Thursday, June 21, 2012

To Killaloe on the flood

Winter Solstice in Scarriff Harbour

There's a photo in my last blog entry of Winter Solstice wearing her new mini-canopy. It was taken in Scarriff before the rains. This is taken the day after. Before the floods we were stepping onto an aft deck that was more or less level with the harbour wall. After, we almost needed steps to get on board. Our intention had been to take the boat to Mountshannon for dinner in the Snug with friends, but the Scarriff River was in spate. There would be no controlling the boat going downstream so we had to leave her in the harbour. It was Saturday evening before we headed off to Killaloe, and even then it was quite exciting in the narrow section of the river between Scarriff and Tuamgraney.

Killaloe Canal
Going under the bridge at Killaloe was also exciting. There was a terrific flow, with eddies that grabbed the hull as we passed underneath. Throttle full on and we popped out the other side. We might have worried about getting back, but we planned to go through the new lock gates on the canal and avoid it. We hammered in our stakes opposite St Flannan's Cathedral and tied to the quiet bank.

When we first turned up the canal I was thinking how much lighter it was than previously. The answer was in the line of stumps along the bank. All the old trees had been cut down. Oh what a shame!

I was muttering about health and safety gone mad, but we talked to a resident of one of the houses overlooking the canal and he explained. The trees were diseased and would die anyway, so in the hope of preventing the spread of infection they'd been cut. The stumps are going to be removed and 20 ft oak trees will be planed in August. So said the man.

The locked gate
All this tree felling and work is presumably the reason for this sign preventing walkers going to the turn from the Shannon onto the canal.

Next day the sun shone - mostly - and we set off for a bike ride.

Joe and I do know how to read the OS Discovery series of maps. We know what close-together contours mean. So why did we pick that particular route for our cycle? I suppose the views from the top provides the answer.

Fields below Tountinna Mountain
In the distance the flooded area below Killaloe

Waiting for the lock gates to o

So time to go home. No need to turn round in the canal. Straight ahead, smart card at the ready. The control box that takes the card that opens the lock gates is very close to the gates. We had to tie the bow line onto the railings - no cleat.

The lock gates

The control box talks to you as well as giving a rolling print version of what to do next. Because of the flow on the river, and therefore the canal, it told me the gates would open in two stages. They duly opened half way and waited for the water above and below to level out. And waited. And waited. The whole of Lough Derg was trying to get through those gates.

Then the control box told me to press the button to open the gates fully. The poor gates tried but couldn't manage it. Eventually I phoned the number given, the intercom not giving me any joy, and got through to Portumna Bridge. They tried to open the gates from there, but all we got then was the poor things stuck in a loop going backwards and forwards, never fully closing, never fully opening.

After several phone calls, an hour or so and a bit of an audience a mechanic came down and fiddled about in the small building next to the lock. Slowly slowly the gates opened.

The control box on the other side

We'd already decided we wouldn't be stopping the other side to put the smart card into the control box there. Five units is taken off your card to open the gates and you only get it back if you insert your card on the other side once the gates are closed. But with that flow, and the lack of cleats, and the closeness of the box to the lock we weren't going to stop. We motored on and called at the WI Scarriff offices the next day for a new card.

Friday, June 8, 2012

What happens late at night in Mountshannon

Meelick Bay, Lough Derg
We went cycling from Mountshannon last weekend between events at the Iniscealtra Arts Festival, scooting down all the small roads to the lake between Mountshannon and Whitegate. We ended up looking over Meelick Bay. It's years since I've been there. We used to know someone who lived in a gorgeous stone house on the lake shore, but it was owned by her brother and he decided to sell.

Just to prove we really do cycle places, a rare photo of myself with new short hair cut.

On Friday night we were coming home late after a play, then tunes in the session at the hotel, then conversation on the street outside Keane's. Half two when we got to Winter Solstice.

'There's someone about to launch a boat,' said Joe.


I peered through the cockpit window. He was right. There were several people milling about, all in their late teens or early twenties. Had the look of students about them, men and women who did a lot of outdoor stuff. The boat they were launching was a sailing boat, say 20, 22 foot. We poured a whiskey and settled down to see what came next.

Lots of speculation. Were they late arriving and some of them had to sleep on the boat, so had no choice but to launch? Maybe they had a couple of tents too. But there was such a purposeful air about them as if they'd planned to set out a three in the morning just before dawn.

A dinghy went into the water after the sailing boat. Lots of too-ing and fro-ing with rucksacks and supplies. Definitely not late but very very early. A kayak waited at the top of the slip. Someone parked the launching car and trailer out of the way.

Four or five of them carried the kayak down the slip and into the water, then everybody got on board either the dinghy or the sailing boat. Someone started the outboard on the dinghy. It sputtered out. Adjustments and it came to life. A line was attached from dinghy to sailing boat, another from sailing boat to kayak and they snaked slowly towards us, moored as we were on the outer edge of the harbour where they would have to pass us by.

They got in a tangle, the sailing boat jackknifing and the kayak taking its own route.

Eventually they straightened out and came past.

'Where are you going at this time of night?' said Joe.

'To the islands,' they replied.

Looking out at Mountshannon Harbour
View from the boat, Mountshannon Harbour

We have a new 'bimini' keeping the rain out of the forecabin. Talk about efficient. We met Giles Byford and Jill Parkinson on Hawthorn in Mountshannon on Monday evening to show them what we wanted, went back on Tuesday afternoon to bring the boat to Scarriff and it was fitted. A very tidy job too. Here's a comparison:



And from the inside giving plenty of light:

In the forecabin

We took the boat the short way to Scarriff with the idea of doing some work on her closer to home.  Joe went down to check on her yesterday evening. There was ferocious rain forecast, and it had already been raining all day.  The new canopy was keeping our beds dry, but Joe covered them with plastic just in case.

I suspect it's a good thing he did. Last night around half nine the rain increased intensity. Just before dark, our small river burst its banks. Water was pouring over the flat bridge, the entrance and exit to our house. We couldn't see the new little bridge Joe built a couple of months ago - was it still there or washed away? The whole lower garden had become a river.

But this morning the little bridge was still there. Just.

After the flood
We'll have to see how much water got into the boat.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hole in the hull

Oh dear
The red arrow is pointing at a hole. Surrounding the hole is the hull of Winter Solstice. We were in Garrykennedy when Joe started poking and scraping at a bit of bubbling paint. I was walking the dogs, or knitting, or reading the paper so was oblivious until he suggested I have a look in the lazarette (the underseat locker) in the cockpit. In the bottom corner I could see a bright light.

Down in the lazarette
Sunshine was reflecting off the water and illuminating the inside of the boat. I'm reluctant to write this overused phrase but OH MY GOD!

Joe was altogether relaxed. It's no problem he said. All the rot is cleaned out and I have plenty of the right sort of filler. I just have to put this wood hardener onto it first and let it dry.

'Will you have it done before we go to bed?' I asked.

'Of course.'

A while later and Joe was lighting the barbecue.

'Are you going to fill the hole yet?'

I'm trying not to think of similar rotting timber under the water line. The boat was surveyed two years ago and everything was sound. There is no water leaking into the bilges. But this winter we'll give her a thorough check. We're going to take her out of the water to have a couple of jobs done and I think I'll go over every inch tap tap tapping with a little hammer.

Now we have the covers off the boat we're vulnerable to leaks in the forecabin. There was rain forecast for the evening, so time to put on the small tarpaulin we call the bimini. We're planning to have a proper one made, but in the meantime this does the job. Tricky to put on in the wind though.

We watched the sun going down over the Sliabh Aughty mountains where we live. Summer weather at last.