The Hawthorn Blog
Liveaboard life and general wanderings on the Irish Inland Waterways.
We flee the Royal.
The Royal Canal in Mullingar last week.
Aach, the Royal, the lovely Royal Canal, is a heartbreaker. Still, after shovelling overboard our unwanted ballast of disappointment and anger, at least we are going to get to boat all of it, and collect a Green and Silver plaque when we past our ‘start point’ of Soldier’s Island on the Grand Canal at Sallins. That’s the good news, the bad news is the work needed to keep ourselves on schedule to meet all the commitments already made for the next few weeks, though at least we can move: something a friend of ours on the Royal's summit with his boat now hard on the bottom is not going to be doing for the foreseeable future, and he paid his permit fee the day before it all went so wrong…
I did get to break the run back to Confey by spending several hours in the company of a friend as interested as I am in finding out what is going on with the Royal's water: we explored the canal as far west as Ballynacargy, looking at water sources, non-running water pumps, river levels, Lough Owel and the summit itself. All this worked up quite a thirst, the slaking of which was an opportunity to have a couple of pints with a local boater in Mary Lynch’s pub, where we also listened to the landlord’s concerns about the empty jetties at the bottom of his garden. We travelled far, took lots of photos, examined and quizzed, yet were as baffled at the close of the day as we were at its dawning. All I can be certain of is that in times of drought more water is needed on, and available to, the summit; hopefully, with a planning decision on the Lough Ennel Supply Scheme imminent, there may be some good news shortly.
Lough Owel. Currently at levels normally seen in early June.
At least, with water still being run down through the Thomastown flight, the 32 km level to lock 17 came up several inches over the Easter weekend. This made the hour each way trip from Moyvalley Bridges to Longwood Harbour to turn ‘Hawthorn’s’ bow back east easier than expected, though it was never going to be much of a hardship given we’d been joined by boating friends not seen since the autumn. Having turned, we backed over the Boyne aqueduct to pause for coffee and to wander around the structure with cups and cameras. The two men in the party leaned over the parapet and stared into the river, both interested in working out the level, and at least one willing it to flood and the idle pumps beside it to run. Now facing Dublin, we gave up pondering (without local knowledge or records that was all we could do) and returned to where we’d started the day.
River Boyne. Pumps on right of shot.
The last time we were in Dublin it was a very scary place and horror stories of what might go wrong and the trouble little feckers bring made the run out of the city rather more scary than it needed to be. On that occasion we joined the Grand Canal from the Irish Sea (not exactly renowned as a hooligan’s hang-out) and only had to get up to lock 12; this time we’ve got an equally daunting run in through its ‘North Side’. Once again there are upsides: on the first occasion all our friends got off the boat and fled back to England, which left us feeling very much alone; on this occasion we’ve lots of friends coming to get on the boat for the journey inland. We’ve had offers of help all the way into, out off, and away from, Dublin, and people are even talking about taking a day’s holiday to come and give a hand. All I can say is how blessed we feel, that those who do make it will not leave hungry or thirsty, and to thank you all – it’s much appreciated. There are also the friends we now have on the Royal (its amazing how moments of crisis deliver comrades) to thank and miss: stay in touch and we’ll see you on the water. Courtesy of the ‘Effin Bridge’s’ restricted openings dictating movements, we even get the bonus of two other barges for company on the run into Dublin: we’re used to moving at half the speed of companion’s boats so to be moving with craft actually slower along the canal than Hawthorn will be a first, and that Joe on 4E is a proper local boater makes us more confident that all will be well . Finally we’ll be heading in from Confey, somewhere a lot of live-aboard mates made their home for the winter.
The community of boat owners that wintered over at Confey really did make a success of being there. It’s a busy length of towpath and people often wander past to look at the boats: we seemed to constantly talking about the boats and who lived on them to interested passers-by when we there. Yet in a few weeks time this little community will be gone: the boats will disperse in both directions (well that was the plan until the stoppage news) and, other than stake holes in the bank, they'll be no sign they were ever there. In fact, given they’ve painted the huge corrugated shed the RCAG have there, planted lots of bulbs, and generally looked after the place, they will leave it better than they found it. They’ve had a great time and even survived an outbreak of mandolin madness – it seems you have to be able to play one to stay there and most visitors leave knowing at least the C, D and G chords.
And Confey security
I'll always remember how quickly Waterways Ireland offered us a dry dock when we struck a rock on the River Suck back in June 09. We were lucky there was no emergency, and that the slight weep from our stern tube's seating soon sealed itself, but the immediate offer of assistance and security was much appreciated. Going on a friend's experience this week I'm not sure they'd be nearly as willing now: John, had the misfortune to have to recover his family's converted lifeboat - it's over a 100 years old and had sunk after being rammed astern into a bank at high speed - from the Royal Canal over Easter weekend. Having got it afloat, cleaned the engines so she could be moved under her own steam, and dealt with the pollution (he has nothing but praise for the local WI staff that helped him sort this mess out) John made his way to Richmond Harbour intending to fix the 4" hole he'd only a very temporary patch on (this was well below the water line). Except he wasn't allowed into the dry dock for reasons of 'Health and Safety'. So John ends up having to motor all the way up river and loughs to Albert Lock. He's understandably concerned about the situation and just what resources are available in an emergency.
Putting all the above into context was the very sad news that Mick Bent, our friend with a marina on the River Scarrif, has died. Mick always seemed to be one of those youthful people that could quite possibly live for ever. Our hearts go out to Debbie and the children.