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Drascombes Disappear into Ireland’s Most Meandering Inland Waterway

11th September 2019
Lunch break with a difference – the exploring flotilla of Drascombes at a natural berthing spot in the hidden entrance to the “upper Upper Shannon” at the north end of Lough Allen. The rising ground in the background leads on to Cuilcagh, location of the river’s traditional source at the Shannon Pot Lunch break with a difference – the exploring flotilla of Drascombes at a natural berthing spot in the hidden entrance to the “upper Upper Shannon” at the north end of Lough Allen. The rising ground in the background leads on to Cuilcagh, location of the river’s traditional source at the Shannon Pot Credit: Malcolm Kindness

What is the most meandering bit of waterway in all Ireland? Obviously it would be a river. And surely it would have to be a river trying to get across a very large area of flat country where, over the centuries, indeed over very many centuries, it has slowly carved out a channel which twists and turns back on itself in the best style of the mighty Amazon at its most tortuous?

Not so. For if you rule out Upper Lough Erne - where the myriad-like waterway is finding its path through natural drumlin country with many islands involved - the length of waterway which seems to come top of the bill in the maze-like meandering stakes seems not to be in a large open plain at all, but rather in a relatively small area of presumably alluvial flat land at the north end of Lough Allen in one of the least-known parts of Ireland.

There, the meandering waterway is the infant Shannon, finding its route south to the first of its many grown-up lakes, Lough Allen in the depths of Leitrim. And Lough Allen is a very grown-up lake indeed - definitely not to be trifled with.

In fact, Lough Allen has such a reputation for the dangers of its wide open water and sudden storms from the brooding hills and mountains about it that for long enough there seemed to be a reluctance by the Powers That Be to acknowledge that it was a proper part of the Irish Inland Waterways system at all.

lough allen map2Lough Allen is big, and open with it while being set amidst hills and mountains. The lake is best known to anglers, while for a small cruising boat, Dowra in the remote northern area can seem very far away from the hub of civilization at Drumshanbo.
A clinching argument against making it popular was that when the main system is low in water, Lough Allen is seen as a reservoir of very handy spare power by the engineers way downstream at the Ardnacrusha Hydro-Electric Dam just above Limerick. There, the sudden use of the far northern lake to boost the system might lower Lough Allen’s level enough to cause damage within a short time to any boats which were berthed in any harbour that they – the Powers That Be - might care to provide on it.

But as the popularity of Ireland’s inland waterways grew, the folk on the shores of Lough Allen stepped up their demands to be included in the big holiday afloat picture, and though there were few enough of them pushing the case - for it’s not exactly a densely-crowded region - in the end they won through.

Lough Allen officially became part of the big scheme of things in the recreational waterways network, and a permanent harbour was installed at the site of the old barge-using Spencer Harbour in the west shore, a summer harbour was made available at Cleighran More on the east shore, and down towards the south of Lough Allen where the now substantially larger Shannon exits the lake at Drumshanbo, it became a veritable Riviera with all sorts of facilities on the shores and in the river alike.

But the one fascinating feature which was very determinedly excluded from the new dispensation of accessibility was the baby Shannon coming into the top end of the lake. For it appears into the lake out of unknown roadless territory, with reportedly impenetrable forest, until suddenly it could be sighted again something like two or three miles away northwards as the crow flies, coming through under the bridge in a place called Dowra. 

Lough allen map3 If you can negotiate the winding upper Upper Shannon from Lough Allen to Dowra, you’ll find you have travelled nearly twice the direct distance from the lake

Now Dowra really is a place apart. It is one of those villages where the highlands meet the rest of the country, cramped in under the hills with the street bustling with mountainy men driving battered 4X4s with old trailers full of sheep in tow, and ever-alert collies beside them. It’s very workaday and not picturesque in the official sense, and about as different as possible from the smooth style which you get not so very far away on the inland waterways at Lough Key or in the high-tech affluence of Carrick-on-Shannon.

