Donald Attig

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Donald Attig (born February 2, 1936 in Pontiac, Illinois) is an inventor, boat designer, entrepreneur, yachtsman and adventurer.


Attig attended St. Mary’s Grade School, Pontiac Township High School, and Flanagan, Illinois High School, and Eureka College. He held a number of different jobs over the years.

While still in his twenties, Attig retired the first time to carry out a record-setting voyage in a power cruiser, which he designed and built. Using it, he became the first man from the area to make a water journey from Seneca, Illinois on the Illinois River to New Orleans, the terminus of the Mississippi River. From New Orleans, he moved around the Gulf Coast, eventually crossing the Gulf of Mexico to St. Petersburg, Florida and cruised for a period on the yacht.

Attig's Schooner under full sail

Donald Attig established three sets of World Class Benchmark records in the Adventure and Endurance Challenge categories. In the late sixties, he developed a system for assembly line production of panelized, all-molded homes.[1] Attig also created a Research Foundation, which he funded from his resources.

Toward the International Benchmark records[edit]

In 1968, by permission of the Honorable Brian O’Kelly, he became the first person to build a three-mast sailing ship from the keel up in the US under the Irish Flag.[2] For ten years, Attig and his family lived and voyaged on the three-mast sailing ship. Attig skippered the vessel over 5,000 miles on rivers and the inland waterways system before putting it out to sea.[3][4][5][6] During this 5,000 mile voyage on inland waterways, Attig developed and honed the skills which decades later would carry him through the World Class Benchmark record establishing efforts.[7][8] Attig sailed with his wife and newborn son to Ireland in 1977 and traveled to many other places.[9][10] Two of his five children, Omar Brendan and John Paul, were born on the vessel. For years, Attig and his son Omar operated free sailing excursions. These sailing excursions took place on the Schooner for at-risk youth with children of any religion from Northern Ireland during the troubles and others in need. After his eldest son, Omar, who had been born on the ship, was involved in a fatal car crash, Attig turned the ship over to the VEC Youth Reach Program.

Benchmark Records in his seventies[edit]

Between the ages of 71 and 73, he was involved in establishing International Benchmark records in the fields of Endurance Challenge and Adventure Challenge:

In 2007, in a liveaboard boat without an engine, he organized and co-crewed in the first transit of the Shannon Navigation and beyond to the Seaport of Tarbert, County Kerry . He experienced boaters who understood the hazards involved in such a project thought it impossible. The River Shannon is the longest river in Ireland.[citation needed]

In 2008, he traveled the entire Shannon Navigation and beyond to the Seaport of Foynes, County Limerick, using the same liveaboard boat without an engine.[citation needed]

In 2008, he was the first person to transit the entire River Erne Navigation in a liveaboard boat without an engine.[citation needed]

These three distinct and different World-Class Benchmark establishing record efforts, when combined, involved moving over one ton of live aboard boat and gear over 600 miles (almost 1,000 kilometers) without an engine. Most of the distance was accomplished by rowing.[citation needed]

Additional Benchmark records that he established have included the total of miles transited in the combined efforts—a total of 600+ miles (960+ kilometers) over the bottom in the three contiguous years in an engineless liveaboard boat. Also, each record benchmark established over the three years has the additional claim of having a person over 70 involved in its establishment.[citation needed]

Shannon Benchmark records[edit]

The engineless transit, from the start of the Shannon Navigation at the Inishmagrath marker, on Lough Allen, in County Leitrim to the end of Shannon Navigation at Killaloe, County Clare and beyond to the Port of Tarbot in the Sea Estuary, required dealing with 33 bridges, 6 locks, and nine lakes, without the mechanical power. One of the locks, Ardnacrusha has a descent of over 100 feet (30 m).[11] Guides warn boaters, using large full-powered cruisers, to only cross the larger lakes in a company.[12] The strong flow through many of the bridges often throws full- powered boats out of control, causing them to smash into the bridge piers. For example, the water flow through Killaloe Bridge can be 600 to 700 Tonnes per second.[13] This hazard of losing control in or approaching bridges can result in major damage and an occasional sinking. Each of the four turbines at the Ardnacrusha power station, which is running, dumps 100 tons of water per second into the narrow, constricted, tailrace.[14] This maelstrom must be negotiated for the transit to the estuary. Powerboats are advised to remain in the center of the tailrace and maintain high power.[15] The prevailing wind is from the southwest and funnels up the Shannon channel. This is a great impediment to an un-powered cabin boat proceeding downstream.

2007 Benchmark[edit]

Berths for a family, enclosed toilet room, cast iron heating stove – not your standard rowboat!

During the 2007 record establishing effort, Jack Donovan of Ballincollig, Co. Cork (who was 60 at the time and had been living with full-blown Multiple sclerosis for over two decades) and Donnacha [16] rowed well over 90% of the time. Most of that was in a zig-zag pattern due to the wind resistance of the large topside area and almost flat box type bow of the one-ton plus of live-aboard boat and gear. When they reached Tarbert, their Satellite navigation device indicated that the pair had traveled more than 268 miles (431 km).

