Wednesday, 4 May 2016

This is your captain writing

 

You may have noticed that I'm quite a fan of Northern Ireland's Causeway Coast which is rightly attracting a lot of positive global publicity these days.  And this is guaranteed to reach new heights in the summer of 2019 when the Open Golf Championship tees off at Royal Portrush.

But one place that is often forgotten is the biggest town in the area, Coleraine.

Despite the local football team being known as the Bannsiders, the River Bann itself - which flows through Coleraine's heart - has for many years been under utilised and certainly undersold.

Four members of the Great Britain & Northern Ireland Olympic rowing team in Rio will have learnt their craft on the Bann.  But unless you're a member of a rowing club or perhaps a canoeist, the chances are that you won't have spent any time using the river which helped propel them to the top of their sport.

Enter my pal Tony Hodges.  He's the big dog on the right.


Tony's had a long association with the Bann, having set up his business - Tony's Marine Service - in 1990.  He has since established it as Ireland's leading marine engine and boat service specialist.  

Last year Tony launched a new venture, Bann Boat Hire.

And it does exactly what it says on the, er, boats.

  
Here's a closer look.


Tony kindly invited me to try one out on Saturday morning, following a demonstration from the boat master himself.  

My fellow passengers Jamie, Charlotte and cousin Katie enjoyed it when Skipper Hodges was in command.  He even took this picture.


But the kids were much less enthused when their fate was in my shaking hands, Charlotte in particular.

video


However, we made it back safely to the marina with Tony's boat still in one piece.

And not only that, I'm even planning to clamber back on board next weekend when I return home for the North West 200.

If you live in Coleraine or are planning a trip to the Causeway Coast this summer, I urge you follow my watery footsteps to the Crannagh Complex and take one of Tony's boats out for a spin.  

A great way to spend to a couple of hours, or longer if you have the time.  

You might even spot a future Olympic rower speeding past.       

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