In fact, there’s a sense of the frontier about it. Not in the official border way, but rather in the feeling that just beyond Dowra as the hills close in, you’ll find ancient signs warning that Here Be Dragons….. At least, that’s the impression it made on me first time I drove into the village from the southwards, coming along the gentle lakeside road to the east of Lough Allen. It seems to be an attitude generally shared in the administration of Waterways Ireland. For when you’re out on Lough Allen and wonder what it might be like to wander up the young Shannon and see where it has come from out of all those hills and mountains, there’s a very clear sign telling you to stop thinking any such thing.

end of navigation sign4 “You can’t go there!” Bill Lart’s historic prototype Drascombe Longboat Orca heads for the hidden infant Shannon past the marker telling him otherwise…..Photo: Kim Roberts

Needless to say such signs are seen as invitations to explore by any curious boater, and I’ve no doubt sundry small craft and kayaks in particular will have found their way up the winding rive and under the trees – in some places the Irish equivalent of a mangrove swamp - to within at least shouting distance of Dowra, and probably all the way to the place itself.

Certainly the Drascombe Association – with whom we were last cruising about a year ago, when they were right up the Slaney to Enniscorthy and then out into the wide expanses of Wexford Harbour as part of their Golden Jubilee celebrations – felt that the mysterious north end of Lough Allen was exactly the kind of place their characterful selection of boats were made to explore. So last weekend they made something of an expedition to Lough Allen and nearby Lough Arrow, and the one and only Jack O’Keeffe of Cork takes up the story:

“On Saturday a fleet of ten Drascombes sailed north up Lough Allen past the "End of Navigation" notices and into the Shannon river that feeds Lough Allen. They discovered that having negotiated the final completely unmarked approach to the river, they entered a deep meandering waterway, beautifully wooded and isolated from roads or and sort of commercial or farming activity.

into the trees5Into the jungle – the infant Shannon provides an Irish version of a mangrove swamp as the Drascombe fleet get as far as they could go with their masts still up towards Dowra last Saturday. Photo: Malcolm Kindness

The fleet explored the unused river to within a mile of Dowra village, at which point the tress merged overhead, and masts would need to be lowered to pass. With ten boats in the fleet and picnic time approaching, the best option was to find the true limits of navigation on another visit.

There is plenty of water in the river - 3m to 6m - and enough width to turn a 7m Drascombe. (Ed’s note: Detailed maps suggest there is a handy “turning pool” almost at Dowra itself). The fleet stopped off at the entrance to the lake for our al fresco feast, and then returned to the Lough Allen Centre at Drumshanbo via Spencer Harbour on the west shore, an all-weather amenity in a seemingly unpopulated area.

Then on Sunday the fleet were well hosted by Bryan and Crea Dobson at Cleighran More Harbour on the east shore, and took in a visit to the nearby sweathouse, unfortunately not in use since the 1700s - a slight disappointment for anyone who wanted to try a traditional ancient old Irish-style sauna.

Certainly the fleet included people with a lively interest in the past, and our flotilla of ten included two specimen boats, Bill Lart’s Orca from the UK which was John Watkinson’s prototype Drascombe Longboat, and Kim Roberts from Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary with Sanderling, a beautifully restored and maintained wooden Drascombe Lugger, now over 40 years old.

classic drascombe sanderling6Kim Roberts’ classic wooden 40-years-plus Drascombe Lugger Sanderling with a full crew of old sea dogs of all ages on Lough Allen. By getting upriver towards Dowra, she was as far as she could get on the River Shannon from her home port of Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary. Photo: Jack O’Keeffe
Some of the fleet came to Lough Allen after first taking a road-trailered diversion to sail the notably attractive Lough Arrow over the hills to the west towards Sligo, something which became a bit of a spectacle as there seemed to be no local recollection of sailboats on Lough Arrow any time before”.

In fact, the Varian sailing family of Dun Laoghaire had a fishing lodge on Lough Arrow, and it’s believed they’d sailing boats there, including perhaps a Shannon One Design.

Before this joint expedition, many of the Drascombe sailors knew little of Lough Allen, and some from the UK had never even heard of it. They say that when you visit somewhere interesting and new, you should always leave something still to be seen on a next visit.

