It’s hard to believe that here in Ireland we have just had a summer to beat all summers, and it’s still going. As I write this update I am in Athlone at the Luan Festival with the Heritage Boat Association (HBA) looking out at the beautiful evening, warm and almost no wind. I could be in Paris except it’s better here. Athlone is proving to be a fantastic location and it is amazing it took the HBA so long to have a visit.

In the first quarter of this year we finally managed to get our legal position consolidated and agreed with the IWAI accepting ownership of data and product, and the working document being signed by all CSIG members and co-signed by a director of the IWAI. This was a worry for us since the data we collect is very valuable, and the position needed to be clarified for all concerned.

The CSIG (Charts Special Interest Group) has been very active over the last number of months all over the inland waterways. In March, Graham Liddy undertook to survey the Royal Canal, the Grand Canal and its spurs, like into Naas. This was a marathon task taking months, with depth not being the critical factor but position, history and photography being prime. Brian Willson extended his special application to include georeferencing for photographs, so that once the camera had its clock synced with the GPS unit, then photos would be located in the right place automatically.

Brian and Fergal Kerney worked away with hundreds of hours clocked up surveying around many of the bays and off the main channel locations which will open up many lovely spots to drop an anchor in Lough Derg. During May they took a number of members from Lough Derg Branch out surveying with them to show how it was done.  We used the newly acquired Derg Branch work boat and the place that was chosen was a lovely sheltered little lagoon behind Rabbit Island near Rossmore. What a brilliant day we had, dogs and all. A very interesting find that Brian and Fergal made was a shallow south of the Benjamins in Lough Derg which was unmarked and in the channel. WI agreed to move the marker to cover this which they duly did within a week of their submission. Success and recognition.

Pat McManus has been beavering away in Lough Ree and has surveyed many more anchorages and uncovered many more treasures during his surveying. His latest activity (among many) was to try to find the channel behind the Wood Shoal that leads into Blackbrink Bay. This area is not yet completely surveyed, but a channel has been well and truly established. This channel shortens the route to the south significantly and provides much needed shelter in an open part of the lake. Pat led an HBA and IWAI fleet of barges and cruisers through this channel in early August and proved beyond a doubt that it is completely safe. The next step is to have Waterways Ireland (WI) mark this channel and 6 markers would do it. We are actively encouraging WI to complete this task and open this much needed safe channel.

Pat also produced a fishing chart for the area around Hare Island and the Hexagons. 240 hours of surveying resulted in a very detailed chart ideal for fishermen to locate those special holes. The Killinure Chalets have a copy displayed on their wall, don’t miss it when you visit.  Other members of the CSIG team have been very busy also, Mark Leyden, Beth O’Loughlin and Colman Byrne particularly on the web site, Giles Byford surveying for about 35 hours a week all over the system, Les, Pat and Graham doing presentations and testing the charts coming out from Trevor Northage and his team. And much more by all members whose contributions are so important to the group. A number of presentations have been given to branches such as Carrick on Shannon and Athlone and to interested bodies such as Kilgarvan Angling Club. Pat’s interest in the archaeology is blossoming and his work is yielding some fascinating results, which we will talk about another time.

So what’s next, well, a whole lot. Much more surveying, particularly in Lough Key, the SEW and the Erne systems. The teams are set up for this and will be rolling very soon. The Derg and Ree teams have loads more to do and will continue their surveying. More charting, with Trevor leading this section, with the charts for the canals to be produced, the shorelines for the SEW and Lough Erne, and the multiple updates to existing survey charts from the active teams.  More input from everyone, we need names of eateries, history of areas, photos of harbours, in fact, anything that might interest the boater. Just send the data to us.

The official launch of the first release of the charts has to be decided, but we are working towards a release early next year. Don’t expect perfection, it will take years to cover the entire system. More presentations to remaining branches and bodies, and more funds to acquire some specialist equipment which we are finding we will need in the short term.

So, in summary, the CSIG has been very busy and have had some great fun in the process. If you feel you might have something to contribute visit our website (look for Charting Project on the main IWAI page), and give us a shout.

© Les Saunders 2013