Shannon navigation attempt[edit]

Donald Attig and Jack Donovan started their benchmark establishing effort on June 29, 2007, at Cormongan beach on Lough Allen at 10 A.M. They rowed from that spot to the Inismagrath "end of navigation" marker at the top of Lough Allen. They began the first-ever attempt to make an engineless transit of the Shannon in a boat equipped with live-aboard accommodations. Mr. Stephan Haeni, a Swiss National living at Cleighran More, witnessed their arrival and departure at the Inismagrath Marker. They completed the Shannon Navigation on Saturday, July 28, 2007, entering the Killaloe canal at 4:20 P.M. At that point, the official Shannon Navigation had been transited in an engineless live-aboard boat.

Beyond the Shannon navigation[edit]

The Irish Coast Guard attempted to dissuade the pair from continuing on past the end of the navigation marker at the Killaloe Bridge. Jack and Donald left the Killaloe Canal at 4:20 P.M. on July 28, 2007. They dropped anchor in the bay of the sea port of Tarbert, County Kerry at 8 P.M. on August 8, establishing the final Benchmark records of their effort. Senior Citizens Jack Donovan and Donald Attig were the first crew to transit the entire River Shannon Navigation and beyond in an engineless boat with full live-aboard capability.[17][18][19][20][21] Their record-setting efforts were carried out during the wettest summer on the Shannon since 1947 and 48. The vessel and gear which they used in the benchmark record establishing effort weighed over one ton.

2008 Single-handed feat[edit]

Donald Attig established more Adventure Challenge and Endurance Challenge records by making the same basic trip single handed in the same vessel, Omar’s River Bird. RTÉ's Nationwide produced a segment about Shannon Challenge 2008 which aired on June 6, 2008.[22]

At 1:30 A.M. June 26, Donald Attig started at Cormongan beach on Lough Allen, in County Leitrim. He was driven back by the wind and had to anchor 30 metres (98 ft) from the beach. It was over two days before he could lift anchor and start for the marker at Inismagrath. At 12:05 A.M. on August 16, 2008, he reached the Seaport of Foynes.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

2009 More Benchmark Records[edit]

Belleek and the finish of 960+ kilometers (600+ miles) without an engine in three years

Donald Attig became the first person to complete the entire River Erne Navigation single-handed in an engineless live aboard boat[citation needed]. He used the same boat for this effort as was used in 2007 and 2008. There are enough hazards on the Erne Navigation to make passage in an engineless boat large enough to be liveaboard a world-class challenge[citation needed]. The Northern Ireland tourist site warns that Upper Lough Erne is a shallow maze and that waves on Lower Lough Erne can reach open-sea dimensions.[31] Violent wind shears from the cliffs of Mago can create grave difficulties for full-powered cruisers at any time. All this combines to create a formidable challenge for an engineless boat that has the windage connected with live-aboard accommodations. This Benchmark Record Establishing effort started at Belturbet, Co Cavan August 6, at 6:30 P.M.[32] It was attended by a number of dignitaries. The effort was completed Sunday, August 30 at 7:45 P.M. at the Public dock in Belleek, County Fermanagh.[33][34][35]

Efforts witnessed and supported[edit]

All three of the above Benchmark establishing efforts were witnessed by thousands of persons and recorded at length in the media and press. The members of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland supported, followed and chronicled the efforts. In 2007 the Lough Derg branch of IWAI awarded the boat and crew honorary membership in their annual Lough Derg rally. In the same year, the IWAI Cruising Club formally welcomed the boat into Foynes harbor, as it returned after completing the Benchmark establishing efforts at Tarbert. The club also made the crew and boat officially part of the 2007 Killaloe to Killrush Cruise in Company.

Fabricated housing[edit]

Installing roof on panelized plastic house

From 1968 to 1971, Attig developed the world’s first all-molded conventional appearing housing system. Attig designed the system and produced the first small panels in his plastic company located on Route 66 at Pontiac, Illinois. Then, he produced full-sized molds and directed the production of the prototype in the Dura Plex Industries Plant located in Herrin Illinois. This received attention within the industry[36][37][38][39] 22 national governments sent representatives to the grand opening of the prototype on the Du Quoin, Illinois State Fairgrounds.


