Donald Attig a 72 year old pensioner rowed down the River Shannon single handed in 2008 on his live aboard sailing boat which did not have an engine and also happens to weighs 1 ton, a remarkable feat of endurance in itself for Donald.
His achievement is unique in attempting to row over a ton of live aboard boat and gear solo the entire length of the Shannon and beyond, the combination of rowing single handed represents the ultimate challenge. It required enormous reserves of determination, stamina, commitment, physical and mental endurance plus an almost pathological single mindedness.
ROWING ON LOUGH DERG
During the 2008 Challenge Donnacha met many old friends who encouraged him on his way. Pictured here is Mr. Bourke. Like his father before him, he is the Lockkeeper at the Albert Lock. Mr. Bourke took Donnacha to Jamestown for a wonderful lunch. After enjoying the tasty local food Donnacha was deeply touched when Mr. Bourke paid him the great honor of taking him to visit his father's grave. This warm and wonderful man, who is carrying on in his father's footsteps, was a great supporter of the effort to raise funds for Tony in both 2007 and 2008.
The success of any venture depends on many things coming together. My old and dear friend Wes Lane, pictured above, has always acted as my support team in these challenges. One could safely say that his businesses are "Outfitters of the Challenges". They are Midwest Exchange in Bloomington Illinois and Pointiac Exchange in Pontiac Illinois. If you have seen me on the Challenges (or see me this year) at least some and usually most of the gear I'm wearing and using was donated by his businesses. He is a great friend of the work we do and without his friendship I doubt that I could have contiuned to carry on with the various Charitable projects!
Extracts from Donnacha’s Journal 2008
Shannon Challenge 2008 successfully established new World Class Benchmark records in Adventure Challenge and Endurance categories. “Boy of Hope Challenge” is already in the works for AD 2009 which will also establish new benchmark records.
Shannon Challenge 2008 started on June 26 on Lough Allen.At 10 P.M. on August 15 I dropped the anchor at the edge of the Foynes seaport channel. At 12:05 A.M.
On August 16 a boat from the Foynes Yacht club threw me a tow line and towed me to their dock officially ending Shannon Challenge 2008. During that period many new benchmark records had been established.
Total distance traveled over the bottom, in the one ton plus family cruising boat, during the engineless transit was in excess of 250 miles.
Now I’d like you to make a guess as to how much progress had been made in the first two days of Shannon Challenge 2008. Since I know I can trust you not to skip down to the answer I can put it in this Email and won’t have to do a second Email. While you are making your guess I’ll fill you in on a little of this and a little of that.
Both Omar’s River Bird and myself arrived back in Donoughmore the 22ond of August. That was the first day that the support team could arrange to bring the trailer to Foynes from Donoughmore and tow us back home. I intended to send a short message to all that day and booted up the old (and I do mean old in both senses of the word) computer.
As soon as it loaded I hit Skype wanting to call India to check up on Tony and the Shanthi project. Then I realized I needed to up grade the anti virus program and proceeded to do that. As the upgrade was in progress a message popped up saying “unauthorized access to skype”. I shut down Skype and finished the upgrade; then put Skype on and called India. When the call was over I shut down the computer dug into the “must do right now” projects. A few hours later I tried (note the word tried) to boot up the computer so I could send one and all a “back home and on line” message. It would not boot up to any program.A couple of days – maybe 3 – later I was able to get the tower into Cork to a computer repair center. It turned out that while the anti virus update was in progress three viruses had invaded the computer, two of which imbedded in the anti-virus program itself. One of the viruses managed to eat up the memory card of the computer in the short time which the computer was on, while I was calling India and later making several attempts to boot up. Needless to say the expensive anti virus program I had is no longer the one I am using on the computer.
When I got the tower back I did not have time to even put the computer back together as I had to go “up the country” on a follow up. Since returning I’ve been mostly up the wall getting ready for the Bantry Show which is this Sunday. They are using Omar’s River Bird as an exhibit/drawing card because of it’s involvement in the setting of world class benchmark records. In return we have been given a very expensive inside exhibit area in the airport’s hanger, which serves as the shows exhibit hall. All kinds of things had to be organized for that along with many calls from the hurting people I deal with so I’ve not had time to get of a long “successful challenge” report till now. Have you made a guess as to how much progress I made in the first two days???? If not do so now.
