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.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Fun times in Fermanagh. 13th - 26th March 2012

Our friends, Violet and Gerry, were kind enough to take us out for the day, and we went up the Navar Forest Trail. This leads through the forest to the top of the Cliffs of Maghoo, overlooking Lower Lough Erne. There are fantastic views across the lough from this viewpoint, and it was wonderful to look down on the waters which we had traversed last May on The Puzzler.

Looking on down the River Erne, as it leaves the Broad Lough, we could see the route we had taken through the islands on our way to Belleek. The Atlantic Ocean is just visible in the distance, or is this my imagination?

We have been bowling three times a week since January. On Monday mornings we play at The Forum Sports Centre. Here at the Cathedral Hall on a Wednesday morning, Andy is delivering his last bowl of the end, under the watchful eye of rival skip, Frances.
On Thursday evening we will be off to bowls at The British Legion.

This week there has been a mixed pairs competition in the Cathedral Hall. We took part on Tuesday night, and managed to get through to the third round before being knocked out. There were 40 pairs competing on Tuesday night, with 4 pairs going through to the finals on Thursday night. Scores from the competition can be seen on the stage, behind the new skips for the second half of this morning's session.

It is obviously quite close here. Can they agree which team's bowl is the shot? At bowls we have not only had to learn everyone's names, but also the colour code on their bowls!
On Thursday evening we went to The British Legion for bowls until 10.00pm. Then we dashed across Enniskillen to the Cathedral Hall, to be in time to watch the final of the mixed pairs competition. In fact the final didn't start until 11pm!

On Friday, en route to the Lower Lough, we negotiated Portora Lock, which is manned at the moment. Last year it was open at both ends but it is currently in use to maintain the water level in Enniskillen and in Upper Lough Erne. The ruins of Portora Castle can be seen above the lock.

The drop that there has been this spring in the water level on Lower Lough Erne is shown on the reeds here. The black part has been under water all winter. Although it rained on and off for most of last year, it has been remarkably dry here since the beginning of January.
We are approaching our destination of the Manor House Hotel, which lies about ten miles to the north of Enniskillen. It took an hour and a half of sailing to arrive here by 9am. Early morning is the best time to be on the lough, as it is usually calm. We have come here for the Fermanagh Bridge Congress, and have organised mooring for The Puzzler on the visitor jetty of the Manor House Marina for the weekend.

Again the low water level can be seen by the steep angle of the ramp up from our floating jetty.
Andy writes down the score after a hand of bridge at the Fermanagh Bridge Congress. This was our first ever Bridge Congress and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We played in all of the five three-hour sessions over three days and were very impressed by the organisation of the whole congress.

While we played in the Open Pairs competition on Sunday, the Teams of Four event was taking place in the other room. Overall there were about 150 people taking part in the Congress, coming from all over Ireland.

The Impartial Reporter did an article on local bridge players who were at the Congress, and we both featured in this. (Click on the picture if you want to read the article)
The sun was setting over the lough as we returned to The Puzzler on Sunday evening. These cruisers have been out on hard standing at the marina for the winter. The cruising season is now starting and several boats have been put into the water over the weekend.

Inside the main part of the Marina the hire fleet of cruisers is to be found. These little day boats are also very popular.

On Monday we set off just as the sun was breaking through the early morning mist.

We were early again as we wanted to be back in Enniskillen in time to play bowls at The Forum.
I do not think that we have ever had a busier social life!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

17th March. St Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day falls on a Saturday this year, and everyone is getting ready for the big day! The jetty here at The Forum is being pressure washed in preparation.
This is the time to make sure that all boat windows are closed, as our boat will be washed while they are at it!

In front of us, the Irish flag is flying proudly over  Maco's barge.

Inside Enniskillen Castle walls, there are two steam engines in steam. They both joined the parade through the streets of Enniskillen later in the day.

Sally tried out the crossbow, managing to hit the target.

St Patrick is due to arrive soon. He usually arrives by boat, but everyone has been told to watch the sky too.

When the sea plane lands, there is great excitement in the crowd.

He creates quite an imposing presence, as he emerges from the plane.

After the official photographs were over, St Patrick spent a long time meeting everyone in the crowd. It was all quite impressive.

Once St Patrick had moved away, there was a water demonstration by the Erne Wakeboarders. Here three of them are in the river, ready to go.

Once the boat accelerates, they are up on to their boards.

Each man puts up quite a wash as he weaves across the water.

They disappear off into the sunset.

 Well, they would if it was the right time of day!

St Patrick heads the parade, which goes right round the streets of the town, finishing up at Enniskillen Castle.

Ballyreagh Silver Band lead the band section of the parade.

They are followed by Trillick Pipe Band.

Lakeland Players celebrate 25 years of entertainment on their float.

Green balloons seem to dominate several of the floats, and everyone is having a great time!

On the Derrylin Boxing Club float there is a boxing match in progress. It seems to be a fight to the finish for the young contenders!

More green for St Paddy's day.

No Irish parade is complete without  machinery.
A Ferguson Brown Type A tractor from 1936 is a fine exhibit. It was Ireland's first tractor designed by Harry Ferguson fitted with a mounted plough.

The Irish certainly know how to organise a good day's entertainment.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

26th February - 11th March 2012

 At the end of January, a friend kindly gave us these hyacinths, which are now in full bloom. They have helped to keep us cheerful during any dull days.

We are still moving every 48 hours, travelling around Enniskillen. We keep busy going to bowls three times a week, as well as attending two bridge clubs.

Throughout Ireland at this time of the year there are several Head of the River timed races. At the beginning of March the Erne Head of the River race was held, with the boats being launched from the Round "O". The rowing 8s all arrive by trailer and have to be assembled in the car park.

Once the boats are assembled, the crews queue up to launch them.

Each boat is carried by its crew to the outer jetty where a lower pontoon has been added, for ease of launching.

The turn on to the outer jetty has been facilitated by the recent work which was done to lower the jetty-supporting poles. ( Black with white caps). The crews bring their oars down first, so that there is no delay, once each boat is in the water.

As soon as one boat is in the water, the next one is launched. There are sixty boats taking part today, but they are very efficient and it does not take long to get them all into the water.

The RNLI launch is at hand, should they be needed.
The Head of the River course on The River Erne is about 7 kilometres long and is the longest in Ireland. The course finishes by going through the bridge at Enniskillen, then past The Round "O" to finish near Portora Boat House. The boats set off individually at regular intervals, but here two are both racing for the finish. The Galway University crew were fastest over the course in 19 minutes 35 seconds.

A crew of four boys from Belfast are doing well to keep the eight at bay.

After the race, the boats seem to be much heavier than they were when being launched!

We have been walking in the grounds of Castle Coole again on a glorious sunny afternoon. The Castle can be seen in the far distance, beyond the lake, which is a conservation area in the grounds.

We met Peanut, who is only seven weeks old. She is tiny!

She found something to eat, which we hope was puppy-friendly.