Friday, July 26, 2013

Swimming on the runway

It was Joe who said we'd never swum on a runway before and he was right. We were in Mountshannon in all the heat, down at the beachy swimming area. We'd gone beyond the nursery slope (you can walk out beyond all the gyrating children and still not be out of your depth) when we heard the sound of the propeller.

If you look carefully you can just see the owner of the propeller to the right of the marker, just in front of Bushy Island. Harbour Flights have started doing Seaplane Scenic Tours - you can fly around Lough Derg for €85 - and the plane was coming in to land as we bobbed about in the water. It's a tiny thing - not for those who get the jitters on Aer Arran. Noisy, I suppose, but no worse than some boats. A novelty at the moment - 'Oh look! There's the seaplane!' but that will wear off soon enough.

There's a bit of a fuss in Mountshannon at the moment - a clash between native (though re-introduced) and manufactured fliers. The white-tailed eagle chicks have just fledged, so there's a bit of sensitivity about what's happening around Bushy Island where the eagle parents nested. Harbour Flights have in the past organised an air show in Mountshannon, but claim the reason they won't be doing it this year is because the Golden Eagle Trust don't want it to take place over Mountshannon. The Trust say they have no influence on whether the show goes ahead. The people of Mountshannon have lost their voice! claims Emelyn Heapes of Harbour Flights. We hope the eagles will be here for many years to come, says John Harvey of Mountshannon Community Council. You can see more in the Clare Champion.

But ... I'm in there too! Here's the link. This is why we have this issue of the Champion. I had a call from the publisher of The Skipper & Her Mate to say the Champion were going to do a piece on the book, and did I have a photo. I didn't. We were in Portumna at the time, but Joe decided this venue wouldn't do for the shoot - we couldn't get me and the boat in properly in the submarine pen style of concrete jetties they have there.

So. Joe took the boat and I took the car to Dromaan. I thought we'd get a photo there, but suddenly the place was inundated with sails and many many young people.

They all sailed in through the narrowing entrance in very little wind. Impressive. Not the place for a photoshoot though.

In the end we got the shot in Mountshannon, showing off Winter Solstice too without the dot over the i.

The deck was so hot I couldn't put my feet down. Looks a bit weird.

Pre-launch feedback on the book has been brilliant. I'm astonished and delighted.

Looking forward (with some trepidation) to what the publishers call a celebration of the book at the Scarriff Harbour Festival:

Come if you can! (Yes I know Scarriff is a long way from most places). Be there in spirit anyway.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Skipper & Her Mate

I left my phone turned on all night and close by just in case I didn't wake up, risking bleep annoyance. I needed to be ready for the courier who was delivering to Winter Solstice in Portumna Castle Harbour. I brought the phone with me as I walked the dogs, checking it every so often in case I'd accidentally put it to silent. I was only just back on board when it rang, the courier seeing if it was Castle or Connaught I was in. Joe, drinking tea in his bunk, got dressed in a hurry. Ten minutes later here it was:

It seemed completely appropriate that it was delivered to the boat. It's beautifully produced - my publishers New Island Books have done a fantastic job. And wouldn't you know, as the day went on the sky turned the same colour as the cover.

I would probably have been happy to just look at them all day, but my manager (aka Joe the Husband) was having none of that. Off he went to our neighbouring boat, barely awake, to offer them a copy. He came back still holding the book. I knew it. Nobody would want it anyway. How embarrassing. But no! I was to go back and sign it.

So here's a rare photo of  the author (yes!) and Joe Trimble, the fellow skipper who bought book number one, aboard Joe's boat.

'Go and ask the people on that boat,' said Joe after that. 'And look, catch them before they leave.' This was what I was afraid of. I'm completely shite at selling anything. The idea of doing it cold left me not just cold but frozen.

'That's the whole point of having a publisher,' I said. 'I really can't do that. I can't I can't.' Fair play to Joe, he understood that.

But never mind. As the day went on, he accosted people (nicely) as they sat on their boats or he helped them tie up. I even sold a few all on my own. A few days later, between Portumna and Terryglass, 60 copies were gone and many people were reading the book. Some said they were rationing the pages, savouring it to the end. Some had it finished. Some came back for another copy for a friend.

Oh my oh my.

Should you want a copy for yourself you can buy it here. It's also available on Amazon.

Portumna Forest Park and a (possible) bovine sculpture

Wednesday evening last in Portumna Castle Harbour I was wearing my usual boating clothes - polo neck, woolly cardy, fleece, longjohns under jeans. Thursday was warmer, but still fine for us to leave the dogs in the boat and go for a cycle round Portumna Forest Park. We found ourselves on trails we'd never seen before - bikes, not dog walking, makes the difference. I was beginning to regret wearing shorts and sandals as we negotiated ever-narrowing pathways with roots, rocks and briars - it's that time of year when briars go searching for new rooting grounds, sending out their spikes at two foot an hour.

Not everything is as you might expect in the Forest. This, for example, mooning beside a waterside trail.  Listening device, bovine sculpture, some class of folly, beacon of hope?

And disorientating views of the lake. We'd been going for a while and come out on the opposite side of the park to Castle Harbour. Where was this?

Then there was a humpy mound, and giant wall-looking rocks poking through the reeds.

It was only on our way back that we found the sign cunningly hidden in a trail marker that we realised what all this was: Bonaveen Harbour, hidden among the reeds and sallies. The estate sawmill used to be here. The mound was where sawdust had been dumped over many years - all grown over now, but definitely not looking natural. The big rocks were part of the estate wall, built out into the lake. Barges tied up to the quay here waiting for the rough planks from the forest to be loaded onto them and taken to Limerick where they became someone's kitchen table or chest of drawers (actually I'm guessing here, but the sign does specify furniture).

Needs a spot of dredging I think. The quay wall is in there somewhere.

The view out was of Cloondavaun Bay. You don't notice these little places when your mind is on your cruising route.

Actually this is all a tease. The really important thing (for me) happened before the cycle ride.

That's going to have a post all of its own. If my flaky internet connection will let me do it before next week.