West Coast Adventures Part 5

Day 8 Crinan Basin to Cairnbaan

With a wet day ahead we got started on the canal fairly early. We left the basin lock with a motor boat in tow, but they soon disappeared and we were left to do our own thing. As we approached the first lock of the day we caught this boat up again, but with another yacht already in the lock there was no space for us too. We hung back and waited to follow afterwards.

As we were waiting, a charter dive boat arrived and overtook us, without considering that we were already waiting and were busy preparing the lock. Eventually they moved themselves far enough forward to let Ragdoll into the lock too. Although they had plenty of extra crew, it was a bit of a case of too many cooks, and was incredibly disorganised. Rosanne ended up doing a lot of the work despite the extra bodies, including having to take the other boats lines, because the crew continuously kept forgetting to go ahead in preparation for the next lock. Rosanne wouldn’t have minded if the skipper or crew had at least said thank you! Rosanne had to reluctantly take charge of the situation, otherwise noone was going anywhere! The other boat finally stopped for the day at Dunardry and we continued on by ourselves.

Having done the journey both in a group, and as a single boat, we actually preferred doing it on our own. It was more or less the same amount of work anyway, as the other crew didn’t really do much to lessen the load. Having another boat, especially such a large one, made the locking up more chaotic, and we had to be much more careful opening the sluices.

On the journey through to Crinan Rosanne had noticed a swallow or house martins nest in one of the lock gates. This time around, the babies were now sitting out of the nest on one of the wooden panels of the gate. They were plenty above the current water line, but still not the safest of places to nest! The poor little things looked completely soaked from the rain. With a horrible fear of catapulting them into the canal, Rosanne was extra careful when closing that particular lock gate!

We pushed on down the locks to Cairnbaan, and stopped off just across from the pontoon we stayed on on the previous journey. It had rained all day, and so we were relieved to take our foulies off and let our skin breath. It’s hot work dealing with the lock gates, and even in the miserable weather, it was easy to get too hot wrapped up inside all our wet weather gear.

We felt we’d done a great job getting through the locks, especially in such miserable weather, and so we rewarded ourselves with dinner at the Cairnbaan hotel. We sat in the bar on a very comfortable sofa and enjoyed the rest of the evening. After that it was definitely a night for hot water bottles on Ragdoll.

Day 9 Cairnbaan to Ardrishaig

With another wet day on the cards, we worked our way from Cairnbaan down to the basin at Ardrishaig, arriving around lunchtime. The basin was quite full and so we had to raft alongside another yacht. Some more yachts followed us down and it was all a bit chaotic as everyone got moored safely. Once again we were super glad we have so many fenders. We often get amused comments from people about the number we have, but in situations like this, with so many boats in close proximity, we have every single one in a key position so that we have far less to worry about incase anyone does collide with us. We don’t understand why some boats have so few!!

Bizzarely, at around 4 pm, the maelstrom stopped and the sun came out! We went for a wander in Ardrishaig, but didn’t find it had quite the same qualities as Crinan. We found a shop and restocked our supplies. Almost kicking ourselves for not pushing out to sea and heading on to the next destination, we made the most of it and got the paddle boards out for a trip down Loch Gilp. It was flat calm and there was lots of wildlife around…porpoises, seals and lots of herons! It was great to be out on the SUPs again, although Rosanne’s arms were tired from all the locks, so we took it fairly easy and enjoyed the view! We spent the evening warming up with some good company onboard Valia – our boat neighbours for the night!

West Coast Adventures Part 4

Day 5 Crinan Basin to Ardfern

Next day dawned bright and sunny again, and we had breakfast of cake and hot chocolates at the Crinan Coffee Shop whilst Chris did a couple of bits for work using the wifi. We watched a seal hunting mackerel, which were hunting sprats off the harbour wall. After a trip to the chandlery to pick up the charts for the local area, we decided to set off in the direction of Ardfern. We enjoyed the luxury of the hydraulic sea lock! Rosanne’s muscles were a tad tired from the day before!

