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.

Friday, 26 July 2013

12th - 15th July . To Shannon Harbour, then on to Lough Derg. Portumna Harbour and then Dromaan.

Time to update, as we have a new computer!

We think that the bridge at Pollagh is one of the most attractive on the Grand Canal.
Shannon enjoys sitting on the roof of The Puzzler, but is finding the weather extremely hot, as we are too! She is due for a trim, so decided to wear her red hair ribbon while she still can!

With all the racks up to fill lock 32, it does not take long to get down to Shannon Harbour.
The new long term moorings at Shannon Harbour have now been unchained, so that they can be used by boats in transit. We joined the barges from Graignamanagh, Aisling and Feileachan, there. We travelled out of Dublin together on the Royal Canal last summer, while doing the Green and Silver.

Shannon enjoyed the small park by the moorings there. Any wall is good for exploration.

In Portumna Harbour we found narrowboat Ashdown Girl, so with the rest of the gang arriving by camper van, it was just like last year.

We all got together for a barbeque, and a good time was had by all.

Shannon really enjoys swimming now and needs little encouragement to go into the water.

Later on it was time for a haircut and Shannon was not impressed! However, she is now appreciating being cooler.
We passed the barge 45M on our way down Lough Derg. 45M sank off Parker's Point in 1949 and lay at the bottom of Lough Derg for 29 years. She was raised from 80 feet of water by Donnacha Kennedy, with a thin crust of lime preserving her original paintwork. After drying out, her original Bolinder engine started again, and can be heard chugging along today. It is a great sound to hear!

The three Graignamanagh boats followed us down Lough Derg to Dromaan.

At Dromaan Harbour we caught up with other friends from last year too.

8th - 12th July. Along The Grand Canal from Lowtown to Rahan.

Carrying on along the Grand Canal from Lowtown, we pass the entrance to the Edenderry Branch. All the bridges along this canal are in splendid condition.

Progress is being made with the back hatch. Having masked the black club and red edges, there is now only one coat of paint to do.

Wild moorings are just that on this canal!
There is a lot of peat cut, which is drying on the bog. Once cut it is called turf though, not peat! The construction of the Grand Canal was a long and expensive process, because of the instability of the bog, and the subsidence which this caused.
We have friends on the barge Float#1, which was moored above lock 21, the first of the locks leading down to Tullamore.

It is still a luxury to have lockkeepers to work us through the locks.
In Tullamore we visited the harbour for the first time. We were impressed with Tullamore, which has plenty of good shops, and the people there were extremely friendly and helpful.
Since we were here a month ago, three new footbridges over the canal have been completed, although they are not in use yet.
On leaving Tullamore we were delayed briefly at lock 28, by an obstruction on the lower cill. Several Waterways Ireland staff arrived though and it was soon sorted.

This is a ford for the cattle to cross the canal, but these ones are just cooling down.

This Church of Ireland at Rahan has been here for centuries, and is still in regular use.

When we were here last year this public house, The Thatch, was closed, but looks to be in full working order now!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

4th - 7th July. The Barrow line from Athy to Lowtown

In May 1784 there was a flyboat service from Dublin to Athy. Boats left Dublin at 7am and reached Athy by 5pm. We are going much slower though! Having left Athy we carried on slowly up the Barrow Line, and were soon overtaken by Flying Hawk. It is good to see another boat on these waterways.
Mooring can be tricky, but we found that the bows fitted nicely on to the end of Camac Aqueduct. The next morning we had some drama on the approach to Vicarstown. A horsefly buzzed Andy, so he flicked it off his face. Unfortunately, at the same time, he also flicked his glasses into the canal. The Puzzler was immediately put into reverse and a search was instigated. Fortunately, at this point the canal is over six feet deep, so backing the boat did not disturb the mud on the bottom. The water is also crystal clear, so that it was eventually possible to locate the glasses, lying quietly on the bottom. Sally tried to swim down to get them, but this was too risky, as a sweeping hand could easily have buried them in the mud. Andy had the brilliant idea of using the barge pole, by placing it close to the glasses, so that Sally could go down, hand on the pole, to collect them. What odds would anyone have given on this result?

