They say “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good” – sailors of course love the wind. It gives them their free ride. They pitch their skill against it, play with it to go as fast as they can in the direction they want to go, but they do respect it, as they know it can become wild.
Nowadays we are fortunate to have so many predictive aids to anticipate those ill winds – and today there were 3 days worth of gales predicted so we sought a safe haven and are delighted to have found Port Bannatyne on the Island of Bute as we’ve been looking for somewhere to leave Milo over winter.
Port Bannatyne Marina owes its existence to the energy of just one man – Martin Stirling. He started building a jetty in 2005 by quarrying the stone locally from the island, bringing it down by the lorry load as and when he could adding more and more to the growing jetty. Although there was some local resistance, by 2009 he had opened the Marina with its 105 berths. He was managing director for its first three years before, by chance, he became the owner of a run down mussel farm which he took over in 2012 and he has now turned this into a potentially thriving business with a turnover of 500 tonnes of mussels a year. His son John now runs the Marina business and Adam, John’s son, is learning the trade. It is certainly a friendly organisation and everyone we have talked to has had nothing but praise for its founders and the management.
In port we met a sailor who had the most elegant Drascombe Coaster, rescued from 4 years of neglect after the passing of its previous owner – lovingly restored and about to be sailed, despite the impending storms, across to Largs to pick up his daughter. Later that evening he was back, delighted that his Coaster had topped 7.5 knots on its return. The next day despite the impending gales, he set off with his daughter for Lamlash on Arran. He was planning to settle there with a friend on a farm and give up his job in Oxfordshire. This seeded further thoughts about getting a Drascombe Lugger for Branscombe. Also he had sailed in many risky situations, including on the yacht, Cheeki Rafiki that later lost its keel crossing the Altantic with the loss of all aboard.
On the first evening Ros, the food scout, booked us into the Russian Tavern at the Port Royal Hotel. The restaurant had some good reviews on TripAdvisor and we were intrigued by the idea of Russian food on the Isle of Bute. The meal was a very strange experience with the owner rather too persistently attempting to make conversation with us, the only customers of the evening – even Ian, who is normally pathologically friendly, ended up saying “do you mind if I talk to my wife – we have a lot to discuss!”. The Borscht soup was rather tasteless and the scallop dish underwhelming. The Geogian wine was excellent and we finally ended with vodka that finally gave an authentic touch to the evening.
The next evening we planned to walk to Rothesay, but were picked up by John Stirling in his black van on his way back home. Dropped at the centre of Rothesay, we now had the benefit of John’s recommendations and, finding a number of seafront restaurants closed, we ended up at the Victoria Hotel on the first floor with a magnificent view across the bay and the food there was better than we expected.
The rain was relentless the next day, but after we’d done more “catching up” with our work we decided to walk across the island to Ettrick Bay, passing along the way St Colmac’s Stone Circle surrounding the tree below, one of two known stone circles on the island, consisting of 8/9 stones set on a rough circle of 15m in diameter thought to be 4000 years old. The view across to Arran was stunning.