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.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

24th - 28th May. Down Lough Ree to Barley Harbour, Inny River and Quigleys' Marina

On leaving the mooring below Richmond Harbour, we have to back out and wind below the lock.
Then it is on down the Clondra canal to Clondra lock, having rung the lockkeeper to ask for a passage through the lock. The same lockkeeper also operates Tarmonbarry lock and the Tarmonbarry road lifting bridge so he is a busy person. We were told that he would be there in about an hour, which he was. We tried, and failed, to fit The Puzzler into the lock with a hireboat to pass the time while we waited.

Below Clondra lock we rejoined the River Shannon and sailed on to Lanesborough, where the bridge leads us out on to Lough Ree.

On Lough Ree all the black markers have been painted green since we were here in the autumn. It certainly makes them much easier to see.

The lough is calm this afternoon, except when boats overtake us at this speed! It is amazing how much their wash throws us about.

Barley Harbour is a lovely mooring to visit on our way down the Lough Ree.
Andy spent the rest of the day sunbathing. There were a lot of lads swimming in the harbour until quite late and they then sat and chatted loudly until 9pm. Apparently the crowd the previous evening were there until the early hours of the morning, so we got off lightly! Near Barley Harbour is the studio of Martin Casey, who made the bog oak sculpture at Dromod. He has done some lovely work.

We set off early next morning, to beat the wind, which was forecast for later in the day. Despite early sunshine, it became quite misty on the lough, and we had to go from one marker to the next, as we could not see further than that.

We reached the Inny River and found that it was much wider than expected. We had been told that we would need to back down to the lough to turn! We carried on to wind just before Red Bridge, which is a couple of miles from Lough Ree.

This is just like a river mooring in England! There has been glorious sunshine all week but we were very glad not to be out on the lough with the winds we have had.

We inflated Mini Puzzle, our dinghy, and carried on upstream beyond Red Bridge, which is the limit of navigation.

We carried on up the Inny River for about three miles.

 The yellow flag irises are in full bloom now.

These horses were surprised to see us going past.

The sun was nearly down by the time we returned to The Puzzler.
We made an early start to return to Lough Ree, as there was not a breath of wind. On this section of the lough, which is new to us, we had to be careful to follow the markers, as the safe channel winds behind Inchmore Island and back to the centre of Lough Ree, before heading southwards again.The water was like a mirror, it was so calm.

After we reached Quigleys' marina, the wind became quite strong, and it was not very comfortable, as the boat bounced up and down. However we were pinned to the jetty by the wind so had to ride it out.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

21st - 23rd May. Jamestown Canal, Dromod, and the Camlin River.

We sailed south down the River Shannon and then on to the Jamestown Canal, which is a pleasant change from the wide river.
After the Jamestown canal it is back on to the River Shannon, which widens out in Lough Boderg. Today the clouds are very threatening, with rather too much wind for comfort, although the rain stayed away.

At Dromod the harbour was quite full overnight. Angiles Delight had arrived ahead of us.

At one end of Dromod is the wall painting of the herons.
They can also be seen as a bog oak sculpture by the fountain at the other end of the High Street. Sadly the goldfish in the fountain are terrified of us, moving away to the other side to hide. Last time we were here there was a small boy trying to drop stones on the fish, or at least he was, until we sent him back to join his mother in her car. She would have been                                                                                          happy for him to carry on!
 On leaving Dromod, with a good send off from Tiger, we carried on to reach Roosky Lock at 1pm. All locks are closed from 1 - 2 pm so there was plenty of time for a lunch break in the lock.

Further down stream we planned to turn left on to the Camlin River. As we approached, it looked as though this hire boat was blocking the entrance to the river.

However as we sailed closer we could see that it had been an optical illusion, and he was tied to the far marker!

The Camlin River is very much narrower than the Shannon, and winds its way through the fields.It is a very pretty river.
At Richmond Harbour we moored below the lock. Our friends on Lazy Witch was already there. A cabin cruiser arrived just ahead of us, moving up to the far end of the jetty. We fitted in tight behind him, with a hireboat squeezing in between The Puzzler and Lazy Witch.

