A New Beginning and a New Mooring at Glen Caladh

How am I going to sail Milo without Ros? – Milo is a boat to be shared – everything requires at least two people: pulling up the main requires someone to feed in the runners at the masthead while the other operates the winch in the cockpit; someone to lay out the anchor and drop it when the other person at the helm navigates the boat to the right depth; picking up a mooring requires a careful approach by the helm while someone else operates the boat hook and hauls the mooring line aboard.  At the funeral I announced that I would continue to sail Milo round Britain but that I’d need crew to help me do this.  Since then I’ve had second thoughts.  Yes, get new crew to help me sail Milo to the Orkneys, which is what we were planning to do this year, but first repeat some of the trips Rosamund and I had already done together around the western island.  That way I would have the experience of having done the run before while I was breaking in new crew members who may not have any experience at all. In the meantime, start looking for a new boat that would be easier for me to sail single handed (furling main; electric anchor, joystick control coming into port – more cabins to put up guests) and use this new boat next year to go to the Orkneys and circumnavigate Britain in relative safely – minimising risk.

GlenCaladhCastleThis is Glen Caladh Castle – Milo’s new mooring is below where it used to be situated – the castle is now a pile of rubble after being destroyed in a weekend by the Territorial Arm in an exercise in 1953.

A new mooring was laid for Milo on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 adjacent to the Queen Victoria Jetty near where Glen Caladh Castle used to be – outside Glen Caladh harbour about ¼ mile from Andrew’s cottage.  The mooring is a 10 tonne in anticipation of getting a bigger boat.  Meanwhile I have decided not to take Milo back to Lyme Regis.  Instead I have bought a Drascombe Lugger called Elvira for day sailing and fishing when I’m with the family at Eastcotte and to sail with the grandchildren and particularly teach Vyvyan who has not sailed before.

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This is a Drascombe Lugger, very similar to and the same colouring as Elvira

The first crew have signed up –  my sister Pat from June 11-20th will stay in the cottage and weather permitting do some sailing round the Firth of Clyde – and Daphne and Kate from our book group will join me from July 8-15th to sail through the Crinan Canal to Colonsay.

IMG_3180Milo on her new mooring – 70 years ago you would have had Caladh Castle as a back-drop – the Victoria step and slipway can be seen behind the stern of Milo.  Queen Victoria visited Scotland in 1842 and visited a number of castles – her visit may have been then or later to commemorate their Golden Jubilee in 1897, when the coast roadway was built to Glen Caladh Castle (this is still an off-road track).

 

IMG_3544This is the notice-board about 200m away from Andrew and Rebecca’s cottage, Pheasantry, at the beginning of one of the woodland walks.  The map shows the new coast road high up the hill and the coast road built in 1897 to commemorated Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

The laying of the mooring – it happened so quickly when it went in – top left: the two railway wheels weighing one tonne plus a very heavy length of chain; centre: Neil Cunningham welding the shackles; bottom left: his assistant has cut the rope and the splash in the distance is where the mooring dropped; right: there was a great rushing noise and the mooring buoy and rope soon followed the weights, chain and rope.

After this I’ll centre myself round the Firth of Clyde while looking for a new boat that is more suitable for me to sail single handed.  I’m very happy for friends and colleagues to join me in this beautiful but quite wild location.

 

 

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A Sad End and Tributes to Rosamund

Sadly Rosamund died on January 26th, 2019, after her cancer returned with a vengeance just before Christmas.  We did not know that the Colintraive trip would be Rosamund’s last adventure on Milo. It was the 19thof September and her last CT scan after chemotherapy had been clear, so we were very hopeful and already planning next year’s adventures.

Rosamund on a day out with Joanna & Vyvyan in Bristol in June 16th, 2018 and the cover of the Order of Service with a picture of Rosamund when I first met her and we used to go sailing on Cheddar Reservoir at weekends in the late 60s

The boat came out of the water at the beginning of October and we asked if she could be the last out so she could be the first in – with the full expectation that by the beginning of April we’d be heading off for that long-promised trip to the Orkneys, but it was not to be.

