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The first public holiday weekend of the year saw Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat volunteer crew respond to two call-outs and come to the aid of four people stranded on the lake.

On St. Patrick’s Day (Thursday 17 March) the crew was tasked by the Irish Coast Guard to go to the assistance of a cruiser with two people on board. With newly qualified crew member Liam Sheringham at the helm, the charity’s lifeboat ‘Tara Scougall’ launched just before 2 pm. On reaching the scene, north of Long Island, the crew came to the assistance of a 37ft steel cruiser with two people on board who had lost power and run aground. The cruiser was towed to safe water and later continued north under it’s own power.

In the second incident, on Saturday afternoon (19 March) the crew responded to a call-out to a craft that was drifting on the lake between Coosan Point and Beam Island. Launched at 3.50 pm, with newly qualified helm Stewart McMicken in charge the lifeboat reached the 33ft cruiser with two people on board just after 4 pm. On arrival, the crew found the vessel already under tow by a passing boat near Hodson Bay. Following a safety examination, the crew escorted both boats towards Athlone.

Over the weekend the volunteer crew from Lough Ree RNLI also joined with Athlone River Safety Group, Athlone Sub Aqua Club and An Garda Siochana to promote safety awareness on the water. Lough Ree RNLI Operations Manager Kevin Ganly said: ‘This co-operation among the agencies on the river is of critical importance when it comes to responding to emergencies on the water.’


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Following a series of familiarisation and training programmes over the last three weeks, the volunteer crew at Lough Ree RNLI is in readiness for the move to its new state of the art boathouse in Coosan later this month.

The boathouse was built at a cost of €1.2m, funded exclusively by charitable donations, including a local community contribution of €100,000 raised in the midlands last year. Construction of the boathouse, which began in late 2020 was interrupted by the pandemic and was completed in February. The fitting out programme has been ongoing over the last number of weeks and it is expected that following the installation and testing of electronic and IT systems the boathouse will go into service before the end of March.

Alongside the weekly training sessions on the water, the Lough Ree RNLI volunteer crew has been engaged in an intensive familiarisation programme of the new facility and its systems. The new boathouse slipway will provide direct access to the lake for the charity’s lifeboat ‘Tara Scougall’ and her crew. The boathouse will also facilitate improved response time to emergencies, a specially designed training room and excellent crew facilities.

The boathouse was built at a cost of €1.2m, funded exclusively by charitable donations, including a local community contribution of €100,000The Lough Ree RNLI boathouse was built at a cost of €1.2m, funded exclusively by charitable donations, including a local community contribution of €100,000

Lifeboat Operations manager at Lough Ree RNLI Kevin Ganley said: ‘This is a fitting way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the charity on Lough Ree and could not have been achieved without the generous contribution of the local community and those further afield.’

The official opening of the Lough Ree RNLI boathouse will take place in June at an open air ceremony at which the charity’s lifeboat ‘Tara Scougall’ will also be formally named and handed over to Lough Ree RNLI.

The temporary structure which has served Lough Ree RNLI well over the last number of years at Coosan will be decommissioned, dismantled and transferred to another RNLI facility.

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At a time when business and contact hours are at the heart of the national conversation, Lough Ree RNLI is reminding everyone that the charity and its volunteer lifeboat crew remain on call 24/7 throughout Christmas and the New Year.

With 46 callouts so far this year, 2021 has been another busy year for Lough Ree RNLI. The charity came to the assistance of over 150 people who had experienced difficulty of some kind on the lake or River Shannon this year.

To remain always in readiness the volunteers have continued with weekly on-the-water training on board the station’s inshore lifeboat Tara Scougall.

Coupled with this were a number of multi-agency training and familiarisation sessions with other lifesaving partners on the water.

While the holiday period is traditionally a busy one on the lake for both boats and swimmers, Lough Ree RNLI press officer Tom McGuire said: “All who use the lake at this time need to be aware of the colder water temperatures and the higher water level which may obscure obstacles normally fully visible.

“In the event of anyone getting into difficulty a call should be made to the emergency services on 112 or 999 at the earliest opportunity. As always Lough Ree RNLI remains on call at all times; for some new crew members it will be a first Christmas on call.”

On land, the new lifeboat station is nearing completion on the shores of Lough Ree at Coosan Point in Athlone. All of the crew had an opportunity to walk through the facility last week and Lough Ree RNLI hope to move into the boathouse early in the the New Year.

A fundraising campaign has been ongoing throughout the year to raise a local community contribution of €100,000 towards the €1.2m project. This has been very successful and the target is well within reach after many great contributions, both big and small throughout the year. In the season of giving, Lough Ree RNLI hopes to reach its target very soon.

