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Old 02-03-2012, 14:57   #1
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Location: Wicklow
Boat: Broom Ocean 38
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Froggies 2011 Adventure - Part 1

Waterford Tall Ships 2011 - To be or not to be?

Part 1 - Killaloe to Kilrush - 48nm over 2 days

Turn the clock back five years when I first visited Waterford city by boat. I am standing on the jetties listening to the marina manager report excitedly that Waterford had just been choosen again for the start of the Tall Ships races in 2011. I had missed the event in 2005, but heard wonderful reports from friends who had been there by boat, mostly via an inland route through the Irish canal system and River Barrow. I started right there and then, to dream about the possibility of taking the coastal route to visit the Tall Ships in 2011. Our boat is based on Lough Derg on the mighty inland Shannon navigation, so spring this year I started planning a possible trip weather and health permitting. The plan was to start moving the boat around the SW coast in mid May at weekends to somewhere in Cork. This would be within striking distance of Waterford, well clear of the Atlantic weather on the west coast, and give us a chance to explore all the wonderful haunts on the Cork/Kerry coast at a leisurely pace. The Tall Ships was due to run from 30th June to the 3rd of July.

Well it didn't quite work out like that, the weather was not great from May onwards, we couldn't make the passage, it was now mid June and we were too far away. We had all but given up on the idea. We decided instead to spend that week cruising the Shannon with a possible trip to the wonderful Erne Loughs in Northern Ireland. We drove from Dublin to Killaloe on Sunday 26th June to collect the boat. I had been keeping an eye on the mid range weather forecast, but at a lunch stop on the way to Killaloe, I dared to wonder as the possibility of improved weather emerged from the various weather apps I had on my iPhone. My wife and I discussed the options, change of plan, lets head south west out to Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary in case the weather forecast did improve, at least we might just be within striking distance of Waterford. If the weather situation stayed as predicted, we could always head back up river to the inland system and resume our plans to holiday on the Shannon.

Day 1 - Sun 26th June - Killaloe to Limerick - 12nm via Ardnacusha hydro electric powerstations 102ft lock.

Killaloe once the 11th century capital of Ireland and the seat of King Brian Boru. We provisioned the boat, fuelled, checks and turned out of the marina heading south for Limerick City with its access to the south west coast via the Shannon Estuary.

The weather was excellent. We took the mast and canopy down as we would need to pass under Killaloe Bridge which is the lowest bridge on the Shannon Navigation at 3.8m airdraft. We would also need it down to fit under the guillotine gates at the hydro electric power station and to get under the tidal bridges of Limerick city. We had expected to get to the marina in Limerick city that evening, or if lucky perhaps even as far down the Estuary as Foynes.

Entrance to the artificial lake known as "flooded area" just south of Killaloe. This man made lake was constructed in 1924 when the Shannon was ducted down to the hydro electric power station at Ardnacrusha. Before this access to Limerick was via a system of canals, but is now navigable by leisure craft. The only restriction is when the powerstation is running all four turbines which creates too much flow for typical leisure craft, but this rarly happens in "normal" summers when typically only one turbine is running. That evening the flow in the river at Killaloe was slow suggesting we would make it to Limerick as the powerstation load was low - then!!!

The flooded area had a small village until 1924 when the inhabitants were relocated during the construction by Siemens. The village is still there under water and one chimney pot just sticks up above the waterline. It is well bouyed so boats can avoid accidently grounding on the underwater main street. The old church was dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt in Killaloe beside one of the newer churches. Killaloe also houses a Cathederal.

Mrs OF takes the helm as we head down towards the massive Parteen wier

Parteen Wier - This is an artificial lake supported by man made dykes and still contains the underwater village. The wier effectively splits the mighty river shannon into two flows, the original path of the Shannon to the left, and the alternate head race canal to the right which diverts huge volumns of water especially in winter down to the hydro electric power station. The photo doesn't do the scale of this structure justice. Just to the right you can make out the open guillotine gate which is the entrance to the head race canal for leisure craft.

