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