Shannon boat owners count costs after icy conditions sink vessels


FREEZING CONDITIONS on the river Shannon and its tributaries have resulted in an unusually high number of boats sinking in recent weeks.

Owners of boats moored along the waterway – which is among the longest recreational navigations in Europe – have been advised to check their boats by the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland.

The association’s advice comes after reports from its members of unattended boats sinking in harbours, marinas and other moorings across half a dozen counties.

According to the association, which has published photographs of stricken boats on its website, boats are either sinking or in serious danger at Mountshannon, Co Clare; Lough Derg and Portumna, Co Galway; Shannon Harbour, Co Offaly; Lanesboro, Co Longford;Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim; and Cootehall, Co Roscommon.

In Carrick-on-Shannon, a 35ft steel cruiser which had been moored at a public jetty opposite the Landmark Hotel sank, its flybridge just visible above the waterline.

At Mountshannon, there were reports of another motorcruiser sunk at the entrance to the holiday village, while attempts to prevent the sinking of a boat in Cootehall failed.

Motorcruisers typically cost €40,000-€100,000 but can cost as much as €200,000.

The worst situation appeared to be at Shannon Harbour, where the Grand Canal meets the Shannon. Yesterday a number of boats there were sunk, while others tied to the canal bank were submerged to various degrees.

Although boats can be refloated, they frequently need to be completely refitted as woodwork warps, electronic equipment is ruined and soft furnishings destroyed. As well as resulting in financial loss for the owners, boats which sink may cause environmental damage through engine and fuel oil spills, and the leakage of antifreeze, acids and chemical cleaners.

Most boats also have holding tanks for onboard lavatories.

According to the waterways association, problems arise when seacocks are not closed in a process called “winterisation”.

In normal running conditions, boats have water intake pipes below the water level, taking water through pipes to cool the engine.

If seacocks have not been closed and water is allowed to remain in the pipes in freezing conditions, the water will expand, cracking the pipes.

As the ice subsequently defrosts, the intake pipe leaks and water spills into the boat. Similar difficulties can arise with water intake for flushing lavatories, even if boats have been fitted with holding tanks for effluent disposal.

When a boat starts to sink it may happen very slowly. However, where boats are moored in public places such as harbours and river banks, the owner is not always known locally and cannot be contacted.

Difficulties have also arisen where onboard pumps have split due to expanding ice. The association expressed concern about the design of some plastics insufficient to withstand recent very low temperatures.

Association president Paul Garland advised owners to check their craft: “The lessons learned this winter must be taken seriously – all seacocks have to be shut.”

Waterways Ireland said it would try to contact the owners of sunken boats. Owners needing assistance should contact the organisation by phoning 09064-494232 or e-mailing