Waterways Ireland workboats

The photographs on this page are of various Waterways Ireland workboats. Waterways Ireland is the body that runs seven waterways on the island of Ireland:

  • one river in Northern Ireland (the Lower Bann)
  • one lake-and-river system that is mostly in Northern Ireland (the Erne)
  • two canals in Ireland (the republic), the Grand and the Royal
  • one river in the republic, the Barrow
  • one lake-and-river system, the Shannon, whose navigable reaches are entirely in the republic
  • one lake-and-river-and-canal system, the Shannon–Erne Waterway, that crosses, and in parts forms, the border between the republic and Northern Ireland.

I haven’t got photos of all Waterways Ireland vessels (and I have none whatsoever from the Bann), so I’ll add to this page as I get more photos. In the meantime ….

Update August 2018

Two additions.

Update July 2010

Five new photos added: search the page for “July 2010”.

Update May 2010

Added some pics of the Inishee before and after its refit at Shannon Sailing in Dromineer.

Joe Carroll has photos of some WI (and other) workboats on his site on this and other pages.

Update November 2009

Thanks to Tina from Wasserrausch for a photo of the Inish Davar with two other boats alongside.

Update 26 July 2009

I’ve added some extra boats at the bottom of the page under Shannon: engineering.

Update 20 June 2009

Tina from Wasserrausch has very kindly supplied photos of some of the workboats I hadn’t covered. 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 usse them.

Waterways Ireland have kindly supplied photos of their new North Shannon workboat Inis Cealtra; again, the copyright remains with Waterways Ireland. I learned from their press release that they have over sixty vessels altogether, so clearly this page has a long way to go! If you are really, really interested in this vessel, see my page of detailed photos here.

Grand Canal

This is the modern type of canal weed-cutting boat, with a conveyor belt to carry the cut weed on to the vessel. It also has a bow-thruster.

Modern canal weed-boat 1

Modern canal weed-boat 1

Here is the stern of the boat.

Modern canal weed-boat 2

Modern canal weed-boat 2

Note the twin hydraulically-driven screws, which apparently don’t pick up much detritus but can be tilted up to be cleared if necessary.

Modern canal weed-boat 3

Modern canal weed-boat 3

Here’s another canal work-boat, this one seen on the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal, just below the lock at Monasterevan. I have no idea what it does or how it does it.

Mysterious gadget

Mysterious gadget

This is a slightly older design, seen at Hazelhatch.

An older design

An older design

These much-older models look like pond-skaters or other beetles when they’re working. We passed them at lunchtime, between Lowtown and Ticknevin, in 2004.

Three weed-boats

Three weed-boats

Here a tracked excavator is being used to dredge the canal above Tullamore, dropping the material into a small barge.

Dredging near Tullamore

Dredging near Tullamore

Here are two of those small barges together.

Two small barges

Two small barges

Waterways Ireland does own several full-size barges, notably ex-Grand Canal Company (GCC) motor barges, but doesn’t use them. Some are stored under water in Tullamore but the “carpenter’s boat” is afloat in the Grand Canal Dock at Ringsend.

The carpenter's boat

The carpenter’s boat

River Barrow

I have only one photo of workboats on the Barrow, and it’s some years old, but it did capture three workboats at the Waterways Ireland depot at Fenniscourt.

Workboats at Fenniscourt

Workboats at Fenniscourt

The vessel on the left is, I think, an inspection launch. The one in the middle is ex-GCC motor barge 77M with its bow cut down and a Priestman “dredger” mounted on it; it seems not to have been used for some years. The boat on the right is a workboat a bit like WB2 (qv): a platform with a large engine.

Erne and Shannon–Erne Waterway

Tina of Wasserrausch has very kindly supplied these photos.

The Erne Warden's RIB in 2008

The Erne Warden’s RIB in 2008 (copyright Wasserrausch)

Here are a WI rib and the inspection launch Eonish (often parked at Leitrim, at the western end of the Shannon–Erne Waterway) escorting a pontoon with ET on it. Or is it a tree-eating dinosaur?

WI RIB and inspection launch on the Shannon–Erne Waterway in 2008

WI RIB and inspection launch on the Shannon–Erne Waterway in 2008 (copyright Wasserrausch)

Here is the workboat Inishfendra at Kilclare on the Shannon–Erne Waterway in August 2018.

Inishfendra at Kilclare August 2018

Here is the Erne-based workboat Inish Davar (which I think was the most recent addition to the fleet before the Inis Cealtra). “Inis” is the Irish for island, by the way, and is often anglicised as “Inish”: Inis Cealtra is also called Holy Island, and it’s on Lough Derg, while Inish Davar is on Lower Lough Erne.