After a celebratory holiday together in Sicily in October and a birthday treat trip to Paris with the twins in late November and early December, Ros started to develop pains in her stomach which by January 3rd2019 following a pre-Christmas CT scan were diagnosed as the cancer seeding in her stomach and bone.  Despite her failing body, Rosamund stoically managed to cater for nearly 20 people (with many sous-chefs helping) at Christmas at Eastcotte, but her ability to do things declined quickly and by her birthday on January 19th she was on a morphine pump at home and was able (just) to dress up and get down one floor for a family party in her honour where everyone brought a dish.  The following week she took the decision to go for more chemotherapy that might not offer a cure but would, she hoped, extend her life for a while.  Sadly, this did not happen – she died suddenly 4 days later from a pulmonary embolism.  It was so sudden, we were talking to her one minute and the next she was gone.  It was a huge shock for all of us.  Joanna and I were with her, Julia and Nick downstairs, Andrew arriving the next morning.  In retrospect we are all pleased she did not have to suffer a long drawn out painful death.  In those last days she had been very accepting and content – we had talked about the irony of the situation – with me having had cancer for 10 years we had assumed I would go first and Rosamund would live until she was a hundred.  We did not anticipate this opposite scenario.

It is unimaginably hard to lose a loved one that you have been so close to for 52 years.  Before she died, we’d been thankful we’d been able to hold our 50th Wedding Anniversary at Eastcotte on July 14th, 2018 with a 100 of our close friends and family attending – we did not think it would be her last farewell, but to many it was.

The following months were taken up with organising Rosamund’s funeral which took place on March 8th, 2019 at Canford Crematorium with a celebration of her life at The Orangery, Goldney House, Clifton afterwards.  There were many tributes and three obituaries: one published by the SS Great Britain who flew their flags at half-mast in her honour (https://www.ssgreatbritain.org/about-us/press/trust-saddened-passing-prof-ros-sutherland) ; a full obituary by the university (https://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2019/february/ros-sutherland.html) and one published by the Guardian first on line and then later in print on May 13th, 2019.

(https://www.theguardian.com/tone/obituaries+theguardian/series/otherlives)

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SS Great Britain with flags at half mast in honour of Rosamund who was a Trustee – the picture was taken on February 2nd when Joanna and I walked down there – you can still see snow on the ground from the heavy snowfall of the previous day

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Rosamund’s Obituary as it appeared in the Guardian on May 13th, 2019.  This was an amazing day for it to appear. We were not expecting it, as it had been published on-line 2 months before.  It was Rebecca’s birthday and she had written and orchestrated a lovely family tribute to Rosamund at Canford Crematorium and it was the Book Group meeting at our house where we’d set a place for Rosamund at the end of the table and it was only a half hour before everyone arrived that my cousin, Colin, called to say it was in the Guardian that day.

Rosamund will be greatly missed but I am determined to carry on our sailing adventures in Milo in her memory – this “Milosails” blog has been a testimony  to how much we have enjoyed our life together.  I’ll finish with a poem written by my mother after my father died but it still feels very poignant for me now especially when with Milo in Scotland:

 

“The scent of wood smoke in the mountain air,

The light of dawn on a lonely loch,

The path of moonlight on a silvered sea,

These things have special memories for me.

 

The skirl of pipes on a distant shore,

The hum of bees on a sunlit moor,

The swoop of gulls in sheltered bays,

These bring back memories of happier days.

 

Gone are the laughing carefree times

When life was full and loved ones near,

But life moves on and one survives

The loss of all those other lives.

 

Yet still there’s solace to be found

In the glory of the setting sun.

Life must be lived, despite the pain,

The threads picked up, the pattern weaved again.”

