation. Nor is the Bona Spes.
The first Shannon Princess
It was replaced by a larger boat that was originally built as a trip-boat for Lough Ree and was called the MV Goldsmith.
Shannon Princess behind a wall
Shannon Princess: looking towards the bow
Shannon Princess: looking towards the stern
Shannon Princess: the stern
Travel Blue is not really a hotel boat: it’s a skippered charter boat, based on Lough Ree. Here it is entering Portrunny. Watching its skipper berthing this massive vessel was an education.
I believe that this was the Flagship floating restaurant and fuel station in Lanesborough at the head of Lough Ree on the Shannon. It has since been removed.
The Flagship, no longer a floating restaurant
The longest-established floating restaurant operation is the Galley, operating from New Ross on the Barrow and sometimes from Waterford on the Suir; cruises also include the Nore. They provide one of the few ways (apart from bringing your own boat) of seeing these very scenic waterways.
At the time these photos were taken, one of the boats, the St Brendan, was out of action, but the St Ciaran is still in use. Both boats had been run by CIE (the state transport authority) on the Shannon in previous years, and played an important role in keeping the navigation open.
The St Ciaran was originally the Wroxham Belle; there’s a photo at the bottom of the Thames Excursion Boats page on the Simplon Postcards website.
The pontoon to which the St Ciaran is moored, and which provides storage, offices and other facilities, was the Rocksand, one of the fleet owned by Dowleys of Carrick-on-Suir. There is more about Dowleys on the Middle Suir page.
Rocksand when working for Dowleys (photo courtesy Brendan Cleary)
In Dublin, La Peniche is a restaurant on the specially-built barge Riasc, which potters along a stretch of the Grand Canal.
La Peniche on Riasc, chained in the middle of the canal
The community barges
This is an odd category: half in and half out of the control of Waterways Ireland. The story began when the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht was set up in 1993. The Waterways and Heritage Services of the Office of Public Works were transferred to the new department in 1996 and the enthusiastic Labour minister, Michael D Higgins, set up a scheme under which four barges were offered to community groups along the waterways, for conversion (thus creating local employment) into community assets. My impression — and I invite correction on this if I am wrong — is that less attention was given to how the barges were to be managed and used once converted, and indeed to what demand there might be for the services the barges might offer. There also seem to have been some practical difficulties with the design for at least two of the boats.
Three of the boats were ex-Grand Canal Company motor-barges (like 45M and 63M above). One, 31M, went to a group at Clondalkin, near Dublin; the project received £70 000 of structural funds under the EU Operational Programme for Tourism 1994–1999. The hull was repaired but no conversion work was done and the boat was handed back to the waterways service (by then Waterways Ireland) in 2003. It is tied to the bank above Landenstown (17th Lock) on the Grand Canal.
31M at Landenstown
A second, 48M, was allocated to a community project at Shannon Harbour and was converted there between 1996 and 2003, becoming licensed to carry 50 passengers and a crew of three. However, it seems that no use was found for the boat, and it too was handed back to Waterways Ireland, which stores it in Tullamore Harbour.
48M at Shannon Harbour
The third of the ex-Grand Canal Company motor-barges, 54M, was allocated to Athy Community Council, which completed the conversion by 2000. By that stage, the project had received over £100,000, according to the then-minister speaking in the Dáil on 5 April 2000; on 27 February 2001 she said that a further £20,000 was allocated for 2001. The boat ran trips on the canal for several years but lay idle after that: it was not licensed to work on the scenic River Barrow, but has now been adapted to meet the Department of the Marine’s specifications.
54M in Athy after its first round of conversion
The last of the four was Royal Canal Float No 3, whose restoration was already contemplated by the Killucan branch of the Royal Canal Amenity Group. The hull was completed by 2002 and the boat was returned to the water, with fitting out completed by 2004, but further work is now under way. This boat is thought to have started its life as a horse-drawn boat on the Grand Canal and transferred to the Royal as a maintenance boat; it never had an engine during its original working life.