  1. ^ FANTASTIC PLASTICS WELCOME ABOARD by Harold W. Haugan, Published in 1974 by Exposition Press, New York ISBN 0682475157
  2. ^ The Pantagraph Bloomington Normal, Illinois Oct. 17, 1968 page A5 By Bob Pollitt “Pontiac Mariner Building Seaworthy Prairie Schooner”
  3. ^ The Daily Times Ottawa, Illinois August 18, 1976 “Dream sailboat leaving Seneca”
  4. ^ Journal Star Peoria, Illinois Sept. 2, 1976 page B1 by Juanita O’Hara “Home is a 67 foot Schooner”
  5. ^ Alton Telegraph Alton, Illinois Nov. 2, 1976 page A-3 By Mary Hendricks “Irish ship and new baby have just begun to see the world”
  6. ^ Globe Democrat St. Louis Mo. Oct. 4, 1976 By Byron St. Dizier “2 became 3 before taking on the world by sail”
  7. ^ Gulfport Star Journal Gulfport, Mississippi April 14, 1977 page 2 By Judy Robison “World cruise on schooner made family affair”
  8. ^ Daily Herald News Punta Gorda, Florida May 4, 1977 page 5 By John Lear “Baby Born Aboard Schooner”
  9. ^ Southern Illinoisan Carbondale, Illinois Jan 15, 1978 by Chris Moenich “Parents marvel at couple’s ocean odyssey”
  10. ^ Evening Echo Cork, Ireland June 12, 1978 "Off to the Azores" front page lead story By Kevin Mills
  11. ^ "The Shell Guide to the River Shannon" Appendix - Limerick to Killaloe pages i and ii Edited by Ruth Delany Published by Shell in association with Waterways Ireland
  12. ^ example "Cruising Ireland Captain's Handbook and Charts" page 13. Published In association with Irish Boat Rental Association and Erne Charter Boat Association by ERA-Maptec, 36 Dame Street, Dublin 2
  13. ^ Page 16 "City Cruising" Published by Afloat in association with Waterways Ireland, Shannon Development and Limerick Corporation
  14. ^ "City Cruising" by Edgar Heenan pages 7 and 8. Published by Afloat in association with Waterways Ireland, Shannon Development and Limerick Corporation
  15. ^ Page 9 "City Cruising" by Edgar Heenan Published by Afloat in association with Waterways Ireland, Shannon Development and Limerick Corporation
  16. ^ Irish ExaminerCork, Ireland June 26, 2007 local news page 10 By Eoin English “Shannon odyssey to raise money for Indian orphans”
  17. ^ Daily Leader Pontiac, Illinois Wednesday May 30, 2007 Front page lead story “Pontiac native ready to set sail”
  18. ^ The Corkman Muskerry Edition (Ireland) June 14, 2007 news section page 3 “First-ever Shannon transit is voyage with a difference”
  19. ^ The Guardian Irish Edition July 7, 2007 Lifestyle page 31 By Simon O’Duffy “Senior citizens attempt new Shannon record”
  20. ^ The Ballincollig Advertiser Ballingcollig, Co. Cork, Ireland July 2007 edition “SHANNON CHARITY CHALLENGE”
  21. ^ Inland Waterways News Inland Waterways of Ireland Association Magazine Vol. 34, Number 3, Autumn 2007 edition page 4 “LOUGH ALLEN TO THE SEA”
  22. ^ RTE News[permanent dead link], The RTÉ television documentary program Nationwide site will come up for June 6, 2008. Click on the "BOY OF HOPE" tag and the appropriate video segment will play.
  23. ^ News Of The World Irish edition July 6, 2008 page 23 By Danny Conlon “PENSIONER’S OARSOME BID TO BY NEW LIMBS FOR BY GENIUS 9”
  24. ^ Irish Daily Star Sunday Dublin 6, Ireland July 6, 2008 page 36 “RIVER ROW FOR LITTLE TONY
  25. ^ Irish IndependentDublin July 7, 2008 News page 11 Photo by Keith Heneghan “Donald sets sail in bid to help orphan”
  26. ^ The Athlone Voice Athlone, Ireland July 8, 2008 page 9 By Stephen Errity “Shannon charity rower to pass through Athlone”
  27. ^ Leitrim Observer Carrick On Shannon, Ireland July 11, 2008 page 2A Photo by Willie Donnellan “Charity row on slow boat from China”
  28. ^ Limerick Leader Limerick, Ireland August 11, 2008 front page By Gerard Fitzgibbon “Donnacha puts his back into Shannon charity challenge”
  29. ^ Irish Examiner Cork Ireland Aug 21, 2008 Regional News page 11 By Sean O’Riordan “Man, 72, rows shannon in mercy mission”
  30. ^ Daily Leader Pontiac, Illinois Sept. 8, 2008 front page “Attig meets Irish challenge”
  31. ^ "Northern Ireland - County Fermanagh/Lough Erne". 2006-10-03. Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  32. ^ Photo at "Diary" tab of web site
  33. ^ Cork County Counsel’s Web site for the week of July 12 to 18, 2009 under the MAYOR’S WEEK section
  34. ^ The Evening Echo Cork Ireland July 18, 2009 page 26 in News section By Kieran Dineen “I’ll row ton weight for Indian charity”
  35. ^ The Impartial Reporter Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, N.I. Aug. 20, 2009 by Rodney Edwards “Charity rower in voyage of hope”
  36. ^ Modern PlasticsJune 1973, s.104
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ FANTASTIC PLASTICS WELCOME ABOARD by Harold W. Haugan, Published in 1974 by Exposition Press, New York ISBN 0682475157

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