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#Shannon - Passages on the River Shannon in 2013 so far have fallen more than 50% compared to numbers for the same period a decade ago, according to the Irish Waterways History blog written by Afloat's inland correspondent, Brian Goggin.

Using statistics supplied by Waterways Ireland, the site plotted a graph that shows an overall decline in lock and bridge passages on the Shannon in the months from January to May each year since 2003, with a slight spike in 2007 the only buck in the downward trend.

Though the figures do not record all uses of the waterway (such as sailing, angling and other watersports) and do not account for variables such as the weather, they are indicative - the site claims - of "the Shannon's most significant tourism activity, the cruiser hire business".

Indeed, the figures apparently show that boat hire passage numbers have fallen from 11,440 in January-May 2003 to just 4,781 in the same months this year.

Even private boat passages have been falling from a peak in 2009 to just below their 2003 numbers, if the site's interpretation of the stats is anything to go by.

However, a source close to Afloat.ie says that the falling numbers may be skewed by a growing emphasis on larger-capacity vessels on Ireland's inland waterways, with eight- and 12-berth boats supplanting older four-berth vessels, and families and groups consolidating their recreational boating.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year turns out, and whether the overall numbers from January to December will tell a different story of the state of the Shannon and other waterways.

Published in Inland Waterways

#InlandWaterways - Waterways Ireland has advised all masters and users of the Erne system that the channel east of Castle Island near Enniskillen will be closed till Tuesday 11 June to facilitate a number of events on the water.

Mariners are directed to follow the marked navigation channel and signs to the west of Castle Island and proceed at a slow speed and with minimum wash. They should note any advise or instructions given by event organisers when in this section of the navigation.

Public jetties in the vicinity will remain accessible throughout, though some minor restrictions may be in place as and when required. Further information is available from the Lough Erne warden at 028 6632 3004.

Elsewhere, there will also be restricted mooring for masters and owners on the River Shannon at Carrick-on-Shannon to facilitate spectator viewing of the Carrick 400 event.

On Sunday 2 June the quay wall from the downstream face of the town bridge to the floating moorings will be out of bounds for mooring from 7pm till midnight.

In other waterways news, recent water quality testing has shown the harbour at Kilcock on the Royal Canal to now be within normal bathing water standards.

Published in Inland Waterways

#OnTV - Sunday 26 May sees the first of a two-part documentary series on The Secret Life of the Shannon on RTÉ One.

The series will take viewers on a journey along the River Shannon with wildlife cameraman and presenter Colin Stafford Johnson, who spent a year living on the river on a barge, camping on its banks and exploring its tributaries in a traditional canoe.

His quest was to film the natural history of the 340km of the Ireland's longest inland waterway as it has never been seen before - and if the above video is anything to go by, he's done an incredible job.

The Secret Life of the Shannon part of the RTÉ Goes Wild month-long celebration of Ireland's wildlife on television, radio and online.

Episode one will be broadcast on Sunday 26 May at 6.30pm on RTÉ One, with the second episode to follow at the same time on Sunday 2 June.

Published in Maritime TV

#Diving - The Irish Underwater Council (CFT) reports the "huge success" of the 22nd annual Dive Ireland expo in Athlone at the weekend.

The two-day event at the Hodson Bay Hotel welcomed "speakers from near and far as well as photography workshops and a fully loaded international trade fair" - not to mention the CFT National Dive Conference and AGM.

Ahead of the expo, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan commented on the role of SCUBA clubs and diving centres in Ireland's national tourism infrastructure in promoting this country's dive sites.

In the foreword to the recently published Warships, U-boats and Liners, he also wrote of the Government's commitment to developing its archive of wrecks in Irish waters.

“With the support of responsible dive centres and local dive clubs ... these wrecks can be explored now and into the distant future by visitors from home and abroad.”

According to the CFT, local authorities are also starting to recognise the importance of developing aquatic activities to encourage tourism.

One example is Mayo County Council's Blue Ways list of swimming and snorkelling sites along the county's coast, which complements its Green Ways walking trails.

