Crinan Canal Chaos
It’s true, the Crinan Canal is one of the most beautiful short-cuts in Scotland and I have used it many times to quickly get from The Clyde and Loch Fyne to The Sound of Jura then north to the Inner Hebrides or south to Jura, Gigha and Islay. Being old and like most public bodies, underfunded, It has its problems: always in need of repair, lack of water or too much water and bridges being repaired. Then there’s the constant threat of rain and midges, particularly in late August and early September. But, these niggles are more than compensated for by the sheer beauty of the surroundings, the slow pace of transit and the folks you meet along the way.
We set off from Largs on Friday 30th June stopping for the night at Portavadie and leaving early the following morning to make the two hour journey to Ardrishaig, arriving at 0830 and joining two other boats waiting on the pontoons outside the sea-lock. When you book your journey you need to state your time of arrival and size of boat so that traffic can be managed throughout the day – well I assume that’s the theory.
We met our Pilot, Peter Trott from Crinan Pilots Association on the pontoon. We always employ a pilot as it makes the journey so much easier and enjoyable, they take and secure your ropes, open and shut gates and sluices and generally keep you right. At around 0815 one of the canal staff came down to the pontoons to tell us that there were two boats already in the basin waiting to go up to Lock Two and that they would be travelling together as one was large so there would be no room for any of our group. We would travel as a second group and this all sounded fine until, for no apparent reason, we were held on the pontoons for over an hour eventually getting through the sea-lock and into the basin by 0940.
To our frustration, the two boats were still tied up in the basin waiting to enter Lock Two. I asked one of the staff (the one that seemed to be in charge) why this was taking such an inordinate of time and why the two boats had not been moved in the hour and a bit we were sitting outside the sea-lock and was met with a hostile answer of -“Well, we got you into the basin”. It wasn’t until 1030 that the two boats in the basin left Lock Two and started up the canal. We eventually started on our way at 1130 with further delays at Cairnbaan and Lock Six. We had hoped to get through to Crinan but only made it as far as pontoons below Lock 13 which was fortunate in that we did not need the help of our pilot on the following day, but unfortunate in that it meant an extra hour to the sea-lock at Crinan. We were held up the following morning at Belanoch and the Crinan sea-lock but by 1110 we were crossing Loch Crinan and heading for Dorus Mor.
With the tide in our favour and a pretty good westerly wind, we made quick progress across The Sound of Jura, passing Fladda, Easedale and heading up through the Sound of Kerrera, we arrived at the Oban Transit Pontoons just after 5 pm.
It was an exasperating and exhausting start to our trip particularly as we were on a schedule to pick up a friend at Kyle of Lochalsh and could do without delays. But we quickly put it behind us as we made our way north.