Tuesday, June 29, 2010

To Lough Erne and Enniskillen

So here we are in Enniskillen. We arrived into Lough Erne on Saturday. Didn't have any problems with the low water levels, but you could see how much the depth had dropped along the Woodford River. We didn't hit bottom at all. Well actually that's not altogether true. It was a long haul up from Haughton's Shore with only a short stop at Ballyconnell. I have this as my excuse for going the wrong side of a marker just after Carrybridge. I was busy looking at the end of speed limit sign, then whoosh, poor Winter Solstice rose up and over and down. I was so embarrassed. I handed straight over to Joe and sat on the step in the cockpit to cover my shame, hoping nobody had seen and thinking what might have happened had it been rocks instead of a sandbank.

It was shortly after that, I think, that we decided to stop at The Moorings. We'd had enough and so had the dogs. This was a good decision. They have a brand new jetty there, so it was easy to get in with the dinghy - the previous visitor jetties were sideways on which could make it fiddly with the dinghy. Good weather, tasty steak and excellent company. One of the delights of this trip has been meeting so many new people, many of them in the IWAI. After dinner we gatecrashed a table and spent the night talking to Suzanne and George and their friends.

On Sunday we moved the huge distance to the Ardhowen Theatre. Half an hour felt about right after the day before's cruise. We'd never stopped there before but it had been recommended, and bicycles meant it would be easy to get into town. It was very windy so went right inside, which was a good decision, but if the wind hadn't dropped the following day I think we'd have had to spend the night in the reeds. It nearly pushed us into the corner on the way in. This is how we discovered there was plenty of depth. Another meeting of charming people. We came back to the boat to find Archie and Freda admiring Winter Solstice and we glowed with pride.

And now here we outside the Forum in lovely Enniskillen. We've had two great meals out - at Dollakis, a Greek restaurant and at Kamal Mahal the Indian restaurant opposite. A spot of shopping now, then out into the wide world of the Erne and to somewhere part way down the lake for the night. We're going to leave the boat with David Cole in Quivvy Marine for a couple of weeks, then come back for another week and some good sailing on the upper lake.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

From Ballinamore into the North

So we made it to Ballinamore in spite of low levels on the Shannon-Erne. Boat skippers coming down reported hitting bottom just north of Bridge 11 (coming into Lough Scur) and on the run into Ballinamore, so we took it very easy. We only draw 2ft 9in so had no trouble. The weather's changed though. From scorchio to a bit grey. But not to worry. We're heading to Lough Garadice today and Houghton's Shore with the hope of doing some sailing. It looks like a perfect lake for a dinghy. We've never done more than cruise across it and into the mooring before, so exploration ahead.

After that we're not sure, but hopefully further north to Enniskillen. We have plenty of supplies on board - bbq tonight which undoubtedly means it will rain. 

It's very quiet on the waterway. Leitrim had only a couple of boats on the public jetty, though the 'yet-to-be-launched' jetties were full. These are the ones that are not joined to the shore. The owner of the flats is to complete his part of the job, but is in dispute, it seems, with Waterways Ireland. Just another addition to the jetties that supposedly can't be used but are. I think there are a few 'permanent' boats on this one, as of course there is no five day rule.

Back to the boat now to head off. Joe is just up the town getting some more beer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

5s byelaw

I've just been reading the Shannon byelaws from 1911 while having a glass or two in Lock 17 beside the river in Leitrim. We're here for the WiFi you understand. I was shocked and shamed to learn that we have been in breach of one of these byelaws for the last year. The byelaw says 'Vessels to have their Names painted on them'.

After her hull was painted Winter Solstice went incognito until last week when we were introduced to Paul from Boyle. Ye Iron Lung was in the harbour at Boyle being painted by Rory so she would be in tiptop condition for the Shannon Rally. Rory was having new signs made and so did we. Paul from Boyle even came to the harbour and stuck the names onto each side of the bow. Excellent service.

Hope we don't have to pay the fine for breaching the byelaw though. 5s a day.

Lough Key Summer Solstice

We'd planned to go north up the Shannon-Erne Waterway at the weekend but we got stuck in Lough Key. We went there on Saturday after shopping at the great Farmer's Market in Boyle, thinking we'd have a sail and move on the next day. We tucked ourselves inside the jetty on Drummans Island with the open cockpit facing the sun. There was a stiff breeze from the north, but we were sheltered by the island. The sailing was exhilarating, we went for a cycle, walked the dogs and joined the jetty party of the people on Paws tied up opposite.

We decided we'd stay another day. On Sunday we sailed and cycled and walked and I had my first swim of the year (I'm a wimp and it has to be really hot) in the soft warm(ish) water of the lake. But no partying. On Monday we took the boat to Boyle, went shopping and filled up with water and persuaded our new friends on Bird on the Wire to join us at Drummans for the Summer Solstice. The sun was even hotter and the sailing even better. Can't think of a more glorious place to see the dawn of shortest night.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Off to the North (perhaps)

Here's a photo of Winter Solstice and the little blue dinghy at Manfred's on Lough Ree. Manfred's is amazing. A hidden-away tiny harbour attached to even more hidden-away chalets. The clientele are German - the place was set up by a German couple who had come to Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century to work on the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric plant. German fishermen on hireboats have been coming here for years. You can't book the restaurant, the food is plain but good, and you always get talking to someone.