The council also highlighted the importance of heritage among Ireland's diving community, and their role in discoveries such as the Viking-era swords retrieved from the River Shannon near Banagher last autumn, as the Offaly Independent reports.

Published in Diving

#Fishing - One of Ireland’s most eminent fisheries experts and a recent CEO of the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board has been elected chairman of the Institute of Fisheries Management.

Eamon Cusack will assume the chair at the UK-based international body that promotes sustainable management of freshwater and marine fisheries. 

Cusack said he was “passionate” about protecting and rebuilding fisheries threatened by habitat damage and over-exploitation. 

To ensure their future, he would seek to continue to build successful partnerships between government and non-government organisations.  

Cusack succeeds Ian Dolben, who served as chairman over the past five years. Dolben credited the success of the institute during his term to members taking on voluntary roles, changing its public face and taking its members’ services to a new level.

Eamon Cusack has over 35 years’ experience in the development and management of inland fisheries, including EU-funded projects, and has been an active member of the institute for more than 30 years.

He is currently chairman of the Shannon Fishery Partnership, which advises on the management of the ESB’s fisheries on the River Shannon, and a director of Recreational Angling Ireland. 

He was a ministerial appointee to the Irish Central Fisheries Board, which oversees Irish national fisheries policy and strategy. 

A native of Galway, Cusack grew up on the banks of the River Dodder in Dublin. While a young member of Dodder Anglers, the largest angling club in Ireland, he became aware of the many pressures facing fisheries which began his lifelong interest in their management.

Published in Fishing

#SHANNON FLOODING - Galway Bay FM reports that Galway county councillors have postponed making any decision on an Oireachtas report into flooding in areas adjacent to the River Shannon.

The move was taken on the suggestion of Cllr Dermot Connolly in the wake of a joint Dáil and Seanad committee report that highlights eight proposals for dealing with flooding issues along the longest of Ireland's inland waterways.

Cllr Michael Connolly has suggested that Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan and Minister for the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan should meet to discuss the report's findings from both a flooding and environmental stance.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent reports that the Office of Public Works (OPW) has agreed to carry out tests at Meelick weir on the Shannon in Co Offaly after thousands of acres of farmland were flooded over the summer, ruining silage crops and summer grazing land.

Waterways Ireland has denied allegations that a failure to open sluices and lift boards at the weird contributed to the flooding.

Published in Shannon Estuary

#CANOEING - A team of hardy souls from Leamington Spa in England will attempt to paddle their way across the island of Ireland for charity from next weekend.

The Leamington Courier reports on the 13-strong 'Irish Deliverance' team, which will set out on five Canadian canoes from the Giant's Causeway on the Antrim coast next Friday 24 August.

They will be following a route through Lough Neagh and Lough Erne and across the border along the River Shannon all the way to Limerick, which they hope to reach by Sunday 2 September.

Team leader Jon Devaney says the group has been practising for months for the 372-mile challenge, aiming to raise money for the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance.

And it's not the first time he's embarked on such an epic voyage - with Devaney, his brother David and friends completing the 10,000-mile Mongol Rally last year, and raising more than £7,000 (€8,900) for the air ambulance service in the process.

The Leamington Courier has more on the story HERE.

Published in Canoeing

#INLAND WATERWAYS - The Lakelands & Inland Waterways Ireland Sailing Raid is a unique event combining sailing, adventure, exploration and racing in the setting of some of the most stunning countryside in Western Europe.

On 14-21 September a fleet of about 40 'open' boats – including the 5.5-metre Shannon One Design, the 4.5-metre Water Wags and various traditional styles and new builds all under 7.5 metres long – will sail 190km from Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, through the River Shannon and across the great lakes of Lough Ree and Lough Derg to Killaloe.

Although it will be a competitive race, there will be some time left to enjoy the scenery and the Irish hospitality of the three participating yacht clubs along the way. Some will come for the racing, some for the scenery, some for the spirit of comraderie – but everyone is sure to enjoy the craic.

To maintain the maritime nature of the event, the Lakelands & Inland Waterways Ireland Sailing Raid will be based as much as possible on the water.

