A Celtic Tiger Cub on the River Shannon

Bank Holiday sunshine made the brackish water shimmer and sparkle, as we slid
upriver from Carrick on Shannon, on board our beloved boat, a Senior 31. Like the ugly child
only its parents could love, we cherished the Iruna, clunks and all. And there was plenty to
find fault with, not least her persistently leaky roof. To avoid unpleasant drips on rainy
nights, Joe and I would lie jammed against the bulkhead.
But we loved that boat and didn’t care. Neither did our dog, Saffy, trotting around the
decks, impressive in her lifejacket, as if she’d been born to boating. The sight of this
fluorescent canine novelty prompted frequent calls across the Shannon waterways – ‘Ein hund
in einer Schwimmweste!’ – from holiday boaters with long-lense cameras.
While Joe was getting ready to cast off from the public jetties, I’d peeled the spuds.
When we were through the arch of the bridge, I lit the gas ring and put the spuds on to boil.
Having cleared the last of the jetties, at Carrick Craft, Joe gradually increased speed. And,
sensitive to the Iruna’s engine revs, Saffy was up and ready to perform her ‘deck checks’,
hopping through the open wheelhouse sliding door, full of confidence, her claws tick-ticking
along the fiberglass starboard side deck.
I smiled as she tick-ticked past the starboard galley window, now misty with
condensation, eye-level with me at the cooker. She paused when she reached the bow. If she
was satisfied that all was well, she’d complete the circuit, hopping into the wheelhouse
through the open port side door.

The tell-tale revs of a speedboat caught me off-guard. It came rushing towards us,
downstream from Drumharlow Lake, thrusting spray high on either side of its bow, a
proverbial ‘bone between its teeth’. The young lad raced past and I cursed him for not
slowing down. There was ample room for both craft. Some river courtesy wouldn’t go amiss
either. And that’s when the Iruna lurched to port, whacked broadside by the large
unnecessary wake, which continued across the river, fading into the reeds.
The pot of boiling spuds bounced over the cooker’s steel guardrail onto the galley
floor. I leapt sideways to avoid the spillage. Joe yelled, ‘Dog overboard!’ I ran up to the
wheelhouse. Knocking the engine into neutral, Joe turned the boat, drifting downriver
towards our Saffy, bravely swimming towards the Iruna.
Grabbing a boathook, I lay on the deck, leaned down over the portside, placed the
hook underneath the loop on her ‘Schwimmweste’, and lifted her safely aboard. She shook
herself, looking contrite. ‘You’re a good girl,’ I reassured her, rubbing her dry with the old
towel we kept tucked inside the wheelhouse for this purpose. It wasn’t her first fall
overboard; they were narrow side decks after all. Stepping into the wheelhouse, I slid both
doors closed and Saffy tip-toed into her bed in our cabin.
Annoyed at the slippery mess all over the galley floor, I said, ‘Jesus, that was a close
‘That’s new money for ye. Probably that lad’s first time out on his new toy. No idea
of its power. You can always tell who was raised to the river because …’
‘Yeah,’ I interrupted, ‘they have manners, and slow down when they meet other
craft.’ I gestured towards the galley. ‘That fella hadn’t a notion. Have you seen the mess
down there? I narrowly missed a nasty scalding.’

Joe smiled, then kissed me. ‘Glad you’re okay.’ He took the wheel, I started the clean-
up and the Iruna headed upstream once more, towards our weekend destination, Lough Key.