The cruiser in front of us left, to be replaced shortly by another hireboat, which only just fitted in, with our bows overlapped their stern.

At the other end the hireboat stern rested outside our stern.Their bows were touching Lazy Witch.

Monday, 21 May 2012

14th - 20th May. From Lough Key to Carrick. A trip to Bunnanadden in County Sligo.

On Monday James and Teresa came for the day. We had planned to go for a sail on Lough Key, but the wind was too strong to do so safely, so we rocked (quite a lot!) on the mooring. It was lovely to see them again after so long. On Tuesday we made our way back to the River Shannon and down to Carrick.
At Carrick we are on the finger moorings. It is reassuring that we now have a 'steaming' light, on top of the logbox, which we leave on at night, so that any night time craft can see us, as our stern is sticking out into the river. We stayed in Carrick for nearly a week, while Sally had a tooth out at the dentist, and then spent time recovering from this.
There is not a great deal of boat movement at night, but the Pleasure Steamer, Moon River, is quite busy with evening trips. She was out late on Saturday night, coming back past us at midnight. It sounded to be a great party!

On Sunday James collected us and we went to spend the day with him and Teresa at Spotfield, which is a wonderful secluded cottage in County Sligo.

It is a traditional Irish cottage with real character. James and Teresa make Meadow Miniatures jewellery here, using flowers they grow themselves.

The view from the back garden is stunning, looking across to the Ox Mountains.

They have their own bog for peat cutting. Here the peat has been cut, and is stacked until it is dry enough to be brought to the house for use as fuel.

We have been burning compressed peat all winter in The Puzzler, so are delighted to be able to use the real thing! It makes an extremely good fire.

Friday, 18 May 2012

9th - 13th May. Lough Key

We left Leitrim to travel on down the River Shannon. This herd of horses set off at full gallop at the sight of The Puzzler. 

However the donkeys were much more laid back about it all.

We left Slieve Aneurin on the far side of Lough Allen, but can still see it, having turned right on to The Shannon, as we turn right again to sail up the River Boyle.

As we approach Cootehall village, the name is written on the river bank in hedging.

The mooring at Cootehall is against a high wall, before the bridge.

Although Cootehall is not a very large village, there have been a great many new houses built here. However we can see from the prices being asked that they are not selling very fast!

Once on Lough Key we can see a lot of gorse on the further hillside.
As soon as we arrived at the new mooring beside the Lough Key Forest Park two ducks came for food. Half an hour later they returned to land on top of The Puzzler, near the back of the boat. I went out to chase them off. However, as soon as they saw me, they ran along the full length of the boat, as fast as ducks can run on webbed feet, to ask for more food. How could I refuse them?
On Friday morning the wind was pinning us on to the jetty and it was really rough, despite the breakwater. Sean helped us to move The Puzzler as far in along the jetty as we could. There was no way we could have done more than that to escape the wind.

Sean and Katherine then managed to get their cruiser off the jetty, and they ran for cover to another mooring round the corner of the bay, where they would be more sheltered from the wind, which was now probably force 5.
By the evening the wind had dropped. These moorings at Lough Key Forest Park have been built since we were here last year.  The long breakwater helps to protect it from incoming waves. There must be room for  at least 40 boats to moor here now.

Castle Island, lying out in the bay, is as attractive as ever when the sun shines. Weather here in Ireland can change so quickly.

On Saturday we continued to the head of Lough Key and on up the Boyle River to the harbour at Boyle.  The renovation of Boyle Abbey seems to be nearly complete now.

After our return to the mooring at Lough Key, the  weather deteriorated. On Sunday the cloud came very low beyond the breakwater, covering all the hills on the far side of the lough.

Later in the day the clouds cleared as the wind got up. It was coming from the north-west and waves were breaking over the breakwater.

In Lough Key Forest Park there are so many different natural phenomena. 

Sally is by the rhodedendrons in the Bog garden.

An overgrown canal runs through the park.

There has been some serious logging done in this part of the forest, allowing Andy to have a rest.

We liked the shape of this maple tree in the grassy part of the park.