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, 2017 and 2018, returning to Roanne each winter.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

27th July - 31st July Down the Shannon River and across Lough Ree

The next day several boats left so we moved up into the corner of the harbour. By the evening the harbour was full again. We were penned in by three Emerald Star Hire boats, with one behind us, one alongside, and one with its stern to our bows!
The visiting crews were very friendly and invited us to an impromptu drinks party on the jetty in the rain. Two of the crews came from Germany, and the third from Switzerland.
As we approached Lough Forbes, this dredger was clearing the marked channel. We had been warned about a rock in this vicinity, which had lost its marker but, apart from the dredger, there were no obstructions to be seen.

This boat has just enough headroom at Tarmonbarry road bridge.
The bridge was raised as soon as the lockkeeper, who also operates the road bridge, returned from lunch. The last of these boats had to wait for another hour before they could enter the lock, which is 100 yards downstream of the bridge. These river locks are slow.
After passing Lanesborough, we were out on to Lough Ree. With a forecast of force 2 - 3 the lough was quite calm, though it is a place to avoid in high winds. Lough Ree has its own weather forecast for sailors each morning.

Following markers to avoid these rocks and others lower than these is very important on these loughs! Rocks can be found a long way from the shores.

We shared the lough with both yachts and cruisers today.

This is the same yacht later on. We overtook him as the wind dropped!

There is a sailing school at Hodson Bay. The harbour is to the left of the wall in this picture. We only stayed one night here as the whole area was so busy. The hotel car park, which is huge, was practically full of cars, with several campervans near to the harbour area too.

This puppy, from one of the vans, took quite a shine to Andy. Catkin was unimpressed!
On Saturday morning the lough was quite calm, although it was a bit misty. It was a case of reaching one marker before even trying to find the next one with the binoculars.
We reached Portrunny Harbour safely, to moor on the outside end of the jetty. It is horseshoe shaped, with finger jetties on the inside.

The harbour wall is designed to protect us in all weathers.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Upper Shannon Meanderings 18th – 26th July.

Monday was wet and windy, but we set off down Lough Key, in order to be at Carrick-on-Shannon in good time. It was a wet crossing with waves over the bows!
At Carrick we took the only free finger mooring. There is room for 29 boats on these moorings, but they are only 28 foot long, so The Puzzler sticks out into the river. Our bows are in as far as they will go, really they are! There is also space along the wall near to the bridge for several more boats. It is busy this week as the Shannon Annual Boat Rally meets here at the weekend, and several boats are already here. Unlike in England, boats here move from harbour to harbour during the rally. The Shannon Rally has over eighty boats attending this year, so they will fill the harbours wherever they stop!

We sailed from Carrick up the Shannon and on to the Boyle River again. The weather was much calmer this time when we reached Lough Key, and we continued on to Boyle, at the far end of the Lough. We visited King House, a magnificently restored Georgian Mansion, built in the early 1700's for Sir Henry King, whose family was one of the most powerful and wealthy in Ireland. The house later became a military barracks for the famous Connaught Rangers, and is now a museum. We each had an audio guide, and there was an immense amount of information to absorb.

We next visited Boyle Abbey which is in the process of restoration. It was founded in the 12th Century as a Cistercian Monastery.

The abbey ruins were very well preserved, as were the visitors!

These donkeys came straight over to see us, and were very friendly.

 Martin enjoyed taking the helm back across Lough Key to the Lough Key Forest Park mooring.Martin is an incredibly experienced sailor, albeit usually out at sea.

We did the Lough Key Experience, which includes a trip underground, through the cellars of Rockingham House. They are the only remaining part of this stately home, which burned to the ground in 1957. There is a lift up to the top of the Moylurg viewing tower, which gives a good view over this part of Lough Key. Jenny is listening to her audio guide, not her mobile phone! After leaving the cellars, the return route is by way of a tree canopy walkway.

Castle Island was our next stop. This folly was built in the 19th Century from the ruins of the old castle.

It was a very short mooring here, with The Puzzler resting on the rocky shore. We created a minor problem for visiting canoes!

It was possible to scramble right round the island and also to climb up to the ramparts.

Next stop was The Zipit Experience, also at Lough Key Forest Park. Sally and Martin were strapped into their harnesses, ready to go, while Andy was photographer-in-chief !

There are four levels of difficulty at Zipit. This shows one of the early obstacles on the White course, which was also one of the most difficult obstacles, due to the height being climbed up the seemingly level steps.

This one was much easier!

Martin strolled across the ropes with ease!

These pallet type platforms tended to swing apart as we stepped between them.
The zipwires themselves were the best bit!

As we only had time to complete two of the four courses, we had to forego riding a BMX bike along a wire from treetop to treetop. Maybe next time!

Jenny steered back down Lough Key to the Boyle river. The weather has been kinder than it was on Monday, when the waves were coming over our bows.

This gypsy horse and caravan were in Leitrim.

From Leitrim we cruised up the first six locks on the Shannon-Erne Waterway, to moor above Kilclare Lower lock. We played Petanque on the newly mown grass beside The Puzzler, before going to the local hostelry to sample the Guiness there.