 

 

Colintraive from Caladh Harbour and then Battening Down for the Storm

The Colintraive Hotel is a renowned but remote Gastro Pub serving fantastic seafood and the best of beef and game from the Island of Bute which is a short ride across the adjacent ferry. We had been once before with Andrew, Rebecca and the grandchildren in April before Milo was in the water, but it was a 28 km drive around the head of  Loch Riddon to get there.  We’d read that Colintraive is a delightful coastal village where eagles, red squirrels, seals, deer and basking sharks are regular sights. It is also great for country and coastal walks along the Cowal Way.

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The Colintraive Hotel just up the road from the Bute to mainland ferry

We heard that Andrew had taken the whole family across in the Miracle Dinghy – well, if he can do that, the trip in Milo should be a doddle, even with the high winds – and it was. It was only 3 kms and there were 6 moorings to choose from.  We had to wait for the wind to die down and the mist to clear, but by lunchtime we were good to go. We had two worries – storm Ali was on its way and we were planning to return Milo to its mooring off the Tighnabruaich boatyard to ride out the storm and would we arrive in time to get lunch?  Although it only took us 20 minutes to get there, we did not arrive at the hotel until 2:30pm – would they still be serving lunch? – yes – until 3pm.  Phew .. we could relax.

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The Colintraive Hotel menu board 

On this occasion we both chose the haddock which was cooked to perfection, with Ros having mushrooms and Ian langoustines for starters. The menu board above shows the range of food available – the trip by boat is so short that we were already planning our next visit.

Starters and mains – a seafood theme for the presentation.

While having our meal we reflected on the 5 months that had elapsed since we were last there, our walk through the Strafonian Community Forest with all the sculptures and how lovely it was to be out and about again even if it was only a gentle excursion.

Our walk in the Stronafian Community Forest in April

As the wind had moderated, we decided to return via Caladh Harbour, quickly anchor to drop Ros off so that she could bring the car to the boatyard, while Ian picked up the mooring, made Milo hurricane-proof and returned to the boatyard by dinghy.  We then stocked up on food and wine in case the storms were prolonged.

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Ros Helming back while Ian was laying out the anchor chain.

While we stayed at Pheasantry Cottage the whole of the next day as Storm Ali peaked at 1pm and heard about a fatality when a caravan was blown off a cliff in Western Ireland, we were both underwhelmed  by the storm, perhaps because Tighnabruich and particularly Glen Caladh are protected from the South Westerlies by a large 250m hill.

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Severe storm Adi at its peak

 

 

A new beginning with no end

There was no end to our milo sailing blog last season and there has been no beginning this season. The reason was that our son Andrew with his wife Rebecca were negotiating to buy a bothy/cottage, called Pheasantry Cottage, in Tighnabruaich on the west side of the Kyles of Bute.  We’d contacted the Tighnabruaich boatyard to see if it was possible to take Milo out of the water and leave her there for the winter.  At the time the boatyard was full. But by the time we sailed into Tighnabruaich and had taken up one of their moorings, we were told that someone was not returning to the boatyard so a space had become available.  Ros returned the next day to Bristol on the early bus to Dunoon,  while Ian stayed with Milo.

Finding a window of opportunity to take the boat out of the water was not easy as both wind and tide had to be right – Ian MacCloud from the boatyard was pessimistic about the boat coming out that day so IanS contented himself with a good English breakfast at Biologica, booking a room for the following night, visiting the post office to get a local explorer map and the do-it-yourself shop to get essential supplies for repairs.  It turned out that the taxi driver of Tam’s Taxis was also the proprietor of the local DIY store – a useful contact and a font of knowledge.

