First Sail of the Season

After a week of maintenance last month, we finally managed to get out for the first sailing trip of the season over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. I was joined by my good friend Alan.  Maintenance had gone well and Jess was back in the water within a week but this was the first opportunity to get out on the water.

I arrived on Thursday morning picking up new fenders and some gel-coat filler (more of that later) at Duncan’s Yacht Chandlers. I like Duncan’s the guys are really helpful, they have a good range of stock and their prices are far better than those at the chandlers in Largs. Alan was arriving later in the afternoon and I spent the time getting Jess ready, stowing supplies, filling with water and pumping up the fenders. The genoa had needed the sacrificial strip replaced and I went  Saturn Sails to collect it. I’m having them make a new sprayhood and stack-pack which should be ready and fitted next week.

Alan arrived around 6.40pm and we went to Scott’s in the marina for something to eat.

It had been too windy on Thursday evening to fit the genoa but fortunately it was a bit quieter on Friday morning so we quickly got the sail on and then went to Scott’s for breakfast. We had toyed with the idea of taking a trip to Campbeltown, but over breakfast, with a brisk SW forecast  we decided that a sail to Portavadie was the thing to do. From there we could decide whether to sail up to Otterferry on Saturday and back to Tarbert for the night or head for Lochranza. The latter was Alan’s preference as he was born on Arran and likes to go back as often as he can.

We left the pontoon around 11.00am for the fuel berth and then set off into Largs Channel toward Cumbrae. A good F5/6 was blowing and gusting around 28 knots so I reefed the main and put out about half the genoa. We had a great sail across Inchmarnock Water toward Loch Fyne and only had to resort to putting the engine on when the wind dropped 3 or 4 miles south of Portavadie. We arrived just after 18.30 and moored on one of the pontoon fingers opposite the main building

Being the holiday weekend, I expected the marina to be quite busy and I was surprised at how quiet Portavadie was, there were just half a dozen other visiting boats in the marina. I had booked dinner at the lodge and before that we went for a drink in the main restaurant. They’ve made a few changes to the restaurant, removing the large sofas and putting in more seating and some high tables and chairs. We could have eaten here but we prefer the lodge (and it’s cheaper). We returned to the main building after dinner and spent a nice evening chatting to a couple from Glasgow who were there for the weekend. They had a lodge and a boat on Loch Lomond and were interested in boats and sailing.

It wasn’t going to take more that three hours to get to Lochranza  so after a lazy start we left Portavadie around 11.45 am  The forecast so far hadn’t been that accurate and on Saturday morning there was a brisk F6/7 coming from the SW.  The wind was gusting around 35 knots so I reefed the mainsail right down and put only a small amount of genoa out. Still, we managed to tack across toward Tarbert and then down Loch Fyne toward Arran touching 7-8 knots at times. The wind was always going to blow us away from Lochranza and we knew we would need a few tacks to get us there. However, about 2 miles from from our destination and two or three tacks later it was obvious that it was going to take at least another hour to get to the moorings. So we put on the engine and motored the last bit.  As we were approaching Lochranza we could see a war ship approaching, which had to take a detour to avoid us. There had been some chatter on the radio about a submarine exercise and it turned out that it was the Dutch frigate “Tromp” and its helicopter that were doing the hunting.  There  are 12 moorings at Lochranza and 4 of them were taken.  Like the others around the island they are serviced and maintained by the local community.  The moorings are large hippo type buoys and in previous years there was just a ring on the top which you had to try and thread your mooring line through, almost impossible in all but a flat calm unless you have a mooring hook device. However, this year we found that they had added pick-up buoys and mooring ropes so mooring was easy.  We had pumped the dinghy up at Portavadie and tried out the outboard, which started at the second pull, so it was just a case of getting the motor on the dinghy.  I have a 3.5hp engine which to be honest is a bit too big and heavy for the dinghy and as a result mounting the engine is a bit tricky, but with a safety line and the dinghy secured to the stern of the boat and the advantage of a sugar-scoop we manage. I need to investigate some sort of portable davit type thing.  By the time we were ready to cross to the hotel, all the moorings had been taken and arriving boats were having to turn around and head north for Tarbert or Portavadie. The wind had died and the sun came out – it was a beautiful sunny evening and Lochranza looked quite stunning.

We spent a great evening in the Lochranza Hotel chatting to other yacht owners and walkers, drinking too much Arran Blonde and whisky. Shortly after we had arrived, another Moody picked up the mooring next to us and we sat next to Mark in the hotel. Turned out they were on a shake down preparing for a trip to The Azores next week.  He has offered to write an article for Compass Magazine about his preparation and passage.

Sunday morning was a complete change from previous days. There was no wind at all (it was a very quiet night on the mooring – well apart from the loud music we were playing) and it was foggy. Visibility was OK though and we motored off for Largs. I had our navigations lights on, but the steaming light didn’t seem to be working, this surprised me as it’s a single unit that houses the deck light as well and this seemed to be working fine. Still, need to have it looked at. Our trip back was fairly uneventful. We had a go at commissioning the auto-pilot but I don’t think we carried it out properly as it was a bit erratic so I’ll need to do it again.

We needed to reverse Jess into her berth so that I could carry out a repair to the starboard side. It was blowing an absolute hoolie when she was launched last month and leaving the hoist she was blown across the marina and I managed to take a gouge out of the gel-coat on the propellor of a rib’s outboard. Alan left for home and I spent the rest of the day doing the repair and tidying up.

It was a great weekend and most things worked as they should. Can’t wait for the next trip.