Friday, July 27, 2012

Dinghy sailing again

There's great cycling from Dromineer. That's how we found Black Lough of course (see the previous blog). There are views of Lough Derg you don't usually see. Here's Illaunmore, the big island just off the Tipp shore where we anchored for lunch on our way back from Kilgarvan.

Looking at Illaunmore from Urra
It was a steep climb to the top of Urra Hill where we found several houses. One is clearly visible from the lake - a white box-like structure. We discovered a sister house to it, probably not visible from the water.

White house
Work must have stopped suddenly - the chimney is painted halfway up. You find yourself making up stories about what befell these ambitious projects dotted around the country. This would be quite a place when finished with fabulous views of the lake if you trimmed the hedge on the road passing beside it.

The dinghy finally got launched in Mountshannon last weekend without a glitch. Amazing. Straight into the water. The outboard started. We hadn't forgotten anything important.

The dinghy in Mountshannon
The quay wall is at a mad angle in this photo. That's always happening to me. My horizons are forever crooked. I put it down to malfunctioning eyesight - I have astigmatism which does strange things to straight lines. Anyway, there's our pretty little dinghy secure against the mothership.

We took the dinghy out in very light winds to get ourselves attuned again. We didn't go out at all last year. The dinghy was sanded down but not varnished, Winter Solstice was up north and we seemed to be doing other things. Would we remember how to put up the mast and sails? Would we know which line did what. Would we still be able to sail the thing?

So many questions, thankfully all answered yes. It seems that sailing is like riding a bike - you don't forget. It's a physical memory once you've done something many times and your body remembers.

The next day we tried going out twice, but each time the wind eluded us. The lake looked very beautiful though.

The day after that I woke to hear shrouds clanking against masts and knew we were in for a good day. The difference between sailing and cruising requirements! However, it wasn't going to be as easy to get out. The day before we'd sailed easily from the harbour, but we'd moved Winter Solstice the previous evening. We'd been to The Snug for dinner before going to the hotel to play in the session, but came back to the boat in between to let the dogs out. Before we walked up to the village, the jetty looked like this:

There's Winter Solstice on the left
When we returned there were three big Carrick Craft boats parked here. A clot of lads was being rowdy on one of them. It could mean only one thing. Stag Party.

We moved. They were very nice about it. I went and explained what we were doing - didn't want to offend anyone - saying it was for both our benefits. They wanted us to come aboard and have a drink. A big lad dressed as a Viking lifted me from my feet. Hmm.

As we pulled out suddenly we had a passenger.

'I wanted to help,' he said, looking slightly alarmed.

'You're going to have a little trip,' I said, and made him sit down safely on the coach house roof.

The boat and passenger were reunited with the shore and we set off to the pub for tunes.

So to sailing in the good wind. We motored to an outer jetty, put up the sails and easily got out. Joe had the helm, caught the wind and sped along towards Holy Island. Then it was my turn. Back into the little bay off Mountshannon Bay. A very different sail to the day before.

I tried to bring the dinghy in without the motor. Too windy, and in the wrong direction. Would have been Ok if Winter Solstice had been in her original position as we could have gone head to wind on the wall. We very nearly did get onto the jetty we'd set off from, slowly slowly head to wind until nearly there, then a quick turn and the wind caught the sails. Away we went out of the harbour, tacked and came back. Actually, the first attempt was good, but because both Joe and I were on the same side of the boat, Joe with painter, me with boat hook, we dipped over too far and the dinghy was in danger of getting trapped under the jetty.

So eventually we dropped the sails and motored to the wall just in front of Winter Solstice. I was ready with the painter when Joe accelerated instead of putting the outboard into neutral. We shot forward into the rubber dinghy of the huge cruiser in front. Then the wind caught us and we bumped, very gently, the cruiser itself.

We were both very grumpy when we finally tied up off Winter Solstice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Black Lough Mystery

The strange affair of the Black Lough that wasn't is solved. It seems that what boaters call Black Lough isn't a lake at all but a small bay round the back of Illaunmore. The real Black Lough is just below Urra, a hill not far from Dromineer and certainly not accessible by boat. Not even a dinghy I don't think.

We cycled up to Urra round the edge of the bay from Dromineer and eventually found this little lake. Here it is:

I don't know if any of this blog is going to appear as I'm doing it from my phone. But here goes.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Prosecco in the rain

What can you do? You arrange for friends to visit with plans of a trip up the river to Scarriff and it rains. Wetting, ceaseless, you-know-it-won't-stop rain. You can either be a slob or have a small adventure. We went for the adventure. Or at least the getting out of the house. And one of the party happened to have a bottle of Prosecco about her person, so we anchored off Iniscealtra within sight of the round tower and Erin popped the cork.