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Pheasantry Cottage as advertised by the estate agent 

After spending the day cleaning the boat and doing repairs and refurbishments – replacing some of the lights for LEDs to save power, Ian was just getting ready to cook his evening meal and then bed down for the night, when at 5:45pm there was a knock on the hull – it was Ian MacCloud ready to take the boat out – a window of opportunity had arrived.  Looking toward the shore, the cradle was already deep in the water – waiting.  “All you have to do”, IanM explained, while he secured his small boat to the hull of Milo, “is release the mooring and I’ll do the rest”.  Sure enough – he manoeuvred Milo backwards into the cradle and then somehow from his boat managed to lift Milo out of the water.  I later learned that he had devised a system of strings to operate the controls remotely – ingenious – so that he could take boats in and out of the water on his own with no help.  Once secure in the cradle, he mounted the controls and did a three-point-turn in the small harbour space and took Milo out of the water,  bow first,  and within half an hour she was high and dry and left dangling in the cradle.  IanM then busied himself spray cleaning her bottom and getting all the barnacles off.  “We’ll leave her there for the night and put her in the boatyard in the morning,” he said as he prepared to leave. “But I was planning to stay the night on Milo!!” IanS said.  “That’s OK, I’ve levelled her off so you’ll be OK – see you in the morning” and he was gone.  What follows is IanS’s account of the next day.

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Ian MacCloud pressure washing Milo’s hull while she’s still in the cradle.  IanS slept on the boat while it was still in the cradle.

“I woke early.  I had not been expecting the boat to come out until much later in the day and was not due to stay the night at Biologica until the end of the day, so I had an early breakfast and set off to explore the route to Pheasantry Cottage and beyond.

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There are three houses NW of Caladh Harbour and Pheasantry Cottage is the middle one.  To the south of Caladh Harbour there is a small jetty in a long curved bay indicated by a thin line perpendicular to the shore – this was the landing stage for Glen Caladh Castle. To the North of Pheasantry Cottage is Glen Caladh Farm with Eileen Dearg opposite – this island is a potential “Wild Cat Island” for the grandchildren and far enough away to be an adventure.

The Pheasantry is an area on the map near Caladh harbour where Andrew and Rebecca were negotiating to buy their bothy/cottage which as it happened is also called “Pheasantry Cottage”.  It was at least two miles off road to the north of the boatyard. Apparently this costal route was created in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  Before this, access was only by sea.  The route wound its way along the coast, sometimes close to the sea, at other times climbing steeply nearly 100m through the woods to circumnavigate a large promontory.  Nearing my destination I came across the notice board below concerning Glen Caladh Castle which used to be there.

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The Glen Caladh notice board 100m from Pheasantry Cottage. It was hard to read as it was so dirty so there are some extracts below.

Some extracts: “The setting must always have been idyllic and secluded and it is no surprise that in 1867 the estate was snapped up by wealthy engineer George Stephenson, nephew of the railway pioneer, who set about making significant improvements –  the designs for the magnificent house pictured below were entirely Stevenson’s own, as were those for the estate buildings some of which are still occupied today.  (We believe the bothy part of Pheasantry Cottage was one of those buildings).  During the Great War the big house was used as a convalescent home for wounded officers. Then in World War II it was taken over by the Royal Navy, who named it HMS James Cook. In the run-up to D-day, Caladh became a training centre for the new wonder of radar technology.

 Although at the end of the war the house was no longer required by the armed services, the Ministry of Works refused to hand it back. Inevitably, the empty property developed extensive dry rot and in 1958 was demolished in a weekend exercise by the Territorial Army. Many of the stones were used in the retaining wall opposite the Tighnabruaich book shops”.

Today, there is hardly any trace of the old castle as it is overgrown with trees and shrubbery, but if you look carefully there are amazing things to find.

Andrew had asked me to look out for a link to the main road which could be a potential short cut to the cottage.  At one point I found a track to the left, steeply climbing the hill alongside a lively stream. At 100m elevation I came across hill cottage another bothy that was probably part of the Glen Caladh Castle estate.  Unfortunately the track turned into a single track path about 200m before it met the main road at 130m elevation, despite being a track on the ordinance survey map.  So there was no short cut for Andrew.