Tina IMG_3030

Inish Davar, a Pioner and another workboat at Portora Lock on Lough Erne

Shannon: Inspectorate

The Inspector of Navigation and his wardens have a small fleet of boats. The Inishee is moored at Athlone Lock, near the Inspector’s office.

Inspector's launch in Athlone

Inspector’s launch in Athlone

Here it is passing down through Athlone Lock to inspect a cruiser that had grounded downriver.

Heading downriver

Heading downriver

And here it is ashore at Shannon Sailing in Dromineer.

Inishee ashore 1

Inishee ashore 2

Inishee after refit

This RIB is kept in the (former) Canal Stores at Dromineer on Lough Derg.

RIB at Dromineer

RIB at Dromineer

And here’s a RIB at Terryglass, also on Lough Derg.

RIB at Terryglass

RIB at Terryglass

Shannon engineering

On the North Shannon, Waterways Ireland’s main vessel has been the Fox (113B), a former “bye-trader” or “hack boat” on the Grand Canal: that is, a boat not owned by the Grand Canal Company itself. This is the second Fox, which was the oldest boat in WI’s maintenance fleet; it is now with the scouts at Lanesborough.

Fox at Tarmonbarry

Fox at Tarmonbarry

Fox at Carnadoe Quay

Fox at Carnadoe Quay

Fox under way

Fox under way

Waterways Ireland’s latest vessel (at time of writing: June 2009) is the Inis Cealtra. For people who are really interested, I have a page of photos of details here.

Inis Cealtra in Killybegs

Inis Cealtra in Killybegs (Waterways Ireland 2009)

Waterways Ireland says

Inis Cealtra was designed and built to Waterways Ireland’s specification by Mooney Boats of Killybegs and their naval architects, Marine Design International. The vessel is constructed and certified to the meet the regulatory requirements of the Marine Survey Office (Dept of Transport).

The boat travelled down the west coast and entered the Shannon via the estuary, the sea lock in Limerick and Ardnacrusha lock.

Inis Cealtra approaching the sea lock in Limerick

Inis Cealtra approaching the sea lock in Limerick (Waterways Ireland 2009)

The pusher bow

The pusher bow for moving dumb barges (Waterways Ireland 2009)

Inis Cealtra was built to be able to fit through Ardnacrusha (with care) so she is 22m X 5.6m, with a draught of 0.98m. It has four ballast tanks to allow trim to be adjusted. Low air draught was set to cater for all but extreme high water levels. Power is from twin Caterpillar C3056TA engines: according to the Maritime Journal they develop 185hp at 2,100rpm; conventional shafts and propellers provide a cruising speed of 7 knots and a bollard pull of 3.5 tons. The fuel tanks hold 7400 litres.

Inis Cealtra in Ardnacrusha lock

Inis Cealtra in Ardnacrusha lock (Waterways Ireland 2009)

The boat has an 11m reach Guerra deck crane (20.9 t/m) with Kranskan marine crane safety indicator, twin spud-legs, a hydraulic bow thruster and a Caterpillar 30 kVA generator. A 270 litre air compressor powers air tools in the workshop, which is below the deck. The boat has a toilet and shower; the deckhouse has a kitchen and dining room as well as the wheelhouse.

Inis Cealtra at Killaloe (Waterways Ireland 2009)

Inis Cealtra at Killaloe (Waterways Ireland 2009)

I am grateful to Tina of Wasserrausch for photos of a weed boat at Lecarrow. It is at the end of a short canal off the Shannon and, almost uniquely for the Shannon, does get weed growth in summer: indeed some boat-hire firms tell their customers not to go there during August.

Weed-cutting boat at Lecarrow in 2008 (copyright Wasserrausch)

Weed-cutting boat at Lecarrow in 2008 (copyright Wasserrausch)

Bows on

Bows on (copyright Wasserrausch)

Here is a Berky weed-boat seen in Athlone in July 2010.

Berky weed-cutting boat in Athlone July 2010

The largest vessel in the Waterways Ireland fleet is the Coill-an-Eo, which has been seen everywhere from Limerick to Lanesborough. Here it is installing new pontoon moorings in Shannonbridge in the middle of winter.

Coill-an-Eo at Shannonbridge

Coill-an-Eo at Shannonbridge

Here it is in Limerick …

Coill-an-Eo in Limerick

Coill-an-Eo in Limerick2

… and bows on in Shannonbridge …

Coill-an-Eo bows on

Coill-an-Eo bows on

… and draining the water from its Pioner Multi.