Now that they know what might be needed to get all the way up to Dowra, it will be kept in mind by the Drascombe folk for some future date. Meanwhile, they suggest that Waterways Ireland should think about providing a landing place at Dowra, as the thick undergrowth makes it very difficult to get ashore anywhere near that remote village.

jack okeeffe7Capt. Drascombe Ireland – Jack O’Keeffe showing how it should be done. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Inland Waterways
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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General Information on using Waterways Ireland inland navigations

Safety on the Water

All users of the navigations are strongly recommended to make themselves aware of safety on the water for whatever activity they are involved in and to read the advice offered by the various governing bodies and by:

The Dept. of Transport, Ireland: www.gov.ie/transport and The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, UK, The RNLI – Water Safety Ireland for information in terms of drowning prevention and water safety.

Registration of Vessels

All vessels using the Shannon Navigation, which includes the Shannon-Erne Waterways and the Erne System must be registered with Waterways Ireland. Only open undecked boats with an engine of 15 horsepower or less on the Shannon Navigation, and vessels of 10 horsepower or less on the Erne System, are exempt. Registration is free of charge.

Craft registration should be completed online at: https://www.waterwaysireland.org/online-services/craft-registration

Permits for use of the Grand and Royal Canals and the Barrow Navigation

All vessels using the Grand and Royal Canals and the Barrow Navigation must display appropriate valid Permit(s) i.e A Combined Mooring and Passage Permit (€126) and if not intending to move every five days, an Extended Mooring Permit (€152).

Permit applications should be completed online at: https://www.waterwaysireland.org/online-services/canal-permits

Passage on the Royal and Grand Canals – Dublin Area

For boat passage through the locks east of Lock 12 into / out of Dublin on either the Royal or Grand Canals, Masters are requested to contact the Waterways Ireland Eastern Regional Office (M-F 9.30am-4.30pm) on tel: +353(0)1 868 0148 or email [email protected] prior to making passage in order to plan the necessary lock-keeping assistance arrangements.

On the Grand Canal a minimum of two days notice prior to the planned passage should be given, masters should note that with the exception of pre-arranged events, a maximum of 2 boats per day will be taken through the locks, travelling either east or west.

Movements in or out of the city will be organised by prior arrangement to take place as a single movement in one day. Boaters will be facilitated to travel the system if their passage is considered to be safe by Waterways Ireland and they have the valid permit(s) for mooring and passage.

Newcomen Lifting Bridge

On the Royal Canal two weeks’ notice of bridge passage (Newcomen Lifting Bridge) is required for the pre-set lift date, and lock assistance will then also be arranged. A minimum of 2 boats is required for a bridge lift to go ahead.

Waterways Ireland Eastern Regional Office (Tel: +353(0)1 868 0148 or [email protected] ) is the point of contact for the bridge lift.

A maximum number of boats passing will be implemented to keep to the times given above for the planned lifts (16 for the Sat / Sun lifts & 8 for the weekday lifts). Priority will be given on a first come first served basis.

On day of lift, boaters and passengers must follow guidance from Waterways Ireland staff about sequence of passage under bridge & through Lock 1, and must remain within signed and designated areas.

Events Held on the Waterways

All organised events taking place on the waterways must have the prior approval of Waterways Ireland. This is a twelve week process and application forms must be accompanied with the appropriate insurance, signed indemnity and risk assessment. The application should be completed on the Waterways Ireland events page at :

https://www.waterwaysireland.org/online-services/event-approval

Time Limits on Mooring in Public Harbours

On the Shannon Navigation and the Shannon-Erne Waterway craft may berth in public harbours for five consecutive days or a total of seven days in any one month.

On the Erne System, revised Bye Laws state that: No master or owner shall permit a vessel, boat or any floating or sunken object to remain moored at or in the vicinity of any public mooring, including mooring at any other public mooring within 3 kilometres of that location, for more than 3 consecutive days and shall not moor at that same mooring or any other public mooring within 3 kilometres of that location within the following 3 consecutive days without prior permission by an authorised official.

Winter Mooring on the Shannon Navigation and Shannon Erne Waterway

Winter mooring may be availed of by owners during the period 1 Nov to 31 Mar by prior arrangement and payment of a charge of €63.50 per craft. Craft not availing of Winter Mooring must continue to comply with the “5 Day Rule”. Winter Mooring applications should be completed online at : https://www.waterwaysireland.org/online-services/winter-moorings-booking

Owners should be aware that electricity supply and water supply to public moorings is disconnected for the winter months. This is to protect against frost damage, to reduce running costs and to minimise maintenance requirements during the winter months.