Once in open water again we got the sails up and enjoyed a leisurely drift, vaguely in the right direction up Loch Craignish, inside of Eilean Macaskin. The wind was very light, but it was nice to be sailing again, and we spotted some seals along the way on the skerries surrounding Liath-Sgeir Mhor. We looked into the Goat Island anchorage, but it was deemed “not as perfect” as the anchorage we had just passed on the North East corner of Eilean Macaskin, so we looped back and put “Monty” the Mantus – our new anchor to the test. Happily, Monty bit hard and deep on the first try on a short scope in 5m. We climbed into the dinghy and set off round the beautifully sheltered bay to explore. There was a wreck marked on the chart, but we couldn’t find it anywhere. The water was shallow, and we could watch the wildlife in the water and on the sandy seabed. After a good explore of the bay, we made for land, and went to explore the island. We found a wee bothy which was in excellent condition, but thoroughly shut up, and had a little walk along a vaguely beaten path. It soon got overgrown and boggy and so we decided to turn back before we fell down a hole or got eaten by thistles!

Back on Ragdoll we continued our sail up Loch Craignish to Ardfern. Ardfern was a hub of activity, but they managed to squeeze us into a berth. On our usual Marina tour where Chris likes to perv on all the boats, and Rosanne pretends to get frustrated while secretly enjoying looking at the bigger boats, we met Chris and co on Happy Dawn who had just come back from the Bay of Pigs on the north of Jura. We also bumped into Slippi Jin who are based in the same home mooring field as us. We set off for a walk around Ardfern in the evening, and soon found the local pub – The Galley of Lorne Inn. We sat outside in the beer garden and made friends with a rather playful dog. He quickly became our buddy when our burgers arrived! After that we wandered back to the marina and once again stopped for a chat with Dave and Karen of Slippi Jin and their lovably crazy spaniels. The chat soon became drinks onboard, and by the end of the evening Chris was just about convinced that a spaniel would make an ideal boat dog…

…though next morning he denied admitting it!

Day 6 Ardfern, Mostly All Ardfern

We half considered getting up at the crack of dawn to head through the Dorus Mor and up to Oban….but then we remembered we’re on holiday and would rather just take it easy! After breakfast we checked that we could stay for another night, and Chris got overly excited about the drawers full of every shiny piece of hardware you can imagine in the chandlery, and then we piled into the dinghy to go exploring. We enjoyed a long, lazy trip in shallow water up through the Lagoon behind Eilean Mhic Chrion.

As usual, we were boat spotting as we went, and Ardfern was no disappointment – its chock full of great cruising boats! We took a walk on the island while we were on the way back, and then it was some time out for boat maintenance and a wee trip to the well stocked local shop for some provisioning. Our reward for working was a trip through the moorings, around the coastline and up through the Lagoon again on the iSUPs. Once back at the marina, we tried some yoga on the paddleboards, had a tasty dinner, and then headed to bed! Another great day, and we were really glad we didn’t set off on a mad mission… it was the best kind of day for chilling!

Day 7 Ardfern to Crinan Basin

With the weather about to turn, and reaching the approximate half way point in our trip, we chose to head back to Crinan and spend the next two days working back through the canal. As we were leaving Ardfern we almost joined in with a race start! On the way to Crinan, we had some gusts up around 28kts again, and as usual, the wind was from exactly where we wanted to go! On the way into Crinan, we had a bit of a wait for the sea lock to become available, so we dropped Monty the Mantus to wait… this turned into a bit of an adventure. Monty got an excellent bite, so excellent that we were both nearly catapulted overboard! When the time came to retrieve him, we hauled up an old pot weight too, adding at least 30kg to the lift! Fortunately we got the anchor to the surface where we were able to cut away the fouling. We had to wait a while in the sea lock as there were several boats heading in behind us. In the end we were locked up with three other boats which was a snug fit and quite entertaining. Once inside, we were given the ultimate berth right in front of the Crinan Coffee Shop. It would have been rude not to have hot chocolate and cake sitting outside by Ragdoll.

