Archive for the 'Canoe' Category

Ram’s Island with video

Me and Simy were there recently. Here’s a little vid

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yet another coney island blog…

Having been almost a year since I’d camped in Coney it was time for a trip back. This time, instead of the stag party I had my lovely wife in tow.

She still had to paddle her own way their mind you, this is no punting on the Cam you know…

The weather was spiffing shall we say

Being early in the season the flies were somewhat of a problem, perhaps more to one of us than the other

We didn’t quite have the island to ourselves, as there were a few boats of merry-makers tied up at the pier. The merry-making was fine, the pumping tunes from Cool FM were less in keeping with the context. They left eventually

We made camp a bit further inland amongst the bluebells.

I must confess, it wasn’t my best BBQ, we spent more time trying to keep the damn thing alight.

Good to be back camping. Here’s to a few more

Ram’s Island

Yeah I know you’re all bored sick of Coney island.

Well we found a new one. By found I don’t mean we actually found it. It’s been there for a while now, and we’ll not be first to claim discovery or anything…

Sorry if the screen grab is a bit small. But you can see that Ram’s is a fair bit bigger and further out than Coney is.

My only knowledge of it growing up was that it was full of rats and no one went near it.

Apparently the environment folk had someone working all over the lough for 18 months solid solely to rid the islands of rats. Quite the job really.

The birds are flourishing there now, a sure sign that there are no rats left.

We started out at Gawley’s gate, which seemed to be a pub with a jetty and launching point out the back of it. It’s covered in cloud on the google map so I didn’t mark it

The best bits of these trips are the trees. Something like what Ireland might have looked like, an awful long time ago. There’s not many places like that left so it’s nice to see them.

It was a good 15 minute walk from where we landed to the “populated” end of the island

This jetty isn’t in regular use…

The whole walk was covered like this. the indents you can see are our footprints. Very cool.

Every now and again you find old remnants of previous structures. The website has some interesting stuff on the history. One of the most interesting bits is that the lake used to be 6 acres up till recently when the lough was controlled and lowered and it’s now 40 acres

The bit Simon’s standing on would have previously been the shore and the rocks were piled up to stop erosion.

It had at one point been a landscaped garden as the daffodils here give tell to. The flowers are missing because there’s a current population of rabbits there that have a liking for them. They’re trying to work out how to control the rabbit population without causing some other ecological niche to go out of kilter.

the round tower is apparently fairly old. As they tend to be. It’s been patched up here and there.

The story goes that the Americans put the hole in it while using it as target practice in WW II when they were based on the shore about half a mile away. So much for cultural heritage…

The joys of canoeing on fresh water is that you don’t have to worry about your canoe washing away on the tide

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The main jetty is to the right

The whole place is largely volunteer maintained. There’s a guy who stays there in a moored old barge every weekend with his family and does a lot of work at the place.

Hopefully we’ll camp there at some point, but you have to wait till after June and the birds have finished their laying and all that.

The Beastie Boys

The idea of having a “stag do” was just an excuse. I’ve wanted to get a bunch of folk on coney island for an overnighter for a while. This just seemed like a good opportunity.

Regular readers will realise that I have a little bit of a thing about Coney Island and it seems to be my ambition to get everyone I know out there at some point.

I managed to beg/borrow/steal a total of 7 canoes for the trip. Which is not bad going for an extensive budget of nothing. Canoe people (people who canoe…) seem to be fairly generous folk. I made lots of phone calls looking for canoes and trailers and folk bent over backwards to try and track stuff down for me.

Occasionally that involved me moving the canoes in a less than ideal manner.But with Zoomtard‘s help and a little bit of refinement we managed to get 5 canoes on one car.

So 14 of us made it for the evening and only 4 of them were yellow bellied, scaredy cats, reluctant to paddle and went over in the motor boat with the warden of the island.

The rest of us with our fairly widely ranging levels of experience made it under our own power. Even if some of our senses of direction weren’t quite so wonderful.

There had been a recent hatch of flies from the lough which provided a rather dramatic cloud of “smoke” over the island. They’re the type of flies that can’t bite you, but they’re still blood annoying when they fl;y up your nose. The good thing is that come evening they go up high into the trees and instead make an almighty buzzing noise while you chat.

One tented village later (I assumed dictatorial role and shouted at everybody like a school teacher) we were ready for the BBQ and the banter.

We were joined at a bout 10pm by a group of 50 or so drunken young farmers from Portglenone who had come down on a “booze cruise” on the Maid of Antrim for a trip. They were charmingly pissed and entertaining apart from the one idiot who thought it would be funny to break one of our tents and throw a few sleeping bags in the hedge. Shame we didn’t find that out till after they’d left otherwise we could have thrown him in the lough.

One bottle of Woodford Reserve later it was 4am and starting to rain and time for bed. Good times.

Sleep was more of a formality than an enjoyable experience. So it goes.

