Journey back to The Clyde – 9th to 17th September

We woke on Saturday morning to glorious sunshine, there wasn’t a great deal of wind but after leaving Kerrera and Oban Marina I put the sails up as we made our way down Kerrera Sound. It was a pretty uneventful morning as we sailed and motor sailed toward Cuan. Having read the pilot book and talked to other sailors and were pretty confident that we had planned the transit correctly. Cuan Sound is renowned for small whirlpools, over falls, strange currents and a very strong tidal stream. We were going through on spring tides so the tidal stream would be pretty strong. As we approached we could see odd patterns on the water, small whirlpools and areas where the sea seemed to be running like a river. At one point it looked as though the waves were coming from the shore rather than going toward it!  The boat was thrown about, a bit like being in a washing machine and at times we were doing over 14 knots. There are a couple of tricky turns and a perch that extends some distance into the channel and we negotiated these before emerging to the calm of Seil Sound.  We motored the last couple of miles to Craobh Haven. We ate in The Lord of The Isles pub in the marina and had a few games of pool.

We hadn’t had much luck with the weather over the past week and Sunday morning proved no different with a complete change from Saturday. We had planned to take a short sail up Loch Melfort and have a look at Melfort Pier and Harbour and Kilmelford Yacht Haven for future visits; however the weather was awful with constant heavy rain and strong winds.  We spent the afternoon in The Lord of the Isles, had lunch and watched the wind a rain lashing the pub window. The forecast for Monday did not look that great either, again with strong winds forecast, but not until after 10am. With an early start we would be able to get down through Dorus Mor and into Ardfern by about 9am and hopefully before the strongest of the winds.

Dorus Mor is another of the numerous tidal gates around the Scottish Islands with strong currents, overfalls, weird eddies and whirlpools. We have crossed it a couple of times on previous trips and it is something that needs careful planning. We had studied the tidal streams and there was a window of opportunity early in the morning when the tide would be running in our favour so we set off from Craobh just before 7am.  The wind picked up over the hour and a half to the west side of Dorus Mor and we managed a sail down and through the tidal gate. As it turned out, the crossing was easier than others we had made in the past with no signs of the strange waters, but that does not mean we will be complacent on future crossings.  We sailed up Loch Craignish to the marina only having to resort to the engine on approach. We arrived at Ardfern in showers which quickly cleared in the strong wind.  From Ardfern it is an easy sail to Crinan and the canal and being there with a couple of days in hand gave us the flexibility to make a quick dash for the security of the canal should the weather turn nasty.

We left Ardfern on Tuesday around 12 noon and make for the Crinan Canal. We had decided stay the night in the canal basin and arrived there at 2pm.  Last year we had a disagreement with the owner of the Crinan Hotel and decided not to push our luck again this year. We arranged to meet Hugh Kirk who was going to help through the canal the next day and we spoke to the lock-keeper and were through lock 14 and on our way just before 9am. The Crinan Canal is really picturesque and a great short-cut from the islands to Loch Fyne and the Clyde. It had originally been planned to run from East to West Tarbert Loch. I’m glad it didn’t as I doubt it would have been quite as beautiful. We made our way leisurely to Cairnbaan where we spent our second night on the canal. We took a bus from Cairnbaan into Lochgilphead to find somewhere to eat and ended up in the local chip shop restaurant.  It was a clear night when we got back to Cairnbaan and a beautiful starry sky. There is a definite autumnal feel to the air.

Hugh met us at Lock 4 for the final part of the canal.  I had looked at the weather and wind forecast for the day and it looked like we could get a good sail down Tarbert, so we changed our plans and headed out to sea. I’m glad we did as we had a great sail down Loch Fyne reaching speeds of 8.5 knots at times and covering the eight and a half miles in an hour and twenty minutes.

This was our third visit to The Tarbert Music Festival and we were really looking forward to it once again. The band list for the weekend looked great and we planned to see two bands in particular; The Keelies – a great band who have a brilliant rapport with the audience and Dr Hip and The Blues Operation a band featuring the phenomenal keyboard player Ron Leahy who has played with Narareth, Stone The Crows and Jack Bruce and guitarist Gordon Neish who has played with many bands including Aztec Camera.  We were not disappointed. It was a great weekend of music and we met some great people.