Float No 3 at Thomastown on the Royal Canal
Although Ireland’s lakes are so large, there are few public ferries, although one may be set up on Lough Corrib. Some years ago this attractive little boat ran a combined ferry-and-trip-boat service at the upper end of Lough Derg; it would be nice to see it restored.
MV Kestrel on Lough Derg
Holy Island ferry (on the left)
This ferry is owned by the Hare Krishna community on Inis Rath on Lough Erne.
The Hare Krishna ferry
The commuity also uses a rowing boat: here, a visitor to the island is being rowed to the shore.
Rowing a visitor to shore
I am indebted to Tina from Wasserrausch for photos of three more ferries on Lough Erne.
Lusty Beg ferry 1 2006 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
Lusty Beg ferry 2 2006 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
White Island ferry 2006 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
This chain ferry crosses the King’s Channel to serve Waterford Castle on the tidal section of the River Suir. The Castle is now a hotel and the island has a golf course, but to inland waterways enthusiasts it will be remembered as the place where Hugh Malet ended his Voyage in a Bowler Hat.
Waterford Castle car ferry
And, while we’re in the area, this car ferry runs between Passage East and Ballyhack on the lower reaches of the Suir estuary.
Passage East car ferry
The Lough Neagh sand trade
Sand was extracted from many Irish rivers in the past, but the trade has now come to an end except on Lough Neagh, in Northern Ireland, where the largest inland vessels on the island are employed in taking sand from the bed of the lake.
The sand barge Rams Island with its suction hose raised
A load of sand heading for the shore
Water is pumped in to form a slurry that can then be pumped out
Those photos were of the sand barge Rams Island; here is one of the William James, also in the Scotts fleet and based at the Scotts sand quay in Sandy Bay.
Sand barge William James at Scotts sand quay
Scotts is not the only fleet; here are some photos from the quays on the north-western end of the lake, west of Toome. There are many abandoned vessels here, some of them buried in sand.
A distant view of the sand quay
Some of the fleet, bows on
Sand barge at sunset
Here are some boats that don’t fit easily into other categories. The Enterprise 96E is the Floating Theatre, conducting workshops for schools near the waterways, with performances under a canopy on deck.
The Enterprise 96E
The Naomh Eanna is a former Aran Islands ferry, now moored in the Grand Canal Docks at Ringsend and accommodating a watersports training school called Surfdock.
The Naomh Eanna
The next boat is used by Shannon Safari to provide training; it is based in Athlone.
Shannon Safari training cruiser (July 2009)
Here are some small workboats from around the waterways. I don’t know who owns or operates this one, from the Erne.
Unidentified workboat on the Erne
And here’s another Erne mystery. Who or what is Erne Recovery?
Erne Recovery in Enniskillen
And while we’re thinking about the Erne, here’s Big Red, a workboat that belongs to the Aghinver Boat Company, a cruiser-hire firm on Lough Erne. It is seen here at Tarmonbarry on the Shannon, alongside a small dumb barge.
Aghinver Boat Company workboat
This dumb barge at Tarmonbarry was being used to make a loading quay.
A barge becomes a quay at Tarmonbarry
Tina of Wasserrausch has kindly supplied five photos of workboats on Lough Erne, including another of Big Red (above).
Big Red and little sister 2009 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
Aghinver working barge 2005 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
Unidentified Erne workboat 2008 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
Driving from inside 2008 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
Workboat at The Moorings on the Erne 2008 (copyright Tina of Wasserrausch)
I don’t know who owns this aluminium workboat at the patent slip in Killaloe.
Here is Pat Lysaght in his workboat dory in Limerick.
Pat Lysaght’s workboat
This boat is used by the Emerald Star cruiser-hire firm at Portumna on the Shannon: I think it’s a floating breakdown van.
Emerald Star workboat
Here is the equivalent boat from Carrickcraft, probably based at Carrick-on-Shannon. It was involved in the rescue described here.