As we were watching some boats coming up the sea lock, we spotted some children with water pistols, who were soaking the canal staff, all in good fun. Chris decided we should get our water pistols out too, ready in defense, and rushed off to fill them. A while later we got back onboard Ragdoll, and Rosanne squealed when she noticed the sink was overflowing….all of our lovely hot water was overflowing from the sink and draining directly into the fridge….the salmon was poached and the spinach was soggy! It was a good job we noticed when we did!

Once we had cleaned up after the chaos, Rosanne went for a walk around the coastline, whilst Chris did a bit of snorkeling, and then we joined forces to bake a Courgette Bread / Pizza type thing… it worked out ok, but it was more of an Omelette! We’ve been enjoying experimenting more with our boat cooking! 

By the time darkness hit, it was getting really blustery. We went for a brisk walk around the basin, but were glad to get back onboard Ragdoll and get the hot water bottles out!

West Coast Adventures Part 3

Day 3 Tarbert to Cairnbaan

We spent the morning exploring Tarbert harbour on the Paddleboards and built up some more confidence! With the wind picking up, we decided to pack up and head on to Ardrishaig and the Crinan Canal.

On the way we had a small detour into Barmore Island, a lovely bay that Chris had visited in childhood. We scouted out the anchorage and then got back on our way. The wind was really picking up heading up Loch Fyne, reaching up to 28kt gusts, but it was nothing Ragdoll couldn’t handle!

As we neared Ardrishaig, a pod of Common Dolphins joined us! Quite an exciting change from the usual porpoises. We soon found ourselves at the Sea Lock at Ardrishaig, where things seemed to happen in a bit of a blur. We were quickly booked in, and assisted  through the Sea Lock, while it dawned on us what we were letting ourselves in for!

The canal staff at the Sea Lock suggested that we may like to pay the additional £60 for assisted passage through the canal, as there was just the two of us. They were almost insistent, but being young and stupid, we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said “how hard can it be!?” We both admitted later that we were both a little edgy on the inside, wondering if we were taking on more than we could chew?!

We were assisted through the first couple of lock gates by the very helpful and friendly staff, who made sure we knew what we were doing before leaving us to our own devices!

The sun came out and we were delighted to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery, and on such calm waters. We made it through the first set of locks, and under the first bridge before a 40 min stretch of motoring. We stopped off on a pontoon along the way to grab some last minute supplies from a shop, and finally stopped off for the night on a pontoon at Cairnbaan, just below Lock 5 for the night.

Although the canal is only 9 miles long, progress is relatively slow, and lock gates must not be opened in the evening, as this is when the water levels are checked and adjusted. Although the work is perfectly manageable by two people, it is by no means easy, and so we weren’t keen on over doing it! The weather and scenery was so beautiful we certainly didn’t want to rush it anyway! It’s probably a little different in the height of summer with a lot more traffic, but we felt no pressure in taking our time. Working the lock gates was great fun!

After a walk ahead to see what tomorrow would bring, and with the sun still shining, we set up a disposable bbq on a rock by the canal and had a delicious meal as the sun set. What a satisfying way to end the day! Obviously we followed it up with toasted marshmallows as the embers died. Whilst helicopter spinning a teatowel over his head to try and fend off the midges, Chris managed to send a fork flying into the depths of the canal! At least it wasn’t something more valuable!!!

Day 4 Cairnbaan to Crinan Basin

Next morning we had the Cairnbaan locks and bridge to tackle first. We had to wait for a boat coming down before we could set off, so it was a slow but pleasant start to the day.

All the bridges are operated by lock staff, so we were given a hand with a few gates at this stage, which lightened the work a lot! Whilst the canal man assisted Chris through one lock, it freed Rosanne up to move on up and prepare the next one, so that Ragdoll could move straight into it instead of stopping every time. We met our second boat of the day at this point and had a pleasant chat whilst we waited for the water levels to equalize.

After reaching the end of this set of locks, we had another stretch of motoring towards the summit. One thing we noted was how friendly everyone was. We passed/were passed by lots of walkers and cyclists along the canal path and almost all gave a friendly wave or a hello!

