I went for my Covid-19 jag yesterday, all went well. I have a bit of a headache this morning and feel a bit lethargic, but apart from that, everything is good. The pandemic has been far more devastating than anticipated back in March 2020 and has had a huge impact on everyone’s life and sadly, killed many thousands across the UK. However, there are real signs of improvement and hope across the UK with now over half the population having had a first dose of the vaccine and both the Scottish and UK Governments publishing more detailed plans for coming out of lockdown. Things are not looking so good across Europe where France has seen cases rocket and imposed a 3rd lockdown in some départements, and things in Italy and Poland look grim with Germany also considering tougher restrictions. In many EU countries, less than 10% of the population has been vaccinated and there is a lot of resistance to actually having the vaccine. This, along with the halting of vaccination with the AstraZeneca version – which turned out to be more of a political decision than a health one, perhaps because it was developed in the UK, has slowed the whole program down. I received the AstraZeneca vaccine and I asked the nurse if I had an option, not that I have any concerns – just curiosity. She said, “Yes, of course, you have a choice. Take it or leave it”.  Whilst Johnson continues to speculate that foreign travel will be allowed by the summer, Nicola Sturgeon is doubtful saying we won’t be going anywhere abroad until June at the absolute earliest. I’m inclined to agree with her, particularly with the latest news coming from Europe. The only way out of this pandemic is the vaccine and if for whatever reason, other countries are not as far down that route as we are then I think foreign travel is out of the question. 

I have been wrestling with whether I will commit to travelling to France this year, and whilst there is a very remote chance that it will take place, the latest reports from France have helped me make a decision. I have really, really fond and happy memories of my trips to France in recent years and Guitar Retreats at La Perdrix in particular and I am hugely disappointed that I won’t be going again this year. I think that even if it does go ahead as planned, it will inevitably be very different from previous years. Social distancing is a huge issue. The washing and toilet facilities are shared and this is a situation that cannot be overcome. One of the pleasures of the Retreat is gathering around the large outdoor table at mealtimes and in the evening and once more this is something that would be difficult to do, socially distanced. With the rate at which the French are vaccinating, it is unlikely that any of the staff there would have been inoculated. It is not certain that we would have to quarantine on arrival or whether some sort of vaccination or test certificate might be needed.   It’s a long way to travel for what would be a very different and perhaps restricted experience and I wouldn’t want to return home feeling disappointed. Perhaps later in the year, I might be able to transfer my ferry ticket and go for a driving holiday in France, visit La Perdrix and my friend Brian in Excideuil and a tour of my friends in England and Wales, but sadly, a Guitar Retreat in France in early June won’t be happening again this year for me.

Instead, I have made firmer plans for sailing around Kintyre on to the island of Mull area for June.

When making a passage around Kintyre it is really important to study the tides as getting them right gives you a huge benefit heading north.  Ideally, I’d want high tide at Campbeltown to be early in the morning sometime between 8.30 am and 11.30 am and this allows leaving Campbeltown a couple of hours before HT and having 6 hours of push up the west coast of Kintyre. It just so happens that HT on Friday 4th of June is at 8.25 am getting later each day until Monday the 7th when it is 11.10 am.  With this in mind, I have started to make more detail plans for a trip to Kerrera in June and early July.  The quickest passage, without very long legs or overnight sailing (not that that is a problem), will take 4 days.

The first leg from Largs to Campbeltown is around 42 NM and usually takes around 8 hours. An early start from Largs would get me there by late afternoon. The great thing about the Clyde is that you don’t really have to bother about tides and tidal streams. There is some tidal stream influence but not really that strong until you get further south then things start to change.

The second leg from Campbeltown and round the Mull of Kintyre is probably the longest at 45 NM and again with a decent wind and motor sailing, would take around 8 hours to get to moorings at Ardminish Bay. Depending on how busy it is and how low the tide is, it is possible to tie up at the small pontoon and walk into the village hotel in Ardminish where they serve food. If not, the moorings are beautiful and there will be a good bar and restaurant available onboard Jess. 

The leg from Gigha north to Craobh Haven is stunning as you sail the Sound of Jura with Kintyre to starboard and Jura and The Paps to port. On approaching Corryvreckan to port and Crinan Bay to starboard we have the choice of turning NE and up to Loch Craignish to Ardfern or carrying on to Loch Shuna and Craobh Haven. There are a couple of advantages of stopping at the latter: we don’t have to negotiate Dorus Mor and waiting for a suitable tide, it’s a bit closer to Oban and the pub, The Lord of the Isles is a much better pub than that at Ardfern – which is a bit of a hike from the marina. 

The last leg to Oban Marina on Kerrera takes us through the Sound of Luing past Scarba, Lunga and  Luing to the most exposed part of the passage at the southern end of the Firth of Lorn where there is nothing but the Atlantic between us and Newfoundland! This has at times been the most difficult part, well, uncomfortable as the boat rolls about. But it soon eases as we approach Insh Island and is very much more sheltered as we enter Kerrera Sound and the marina at the top of the island.

This is the quickest route in terms of the number of days. But, we do have the choice of taking a more leisurely passage and stopping off at Lamlash or Lochranza before heading for Campbeltown. After Gigha, we could take the short sail across to Jura and spend the night at Craighouse.  As said above, we could also stop off at Ardfern.

I plan to set off from Largs on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th of June either for Lamlash and then on to Campbeltown the following day or directly to Campbeltown. Depending on how many stops we make after this, we would be arriving on Kerrera by June 9th or 10th.

Once we get to Kerrera I will be staying there for at least a couple of weeks, perhaps longer if there are lots of requests for sailing from family and friends, my dates are flexible. Alan may hang around for a short while and if he does we would probably head north up The Sound of Mull for a few days before he has to return home before the end of June.

 At the moment I intend returning to The Clyde sometime around the start or middle of July and transit the Crinan Canal. Get in touch if you want to join me.