Catching the moment

Joe and I had decided at the last minute to stay on board that night - Friday - and play some tunes in the session at the hotel, so a hurried packing for one night. Saturday was sunny and, astonishingly, hot. We couldn't go home now. We'd a car in Scarriff and one in Mountshannon for car-shuttling purposes, so I took one of them home and cycled back to Mountshannon over the mountain. Joe and I did this ride in April, but there seemed to be a lot more uphill this time. I had a rucksack on my back full of clothes, and various essential supplies in my bike bag, so I suppose that was it. Still the joy of it at the top, bog all around, and views of our own valley behind, Lough Derg in front.

Back in Mountshannon and Joe had had a text from friends. Were we on Derg and if so would we like to join them in Kilgarvan. A beautiful late afternoon. A trip up the lake would be just the thing.

Looking back at Scarriff Bay

Next day we dropped anchor beside Illaunmore, the inhabited island that lies off the Tipperary shore north of Dromineer. The tiny bay we chose, we realised as we reached it, contained a cut into a small harbour with a house beyond. I wonder how people in such places feel when a boat anchors off? The water doesn't belong to you, yet you must have a sense of ownership of the lake beside your house.

Later, after a drive-past from the RNLI who, we later learned, had been involved in a rescue, we chugged into Castletown Bay for a mooch and a look to see could we find the way into Black Lough. Joe was sure he'd heard this was possible. Couldn't see a way in at all, but that's often the way when there are reeds lining the bank. We had the old Admiralty Chart which we were sure showed a river from this bay. However we must have been mistaken - I'll check when on board again - the way in goes from just beyond where we anchored for lunch. In fact a boat went in that way, but we assumed it was heading for its own little harbour. We should have followed it.

Anyway, there was a nice ruined castle to look at from Casteletown Bay.

The crinkly bit on the hill is the castle

Ridiculous that we haven't explored all this before. It's the Lough Ree syndrome I think. You get stuck in a certain pattern of movement. On Ree it was north to south and onwards, but spending a week there allowed us to find all the hidden-away bits of the lake. We're going to stay on Derg for the next while, do a bit of sailing, explore wherever we have yet to explore.

Sunday night was tunes in Garry. Considering we'd only come out for a night we were doing well.

In Garrykennedy

Monday, July 2, 2012

Ousing floods and Cheshire canals

Outside the Shroppie Fly in Audlem
The great thing about Cheshire if you have a bicycle is that there are very few hills. Undulations, yes, but not many 1 in 4s. Around Nantwich where we were staying last week there are networks of twisty lanes to ride along and, if you plan it right, a decent canalside pub selling good ale. We were drinking Landlord bitter in this one.

Aqueduct Marina

You can't go far in Cheshire without tripping over a canal. There are plenty of canal marinas too, many of them branching out to cater for the apparently insatiable appetite for caf├ęs. I took my parents to the Aqueduct Marina which sits, handily, on a linking section between the Shropshire Union and the Trent and Mersey.

Narrow dogs for narrow boat

It's all narrowboats of course in this part of the world. Lots and lots of them. This one went past while we were strolling around looking at boats.

The other waterway of the trip was to be the River Ouse  in Yorkshire. We were visiting Joe's cousin and her family who keep a boat on a section of the river near to York. We were supposed to be going from their house in Leeds to the boat on the Friday night for a barbecue followed by a gentle cruise into York for a pint, but this was the day of The Big Rain. We'd arrived on Thursday evening in a thunderstorm, lightning crackling  overhead as we ran for the front door, and it rained pretty much incessantly from then on. We had a curry down the road instead.

On the River Ouse
But on Saturday the rain had cleared to a bit of sunshine, so we went to look at the boat at York Marine and have lunch on board.

View from the cockpit

The river was in spate. We passed a huge houseboat (static and for hire) on the way to the mooring which had a ladder up the perilously angled gang plank and a jeep attached by rope to the bow. Not sure what was going on there.

As we stepped onto the boat we were visiting I watched a father and young daughter pass downstream in a tiny rubber dinghy with a small outboard. I wondered would they be able to get back to wherever they came from.

High and brown

We walked along the river to a marina downstream where you could really see the extent of the flood.

You'd need your waders to get onto this boat. Most of the moorings along the bank here were cut off, some with what looked like extensive damage to the walkways.

There's a sculpture on the rather ugly bridge, all made of wire. It was around this part of the river that I noticed the tiny dinghy struggling upstream, occasionally getting twirled by strong river eddies. Walking back to the boat for lunch we overtook it. I hoped they wouldn't run out of petrol.

This lady was on the lawn the evening we got home.