Friday, June 28, 2013

Derg Dogs, Derg Rescue, Derg Eagles

We were sucked back to Mountshannon again on Friday evening, cruising from Dromaan and arriving just before the wind hit. We'd decided to go at the last minute because we wanted to play tunes in the hotel, with dinner at The Snug first. It was choppy enough even so - we had to go beyond Bushy and turn in there to avoid too much beam-on rocking.

Bushy Island on the right with Tountinna in the background

It's always interesting going past Bushy at the moment - the binoculars come out and keep an eye out for the white-tailed eagles who are nesting on the island. We've seen them several times now. You don't realise at first how big they are when flying until you see the other birds mobbing them. We saw the chicks on the nest too. The Eagle Trust put a webcam up with a screen in their office next to the life guard hut and there the two chicks were, already enormous with a three-foot wing span. Actually that was two weeks ago. They're probably plumping over the edge of the five-foot platform nest by now.

The Eagle Trust have taken the webcam down again now for a number of reasons, so we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

I'd been wearing shorts, crisis weeding in sunshine before we left for Dromaan. By the time we settled into the harbour it was as though we were on a different planet:

The harbour was emtpy:

And it was cold. We'd only brought summer clothes. I couldn't believe myself. I never go to the boat without at least one set of thermals (barbecue wear) and varying weights of woolly jumper.

As we sat gloomily looking out at the lake the rescue boat went out into the wild white horses. Our ropes creaked. Trees bent double.

Up in The Snug things began to look up, as they always do in a warm hostelry with good food and wine. The rescue helicopter went over.

Someone came in with the story of rowers caught out when the wind rose.

Back to the boat to pick up the instruments and the coast guard rescue boat was on the slip. The local one was coming back in.

It was only the next day we realised the extent of the rescue effort. Thirty-five rowers had been taking part in an international rowing event, starting in Terryglass and finishing in Killaloe. It was Parker Point that really did for them where the wind is split, coming from two directions and setting up pyramidal waves. Eighteen of the boats were caught out, tipping their crew into the water. Fifteen people needed treatment for hypothermia.

Next day the weather wasn't much better, but that didn't stop these unusual buskers at the Mountshannon Saturday Market:

The cellist was a professional musician from Austria, accompanied by a belly dancer from South Korea. They were WOOFERs (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) with a woman who grows blueberries (among other things) up the hill behind the village.

On Sunday (yes, we were still there, still cold) we took the dogs for a walk in Woodpark where we met other dog walkers. And look!

Frankie (on the left) has a twin! These were members of the newly formed Derg Dogs, people who meet to walk their dogs, talk about dogs, upload photos of dogs to the Facebook page. The half-head you can see at the bottom of the picture belongs to Mollie Collie the daughter of Maddie, Frankie's doppelganger, whose back legs don't work. She has wheels instead, and runs around with the rest of them.

I'm now a member of Derg Dogs.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Behind the island and other stories

Mountshannon Arts Festival, Saturday, a boating event. The weather was still cold (impossible to believe writing this in the heat (yes really) of 9 am) and I was wrapped in about fourteen layers to watch the raft race. Some unusual craft and many blue legs ...

There should possibly have been a stewards' enquiry, but it was only after the prize was given to the two bashful lads that someone said 'that's not a raft, it's a boat'. The winning craft was half a domestic oil tank (just peeking into the left of the photo). Is a raft by definition flat?

That afternoon something happened with the sunshine. We mooched up the lake to Kilgarvan where there was a Derg branch IWAI barbecue. Kilgarvan is always lovely, and this was at the invitation of the inhabitants of the boaters there. A peaceful harbour with boats suitable to an angling club.

We squeezed into a small spot next to a shed - the advantage of an old-fashioned boat like ours is that you can do this. It freed up space for bigger boats and gave us aft access to land - after much jiggery pokery with ropes and planks helped by the invaluable men-who-always-do-this and other experts.

The boarding plank isn't ours. A (much) bigger boat, Chang Sha, lent us this as the one we had on deck was too weedy for the job. It's as well we did. The boat to the left, Liberty Blaze, tied alongside and had visitors staying on board who were not suited for the job of plank walking. Fair play to them for doing it anyway.

Next stop a hidden place to join Knocknagow, already secured. If you go up the lake as though to the bridge at Portumna you pass through two pairs of markers where the lake narrows to a river. To the left of these markers is an island you barely notice - Roger's Island (not sure if there's an apostrophe and the chart is on the boat). Between the island and the mainland is a cut in which dogs and crew can be intrepid, tied to trees and surrounded by towering reeds.

We were boy and girl scouts, stuck in the jungle with a steep boarding plank giving access to tunnels between reeds! I had to cut back nettles with a pair of scissors!

Ahem. I should add, in the interests of truth and anti-hyperbole, that the roadway was a 30 second push through the reeds.

But it was beautiful. A Swallows and Amazons sort of place, or how I imagine the Norfolk Broads to be if they weren't so full of cruisers.

We'll be going back there.