We were reminiscing yesterday & looking back through photos so we thought we’d do a photo blog review of the year. It feels like we’ve had the worst year & our dreams been shattered but when we look back the whole goal of coming to Ireland has been achieved & we’ve had many many wonderful experiences & met the most wonderful people. We hope you enjoy our trip down memory lane of 2020.
As is normal for us the year starts with the last few days of Calendar Club & the massive closedown task. We bade a sad farewell to our assistants & drinking partners Jan & Haydn. We had fully intended to do a shop in Ireland in 2020 but sadly none were opened this year
Then started the rounds of farewell get togethers the first with our boating pals when we hired two double decker buses with hot tubs for a special farewell weekend.
Golden Boyz was moved through Milton Keynes so it could be blacked & craned out. Unfortunately the boatyard that we’d booked months previous let us down with 2 weeks to go so it was a mad scramble to find elsewhere. On the way we bade farewell to our very special furry pals Sylahra Golden Retrievers (& now there’s even more of them arrived since we left!)
February was a flurry of farewells as we counted down the days till our departure on 26 Feb. Sorry couldn’t get everyone’s photos in but here’s a few
Then the big day dawned. Us, mum & Auntie Joy went on a big boat (ferry) from Fishgaurd to Rosslare & Golden Boyz went on the overnight ferry from Holyhead to Dublin & we were reunited at Sallins for crane in. Our biggest moment of 2020!
A couple of days later we started our mega Ireland waterways cruise not knowing we’d soon be halted in our wake.
Our first mooring was at Robertstown & from there mum caught a bus into Dublin had lunch in a pub & took part in a hilarious silent Disco tour of Dublin. None of which would normally be that monumental but it became the last meal we had in a pub & last time mum danced for quite some time not that we knew that then. We attended at IWAI meeting to hear details about the Big Cruise 2020 which we’d come over to join in. What twists & turns life takes. We bade farewell to Auntie Joy not knowing she would be the last of our friends that we’d see for at least a year. Many friends at this stage had plans to come over & visit us.
Next cruising stop was Allenwood as there were rumblings on the news that Ireland would maybe go into a lockdown. Coincidentally we read recently that the first case of coronavirus in Ireland was detected on 27 Feb which was the same day as we arrived! It wasn’t us that brought it honest!!
We mastered the planks which we’d never done before so this was a huge achievement & would prove to be a very necessary skill in Ireland.
Our house Holly Cottage was finally put on the market for the third time. This time mum had it staged so it didn’t look so tired after the various ravages of tenants. It looked amazing & was definitely a good move as we got 54 viewings in 2 weeks (we actually stopped them at this point) & it sold at considerably more than the asking price hurray!!!!!!
Lockdown rumours were rumbling stronger & not knowing the area at all we made for the nearest town so we had shops & water which was Edenderry. The waterways were closed down & we were only allowed 2km away from our boat.
I think we ended up spending nearly 6 weeks here. We were bewildered & lonely & felt completely out of our depth with everything happening. We’d ended up in a new country & every mechanism for exploring & making friends had been removed from us. All the events we’d planned to join in one by one were cancelled. It really was the most bizarre of times.
But it was here we started to experience the true spirit of Irish people. IWAI put Sean & his wife Ger in contact with us & they did a marvellous job of helping mum. Sean fetched gas & diesel for mum & even fixed her waterpump when it started leaking. Some of the locals started to get to know mum & us & we got a wonderful surprise Easter Gift & some home baked cookies (we liked those a lot!)
We were given permission to move by Waterways Ireland towards the end of April to go & get pumpout. We had to track backwards to Lowtown & we spent a few days moored at Ticknevin. It was so good to be back out in countryside. We are very nomadic in nature rarely stopping in one place for too long so the lockdown had totally removed our essence of freedom that we thrive on. Whilst here we saw the first of the many spectacular sunsets we’d experience in Ireland.
Still in lockdown we took part in the fantastic fun event: a Virtual BCN Challenge Cruise. Each year there’s a 24 hour cruising challenge around the Birmingham Canal Networks that boat teams compete in but this year it was all done online.
Lockdown was loosened slightly & we cruised further along the Grand Canal enjoying stops at Rhode, Daingean & Ballycommon & seeing for the first time the peat bogs of Ireland.
At Ballycommon we found out that the pumpout at Tullamore wasn’t working so we had to turn round & go all the way back to Lowtown again. But all was not lost as we met up with the lovely Sallins crowd who had started moving again now lockdown loosened so we continued on along the Grand Canal now in company which was wonderful for a change.
We travelled along the Grand Canal taking in the new stops of Tullamore, Pollagh, Rahan & finally arriving at Shannon Harbour.
Lockdown was eased further & joy oh joy we were allowed to go the pub for a meal. It was such an exciting wonderful happy evening.
At Shannon Harbour we went our separate ways as the others were completing the Green & Silver route encompassing both the Royal & Grand canals & passage through Dublin whereas I decided to explore Lough Derg for the summer.
So its at this point that mum had to pull up her big girl pants & brave river cruising on her own as we set off on the mighty River Shannon. It was only a short but scarey for us cruise to the first stop at Banagher as we got used to navigating between the red & green markers.