Sunday morning was beautiful but with no wind so we motored back to Largs, arriving just before 2 o’clock. After a quick bit of lunch, Alan left to catch a train home and I set about washing the boat, tidying up and doing the laundry. As always, there are a couple of wee maintenance jobs to do on the boat and I am hoping that Chris from Mobile Yacht Services will be able to get along this week to fix the fridge so I’ll  be staying on the boat.  I have friends arriving on Thursday for what will probably be the last organised sailing weekend of the year.

4th to 8th September – Loch Linnhe

We set off from the pontoon in the rain. I had readied the sails and on the way out of the bay the halyard got itself caught around the radar reflector and I had to spend around 20 minutes to free it as Alan circled the boat. The weather was pretty miserable all the way and we decided to stop at Kentallen and not continue on to Ballachulish and we picked up a mooring opposite the Holly Tree Hotel.  The weather improved and we put the outboard on to the dinghy and crossed to the pier. We had a shower at the hotel and then made our way to the Captain’s Bar for something to eat.  I would thoroughly recommend the Holly Tree, fantastic views across Loch Linnhe, a warm welcome from the staff, good showers, great towels and a wonderful meal in the Holly Tree.  We used the hotel’s WiFi and my Modbro app to watch the Scotland game – a few bottles of Jarl were consumed in celebration!

Kerrera to Kentallin

 

As it turned out, the moorings, just as in Kerrera, were pretty exposed and we spent another lumpy night. We decided to abandon our plan to continue up the loch, particularly since the weather was poor and you couldn’t really see much of the scenery. We left the next morning for the short trip to Port Appin where we hoped to get a bit more shelter from Lismore Island. The wind forecasts over the past couple of days have been very inaccurate with hardly any of the websites showing similar data.  When we arrived at Port Appin, we picked up a mooring near the jetty in the hope of making the short crossing to the hotel, however, the swell was so bad it would have proved impossible to get the engine onto the dinghy and rowing was out of the question, so we stayed on board.

Kentallin to Port Appin

 

Another lumpy night and we decided to make a return visit to Dunstaffnage where some sort of shelter would be a bit more likely and it would be a short trip across to Loch Spelve and the mussel farm! We beat our way down the Loch and arrived in fairly good time and found a berth on the pontoons.

Port Appin to Dunstaffnage

 

The fridge decided to pack in so that meant warm beer for the rest of the trip and limits to the fresh food that could be kept.  I contacted the boat electrician who has worked on the boat and have arranged for him to fix it when I get back to Largs. We took the bus into Tesco in Oban and spent the afternoon and evening in the town before returning to the marina where we went into The Wide Mouthed Frog  for a couple of beers before  going back to the boat. This has been one of the few disappointments on the trip. We visited this restaurant many years ago when sailing with an old friend and it had a touch of class to it. Last year’s visit was OK but this year it was quite noticeable how it has gone downhill. Once a go to destination for sailors and locals it was significant that on both of our visits this year it has been all but empty, we were the only diners on our previous visit earlier in the trip and the bar was empty on our second visit. The staff were not particularly friendly and the food was pub food quality but restaurant prices. Easy to see why it isn’t as popular as it once was.

It’s good to make plans but once again ours were foiled by the weather. We woke to constant rain and very little wind, despite what was forecast by the Met Office. It would have been a wet miserable slog across to Loch Spelve so we decided to stay another night in Dustaffnage and to go to the cinema in Oban to see the film adaptation of Stephen Kings “Dark Tower”.

It was a struggle, but we found a seat.

I have read the Dark Tower series and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to the film; however, it was a real disappointment relying on special effects to hold interest and failed to develop either of the main characters or the original plot. On reflection, it’s no wonder that it was so poor as it is a 2 hour film based on a seven novel series.  The Phoenix Cinema in Oban is a nice wee cinema, not a particularly big screen, but comfortable seats and a good sound system. We found a great wee pub, The Oban Inn, beside the north pier and visited it a number of times during our visits to Dunstaffnage and Kerrera.

On our journey north we had sailed up the Sound of Luing past Corryvreckan and the Fladda lighthouse, but, for our return we had decided to take The Sound of Cuan route south. We had spoken to a number of other sailors and were reassured that, as long as you got the tides right, then it wasn’t too bad a passage.  In order to make the tides we needed to be at the North West end of the sound between 1100 and noon at the latest. The forecast wasn’t good with winds of force 6 and 7 with gale 8 at first. We decided that we would leave Dunstaffnage, head south and see how things panned out knowing that if things were too bad that we could head for Kerrera.  We left at 0730 on Friday 8th and as soon as got out of the shelter of the marina it was clear that it was going to be difficult to make Cuan before the tide turned. Heading into 35 knot winds and a heavy sea we made for the relative shelter of Kerrera and Oban Bay. We had only travelled 5 miles but it did bring us a little closer and also the tides would be around 40 minutes later on Saturday.  At the pontoon in Dunstaffnage we were stern on to the wind and rain and the two rear hatches hadn’t been closed tightly enough and water had dripped on to the bedding and mattress of the rear cabin. We took advantage of the time in Kerrera by drying out and doing a laundry.  Whilst, the facilities in the marina may need upgraded, the laundry is brilliant with the best and most efficient driers!