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Hillside Cottage 100m above sea level.

I then discovered their cottage, Pheasantry – not quite as idyllic as the estate agent’s picture suggested, but was in a fantastic location in a group of three cottages, with a generous rambling rocky garden rising up into the hillside and down to Caladh Harbour.

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Here are the three cottages. Pheasantry Cottage is the white one in the middle.  Part of Caladh Harbour anchorage is on the right with the tree lined north side of Eileen Dubh (Black Island) visible beyond.

I walked on a further mile or two to Glen Caladh Farm and then came back via a secluded coastal path, which gave me a view of the cottage from the sea.  When I eventually arrived back at the boatyard around lunch time, Ian MacCloud had moved Milo to her final location and there she was standing on her bilge keel with her stern propped up by a barrel.”

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Milo’s final resting place for the winter of 2017/18

“Oh there you are” said IanM, “I thought you were still asleep on the boat!”

We did not like to write this final blog, as we thought the sale might fall through, but it did eventually happen in early February 2018.

In 2018, our plan was to sail to the Orkneys around the Cape of Wrath.  However things don’t always go to plan. In March 2018 Ros was diagnosed with  endometrial cancer and she learned that she would need  to have a hysterectomy, followed by  4 and a half months  of chemotherapy.  We returned to Pheasantry for Easter 2018, to celebrate Andrew’s 44thbirthday  and Rosamund would not return again until September, after her treatment had finished.

Clockwise from top left: Our friendly robin; Easter bunnies for lunch at Portavadie; Rosamund, Hugh, Skye and Percy re-enacting Charlie and the chocolate factory; painted Easter eggs (thank you Becky); marjong at Pheasantry and  Andrew’s 44th birthday cake 

Unfortunately, the boatyard is small and Milo was boxed in by many other boats (last in first out principal).  Ian came up in June for three days to put the boat in and coincided with Andrew and the twins bringing Milo2 (their newly acquired Miracle dinghy) to Pheasantry. There was a grand meeting of the Milos near Caladh harbour before Milo1 was returned to her mooring off the boatyard for the summer.

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Milo1 meets Milo2 at the southern entrance of Caladh Harbour.  It is Andrew and Hugh sailing Milo2 (Mirror Miracle 3127) while Ian and Percy are sailing Milo1 (Hunter Legend 306)

Andrew and family had two trips on Milo in the summer – one to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran with Adam Atkinson and his three children to climb a Munro.  Becky joined them and sailed back to Pheasantry with them – imagine Milo with 3 adults and 6 children!  Then later Andrew went on a trip with his friend Simon.  Both Simon and Adam had been with us on our previous boat Tigger when we’d taken part in  the Isle of Wight “round the island” race in 2012.

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Hugh flying high off Caladh Harbour with Milo anchored in the background

Now Rosamund and Ian are back in Tighnabruaich.  Ros has literally only just finished her treatment a week ago, but recovery takes time, so while we are back on the boat for our new beginning, we will be taking it easy this year with just day trips from Caladh Harbour where Milo is now anchored. Andrew sourced some kayaks in Bristol and we brought these up on our car.

Becky, Skye and Hugh kayaking in Caladh Harbour where Milo was anchored. Later Andrew went out on the windsurfer to join them.

So, having brought the windsurfer up at Easter, Pheasantry now boasts a whole fleet of water craft ready to explore the surrounding islands.  The Swallows and Amazons would love it up here.  There is not just one “Wild Cat” island – there is Eileen Dubh (Black Island in Gaelic) at the bottom of the garden, Eileen Dearg 1.7 nm north and the Burnt Islands (Eileens Fraoich, Buidhe and Mor) about 1nm opposite toward the Eastern Kyle.  There appears to be “no end” of opportunities for adventure up here in the Firth of Clyde and we are looking forward to slow trips of discovery this year with possible longer ones next year.

