Other PicoMicroYacht

Sunday, 30 April 2017

PicoMicroYacht - The Ardnacusha

PicoMicroYacht goes to Ireland  - the Ardnacrusha

The last leg of my Ireland crossing was from Killaloe to Limerick, through a huge lock called Ardnacusha, part of a hydroelectric system constructed by a German firm with Irish design and labour force in the 1920s.

The Ardnacusha hydroelectric system - the lock entrances and exits are on the right

Ireland had just had seven years of independence from the British when it was built, consuming one fifth of their annual budget. The lock is the deepest in Europe, going down 102 feet.

Upstream there is an artificial lough that acts as a sump and exiting this is a weir system with a large vertically lifting sluice gate that lets you into a seven mile long conduit to the lock. You have to book at least two days in advance to go through the gate and then the Ardnacusha lock.

The gate at the Parteen Weir System

When I got to the gate it was well and truly shut and my thoughts were that they had forgotten about me. 

There was a huge downpour and I sat in the boat under a tarp on the boat contemplating what to and looking at the Siemens-Schuckert weir architecture. But then a ‘knee-naw’ warning signal went off and the gate started to open, although I never saw anybody operating it.

I was now in the conduit and left the gate behind. The next seven miles seemed to go quickly.

I arrived at the jetty just before the entrance to the lock.

Soon I was in. The first drop is about 60 feet and I was now down at the bottom. Looking up, I saw some workmen who had come over to have a look, waving from the top. 

The door then opened and I could paddle into a second contiguous lock.

This lowered me down and I waited for the opening it's door. In all it took around 50 minutes to complete the lock cycle.

I was now able to exit the Ardnacusha and was on my way to Limerick.

As the waterway eventually opened out I passed some fishing boats. They also used oars for propulsion.

I had planned to go through the sea lock into the Shannon Estuary and finish my voyage there. But had found out it only opened once a week and for a few hours, the next opening time in five days.

There were only two slipways before the lock and I found one, at the the Barrack Land Boatman’s Club. A club member was very helpful in allowing me to use their slipway, so that I could get PicoMicroYacht out of the water to finish up.

Friday, 28 April 2017

PicoMicroYacht goes to Ireland – the Shannon

As I exited into the Shannon the pretty, concise and restricted work of the canal disappeared and was replaced by grandeur and wild beauty, a bit like the Norfolk Broads in England, but without all those the boats.

On distant banks swans were nesting.

I spied people working on the banks, including a reed cutter.

Although I was warm from the rowing there was a biting chill in the air and those fishing were well dressed, although could have looked like pirates in a different context.

The cruisers I did see where on hired boats, easy to spot by the number of fenders they use.

Fishing stages made a good stop-off point for lunch.

After two days I was in Lough Derg, a 20 mile long inland lake large enough to be cautious about the weather.

I started flying my Irish courtesy flag (a flag to be flown by a ship visiting another country), as I crossed the lough.

The wind can get up very quickly. At one point I stopped on the lough to observe the waves and their bumpiness.

Some fierce people fishing strayed near to the navigation mark, so I had to go the wrong side and avoid their fishing lines.

The lake calmed and I was setting off on my way to the base of the lough, towards Killaloe, It had taken three days so far in the Shannon river system and and my final voyage  to Limerick was yet to come. 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

PicoMicroYacht goes to Ireland – The Grand Canal

The plan was for PicoMicoYacht to voyage across Ireland from Dublin to Limerick, firstly on the Grand Canal and then down the mighty River Shannon, through Lough Derg.

The night before I set off, I met up for a drink with an ex colleague Niall, a Dubliner who had worked in London and moved back to Dublin to set up a department in one of the large hospitals (Ian 'Elvis' Robertson was on this world travels - see previous blog). We had halves, because he was driving and I was about to set off. Conversation went like this:

Niall: What’s it like setting off?

Me: Well I am having to avoid starting in the centre of Dublin because I have been warned off going through the rough areas on the canal on my own with all my gear – a pity because I will miss out on the views – so I am setting off from the outskirts….’

Niall: Yes I have heard..

Me: Actually I am more worried now about the weed.

(at this point Niall looks quizzical for about a second to two)

Me: (laughing) no not that type of weed…

It turned out that Niall had a great grandfather who was a lock keeper in the stretch of river I would be rowing, living at Allenwood, near the end of my first day.

I duly set off and immediately reached a double lock. This is two locks arranged contiguously. I got into the first one but the weed seemed to block the next one up, so I had to portage PicoMicroYacht. I was right about the weed.

I had a new strategy to take a bicycle with me, the plan being to cycle back to my base each day and fetch the car.

It partially worked, but I misjudged what was achievable, and the seven locks and fifteen miles on the first day, with two portages and a bike ride at the end was a little too much and on the subsequent days I had to reduce my distances.

The bridges were quaint and include remains of light lifting bridges, works of art in their own way.

Initially, many of the houses along the canal had large dogs who would come out to take a look.

Eventually I caught up with the weed cutter and gatherer boats who have a busy time on the canal.

The days flew by along the canal as I admired the beauty of the landscape and tried to keep rowing.

It was relaxing rowing mile after mile most of the time in a world of my own. Very few boats were seen and I had only one incident of having to get out of the way.

This motor cruiser looked more stressed as they negotiated the bridge.

For the fisherman it was I who was disturbing the peace.

Halfway along near Tullamore I saw the tell-tail signs of a rowing club.

It turned out to be the Offaly Rowing club and I passed their boats in training.

Along the way there were picturesque ruins of houses, stirring thoughts of long-lost histories and people of who might have lived by the river in distant times.

After five days I had reached the end of the Canal and was at Shannon Harbour, which had a faded glory look.  The distance so far was about 70 miles.

The peacefulness of the Grand Canal is captured in a poem by Michael Hensey (1950-2005).

Grand Canal, Tullamore

I used to love to sit by the old lock gate
and hear the tumbling waters roar
in carefree dreamy boyhood days
in dear sweet Tullamore

The summer air held a magic rare
with charm the soul to enthral
in restful eves along the spangled leaves
on the green, grassy banks of the grand canal.

From the book 'Stars on Still Water' by Michael Hensey.