So ... in the dying days of August, setting out from Tara Marina, heading East Sou’East from Tara Marina ...
,,, on a delightful morning (above), via the Shannon-Erne Waterway.
Although this is a divided island, it is not actually a 'partitioned' country; as evidenced (amongst other organisations) by Waterways Ireland; which administers all the cross-border rivers and canals in Ireland, and the Shannon-Erne system stretches North from Limerick, right up to Belleek in Nor'n Ir'n ... that's 'Northern Ireland' to you; that piece referred to in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and (parts of) Northern Ireland. To be culturally sensitive (politically correct), where we now reside one refers to ‘the north of Ireland’ or, more commonly: ‘The North’ … which is not considered a political statement.
(Tangent warning! Tangent warning!)
Ireland is one of those places which the whole world might do quite well to emulate. It has a violent history of subjugation by a neighbouring, foreign power; with that colonialist entity, forcibly populating one of its regions with poverty stricken citizens, from a religious denomination, antipathetic to the aboriginals. (Read about ‘the clearances’.)
I was born in Belfast, so I stem from forbearers evicted from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, to facilitate the cultivation of sheep … to the great profit of English landlords, who owned huge swathes of Scotland, but made little profit from arable farming. My pauperized, forcibly transplanted (protestant) ancestors were encouraged to feel superior and fortunate (“You were lucky!!!”) in comparison to the oppressed people, amongst whom they were settled as ‘tenant farmers’, for (Surprise, surprise! Drum roll please.) … English landlords!
Since its inception; firstly as a ‘Free State’ and latterly as a Republic; the government in Dublin has always refused to accede to the legality of the border across the island … although successive Irish governments have been realistic enough recognise its ‘de facto’ existence. So – having been born in Belfast – I am a British Subject; but my birth within the confines of the island of Ireland, confers upon me automatic Irish Citizenship. Lucky me!
(“Bejabers, Tom; y’r ‘tangent’ has wandered in the territory of ‘diatribe’, has it not?” “Y’r right Tom, so y’are! Now … where was I going with this??? Ah, yes, I was going to The North.”)
So ... in the dying days of August, setting out from Tara Marina, heading East South-east (downstream) on the River Boyle, it took only an hour or so to arrive at the confluence of the Boyle and the Shannon. A smart left-turn had us butting into the current coming down from Leitrim Village. It is so-called because the 'county town' of County Leitrim is actually Carrick-on-Shannon; at this point, slowly disappearing in our wake. The only municipality bearing the county's name is Leitrim Village. It is a picturesque, if small, community, with the appearance of some vitality when a global pandemic isn’t impacting here, as it is everywhere. None of the hostelries in the village could host us for a dinner-reservation, as a local Gaelic football match was closed to spectators but being broadcast on television, so all establishments were full! Not to worry … Moonstone has a small, but well-stocked freezer, and similar wine cellar!
Next morning, less than a
kilometre North of Leitrim Village found us ready to negotiate Moonstone
through her first 'push-button' lock.
(The term 'Lock' can become confusing. The arrangement by which a boat changes
altitude is a lock … spelling and pronunciation the same as the security device
on a door. Almost – but not quite - a homophone, is the local appellation for a
lake, which is: ‘lough’; in itself similar in pronunciation to the Scottish:
‘loch’ … as in Loch Lomond.)
The water in these regions is stained a deep amber colour, by dint of all the 'peat' suspended therein. The effect of this in agitated water may have been the inspiration of Ireland's national drink ... stout'!
The locks on the Shannon-Erne Waterway are electrically self-operated, although lock-keepers are plentiful, and universally friendly, informative and obliging characters … chatty to the point of garrulousness.
At one point on the journey we thought we might have crossed the border, as - sparse though they were - the navigational signs changed from red OR green, to red AND white. It was a while before it dawned upon us that the change in signage merely denoted that we were now, officially, on the Erne, rather than the Shannon. Regardless of being either in the Republic or in the Province, the River Erne (and its loughs) navigate using, solely, the red and white beacons.