We stayed there a couple of days then hopped down a bit to Meelick Quay. We loved the mooring there.
Then the fear factor went off the scale as we ventured further down river & out onto Lough Derg. We met the amazing Wendy & Fergal at Portumna who became very good friends of ours & give mum lots of invaluable help & advice on Lough Derg. Daquiri also took a shine to Sophie their little doggie. To get onto Lough Derg we had to pass through the timed opening of Portumna Bridge which unfortunately for us meant lots of other boats coming through at the same time. Being very green we also hadn’t picked the calmest of days & between that & boats racing past both sides of us our initial journey out onto Lough Derg was nothing short of terrifying. With great relief we tied up at Portumna Harbour.
At this stage mum was seriously thinking she’d made a big mistake coming to Ireland on her own. But with lots of coaching from Fergal mum picked the calmest of days for her next journey & although not sleeping at all the night before we eventually braved the next hop down the lough to Rossmore. The journey although still quite scarey for us was a million times better than our entrance onto the lough. Rossmore was a divine mooring & we finally felt as if our Irish dream had come true & mum particularly enjoyed the wild swimming in the lough being able to swim around Golden Boyz. Magical. We were also blessed with gorgeous hot weather.
Wendy & Fergal joined us at Rossmore & we cruised together a couple of days later to Drumaan Harbour. Mum was starting to feel a lot more confident with the navigating & weather judging now so the cruises were becoming more enjoyable. Wendy & Fergal took mum for a little trip on their zoomy boat to see the next couple of harbours.
After Drumaan we cruised across to Dromineer then down to Mountshannon where we met the fantastic Liam & Yogi who helped us tie up & introduced us to the delightful Brid from Holy island tours who was an angel getting us shopping as needed.
Unfortunately we ended up staying longer at Mountshannon than intended as our alternator went. Luckily we were on shore power. It was Fergal to the rescue again as the alternator was refurbished. Whilst there we had a fabulous trip across to Holy Island & spent many an evening swimming within its view. Also one night a group of boaters sat out on the harbour wall & played traditional music which was fantastic. It was one of the things we’d come over for but so far not experienced.
We were eventually shipshape again & set off to Killaloe at the very bottom of Lough Derg.
Whilst at Killaloe mum went on a cruise of Lough Derg & we got an addition to the Golden Boyz crew – Falcon an electric bike!
Now we’d specifically only ventured onto the lough during summer so we had kinder weather but 2020 had other plans. Whilst at Killaloe we had 2 massive storms which would be scarey enough on the canals but on the lough??!! We were in as sheltered a spot as we could be on the excellent recommendation of Susie & we lived to tell the tale although not much sleep was had those nights!
After Killaoe we started our return back up the lough stopping at Garrykennedy & Terryglass before returning to Portumna where we’d started.
After all the storms the River Shannon was flowing much stronger when we departed the Lough but we decided to try & get off as we didn’t want to get stuck there as they turn off all electric & more importantly water over winter on the lough. So we had a final meal with Wendy & Fergal & made our way slowly off the Shannon & back to Shannon Harbour,
We started to make our way slowly back along the Grand Canal the way we’d come out in June. With mum having Falcon now she was able to go on bike rides to nearby places & she particularly enjoyed visiting Clonmacmoise & the rather splendid Clonony Castle.
Rumblings of another lockdown started so we headed to Ferbane as we knew there was a water tap there & mum could cycle into the village from there.
Sure enough another 6 week lockdown was announced on 23 Oct so we stayed at Ferbane 7 weeks in total. Ann in the bungalow opposite was amazingly helpful taking post in for mum & getting extra shopping for her. Mum did a few cycle rides to nearby Lough Boora & she took part in a virtual cycling challenge doing the Ring of Kerry.
Mum hadn’t been feeling well recently so whilst in one location she registered at a Drs. After bloodtests & a scan mum has to have a small operation next year at Tullamore so we’ll be staying roughly in this vicinity for a while now. Whilst at Ferbane we discovered a local fuel company who would deliver diesel to us which is a relief as our stove runs on diesel.
On 1st Dec lockdown was lifted so we could now cruise within our county. We had to turn round & head back to Shannon Harbour as the pumpout at Tullamore is still broken. Just after having sorted that as we were leaving Shannon Harbour our alternator belt went. So we pulled up there for a couple of days & a fellow boater fixed it for us. Then we were off again back the way we’d come up to Pollagh for the Xmas lights switch on.
Then finally it was up to Tullamore for the Xmas period.
We’d booked to go away to near Belfast for New Year but this was cancelled so we hastily boked a break across Xmas to see the Ring of Kerry instead. Unfortnatley mum fell off her bike just before we set off & we think she may have broken a rib or two so although we went a lot of the break was spent in pain for mum. However we did get to drive around the Ring of Kerry & see some amazing scenery.
We returned home & the very next morning we got our first Irish snow.
As we type this we have just gone back into lockdown again & the waterways have closed for the third time.
So despite coronavirus & injuries & breakdowns we have truly had the most amazing year. We have no idea of plans for 2021 hopefully some new cruising routes. We hope you’ll join us along the way & if you do happen to see us on the journey please do stop us & say hello & if you have any unwanted dog biscuits…. just saying!!!