Carrickcraft dory at Dromod (July 2009)
Here is a boat used by the Boyne Navigation Branch of the IWAI in its work on the restoration of this lovely navigation.
Boyne Navigation workboat
And here is the workboat owned by the Dublin Branch of the IWAI; more info on the boat here. When last seen, it was under water, suspended by its ropes from a pontoon in the Grand Canal Docks in Ringsend.
The IWAI Dublin workboat
The IWAI workboat’s twin 30hp Honda outboards
Robert McClean has kindly supplied three photos of his Carrybridge Boat Co’s tough little workboat based at Carrybridge on Lough Erne. Robert says:
This boat was bought brand new around 1973, originally fitted with a Johnston 70. Subsequently fitted with a secondhand Evinrude 70, and more recently has been fitted with a brand new Yamaha 90 in 2-stroke configuration. This boat still in original gelcoat, has never been stored anywhere other than out in the open, both summer and winter, and its condition is testament to my opinion that contemporary glassfibre boats are not of equal quality to these earlier
This same vessel is still in commercial use today serving in its role as an ultra successful recovery craft. In spite of its light weight this boat has been seldom defeated even by the most stubbornly grounded heavy craft.
The ESB fleet
The ESB (Electricity Supply Board) operates the Parteen Villa Weir and the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power-stationwith its lock, headrace and tailrace. It has a small fleet of vessels to help it do its work.
One of them is an ex-Grand Canal Company motor-barge, 62M, seen here in its trading days alongside the Knocknagow (another of the Dowleys fleet: see Rocksand above) in Waterford.
62M alongside Knocknagow in Waterford (photo courtesy Brendan Cleary)
62M sank in the tailrace below Ardnacrusha in 1951 and CIE, which had taken over the operations of the Grand Canal Company, decided it didn’t need the boat any more (commercial carrying ceased in 1960); it therefore handed it over to the ESB, which used it as a workboat. It actually sank in the tailrace a second time in 1986, but happily was raised again.
62M at Ardnacrusha
62M in Killaloe
The ESB also owns a big barge whose name and function I don’t know. Here it is on the far side of the river, tied outside the former marble mill in Killaloe.
The big barge in Killaloe
Here’s one end of the big barge in the covered shed outside the ESB’s dry dock in Killaloe. There is an open metal boat tied off it, behind the red-and-white dinghy: it may be hard to see, but it shows up better in the next photo. I think I have seen that boat used in the ESB’s eel-fishing business. ESB controlled the fishery, which has now (I understand) been suspended.
One end of the big barge
The other end of the big barge
ESB owns some pontoons, seen here behind 62M in Killaloe.
Pontoons in autumn
There is also a vessel whose purpose I do not know. If anyone can tell me what it is, please leave a comment.
Unexplained vessel 1, with some sort of pontoon behind it
Unexplained vessel 2
Unexplained vessel 3
This tough-looking workboat is used on the river, upstream of Portumna, although it’s seen here in the Shannon Sailing marina at Dromineer.
ESB river workboat at Dromineer
Finally, the ESB owns a tough little tug, seen here at Parteen Villa Weir.
The ESB tug at Parteen Villa Weir
It goes like the clappers.
The ESB tug heads for Killaloe
The first three photos are kindly supplied by Tina of Wasserrausch, who owns the copyright.
Northern Ireland Environment Agency workboat at Castle Archdale 2009
The next photo was taken in September 2009, by which stage the boat had been named Molaise III.
Here is the southern equivalent.
Environmental Protection Agency workboat at Quigleys Marina in Athlone 2008
Members of the Lough Derg Science Group use two cruisers in their work.
RV Levitstown (Lough Derg Science Group) (July 2009)
RV Trinity (Lough Derg Science Group) (July 2009)
Finally, here are some of the trip boats operating on Irish inland waterways. Again, some boats are absent; if I get to their waterways, I’ll take photos and add them here.
