Low water and poor visibility blamed for cruisers grounding
Lough Ree Lifeboat and Waterways Ireland warn boaters
A screen grab image from the crew camera of the volunteer crew members removing a boat from Slate Rock in June.
Shannon boaters have been warned to be careful of reduced water levels and adverse weather conditions after an unusually high number of rescues this summer – including a total of 10 people who were taken from Lough Ree at the weekend.
On Saturday, Lough Ree RNLI was called out to assist five people on board two private vessels which had run aground east of Inchenagh Island at the northern end of the lough.
Conditions on the lake at the time were very blustery with a force four wind, very heavy rain showers and choppy waters. When the lifeboat crew arrived on scene, a boat was still aground, while the second vessel, a barge with one person on board, had freed itself and did not require assistance.
The boat had two adults and two children on board and, having determined all on board were okay and the boat was not taking on water, the lifeboat crew towed the vessel into safe water where it was able to continue under its own power to Portrunny.
Later that day, the Lifeboat crew were called to assist three people on board a boat that had run aground in Bantry Bay on the northeastern shore.
On Sunday afternoon the Lifeboat was called out again, this time to two people on board a vessel that went aground near Inch Cleraun on the Western side of the lake. The boat was towed into Portrunny harbour.
Waterways Ireland recently warned boaters of low water levels in areas south of Jamestown, Co Leitrim and north of Tarmonbarry, Co Longford.
On Thursday of this week, inland waterways enthusiasts reported on social media that water levels were just two feet deep in parts of the navigation channel in an area of the lake known as Hexagon Shoal.
Michael McDonnell, who operates a Viking Tour boat based in Athlone, said boats grounding on submerged or partly submerged rocks on the lake was now becoming an almost daily sight and, should the dry spell continue, conditions were likely to get worse.
While he said water levels in Lough Ree were in fact holding up “surprisingly well”, compared to elsewhere, he added “there is only so much water to come down the river”. “The low levels will spread,” he said.
Lough Ree Lifeboat Station press officer Sarah Bradbury said much of the rainfall in recent days would be soaked up by the ground and it would require higher levels of consistent rain to have a significant effect on water levels.
She said many of the groundings in recent days may have been caused by boaters losing visibility in sudden downpours and mistaking their location. Ms Bradbury said the advice for boaters was to pay careful attention to maps and charts and to slow down in downpours, but not to the extent where the boat could be blown off course. She said many hand held mobile phones could now also be used to ascertain the position of boats in real time .
“We would like to remind everyone to respect the water, when out on the water always wear your life-jacket and carry a means of communication, either a mobile phone or a VHF radio, so you can request assistance if needed.”
Damien Delaney of the Lough Ree Lifeboat Station said the lifeboat was called out four times in three days earlier this month to help a total of 15 people, including children on boats in the lake. The station later issued a warning to boat users to be aware that water levels may be lower than usual and to keep to the centre of navigation where possible.