Next day was damp and getting damper but we got our tour round the island from Peter and all home safely.

Much appreciated to everyone involved, especially to those who helped with the shifting of the canoes.

Frozen Lake

I find myself in that slightly awkward but always pleasant bit between Christmas and New Year. In this odd society that puts these major holidays together and where no real work happens in between.

Christmas was good, cracker food and some interesting gifts, of which my (second) favourite was this.

There were also the obligatory and most practical and appreciated socks and deoderant. Well appreciated by some people anyhow.

Much more excitingly on boxing day we managed to get wee Liz out in the canoe and make an attempt on Coney island.

We were thwarted by ice. Yes ice, a big dirty great sheet of it that seemed to run all the way out to Coney Island.

The good ship Pudge is not designed as ice breaker, though we tried all the same. In the end we gave up when the crunching noises became all a bit disconcerting.

Instead we paddled up the Blackwater instead fearing dive bombings by swans. We were fine.

I must say I did like the ice for dragging the canoe back to the car.

[Note my new hat, another cracking pressie]

Canal song – Part 3

We ended up in an Italian restaurant last night. It’s weird how many small Irish villages have really cracker restaurants sometimes. Well fed and waiting impatiently for 10 pm when we felt it would be respectable to go to bed.

Slept till 9am.

Apparently it was breezy overnight. One of the metal gates on the back of the pub had blown off. Or rather the wall had blown off and taken the gate with it.

We had to endure another gruelling carry of the loaded Kayaks down to the river. couldn’t be more than 100 yards but was pulling the arms out of us by the end of it. We are such light weights.

Back in the water for 10.30 am and on our way. The rain joined us. Most upsetting.

By Lunch (which was a cup of coffee on one of the IWAI marinas) the sun came out and made it a very pleasant afternoon.

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While it’s wonderful having the facilities in place, it is a bit of a spoiler on the view to have all the marker posts throughout the waterways just to stop some idiot piling a cruiser into a sand bar.

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It was here that the going got a bit tougher. Up until this point we had been blessed by having the wind mainly behind us and whatever flow was in the canal was in out favour. At the point we turned into the river Erne and had to go both against the flow and against the wind. Not nearly so pleasant.

We did find this very pleasant old cottage facing onto the river.

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Finished in Belturbet about 3.30 pm. Tired and a bit hungry. Good trip.

Canal song – Part 2

Sleeping in tents is something that seemed like a good idea at the time you thought of it. But in general by the time you get round to it you wish you were in your own bed.

Sleeping in a tent on a small uninhabited island in the middle of a Cavan lake seemed like a great idea till it started raining quite so heavily.

Against my usual better judgement (and the 6 quid per mb charge) I used the phone to check the weather. It gave vague promises of a bright spell from 9-10am and then rain till some time in early November. I waited till one of us could wait no longer to get up and pee (it was Phil) then crawled from my sleeping bag to greet the dampness.

Saving grace is the fact that we only planned to spend one night camping. As a general rule only ever spend one night camping. Unless the weather is guaranteed. And in Ireland it’s never guaranteed.

I had such great plans for a lovely cooked breakfast that came to a squelching halt with the rain. The only aim was to get packed up and in the canoes as quick as possible.

Unfortunately with the rain the wind had picked up significantly so our first paddle of the day was a slightly breezy run across the main channel of the lake to get to a bit of shelter on the otherwise.

We did get lost.  Or should I just say that I got us lost.  All these lakes look the same to me really. How should I know. It was only briefly lost. And pleasantly so.

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Once you’re in the kayak with the spray deck on and the kag and a hat you’re pretty cosy. Rain becomes something of an irrelevance.

The wind however is a different story. Trying to cross a lake with the wind even a few degrees off your direction leads to a constant battle to keep the canoe going in a straight line.  Couple that with the waves cast up by the wind and it actually becomes really quite hard work.

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It never really brightened up all day but I must say it was almost nicer because of it. All my memories of Fermanagh have grey skies in them and it seems only fitting that Cavan should be the same.

A grand total of 3 and a half hours after starting out we arrived at Ballyconnell, (hardly very long paddling is it? I realise that, if you wanted a blog on endurance kayaking then you came to the wrong place) promptly missed the best stopping point and had to struggle back upstream against the wind to make it to the marina.
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So two men walk into a bar in ballyconnell dressed in shorts, sandals and life jackets and ask for a room for two. No wonder we got funny looks.

We also had to carry two canoes down the main street (it’s not very main) to get them to the pub we’re staying in. Pretty sure that’s not something that happens every day.

The shower you have after a couple of days living in your own filth is always the best one. The shoulders are begonnign to feel the strain now a bit. Most pleasant surprise is that a pint of guiness here is only 3.20 euro. Pleasantly surprised compared to the 4.50 euro in Dublin. Maybe I should move here.


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