At summit level there was a fantastic view, and we couldn’t help but stop and get the camera out. There was a lake alongside the canal, and we were tempted to get the paddleboards out. We were conscious of time though and realised that we wouldn’t make it all the way to Crinan if we stopped here for too long, so tempting as it was to stay we continued on. By the time we reached Lock 11, Rosanne was starting to lag a little… and no wonder, it was past 3pm and we’d not had anything to eat since breakfast. Thankfully Chris recognised the signs and threw Rosanne a banana and bounty bar to keep her going for the remaining 3 locks.

As Rosanne was closing down Lock 13 after Ragdoll had passed through, she was seriously struggling to close a particularly sticky gate. As Chris arrived back up the hill to help, a man stopped his car and came to assist. Just as all the knights in shining armour arrived she managed to get it going! Typical!!

After the Lock 13 we had another motor with a couple of bridges to pass. Chris enjoyed getting to use our horn. One quick blast and the bridge was opened before your eyes!

We arrived into Crinan just in time to get into the basin. The final Lock gates are hydraulic and operated by Canal Staff only. We found a nice wee spot to moor up in the basin for the evening, and enjoyed the sunny atmosphere. We quickly noticed that there was a huge shoal of mackerel just off the pier, and Chris was straight in there with his fishing rod…. first cast and a line full of shiny mackerel. There were billions of sprat in the water and every so often you would see the mackerel appear in a feeding frenzy. It was fascinating to watch. The locals were out with nets shovelling the sprats into buckets to sell as whitebait at the hotel. Some of the mackerel were a wee bit small, so it took a few goes, til we had 4 tasty mackerel ready for tea.

We pan fried them up with some mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, courgette and garlic, and it was delicious.

After tea we went for a walk up the hill, past the chandlery and boat yard to old Crinan Harbour. It was a beautiful evening, and there were lots of locals about also catching mackerel and sprats. We headed back just before dark, paying a visit to the Vital Spark in the boat yard on our way. There was a beautiful sunset over the Sound of Jura. We finished the evening off in the bar at the Crinan Hotel where we thought about our options for the next step.

West Coast Adventures Part 2

Day 2 – Rothesay to Tarbert

After another lazy morning, and a quick visit to the hardware shop to pick up some essentials we set sail on the next leg of the adventure. With plenty of rain, but also some wind in the right direction we sailed through the Kyles and on towards Tarbert. Once again we had plenty of porpoises along the way!

We arrived in Tarbert slightly soggy, but thankfully it turned out to be a dry evening. Chris got on with cleaning the rest of the hull and we won back the rest of our lost speed! Meanwhile, Rosanne got her inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard out for some practise. She enjoyed spying on the local wildlife!

At one point Chris noticed a disturbance in the water and alerted Rosanne to the fact it was heading straight towards her. Whilst Chris ran off up the pier to watch the huge shoal of fish pass through the harbour, poor Rosanne, feeling slightly vulnerable on the water, had a momentary panic that she was about to be dragged into the depths by some mystery sea creature!

Once back on dry land it was time to warm up and enjoy some Thai Green Curry on board Ragdoll before bed.

West Coast Adventures Part 1

Day 1 – Gareloch to Rothesay

It was touch and go whether this holiday was going to happen after all! Chris had been sent to Houston two weeks previously and just narrowly escaped being trapped there by hurricane Harvey!

We arrived at Ragdoll late on Saturday and spent a while unpacking and figuring out where to store things. Chris couldn’t understand why we had so much stuff, but Rosanne had to remind him that the longest we’d ever spent on-board before was four nights!

Sunday dawned a nice bright morning, and whilst Chris had a long lie in recovering from his jetlag, Rosanne enjoyed drinking tea on deck watching the wildlife- including a Kingfisher!

In the afternoon we set off towards Rothesay. Within a few minutes of motoring, we began to wonder why we were going so slowly!? We had lost 3 kts off our usual speed and put it down to growth on the hull.

On arrival in Rothesay Chris got his wetsuit on and jumped in to investigate. Sure enough, the propeller was home to a number of barnacles, and there was plenty of soft growth across the whole hull.

Chris spent a couple of hours scrubbing, and making friends with the fish, whilst Rosanne entertained the curious onlookers. Once the prop and one side of the hull was clean he decided to call it a day and Rosanne rewarded him with dinner at our favourite Indian restaurant.

