The Kyles of Bute – 2015

We’d heard a lot about how beautiful the Kyles of Bute were, but four days weatherbound in Port Bannatyne was enough to dampen our enthusiasm. We did go out on one of the grey wet days to venture up Loch Striven by sail and back against the wind by motor – but the beauty of the Loch escaped us behind the mist, the driving rain and the clouds.

What a contrast the next day – to sail in sunshine goose-winged with a following wind up the East Kyle. What is a Kyle anyway? After much research it turned out to be the Scottish word for a Strait – like the Straits of Gibraltar. A narrow passage of sea between two land masses. The Isle of Bute fits to the mainland like one of those tessellating shape games (Tetris) where the diamond shape has not yet been fitted into place. The Kyles of Bute comprise two narrow Straits or Kyles – one running NW to SE (the East Kyle) and the other running NE to SW for most of the time. Sailing through the Kyles of Bute is a challenge for any sailor as the wind tends to funnel along the Kyles or suddenly changes as the topology of the surrounding hills changes. Even the locals warned us that the winds were unpredictable. They also warned us to steer clear of the Waverley as the captain had a reputation for ignoring sailing vessels and steaming straight on at 14 knots regardless.

Sailing through Caladh HarbourIMG_7922

Our sail to the meeting of the two Kyles was uneventful and luckily for us, we did not meet the Waverley as we navigated our way through the narrows of the Burnt Islands to the lovely anchorage of Caladh harbour and round the island of Eilean Dubh past Caladh Quay where it looked like a youth club were preparing their boats for a sailing race. Leaving Caladh we started tacking our way into the head wind making very slow progress as the winds were light. But now we were not in a hurry to get anywhere – we had all the time in the world and the scenery was beautiful with numerous yachts on the move – some sailing, but the majority motoring. We passed Tighnabruaich looking for potential mooring places, but Rosamund had read about the Kames Hotel that had its own mooring buoys for yachts. And they were very welcoming and served excellent food. We had a very peaceful night on their swing mooring. The sunset was exquisite and the views from the boat in the morning so peaceful and smooth – such a contrast to the four grey rainy days earlier.

Sunset in KamesIMG_7948


A trip to Post Office in Kames the next day led to the discovery of many effigies in the village. Was it an early Guy Fawkes day? No, there was a scarecrow competition in Argyll and Kames and their residents had made a number of innovative contributions.

Kames Scarecrows


We tried tacking south against the Southerly wind the next day. We even “raced” against another Hunter Legend 306 – but a lull in the wind persuaded us to motor to the headland where we could get a better course for sailing with the wind on our port beam all the way to Portavadie. We called it Portaverdie as it sounded slightly Italian. It was a new Marina with 250 berths and masterchef restaurant and a massage/beauty/therapy centre with an infinity pool about to open at the end of the year.

Our first course in the Portavadie Marina RestaurantIMG_7987

Berthed next to us was a huge motor cruiser Reala II – the owner said he hoped I would not mind, but he’d taken a picture of our boat to send to his daughter in Australia as her new partner was called Milo!! What surprised me when discussing his boat was that it could go 20 mph but used 225 litres of fuel per hour. Admittedly Milo could only manage 5 knots or 5.5 mph, but it only used 1.4 litres of fuel an hour – quite a contrast.!!

Our last day returning to Port Bannatyne was a 21nm sail and this time we did sail all the way. The winds were stronger so we were able to make 4-6 knots most of the time. The West Kyle was a breeze and the Southerly wind channeled behind us to push us quickly up the West Kyle to the Burnt Isles. We had to tack through the narrows between Bute and the Burnt Isles and then came across both the Colintraive Ferry and the Waverley while beating into a strong wind with little leeway. We managed to tack across the ferry on the starboard tack but had to go about just before the Waverley passed – so at one point it looked as if we were on a collision course, but she was travelling very fast so passed across our bow with about a hundred metres to spare.


The Waverley crossing our bow very close and at speed


Then we tacked up the whole East Kyle and, as time progressed and we were half way between low and high tides, we must have been tacking against a strong tide as I noticed our track was getting more and more concertinaed.


Milo Picture from Reala II



We were thankful to arrive back in Port Bannatyne and berth at our familiar berth and assumed it was coincidence that the rain was starting yet again.

The next day Ian took the ferry to the mainland and then the bus to collect the car from Ardrossan, returning to Port Bannatyne Marina to load up for our return journey to Edinburgh for the Festival.

Milo was lifted out the following week and while on the crane had some mast-top repairs done to restore the missing wind vane and fit a wind vane.

Milo in winter storage until April 29th, 2016.





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