We spent a great night in the wee restaurant at the marina in the company of the managers and a guy from Chichester, Andy, who was sailing around Britain (clockwise) and was heading for Corpach the next day to transit the Caledonian Canal.

Kerrera

 

 

Heading back South, Salen to Kerrera 31st August – 3rd September

We had seen a number of old sailing ships on the trip and soon after we had in Oban arrived “The Flying Dutchman” tied up on the hammerhead. It offers all sorts of cruises, including a sail/cycle package.

Salen to Tobermory

With the strong winds forecast, we decided to make for Lochaline and then on to Kerrera for Saturday and Sunday when the wind would be at the strongest. We left Tobermory and motored down the Sound of Mull and arrived at Lochaline in plenty time.  Lochaline has a working sand mine next to the ferry terminal which produces high grade sand for optical glass, a couple of pubs, a shop and a restaurant.   After eating on board we decided to give The Lochaline Hotel a miss, instead we walked along to the Social Club in the hope of watching the Scotland game. Unfortunately, they did not have Sky. Fortunately, I did have an app on my phone which would let me watch the game courtesy of Cal Mac’s free Wi-Fi and a great game it was too!

We were up early on Saturday morning in order to get to Kerrera before the worst of the weather. As it turned out, the forecast wasn’t that accurate and we motored down the Sound of Mull helped by a bit of mainsail. We arrived at Oban Marina at 1100. I had looked at using Kerrera when first planning the trip but reports back in January and February were dire, saying that it was up for sale, there was no fuel, electricity or other services ashore, however, other harbour masters on the trip told us that it had been bought and the new owners were keen to get it up and running. It still needs a great deal of work done to it, particularly shower facilities, but it has fuel, water and electricity and a nice wee restaurant.  A complimentary ferry service runs to the North Pier in Oban every 2 hours and we took this to get some supplies in Tesco and find somewhere to eat. It was a beautiful evening in Oban, which was extremely busy with tourists. We went to the George Street Fish and Chip shop and ate on the promenade before heading back to the pier to catch the ferry back to the island.  The marina didn’t offer a great deal of shelter from the strong South Easterlies and we spent a noisy night with the stern of the boat being slapped by swell. We were moored on a finger quite far in and the one’s at the end of the pontoon were very much more exposed. We spent the day doing laundry and tidying the boat. I had a small electrical repair to the music stereo.  We are going to eat at the restaurant in the marina tonight as we have an early start tomorrow to try and avoid the worst of the predicted rain.  We plan to sail up Loch Linnhe and onto Ballachulish in Loch Leven. After that, a sail up to Corpach and return to Cregan or Port Appin for the night.

Tobermory to Kerrera

North past Corryvreckan to Loch Sunart – 26th to 30th August

There wasn’t a great deal of wind when we left  Gigha and we ended up motoring all the way to Craobh. The passage past Coryvreckan  was pretty uneventful and we arrived in Craobh and tied up at the pontoons.  After a late night in Gigha we decided to give the pub a miss.

Gigha to Craobh

We left Craobh early on Sunday morning to catch the tide through the Sound of Luing to Dunstaffnage. We took a detour past Kerrera to go through Oban Bay so that we could have a quick look at Kerrera and try to see where the new transit pontoons were in Oban.  We had covered the 25 miles in fairly quick time and arrived at Dunstaffnage just before 12. We ate in The Wide Mouthed Frog and stayed there most of the evening. The outboard engine needed some attention and so we stayed until Tuesday in the hope that we could get an engineer to fix it on Monday.   On Monday morning I spoke to an engineer in the marina and he said that he could look at the engine for me. I left it with him and told me it would be a couple hours.  We took the bus into Oban for a look around and to eat.