Vessel owners are advised that advance purchasing of electricity on the power bollards leading up to the disconnection date should be minimal. Electricity credit existing on the bollards will not be recoverable after the winter decommissioning date. Both services will be reinstated prior to the commencement of the next boating season.

Smart Cards

Waterways Ireland smart cards are used to operate locks on the Shannon Erne Waterway, to access the service blocks, to use the pump-outs along the navigations, to avail of electrical power at Waterways Ireland jetties.

Berthing in Public Harbours

Masters are reminded of the following:

  • Equip their vessel with mooring lines of appropriate length and strength and only secure their craft to mooring bollards and cleats provided for this purpose.
  • Ensure the available berth is suitable to the length of your vessel, do not overhang the mooring especially on finger moorings on floating pontoon moorings.
  • Ensure mooring lines, electric cables and fresh water hoses do not create a trip hazard on public jetties for others users.
  • Carry sufficient fenders to prevent damage to your own vessel, other vessels and WI property.
  • Allow sufficient space between your vessel and the vessel ahead /astern (c.1m) for fire safety purposes and /or to recover somebody from the water.
  • Do not berth more than two vessels side by side and ensure there is safe access/egress at all times between vessels and onto the harbour itself.
  • Do not berth in such a way to prevent use of harbour safety ladders, slipways or pump-outs.
  • Do not allow the bow of your vessel to overhang the walkway of a floating mooring thus creating a hazard for others with an overhanging anchor or bow fendering.
  • Animals are not allowed to be loose or stray at any time.
  • Harbour and jetty infrastructure such as railings, power pedestals, fresh water taps, electric light poles, safety bollards, ladders etc are not designed for the purpose of mooring craft , they will not bear the strain of a vessel and will be damaged.
  • At Carrybridge on the Erne System, Masters of vessels are not permitted to use stern on mooring. Masters of vessels must use the mooring fingers for mooring of vessels and for embarkation / disembarkation from vessels.

Passenger Vessel Berths

Masters of vessels should not berth on passenger vessel berths where it is indicated that an arrival is imminent. Passenger vessels plying the navigations generally only occupy the berths to embark and disembark passengers and rarely remain on the berths for extended periods or overnight.

Lock Lead-in Jetties

Lead-in jetties adjacent to the upstream and downstream gates at lock chambers are solely for the purpose of craft waiting to use the lock and should not be used for long term berthing.

Vessel Wake

Vessel wake, that is, the wave generated by the passage of the boat through the water, can sometimes be large, powerful and destructive depending on the hull shape and engine power of the vessel. This wake can be detrimental to other users of the navigation when it strikes their craft or inundates the shoreline or riverbank. Masters are requested to frequently look behind and check the effect of their wake / wash particularly when passing moored vessels, on entering harbours and approaching jetties and to be aware of people pursuing other activities such as fishing on the riverbank.

Speed Restriction

A vessel or boat shall not be navigated on the Shannon Navigation at a speed in excess of 5 kph when within 200 metres of a bridge, quay, jetty or wharf, when in a harbour or canal or when passing within 100 metres of a moored vessel or boat.

Vessels navigating the Shannon-Erne Waterway should observe the general 5 kph speed limit which applies along the waterway. This is necessary in order to prevent damage to the banks caused by excessive wash from vessels.

Vessels navigating the Erne System should observe the statutory 5kt / 6mph / 10kph speed limit areas.

A craft on the Royal and Grand canals shall not be navigated at a speed in excess of 6km per hour.

A craft on the Barrow Navigation shall not be navigated at a speed in excess of 11km per hour except as necessary for safe navigation in conditions of fast flow.

Bank Erosion

Narrow sections of all the navigations are particularly prone to bank erosion due to the large wash generated by some craft. Masters are requested to be vigilant and to slow down to a speed sufficient to maintain steerage when they observe the wash of their craft inundating the river banks.

