2018 Summer – IWN

CSIG Endeavour award

The CSIG is delighted to have received the Endeavour award for 2018 at the AGM in Leitrim. The CSIG has been working as a team now since 2012, and we have continued to work through some difficult times due mainly to the complexity of the project. However, in the last 4 years, we have made some critical decisions, which have cemented the group as a team, and the results have been pretty amazing. This is probably a good time to take you through some of those decisions.


When the CSIG was first formed, there was very little knowledge as to how to go about charting the system. Noel Griffin and Dave McCabe had successfully started a Garmin based solution, which we all liked, but when Dave and Noel passed on their charts to Garmin, it meant for anyone who wanted a chart they had to have a Garmin chartplotter. Nice equipment but very expensive. At the first meeting of the CSIG, it was decided that the charts that the CSIG would produce would be based on low cost devices and preferably, on devices, which most people would have. Many thanks to Dave and Noel who helped greatly in getting us going. Hence, today all of the CSIG charts run on MS Windows, iOS or Android devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. They do not run on proprietary chartplotters.

The next major decision to be taken was what platform the charting process would be run on. Global Mapper was chosen because of the flexibility on output, choice of satellite and airplane shorelines all georeferenced, inclusion of Openstreetmap for adjoining roads, and low cost of licence purchase.

The platform chosen for the surveyors to use was a Garmin 451s for the depths hooked up to a laptop running Dr. Depth, which gave us a limit of 10000 soundings or about 2 hours surveying. Then the data had to be cleaned manually, which could take up to 6 hours for a 2-hour survey. The data had to be cleaned because GPS signals wander and can give false readings. This is where Brian Willson came in. Brian wrote an app, which automated the process on a laptop giving unlimited time to survey, unlimited soundings, and a traffic light system, which advised the surveyor that all signals were being recorded correctly. The app also cleaned the data, which meant the 6-hour cleanup after a survey was reduced to seconds.

Now that the surveying equipment and apps were running well, the next decision had to be taken re who owned the collected data. Finally, it was agreed that the surveyors owned their data, could do what they liked with it, and passed it to the CSIG for processing but retaining ownership. In the early days, surveyors such as Pat McManus, Brian Willson and Fergal Kerney were the main stay for input to the group and between them the main lakes and Shannon were covered. Later Robert Navan and Peter Maxwell continued by covering the SEW and Erne systems joined by quite a few more.

With the charts produced, the next big issue was how to distribute them and to who. For insurance reasons it was decided that the Charts would only be distributed to IWAI members as testers, this protects the CSIG group from legal challenges. Early distribution was via Dropbox and later OneDrive, but thanks to Colman Byrne, the distribution is now via a registration on the CSIG website. Colman is our webmaster and Beth O’Loughlin runs all the content on the site. A spin off of this approach has been many new members who join the IWAI just for the charts but then find there is so much more to the IWAI.

There are many more decisions, which have been taken, like should we display the depths in feet or meters. We chose feet because most people know how much their boat draws in feet. Other items include what datum do we use for the depth so that it is consistent, how many depths should we display, what colour codes should we use for shallows, how frequently should we release new versions, how do we store the data safely, how do we trace the shorelines, what data is important for the canals and the Barrow, how do we migrate with technology changes, and many more items. To date, we now have most of the Inland Systems covered, from the River Shannon at Limerick up to Beleek including the Boyle River, River Suck and many more tributaries, the SEW, the Erne lakes, the Grand Canal and Barrow, the Royal Canal, parts of Lough Neagh and the Newry Ship Canal. Today most of our efforts are focused at surveying bays and tranquil places, and the reed lines.

Initially, funding was a major problem and the CSIG wants to acknowledge the support of the many branches who dug deep to get us going. The CSIG is now pretty much self-funding because surveyors like to own their own kit and we can break into most chartplotters to connect them to Brian’s app. The funding we require now is mostly for software licences and some specialised equipment.

The CSIG would like to thank all the members of the group, past and present who have contributed significantly in many different ways, using the skills they have and those skills they acquired. One final thank you is to Dr Donal Boland who started this group with a simple idea of cross branch projects known as Special Interest Groups. The CSIG has been the result of this idea.

Meet Fergal Kerney

There are not many people on the River who do not know Fergal Kerney. He has been, along with his compatriot Eamon Egan, the go to person for any issues on your boat. I met up with Fergal to find out a little bit more about his background. Most of us knew Fergal’s father John well and his boat the Tanjuan, a 33 foot discovery which he purchased in 1982. I have personally been rescued when aground at the Woodford River by Tanjuan and Fergal, as have many others. Fergal’s father was French having come to Ireland when he was 12 years old, rising to Irish Consul attaché to Spain, and Fergal’s uncle had Eamon DeValera as his godfather.

Fergal went to Belvedere College and having finished there went on to be a barman in Ballsbridge for 8 years. In 1973, the family hired their first boat from Emerald Star, and believe it or not, Eamon Egan was the instructor. Finally, Fergal saw the light, went back to college in Bolton Street, and qualified as a mechanic subsequently working in a garage in Dalkey. In 1997 Fergal moved to Askeaton where he spent his time building and repairing boats, until he finally came home to the Shannon in 2003 where he teamed up with Eamon under the umbrella of Eamon Egan services.

Fergal’s family had hired boats for 9 years in both France and Ireland before purchasing. Fergal moved onto Tanjuan in 1998 as his home until 2005 when he purchased a nice country cottage. However, the draw of the water was too strong and in 2017, he sold the cottage and bought a barge on which he lives to this day.

Fergal joined the CSIG in 2013, and became very active as a surveyor, video maker, and mapper. The hours spent at this are incalculable, winter and summer, as he and his pal Brian Willson scoured Lough Derg for every rock and shallow they could find. In fact, we have named a rock after his partner Wendy who surveyed with them and suffered the result of this bug that they had caught.

Many thanks Fergal, for all the times you have bailed me out, and for gathering such a huge amount of data for the CSIG. The photos (in the IWN) show Fergal driving on Lough Derg in 1973 on an Emerald Star hire boat, and Fergal as he is today beside his newly acquired barge.     


If you would like a presentation to your branch on the CSIG charts please contact me, Les Saunders at to arrange a suitable time.