We continued up the last two locks to the summit level. Passing Keshcarrigan, we went down one lock, before turning off into Kiltybardan Lough. The mooring in the middle of the lough was a perfect place for a swim, followed by some sunbathing on a glorious afternoon.
On our return down to Leitrim next morning, Martin and Jenny nearly had an unexpected shower, as the lock above us was emptied by a following boat. As the pound between the two locks was already full, the excess came over the gate of Kilclare Lower lock. There was nowhere to run!

Well, you could go and work the locks instead!

We had a very pleasant meal at The Barge in Leitrim, before rejoining the Shannon to continue southwards.

This young foal was having a drink as we sailed past on the river.
We moored at the end of the Jamestown Canal. It is a lovely place, with our own lawn, which had been freshly cut. The weather is still being kind to us, so we had our second game of Petanque here. It was closely fought, but this time Martin and Sally were victorious, so it is honours even!

Catkin has been coping very well with these high wall moorings

We made an early start through Albert Lock before continuing on through Lough Tap, Lough Boderg and Lough Bofin to reach Dromod Harbour in good time. Dromod is a beautifully kept village. Martin and Jenny left us by bus. We have had a great week together.

We spent the evening on our new neighbours' boat. There were 23 boats in harbour, one of which was a small cruiser tied alongside us.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lough Key and Boyle Harbour 10th - 17th July

We spent the next three days at Drumman’s Island. The weekend crowd went home so life became more peaceful again. The walking in the Forest Park is lovely, and we have had some good weather.There is a disused canal, which runs through part of the park and there used to be a lock on the far side of Fairy Bridge.

We also spent time catching up on scratched paintwork, which is far less than it would be in England, as we have been through so few locks. None of these were narrow locks either! Andy refurbished the Squirrel stove, filling the crack which had appeared round the base of the chimney. The flames inside had looked very attractive through the gap, but it seemed a good idea to cover them! It is interesting that no smoke ever came into the cabin, out of the crack.

We decided to change our view midweek, so sailed round to the mooring which is right in front of the Lough Key Forest Park Centre, but it was full. This mooring was shown in a Waterways World supplement about the Irish Waterways in January, designated “a secluded mooring on Lough Key”. It is certainly lovely, but it can be very busy with gongoozlers at the weekends, being so close to the Centre. ( I will write more about activities there next week).
We do not mind other boats rafting on to us, but we are not the right boat to raft onto cruisers, especially with an elderly dog. It is difficult for her to cross other boats.

It was a beautiful sunny day, so we turned round and went round Drumman’s Island, up to the other end of Lough Key and on to the River Boyle. A canal was built about ten years ago, from the river to Boyle harbour, which can hold about fifteen boats. The jetties in the harbours , however, were not designed with narrowboats in mind!
The first part was level with the back of our roof, with metal steps up from the jetty by our side doors, which we thought were our only access. Having been heaved up and out of the side doors, then having to climb uncomfortable metal steps, Catkin was none too pleased. Thus the first time that she came back to The Puzzler, she did a kamikaze leap from the jetty, on to the back decking of the boat, nearly overshooting into the water beyond! It must have scared her, as she consented to use the side doors after that. We found carpet pieces for the steps too!
It is a good half hour walk to Boyle, which is quite a big town. We will be back here next week with friends.
The next day we returned to the Forest Park area. No luck again in front of the centre, so we went to the third mooring, which lies about half way round the bay. There are three full length (for us!) finger moorings here, rather than a T-shape, which seems to be more usual. We were beside Peter Farrell, which is a hundred year old barge, in very good repair. It is nearer to the main part of the Park.
On Friday we explored the other side of Forest park, before moving back to Drumman’s Island for a couple of very wet and windy days. Other boats arrived too, escaping the wind on other moorings in the area. One boat came in beside us, on the other side of our jetty, so that he could use us as a breakwater!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Leitrim to Lough Key 8th - 10th July

Andy cleaned and resealed the chimney to the stove top this morning. Although it was not smoking through the gap, it seemed better not to be able to see the flames of the fire from above!

We moved off, and soon joined the river Shannon. After going south for nearly four miles, we turned onto the River Boyle, and into Lough Eidin, where this cormorant was perching on a marker post.

There were threatening skies ahead, but the rain avoided us today.
We had planned to moor at Knockvicar, but the wall was too high for Catkin, being almost as high as our roof, so we carried on.

Clarendon lock is the only one on this river, with a wide weir beside it.

In the middle of the weir a fish ladder can be seen.

We reached Lough Key, and moored on Drumman's Island. This is one of three moorings adjoining the Lough Key Forest Park, and was very quiet, with only three boats there on Friday.

We explored part of the park and found some really old trees.

On Saturday boats kept arriving at our mooring during the day. By the evening there were fourteen boats altogether, several of which were rafted up.

We had two cruisers tied outside The Puzzler.

No half measures with their fenders!
We were pleased to see Maurice and Janet again. Their boat Lasalle, was moored beside us. Maurice was in charge of the barbeque, which had to move on to their back deck, under the umbrella, during a shower of rain.

A good evening was had by all, and we retired inside for games later. There were several barbeques elsewhere on the jetty, with peace eventually falling at about 12.30 am.