This year marks the 56th Shannon Boat Rally the largest boating event in the Inland Waterways Calendar. The event attracts boaters from all over Ireland to spend their annual summer holidays on the river Shannon. It is an outdoor adventurous holiday with over fifty events competitions and activities to take part in. This year the event was held all in and around Lough Ree and Athlone.
The event started informally in Coosan for IWAI Athlone and in Carrick-on-Shannon for IWAI Carrick with a social gathering. The official start of the Rally was in Lanesboro. The opening cheese and wine reception and ecumenical service was held in a marquee on the boardwalk and the boaters were very impressed with the amazing facilities developed by the Ballyleague Development Association. Many commented that it was a balmy evening and it felt like summer in Paris along the Seine.
The next day the local community organised a food and craft fair with all proceeds going to Cancer Care. The Rally actively participated and raised over €300 for Cancer Care and supported the locals community effort. The following morning to mark and celebrate the Balleague’s community’s projects all the children on the Shannon Boat Rally planted a tree on the green area and dedicated it to all the environmental initiatives of the community.
Our next destination was Portrun and to reach our mooring place, all the boats travelled in convoy through the Steamer Channel. This is not marked on the general charts. This area has been electronically surveyed in 2012 and 2016 by the Charts Special Interest Group, an IWAI group of people who have come together to produce accurate charts of our waterways and distribute the digital charts for all parties interested on our waterways. For any boater on the Shannon Boat Rally using the steamer channel for the first time, this was an adventure. This channel is the line that commercial barges used in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The local Portrun community have spent considerable time and efforts in making their area beautiful. Some of them joined us for our coffee morning and skippers briefing. At our Portrun coffee morning we launched The Mid-Shannon Waterway: A pictorial book of designated and tranquil moorings. by Donal Boland (James & Mary). The book contains details of 10 designated moorings and a further 20 tranquil moorings which can be visited between Athlone and Portumna. This is a book any boater would love to have and reminds us of how tranquil and secluded the river Shannon is and we hope it will encourage more visitors to our waterways. Huge congratulations goes to all the small communities along the river Shannon and Lough Ree who work hard at maintaining their waterway amenity that will certainly attract boaters, walkers and other activities to their community.
Our next destination was Hodson Bay. We held events in the Hodson Bay Hotel and in Athlone Golf Club. Both responded very generously in hosting our events. Both are amazing facilities on the shores of Lough Ree and with the advent of Baysports this destination was very popular with all the families on the Rally. The only complaint from our boating visitors was the disappointing state of the car park since the winter flooding. Much of the black daub silt from the flooding is still in the carpark and is hazardous. We understand Roscommon County Council have plans in train for the Roadway and carpark and we look forward to seeing these implemented.
The Rally then sailed to Lough Ree Yacht Club and used the club for our base for the next two days for all our competitions and activities. We were treated to a sneak preview of Dr. Harmon’s new book on historic places to visit in and around Lough Ree. This guide book is nearing completion and we look forward to its publication.
The RNLI visited the Rally and provided an afternoon checking life jackets and the gas mechanisms that help the life belts automatically inflate if you fall into the water. Fifty five people have drowned in our waterways this year and the RNLI are working closely with the Inland Waterways Association to promote safety on the water. This is a message close to our hearts and a campaign we are happy to support.
Boaters on the rally enjoyed two very enjoyable nights in the yacht club with a fancy dress competition and a talent competition. All agreed that it was as much fun for those that took part as it was for those in the audience. During the day we participated in our commando competition for all those obstacle course lovers where teams of six both young and not so young pitted their skills against one another. The next event required a strict dress code of white and green. All those attending the rally were asked to dress in green tee shirts and the organising committee dressed in white tee shirts. We attempted to replicate the Inland Waterways flag by people power. This was captured in drone footage by Paul Larkin and we all had great fun forming and reforming the flag and making it appear to blow in the wind. This drone coverage is temporarily available on YouTube under IWAI 56th Shannon Boat Rally.
Our next adventure was the highlight of the boat Rally as we formed a Rosette on water in Ballykeeran Lough with our boats and anchored out for the night. They weather was beautiful and we used the centre of the circle for swimming races, canoeing races and splashing about. This was also captured by Paul Larkin with drone footage. The coverage is very spectacular and we are happy to make this footage available to the Athlone Municipal District for promotion of the Shannon.
The following morning we cruised to Athlone and moored in the Athlone Marina. The local authority have put considerable investment into the marina and everyone was very happy to arrive in Athlone take a shower and wander up town to shop. There were several weekend sales organised especially for the Shannon rally visitors and there was a trail of people arriving back to the marina with bags full of shopping. Traditionally when the rally enters Athlone people love to eat out and with a free night all the restaurants and pubs were full.
The final night of the 56th Shannon Boat Rally was held in the Radisson hotel. People dress up in their finery and attend the prize giving where the winners of the boating competitions navigation, man overboard, rescue of a cruiser, first mate, and mooring are revealed. Just over two hundred people attended the event with our guests Dawn Livingstone CEO of Waterways Ireland and her husband, John Dolan President of IWAI and his wife and the Mayor of Athlone John Dolan.
We presented the Endeavour Award to Noel Griffin for his dedication and continuous contribution to the Inland Waterways. We presented the Herraghty family with the Denis Tracey award for their outstanding contribution to the Shannon Boat Rally. The Tadgh Crowley award was presented to Blanaid Smith, for her teenage spirit of helpfulness on the rally and the Doc Farrell award to the Warren Family from the Shannon Erne for their contribution to the Rally.
All agreed in the final analysis that the 56th Shannon Boat Rally was a huge success and a fantastic holiday on the water for all the family. Looking forward to next year already. Anchors away!!!!