Of the two Lough Ernes, Upper Lough Erne (the southerly one) is the least open, with a plethora of islands both large and small. This provides plenty of shelter and few 'long reaches' for swells to develop; so it’s much more suited to the particular characteristics of a narrowboat, designed for the placidity of the U.K. canals and the occasional river. Being on a narrowboat in such (comparatively) large stretches of open water, can be daunting; and ‘keeping a weather-eye peeled’ is a basic requirement. We take Moonstone on these loughs/lakes only after duly consulting several forecasts.
However, weather awareness is only one difference from U.K. canalling. In our four years of cruising in England and Wales, we never felt any requirement to carry binoculars. For watery peregrinations in Ireland; we have come to realise that these vision-enhancers are indispensable. I make no claims to be any sort of navigator, and the ubiquitous and essential Nicholson’s Waterways Guides make navigation of Britain’s canals almost laughably easy … certainly in comparison to our current life. This is not to disparage Waterways Ireland’s estimable publications such as the ‘Navigational Guide to the Shannon and Erne Waterways’. For a start it’s MUCH bigger than any of the Nicholson’s publications … in fact unwieldy. A full 16 inches by 12; and considerably smaller in scale, therefore – of necessity – rather less detailed.On a lough with multitudinous islands, this make the post (Lyn’s) of ‘Navigator’s Assistant’ of inestimable importance. With four possible islands for which to choose, independent observers might consider some of our choices of course to be ‘meandering’ … to say the least. Nonetheless; ‘lost’ is only a viable concept if one stays lost; or requires to be ‘found’ (rescued!) by some outside agency. Mind you ... the unbounded joy occasioned by the resolution of some imbroglio of pilotage is not easily communicated to those who’s wayfinding suffers no such shortcomings.
Heaven forefend … this place is practically English … almost resolutely so! There’s even an Asda! Now, Carrick-on-Shannon does have, a Tesco’s it’s true; but the merchandise there is charmingly peppered with local delicacies, not the least of which are the bready comestibles. The variety of bread, scones, rolls, etc., available in Ireland - both sides of the border - is a glorious treat for the taste-buds.
Whilst, in the Irish language, 'Carrick' denotes a castle; in Carrick-on-Shannon, castle is there none! Enniskillen, however, has a small but perfect castle, and it was beneath its walls that we found a mooring suitable for us to call 'home' for two or three days.
Having spent some of our U.K.
currency (Pounds Sterling) we unexpectedly found ourselves with a problem. The
banknotes we were spending in the shops were British (English) twenty-pound
notes; which we had brought over with us. These are issued by the Bank of
England, and a commonly accepted in all four nations of the United Kingdom.
However ... Scotland and Nor'n Ir'n (not Wales, for some reason!) issue their own banknotes, from institutions such as the Clydesdale Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Bank of Ireland and the Ulster Bank.
Now ... none of these are legal tender in the Republic of Ireland, but - in theory - all are legally negotiable anywhere in the United Kingdom. In theory!!! In practice ... English retailers are extremely loath to accept payment with any banknotes other than from the Bank of England.
The great majority of retail staff will argue vociferously that they are not allowed to accept such Northern Irish and Scottish currency; indeed that these things are not legally valid in England! Both of these arguments are completely incorrect, but then again ... these are people who doubtless voted for Brexit!!!
("Ye'r wanderin' off topic again, Tom." "Oh. Sorry about that.")
Whatever; we are now stuck with a fair amount of folding money (we've still got a few Scottish banknotes from the last time I was gigging North of the Border!) we'll have difficulty shifting. Perhaps I can keep my eye out for a visually challenged beggar?
(Are ye' allowed to say 'beggar' dese days, Tom?" "Alright: 'street person', then!")
Whilst we have never been unaware of Moonstone's shortcomings in the sea-going stakes; our long-held ambition to cruise the whole of Ireland's waterways, without fear or favour, is crystallizing into a search for (yet) another boat! We have focused our gaze on a Dutch barge style of vessel. It will need to be small enough to fit into the locks, and under all the bridges, on both the Royal and Grand canals; whilst being sea-worthy enough to carry us on the loughs without trepidation. Of course: as the years progress, a little more elbow room would not go amiss; although we're actually seeking a craft a few feet shorter than Moonstone.
Something along these lines, perhaps???
If anything significant transpires doubtless the news will be noised abroad on Watery Peregrinations.
More next time. Stay well, Tom.