Unusual Waterborne Activity

Unusual waterborne vessels may be encountered from time to time, such as, hovercraft or amphibious aircraft / seaplanes. Masters of such craft are reminded to apply the normal “Rule of the Road” when they meet conventional craft on the water and to allow extra room to manoeuvre in the interest of safety.

Sailing Activity

Mariners will encounter large numbers of sailing dinghies from late June to August in the vicinity of Lough Derg, Lough Ree and Lower Lough Erne. Sailing courses are marked by yellow buoys to suit weather conditions on the day. Vessels should proceed at slow speed and with due caution and observe the rules of navigation when passing these fleets, as many of the participants are junior sailors under training.

Rowing

Mariners should expect to meet canoes and vessels under oars on any part of the navigations, but more so in the vicinity of Athlone, Carrick-on-Shannon, Coleraine, Enniskillen and Limerick. Masters are reminded to proceed at slow speed and especially to reduce their wash to a minimum when passing these craft as they can be easily upset and swamped due to their very low freeboard and always be prepared to give way in any given traffic situation.

Canoeing

Canoeing is an adventure sport and participants are strongly recommended to seek the advice of the sport’s governing bodies i.e Canoeing Ireland and the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland, before venturing onto the navigations.

Persons in charge of canoes are reminded of the inherent danger to these craft associated with operating close to weirs, sluice gates, locks and other infrastructure particularly when rivers are in flood and large volumes of water are moving through the navigations due to general flood conditions or very heavy localised precipitation e.g. turbulent and broken water, stopper waves. Shooting weirs is prohibited without prior permission of Waterways Ireland.

Canoeists should check with lockkeepers prior entering a lock to ensure passage is done in a safe manner. Portage is required at all unmanned locks.

Canoe Trail Network – "Blueways"

Masters of powered craft are reminded that a canoe trail network is being developed across all navigations and to expect more organised canoeing along these trails necessitating slow speed and minimum wash when encountering canoeists, rowing boats etc

Rockingham and Drummans Island Canals – Lough Key

It is expected that work on Rockingham and Drummans Island Canals on Lough Key will be completed in 2021. Access to these canals will be for non-powered craft only, eg canoes, kayaks, rowing boats.

Fast Powerboats and Personal Watercraft (Jet Skis)

Masters of Fast Powerboats (speed greater than 17kts) and Personal Watercraft (i.e.Jet Skis) are reminded of the inherent dangers associated with high speed on the water and especially in the confines of small bays and narrow sections of the navigations. Keeping a proper look-out, making early alterations to course and /or reducing speed will avoid conflict with slower vessels using the navigation. Personal Watercraft are not permitted to be used on the canals.

Towing Waterskiers, Wakeboarders, Doughnuts etc

Masters of vessels engaged in any of these activities are reminded of the manoeuvring constraints imposed upon their vessel by the tow and of the added responsibilities that they have to the person(s) being towed. These activities should be conducted in areas which are clear of conflicting traffic. It is highly recommended that a person additional to the master be carried to act as a “look-out” to keep the tow under observation at all times.

Prohibition on Swimming

Swimming in the navigable channel, particularly at bridges, is dangerous and is prohibited due to the risk of being run over by a vessel underway in the navigation.

Age Restrictions on operating of powered craft

In the Republic of Ireland, Statutory Instrument 921 of 2005 provides the legal requirements regarding the minimum age for operating of powered craft. The Statutory Instrument contains the following requirements:

- The master or owner of a personal watercraft or a fast power craft shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a person who has not attained the age of 16 years does not operate or control the craft

- The master or owner of a pleasure craft powered by an engine with a rating of more than 5 horse power or 3.7 kilowatts shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a person who has not attained the age of 12 years does not operate or control the craft.

Lifejackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Lifejackets and PFD’s are the single most important items of personal protective equipment to be used on a vessel and should be worn especially when the vessel is being manoeuvred such as entering / departing a lock, anchoring, coming alongside or departing a jetty or quayside.

In the Republic of Ireland, Statutory Instrument 921 of 2005 provides the legal requirements regarding the wearing of Personal Flotation Devices. The Statutory Instrument contains the following requirements:

- The master or owner of a pleasure craft (other than a personal watercraft) shall ensure, that there are, at all times on board the craft, sufficient suitable personal flotation devices for each person on board.

