57th Shannon Boat Rally
This year the Shannon Boat Rally started in the small village of Dromod in County Leitrim. The local community had the green area all prepared and Waterways Ireland had everything ship shape for the 75 boats that landed and moored up throughout the day Saturday 29th July. Boats travelled from the Erne, from Lough Derg and all along the Shannon to gather for the Ecumenical Service followed by the commodores Cheese and Wine reception.
This year’s Chairman Martin Donnelly (Samson), introduced the Commodore in a Louth accent leaving us in no doubt of the geographic origin of the 57th Commodore Margaret Meegan (Moonshadow) hailing from Terminfeckin. Accepting her role gracefully the Commodore introduced the two Vice-Commodores from IWAI Athlone Brigitte Benson (Plan B) and from IWAI Carrick–on –Shannon Brian Fitzgerald (Magellen).
The theme of this year’s rally was ‘River Dancers’ and we were treated to a magnificent display of Irish dancing from the Corrigan White Irish Dance School, Terminfeckin, County Louth. The stage was set and the challenge outlined, we participants in the Shannon Boat Rally had to match the dancing skills of the professional dancers over the course of the week. Dance lessons were organised throughout the week ably given by A&C County Jiving Dance School and we all learned to trip the light fantastic.
Sunday started out with mixed weather and a gentle day of activities. The fleet remained in Dromod for another night and we used our brains or rather our memories as we all partook in the Reeling in the Years musical quiz. Despite the best efforts of the quiz masters, to mix up the teams and get us up dancing, the winners of the quiz were exactly the same as last year. It is hard to beat the brains.
On Monday the fleet moved to Kilglass. It was a gentle day and the journey was very pleasant. Conor Megan (Moonshadow) and his team of harbourmasters did a great job of getting us all into the harbour. Competitions proper started on Monday and altogether fourteen boats entered the starred competitions. Through the day on Monday there was also a wide range of activities available for people both on and off the water. One of our more interesting activities was a cardboard boat building competition followed by a contest to see how long they remained in the water. That brought out the competitive spirit in all generations. That night we held our RNLI raffle guided by Andy Fitzsimons (Ye Iron Lung). The raffle was unique in that there were 100 tickets sold and there were 100 prizes on offer. This proved to be a very hard job to convince people that what Andy said was true, there were 100 prizes available. We raised €2,600 in total for the RNLI throughout the week.
On Tuesday the fleet rested in Kilglass and the day was spent on a range of water sports from swimming competitions, to novice sailing and paddle boarding. Everyone loved the opportunity to get out on the water and participate in competitions and activities.
On Tuesday morning we were treated to some expert advice from Donal Moran, Sales Manager and Padraic Gallogly and Kenny McGuire registered gas installers from Flogas who visited boats and gave general advice on gas safety. There was considerable interest in the new Flogas gaslight cylinders which are much lighter to handle than their old steel counterparts. There is great reassurance amongst boaters knowing your gas is installed and stored correctly on our boats. One of the chief worries is a gas explosion on your boat during a rally or cruise in company. Boaters have many frightening stories of such exact explosions happening in other jurisdictions and we don’t want it to happen to us. Therefore there was a very positive reaction to the visit of Flogas to the Rally and for their support of the IWAI all round.
On Tuesday evening we had our annual BBQ with music by the resident rally band Billy and Rod. This is a very successful night with lots of singing dancing and high jinks late into the night.
On Wednesday morning the rain fell and following our wet coffee morning, the fleet headed to Grange. This involved an incredible feat of mastery by our harbourmasters to moor the entire fleet in Grange by The Silver Eel. There was a rush for showers and food as everyone was delighted to avail of the services of The Silver Eel. The very popular commando competitions took place all around the campus with many getting wet trying to win the challenges.
Thursday was a busy day on the water with Sailing Competitions and the Rib Challenge in Grange Bay, and on land with the Eistamaid competition, Tag Rugby, the under twelve’s post box game and the ever popular land sports. We also held Crewmanship for those over fifteen and Young Mariner for those fourteen and under. Both these competitions attracted a lot of entries and kept our adjudicators busy.
On Thursday evening a quiet lull descended on the fleet as people ate their evening meal and the sun began to set. There emerged from boats some very strange creatures indeed! It was Fancy dress night. With the theme of River Dances we were treated to men in tu tu’s Swan Lake ballet dancers, versions of Michael Flately, Sugar Plum fairies, Gogo dancers, Can Can dancers, Belly dancers, YMCA, and a host of other characters. It was an extremely colourful night.
The following morning the fleet moved bright and early to Jamestown. The first boats went through the lock at 8.40 thanks to the wonderful support of the Waterways Ireland lock keeper. There was a small electrical hitch at one stage which spread like wildfire through the fleet and panicked many a crew who felt they would not through the lock. All was solved very quickly and the fleet gradually arrived and moored in Jamestown. There was an impromptu cocktail party on the Quay wall and the guitars and singers emerged and entertained us gently on the riverbank.
The talent show was held in the Community Hall. It is a very entertaining night with all the talent which can be found on the Rally. It was an early night as on Saturday morning following the coffee morning the fleet were headed for Carrick-on-Shannon.
Heading to Carrick-on-Shannon for the rally causes a dilemma. We are all looking forward to the town and what it has to offer in terms of retail therapy, the restaurants and good pubs and the promise of long hot showers and a cup of good coffee. While at the same time we are sad to see the rally break up as some head for the Carrick Boat Club and others moor on the Emerald Star jetties. It is a “not enough space” thing and totally understandable but nevertheless the unity of the past eight days is broken. Perhaps it is a good thing as we prepare for the final night and the inevitable break-up of the fleet.
Prize giving was held on Saturday in the Carrick Boar Club and that is always a joyful occasion with cheers of good will and applause for the winners of the various competitions. Saturday night is always a free night in Carrick–on-Shannon and everyone takes the chance to eat something other than BBQ’s. The Indian, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese restaurants were full, the pubs serving pub grub were also packed out.
On Sunday morning the Commodore of the Carrick Boat Club Margaret Murphy (Corbiere) hosted a coffee morning. It is a relaxed affair with very small skippers briefing. Most people spend a relaxed day, organising showers, hair appointments and stressing over dinner dance gear for the final night gala dinner held in the Bush Hotel.
Following a bubbly reception all arrive in their finery and the ceremony begins. After dinner there were speeches by the Chairman Martin Donnelly (Samson), the Commodore Margaret Meegan (Moonshadow), the President of IWAI John Dolan and the Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland Dawn Livingstone. We also had a The IWAI Endeavour award which was presented to Damien Delany (Sakeena) from John Dolan President for a lifetime of outstanding contribution to the inland waterways. It may seem like a lot of speeches especially when we are all dying to hear who the winners of all the starred competitions are. But thankfully all the speeches were short and sweet and out Rally Secretary Jean Kennedy (Norseman) got to do the best job of the night, and that is announcing the winners.
Rescue of a Cruiser
Finally there was uproar as the premier Award of the 57th Boat rally went to boat Number 57 Crannagh.
Skippered by two perfect ladies Fiona Hoey and Maeve Kelly it was 40 years since their father Reggie Redmond won the Premier Award. It was a very sweet occasion and inspiring to all other female skippers to enter and partake in the starred competition in the Shannon Boat Rally.
Until the 58th rally over and out.