Shannon Challenge 2008 began with a great deal of difficulty, which set the standard for the whole affair. Omar’s River Bird was towed up to Lough (Lake) Allen by a team from Off Road Ireland, using a short wheel base, big tire, max engine, 4WD, Land Rover. (don’t call this vehicle a Jeep unless you are not wanting to celebrate your next birthday ‘- it is a Land Rover not a Jeep) We arrived at the launching site at Crumungan beach after a road trip filled with unexpected difficulties which would take a small volume to recount.
This rocky beach is the only launching spot on Lough Allen where Omar’s River Bird can be put into the water. As fortune will have it the launching place is at the bottom of the Lough and the beginning of Shannon Navigation is at the top of the Lough. This means that Lough Allen must be transited twice as part of the challenge. The heights above Lough Allen are dotted with humongous wind mills. This is because it is one of the windiest places on our very windy island.
When we arrived there was far too much wind to row against – even for a short distance off shore to anchor and wait for a wind drop. We put the boat and trailer into the water with only the winch line to the bow and a lashing at the back holding the boat on and waited for a drop in the wind. The 4WD Land Rover and its’ driver had to be back to Co. Cork the next day which made a sticky situation of the whole affair. We waited – and waited – AND WAITED!!!!! Finally a little after one in the morning the wind dropped slightly.
The wind drop meant that by putting maximum effort (just short of breaking the iron oar lock, three of which I broke in the first two days of Shannon Challenge 2007) the boat could be rowed off shore against the wind at a snail’s pace, until the anchor could be safely dropped to wait for a further abatement of the wind. We went for it, with the launching crew knowing that the trailer had to be left in the water. This was to cover for the possibility that the wind picked up too much and drove me back. In such a case if the trailer was not there for a “soft landing” the boat could have been destroyed on the rocky shore.
Laying into the oars with the maximum allowable effort I only looked forward not wanting to loose a fraction by glancing back – thus I was never sure of how much progress I’d made. Finally after a protracted struggle against the wind I felt that over a 100 yards had been achieved and perhaps even 200, so I prepared to drop the anchor. Just as I was letting it go a squall line hit and drove us rapidly backward.
The oversized anchor (recommended for a 40 foot and up high freeboard cruiser) did catch. When I looked up I saw that we had been driven back to within about 30 yards of the trailer by the squall. Once I knew the anchor was really dug in I shouted to the support team that I was secure and could wait in safety for a wind drop.
They left for Co. Cork and I waited for an abatement. The alarm was set for each hour on the hour so wither I was reading or sleeping I would go out on deck at least once an hour (usually more often) to check the wind. Finally the wind dropped enough that I could safely up anchor and make progress against it. That was over two days into Shannon Challenge 2008 and I’d made 30 YARDS FROM THE LAUNCH SITE, HAVING THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF LOUGH ALLEN TO TRAVERSE BEFORE ARRIVING AT THE BEGINNING OF SHANNON NAVIGATION AND THE OFFICIAL STARTING POINT FOR THE CHALLENGE. AND IT WOULD TAKE OVER 250 MILES OVER THE BOTTOM TO MAKE THE TRANSIT TO FOYNES !
The good part about the difficult start is that a house overlooks the beach so there are witnesses to the entire affair. I could recount the events to the press and media assuring them that there were witnesses! This made an impression as the majority of people would have thrown in the towel if they only made 30 yards in two plus days, knowing how much lay in front of them.
There were many difficult days during the passage and often I had to exert max effort while loosing ground slowly. Anchoring was not on unless a lot of ground was being lost. Breaking out the big anchor, with no windlass and lots of anchor rode paid out because of the depth of the Shannon in most places, could and often did involve hours of heartbreaking struggle.
Twice during the Challenge novice skippers on hire cruisers cut me off so that I was forced deep into the reeds. Getting out of those involved hours of struggle. (last year over a day was involved once) I did have the sail up about 50% of the time this year but most of that time it was only helping to cancel out the strong “on the nose” winds from the SW and I would still be rowing. Rowing with great effort but at least having help in fighting the contrary winds.
