Category Archives: Water sports activities

St John’s Pill (River) in Waterford

Brian Simpson writes from Waterford:

There’s a new bridge being built on the Waterside in Waterford City and sadly it looks like it is going to be a death blow for the Friends of St John’s River and Waterford Small Boat Owners Association’s attempts to restore navigation along this waterway.

The new bridge at high tide (Brian Simpson)

Please find attached the Facebook link for comments and attached photo of bridge at high tide.

Half our canal was taken by a humpback bridge, Wyse Bridge, being replaced at Poleberry in 1980; this effectively stopped any chance of barges navigating the other part of the waterway, which was being done up to the 1950s.

I do hope that boats will still be able to use the Pill.

Update: a link to a video.

The Earl of Granard

The Earl of Granard has, within the last ten days, placed a neat little steam-boat for pleasure on the Shannon. She is upwards of fifty tons burden, and is, we believe, the first steam-boat for pleasure ever placed on the Upper Shannon.

Longford Journal 8 October 1859 from the
British Newspaper Archive

From the BNA

Another waterways mystery

According to Ruth Delany [Ruth Delany and Ian Bath Ireland’s Royal Canal 1789–2009 The Lilliput Press, Dublin 2010], the Royal Canal’s fast passenger-carrying fly-boats had neither toilets nor cooking facilities; the slower night-boats were better equipped.

So how did the fly-boat passengers relieve themselves?

Given that the boats travelled at six Irish miles per hour (about 12 km/h), any passenger who disembarked for the purpose would have found it difficult to catch up again. Yet standing on the notoriously unstable boats might have been difficult for the gentlemen, while the problems facing the ladies are not to be contemplated.

I don’t think that the india-rubber urinal had been invented by then. So what did they do?

 

Tories on the Barrow and the Shannon

I read here that Olivia O’Leary, who chairs a Save the Barrow Line committee, says that the Barrow Line (trackway or towing-path)

[…] is a natural amenity and should be maintained as it is.

It isn’t. It is an entirely artificial creation, built to enable the use of horses to tow boats. Any geraniums, beetles, butterflies or tweetie-birds using it are interlopers, squatters and trespassers and should be paying rent; at the very least they should take second place to humans.

The Grand Canal Company often complained about the poor quality of the Barrow trackway: the surface was not up to the job. If it is to cater for more users, it may well need to be improved. That is an engineering decision on which I am not competent to pronounce but, as the Barrow is pretty well a dead loss for long-distance cruising by larger boats, it needs to be redesigned for walkers, cyclists and canoeists.

But at least the Barrow NIMBYs are prepared to accept more boats. Dr William O’Connor of the Old River Shannon Research Group writes about the Shannon here, complaining about the small number of “garish canoes” that occasionally travel downstream from Castleconnell to Clareville. Dr O’Connor asks

[…] why has it become a free-for-all for canoeists?

The answer is that there is a right to navigate, as I pointed out here (with an addendum here): I have had no response from the ESB so, while being open to correction, I maintain my position. Anglers may believe that their interests are paramount on that stretch of the Shannon: I disagree. Of course I would be all in favour of discussions between anglers, kayakers, dog-walkers and other users (even environmentalists), but such discussions cannot be based on a presumption that one group has all the rights, or that one activity is of supreme importance, and that the rest are secondary.

For some reason, canoes operated by commercial providers are particularly to be condemned, although it is not clear how salmon and lampreys can distinguish between public-sector, private-sector and voluntary-sector canoes — or whether they would be bothered anyway: Dr William O’Connor says

It is noted that there has been little scientific research on the ecological impact of canoeing.

In other words, there is no reason to believe that there is any basis for the concerns expressed by Dr O’Connor or by various anglers.

More broadly, though, the common factor on the Shannon and the Barrow is that existing users of public facilities are resisting new or expanded uses and seeking to protect their privileges. Irish Toryism is alive and well.

Addendum: this is probably the solution to the salmon problem.

Connecticut boaters

There are not so many of them. I wonder what’s happening in Ireland.

 

Celebrating Ireland’s floating heritage

Waterways Ireland
MARINE NOTICE No 126 of 2016

SHANNON NAVIGATION

Large Vessels Berthing  at Floating Moorings

Waterways Ireland wishes to advise all masters and owners of vessels with an overall length in excess of 11m, particularly those constructed in steel, of the following points in relation to berthing at floating moorings and also on finger jetties having a length of 9m:

  1. These vessels cannot be secured properly over their entire length thereby placing extra strain on the pontoon mooring cleats as mooring lines are doubled up.
  1. The large overhang of these vessels creates an obstruction to other vessels trying to manoeuvre onto the berth especially for novice recreational boaters and hire boat crews with limited experience.
  1. In adverse weather conditions of high winds and /or flood conditions with high flow rates there is a greater risk of breaking free of the mooring and causing damage to other vessels and the mooring infrastructure especially as these large vessels are primarily constructed in steel and are very heavy.
  1. The 9m finger mooring is designed for vessels with a max overall length of circa 10-11m.
  1. The fixings attaching the floating mooring to the main spine can be compromised due to excessive forces induced by inappropriate sized craft leading to premature wear.
  1. Such vessels place excessive strain on the mooring piles and anchor chains as water levels rise especially where masters have secured to both the cleats and the mooring piles themselves.

