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.
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.
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.