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.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

15th - 19th July. (Updated) On along the Royal Canal through the Deep Sinking, Maynooth, Moyvalley Bridges and Hill of Down to Mullingar

We set off and soon enter the Deep Sinking, a wooded cutting. The towpath runs high above us, which was very hazardous when this was a commercial canal. Occasionally horses towing the barges were dragged into the canal.

Further on there are fewer trees and some rocky outcrops.

This is a very attractive canal with contrasts between the traditional bridges and the more modern.

This one was quite spectacular.

The trains still follow the canal closely.

Without the Royal Canal lockkeepers today, we are working the locks ourselves. John seems to know what he is doing!
We walked through the Montgomery golf course to see Carton House, formerly the seat of the Dukes of Leinster. Our walk back was through the O' Meara golf course.
It is nice to see other people swabbing the decks! We stopped in Maynooth for water, but moved on out of town for the night. We all had a great evening on John and Chris's boat, with everyone joining in with the singing. We heard and enjoyed a lot of new Irish songs.
Next morning Feileachan was seen floating unattended by the reeds, doing a Marie Celeste impression. Someone must have cast her adrift. We wondered what the crew were doing that they did not notice!
We stopped for lunch at Kilcock, a small canalside town. The Royal Canal passes through far more towns and villages than the Grand Canal does. River is wondering where Dave has gone!

At lock 15 the two narrow boats were breasted up and Andy brought them up the lock.

It is good to see that Andy can still wind a paddle too!

We sailed on across the Long Level, which is a 32km stretch with no locks. The canal goes through another sinking here.

Further on across the Long Level the countryside is much more open.
Ahead we can see the two Moyvalley Bridges, the new one with the old one behind it. We moored just beyond the old bridge, where we all went to Furey's pub for a welcome drink after a long day at the tiller.

The next morning it was off to another pub for a proper Irish breakfast, with Chris leading the way.

Here the restaurant and pub are side by side, and the food was good. Along with Furey's pub, these three buildings comprise all of Moyvalley.

Carrying on along the Long Level we meet a gathering of three weedcutters, together with a larger weed collector. Perhaps they are breeding!
The Ribbontail Bridge was built to facilitate people going to the nearby church, and again there are stop gates, which will close automatically, should there be a breach in the canal.This time they are not chained open!

At Hill of Down we moored right beside the pub, which also contained a shop. This area was closely fenced, which was good for the dogs.

Cooper and Mia had a great game of chase, but Cooper got carried away and misjudged his direction. Mary's leg was in the way!

As a result  Mary had an extremely sore leg, and Cooper had a very sore head. He wobbled for a few steps before collapsing on his stomach.

We have had such fun, travelling with this convoy, as the group pics show.
The dogs were meant to be in the previous picture, but River and Cooper wanted to play. Allie, Mia and Trixie were very well behaved.

Trixie thought she would come to visit The Puzzler.

Beyond Hill of Down the countryside is much more open.
Jackie and Chris thought they would take advantage of this, and were joined by a dog which followed them for over five miles. He was collected by car later!
The towpath above lock 22 was a good spot for our last country mooring all together. We had another enjoyable evening of singing.

As the Royal Canal lockkeepers are with us again for the next flight of eight locks, Andy is taking it easy.

The canal narrows again near Baltrasna Bridge.
We reached Mullingar on Thursday. The mooring here is very pleasant, with a shower block too within the secure gated mooring. It was another evening out all together for a meal in town. A good time was had by all, once we had eventually decided where to eat.

We are staying in Mullingar until next week, so all the other boats have sailed off into the sunset (figuratively speaking) without us. We are missing them all already!

Monday, 23 July 2012

14th July. The Royal Canal from Ringsend Basin to the Twelfth Lock.

On leaving Ringsend Basin we all set off up the Royal Canal. This low level lift bridge can be a problem for some boats, such as the cruisers, with a higher air draft, but that is overcome by dropping the water level in this pound.
Along this stretch there are rungs set into the wall, presumably in case anyone falls in. The lighter line at the bottom of the wall, where it meets the water, shows how much the water level has been lowered for our convoy.
Hazard ahead! We can see the first lock beyond the Effing Bridge. (Yes, that is the name of this bridge!) The bridge is in fact a railway crossing, so the track is disconnected so that the bridge can be raised on the four pillars, to allow boats to pass underneath. It was reputedly given its name from the language of the railway men when they first tried to open it! 

