Some 15 years ago a group of friends and I decided to take a cruiser out on Lough Ree – with almost fatal consequences.
We started in Athlone and headed north along the Shannon in the vessel and decided to head into the lough and veer east for the shelter of a bay at Coosan point.
The weather was fine and sunny and the girls were sunbathing on the bow when things started to change.
Out of nowhere a huge gale blew up and the swell was at least as high as the boat itself.
We were suddenly being thrashed around all over the place and anything not secured inside the vessel was smashing around.
Some of the girls started to panic.
My brother grabbed the wheel and started to tack through the breakers while I got everyone into lifejackets.
It was hairy considering we had not any inkling that we could be taking on such a challenge out of sunny skies.
After some 10-15 minutes we made it to Coosan point and found a place to shelter for the night and recover.
The next day we had really no option but to return the same way we came.
The weather looked calm and out we set. However it quickly turned rough once again, although this time not as bad.
More prepared, we tacked through it again and returned to the relative calm of the River Shannon and headed gingerly back to Athlone.
We were later told that the length of the lake, a tall thin lough of almost 20km, was prone to southerly winds blowing up. And because the lake was so long, the southerly most area could be the most dangerous because the wind had some 20km to work on the water almost unimpeded by any landmass.
The lesson we learned: always maintain a serious respect for waterways, even on calm sunny days.