We came home on Wednesday night to cut the grass, pick the strawberries (the polytunnel is bursting with ripeness) and catch up with a few jobs. We called at Shannon Harbour to see what it looked like empty now that Waterways Ireland have imposed the 5-day rule. Of course it wasn't empty - the Shannon Harbour Rally is on this weekend so it doesn't look any different - except there are no sunken or rotting boats. The pub has been painted and is looking splendid, and visitors, it seems, have been returning to the harbour.

We're off again for another ten days on the river. The boat is in Boyle Harbour, so we're well placed for a trip to the North. Though we might change our minds. The weather is supposed to be better further south, and there's a water sport event happening in Enniskillen. More updates when I find a WiFi hotspot.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Upriver to Lough Key

Found a WiFi hotspot in Lough Key Forest Park. This is such a gorgeous place and we even have sunshine today. We've spent the week working our way up from the heat of Mountshannon, through wind and rain and thermal underwear weather, then back into sunshine. We've towed the dinghy all the way and had some great sailing on Loughs Derg, Ree, Bofin and now Key. The wind has been great. Perfect for sailing cowards like us who potter about in a heavy gaff-rigged 14' cruising dinghy. We're getting better though, with lots of very thorough advice to each other. What's the sailing equivalent of the hurler on the ditch? Or backseat driver.

Winter Solstice is giving us delight all the way along, especially when people ask can they take a photograph. We swell with pride! Our beloved is so beautiful! And hardly a leak at all inside as long as we keep the cover over the roof hatch.

It's great to bump into people we haven't seen for a year or, in one case, seven years. Louis Rice was at the jetty when we arrived yesterday. 'The man whose pork chop the dog ate!' called Joe. Not sure whether Aoife remembered this, but we kept her well clear of his boat.

Off to Boyle this evening. I'm never sure about that harbour. It has always seemed to be too hot (really, it was) without any shade or pissing with rain. But they have a very good shower block, and we've the bikes on board so can get into the town easily. Joe will get a bus from there tomorrow to Carrick, then to Athlone, then to Cloghan from where he'll get a taxi to Banagher where we left the car. This is always the downside of going upriver for the summer.

Home for a couple of days to catch up, mow the grass and pick strawberries if there are any left, then back to the boat to cruise to Enniskillen and maybe beyond.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mountshannon in the sunshine

So we've been in Mountshannon for the weekend baking in sunshine. A quick trip home to pick up a few bits and pieces then back to the boat for 10 days. It's mobbed in the harbour, but there's a great atmosphere. We launched the sailing dinghy yesterday and went out in not much wind, which is always good for the first sail. But today was fabulous. A brisk north westerly kept us buzzing along out to Holy Island, then a broad reach brought us back to harbour at a cracking clip.

The Iniscealtra Arts Festival is on this week, so we went to an event last night that was advertised as a Big Band. We were thinking saxophones and trumpets, and there was indeed a trumpet, but Count Basie it was not. There was a DJ raised up at the back with an Apple Mac and a record deck. In front of him dressed in black and white with ties and hats were a double bass player, a trumpet player and four vocalists. Behind all of this was a screen showing repeats of, for example, a small boy jumping up and down. There were occasional instructions to jump or to clap which people obligingly did. The DJ played a background music and the musicians did a sort of karaoke to it. I think they probably play places like Ibiza. It was very entertaining, if a little unexpected.

Posts may be sporadic as we go up the river. We're aiming for Enniskillen.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Three foot longer syndrome

I'm getting excited about doing some proper boating. Winter Solstice is still in Scarriff Harbour, but the plan is to take her to Mountshannon after I finish teaching flute on Wednesday evening. The Mountshannon Festival is on and we want to be there this weekend, but it's a bank holiday, the harbour will be very busy and we need to get our berth early. After the weekend we're going upriver.

Our first time ever in Mountshannon Harbour was at the end of October 2000. We had had our new (and first) boat, a 23 ft Freeman, for a month and were feeling very brave. We had recently joined the Derg branch of the Inland Waterways Association, and it was having an end of season Cruise in Company.

Our little boat was in a harbour down the lake near Killaloe, a safe haven from which we had ventured a little further every day, tentative as a small child edging towards independence. Like the child, though, we needed to know that security was close by. We pottered about the south of the lake, content with small adventures. One afternoon we decided it would be a splendid thing to explore Tinerana Bay.
‘Let’s try in there,’ said Joe, who is more intrepid (or foolhardy) than I.
‘I don’t think we should.’
‘You never want to do things I suggest.’
A short while later we were balanced on what we took to be a rock. My husband has a tendency to assume the worst in such situations, so for the first few minutes we panicked, expecting the boat to sink.
‘We’ll have to phone Angus,’ said Joe. ‘He’ll come and rescue us.’

Angus Leavie was well used to agitated beginners in boats.
‘Is there any water coming in?’ he said.
‘Can’t see any.’
‘You’re probably on a sandbank. Try rocking her and pushing off with the boat hook. You do have a boat hook?’
‘I think so.’ We did. We calmed ourselves and pushed and rocked and suddenly we were afloat. A sheepish phone call told Angus the good news.

It was shortly after this incident that we went all the way to Mountshannon. We travelled there early, just like we're planning to do this weekend, but in 2000 it was because storms were forecast. Only a couple of boats made it to the harbour - the rest of the company came by car. We were invited onto the boat next door.
‘Do you have three-foot-longer syndrome yet?’ asked Jim.
‘What’s that?’
‘Everyone always wants a boat that’s three foot longer.’
‘But we’ve only just bought this one,’ we protested.
‘You’ll see.’