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Milo anchored in Caladh Harbour with her tender drawn up at the bottom of Andrew and Rebecca’s garden at Pheasantry Cottage.  We now have choice – good weather – sailing and staying on the boat – bad weather – landlubbers staying in the cottage.

A Fyne Experience

Rosamund and I had been planning to sail up Loch Fyne since we first arrived in the Firth of Clyde in 2015, but the opportunity had evaded us.  Now we had both the time and a weather break to get to that cherished Oyster Bar at the head of the loch or so we thought…

We left Ardnishaig mid-morning in much calmer seas than our new sailing friends had  experienced the day before*.  We had a lovely sail up Loch Fyne for 3 hours reaching almost Inveraray before we had to take the mainsail down and motor the rest of the way. We picked up one of the Oyster Bar moorings  about half  a mile from the head of the lake and took the dinghy the rest of the way, leaving her on a beach at high tide.  We had read that it was not straightforward to get to the restaurant.  This was no exaggeration as we had to find sticks and hack our way through the undergrowth to find the road and eventually the restaurant.  The effort was worth it.  The food was wonderful and we were also able to stock up on good bread and fish at the deli.

We made good progress with a SE wind until we approached Inveraray (left).  Right: the head of the Loch with the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar the white blob in the far distance.

By the time we left it was getting dark – it was now after the equinox and we were noticing how the sun was setting significantly earlier each evening.  While we had been relaxing in the restaurant, the tide had left our dinghy high and dry – almost 2 cables from the waterline.  Ros commented later that it rather detracted from the wonderful experience having to lift the dinghy through the mud so far.  Ever the optimist, I said, “at least it’s firm, we could be sinking up to our knees!”, but was secretly thinking I should have brought my waders as a precaution. Even when we reached the water’s edge, the water was so shallow we had to wade another cable before Ros could get in.  Then I had to row for a while until I had the depth to get the outboard started.

Clockwise from top left – hacking through the undergrowth to get to the restaurant (dinghy at high tide in the distance); Ros with her oysters; the view from the restaurant down the loch to where Milo was moored and looking back to the restaurant when we eventually got the dinghy back to the waterline

The next day there would be no wind and the tide turned early,  so by 7:15am we’d slipped our mooring and were gently motoring SW through the morning mist.  As we approached  Inveraray we could see that we were experiencing more than an early morning mist – the promised sunny day did not materialise – instead we headed into a full thick sea fog and I had to get Rosamund up from below to stand on the foredeck with the foghorn.

The changing views of Inveraray in the mist

IMG_3442Ros with the foghorn on the foredeck

The calm sea was mirror-like and, as the mist was patchy, it led to some very interesting reflections.  The mirror-like sea also meant we saw several schools of porpoises passing us, which we might normally have missed. We’d mentioned before that one of the things we both like about sailing is the unexpected and this was certainly that and a fine substitute for the expected sunny day.

IMG_3452Leaving one sea mist behind us

IMG_3457Beautiful reflections created by the calm sea

The scary moments were nearly running into marker buoys and fish farms.  The chart plotter was a godsend, but not being able to see more than 100m at times was unnerving – suddenly 5 knots seemed very fast.

Portavadie Spa – when we last visited, there was a beautiful view – this time just sea mist

Our safe arrival at Portavadie Marina in the mist was largely down to satellite navigation.  The Portavadie spa, with its infinity and hydro pools and sauna were most welcome after our cold misty start.

IMG_3468Safely berthed in Portavadie Marina.  It was sunny over land, but at sea, as can be seen in the distance, it was still misty

* When we looked at the Marine Traffic website, we realised that Whisper had left Otter Ferry very early the morning we enter Loch Fyne and was tacking toward Largs, so we would not meet them at the restaurant that night after all.  It was only later (see their comment on our “Crinan Again” blog) that we learned that their starter motor had burnt out and they had to head for their home port as soon as possible while the winds lasted. I’m pleased to say they made it. And I’d thought they were just sailing enthusiasts!!