Looking aft at the guillotine gate. This gate can be remotely opened by the power station lock keeper, but book it in advance as it take 45 minutes to open. As we passed through I noticed that there was now a slightly increased flow suggesting two turbines might be running down at the powerstation. We had a lot of rain fall during the previous two months and the powerstation had been running at winter loads for much of the summer already.

Ardnacrusha Hydro Electric Power Station - The head race canal is about 7 miles long. Built by 5000 men working for Siemens between 1924 and 1929, this massive construction project was the largest in the world at the time and cost 20% of Irelands GDP. The brave government of the day backed the brain child of a Trinity student then working for Siemens in Germany. It generated 100% of the countries electricity until the 1940s when it generated 83% of the entire grid, but now accounts for only 2%. It was an purely economic argument and it worked, triggering the post agrarian industrialisation of Ireland's economy. (see Ardnacrusha power plant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and Spirit of Ireland - National Project for Energy Independence for the next big idea which may only cost 5% of GDP but give us 100% of cheap renewable energy and turn us into a gulf like state exporting electricity to europe instead of importing oil). The building architecture is remeniscent of the German heavy water plant in the WW2 movie "The Heroes of Telemark". Before 1924 the Shannon was one of the best Salmon fisheries in the world, alas now they cannot get up stream anymore despite the fish lift, more importantly they can't get safely down through ArdnaCRUSHa food blender. Photo below (C) ESB<br />

It takes upto three hours to turn this power station off as they cannot simply turn off all four turbines at the same time, otherwise that would cause a tsunami down the canal over running the power station dam. Instead they gradually decelerate the huge volumn of water in the 7 mile head race canal. The canal is higher than the surrounding country side, and it is interesting to see the tops of buildings and church spires as you pass near some of the scenic villages by boat.

Below the powerstation dam the tail race canal and river Shannon is tidal. On this map you can see how leisure craft can only access Limerick city via a diversion down the Abbey river which has four bridges that can accomodate motor boats at suitable tidal heights. However it is not advisable to enter this stretch if more than one or two turbines are running. If the powerstation is at max load running all four turbines on ebb tide the current can exceed 12kt, but typically it is between 1-3kt during summer when the powerstation is less used.

The powestation has a 102ft lock in two stages. The upper chambre is 62ft and the lower 40ft. There are hooks in the wall of the chamber which can be used to hold boats on station using a short loop of rope, moving from hook to hook as the boat descends. It take about 50 minutes to lock through this awesome piece of German engineering

Inside the upper lock - It's like going down a mine shaft in a boat - But the ride is gentle and slow with no turbulance. We often have time to make a cup of tea! Engines off because the exhaust would build up. It is a truely awesome experience going through this incredible structure in a motor cruiser. There is NO charge for passage! If you are not in a hurry, tie up outside at the waiting jetty and get a tour of the plant. Booking lock passage in advance is required.

Looking up and back at the guillotine gate you just drove a boat through. There is seven miles of water behind this! Luckily Madam Guillotine is not a resident of Killaloe. The whole thing is so very "german" looking, which makes sense as they built it.

The dam on the right with four giant penstocks connected to the turbines in the powerstation to the left. Looks so like the heavy water plant in the "Hero's of Telemark" movie that Kirk Douglas failed to blow up!

Continued ...