 Shannon and I often walk along the towpath, between bridges. This one is on the approach to Fisherstown bridge from the south.The quality of some of these, for dog walking, has to be seen to be believed. At this time of year the towpath often cannot be seen from the canal, which is down below us at this point.

Back on The Puzzler, peace is temporarily destroyed by the motorway crossing overhead.

A couple of minutes later it is as though the road crossing had never been.
In Monasterevin we cross the River Barrow on an aqueduct, as we approach the lifting road bridge. Joe Moore, our lockkeeper, started to operate the lift bridge. The sirens go off first, then the barriers come down to stop the traffic. However, one car was in a hurry and did not plan on waiting! He accelerated under the barriers as they came down, with the bottom part of the second barrier brushing his windscreen as he sped on! It could so easily have been an accident, if he had been one second later!
Safely past the bridge, in Monasterevin, we see two familiar boats ahead. Flying Hawk is here, while on the left is 34B. We saw this barge last, a month ago, in the middle of the canal, where he had slipped his moorings!

The Puzzler has a good reflection on Saturday, as the wonderful weather continues.

We had a queue of two boats at lock 23! This is our first queue at a lock on the whole canal system, as we follow Flying Hawk up this double lock.
Ratangan is a good place to stop for diesel. Andy did three trips to the nearby garage, to make sure that the tank is full for any potential rough weather on Lough Derg. If we believe the weather forecast though, this is unlikely!

The canal water always tastes sweeter, although sometimes it can be difficult to reach.

The canal is very straight in the stretch after Ratangan.
Below lock 22 we had a slight delay, as there were two horses swimming by the jetty when we arrived. Their owners chased them over to the far bank, where they climbed out of the water safely, leaving the jetty clear.
There were several swimmers in this lock when we arrived, but they moved out for us to use the lock. There was a large family picnic by the lock, with over twenty people of all ages there. As I opened the first rack, it gave The Puzzler a nose wash. Perhaps I should have started with the ground paddle!

Another peaceful aqueduct mooring.

Sally and Shannon went swimming on the aqueduct. This was not Shannon's idea!

Shannon had no problem with hitching a ride.

However, as soon as she could, she swam for the shore!
At Lowtown it was left turn, back on to the Grand Canal. There are fewer boats here now, and the moorings are very smart, with water points and electricity on the jetties.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

1st - 4th July. On up the River Barrow to Athy.

The hanging baskets on the town bridge at Leighlinbridge are impressive.
There were two hire boats full of Sea Scouts here last night at Leighlinbridge. We do not know when they eventually went to bed as our stamina is less than theirs! Flying Hawk came in this morning, and is the first boat we have seen which is also travelling upstream on The Barrow, like The Puzzler.
This grassy mooring above Milford is one we have passed before, but it has been worth the wait to moor here! It is a lovely place.

There is now very little water in the weir at Milford, but that does not make it any the less attractive.
A lot of dredging is going on above Clogrennan Lock. We grounded here on our way downstream a month ago and happened to mention this at the time to a lockkeeper. Apparently our words did some good! Be careful though, as it is only dredged as far as the digger can reach. If you go too far from the towpath, then there is still a ledge on which to ground your boat! Don't ask how we know this!

Having come through Carlow lock, we sail safely across the top of Carlow weir, to reach the bridge.
Once through the navigation arch of Carlow Bridge, we can look back across to the very far arch. This is the one we came through on our adventures up the river when it was in flood last year.

This egret followed us for a while. They are usually rather nervous, but we came quite close to him.
The mooring at Ardreigh comes soon after the lock, with room for many boats. It is only about a mile out of Athy, so we walked to the bridge at this end of town. Shannon likes to slide down the bank, and then swim in the river, whenever she can. On this occasion she returned fast out of the water, ready to run in silly circles on the towpath. However, as she reached us, a large alsatian arrived too, barking, from the other direction. Shannon has never turned round so fast to go back into the river! Fortunately the alsatian was firmly on a lead.
We went past the lock at Athy to go up to the town mooring, which is beyond the next bridge upstream. This is a handy mooring for shopping in the town, and can just be seen through this bridge arch, beyond Athy Castle.

We are sorry to be going up Athy lock, and leaving the River Barrow. We have had a great month down here, with such friendly people all the way down the river.