Crinan Again

Although the weather was atrocious, the trip through the Crinan Canal gave us both shelter, a safe passage through to the Firth of Clyde, the opportunity to meet new people and learn that one day we could return to the Crinan with the grandchildren and get them to operate the locks.

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Map showing the locks from Crinan to Cairnbaan in reverse numerical order: locks 14 to 9 were going up and 8 to 2 going down – with sea locks either end.  We berthed the first night at Cairnbaan after going down through lock 5 .

On the way, we were “paired” with Anthony and his friend Peter in “Whisper” a 40 foot Malo – a bit like a Hallberg Rassy.  Anthony was on a three-month sabbatical and had been sailing extensively round the Outer Hebrides with different crew – including his own family for a period of 6 weeks. We had both engaged Hugh Kirk to operate the locks for us as we needed two crew on the boat to handle the fore and aft lines and the fenders.  The gusting wind was quite problematical at times, and so was the swirling water in the locks on the way up.

Rosamund in her yellow waterproof on the way up (top left) and on the way down (bottom left) when it was calmer with more opportunity for conversation.  The wind forecast (right) shows why we chose to remain in the basin at Ardrishaig the next day

By the end of the first day, Friday 22nd September, we were over the top and had arrived in Cairnbaan, having passed through lock 5 (four down from the top) – only four more now to go before entering the Firth of Clyde. We all got thoroughly wet – Ros going through two sets of clothes.  This was compensated for by us all indulging ourselves in gins and tonic and having a meal at the Cairnbaan Hotel. None of us had intended eating there but the gins and tonic led to tales of sailing adventures and life in general.

The children from “Strike 3” were very keen to help

Next day we were soon down the three locks into the basin – it was a bit of a squash and a squeeze as they crammed three yachts into a space where only two were comfortable.  The third yacht, Strike 3,  had two families with four children, who were all very keen to help with the lock gates and seemed to know much more than we did about it.  It made Rosamund & I keen to try with the grandchildren one day. The main problem was on board the yachts – trying to stop the boats banging into one another as the winds were very strong.  I could see Anthony getting more and more exasperated – I knew he was keen to get out to sea and away from this land-locked experience.

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Milo safely berthed in the basin at Ardrishaig, with Whisper and Strike 3 waiting for the swing bridge to open to let them into the sea lock.  By the time they left they were both pitching into very rough seas.

Rosamund & I berthed Milo in the basin where we would wait until the next day to emerge from the sea lock.  Anthony and Peter were not so reticent and wanted to leave ASAP.  I followed their progress round the lighthouse where they turned to head into both wind and waves to exit the bay.  They were pitching so much in the waves that I could see her keel at times.  I did not envy them.  Later, on Marinetraffic.com, I followed their progress up Loch Fyne.  They had said they wanted to visit the Oyster Bar at the head of the Loch, but half way up the Loch they turned back and were clearly enjoying their sail as the they went up and down the loch several times before anchoring off Otter Ferry for the night, sheltered from the SE wind by the spit.  Perhaps we’d meet them at the Oyster bar the next night after all.

Going Backwards

We’d planned to go west through the Corryvreckan at 11:15am on Wednesday 20th September just as the tide was slack and the westerly flood was beginning, but we wanted to check the forecast first.  We had no phone link so called Belfast Coastguard on the VHF who gave us a strong wind warning of up to force 7.  As the wind was southerly and meeting the spring flood tide coming through the Corryvreckan, this did not look good for going through that day, so we decided to wait and try again the next day when the winds had moderated.  But later Ian did get a phone signal and was able to update his wind predictions for Tiree and they did not look good – in other words, we could head west the next day but there was not a weather window to get us back on time to get to Tighnabruaich the next week.  Also, the tides were not right for us to head south and go around the Mull of Kintyre, so we made the decision to cut our losses and head back to Crinan to take the canal back through to the Firth of Clyde.

