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Monday, 1 May 2017

PicoMicroYacht problem solving in Ireland

Canal voyaging was new to me, the most similar trip being on the River Wey the previous autumn.

I had anticipated problems with weed. As well as fowling the locks, the weed gets caught on the rudder or skeg and slows the boat down. A normal sea or lake rudder swings down vertically, the depth providing balance and efficiency. But in the Grand Canal the weed would rapidly accumulate. 

In addition, recent reed cutting had left piles of debris to row through. The weed problem seemed to improve the further west I went.

So  in the Grand Canal I used my small rudder with the blade at a horizontal angle such that the weed would pass under it. I also reshaped the blade slightly to reduce the chance of weed getting stuck.
I realised that the rudder shape then looked a bit like rudders of the old wooden skiffs and racing shells, this one decorated and given to the cox of a rowing eight, when the eight had 'bumped' four times in the Cambridge University summer college rowing races.

Another problem was that the canal locks in Ireland do not have ladders going down into them. If you are on your own, when you paddle the boat into the lock there no way to get in and out to operate the lock gates.

To solve this, I took a chain ladder, designed for climbing down the side of houses in the event of a fire. I combined it with a knotted rope with loops which I used to clip onto, my life jacket having a harness. I carefully checked the bollards to ensure they would take my weight.

I took the top chains and used u-bolts to attach them to a strong piece of wood.I then drilled two holes in this wood and passed the a rope through it to make an attachment rope. This could be knotted together to create a loop to pass over the bollard.

I purchased a chain ladder that was re-usable. I used the excellent Saf-Escape fire escape ladder, as shown above, removing the metal structure that is used to hook over the window frame (Please note that, of course, no recommendations are made by the manufacturer to adapt their ladder).

I used the chain ladder for about 20 locks, the lock keeper helping with about four. Although the lock keepers will help with solo voyagers, in practice coordinating the timing out of season would have slowed me up too much. I don’t know of anyone else who has used this method, but it worked very well and saved a lot of time, being quick to set up. 

I didn't anticipate this, but when I got to Banagher, on the River Shannon, the walls of the port were especially high, more suited to the high sided cruisers. I was able to get out by running  a rope over a bollard and hauling up the ladder for use.

bike mirror

I also decided to use a bicycle mirror. I found this one, with a bendy arm that easily bolted on to a rowing rigger. The bendiness was very robust and I was able to bend it in when going through the locks and angle it back quickly in the right position. The mirror gives a very small picture, but enough to glance at and see if there is anything oncoming.

As mentioned in a previous post, I also took a bicycle with me on many of the trips. This proved surprisingly easy and I attached it to a short mast in an upright position. Of course you have to be careful not to drop it in the canal. Having a bike increased my range enormously at the finish of each day, up to 15 miles on this trip. I didn’t use it for all the journeys because by the end the countryside around about was getting very hilly.

In all I travelled 121.1 miles, averaging about 12 miles a day, discounting a day in Killaloe when I had to wait for permission to go through the Ardnacusha lock. The first day was the most energetic, with about 16 miles and 7 locks. I started at about 9.30 am and finished 8.00 pm, this experience making me realise my schedule was too ambitious, so I scaled back the distances/ number of locks on any subsequent days. I found the locks tended to take longer than expected, up to 40 minutes.

Start Hazelhatch
Day 1. Binn’s Bridge Robertstown  - 15.9 miles – 7 locks (two portage)
Day 2. Colgan’s Bridge, Near Edenderry –  11.2 miles – 1 lock
Day 3. Chenevix Bridge, Ballycommon – 14.0 miles – 0 locks
Day 4. Huband Aqueduct, near Tullamore –  8.2 miles – 9 locks
Day 5. Belmont Bridge and lock – 15.5 miles – 2 locks
Day 6. Junction with the river Shannon  and then on the Shannon to Banagher - 6.4 miles 5 locks
Day 7. Portumna Bridge and quay, Lough Derg - 12.6 miles – 1 lock
Day 8. Garrykennedy, Lough Derg - 14.9 miles
Day 9. Killaloe -  8.6 miles
Day 10. Stayed in Killaloe
Day 11. Limerick – 14.3 miles

Total distance: 121.6 miles

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