I traveled through to Largs on Wednesday morning to do a couple of wee jobs on Jess and get her ready for the trip. The previous trip over the Easter weekend threw up a couple of issues, the main one being a fuel leak. The leak was sorted but the bilges ended up with a bit of fuel in it which I had to clean out. I pumped out the worst of it (which I disposed off in the oil recycling tanker in the marina) and then used oil absorbent pads to clean up the residue, finally cleaning out with Viro-Sol, an environmentally safe Citros based cleaner and degreaser.The first extended trip of the season saw us cover just under 100 NM starting off in Largs and visiting Lochranza, Campbeltown and Portavadie before returning to Largs.
My friend, Alan, arrived on Thursday at around 10.30 am and after stowing things away and paying a visit to the fuel berth, we set off for Arran. We had planned to head for Lamlash, but with strong easterly winds forecast overnight, we decided that Lochranza might offer a more comfortable night. We managed a bit of a sail out of Largs past Cumbrae and Garroch Head but the wind died and we were forced to motor-sail across to Lochranza. It was near a flat calm when we arrived there and we easily picked up a buoy. After tidying up we planned our passage to Campbeltown. We put the outboard onto the dinghy and made our way to the jetty and spent a great evening in the Lochranza Hotel chatting and drinking with cyclists, walkers and other sailors.
Later in the year, we are planning an extended passage around the Western Isles. In the past two years we have made our way through the Crinan Canal, so this year we have decided to tackle going round the Mull of Kintyre making for Ballycastle and then heading north by way of Port Ellen, Gigha and Craighouse. One of the main reasons for this trip was to visit Campbeltown as neither of us have sailed there.
The forecast had looked good with a favourable easterly wind, however, it never really materialised and we ended up motoring most of the way. This turned out to be no bad thing. On the previous trip the engine had been playing up with engine revs occasionally dropping by 100 to 200 rpm before settling back to what is was before. I had put this down to the leak, but this issue continued yesterday and part of this morning, but as the day went on the problem disappeared and the engine performed flawlessly to Campbeltown.
We were both impressed on arrival, it is a very nice well planned marina, great facilities, right on the main street and the best WiFi I have come across in any marina! After tying up we tidied up and went to look for somewhere to eat. The Royal Hotel is directly opposite the marina and we ate in the restaurant. I had looked up TripAdvisor for nice pubs and The Fiddler’s Arms came up with favorable reviews so after eating we set off to find it, unfortunately it didn’t live up to the reviews and we returned to bar in The Royal Hotel. I’m glad we did, The Black Sheep Bar was great. We spent a great evening of banter with the bar-staff and a group of blokes who had arrived after us in a charter boat. We’ll know next time to head straight for here and not waste time looking anywhere else!
We had spent the previous evening poring over various wind and weather websites to try and work out the best time to depart. Once again a favourable easterly was forecast later in the afternoon which would let us sail from the north west of Arran all the way to Portavadie, our destination for the night. We left just after 10 am in order to make the most of this. Sadly, once again the wind failed to appear as forecast and it wasn’t until we were a couple of miles from Portavadie that it was strong enough to allow us to sail. However, we did manage to see a basking shark, dolphins and porpoises.
We like Portavadie, you are never stuck for a berth and the facilities are excellent. Alan had phoned earlier in the day and booked a table in The Lodge for dinner and a berth for the night. As we were sitting enjoying a beer before going for dinner, another boat tied up alongside and we got talking to the crew when we saw them later in the bar. Allan and his daughter Laura along with their friend run a charity, Able2Sail, a Scottish registered charity set up to provide sailing experience for those of all ages with a disability and for those affected by disability for example carers and siblings. We chatted for a while and they invited us back to their boat for a drink after dinner. We did and had a very enjoyable evening. The charity are always looking for volunteer skippers and crew for day sailing, overnight, weekend and longer trips. I have filled in an application form for volunteering.
No issues with the engine at all today. I suspect it was a problem with dirty or contaminated fuel which eventually worked it’s way through the injectors and was burnt off.
We had planned to stay another day, sailing up to Otterferry for lunch before sailing back down Loch Fyne to Tarbert for the evening, but the forecast for Monday, when we would be returning to Largs, was grim. Neither of us fancied a wet slog across Inchmarnock Water back to Largs. So, we decided to cut our losses and make for home, via The Kyles of Bute. I’m so glad we did as it turned out to be the best sailing day by far. We sailed nearly all the way from Portavadie around The Kyles and across Rothesay Bay back to Largs, only motoring through Burnt Islands where the wind was just coming from the wrong direction.
All in all, a fantastic trip over the four days which puts a few more sea miles under our belts, a great mixture of weather, porpoise, dolphins and sharks, a couple of issues ironed out and meeting and chatting to some wonderful people.