Removing the roof started in three stages. First myself and my friend Patrick spent a number of weekends cleaning and clearing out everything inside the cabin and putting them into storage. Once this was complete we were ready to lift the roof. This itself was a two stage process as there was a protection cage-like superstructure as the roof firstly, and then the cabin itself to take out. The jury was out as to whether the cabin would lift in one piece but thankfully that was the case. As of the start of December 2016 the middle section of the barge is cleaned out and ready for the new superstructure to be built in place. As the front section of the barge, which is cut down, is 30 feet long, and the engine room section is still intact at the back, this leaves a living space of almost 20×14 ft in the middle, where the aim is for a double bedroom, an en-suite bathroom, and a kitchen flowing into a living area. There are more photos which I hope to upload in the coming days from the lift and the clearing out of the barge, ready for a new roof and lease of life.
The Lough Derg Rally 40 took place in July 2015, starting in Dromaan Co. Clare and finishing in Athlone Co. Westmeath. It was a ten day event, with over 100 boats in attendance, making it the biggest boat rally of 2015 in Ireland, and the largest Lough Derg Rally in history. As it was my third year on the committee and I had started on the committee in 2013 as Rear Commodore, this year I was the full commodore of the Rally, number one at the helm. I have uploaded a few photos from the Anchor out Night in Meelick Pool, Co. Galway, just below Meelick Lock. We anchored all of the boats out for the night, with the main attraction being a BBQ and a concert on my barge in the centre of the two boat fleets. Everything went well, including the weather and I have included a selection of photos for the upload. I still have a number of photos to track down from the week and then I hope to upload posts for the other ports, including the Dinnerdance in Athlone
The Summer of 2015 was set to be a big one, with two important rallies, Shannon Harbour in Late June, and Lough Derg Rally 40, where I was commodore, in July. As the engine was currently being overhauled, the next most important bit of work to be done was the structural hull work, as there was a little bit of water being taken on, and also some prop and shaft work. The hull work that needed to be done, had been put off for the last twelve months, and it seemed as good a time as any, as the Shannon Harbour Rally was going to be taking place a couple of weeks later, and the weather in late May and early June is normally good for dry dock work. The only issue was that the barge did not have an engine, as I was waiting on new pistons and some other work to be completed before the restoration could be finished. The only option was the tow the barge up and back, with 68.M, and if the timing was right the option was there to drop the engine in whilst still in Shannon Harbour. We left Church Bay early on the Sunday morning, the 17th May, in order to catch the 12.30 bridge in Portumna. The lake was a little bit choppy, but as a result this would only cause the barge behind to rock a bit whilst under tow. We decided to tow her behind with two ropes as this would be easiest for steerage, and the only real option for the narrow sections of the river, if the flow was bad. As we came towards Portumna Bridge I took my place on the tiller of 77.M, in order to assist with the steerage of the pair. It was quite weird and difficult to control, considering the way the bow was being pulled, and it resulted in us basically Zig-Zagging up the river, in quite a heavy flow. It was so bad at Shannon Grove, the barges slowed down to a stop on a number of occasions, and only finding eddies close to the shore we would have not made it. There is a video of the barge going through Banagher Bridge on the YouTube channel, the stern was an inch away from hitting the Bridge a clatter. By the time we reached Shannon Harbour it was reaching dark, and I pulled the barge on a bow line through the two locks, and moored up alongside the Jarra in the dark. To be honest it felt like a miracle that we made it in the end, and after a long day I was more than happy to arrive. I was to spend most of the next two weeks on my back in the dry dock, so it was victory very short lived.