Craobh to Dunstaffnage

With the outboard fixed, a strip down and clean, along with fresh fuel, we left for Lochaline on Tuesday morning. We left the marina in a good breeze and soon we were beating toward Lismore. The wind picked up and changed direction and we soon found ourselves in gusts of 45 knots. It was a long slog across the Firth of Lorn and around the lighthouse at the southern end of Lismore.  The weather picked up as we progress up the Sound of Mull. We arrived in Lochaline just after 1620. We had visited Lochaline the previous year and had spent a great night in The Lochaline Hotel in the company of the barman and couple of Welsh boys who were up here fishing and decided to make a return visit. It turns out that the hotel is up for sale and as a result was very poorly stocked.

Dunstaffnage to Lochaline

After a leisurely start, we left Lochaline for Salen on Loch Sunart at 1000. It was very showery when we left but it cleared slowly through the morning and by the time we reached the entrance to Loch Sunart a favourable Westerly wind allowed us to sail slowly up the loch only having to resort to the engine as we approached Salen Jetty. We had been followed by a boat all the way up the loch and it was obvious as we neared Salen that they were determined to get into the jetty in front of us so much so that they didn’t bother to turn into wind to lower their mainsail instead trying to haul it down – made quite a spectacle as it got caught around the mast and in the lazy-jacks.  They clearly had not studied the pilot book, the entrance to Salen isn’t difficult, but there is a reef which is only visible at very low tides and marked with an easterly cardinal buoy. They completely ignored the buoy until it caught someone’s attention at the very last minute when they realised that they were in real danger of running aground and turned hard to starboard right across our bow. Little did they know that we had already phoned ahead and reserved a berth.  They all looked rather sheepish when we saw them in the marina. We walked round to the Salen Hotel and spent part of the evening there chatting to the bar staff.  I always look out for other Moody owners and we got talking to a couple whose boat I had seen in the marina earlier. It turns out that they keep their boat in Portavadie, I must keep an eye out for them the next time I pay it a visit. I took a couple of photographs of their boat on Loch Sunart and emailed it to them the next day.

Salen is a beautiful place the most picturesque of spots and one of the best welcomes you will get anywhere on the West Coast from Jan and Mark.  It has great facilities and a well-stocked shop as well as a café that sells great coffee and bacon rolls. It is amongst my favourite marinas on the west coast.

Lochaline to Salen

 

Ardfern to Jura, Islay and Gigha – 23rd to 25th August 2017

We left Ardfern for Jura and the moorings at Craighouse. The weather was glorious and the wind favourable we tacked our way down the Sound of Jura averaging six and a half knots. We picked up a mooring in the bay directly opposite the hotel and I got the tender and engine ready. I spent about 20 minutes trying to start the outboard but with no success. I changed the spark plug and checked all the bits I could, but it still wouldn’t start. As we were putting the outboard back on the boat, a couple from a neighbouring yacht came alongside and asked if we wanted a lift or a tow, Unfortunately we weren’t ready to leave and told them we would just row  and we would meet them in the hotel later. We eventually crossed and at the hotel we ordered dinner. They managed to screw up the order but were very apologetic about it. We got talking to the couple who had offered us a tow, New Zealanders Pete and Nancy, who were coming to the end of their nine year sail around the world. They owned a holiday camp in north Wales and were taking their yacht back there after a whisky tour of Jura and Islay. We sat all night and listened to their fascinating tales of sailing in the Pacific and through The North West Passage – what a great couple.

Toward Jura

 

Thursday 24th we set off south for Islay and after a good sail we arrived at the pontoons at three in the afternoon. The pontoons at Port Ellen were quite exposed to the South West and it was fairly bouncy when we arrived.  Islay is a beautiful island, but the same can’t be said about Port Ellen which is very much a working port. The toilet and shower facilities are a bit of a walk from the marina, but they worked and only cost a donation.  We visited all the pubs in the town and would recommend The Ardview as the best of the three, The Islay Hotel very much caters for food and the one at the far end the other one, I can’t even remember the name of it was that notable.

Toward Islay

 

A flotilla of boats from Northern Ireland shortly after us and we joined them on a great sail the next morning to Gigha. On leaving Port Ellen we spotted Princess Anne’s yacht “Ballochbuie” passing the Islay ferry. We had seen the boat in Ardfern, her home port, and I had said hello to her and husband as I was making my way to the showers 😀 . It was a great sail to Gigha, the Irish boats were all bigger than Jess but we kept up with them, indeed, we ended up mid field, not that we were competing :-D.  We arrived in Gigha and picked up one of the moorings closest to the shore as we were going to have to row!  The Gigha Hotel is a short walk from the landing pontoon where we had dinner and drank delicious Loch Nevis beer. We got talking to a couple at the next table who were on holiday in the hotel and came from Midlothian. We spent a great night in their company talking about all things Midlothian!