Masters of such vessels are requested to berth on appropriate lengths of fixed quay wall only. Waterways Ireland thanks its customers for their cooperation in this matter.

Charles Lawn, Inspector of Navigation. 23 rd September 2016

 

A bicycle boat

On Limerick’s Life here.

Rescue services

With the VHF on Channel 16, I can hear the Coast Guard but not (usually) the boats talking to them. As a result, I get one side of the conversation and have to piece the story together from that.

One day, the Coast Guard acknowledged a message from a private boat which had reported a cruiser aground at a named part of Lough Ree. The Coast Guard didn’t have a map of the lake and didn’t know where that was [why not?] but it seemed that the private boat was able to explain matters. It was also able to say, in response to questions, that three people were visible on board and that one was wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.

The Coast Guard, after a while, reported that it had asked the Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat to go to the rescue, gave an estimate of when it would get there and asked the private boat to remain on station. The private boat evidently agreed to do so.

Some time later the Coast Guard reported that the lifeboat was on its way.

And some time later again the Coast Guard called the lifeboat and told them they were being stood down and could return to base, as the hire firm was arranging for a boat to be sent to the rescue. The private boat was told that it could leave the scene.

If I were the skipper of the private boat, I would be very pissed off and, next time I saw a boat aground, I’d be inclined to ignore it. That would not be good.

The problem here is that there are two competing rescue services. The official service [PDF] is the one that was called into operation by the private boat, which did the right thing in reporting the grounding. And the system worked perfectly after that.

It should be noted that a private boat cannot know what, if anything, is happening through the unofficial rescue service operated by hire companies on the Shannon: “unofficial” in that its boats are not Declared SRUs (Search and Rescue units), the hire firms (and IBRA) are not listed as Irish Search and Rescue Organisations and their operations are not coordinated by the Coast Guard.

According to the Carrick Craft Captain’s Handbook [PDF/Flipbook]

You will be given breakdown and emergency telephone numbers when you check in.

It also says

Running aground

In all cases immediately contact your hire boat base for advice using the number provided. In the interests of safety do not accept an offer of help from a passing boat. If needed, assistance will be quickly available either from your hire boat company or one of the associate hire boat companies who may be located closer to you. Your hire boat company will alert the necessary authorities to deal with any incident that may arise.

The bit about not accepting help from passing boats is OK, I suppose, until the water reaches your ankles.

But I suspect that the advice to hirers is based on experience: groundings are probably the most common form of accident, it is unlikely that the boat will sink, it is likewise unlikely that anyone will have been injured and it is probable that a dory or other workboat will be able to make any necessary checks and repairs, haul the boat off and admonish the crew.

However, there may be an element of self-interest in this too: if the hire firms look after these incidents themselves, they won’t find them covered in press releases from voluntary rescue bodies, with videos shot by boat-mounted cameras. I have heard it said that some folk — including private boaters — feel that rescuers’ press releases give the wrong impression of the inland waterways, suggesting that they are more dangerous than they really are, especially given that few rescues involve any threat to life. [That’s something I’ve heard, not my own view.]

It is entirely possible that I misunderstood, and have thus misrepresented, what was happening. But if I haven’t, it seems to me that there is a problem in the relationship between the official and unofficial rescus systems for hire boats. If hire company staff, who are paid for the job, can rescue afflicted boats, without having to impose on the volunteer rescue services, then that’s a good thing. But it would not be good to have private boaters ignore all hire boats in trouble because, some day, the trouble might be serious.

I do not know whether the hire firms and the Coast Guard have discussed these matters and reached some understanding or produced some protocol about when the firms will call in the official services. If they haven’t, it might be nice if they did.

And, in individual instances, the firms might tell the Coast Guard, and ask them to broadcast the fact, that there is a boat aground and that they’re on their way, perhaps asking private boats to keep an eye out just in case. Everyone with VHF will hear the news, but that’s still more private than having press releases and videos on websites.

 

Sewage

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.

Some suggestions:

  • 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 ….

Weather

I had not realised that the times of the Met Éireann inland lakes weather forecasts, broadcast by the Coast Guard on VHF, had been changed. The times are now

06:15
10:15 repetition
13:15
16:15 repetition

MRCC Dublin, to whom I am grateful for confirming the new times, says

Standby on VHF Channel 16 for your local working channel.

In bygone days the Lough Derg and Lough Ree forecasts were five minutes apart, but now the initial call on Channel 16 is at the same time everywhere.

I found the new 10:15 broadcast to be particularly convenient.

Forecast format

However, one aspect in which I thought the Met Éireann forecasts (also available here) less useful than those from other sources (eg Windguru) is the absence of a forecast for wind gusts. On several occasions this year, the gusts were (a) almost continuous and (b) much stronger than the forecast wind speed. They thus had more influence on our trip planning than did the base wind speed. It would be nice if Met Éireann, and thus the Coast Guard, could include a forecast for gusts.

Hire boats

The hirers’ training materials I mentioned here give good advice about rough weather on lakes but, after seeing several hire boats cross Lough Ree in weather that kept us in harbour, I wondered whether the lakes forecasts are readily available to hirers. If they’re not, perhaps they could be transmitted daily by text message?

I should stress that I did not hear of any accidents caused by stress of weather, but some folk may have had uncomfortable trips.