Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to the Shannon

There was canoe polo going on in Richmond Harbour on the weekend we returned to the boat from a few days of crisis weeding, mowing and laundry. We knew this was happening. We'd had to put Winter Solstice on the bank beyond the first bridge, along with other refugees from the harbour. We would be allowed out between one and two on Saturday and Sunday, or after five.

Canoe polo is a very energetic game. There was a pitch marked out with floats and rope, the polo nets at each end more stable than the ones we'd experienced at (too close) hand in Ballybrannigan and Kilcock on the Royal. There are five a side and they play for ten minutes each way without a break. It all gets a bit wild, and the referee is as abused as in any game. You can use paddles or hands to catch, block and otherwise control the ball. I thought it was a new game but no - it's been going a while in Ireland and has been popular in other European countries for the last thirty years.

The dogs were ready to go:

We waited at the bridge for the games to stop. There was another cruiser in front of us, and this one approached from behind:

It was Cormac on 76M, one of the barges that used to carry goods along the Grand Canal. We'd seen it tied up at Abbeyshrule when we came through, so weren't altogether surprised to see it again. Cormac came alongside, a little unnerving when you've all those tons of metal settling against our relatively fragile timber. We were re-nerved, however, when the chilled white was passed across the decks. Cormac was, as ever, the hospitable gentleman. We went through the lock before him, so promised to return the glasses at Rooskey.

It was good to be back on the Shannon again. Such a contrast with the Royal Canal. There was boat watching to do again for one thing. There were so few boats on the Royal, and I missed that great distraction of seeing who is coming in and out and the entertainment of the boating equivalent of the hurler on the ditch. Nothing like sitting in your own cockpit having safely moored in a good spot to make comment on everyone else.

The river was busier than I've seen it in a while. There was hardly a spot in Rooskey, but it was late enough - we'd dropped anchor on Lough Forbes for a few tunes and read of the paper.

Rooskey is not the place it used to be. It's finally possible to see it as the village it once was thanks to the bypass. We tied up near the bridge on the road side, something we'd never have done before - you wouldn't have a wink of sleep with the juggernauts juggering past.

Next stop Dromod. It took us all of fifteen minutes to get there. We just popped in for lunch but ended up staying. It's a great spot, especially on the side away from the amenities where the dogs can mooch without annoying anyone. Great people/boat watching. There's a forest trail where we cycled down to another bit of the Shannon. And a pub which we were enticed into by the crew of a boat taking a break from the Shannon Rally.

The closest boat in the photo is a hire boat, driven by possibly the most incompetent hire-boat skipper and crew I've ever seen. This was unusual. These boats are hired by Sven on Lough Ree and he trains people properly. It's cruel of me to say it, I know, as I've been there myself. But Joe and I, even at the very beginning, were never so bad that we drifted helplessly for fifteen minutes between one wall and another without ever managing to come close enough to fling a rope.

Shower in the shower block the next morning. Arrived to find a face peering through the frosted glass, knuckles rapping frantically.
'I'm locked in', said the voice. 'Can you let me out if I push my card under the door?'
'Well I'm coming for a shower myself,' I said. 'But surely you can get out. Surely it doesn't lock you in.'
Not so, he said. So I put in my card, anxious myself then about being locked in. Out came the young fella, a teenager, looking calm enough in the circumstances.
'A buzzer goes,' he said. 'You'll be ok. I didn't come out in time.'
This still didn't seem right. I'd always assumed you'd be able to get out from the inside even when your hot-water-time was up.

Good enough shower, though not a spacious or powerful as those on the Royal. Good old soaping, then the water went cold. Shit. But not far to go. At least the hair was washed. Then it stopped. Shit shit I'm all soapy bugger bugger. What do you do in that situation. Frantic pressing of the start-stop yoke (like you get on the sinks in public toilets) and a dribble came out. Then the buzzer started. I think I was as sweaty when I came out as when I went in with the fear of it. Must send an email to Waterways Ireland.

All for now. More to come.

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