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Old 02-03-2012, 15:22   #2
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Re: Froggies 2011 Adventure - Part 1

. . . continued

Nearly down at the bottom. You can see the recesses in the wall for the hooks. Alternatively you can use a boat hook on the ladder if your beside it. It's dark down here, but at least there is no loony NUM Arthur Scargil down this shaft to moan at us

The gate starts to lift, engines on, 62ft done, 40ft to go in the next chambre

Looking aft and skywards at the gate and massive cill

Allow a few seconds for the gallons of water to drain from the guillotine gate before passing under into the second lock chambre. The lock keeper here is Gerry Reid, and a nicer chap you won't meet. Very helpful and can arrange tours of the powerstation too. Now the BAD news, as we prepared to descend the second chamber Gerry looks over the side and says "Woops, looks like they've loaded up four turbines on max load". Blast, we could safely go down the tail race with four turbines running as we had the power, but there was no way we could risk entering the Abbey river in Limerick city and have any chance of steerage under the low bridges with anything between 9-12kt of flow behind us.

Looking at the outside of the upper lock chambre. All this commissioned in 1929 long before the "greens" and terms like global warming had ever been heard. Tree huggers like teenagers were an invention of the late 1950s!

As it was too dangerous to risk entering Limerick with the powerstation at full bore, so we decided to spend the night at a holding jetty in the middle of the tidal river Shannon just north of Limerick city above the railway bridge. After we tied up, even here in the wide section of the river the speed log occaisionaly showed 5kt!!! We settled down for the evening, put the geni on to cook diner and watch a good DVD. After dinner I noticed a strange noise, sounded like some low frequency motor was running somewhere, but I couldn't pin point where until I lifted the stairs to the aft cabin - both prop shafts were gently windmilling in the strong current. We then got a visit from the local Waterways Warden Pat Lysaght in his boat. Pat as well as his other duties, acts as helpful pilot for leisure boats transiting the Limerick city navigation and a gentleman who has generously helped many hundreds of boats through Limerick. He took a run downstream to inspect the flow under the bridges and returned to give me his report. As expected white water rafting terratory down Georges Quay and a 1m step in the flow going under Matthew bridge! No way, no how, no hosea was I bringing our boat through that. We settled down for the night knowing the power station would start to shut down around 22:00 and not start again until about 07:00 the next morning, so we planned to enter Limerick at 06:30 and with normal gentle flow.

Day 2 - Mon 27th June - Limerick to Kilrush - 36nm 4hr

Woke up next morning 06:00 and the Shannon was like a stagnant mill pond with the incoming tide neutralising the tiny flow anyway.

Railway Bridge - Just past this on the left hand side is the entrance to the Abbey river which is the only way to get a boat into Limerick as far as the sea lock at Sarsfield bridge.<br />

Thomond Park - Home to Munster Rugby and a cauldron for visiting teams. This is where the All Blacks were figuratively "slain" by Munster in 1978 - and they are still talking about it, mind you over time upward of 1 million people now claim to have been at the match. They didn't do too well this season in the HC. The new stadium is impressive, rather like a Dinosaur egg nest!

Swan Lake? No, Abbey river like a stagnant mill mond - But 12 hours earlier this was fit for colorado river style white water rafting. We went down to Limerick at tick over the flow was so little. Normally you need to keep a decentg bit of speed on to maintain steerage. A mistake some make is to throttle back which is not a good thing to do causing loss of steerage.

Map of Limerick City Navigation

O Dwyers Bridge - Looks scary because it is about 25 degrees offset to the flow - if there is a flow. The long range photo is deceptive, there is plenty of room to pass the rowing club slip and pass under the right hand arch. But if there is a strong flow be brave and use plenty of power without being daft. I have come upstream against the flow with four turbines running, and while scary is manageable in a twin engined boat, but single engined displacment craft would be going backwards. But the scene in the photo is typical summer flow unless there has been unprecidented rainfall like May and June this year.

Abbey Bridge

On spring ebbs there can be a gentle reverse flow here. As you turn to starboard be prepared for the next bridge which is on a bend and only 60 meters beyond this one

Baals Bridge - Keep to the centre as if there is a flow it pushes boats to the left

. . . continued

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Old 02-03-2012, 15:26   #3
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Re: Froggies 2011 Adventure - Part 1

. . . continued

Georges Quay - I once saw a big flybridge boat moored at this jetty that was semi planing even though it was tied up due to the current with four turbines combined with a spring ebb.