The station has a local bank account where all donations, large or small, are welcome. The account name is Loughree RNLI Boathouse Appeal, the BIC is AIBKIE2D and the IBAN is IE80AIBK93226458090098.

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Lough Ree was the perfect arena for the first "skiffs weekend". 13 hardy sailors launched and sailed in 29ers, 49ers, Int14 and RS700.

The concept was to try out fast boats and enjoy the thrills of high-speed sailing. 

29er: The 29er is the most popular skiff for youth sailors. There is an active class in Ireland with events regrouping up to 15 boats at present.

The class is growing and results internationally have been excellent.

Recently, Ireland took third position at the Europeans Nations Cup which regrouped the best three finishers from each country.

49er sailing49er sailing

49er: Natural progression from the 29er, the 49er is an Olympic class. Following in the footsteps of our Olympians, there are a handful of boat owners in Ireland enjoying the challenge of controlling the overpowered rig.

International 14(Above and below) International 14 

Int14: The International 14 is a development class that has led to great designs of skiffs with massive spinnakers and full carbon hulls. "Chocolate Girl" raised a few heart rates when hoisting the yellow kite on Lough Ree at the weekend,

RS700: Along with the Musto skiff, the 700 is the single-handed ultimate skiff, the boat you wonder how it is possible to gybe safely with the spinnaker up.

RS 700(Above and below) RS 700


A wet and blustery westerly welcomed the participants so the weekend started indoors with a shore-based session delivered by skiff coaches Thomas Chaix and Chris Bateman.

Eventually, the wind dropped enough to launch for an evening session on the open lake and the sailors managed a few fun runs before dark.

Sunday morning was chilly but the 12-14 kts on the lake proved perfect for hours of fast sailing swapping crews, helms and boats for the participants. The display of skills was excellent in ideal conditions. Ethan Spain developed a liking for the RS700 whilst the 29er sailors really enjoyed giving it a go in the 49ers. The wind eventually started to drop to give a gentle sail into the sunset.

The smiles all around and the boat park chats were unanimous and the weekend was only the start towards building a group of skiffs enthusiasts keen for more of these weekends of fast fun, friendly regattas and coaching development.

Big thanks to Lough Ree YC and its team of dedicated members John McGonigle, Emmet Duffy and Garrett Leech for making the weekend happen.

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Athlone resident Denis Bergin embarks on what is more than two marathons this weekend with a 90km run around Lough Ree to raise funds for the RNLI boathouse which is nearing completion at Coosan Point, Athlone, Co. Westmeath.

The Tullamore native, an avid water enthusiast and long time supporter of the charity said: “I was hoping to run in the Dublin City Marathon to support the new lifeboat station but when that got cancelled I had to think of a different challenge for the same weekend. As the lifeboat covers every corner of the lake, running around it seemed a good alternative.”

Denis intends to complete the two marathon distances this holiday weekend. He starts from the Lough Ree RNLI boathouse at Coosan Point on Saturday morning (24 October) at 9 am. His route will take him through Ballykeeran, Glasson and onwards through the parishes of Tang, Ballymahon, Kenagh and Newtowncashel as he hugs the lakeshore on his way to the bridge at Lanesboro, Co. Longford. On the return marathon he will run down the west side of Lough Ree from Ballyleague towards Roscommon town and then swings south through Kilteevan, Knockcroghery, Lecarrow, Ballybay and Hodson Bay back to finish in Coosan on Sunday afternoon.

With three marathons under his belt the Ericsson employee has been a familiar figure on his various training routes which have centred on the Old Rail Trail greenway.

Lough Ree RNLI Treasurer Vincent Rafter welcomed the initiative and said: “great progress has been made on raising the €100,000 community contribution for the €1.2m boathouse and the generosity and endurance of people like Denis are an inspiration to all those who support and rely on the charity.”

This year Lough Ree RNLI volunteer crew has assisted more than 150 people in 42 call-outs on the lake.

The new boathouse will provide an important and necessary base for the charity.

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Athlone open water swimmers Serena Friel and Karen Reynolds have presented Lough Ree RNLI with a cheque for €11,300 following a fundraising swim on the lake last month.

Throughout this year the women, who have been swimming regularly at Coosan Point, admired the progress on the new boathouse for the lifeboat which is under construction on the lake shore.

When they heard of an initiative to raise a local community contribution of €100,000 for the facility, they decided to lend their support.

Under the careful eye of their coach David Warby from Athlone Regional Sports Centre. they set about the task of training to swim the length of Lough Ree — a challenging 32km from Lanesboro Bridge on the Longford/Roscommon border to the Town Bridge in Athlone.