Over the Easter weekend we went for a spin across the lake in 45.M, the last remaining GCC canal boat which has not been restored. As can be seen in the photos, the boat is maintained exactly the same as it was when it worked from the 20’s to the 60’s, and even the engine is the original Bolinder 15hp semi-Diesel engine. The boat was being brought across from Church Bay to Dromineer, as the owner had recently passed away, and the family wished to have a spin on the lake in his memory. I got a few shots of the two barges moored up alongside each other before they left, and the video of the engine being started is a sight to see, as starting the engine is no mean feat. Being a semi-Diesel, it must be started by manual hand compression, achieved by rocking the flywheel back and forth, and manually firing in fuel in the hopes to get her firing. This is the only actively working engine of it’s kind in Ireland, so to see it running and to be on the deck when it is chugging along really is something else. The story of the sinking and raising of 45.M from the bottom of Lough Derg is a story for another post 🙂
After persuading some of my friends from UL over the Christmas Break, and during my Diving holiday to Lanzarote, three members of the Dive and Kayak club decided to join me for a work party on a Saturday at the end of February 2015. Ruairi Nealon drove out in the morning, and Simon McCormack and Ethan O’Brien came out later in the day from Limerick. The plan for the day was to get as much of the boat as clean as possible, and hopefully do some painting. After getting up early in the morning, meeting Ruairi and collecting my uncle’s Powerwasher, we were dampened by the weather, it didn’t look promising for the day. With the hopes that it would brighten up later we started power-washing the engine room, the walls, the floor, and the bilges. Trying to find the words to describe the sludge that came out of the bilges when I lifted the floor is honestly quite difficult. After a very dirty few hours work, the other lads arrived and we started painting in a limited sense. It was still misty outside, so I sent the lads to continue painting the lounge which we had started, and Ruairi painted some of the walls in the engine room, starting with the bulkhead. There was still plenty of sweeping, clearing and washing to be done before the floor would be clean enough to paint. By the end of the day, the lads had made a good amount of headway and Ruairi and I headed to the local hardware shop to buy some Plywood to fill the gaps in the side of the cage. I bought some of the thinnest ply on offer, and cut it in half on site in order to transport it home in the car. We then measured the far-from-square holes that we needed to cover, and began cutting the sheets to fit. We ran out of time before I could finish the job, but the groundwork was laid down and a few evenings later that week saw me finished filling the gaps, and ensuring that the lounge would be free from any rain that may fall when the cover was removed. The two lads had also completed a significant portion of the painting, so that left the following Saturday for me to complete the engine room, and have it ready for the engine to return, which would end up being a significant time into the future !
After work slowed down coming into the christmas period, most of my spare time in Whitegate was spent clearing the engine room in order to prepare for a powerwash, and emptying the bilges in the front section, as she was taking on water. My original hopes for the front section was to empty them as close to dry as possible, clear out all of the silt, and then try to track down the source of the incoming water. This was suspected to be a number of finger or smaller holes, on the portside of the bow, as this was one of the worse sections, and it was not possible to patch before she was lifted from her original position in Carlow twelve months earlier. However, this incoming flow proved to be too much, and I eventually gave up after a number of cold nights spent bailing and getting nowhere. My attention was then turned to the engine room. The bilges needed to be cleaned, along with the walls and floors so that they could be painted, and the place would be spick and span for when the engine was ready. Again, this involved many nights in the dark, bailing out water which was slowly leaking back in again from rainwater and hidden compartments. My cousin Anna came down to help me a number of evenings, and was not only good with a paintbrush, but good moral support when priming some of the surfaces in the lounge area. These surfaces needed a good scrub and two layers of primer, as rust and dirt were not only a technical issue, but made the whole are look shabby. After a number of evenings doing such work throughout December and January, I lined up some of my mates from my Scuba Diving club for a weekends work in February 🙂
On Saturday the 15th of November, 2014, the work party assembled in order to pull 69.M onto the shore, in church bay. Help arrived from all four corners of the country, and along with some ESB poles, two tractors, a JCB and a length of cable. The barge was pulled into position the evening before, so that in the morning, all we had to do was secure the cables around the back of the barge, place the tyres on the wire in place, and secure the cable to the back of the tractors. Colm had placed the ESB poles in place using the JCB a few days beforehand so by 10.00 we were ready to begin the lift. The barge rolled up nice and handy, with minimum dragging of the poles, and most of them rolling along as planned. By the time the boat was clear of the lake, she was sitting pretty on the poles all down along. The next issue we had was trying to balance her, so that she could be jacked up in place. Using the bucket of the JCB as a lever in a number of locations, Colm managed to straighten it up, and get the relevant rollers straight and level for the jacking to start. We had two Jumbo jet landing gear jacks, a 15t and 35t jack so weight wasn’t the issue, it was stopping the boat from rocking side to side when jacking at either end. This was easier at the back then at the front, due to the skeg, but everything was in place by 16.30 that evening. Myself and Colm did some more jacking to move the support timbers around a few days later, and then the boat was ready to begin welding the new 10×5 4mm plates onto the bilges.