Accommodation will be provided in motor cruisers for those who want it, while some will be able to camp near the river bank and others will make their own arrangements. Each stopover will therefore bring together participants in a 'floating village', with several receptions and festivities in the evenings.

The event is being organised in close collaboration with Waterways Ireland, with logistical support will be provided by the three main yacht clubs on the route: Lough Erne Yacht Club, Lough Ree Yacht Club and Lough Derg Yacht Club.

Members of the local clubs are being invited to take part at a preferential rate, while raid competitors from all over Europe will provide an international element to the event. 

For more information and application details, visit the Sailing Raid website at www.sailing-raids.com.

Published in Inland Waterways

#WATERFRONT PROPERTY - Two exclusive waterside homes, representing two distinct eras in Irish property, have come to the market in recent weeks, both with an asking price of €800,000.

Lakeside House in Barrymore, Co Roscommon is a spacious detatched house on the shores of Lough Ree in an exclusive residential area just minutes from the amenities of Athlone.

Built in 2002 by the current owners and set on a mature wooded site with an overall floor area of 385 square metres, accommodation comprises an entrance hall, a drawing room with marble fureplace, a living room with french doors to the deck, a sun room with domed ceiling, a fully fitted kitchen/breakfast room with marble style worktops and a utility room, plus a games room and bar.

The first floor features five bedrooms including a master bedroom, all en suite, with a separate bathroom with Jacuzzi bath. A sixth en suite bedroom is located on the ground floor.

Outside, tiled patios surround the house on three sides, with a large deck area featuring a hot tub, picnic table and seating. The gardens extend to the water's edge with a private pier and landing stage with access to fishing and sailing on Lough Ree and the River Shannon.

Lakeside House is for sale by private treaty through Finnegan Menton. See more details on this property HERE.

Meanwhile, in Co Clare, Abbey House is a charming family home built in 1770 to a design by the famed architect James Gandon.

Set on more than three acres of gardens next to St Flannan's Cathedral in Killaloe, Abbey House is typical of the Georgian era, comprising three reception rooms, a large country kitcten, five/six bedroom (two en suite), a large bathroom, plus a cloakroom and laundry room.

The house was restored in the 1980s but many of its period featured were retained, such as the 18th-century Wyatt windows to the front, and the original joinery throughout.

Outside is a large courtyard with outbuildings, leading to the stone walled garden and orchard surrounding the house that provides considerable privacy, not to mention the canal bank (leased from Waterways Ireland) that runs parallel to the River Shannon.

Abbey House is for sale by private treaty through joint agents Knight Frank and Harry Brann. See more details on this property HERE.

Published in Waterfront Property

#INLAND WATERWAYS - Trial dredging operations to curtail the spread of Asian clams at designated sites in the lower River Barrow are set to conclude today.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) employed the use of a a traditional cockle harvesting boat to physically remove the clams from the river bed, in an effort to explore methods of controlling or eradicating what it describes as an "ecosystem-changing invader" in other infested waters.

IFI scientists supervised the trials, using teams of divers to quantify the result of the dredging efforts.

The Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) is "a most unwelcome addition to the fauna of the lower River Barrow". The bivalve mollusc is regarded as "one of the most notorious aquatic invasive species in the world".

First recorded in the river downstream of St Mullin’s in April 2010, subsequent IFI studies have revealed that the Asian clam is firmly established in the lower Barrow and in the River Nore downstream of Inistioge. Populations have also been recorded in the River Shannon and in Lough Derg.

In one section of the River Barrow the clam has achieved a "staggering" density of almost 10,000 per square metre.

Dr Joe Caffrey, senior scientist with IFI, said of the trial dregding: “It is imperative that every effort is made to control the expansion and spread of this highly adept invasive species.

"The results from these trials will inform future national management plans for this most unwelcome non-native species and will, at the very least, dramatically reduce the numbers of individuals in the test sites.

He added: "In tandem with these trials, research effort is being focused at producing other control methods that can be targeted as this species.”

Published in Inland Waterways
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