Category Archives: Waterways management

Ireland’s mystical waterway

Mystical logo

Perhaps you’ve noticed an outbreak of strange stickers on Shannon hireboats, proclaiming that the river is “Ireland’s mystical waterway”. Cynics will dismiss this as just more marketing bollocks, in this case associated with the claim that the Shannon, which is in the middle of Ireland, is part of something called “Ireland’s Ancient East“. I do wish that, when marketing dudes get these brainwaves, they’d keep them to themselves.

But wait! What if we’re all wrong? What if the Shannon really is a mystical waterway? After all, wasn’t there recently a miracle in Athlone?

Mind you, you may need an encounter with spirits yourself after reading that lot: the spirits that come in 70cl bottles.

 

Woodman, don’t spare that tree

I have updated my recent post about the overgrowth of trees on the Shannon–Erne Waterway to welcome today’s news that “tree trimming and hedge cutting will be carried out at various locations on the Shannon-Erne Waterway” between September 2018 and February 2019.

I hope that “trimming” is a polite understatement and that the trees will be cut right back to, or beyond, the edge of the waterway.

 

The Shannon–Erne Waterway

The Shannon–Erne Waterway, a mix of canal, river and small lake, links the Shannon (at Leitrim) to the Erne (near Belturbet). Formerly the Ballinamore & Ballyconnell Canal, and originally the Junction Canal in the Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Drainage District (or some such combination of elements), it was rebuilt in the early 1990s with automated (boater-operated) locks, service blocks, a logo, marketing and other such new-fangled extras that had not engaged the attention of the Office of Public Works.

I have not been able to find a proper cost-benefit analysis, but my impression is that Irish taxpayers paid relatively little of the cost, so that it was a good investment for them. It has been used as an example of the regenerative power of restored waterways, although (unlike, say, the River Suck or the proposed Clones Sheugh) it was a link between two busy boating areas, rather than a dead-end canal. Even so, several of the businesses that were started in the early years have since vanished, although there are some new ones like Ballinamore Marina.

On a recent visit (from Leitrim to Haughton’s Shore and return), though, I felt that the waterway had an air of neglect. This view may have been formed by two nights (one on the outward, one on the return journey) at Keshcarrigan in the rain. Some improvement work was started at the harbour some time ago, but it seems to have been suspended or abandoned: fencing, equipment and materials were left on site. Given that Keshcarrigan was one of the areas afflicted by post-Celtic-Tiger ghost estates, the state of the harbour does not encourage visitors, despite the pleasure of staring at what appear to be the resident boats (one of which, sporting a “For sale” notice, was occupying one of the few long spaces and monopolising one of the few shore-power sockets).

Ballinamore, however, was much more cheerful, especially with a festival going on (the rain drowned the nighttime noise of the funfair), and Haughton’s Shore was peaceful, with not even one dancing van.

But the infrastructure seems to need attention. The paint on many of the navigation markers had faded, although admittedly that rarely caused a navigation problem.

The waterway seemed to me to have become shallower in places (we were told that we would meet even shallower bits if we went on to Ballyconnell), even making allowances for a dry summer. It felt as though there were bars of sand or clay underneath when coming out of locks (going down), but even on some of the stretches between locks the water felt shallower than it should be. This is of course only a series of impressions, but I would be interested to know whether the waterway’s profile has changed since it was rebuilt. It would not be surprising to find that it had: the passage of boats, and especially of those travelling fast, may have undermined the banks. I do not know what programme of dredging Waterways Ireland carries out.

The worst feature is the trees, which don’t seem to have been cut back for some time. They need a large amount of serious industrial-scale equipment to be applied to them for weeks or months.

In some places, large branches had fallen in and not been removed. In others, there was less than the width of the boat between the trees stretching from the two sides. They seriously impeded the ability to see the lines of bends, to judge the approaches to bridges or even to spot oncoming boats: for most of those we met, we had very little time to react (so it was just as well that, except for the lake sections, we didn’t get above tickover speed for the entire journey). Had there been kayaks or other small craft using the waterway, I suspect we wouldn’t have seen them until the last moment.

In some places the trees stretched out so far that it was hard to stay in the (presumably) deep water in the centre of the channel. But the really challenging part was when trees impeded the approach to a bridge, making it impossible to line up properly. Several of the bridges are on sharp bends and, with a large boat, the trees caused severe problems.

The extent of the overgrowth is such that it requires a major commitment to tree-cutting. I can imagine that that would be hard to organise: the bird-fanciers have limited the cutting season to the more unpleasant months of the year, when days are short; getting to and from the cutting site takes several hours out of the limited working day; removal of cuttings would be a major undertaking. But something will have to be done: it’s already bad enough that I won’t return unless I know that the trees have been cut, and if they’re left for another year or two even smaller vessels will have problems.