A photographer documented portions of the challenge in case RTE do a follow up. (producer and presenter want to but “committee” has not been convinced yet) Only took photographs and did not so much as touch a line, even when docking out of the channel – which would have not affected the challenge but may have confused the single handed claim in the minds of some.
For years a regular part of my day to day schedule has been a short set of stress exercises 3 times a week, which take me within a hair’s breath of an oxygen starvation heart attack. When most fit people have a heart attack it is because an unusual work and/or stress load has starved a perfectly fit heart of oxygen for a split second. This causes the heart to stop – if someone else is on the scene and pounds the person’s chest the heart will start again and all is well – if not there will be no more birthdays on planet earth till the second advent!
During the challenge there were at least 3 times that if a very fit athlete had tried to keep up with me, stroke for stroke they would have “sold the farm” through an oxygen starvation heart seizure.
When the anchor went down in Foynes, the engineless Omar’s River Bird had traversed Lough Allen twice, traveled the entire official Shannon Navigation and went beyond into the Sea Estuary and the Sea Port of Foynes. (Foynes was the first transatlantic airport – port being literal as it was used by the big pre war flying boats) In the process it negotiated 9 lakes, (big cruisers are advised not to cross the larger ones unless they are in the company of another boat as these lakes can be quite dangerous) 33 bridges, (some of which are very difficult and often cause severe damage to full powered yachts) and 6 locks – one of which has a 100 foot + descent.
The Shannon is the longest river in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and no one ever attempted to transit it with out an engine prior to Shannon Challenge 2007, when my young friend (then 60 and suffering full blown MS for over 2 decades) and myself proved that it was not impossible – just diabolically difficult. Everyone who understood boats and rivers maintained that it was an impossible dream, (more of an insane nightmare) which could not possibly be fulfilled. We made it and in the process established many world class BENCHMARK records, in both the endurance challenge and adventure challenge classes. Because of the difficulties and obstacles to engineless navigation on this river – including the strong prevailing counter winds coming off the wide Atlantic – it is a unique challenge on planet earth. Succeeding establishes not only benchmarks for this whole island but also world class benchmark records!!!
To date fundraising has been very disappointing – especially in light of all the publicity including National TV. The world wide recession is no doubt part of the reason. However we are trying to organize follow up events using the record setting challenge as a focus point for attention. At least with what we raised and what I can squeeze out of my pension we will be able to keep the Shanthi/Tony project going for another year – unless some unforeseen expense torpedoes us. Perhaps we may even pick up enough for Tony to get to Europe for education an therapy and advance prosthetics during the follow ups – but that will take a miracle – PLEASE PRAY!!!
In the meantime plans are under way for next year’s challenge which will again be a focal point by establishing new world class benchmark records. In that way we are assured of keeping the Tony/Shanthi project going.
Sorry for the delay in getting this out and God bless!
Your old timer from Donoughmore, Donnacha Attig
“Every eventuality was thought out before embarking on this trip… This included the design and construction of the boat. There were risks involved especially with the inclement weather we are having currently in Ireland.
Rowing up to 15 hours a day, one could only think of this man competing in the Beijing Olympics. Donald is living in North Cork but is originally from Chicago in the U.S.A.Boats are his life and soul. He has travelled the World but was recently inspired by the plight of an Indian Orphan Boy Tony .See more on Donald on the RTE Nationwide Programme link below and his reasons for this incredible feat of endurance to raise money for an Indian Orphan Boy Tony who has Special Needs.
Donald is living in North Cork but is originally from Chicago in the U.S.A.Boats are his life and soul. He has travelled the World but was recently inspired by the plight of an Indian Orphan Boy Tony .See more on Donald on the RTE Nationwide Programme link below and his reasons for this incredible feat of endurance to raise money for an Indian Orphan Boy Tony who has Special Needs.
Because of the Benchmark Records established in 2007 and 2008 the prestigeous Bantry Show used Omar's River Bird as an exhibit. They really gave Tony and the project a big boost by allowing us to raise funds during the show! AND the merchants of Bantry generiously donated many items for us to use at the show in fundraising projects!
See RTE Nationwide Programme http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0706/nationwide_av.html?2393301,null,228