April 23/12… I first set foot on Bartra island in 1949 and bought my first boat in 1959. There is a lot of water under the bridge since then I can tell you.
Now, for the third time, I am witness to the transition of the channel from East to West. It moves from the shore of the old fisheries Ice house in Scurmore to the ‘cockle strand’ on the Killala shore.
When Ballina was a commercial port with regular shipping the harbour launch and it’s powerful engine would rake the bottom to deepen these new channels. The ‘Rake’ was like a large pallet but on a much larger scale. It had metal spikes protruding from it to scour the sand which would be swept away in the tide. Overall this helped to speed up the change from East to West where as now we must wait for mother nature to do the job… one step forward and two steps back!!
The first journey on the estuary each year never fails to hold your attention. ‘Sounding’ the channel with the Sonar for new sand banks hidden beneath the surface can sometimes leave you and your boat high and dry so the best time to do this is with a rising tide.
This year is no exception… thousands of tons of sand moved over the winter and two new channels have opened. Many of the Buoy markers are now on sand and well off the new channel. The first RED buoy after Hicks’s is in shallow water and the deeper water can be found over towards the Green Buoy. Here you steer a straight course East towards the RED Perch north of the Ice House. Ignore the two Green Buoys close to the Ice House. They are now in shallow water.
Heading on towards the Enniscrone back-beach keep well right (starboard) of the first GREEN Buoy… it is in shallow water. Be very cautious rounding the sand towards the goal posts!!
Another new channel has broken through south of the Goal posts which avoids the last three GREEN Buoys but best not to use it until the tide fills for two hours or so.
Not to worry though… after you scrape the bottom a few times you’ll get the hang of it. Judd