These are the adventures of Andy and Sally Rawnsley on their narrowboat "The Puzzler". We have been living on the boat for over nine years now and are still loving it. Our Ulster born Shih Tzu, Shannon, has grown up, and has taken over the boat! After three wonderful years in Ireland, we transported The Puzzler to The Netherlands, and spent a year there. In 2015 we went southwards, to reach the north of France by June. After glorious weather throughout the summer, we arrived in Roanne in late October, and enjoyed our winter in this friendly port. We cruised extensively in France in 2016 and 2017, returning to Roanne each winter.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

11th - 16th August. Shannon River, Portumna, Lough Derg, and Dromaan Harbour

Below Meelick we went through Victoria lock, also known as Meelick Lock. On this next stretch the Shannon River is very wide as it meanders across central Ireland.

Portumna Swing Bridge opens at set times throughout the day. We went through at 3pm with ten other boats. A mile beyond this bridge the Shannon River opens out into Lough Derg.

We turned right on Lough Derg to reach Castle harbour, which is quite near to Portumna. The harbour was very busy, but we found a space near the middle. However, The Puzzler sticks out into the centre of the harbour so, as soon as there was room, we moved on to the back wall.
Portumna Forest Park is near to the harbour so we went to explore the forest trails. On our return we found a small cruiser tied to us and another cruiser managed to squeeze in beside us too. There are over 20 boats here each night. There is a service block here, and plenty of grass, so it is a popular place for camper vans too, with almost as many of them as there are boats.      

Here we are at Portumna Castle, looking through the gateway. This is only a short walk from the harbour. Portumna Castle was burnt down in 1826, but there has been a massive restoration programme, which is still in progress. The outside has been fully restored, while inside the castle, the ground floor is complete. Work is continuing on the upper floors. We visited the walled garden, which is a complete kitchen garden, full of produce. We were not allowed to pick any of the fruit or veg. though, which seemed a shame, as ripe plums were lying on the ground below the trees.
We stayed in Castle Harbour for three days, then slid out from behind the other boats. We sailed south across Lough Derg to Terryglass, which is a mooring protected by a long harbour wall, and waited there for a squall to pass.

Before we left Terryglass, a boater came to chat to us about Lough Derg. His grandfather used to work on the barges here, many years ago, and each year, according to him, at least one barge would go down off Gortmore Point. Nothing like giving us confidence for the trip ahead! The sky had cleared and looked set for the day, so we set off.

However as this is Ireland, it did not last long and soon the sky began to darken. 
Ahead of us we could see the rain approaching, but having passed Gortmore Point, we carried on.

The waves are coming across Cloondavaun Bay for over two miles to meet us. We are making our way to the far side of the bay, so as to lessen the force of the wind, and also to take the waves at a 45 degree angle. The Puzzler is not built to ride the waves, and tends to go straight through them, so the waves splashing against the cabin side are quite impressive! A little water came in through the side doors, despite their being shut tight. However at no time did it feel unsafe, just uncomfortable.

This picture shows the contrast between the light blue of the sky and the deep blue of the water in Lough Derg, after the squall had passed.

After thirteen miles, and two and a half hours sailing, we pulled into Dromaan Harbour. It is extremely sheltered, with a lovely picnic area. Overnight parking is not allowed, so there are no camper vans here. As there is no pub within walking distance, then there are very few boats here either!

Outside the harbour wall, Lough Derg looks calm at present, but will it stay that way?

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