We were super excited about where the next 14 days would take us!!

 

Playing with Toys!

With all our new toys to play with we were just too eager to work a normal 5 day week! We escaped early, on Thursday and drove down to Ragdoll just as the daylight was fading. We spent Thursday night at the mooring, before heading off to Holy Loch next day. It was a bit of a miserable grey day with a fair bit of rain, and decent amount of chop – but hey – we’d rather be sailing on a bad day than in the office!

Once booked in at Holy Loch we were off like a shot to Swordfish Marine Engineering to check out the outboards. We were assisted by a very helpful chap and walked away very happy with our new Mercury 3.5hp Fourstroke outboard. Obviously we spent the next 2 hours zooming round the marina testing it out. Thankfully the rain eased off and the sun even came out for a while! What a great way to spend a Friday afternoon!

With rain setting in we made dinner onboard and cozied up for the evening, watching some youtube videos and catching up on the blog.

Next morning dawned brighter and calmer so we got the SUPs inflated and headed out into the marina. It’s not quite as easy as it looks, and it took a wee while to get our balance. Chris was up on his feet like a pro in no time! Rosanne took a little longer building up her confidence, but eventually made it to standing, with an applause! Whilst we had been working on our skills, a cruise ship had been unloading passengers via small trip boats. We had provided plenty of entertainment for them!!

Worn out by our training, before heading off, we ventured to the Holy Loch Coffee Shop for an epic hot chocolate and a celebratory cake!

Holy Loch was quite a hub of activity, from it’s Cruise ship antics, to a ship loading wood, there was plenty to keep us entertained!

With the weather worsening slightly again, we ventured off hoping to find some sunnier skies in Loch Goil. Unfortunately, the wind was in the wrong direction (as seems to always be the case!!) so we motored our way over. We managed to grab the last of the visitor moorings at Lochgoilhead and had dinner in the cockpit, before heading out in the dinghy for a wander and a trip to the pub.

On the return journey, Rosanne was keen to be in charge of the outboard. Unfortunately, after one glass of wine, she forgot everything she had learnt and put the engine into a manic circular motion, going round and round. This sent her into a giggling fit making it even more impossible to regain control…thankfully Chris stepped in to restore order to the situation!! Somehow we made it back to Ragdoll.

The sky had begun to clear, and the promise of a meteor shower was too great not to stay up and watch. We turned the cockpit into a snug, with all of our cushions, blankets and even a couple of hot water bottles, and bedded down to watch the show!

With rain (again) the next morning we had a lazy morning, before setting off back. We stopped off at Carrick Castle, where Chris got back on his SUP and Rosanne took the dinghy for a pootle. Back on Ragdoll, we headed back to our mooring, sad to be leaving for another week. The porpoises put on an excellent display which made up for it though! Before we left Ragdoll, we decided she deserved a good scrub! She’s back to looking nice and shiny again now! Roll on next time!

Christmas in August!?

We still have a long list of things we’d like for Ragdoll, and have spent so much time talking and thinking about them, that we decided it was time to treat her/us with some new toys!

Meet Monty the Mantus!

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We’ve had real issues with anchoring in the Clyde so far. We have tried in several different locations, but always struggled to get a satisfying bite. This anchor looks (and feels) far more promising! From Chris’s initial testing on the front lawn it is hard to imagine Monty not getting a bite in anything! We’re hoping for lots more anchoring out opportunities now that Monty is part of the team!

Since we’ve been on the mooring, we have obviously been getting much more use out of the dinghy. An outboard has been on the list for a while, and we had spotted some in the chandlery at Holy Loch on our previous visit. We finally decided to take the plunge and buy one… a Mercury 3.5 Fourstroke from Swordfish Marine Engineering at Holy Loch.

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And then…having bought two presents for Ragdoll, we thought it was only fair to buy some toys for us too…so we bought the inflatable stand up paddleboards that we have been eyeing up for a while! We’re looking forward to testing them out, and hopping on those to explore, instead of always having to use the dinghy! Fingers crossed we can stay upright!!!

We’ll be eating smart price for the next few weeks now…!!