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.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

19th - 26th September Up River Shannon and across Lough Ree. Lanesborough, Tarmonbarry, and up the Camlin River to Richmond Harbour.

 It was an early start as we have a long day today. We stopped briefly at Clonmacnoise Monastery, which we  last visited in early August, before carrying on up the River Shannon to Athlone.

It is surprising how little topsoil there is over the limestone bedrock here, as the grass is so green.

After Athlone, we sailed on to Lough Ree and spent the night at Hodson Bay Hotel. In the harbour actually, not in the Hotel, but it makes a good backdrop!

The port back door will not open completely, due to the damage, so we sailed today with a bungy holding the door. However we have since removed the wooden seat, until the metal work has been straightened and rewelded.

Another early start on Tuesday up Lough Ree with a super sky ahead of us. By cruising early in the day, we avoided the wind and waves of the afternoon.

In the harbour at Portrunny, we joined several speedboats. Are they shut up for the winter already, or just waiting for the Indian Summer which has been promised?

Wednesday was a really wild day, with strong winds out on the lough, but we still managed a walk along the lough shore.
After two nights at Portrunny, we set off with the sun  rising over the lough. We have been very lucky to find such calm water.

By the time we reached the northern end of Lough Ree the sun had disappeared, although the wind did not get up until later in the day. Lanesborough Power Station, the biggest peatburning power station in Ireland, looms up ahead of us.We are burning smokeless compressed peat logs on our stove at the moment and find them very good.

It is quiet in Ballyleague Harbour. Our friends from the North, Maurice and Janet, arrived soon after us so it was good to see them again.

The barge Knocknagow arrived on Friday evening, with friends of ours in the crew. She left the following morning, with a fresh crew, bound for Lough Derg. 

Back on the River Shannon, we sail up to Tarmonbarry Lock, where the top gates have seen better days.

Do you think that this seat, above the lock, will hold Andy's weight?

It must be annoying for the boats with higher topsides which have to circle above Tarmonbarry Bridge, when we can go underneath it, and do not have to wait for it to be lifted.
We move on upriver on Sunday, as strong winds are forecast for tomorrow, and have an extremely wet trip. Three miles above Tarmonbarry, we turn off on to the Camlin River, and head south again towards Richmond Harbour, and the start of The Royal Canal. Here we are moored below the first lock, on a jetty which is new this year. Incidentally, the strong winds never arrived and the weather on Monday was fine!

The converted barge, 58M, fills Richmond Lock as it goes up into Richmond Harbour. This barge is an excellent conversion, and is very cosy inside.

The lock enters at the far end of Richmond Harbour, which has always been a very popular mooring.We will come up here next year, on our way to the Royal canal.

The Royal Canal leads out at the other end of Richmond Harbour, and can now be cruised all the way to Dublin. The canal was reopened as a through route as recently as last September, having been closed since 1961.

Richmond Harbour is in Clondra village, which has two pubs but no shop. This waterwheel has been retained underneath Richmond Mills, which have been developed into apartments.
Richmond Mills, beside the attractive Clondra bridge, operated as a corn mill from 1771 until 1827, when it was converted into a whiskey distillery, producing 80,000 gallons annually. During the Fr. Matthew Temperance Campaign of 1843, it reverted to milling corn, and later operated as a factory for curing hides.

St Brendan's Church in Clondra village was completed in 1835. The graveyard is quite impressive, with many beautiful crosses, and there are also the ivy covered ruins of a 12th century abbey.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

12th - 18th September 2011 Banagher, Shannonbridge and the River Suck

Meelick Weir is not far below the mooring at Meelick Quay. We are told that when the walkway over the rest of the weir, beyond these sluices, was built, there was an issue of safety. Would people walking across be falling into the water? Indeed they might! So it was decided that a solid railed fence should be built along the walkway to keep the people safe. However, the first time that the water in the Shannon rose over the walkway, as it does in winter, the fence was too good! It caught all the debris from the floodwaters, and created a dam across the river. The waters backed up the river for over four miles to flood Banagher. The fence was removed and now the walkway is no longer useable!

After four windy nights at Meelick, we sailed on to Banagher, and moored in the corner of the harbour, to have some protection from the wind, which was still quite strong.

Catkin is not impressed by the height of the harbour walls. It is a two-person lift to get her to the shore here.

On the far side of Banagher bridge there is a Pitch and Putt course, which  was a good place to walk in this windy weather. There were no golfers in sight!

Beside the Pitch and Putt course, a swimming pool has been built into the River Shannon. No-one was swimming there today, but it would be nice on a lovely summer's day.

From Banagher we carried on upstream. A very young donkey foal viewed us with interest, as we passed by on the river.
We took another detour behind Lehinch Island. It became very narrow at one corner, but we did manage to get through. It is not a detour to be recommended though, as there is a large rock in the centre of the channel, just before rejoining the main River Shannon. As we only grazed this rock lightly, it did not tip us over too far!

At Shannonbridge there is wallside mooring below the bridge. However, we went on to moor on the outside of the long jetty, above the bridge. There are electric hookup points and water taps available right along the jetty.

From Shannonbridge we sailed back downstream and on to the River Suck. This river is a large tributary of the River Shannon, joining it just below Shannonbridge. All black markers are green instead of black on the Suck, which makes them easier to see.

Even near to the junction, the flow of water on the Suck is quite noticeable. As the river narrows further on, it becomes even more interesting on the corners.

On the approach to Pollboy Lock, we pass close to the weir stream. Our channel ahead lies to the right of the red marker, round the corner into the unknown!

The town of Ballinasloe lies near to the harbour, with many resident ducks.

