On days like this the call of the water is strong - but it too must wait

A view of Donegal through the coronavirus crisis and beyond by Siobhán McNamara

Donegal Dragons ready to race in their home regatta

Donegal Dragons (left) ready to race in their home regatta PHOTO Blaithín Murphy

It is difficult to even start to put into words how much I miss being out on the water. 

Normally in such a beautiful, calm spell of weather I would be out on a boat of some shape or form almost every day. It keeps me fit and it has got me through some difficult times.

We own a few kayaks and a canoe which are used with family and friends to relax and enjoy being on the water. These are sitting redundant now, a link to better times and an important reminder that there is much to look forward to when this crisis passes.

But what I really miss most of all is dragon boating. For those who don’t know, a dragon boat is like a long canoe that seats up to 20 paddlers, has a helm at the back and a drummer at the front. The biggest challenge for beginners is learning to keep time while working on the right technique. But when everything comes together it is magical.

My favourite times of year in the dragon boat are the beginning and end of the season when every minute spent on the water feels like such a privilege. Yes, I love the excitement of  racing, when training plans come together (hopefully!), and hosting our home Regatta in August is fantastic too. 

But as I said, it is the bookends of the March to October season that I love most.

At this time of year, our new members would be settled in nicely and would be training one, two or three evenings a week depending on what they want from the activity. Our muscle memory would be well and truly reawakened after the winter rest. And without even realising it, our new and our more experienced paddlers would all be getting stronger and fitter with every session.

There would be smiles all round, words of encouragement from our helms and coach, training plans discussed, tea and coffee enjoyed at the pier after our social sessions. 

Dragon boaters from other parts of the world who are on holidays here might stop by, having spotted our boats at the pier in Donegal Town. They might join us on the water, and in a short space of time, firm friendships would be forged. 

Because people who take part in dragon boating share a common joy not just on the water but in the support and camaraderie that goes with it, and often, in simply being alive and well enough to be there, taking part in something we love. 

In competition, dragons live up to their name; fierce, unflinching, giving everything to move that boat as fast as they can, working in perfect rhythm to the drum which is the heartbeat of the team. But as soon as the race is over we applaud our competitors, high five and hug our friends in other clubs, make new friends and soak up the celebration of life.

I am missing all this a lot, yearning for the time we will be back in the boat. But I know there are people going through much more difficult times at the moment and my thoughts are very much with the bereaved, the sick, the anxious relatives, the healthcare workers.

Meanwhile to any dragon boaters reading this, Paddles Up and we’ll see each other soon on the water.

Read next: Masters of our kitchens one day and craving comfort food the next - or is that just me?

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Donegal Live editorial team any time. To contact Donegal Democrat and Donegal People's Press, email editorial@donegaldemocrat.ie To contact Donegal Post, email editor@donegalpost.com To contact Inish Times, email editor@inishtimes.com.

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