O Captain, My Captain! Self-Cruising the Emerald Isle
Okay, so this isn't the Titanic or even the Love Boat, but I was still a wee bit apprehensive about taking the wheel. My nervousness came partially from all the brochures and boat operators rambling on and on about how simple it is to drive the cruisers. I'm notorious for making even the easiest tasks a monumental challenge, and I was pretty much convinced that I would ram my sleek, expensive-looking cruiser into a dock, bridge, or fellow boater.
After my hour-long lesson, I was ready to go. Turns out, the brochures were right: If you can drive a car, you can navigate a cruiser. You don't need to have any boating experience, and all charter companies offer an extensive lesson before you hit the water. The cruisers reach a maximum speed of about five miles an hour, so there is no danger of zipping away uncontrollably. Docking the boat at the end of the day is about as difficult as parallel parking in Manhattan, and once you've done it a few times it comes easily.
The Shannon River is one of the most scenic waterways in Europeit's far cleaner and less crowded than it neighbors on the continent. With almost 300 miles of navigable waterways, the Shannon is the longest river in Ireland, rising in the north and meandering down to the Atlantic. While cruising along the Shannon, I noticed subtle changes in the landscape. Low hills cover the countryside along the northern stretch of the river, which eventually gives way to Lough Ree, a wide lake dotted with islands. Animal life abounds here, as the area is home to otters, geese, gray herons, and whopper swans. Continuing south, the river flows into Lough Derg, the biggest of the lakes on the Shannon. The scenery is more dramatic here, with wooded mountains marking the southern edge of the wide lake.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication