Belfast Telegraph

Lough Neagh: Ulster's 'inland sea' can be a truly treacherous body of water

BY LINDA STEWART

Rescuers who brought a team of canoeists to safety on Wednesday have warned that Lough Neagh is treacherous and should be treated as an 'inland sea'.

Weather on the lough can turn nasty quickly, with swells up to nine feet high, according to Lough Neagh Rescue chairman Paul Quinn.

Mr Quinn, who works the UK's biggest lake as a fisherman, says the depth of Lough Neagh can vary considerably, creating turbulence that may not be anticipated by tourists navigating its currents.

"It's not just a body of water which is inland – it can get rough quickly with swells that are eight to nine feet high. On one recent call-out, we encountered up to force eight winds," he said.

"There are different depths across the whole body of the lough which cause turbulence, so one part may be quite calm while another is stormy. With the weather conditions, it can change in about five to 10 minutes.

"As a fishermen I will be out working on the lough and one minute the sun will be shining nicely and the next will be an absolute downpour before the thunder and lightning start."

The lough is nine miles wide by 13 miles long and contains treacherous sand holes – depressions created by the commercial extraction of sand.

"There is one area known to fishermen as the Sucker Holes, which runs from Toome down to around the area of Ballyronan Marina," Mr Quinn said.

"If people aren't aware that that is happening underneath the water, they can get caught out.

"If they are in a shallow area and they have a large keel fin, it can throw the body of the boat off.

"It [the lough] can go from 30ft up to eight foot. There is a place outside Kinnego known as the Six Foot Flat and if you're in a large cruiser with a large drag it can cause turbulence.

"Lough Neagh is an inland sea, a vast open body of water of varying depth.

"It is quite a treacherous water body, but with the right navigation and research before you make your journey, you can avoid all that."

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