Today was the day when Andrew and his old school friend would join us for the first stage of their Highland adventure. We had just finished provisioning for lunch when they arrived. Andrew + the twins, Hugh and Percy (9) and Adam and his two boys Patrick (10) and Albert (Albie – 7). Ballachulish Marina had been build where the old slate quarry used to be, so the first thing the boys did was to explore the shore for skimmers – Percy said that these were the best skimmers ever. Then we had lunch – a huge fry-up cooked by Andrew.
All aboard for a fry-up – Andrew is cooking at the galley and Adam sitting on the gangway steps.
After lunch we cast off and headed down Loch Lever for a sail and to see if we could find the Lochleven Seafood Café. The wind was gusty and variable and Andrew found it difficult to avoid constantly jibing, which kept everyone on their toes. After an hour of sailing we spotted the café and started the engine, lowered the sails and picked up a mooring – the only problem was that it was 3:40pm and we were not booked at the restaurant until 6pm. Clearly a shore party was needed. Andrew, Adam, and three boys (Percy stayed behind with Rosamund to play cards) came with Ian in the dinghy – beached on a sea-weedy beach and visited the café. After a quick visit to their fish tanks we decided to do a walk to get the boys in training for the next day. Walking along the road towards the narrows – we soon came across a footpath heading up the hill to our left – surprisingly this was a footpath to the lost village of Camus na h Eirghe a prehistoric village abandoned in the early 19th century. It was a lovely walk up through a tree lined path (an advantage in pouring rain) and the dry stone walls of all the buildings and paddocks could be clearly seen, although there were a number of trees growing in the middle of the complex so it was difficult to make out the original plan, particularly as some of the local farmers were using parts to store pallets and other farming detritus.
Afternoon walk to the lost village of Camus na h Eirghe
Returning to the loch, we set off back to Milo to get ready for returning again for our meal. This took two trips in the tender to land everybody ashore. We then lifted the tender clear of the rising tide before attempting the slippery sea-weedy assent to the restaurant.
Meal in the Lochleven Seafood Café
It was a fantastic meal and the staff were very friendly and helpful – we ate early as we were hoping to leave before it got dark at 7:30, but we were enjoying it so much that it was 8:30pm before we left – it was pitch black and we only had two torches between us. The path to the tender was treacherous in the dark – so slippery on the seaweed. Yet we managed to get the first party on the dinghy and pushed off so that the motor could be started. I have to give honourable mention to Adam’s sacrifice here. He pushed the dinghy out despite getting trousers, socks and shoes thoroughly soaked. The second party helped the returning dinghy to find them by shining a torch (iPhone) from the beach, but sadly the outboard got tangled up with weed and never did start after that, so Ian had to row the tender back to Milo against quite a strong head wind – it took ages.
Once back on the boat, the dinghy was secured in tow and we slipped the mooring. The problem was that it was pitch black – navigation lights were on and Ian was able to set waypoints to aim for and get the boat to track toward them, but he found the brilliance of the chart recorder ruined his night vision so when it eventually came to getting back to home port he relied on Adam and Andrew up front with a powerful torch and night vision respectively shouting out instructions to the helm – “left a bit” – “careful of that boat to starboard” – “what boat, I can’t see it “ says the helm, “watch out for that buoy dead ahead” says Andrew – helm adjusted quickly to starboard. Watch out for that headland on the right. Helm adjusted quickly to port and so on until we got to our berth in a very narrow inlet. When first coming in by daylight, Ian managed to turn in one “U” turn but this time it took four back and fourths to get into position.
Then the bedding – how would we sleep? – four boys in the front cabin and Adam and Andrew sleeping together in the main cabin? In the end natural selection won the day – with Adam and his two boys sleeping in the front cabin and Andrew and his two boys in the main cabin, with Ros and Ian in our usual cabin in the stern of Milo.
The next morning it was difficult to get going. The fact that the table in the main cabin lowers to make an enormous bed is very useful on Milo, particularly as Andrew managed to fill the gangway with cushions from various main cabin settees (4 in all) and ultimately made the whole cabin into a huge bed. My biggest problem was persuading him to get up in the morning so that I could lay the table for breakfast.
All aboard Milo in the morning
Eventually we had breakfast – Patrick yet again enjoyed his bacon butties – having three in a row. We then went swimming in the Isles of Glencoe Hotel pool. The boys enjoyed the Jacuzzi.
Boys swimming in the Isles of Glencoe Hotel pool
The mountain climbing party left just before lunch to provision and set off for Fort William. The plan was to park as close to the ascent as they could – then set off and set up a base camp near Loch Meall, leaving early next morning for the ascent – returning to break camp in the afternoon. I learned later that all went to plan with the whole team summiting at about 13:00 hours. Meanwhile, Rosamund and I had an afternoon nap sheltering from the downpour.
Mountain climbing party setting off on the first part of their assent to Loch Meall the planned site for their base camp