We decided last night that we are not going to brave the tidal Shannon all the way to Limerick. When the turbines are running at Ardnacrusha Power Station they create too much flow for a narrowboat to cope with. However, having come this far, we felt that we should not miss the experience of negotiating the great Ardnacrusha lock, with its 100 foot fall. A phone call to Ger, the lockkeeper there, confirmed that we could go in the morning, even though we had not given the normal two days notice.
The navigation arch of Killaloe Bridge is well protected; when the turbines at Ardnacrusha are running, there is quite a flow here.
Our first landmark is Parteen Weir, where we are expected at 10.30 am. The guillotine gate, or 'boat pass' is on the right hand side.
The guillotine gate has already been opened for us, and as we approach closer, we are on 'candid camera', so the barrier opens to let us pass. Once we are through, it closes silently behind us.
As we look under Blackwater Bridge, we can see Ardnacrusha Power Station looming up ahead of us. The lock is on the left of the structure.
The lock gate is open, ready for us.
As we descend the upper chamber, the cill comes into view, and then rapidly rises up above our heads. We seem to go down forever!
The top gate cill is now far above us, as we continue our descent into the chamber of horrors!
On the middle gate, the wooden 'pallet' in front of us is there to protect the wall from over enthusiastic boats on their entry to the lock! The advised technique for holding the boat steady against the wall in the lock is to loop a rope round the metal pegs, from the centre of the boat. Once we start dropping down, Sally has to move the loop of rope from one hook to the next, standing in our centre doors. This worked very well on the descent.
The hooks come at regular intervals, though we do not know why this bottom one was offset.
Looking up from the bottom of the first part of the lock, the sky seems to have become smaller!
Having dropped 70' in the top chamber, we sail through into the lower one, where we will drop another 30'.
The middle gate closes behind us. Above the gate can be seen the curved wall which holds back the water in the top chamber.
As we descend, the closed gate appears above the cill and soon rises high above us.
The hooks in the lower chamber are similar to those in the upper, but the walls here are covered in moss.
The bottom gate now rises to allow us another drippy exit.
It was a relief to be back safely into the lower chamber of the lock. The middle lock gate can be seen, 30 feet above us.
When we were in the lower chamber, it was not possible to get a rope from the bows on to the rubber covered chains, as The Puzzler was an awkward length for these. This made it more difficult when the top gate was raised slightly to finish filling the lock, as Sally could not hold the boat on her rope. The bows went over and hit the left wall of the lock quite hard. There was no damage as the TV survived its jump on to the floor! Once this lock was full, there was a considerable delay. The middle gate would not go up, so engineers from Limerick were called out.
While we waited, Sally climbed the hundred steps up to the top of Ardnacrusha Dam, to chat to Ger, the lock keeper. He said that he hoped we were not planning on going out tonight as it might be a little while yet! There are plenty of railings to keep you safe up there. Andy and Catkin waited patiently on the boat. It was over an hour before the men arrived to fix the gate so that we could move on into the top chamber.
These views down into the top lock chamber were taken from the top of the dam. Do click on them to enlarge them, to get the full effect.
As soon as the gate was fixed we could move on into the top chamber of the lock. Still a long way to go up! We will rise another 70 feet, to make it 100 feet in all.
It was much easier in the top chamber, as the looped rope could also go round our front cleat.
Catkin, along with the rest of the crew, was very glad to have safely negotiated Ardnacrusha lock!
This fine Jacob's ram was on the bank by the headrace, as we made our way back upstream to Killaloe.
It had been an unforgettable experience!
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.