The famous Ballinasloe Horse Fair is held in the town every year in October. This statue, in the centre of the town, is extremely lifelike.

This boat in the harbour belonged to Winston Churchill at one time.
We sailed back down the Suck and through Pollboy Lock, which is the only lock on this river. It was built in 1997, opening up this attractive river to boats.

Cruising on down the Suck, the clouds behind are gathering.

However, in front of us, it looks like a lovely day. During the morning the clouds cleared, and then closed in again, several times.

We were five minutes from Shannonbridge when the heavens opened and Andy got soaked! We returned to the jetty mooring again, after the rain.

On the other side of the river, some swan fury was unleashed, as an intruder was chased away.
Unfortunately, the boat which had been moored behind us made an error of judgement when leaving the mooring. The wind was blowing him towards us and, instead of slowing down to push his boat out, he decided to power forward to get past us. You can see from the new angle of The Puzzler's port taff rail, that he hit us quite hard. Welding will be needed, as soon as possible, although steering should not be a problem until then. Thank goodness it was not the tiller that was hit! The boat which hit us can be seen above, sharing Pollboy lock with The Puzzler.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

4th - 11th September. Portumna and Meelick Quay

Strong winds being forecast for the early part of next week, we left Terryglass and Lough Derg on Sunday morning. Once through the swing bridge at Portumna, back on the River Shannon, we pulled into the town harbour, managing to moor across a corner.
 The Puzzler found a new friend, as we were moored with our bows overlapping this yacht!

Supervalue having delivered our shopping right to the boat, we settled down to sit out the storm.
Sadly, there was a major fire at the Shannon Oaks Hotel in Portumna on Wednesday, with the smoke being seen for miles around. This hotel was one of the most popular in County Galway. It will be a great miss to the town, although plans are already underway for its rebuilding.
By Thursday the wind had abated, so we set off upstream. This time, where possible, we took the scenic route behind islands, rather than following the main marked channel. Here we are emerging from behind Sally Island!

Victoria Lock was quite busy, as other boats are also on the move today.

Meelick Quay is a single wall, with room for four or five boats to moor. The big steel cruiser has been here for five years - owner unknown! We pulled in in front of the small cruiser.

Barge 49M chugged past. She is the oldest unconverted Guiness barge on the Irish Waterways.

Even stronger winds are forecast for the weekend when the tail end of hurricane Katya will reach us! Meelick Quay is comparatively sheltered, but even so our satellite dish has to be set up on the bank for a good TV picture.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

26th August - 3rd September. Back up Lough Derg to Garrykennedy, Dromineer, Rossmore, Kilgarvan and Terryglass.

We set off at 8am in brilliant sunshine, just as the mist was lifting,. However the sun soon went in and the clouds descended on the river again. Fortunately we were able to pull in to a private jetty for an hour, until it was clear enough to continue on to Lough Derg. The hills were very clear once we were out on the lough.
Lough Derg was extremely calm this morning, until a cruiser went past. It is surprising how the wake of another boat moves us, even in the deep water, out on the lough.

We sailed up the lough and round the corner to pull in to Garrykennedy Harbour. The stone wall is an effective barrier which stops the waves from the lough entering the harbour.
Across on the other side of Lough Derg, we could see the Irish Laser National Championships in progress. There were 151 sailors taking part over the four days of racing, with Eoin Keller, from Lough Derg Yacht Club, winning the laser radial class. It is the first time in 30 years that a Laser sailor has won a National Championship division at their home club.

The old harbour at Garrykennedy was constructed in 1849, using some of the stones from the old castle here. It used to be an important harbour on the Dublin to Limerick route for working barges.

Behind the old harbour is a pleasant forest walk.

Part of this walk runs along the flat stones by the lough. Catkin was much braver than usual about approaching the waves for a drink.

This weekend was also the first of the Autumn races for the local yachts. By Saturday evening Garrykennedy was a harbour full of yachts of all sizes.

We saw some exciting finishes, as they tacked into the wind.

The RNLI lifeboat pulled into harbour, near to The Puzzler, to check their charts. We could see them through our porthole!

As it grew dark, they set off for night manoevres.

From Garrykennedy we sailed on to the next harbour at Dromineer. The promised shop only sold ice cream so we stayed just one night there.

Next we went across to the west side of Lough Derg to Rossmore Jetty. The outside of the jetty is not recommended in rough weather, but we are having a good week with light winds.

At Rossmore Jetty we inflated Mini Puzzle, our dinghy, and went exploring up the Rossmore River. Having an electric engine, we enjoyed a very peaceful meander upstream and back.

We went about two and a half miles before we reached the head of navigation, even for dinghies! These boulders were right across the river bed.

Tomorrow is the first day of duck shooting, which lasts until the end of January. This dinghy ( not ours!) was camouflaged in readiness for the morning.
From Rossmore we crossed Lough Derg to Kilgarvan, which was the only harbour to disappoint us. It was very run down with practically no space to moor. After a brief stop we continued north towards Gortmore Point.
This marker H lies a third of a mile off Gortmore Point. Here today it is quite calm, but this is not the place to be on a windy day, as the waves build up as they cross the lough. It is a notoriously exposed spot. Waves can build up for seven and a half miles from the SW here, two and a quarter from the west, or over three miles from the ENE.

Duck shooting may have started, but this looks like a safe haven for them, in Terryglass Harbour.

From the numbers here, these ducks know when they are well off!

Is St Augh's Eye Well here in Terryglass to help us to see the distant markers on the Lough?

We went to find Terryglass Church, as we had heard its bell chime every hour since our arrival.