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Our anchorage at Port an Tiobart.  The entrance to the Corryvreckan is just behind the dark headland on the left.  The sunny headland is the other side.

So, at 2:45pm after radioing Crinan Sea Lock to expect us about 4:30pm to get into the Crinan basin, we raised anchor and set off.  Ian had anticipated that the tides would try to sweep us north but was not expecting from the tide tables that this would be at a speed of more than 2 knots.  But when he set a track toward Crinan the boat was crabbing and only making what appeared to be 0.8 knots toward Crinan despite the engine on full speed and the jib up to give us an extra knot.  Ian soon realised we would not make the deadline for the lock at that speed and so decided to return to our original anchorage – he only needed to change the heading slightly and we were crabbing towards the coast instead of towards Crinan.  Then looking at the track he discovered that the 0.8 knots was actually backwards towards the Corryvreckan.  The tidal stream, where we were, was at least 7 knots and poor Milo was only doing 6 knots through the water.  Ian then did something he’d never done before – he set the engine to 2500rpm (he’d been advised by the previous owner to keep the revs at 2100rpm or lower). This helped speed our crabbing towards the shore and stop us being sucked further back towards the entrance of the Corryvreckan.  Eventually as we almost reached the rocky coastline we picked up an eddy which led us safely south again making progress towards our anchorage – at a rough estimate it was 1.4nm to the entrance of the Corryvreckan and we’d been swept backwards about half way there – a close call.  Interestingly, when we’d anchored, Ros said “will we be safe in this anchorage?”  and when I told her, “of course we will, it is the same one as last night” – she didn’t believe it, as we’d been motoring so fast south that she thought we’d arrived at the next anchorage.

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The meal that cheered Ian up – Duck à l’Orange

Rosamund then prepared the most amazing meal – Duck à l’Orange which was delicious and helped Ian forget the earlier traumas.  Ros then admitted she would have been much more worried if she’d realised what was actually happening.

Top left: the triangular track in the top left hand corner of the chart shows our aborted attempt on Wednesday which swept us to within 0.7nm of the Corryvreckan entrance. The bottom track is the one we took with the family when we came across a few days earlier.  The track set is toward the waypoint south of the Garbh Reisa islands.  Top right: shows the actual track pushing us way south of our intended track. Bottom: the black line is our set track to Crinan Lock after the waypoint, the red loop below shows how far south we were swept by the tide even when the boat was on auto helm continuously tracking toward Crinan

The next morning, after the usual wild swimming and a short shore trip by Ian to see if he could walk to the Corryvreckan (he couldn’t and soon gave up), we left for Crinan – this time at 9:45am 2 hours into an easterly ebb tide flowing through the Corryvreckan.  In no time at all we were tracking toward Crinan – this time at 9.5 knots and in the right direction.  Again, the tide was so strong that the autohelm could not hold the track until we approached much closer to Crinan.  We were in the lock within the hour, the same time it took us to go there and back the day before hardly leaving our anchorage more than 0.7nm away!

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Return to our berth in the Crinan Basin near The Coffee Shop

It was delightful to return to the peace of Crinan Basin.  How we both love that place.  This time we were in time for coffee and bacon butties at The Coffee Shop and had a lazy afternoon doing the washing at the Crinan Boatyard and Ian amused himself trying to change some of the inside lights to LEDs to save power when only using the batteries.  We signed up to go through the Crinan canal over the next 4 days.  As we did not have any spare crew to operate the lock gates,we asked if we could pay for help.  The normal company Yot Shop could not do anything until the weekend and so we were put in contact with Hugh Kirk who could take us through with another yacht he was managing called Viking.  So, with everything organised for the next day we had a leisurely walk to Crinan Harbour and then returned to the Crinan Hotel for our evening meal.

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View back toward the entrance to the Corryvreckan – the “V” in the distance, as the sun is near to setting at the equinox