Fort Augustus to Fort William – the final stretch of the Caledonian Canal

Our main problem was the weather – it was still “low” after “low” after “low” and we were travelling SW into the nose of the wind – the sails were having a real rest. The main highlights of this last section of the Caledonian canal were “going over the top”, returning once more to the Corriegour Lodge Hotel on Loch Lochy and the next day descending the eight locks of Neptune’s staircase.

The top section of the canal through Loch Oich is quiet, serene and wooded – we were following a Danish crew aboard Aurora, a new 36ft Luffe, and Ros started chatting to them in the locks and we agreed to lead them to the jetty at the Corriegour Lodge Hotel as we had told them that the food there was good.  Would there be enough depth by the jetty for them to berth?

 

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Passing through Loch Oich and then the canal leading to Loch Lochy

 We agreed to berth first.  We nearly went aground ourselves and found that we had to pull Milo back to the end of the jetty, before we had more than 0.7m under our keel – enough for them to berth in.  We radioed them to come in carefully and we’d take their ropes to slow them down before they went aground.  This worked well – with them projecting about 2m from the end of the jetty.  We walked up to the hotel together, and, over pre-dinner drinks in the lounge discussed with the patron, Christian, the possible lengthening of the jetty for fin-keel yachts.  She was very keen to encourage more boating people to come to her hotel and encouraged me to email later with suggestions and some ideas on the yachting/boating terminology she would need.  The Danes, over the meal tried to encourage us to sail across the North Sea next year to visit Denmark – who knows – we could be tempted, if Ros would consider night sailing.

Milo berthed with Aurora at the rickety jetty of the Corriegour Lodge Hotel, the walk through the woods for the evening meal, the view from the dining room and of the dessert.

 The Danes left early, but we stayed on the Jetty until lunchtime as it was pouring with rain.  In fact, the rain hardly stopped all day, so again we motored head-to-wind (and rain) to pick up the canal again and managed to get to the top of Neptune’s Staircase by late afternoon and arranged our descent for 8am the next morning.  We’d forgotten how isolated the staircase was – the nearest shop was over a mile away, so we battened down and ate a lovely meal on board of Lamb steaks we’d bought at the butchers in Fort Augustus, followed by Ambrosia Creamed Rice with Mrs Bridges Scottish Raspberry Preserve.

Descending the staircase, the next morning was much more efficient and quicker than when we had come up.  We were following a much larger yacht called Maxi Cosi and at first I thought we’d encountered mysterious aliens and was about to call in “the Doctor” when Ros realised they were like bee keeper’s hoods that the crew were wearing to keep off the midges.  It was then that I realised that my head was a bit itchy and perhaps, despite wearing a hat – I’d been midged around the edges. As we progressed down the locks Ros walked Milo down from above while I tended to the rear warp and the engine.

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Ros walking Milo down Neptune’s Staircase following the “beekeepers” on Maxi Cosi – toward the bottom we were drawing quite a crowd

When we eventually arrived at the sea lock we berthed outside for a while to prepare ourselves for sea sailing once again and getting kitted up to sail once more into wind and rain, but this time against waves and tides as well.

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Final view of Ben Nevis from the sea loch as we left the Caledonian Canal.

 

 

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