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.