Pushing The Boat Out

When my husband Larry and I retired we threw caution to the winds and
bought ourselves a beautiful blue and white Freeman 27 cabin cruiser. I was
beside myself with excitement as we paid our money and shook on the deal.
Our friends drove us to Portaneena marina in Athlone where we boarded
Aishlinn for our maiden voyage home to Killaloe. We were nervous and excited as
we checked the safety features and unzipped the canvas canopy. The day was
gloriously warm as we negotiated the lock in Athlone and headed to
Shannononbridge with its imposing bridge and spectacular peat landscape. We
waved to fellow cruisers delighting in our new found adventure. We tied up in
Banagher with the help of a kind gentleman who could see me struggling to jump
off. We lunched in Banagher and I even bought a dress for an upcoming wedding.
Following lunch we set off for Portumna. I loved the wind in my face as
we cruised along the tranquil waters of Ireland’s longest river. We discovered
some historic sites as we revelled in the glorious landscape from the
perspective of the river. We orientated ourselves with our map as we took turns
to captain our boat. We finally arrived in Portumna and were lucky to get the
final berth. We found mooring difficult but were kindly supported by fellow
cruisers. We enjoyed our evening meal as we sipped our merlot watching a
magnificent orange sunset by the tranquil waters. We slept like logs finding the
movement of the water ever so soothing.
Next morning we went to see Portumna Castle and were impressed by our
visit to the Irish Workhouse. We left Portumna at midday full of confidence in
our new found abilities. However we found the wide open environment of Lough
Derg more threatening as we journeyed across the lake. The weather changed
abruptly and visibility deteriorated resulting in us straining to see the green and
red markers. The booming of the waves crashing against us actually sounded like
thundering horses hooves. I understood what the term “white horses” actually
meant. I was rattled by the change and suggested we moor in Kilgarvan.
However we missed the markers and were forced to keep going whilst my
stomach heaved. I was a nervous wreck as I beseeched Our Lady to help us in
our petrified hour of need.
Larry was far more resilient than I and as we neared Mountshannon the
weather inexplicably improved and we decided to keep going. It took me a while
to regain my composure and notice the undulating panorama of green
surrounding the lake. I spotted a cormorant perched on a marker with her large
beak and outstretched wings. We passed Holy Island with its round tower built
the by monks in the 7 century. As we approached Killaloe we encountered red, blue
and white sailing boats with skippers skilfully managing their sails. Finally our
destination of harbour village marina came into view. Despite my near exhaustion
and sea legs, I actually managed to jump off and tie up our boat in our allocated
Suffice to say we had been lulled into a false sense of security by our
idyllic trip the previous day and were oblivious to the changing nature of the
weather on Lough Derg. We learned a very valuable lesson in terms of checking
the weather and wind speeds before setting out.
We have subsequently gone on to enjoy endless pleasurable days on the
lake and the majestic river Shannon and we would heartily recommend pushing
the boat out to all.