The Granny on the Shanon

“Granny is going to be 80” someone said. “What could we do?”.
“How about a boat trip on the Shannon for all of us? You know how she loves boats”.
“Oh, come ON -it’s MARCH”. “Well, how else could you please a clan of twenty-three of us, aged from 80 down to 7?”
Emerald Star said Yes – they could hire out four six-berth cruisers from Portumna. ‘An eightieth birthday? Well, yes, why not?”
And so the assorted members of the expedition set out from widespread home-bases, convening on the jetty at Portumna by afternoon on Good Friday, shivering, but cheered by the sight of the four “Magnifique” 48 ft. craft.
Supplies loaded, and dinghies attached, the flotilla motored gently out into the river, through Portumna Bridge and around the corner into picturesque Castle Harbour.
Dinner was planned as a movable feast – each course on a different boat with every sailor bringing own knife, fork, plate and glass.
The announcement that Dinner was served led to a certain amount of jockeying for position since the six-berth cruisers are not really designed for twenty-three people at a time.
So all aboard – in and on – Suir, for an elegant starter, as drinks were served with accompaniments like baked camembert. Then, seven steps away (not forgetting plate, cutlery and glass), the skipper and crew on Swilly served up Tajin of lamb, couscous and curried rice. On again – (carefully avoiding outer edge of jetty) – to where the Slaney offered pineapple glazed ham and trimmings. Crew members on board Scariff had come armed with cheese direct from Amsterdam and Cork. Finally there was THE BIRTHDAY CAKE. (None of your Ships’ Biscuits for THIS expedition).
On Easter Saturday morning, the expedition moved upriver to negotiate the lock at Meelick – possibly the first time Easter Eggs had been seen flying from boat to boat in the lock. Nobody actually fell in and they moved up to Keelogue stone jetty above the lock and the holding of THE MEELICK OLYMPICS with many hitherto unknown competitions, numerous objections and much handing out of medals. When enthusiastic boaters rowed across to explore the opposite bank, it was a golden opportunity to slip across quietly and steal the punt. The stranded sailors rescued, it was time to move on upstream to pick up the latest family arrival who reported that the temperature was now two degrees. He came aboard, and some of the others sat on him, to make him feel warmly welcome.
A discussion took place as to how to keep warm at night. Granny had the only hot water bottle, but one of the crew had worked out that, after discreetly putting the first-aid box up against the hot-air vent for the evening, it could be sneaked into her bed. There was considerable debate about how tight you could hold your partner, the condensation on the ceiling, the fact that this meant the bed clothes were damp, and who had brought Long Johns? Much time was spent dressing, adding more and more layers, and a surprising remark was later heard outside the pub “Here, hold my trousers while I put on my hat”??
Then on upriver, an Easter Egg hunt on the jetty at Banagher, and a mandatory check on Hough’s pub. Next morning, it was downriver again, through the lock and the bridge and east across lovely Lough Derg to Terryglass, some celebrations in Paddy’s Bar and a splendid birthday dinner in the Derg Inn -a good end to a happy voyage.