This is a not-very-good photo taken from the MV Joyce Too, which operates on the River Lagan in Belfast. Unfortunately we were too busy taking photos from the boat to take a photo of the boat itself, but its upriver Lagan trip was very enjoyable. This photo was taken at the junction between the Lagan itself and the canal section of the Lagan Navigation.
MV Joyce Too on the Lagan
Staying in Northern Ireland, here is the Inishcruiser based at the SHARE centre on Lough Erne.
Inishcruiser at the Share Centre on Lough Erne
This next vessel was also at the SHARE Centre; it may have been an older trip-boat.
Unidentified trip-boat or ferry at Share Centre
The Kestrel runs trips to Devenish Island, and elsewhere, from Enniskillen.
MV Kestrel at Devenish on Lough Erne
The Lady of the Lake runstrips from Manor House Marina on Lower Lough Erne.
Lady of the Lake
The Lagan Belle provided cruises on three miles of the Lagan Navigation at Lisburn. The service ceased in 2006.
The Lagan Belle at Lisburn
The Sliabh an Iarainn Sunset provided trips on the Shannon–Erne Waterway from Ballinamore but does so no longer. However, the boat itself is now part of the Moon River (see below) fleet and operates the River Run service from Athlone (see below).
The Gertie ran trips on the same waterway from Keshcarrigan, owned by the publican who also ran Gertie’s Bar. The boat has been tied up in Shannon Harbour for many years, during which I don’t think it has moved. You can read about its construction here.
Gertie at Shannon Harbour
The Moon River runs trips out of Carrick-on-Shannon.
Moon River 1
Moon River 2
In Athlone, Viking Tours run this boat.
Viking trip-boat based in Athlone
Here is the River Run from Athlone.
River Run passing Lough Ree YC near Athlone (July 2009)
This next boat runs Barracuda Boat Trips from Athlone. Note that Shannon Safari also runs trips out of Athlone but I didn’t see their trip boat. Their training boat is included above under Miscellany.
Barracuda at Killinure above Athlone (July 2009)
Downriver, Silver Line run the River Queen out of Banagher.
River Queen at Shannonbridge
The next photo may be of River Queen’s predecessor, seen on the hard at Banagher.
Retired trip boat at Banagher
On Lough Derg, the Ku-ee-tu, a former tender to the QE2, runs trips from Dromineer. It’s seen here at sunset at Garrykennedy.
Ku-ee-tu in Garrykennedy on Lough Derg
And at the southern end of Killaloe, the Spirit of Killaloe operates.
Spirit of Killaloe
She now has a new sister-ship, a fast trip-boat called Spirit of Lough Derg, which is licensed to travel through Ardnacrusha. So if you want to go through the deepest lock in These Islands, without risking (or possessing) your own boat, you can now do so.
MV Maeve on the Munster Blackwater
On the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal, Saoirse ar an Uisce (Freedom on the Water) is based at Monasterevan. Built originally for the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary at Moore Abbey in Monasterevan, it received £30000 of National Lottery Funding. It was designed to be wheelchair-accessible throughout. It may now be operating from Tullamore on the main line of the Grand Canal.
Saoirse ar an Uisce at the Bell Harbour in Monasterevan
The Princess Marcel II was operated out of Lowtown, at the junction of the Main Line and Barrow Line of the Grand Canal, for some time, but has not run in the past few years.
On the Grand Canal in Dublin, Cadhla has joined her sister-ship Riasc. According to Irish Ship and Barge Fabrication, the boat will operate mainly from Charlemont Place, where there is a stop on the LUAS tram line, but also from Mespil Road. You can read about the plans here and here. Note that barges on the Grand Canal were not owned by Guinness: the Grand Canal Company’s motor-barges carried the black liquid, although Guinness did run its own fleet on the River Liffey (see above). Here are two photos kindly supplied by Beth O’Loughlin.
DUKW in Dublin