Update 26 September 2018

Waterways Ireland’s Marine Notice 99 of 2018 says that “tree trimming and hedge cutting will be carried out at various locations on the Shannon-Erne Waterway” between September 2018 and February 2019.

This is good news; I hope that the shrubbery will be given a thorough cutting.

Fans of recreated recreational waterways might consider that they need serious amounts spent on maintenance. It is not clear that all proposed recreations could generate the traffic to justify the expenditure.

 

The Grand Canal Company and the Bellman

Mr Bruce:

The expenses, in his mind, were grossly exorbitant […] and he thought this an enormous charge, and he hoped this was quite sufficient observation on that head.

Chairman:

What do you allude to?

Mr Bruce:

To salaries paid to agents, inspectors, parcel clerks, bell-ringers and the like, and I don’t know what oyu want with all these people; you get a person to ring a bell twice a day, and this, with others, I think a regular system of patronage.

An exchange at the half-yearly meeting of the Grand Canal Company on 2 November 1844, reported in the Freeman’s Journal of 4 November 1844.

Hooks

Statutory Instrument No 198 of 1964

GRAND CANAL BYE-LAW (CONFIRMATION) ORDER, 1964

I, ERSKINE H CHILDERS, Minister for Transport and Power, in exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 22 of the Transport Act, 1950 (No 12 of 1950), and the Transport, Fuel and Power (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order, 1959 (SI No 125 of 1959), hereby order as follows:

  1. This Order may be cited as the Grand Canal Bye-law (Confirmation) Order, 1964.
  2. The bye-law (set out in the Schedule to this Order) made by Córas Iompair Éireann on the 7th day of November, 1963, in lieu of Bye-law No 37 (confirmed by the Grand Canal Bye-law (Confirmation) Order, 1953 (SI No 162 of 1953)) is hereby confirmed and shall come into operation on the 5th day of August, 1964.

SCHEDULE

No person navigating any vessel on the canal shall have on board the same—

(1) passengers or persons exceeding twelve in number in addition to her duly appointed crew; or

(2) any scythe, hook, or other instrument for cutting grass or corn unless the same bona fide forms part of the cargo carried for hire; nor shall any such person use the same on the canal or towing-path, or on any land adjoining the canal or towing-path.

GIVEN under my Official Seal, this 5th day of August, 1964.

ERSKINE H CHILDERS, Minister for Transport and Power

EXPLANATORY NOTE

The effect of this Order is to remove the restrictions imposed by the former Bye-law No 37 of the Grand Canal Bye-laws on the carrying of firearms and fishing tackle on vessels traversing the Grand Canal.

Stolen from www.irishstatutebook.ie

The speed limit in Athlone

The following photographs (and many others) were taken from the Watergate in Athlone on Sunday 5 August 2018. An IWAI Rally was in progress and the Lough Ree Yacht Club’s annual regatta was beginning, but there is of course no suggestion that the boats and boaters shown in these photos had any connection with either of those august institutions.

No doubt it is difficult to estimate speed

I do not know what is happening here

The jetski was relatively harmless

A large BRIG RIB, I think

Madarua goes upstream

Madarua goes downstream

Madarua alongside a cruiser

Madarua upstream again

Madarua upstream again

A busy boater: up …

… still going up …

Down

Up again

Down again

A red RIB

This one is almost sedate

Spotting the photographer

Three RIBs coming downstream (the nearest is not one of the three)

Three RIBs travelling more slowly below the railway bridge

The Watergate

There is, I believe, a 5 km/h [~2.7 knots] speed limit for boats passing through Athlone. The area covered includes the river at the Watergate and upstream for some distance above the railway bridge.

Paint

Shannon–Erne Waterway marker August 2018

One side of the marker is intended to be white, the other red. But which is which?

 

Swiss army knife

Ten years ago this site used the term “Swiss army knife” to describe Waterways Ireland’s Watermaster “amphibious multipurpose dredger“. Carlow Live says that Waterways Ireland now use the term themselves.

Exciting news for Clones

Goodbye Clones Sheugh, hello Clones Duckpond.

Canal Boats for sale

The Directors of the Grand Canal Company hereby give notice that they will SELL, to such parties as may require them, NINE SWIFT PASSAGE BOATS, and TWO HEAVY NIGHT PASSAGE BOATS, several of which are in perfect repair, and of the following dimensions, viz:—

FLY BOATS

Average length, from Stem to Stern, 60 feet, and average breadth of beam, 6 feet 6 inches.

NIGHT BOATS

Average length 60 feet, and breadth of beam, 7 feet 9 inches.

Applications from parties desirous of purchasing same to be addressed to the Secretary.

By Order, JOHN M’MULLEN, Sec, Grand Canal House, William-street,
11th February, 1848

Dublin Evening Mail 25 February 1848