Draining the Multi

Draining the Multi

Here’s the view from the bridge.

The view from the bridge

The view from the bridge

Coill-an-Eo is often accompanied by the workboat WB2, seen here tied alongside.

WB2 alongside Coill-an-Eo

WB2 alongside Coill-an-Eo

WB2 has been painted since then:

WB2 newly painted

WB2 newly painted

WB2 in Dromineer

WB2 in Dromineer

WB2 was working with this pontoon-mounted piledriver, which had been towed to Dromineer by Coill-an-Eo.

Pontoon-mounted piledriver

Pontoon-mounted piledriver

Here is WB2 in Athlone …

WB2 leaving Athlone Lock (July 2010)

… and here’s that pontoon-mounted excavator seen from downriver.

Pontoon-mounted excavator below Athlone (July 2010)

Here is Coill-an-Eo in Limerick with what I call the Swiss Army Knife: it has lots of gadgets, including one for taking stones out of horses’ hooves. WI now has two of them; I’d like to photograph them together some time, but I hate to think what their mating rituals are like: arms everywhere, I should think.

Coill-an-Eo and the Swiss Army Knife

Coill-an-Eo and the Swiss Army Knife

I’m told that the Swiss Army Knife can haul itself out of the water and put itself on the back of a truck. I wouldn’t be surprised if it could make itself a cup of tea once it got there. In the next photo, I think it’s asleep.

The Swiss Army Knife at rest

The Swiss Army Knife at rest

Here it is in Killaloe, about to eat whatever it has captured.

The Swiss Army Knife in Killaloe

The Swiss Army Knife in Killaloe

Here’s a Swiss Army Knife below Carrick-on-Shannon.

Swiss Army Knife below Carrick-on-Shannon (July 2010)

It was being attended by this fast little workboat, which has flashing lights and everything: I suppose it’s the modern equivalent of WB2.

Fast workboat below Carrick-on-Shannon (July 2010)

Have you ever visited the boat-sales website ApolloDuck? And have you wondered why it bears that name? It’s called after a Waterways Ireland workboat, and here it is, with several pontoons, on the Shannon–Erne Waterway.

Apollo Duck

Apollo Duck

But no, I’m afraid I don’t know why the boat bears that name.

Finally, I think that both of the following photos are of the workboat Ferrinch. The first was taken at the WI base at Roosky, but before Waterways Ireland took over; the second was taken on the Shannon–Erne Waterway.



Ferrinch again?

Ferrinch again?

Here is a small platform-type vessel in Munster Harbour.

WI workboat in Munster Harbour

WI workboat in Munster Harbour (June 2009)

And this boat was in the compound at Munster Harbour on the same day. I don’t know whether it’s one of the 60+ fleet; I’m grasping at straws here.

Boat in WI compound

Boat in WI compound (June 2009)

Pioner Multi at Tarmonbarry

Pioner Multi at Tarmonbarry (July 2009)

The Pioner Multi above was seen at Tarmonbarry, so presumably it’s part of the North Shannon fleet whereas the Coill-an-Eo Multi belongs to the South Shannon. Here is the Multi in action with a pontoon and a small white Pioner. Does that lot count as three of the 60+ WI fleet? You can see more details of what they were doing here.

Big Pioner Multi, pontoon and small white Pioner

Big Pioner Multi, pontoon and small white Pioner (July 2009)

Large WI pontoon outside the dry dock at Roosky

Large WI pontoon outside the dry dock at Roosky (July 2009)


WB1? (July 2009)

Here are three WI vessels side by side in Athlone in July 2009. On the inside is the Coill-an-Eo and on the outside is a Pioner Multi. But what’s that in between? It’s not WB2, which was parked ahead of the Coill-an-Eo at the time. Note that this one has two windows along each side whereas WB2 has only one. So this is a workboat like WB2, but I don’t know its name. Could it be WB1? I presume there is, or was, a WB1!

Here is work in progress below Clarendon Lock on the River Boyle (on the way to Lough Key) in August 2018.

Work below Clarendon Lock August 2018

If you can correct, clarify or supplement anything I’ve written here, or if you can suggest where other WI boats might be spotted, do please leave a Comment below.

If you want to be told when new pages are added to this site, or when significant amendments are made, do please subscribe to the RSS feed on the front page. It doesn’t cost you anything; it just means you’ll get a short message in your RSS reader, and can decide for yourself whether you want to visit the site to read the whole of the new page.

Finally, if you were interested in this page, you might like to look at some of the other pages about vessels on Irish waterways or the pages about Irish waterways operations.