They completed the task last month in a record time of 10 hours 13 minutes.

On Thursday last (16 September) Serena and Karen visited the Lough Ree RNLI facility at Coosan Point and presented treasurer Vincent Rafter with a cheque for €11,300 — more than 10% of the overall target.

Karen Reynolds and Serena Friel with a lake chart of their swim route | Credit: RNLI/Tom McGuireKaren Reynolds and Serena Friel with a lake chart of their swim route | Credit: RNLI/Tom McGuire

At the presentation, Serena thanked everyone who had supported them in the ‘Lough Ree Challenge’, especially Midland Print, Cantwell Corporate Finance, the staff of Athlone Mail Centre and clients of Serena’s Hair Studio.

Karen thanked “everyone who had contributed to the fund and especially logistics coordinator Carmel Hughes and Catriona Cantwell for social media”.

Accepting the generous donation, Vincent Rafter said: “Both women have made an invaluable contribution to the charity and to water safety on the lake and River Shannon.”

So far this year Lough Ree RNLI has responded to 42 callouts to people and vessels in difficulty on the water.

This week Lough Ree RNLI also received a generous contribution to the fund of €1,500 from RBK Chartered Accountants.

The station has a local bank account where all donations, large or small, are welcome. The account name is Loughree RNLI Boathouse Appeal, the BIC is AIBKIE2D and the IBAN is IE80AIBK93226458090098.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Just before tea-time yesterday (25 August) Serena Friel and Karen Reynolds swam under the Town Bridge in Athlone to complete an amazing 32km swim, the entire length of Lough Ree, in 10 hours and 13 minutes raising thousands of euro for Lough Ree RNLI by completing this daunting challenge.

Athlone women Serena and Karen enjoy a regular swim at Coosan Point in the shadow of the emerging Lough Ree RNLI boathouse which is due for completion next month. With a local community fundraising project ongoing the two swimmers decided to play their part and the ‘Lough Ree 32k Challenge’ was born.

After weeks of training, coaching and planning and with great organisational support from work colleagues, family and friends the girls took to the water at 7 am yesterday morning at Lanesborough Bridge at the north of Lough Ree on the Longford/Roscommon border.

Setting off in foggy conditions, Karen was first in the water for this relay swim. Herself and Serena alternated every hour on their way down the lake. The decision to delay the challenge a few days due to weather patterns proved very wise and the swimmers enjoyed excellent conditions on the water throughout the swim.

Lough Ree swimmers - (L-R) Serena Friel and Karen DelaneyLough Ree swimmers - (L-R) Serena Friel and Karen Reynolds

As the swim progressed the support crew on the accompanying boats realised that something special was on the cards. On board reports ticked off all the landmarks down the lake from Quaker Island on down towards Hare Island. In Athlone and on social media excitement began to mount when by mid-afternoon the swimmers had passed Hudson Bay.

Large crowds of well-wishers and supporters gathered on the quayside in Athlone, from the White Bridge to the Town Bridge in anticipation of their arrival. Just after 5pm accompanied by the Lough Ree RNLI volunteer crew on board the ‘Tara Scougall’ and the support flotilla, which had been alongside them all day, Serena Friel and Karen Delaney crossed the finish line in Athlone to loud applause.

In completing the ‘Lough Ree 32k Challenge’ the women set a record that will take some beating. Following the record-breaking achievement, Serena thanked ‘swimming partner Karen, coach David Warby and all who supported the challenge in any way.’

Lough Ree RNLI Operations Manager Jude Kilmartin, said: ‘the charity is most grateful to Serena and Karen for a terrific initiative which has already raised over €6,000 for the charity.’

The Gofundme page remains open for donations here

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Lough Ree RNLI volunteers got an opportunity recently to examine progress on the building of the new boathouse at Coosan Point, Athlone, Co. Westmeath.

As the charity enters its tenth year of service on Lough Ree the local RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew look forward to the completion of a state of the art boathouse beside its current base at Coosan Point on Lough Ree.

Built on a site donated by the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, which will have its national headquarters under the same roof, the 280sqm two-storey facility will transform the ability of Lough Ree RNLI to offer a vital service to the midlands. At its heart is the boathouse which will be home to the Atlantic 85 Inshore lifeboat ‘Tara Scougall’ allowing for quicker access on to the water via a new purpose-built slip-way.

Other facilities include a large meeting room to facilitate ongoing training of crews and water safety education for community groups. Alongside is a communications centre, managers office, mechanics workshop and a small shop.