Matthew Bridge - When it's being nice. 12hrs earlier there was a one meter steep in the water under this arch! (see Brian Goggins photo http://irishwaterways.files.wordpres...-11_resize.jpg )

Limerick City is a great place to spend a night when transiting to the SW coast of Ireland

Shannon Rowing Club - At the south side of Sarsfield Bridge. In it's hay day this famous establishment competed with the best English universities. Membership used to be limited to Officers, Clergymen and folks with a title or a parent with a title! But the number one rule in the club was instant expulsion for any member caught discussing "religion or politics". It still boasts a magnificent trophy room and black and white photos from the last two centuries. In the foregound you can see the wier which greats only a half tide above it (ie LW never dries out). Just out of shot to the left of the Rowing Club building is the sea lock which gives access to the tidal Shannon.

Looking Upstream from Limerick City Marina at the Castle. The bouys mark the wier at high tide

The Hunt Jetties Limerick City Marina - Wier on the left at HW

We left our overnight pontoon, came down stream about 06:30 that morning and tied up until just after lunch waiting for the tide. So we went into town for a nice cooked breakfast in one of the shopping malls and I took my girl shopping

Leaving Limerick City - Clarion hotel on right shaped like a ships funnel. This stretch not advisable LW+/-2hr. Radar arch up as all the low bridges are finished with. Now it's a relaxing run down to Kilrush creek marina for the night and lets see what the weather forecast is tonight. Waterford or the Erne?

Mrs OF trying to spot Bunratty Castle - quite a tourist attraction with it's medevil banquets.

Time for afternoon tea methinks - Got a little chilly so put the front tent up again. Auto pilot was U/S at this stage, but thanks to google I isolated the problem with another instrument on the seatalk bus that was bringing it down. Unplug the offending item and we had AP again, but it would need recalibration.

Lady's eights from UL rowing club. This is serious rowing country.

Inland vessels may not be familiar with the diverse range of IALA buoyage used on the Estuary. The inland system uses Red and Black markers, but is switching to Red and Green.

Foynes YC - For 6 years Foynes was the Atlantic hub for air travel in the glorious days of the clipper flying boats. During WW2 all the allied top brass flew through here wearing civilian cloths due to Irelands neutrality. The overnight stop for fuel meant the govt had to provide 1st class accomodation and two gourmet french restaurants. There is a flying boat museum there today. Foynes YC is almost half way down the estuary and has limited visitor moorings.

Foynes YC - Photo I took a few years ago.

Kilrush Creek Marina - As we were in no hurry we proceeded down the estuary at displacement speeds enjoying the scenery and pottering about the boat. The sea lock is gives access to marina at all states of tide. This lock is managed by opening the gates ajar to allow water though. Can get a little turbulent!

Kilrush Marina lock

Now the emerging weather pattern on my iPad weather apps looks promising and there is indeed a change to the previously forecast doom. Now the forecast from Tuesday onward looks great, but tomorrow's sea state won't be known until we stick our nose out past the mouth of the estuary into the Atlantic coast. If it is too unpleasent we can always U-turn back here.

Killrush Creek Marina - This is a large marina in a sheltered lagoon, full services, fuel and boat yard. The nearby town of Kilrush has a load of nice pubs and eateries and good shops for provisioning.

Route from Killaloe inland on Lough Derg to Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary

Now the weather forecast. It had improved, but tomorrow was still going to be F4 after a few days of wind, so there would be some sort of a swell. If the sea state was good we might make it all the way to Baltimore, if not Lawrence Cove in Banty Bay, or Dingle, or at worst a U-Turn back to Kilrush. But it was worth a look the following day and we planned to depart at 10:00 after porridge and fruit breakfast.
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Old 05-03-2012, 00:19   #4
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Re: Froggies 2011 Adventure - Part 1

Video clip of later part of the cruise.

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