To be continued ….

26 responses to “Waterways Ireland workboats

  1. Interesting that the weed-cutting boat has ‘Archimedean’ screws, like the very first screw-driven boats in the 1830s – it was soon found that cutting the length of the screw down made it more efficient. However the earliest screws were full diameter over their whole length, unlike this clearly specialised design.


  2. I think the machine is a Conver MC105-10 (www.conver.com: see under aquatic machines/weed harvesters). The blurb says:

    “Robust and reliable propulsion by means of double augers that enable the vessel to cope with dense growth and poor conditions, whilst still remaining extremely manoeuvrable.”


  3. WI Have abrand new workboat I saw at Portumna last week. Called Iniscealtra. Heading to the North Shannon to replace Fox. Rumour has it that the Fox is going to be re-enjined. Will keep eyes open for photo opportunity if you don’t get one first.

  4. Thanks for the tip-off, Joe. I heard the Fox was going to be sold off. Hadn’t realised the new boat had already arrived so would appreciate a pic if you can get one. If not I’ll snap it later in the season.


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  6. Good day, just went through your site, i saw different boats for different purposes. i want to know if you sell and charter vessels. My company is also interested in tugs and oil barges if you do such services. Thanks as i wait for your response.

  7. Austin: I’m afraid this site has no commercial interest in boats or other vessels. bjg

  8. Hi, just a note on the Ferrinch. She left Ireland last March to go to England. I believe she is now working out of Hull.

  9. Thanks, Paul. If we have any readers from Hull who could supply a current photo, it would be very welcome.


  10. David FitzPatrick

    I was trhrilled to see photos of “Fox” formerly 113B.
    In 1952 I was a member of the 20th Dublin Boy Scout Troop and one of twenty members who travelled the Barrow Navigation on 113B with Tom Hughes of Athy in command of the barge and John Tomkins and Roy Henley in charge of the scouts. As we journied along what I believe was the first post-war passage of the Barrow Navigation having left from the ninth lock and joined the Barrow at Monasterevan we took off on bikes to tour the surrounding countryside rejoining the boat later each day. A trip that has not been forgotten by those who took part and was remembered in song –
    “113B – Oh what fun as we run down the river
    113B -We’ll be sorry to say goodbye
    (but we must go)
    So dear friends farewell
    In the end we were just like brothers
    So here’s to Tom Hughes
    Let us hope we’ll meet again
    Some other time”

    Unfortunately we never did and I have often wondered what became of 113B. Now I have some idea

    David FitzPatrick

  11. Thanks for that, David. I don’t suppose you have any photos from the trip …? bjg

  12. David.
    Nice memories, I believe that the Fox 11 is moored at present in Rooskey, watch out over the next few months for some interesting developments regarding the 113B – it should rekindle some memories for you

  13. Still parked at Rooskey last month. Looking forward to hearing news of Fox’s future …. bjg

  14. i was wondering if you have linehaul or push boats that that push grain or chemical barges. and if any or hiring

  15. Sorry, Terry: there is no freight traffic on Irish inland waterways. bjg

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  18. The “Swiss army knife” is called a Watermaster. it is used for dredging among other things. It can be fitted with various tools

  19. The Ferrinch did indeed go to Hull. She was bought as a workboat by John Dean Tugs of Hull and after a bit of tarting up lay dormant for many years. The Ferrinch is now owned by me and will be restored to original condition. If anyone has photos or knowledge of what she did I would be grateful for that info. I know very little about her..like where she was made and by whom. I did discover from the engine serial number that it was sold to “Dorlock marine” Dublin in 1966. Is it possible she was built there.

  20. Thanks, Dennis. Congratulations on your acquisition! If I hear anything I’ll pass it on. bjg

  21. Hi all, further info on the Ferrinch. I made a mistake regarding where the engine was supplied. It was bought from Dorman Diesels in 1966 by Bullock Marine, Dalkey, C Dublin, Eire. I wonder if it could be that this was the shipyard who built her.? Does anyone know of this company?

  22. Bullock Harbour is here, just east of Dun Laoghaire. There was a chandlery business called Western Marine there until recently, but they’ve moved. Any shipyard would, I suspect, have been a small yard with a shed; there is no launching facility apart from a slipway.

    If anyone remembers Bullock Marine, please leave a reply below.


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  25. Hello.more info on ferrinch.it is now owned by us ( Northern river services ltd) and is being used as a workboat on the Ouse in york.still trying to find where it was built have now been told it could be Dutch .if anyone has anymore info let me know.thanks Paul.

  26. Great: glad to hear it’s still going! bjg

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