A south Galway potter is embarking on a 350km row down the Shannon-Erne waterway in a handmade boat in memory of a close friend writes Lorna Siggins
Weather permitting, Kinvara artist Joe McCaul (65) set out from Belleek, Co Fermanagh today on the first leg of his transit to Limerick.
With him will be a heart-shaped box with ashes of his close friend, Joe Stewart, a carpenter and experienced oarsman from Antrim who had planned to build the plywood rowing boat with him.
Mr McCaul will raise funds for the Galway Hospice as a tribute to Mr Stewart.
“The boat is named after the two Joes, and he would get a good laugh out of it if he was here,” Mr McCaul said.
“It started off with a chat in a pub, and I said I would love to build a boat,” Mr McCaul says.
“Joe Stewart died in his sleep, and I rang the suppliers the day we buried him and they said the boat kit was ready for dispatch, so I decided to go ahead and finished it myself,”Mr McCaul explains.
Growing up near the waterway at Belturbet, Co Cavan, he says he is looking forward to navigating the Shannon-Erne system, and reckons lower Lough Erne will be the most exposed part.
He tested the craft for its rolling ability by capsizing it a week ago in Galway Bay, and reckons it is easy to right.
It was launched at the Cruinniú na mBád in his home harbour of Kinvara, south Galway earlier last month, and he says that “the QE2 could not have had a better send-off when it first hit the water”.
Mr McCaul will draw and paint en route through towns including Belleek, Enniskillen, Belturbet, Ballinamore, Leitrim, Carrick-on-Shannon, Roosky, Athlone, Shannonbridge, Terryglass, Scarriff, Killaloe and finally to Limerick.
His wife, Mary Harrison, retires from teaching shortly and is undertaking a walk along the Camino route in northern Spain. He plans to fly out to Bilbao in Spain when he is finished and they can compare notes on their respective pilgrimages on land and water.
For updates and to support Joe McCaul’s rowing fundraiser for Galway Hospice, see here