First Sail of the Season – 2019

Jess was launched a couple of weeks ago after her annual maintenance a little later than I had planned. I had asked the guys at 360 Yachts to do some work on her whilst she was on the hard, engine check and service and repacking the stern tube. Whilst carrying out the engine service the engineer noticed that the raw water sea-cock for engine cooling was in a bit of a state. I had been getting a constant leak since returning from our annual trip last September and put it down to a drippy stern tube but it turns out it was the sea-cock. I asked them to replace the other two sea-cocks below the water line for the heads. I had booked a launch for the week Alan and I were doing the annual maintenance but with the extra work I rescheduled this. The guys at 360 offered to oversee the launch to save me coming back through – which was a great help as I was driving down south the day after.

I spent a great weekend in Harrogate with friends and then a few days in Durham before I drove to Largs on Thursday morning. I had invited Alan, my sailing friend, and his family for the weekend but he had a last minute change of plans and was unable to make it. This was a pity as I still had to put the foresail back on – it has to be taken down when the boat is launched. It’s not really a job you can do on your own – not impossible but difficult. Fortunately, Graham, a friend we met on the Crinan Canal said he would be able to help me on Friday afternoon.  With the weather not looking too difficult – with light winds, sun and warm temperatures I decided an overnight trip to either Portavadie or Tarbert would be perfect.

Graham was coming to help around 5pm on Friday afternoon, so I spent Thursday and most of Friday doing a few jobs; I varnished the washboards, reproofed the canvas sprayhood and sail bag, scrubbed the deck and tidied up after maintenance week. Graham also has a Moody 31 mkII – Kiwi, an ex-charter boat which was based in Largs which he is working on at the moment and hopes to get launched in the next couple of weeks. Over a beer, we discussed the coming season and we hope to do some sailing together later in the year.  I tidied up and wandered up to Scott’s for something to eat. I hadn’t booked and being Good Friday it was very busy, but they always try to find a place for berth holders. I had something to eat, a couple of pints and then returned to the boat.

Leaving Largs

There was little wind forecast for Saturday and since I would be motoring most if the way I decided to take the route around The Kyles of Bute which is a little more interesting than crossing Inchmarnock Water, I left just before 10am which would mean arriving at Portavadie around 3pm. As I was making my way up the East Kyle I could see a large plume of smoke coming over the hills from the west from the direction of Tighnabruaich and fairly quickly the boat was covered in soot. When I arrived at Colintraive most of the smoke had disappeared. A fire engine was waiting to make the crossing back to the mainland as most of the fires were out with jusr a few small fires around Buttock Point. Graham sent me the spectacular night-shot of Bute ablaze!

Bute on fire

The wind had got up as I was making my way north up the East Kyle and I was hopeful that I would be able to get the sails up, a nice downwind run and then a couple of tacks toward Portavadie. I was disappointed, it turned out that the wind was being funneled up and round the island and it was still on the nose going down the West Kyle. However, I did manage to get the sails up for the last 4 or 5 miles towards Portavadie.


I berthed next to a Moody Primrose 36. The owner had sailed her from Ardrossan and intended to berth her at Portavadie. The yearly berthing fees here are considerably less than those at Ardrossan, Kip and Largs and it would appear that they have a recruitment drive on as a number of owners spent time trying to convince me of the benefits of berthing there. For me and many others it’s a complete non-starter. The journey time from Edinburgh to Portavadie is over 3 hours on a good day with the last bit down a single carriage road. Public transport takes nearly 5 hours! The trip to Largs takes around and hour and a half by car and less than 2 hours by train. Perhaps part of the reason that they are keen to attract more customers is the continual upgrading at Tarbert just across Loch Fyne from Portavadie. The fees are even less here and with the new shower block now open, it’s beginning to look more attractive. There aren’t the yard facilities that Portavadie has but onshore facilities, shops, pubs, restaurants and banks, are much better. On reflection, I wish I had made for Tarbert. Perhaps down to the Easter  weekend but Portavadie seemed to be swarming with bairns and dugs.

Crossing Inchmarnock Water

The wind was forecast to increase through Sunday afternoon and I left around 1030 am which would get me back to Largs around 4pm. The winds were fairly light when I left and coming from the SE so I got the sails up – having put a reef in the main “just in case” – and unfurling around ¾ of the foresail. Just as well, as the wind blew up to a F6 approaching Cumbrae. Inchmarnock Water can be a nasty bit of sea, particularly with winds anywhere from the south as the swell increases very quickly. I made good progress and was pleased to get to the more sheltered waters around Cumbrae and on to my berth in the marina.Having been away from home for the last ten days or so, I was quickly running out of clothes. I decided to stay in Largs, tidy and get the boat ready for the next trip and do a laundry – which would save me when I got home.

The only problem I had was the main halyard wrapping itself around the radar reflector. This has happened a number of times before and involves hoisting the halyard up and through the spreaders, freeing it from the reflector and then taking it back through the spreaders and I have rigged up a couple of light lines to do this. It was a good shakedown weekend and everything seemed to be performing as it should do and the leak of water into the bilges through the sea-cock has been fixed.

Approaching Largs

The weather is looking OK next week, albeit a wee bit chilly, with light winds from the west forecast for the end of the week. Perhaps another trip on the cards – this time I’ll make for Tarbert!