- A person on a pleasure craft (other than a personal watercraft) of less than 7 metres length overall shall wear a suitable personal flotation device while on board an open craft or while on the deck of decked craft, other than when the craft is made fast to the shore or at anchor.

- The master or owner of a pleasure craft (other than a personal watercraft) shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a person who has not attained the age of 16 years complies with paragraph above.

- The master or owner of a pleasure craft (other than a personal watercraft), shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a person who has not attained the age of 16 years wears a suitable personal flotation device while on board an open craft or while on the deck of a decked craft other than when it is made fast to the shore or at anchor.

- The master or owner of a pleasure craft (other than a personal watercraft) shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a person wears a suitable personal flotation device, at all times while – (a) being towed by the craft, (b) on board a vessel or object of any kind which is being towed by the craft.

Further information is available at: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2005/si/921/made/en/print

Firing Range Danger Area – Lough Ree

The attention of mariners is drawn to the Irish Defence Forces Firing Range situated in the vicinity of buoys No’s 2 and 3, on Lough Ree on the Shannon Navigation. This range is used regularly for live firing exercises, throughout the year, all boats and vessels should stay clear of the area marked with yellow buoys showing a yellow "X" topmark and displaying the word "Danger".

Shannon Navigation, Portumna Swing Bridge Tolls

No attempt should be made by Masters’ of vessels to pay the bridge toll while making way through the bridge opening. Payment will only be taken by the Collector from Masters when they are secured alongside the jetties north and south of the bridge.

Navigating from Killaloe to Limerick on the Shannon Navigation

The navigation from Killaloe to Limerick involves passage through Ardnacrusha locks, the associated headrace and tailrace and the Abbey River into Limerick City. Careful passage planning is required to undertake this voyage. Considerations include: lock passage at Ardnacrusha, water flow in the navigation, airdraft under bridges on Abbey River in Limerick, state of tide in Limerick

Users are advised to contact the ESB Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power station (00353 (0)87 9970131) 48 hours in advance of commencing their journey to book passage through the locks at Ardnacrusha. It is NOT advised to undertake a voyage if more than one turbine is operating (20MW), due to the increased velocity of flow in the navigation channel, which can be dangerous. To ascertain automatically in real time how many turbines are running, users can phone +353 (0)87 6477229.

For safety reasons the ESB has advised that only powered craft with a capacity in excess of 5 knots are allowed to enter Ardnacrusha Headrace and Tailrace Canals.

Passage through Sarsfield Lock should be booked on +353-87-7972998, on the day prior to travel and it should be noted also that transit is not possible two hours either side of low water.

A Hydrographic survey in 2020 of the navigation channel revealed that the approach from Shannon Bridge to Sarsfield Lock and the Dock area has silted up. Masters of vessels and water users are advised to navigate to the Lock from Shannon bridge on a rising tide one or two hours before High Tide.

Lower Bann Navigation

The attention of all users is drawn to the “Users Code for the Lower Bann”, in particular to that section covering “Flow in the River” outlining the dangers for users both on the banks and in the navigation, associated with high flow rates when the river is in spate. Canoeists should consult and carry a copy of the “Lower Bann Canoe Trail” guide issued by the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland. Users should also contact the DfI Rivers Coleraine, who is responsible for regulating the flow rates on the river, for advisory information on the flow rates to be expected on any given day.

DfI Rivers Coleraine. Tel: 0044 28 7034 2357 Email: [email protected]

Lower Bann Navigation – Newferry – No wake zone

A No Wake Zone exists on the Lower Bann Navigation at Newferry. Masters of vessels are requested to proceed at a slow speed and create no wake while passing the jetties and slipways at Newferry.

Overhead Power Lines (OHPL) and Air draft

All Masters must be aware of the dangers associated with overhead power lines, in particular sailing vessels and workboats with cranes or large air drafts. Voyage planning is a necessity in order to identify the location of overhead lines crossing the navigation.

Overhead power line heights on the River Shannon are maintained at 12.6metres (40 feet) from Normal Summer level for that section of navigation, masters of vessels with a large air draft should proceed with caution and make additional allowances when water levels are high.