We had toyed with the idea of anchoring at Tayvallich but decided instead to make straight for Craobh Haven as we would have a favourable tide get past Corryvreckan.

Toward Gigha

 

Sound of Jura

 

Largs to Ardfern – 17th to 22nd August 2017

On Wednesday 16th August, I took the train for Edinburgh to Largs to start a six week long period of sailing. After spending a great week with my good friends Stu and Sharon in Edinburgh where we saw some of the best of the Fringe, we had arranged to go sailing for the weekend before they made their way home to Bude in Cornwall.  I’ve known Stu and Sharon for a number of years now, Stu is a tutor and the owner of Guitar Retreats and neither he nor Sharon had been sailing before.  Alan, my sailing friend, was also coming through on Thursday to join us. The weekend weather was very mixed from sunshine and showers to winds of 45 miles per hour. We had planned to sail to Portavadie and then up to Otterferry for lunch on Saturday.  We did set off for Otterferry but on arrival it was obvious we would not be able to cross to the restaurant for lunch. We returned to Tarbert in pretty foul weather, but we had a great weekend and visited my favourite restaurant -Starfish.

Photographs of weekend with Stu and Sharon

 


Stu performing “The Joker” sailing back towards Largs

After dropping Stu and Sharon off back at Largs Alan and I got the boat ready for our annual trip.  This year we had four weeks of sailing around the west coast of Scotland. This  first week we had planned to  travel to Ardrishaig to enter the Crinan Canal, spend a night in Cairnbaan before leaving the canal and heading for Ardfern, then we would head south to Jura, Islay and Gigha heading north again toward the end of the week .

We left Largs around 6am on Monday and motor-sailed up Loch Fyne. We had planned to use Yot Spot staff to help us transit but on contacting them it turned out they had no-one available but they put us in touch with a local who turned out to be brilliant and got us through the canal in great time. On the way up Loch Fyne we passed a Moody Primrose, turned out they were also going through the canal and so we shared costs. As we were both waiting in the sea-lock the canal staff told us that they were waiting for a fishing boat before we could go. It arrived crewed by a skipper, and old man of about 90 (the owner it turned out) and a young man who had absolutely no interest in either the boat or the canal, and was only interested in fishing – which he immediately started doing in the canal when the boat came in. As the sea-lock closed we were pushed about a bit and it was obvious that the fishing boat (at around 40 tonnes I guess) wasn’t fendered off properly and could not be handled by the old man and skipper – as I said the young guy took no interest. As the boat once more veered across towards us and the other yacht, I finally lost the heid and let out a tirade at the young guy who was doing nothing to help – he was the most obnoxious Geordie. To cut a long story short, we eventually got into the basin and Hugh took charge telling them that they were most definitely not coming through the remaining locks with us and the other boat (another Hugh and his wife Caroline). Hugh got us to Cairnbaan in record time and we moored up for the night and sat on deck with a cold beer. After about an hour we heard the distinctive sound of the fishing boat and sure enough it arrived and after some distinctly un-skipper like manoeuvres (at one point straddling the width of the canal), moored opposite. To be fair, the young guy was still not helping and the owner was incapable of getting off and mooring. We were sitting on deck watching the antics when there was an overwhelming smell of diesel and soon the surface was covered in oil. The diesel was coming from the fishing boat. Apparently (as we found out later) the canal staff hd tried to stop the boat as it made its way up the canal but were repeatedly ignored by crew and skipper. When it arrived at Cairbaan – it had to stop as the swing bridge is only operated by canal staff.  When the boat tied up the staff acted quickly to place a boom around the boat and told them they were not leaving until SEPA arrived and the leak was fixed. They had left a trail from Ardrishaig and will be fined heavily.

Next day, Hugh got us to Crinan in record time despite the unrelenting rain. The canal staff were quick to get us into the basin and on into the sea-lock as they were expecting a flotilla of boats arriving from the north. We said goodbye to Hugh and Caroline and arranged to meet them in Ardfern that evening. Once out of the sea-lock we raised our sails and were across the 8 miles or so to Ardfern in no time at all where we berthed for the night. After eating on board we walked along to the Galley of Lorne pub where we spent the evening with Hugh and Caroline, they were heading north whilst we are going south but we may cross paths again.

Through the Crinan Canal and on to Ardfern