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
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.
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
- 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
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!