The Puzzler and Ashdown Girl will be the first through the bridge, so we are tied up, waiting hopefully for the bridge to lift.
The main railway line can be seen to the left and the line over the Effing Bridge is in fact a branch line. We are told that it was only used four times in the past year. The bridge is only opened once a month for the passage of boats during the cruising season, so perhaps that is a maximum of five times in the year. Could this fact have also contributed to the naming of the Effing Bridge?

As there is nowhere else to tie to, the rest of the convoy is hovering patiently behind us.
At last the Effing Bridge is up and Dave heads under it and into the lock first. The bridge went up today without a hitch and everyone was cheering. Apparently the last two times when a lift was attempted the mechanism jammed, and a crane had to be summoned to complete the lift. One boat missed the tide yesterday and may be following us later, so the bridge is being left up for a while. However we heard that, when they tried to lower the bridge later in the day, it jammed! No doubt it earned its name all over again!

We sail right beside Croke Park, which is the Irish equivalent of Wembley. It is the centre of the Gaelic Athletics Association and large numbers of matches of both hurling and gaelic football are played here.
Lock 2 is a double lock, as are the next four locks. This is the deepest lock on the Irish Waterways, with a rise of about 22' in total. We go into the bottom chamber, which is underneath a six lane carriageway.

The middle gates are quite impressive!
We certainly knew about it when the paddles were opened! We are all on our boats as we have a gang of lockkeepers working us through the first twelve locks. So far we have seen eight of them, and their supervisor arrives further on to help too. There were five railway personel at the bridge, so fourteen workers for our seven boats seems quite a luxury.

Maraid and River got quite wet on the front of Ashdown Girl!

Even the top gates are quite a height.

Eventually we escape from the gloomy lock. This is certainly a canal with a difference!
Out into the open at lock 3. The two narrowboats fit well into these locks even though they were not designed for this width. (Famous last words, as you will see later!)
Having left the lockkeepers behind, we wait below lock 4. All paddles on these locks are very heavy to work, so we are glad of their help. John sails past us and on into the lock, which is only right and proper for the leader of the group!

Here at lock 4 we pass close to the notorious Mountjoy Prison.

At lock 5 we collect some gongoozlers, including Sally.

By the time we are in the upper chamber, they have multiplied!

By lock 6, the last of the double locks for now, we are out of the inner city and there are now houses by the canal.

Hamilton bridge, formerly known as Broome Bridge, was renamed in honour of Sir William Rowan Hamilton, the Dublin-born mathematician and Astromoner Royal.None of us could understand his formula!

As we pass through Ashdown, a suburb of Dublin, there are lots of modern apartment blocks. We are told that Dublin is a city of apartments. One boat fell by the wayside and left the convoy here.
We had been warned that lock 10 was a tight fit for two narrow boats, which it was! This lock had been lengthened in the past, and narrowed towards the top, where the old bottom gates used to be. Moving the shorter boat forward of this point, as we ascended the lock, should sort the problem. However, our shorter boat was not short enough to fit behind another narrow point near the top gates, and we were stuck solid.

We decided to drop both boats down to the lower chamber of the lock. Sean and Jackie were the following boat and were just approaching the bottom gates, as they were shut in their faces! Sorry about that! However the boats would not drop with the water, and leant against each other. Ashdown Girl fell down the few inches first, followed by The Puzzler. We were relieved to escape with a few scratches and went singly after that.
This is Phoenix Park railway station. The railway runs beside us all the way from Dublin to Mullingar, before leaving the Royal Canal to continue westwards to Sligo, on the Atlantic coast.

Before lock 12 we are reminded of Spagetti junction in Birmingham, England. We are sailing under the M50.

We then pass over the N4 road on a modern aqueduct.

Chris and Cooper are glad to be nearly finished.

The Puzzler is on her own in lock 12 so ropes are in use. Removing the wings from the cratch makes this much easier.
Above lock 12 is the pub, also called The Twelfth Lock, and we had finally reached our destination for the day. It has taken us eight hours to get right out of Dublin, but we are now well on our way to completing the Green and Silver Ring.
That evening we all went to the Twelfth Lock for a meal.We were celebrating the completion of a most enjoyable passage in and out of Dublin.  This was our first evening altogether, but by no means our last!