If a vessel or its equipment comes into contact with an OHPL the operator should NOT attempt to move the vessel or equipment. The conductor may still be alive or re-energise automatically. Maintain a safe distance and prevent third parties from approaching due to risk of arcing. Contact the emergency services for assistance.

Anglers are also reminded that a minimum ground distance of 30 metres should be maintained from overhead power lines when using a rod and line.

Submarine Cables and Pipes

Masters of vessels are reminded not to anchor their vessels in the vicinity of submarine cables or pipes in case they foul their anchor or damage the cables or pipes. Look to the river banks for signage indicating their presence.

Water Levels - Precautions

Low Water Levels:

When water levels fall below normal summer levels masters should be aware of:

Navigation

To reduce the risk of grounding masters should navigate on or near the centreline of the channel, avoid short cutting in dog-legged channels and navigating too close to navigation markers.

Proceeding at a slow speed will also reduce “squat” effect i.e. where the vessel tends to sit lower in the water as a consequence of higher speed.

Slipways

Reduced slipway length available under the water surface and the possibility of launching trailers dropping off the end of the concrete apron.

More slipway surface susceptible to weed growth requiring care while engaged in launching boats, from slipping and sliding on the slope. Note also that launching vehicles may not be able to get sufficient traction on the slipway once the craft is launched to get up the incline.

Bank Erosion

Very dry riverbanks are more susceptible to erosion from vessel wash.

Lock Share

Maximising on the number of vessels in a lock will ensure that the total volume of water moving downstream is decreased. Lock cycles should be used for vessels travelling each way.

High Water Levels:

When water levels rise above normal summer level masters should be aware of:

Navigation

Navigation marks will have reduced height above the water level or may disappear underwater altogether making the navigable channel difficult to discern.

In narrow sections of the navigations water levels will tend to rise more quickly than in main streams and air draft at bridges will likewise be reduced.

There will also be increased flow rates particularly in the vicinity of navigation infrastructure such as bridges, weirs, locks etc where extra care in manoeuvring vessels will be required.

Harbours and Jetties

Due care is required in harbours and at slipways when levels are at or near the same level as the harbour walkways' as the edge will be difficult to discern especially in reduced light conditions. It is advised that Personal Flotation Devices be worn if tending to craft in a harbour in these conditions.

Slipways

Slipways should only be used for the purpose of launching and recovering of water craft or other objects from the water. Before using a slipway it should be examined to ensure that the surface has sufficient traction/grip for the intended purpose such as launching a craft from a trailer using a vehicle, that there is sufficient depth of water on the slipway to float the craft off the trailer before the concrete apron ends and that the wheels of the trailer do not drop off the edge of the slipway. That life-saving appliances are available in the vicinity, that the vehicle is roadworthy and capable of coping with the weight of the trailer and boat on the incline. It is recommended that slipway operations are conducted by two persons.

Caution to be Used in Reliance upon Aids to Navigation

The aids to navigation depicted on the navigation guides comprise a system of fixed and floating aids to navigation. Prudent mariners will not rely solely on any single aid to navigation, particularly a floating aid to navigation. With respect to buoys, the buoy symbol is used to indicate the approximate position of the buoy body and the ground tackle which secures it to the lake or river bed. The approximate position is used because of the practical limitations in positioning and maintaining buoys in precise geographical locations. These limitations include, but are not limited to, prevailing atmospheric and lake/river conditions, the slope of and the material making up the lake/river bed, the fact that the buoys are moored to varying lengths of chain, and the fact that the buoy body and/or ground tackle positions are not under continuous surveillance. Due to the forces of nature, the position of the buoy body can be expected to shift inside and outside the charted symbol.

Buoys and perches are also moved out of position or pulled over by those mariners who use them to moor up to instead of anchoring. To this end, mariners should always monitor their passage by relating buoy/perch positions with the published navigation guide. Furthermore, a vessel attempting to pass close by always risks collision with a yawing buoy or with the obstruction that the buoy or beacon/perch marks.

Masters of Vessels are requested to use the most up to date Navigation guides when navigating on the Inland Waterways.

Information taken from Special Marine Notice No 1 of 2023

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