Laying buoys: a vignette

A triathlon is an outdoor event in which a group of certifiable nutters run some insane distance, cycle some equally insane distance and then go for a long, fast swim in cold water. Or perhaps they do it in some different order: I don’t think that would make much difference to the medical diagnosis. The really odd thing is that even larger gangs of people, who could be at home reading good books, with glasses of fortifying liquids to hand, go and stand in the rain to watch the masochists.

My mother always told me not to stare at traffic accidents or to poke fun at the less fortunate, so I have no personal experience of watching (much less participating in) these events, but for some reason — perhaps a decline in the standard of modern literature or a shortage of turnips to be snagged — large numbers of persons have been turning out, in recent years, to stare at the poor misguided participants. And Waterways Ireland, ever keen to surf the zeitgeist, sponsors or even helps to organise some of them. They don’t seem to sponsor the one on the Barrow, in Athy, called Tri-Athy; they do, however, sponsor one organised by Focus Ireland, where the swim is in the Grand Canal Docks in Dublin and the participants gather in the ghastly Grand Canal Square.

Grand Canal Square, where the gasworks used to be. The red things? No, I've no idea either

Grand Canal Square, where the gasworks used to be. The red things? No, I've no idea either

But WI’s main sponsorship seems to go to an event in Athlone called, alas, Tri-Athlone, where it is the Premium Sponsor and gets to put up lots of floating balloons, plastic flags and so on. The swim starts from what the Tri-Athlone website calls “the spectacular 54m Inland & Coastal Marina Systems Pontoon”, which looks slightly less spectacular if you’re coming downstream before it gets decorated and find an unexpected obstruction to navigation across your path.

Athlone obstacle course

Athlone obstacle course (from upatream)

A cruiser (seen from downstream) navigating around the obstacles

A cruiser (seen from downstream) navigating around the obstacles

Anyway, the interesting part is that WI had a crew in Athlone for some time beforehand, laying buoys for the markers for the swimming courses. The Coill-an-Eo was at the centre of events, moored on the east side of the river above the weir, with WB2 and a second workboat, as well as a Pioner Multi. (There are more photos of WI workboats on this page.)

The WI fleeet

The WI fleeet

Here you can see the buoy moorings on the deck of the Coill-an-Eo: they seem to be concrete, set into tyres, and with rings on top.

The buoy moorings

The buoy moorings

Incidentally, it looks as if Coill-an-Eo is to be involved in moving generators around: there were three on its deck at one stage.

Generators on deck

Generators on deck

The buoys seem to have been stored below deck.

Looking for more buoys

Looking for more buoys

Catch!

Catch!

Attaching buoys to anchors

Attaching buoys to anchors

Anchors balanced on the Multi's gunwales

Anchors balanced on the Multi's gunwales

Towing a balloon

Towing a balloon

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