The 280sqm two-storey facility will transform the ability of Lough Ree RNLI to offer a vital service to the midlandsThe 280sqm two-storey facility will transform the ability of Lough Ree RNLI to offer a vital service to the midlands

The main contractors, Woodvale Construction from Omagh, Co. Tyrone have been on site since last autumn. Built to the highest specifications and heated geothermally it is expected that the facility will be handed over to the RNLI in September with the local volunteer crew taking possession in October.

Given that this is one of the busiest RNLI stations in Ireland, with almost 400 call outs, 30 already this year, assisting over 300 vessels and coming to the aid of over a thousand people this building is a critical piece of infrastructure for a lakeside community.

Locally, the Lough Ree RNLI fundraising committee started a campaign to raise a community contribution of €100,000. Treasurer Vincent Rafter said that he wanted to ‘thank those who had already donated and organised ‘Go Fund Me’ pages.’ He said that ‘while great progress had been made at a difficult time for all charities it is hoped that one final wave of generosity from local businesses, community organisations, sports clubs and individuals will see the target achieved.’

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Lough Ree RNLI volunteer crew has had a busy five days coming to the rescue of 24 people and a dog on five boats that ran aground on the lake in the past week.

After 9 pm last evening (Monday 19 July) the charity was tasked by the Coast Guard to go to the assistance of a 20ft sports cruiser with five people on board which had run aground northeast of Hare Island. In calm waters and fair conditions, Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat crew towed the boat to safe water from where it continued under its own power to Coosan Point.

Over the weekend, on Sunday morning (18 July) responding to a Coast Guard call-out the Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat crew launched under helm Emmet Devereux to assist a small cruiser with six people on board which had broken down near Yellow Island. The craft was taken under tow to Hodson Bay marina. Later on Sunday afternoon under helm Tom Bradbury the Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat ‘Tara Scougall’ was back on the water to assist a cruiser with three people on board who had run aground near Quaker Island. Following inspection to boat was towed off the rocks and continued under its own power to Lanesboro.

Seven people and a dog were rescued on Saturday (17 July) following a call-out to a cruiser that had run aground on the Hexagon Shoal near Hare Island. In this incident, just as the Lough Ree RNLI crew had launched they were informed that the people (and the dog) were taken on board a passing cruiser. All were delivered safely to Coosan Point.

In mid-week (Wednesday 14 July) the Lough Ree RNLI lifeboat and volunteer crew responded to a call just before 6 pm to assist a 23ft cruiser that had run aground at Kings Island. Following safety checks, the vessel was towed off the rocks and headed towards Portrunny.

During the present warm weather, Lough Ree RNLI Operations Manager Jude Kilmartin advised lake users to ‘pay particular attention to navigational maps and err on the side of caution due to falling water levels exposing shoals and rocks that would not normally constitute a hazard.’

One local sage, noting the apparent increase in the number of boats grounded on islands in the lake this season was tempted to paraphrase W.B. Yeats poem ‘Lake Isle of Inishfree’ and offer this advice to skippers ‘stay off the lake isles and finish free!’

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The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland has alerted members over reports of the invasive quagga mussel in the River Shannon.

The bivalve is said to be “abundant in Lough Ree over a wide range of depths” and has also been found in Lough Derg and the stretch of the Shannon between the loughs.

Similar in appearance to another invasive species, the zebra mussel, the quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) has spread over a number of decades from its native waters in Ukraine as far as Mexico. It was first recorded in the UK in 2014.

According to Dr Jan-Robert Baars of UCD’s Invasive Ecology (InEco) laboratory and Dr Dan Minchin of the Lough Derg Science Group, the quagga mussel “behaves in a similar way [to the zebra mussel] and is also a filter feeder removing planktonic organisms from the water column. It has a high filtration rate likely to result in further changes to water quality and nutrient dynamics of, in particular, lakes.

“The quagga mussel is likely to compete with the zebra mussel and native species. Having a wide ecological tolerance and suited to Irish climatic conditions, it is expected to become widely distributed in time.

“It appears to have a preference for cooler water and can settle on finer sediments than the zebra mussel explaining its greater abundance at depth in some colonised lakes elsewhere.”

The scientists warn that the species “is likely to be spread by boats to the upper Shannon, and through the Shannon-Erne Waterway to the Erne. It is also likely to be spread overland by trailered craft. Owners of boats should be made aware they could spread this species from the Shannon.”

In addition, the presence of the quagga mussel “is likely to lead to a further surge in fouling and may have additional impacts on water quality and the ecological integrity of Irish aquatic ecosystems.”

The species is currently under a rapid assessment field study by the InEco lab.

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