Visitors on Ragdoll

With the nights drawing in rapidly, Chris and Rosanne left work early to try and make it down to Ragdoll before dark. It didn’t used to matter so much when she was kept on a pontoon, but now that she’s on a mooring, everything becomes that little bit trickier in the dark!

We sat Ragdoll on the pontoon overnight, and waited for our weekend visitors to arrive. Whilst we were waiting, Chris managed to fix the issues with the engine light not coming on. It turned out to be a relatively easy quick problem to fix! Yay!

Rosanne’s brother and sister-in-law arrived for their first sailing trip quite late, and we all enjoyed a takeaway and catch up on board before bed. We were up early next morning to make the most of the day, and enjoyed a “Ragdoll Special” bacon pitta for breakfast.

We sailed down the Clyde, and onwards into the Kyles of Bute. As we approached the Kyles, we were very pleasantly surprised when a tug coming in the opposite direction slowed right down so that we didn’t hit his wake at full blast… what a considerate skipper! We even had the kite up! It got a bit rainy, but it was still nice to be out. We anchored in Caladh Harbour, in among several other boats.  It was the busiest we’ve seen it in a while, and was a bit of a squeeze!  Monty bit well and Chris was most pleased.

After a bite of lunch, we all piled into the dinghy for a circumnavigation of the island.  It was the first time we’d had more than 2 of us in the dinghy, but thankfully we stayed afloat! Chris decided that the weather was too tempting not to take a snorkel, (well, it was rainy, but the water was very clear – any excuse really…) and enjoyed exploring the bay, checking out how Monty was holding along the way.  Nick, Sue and Rosanne enjoyed drinking tea and warming up back on Ragdoll.

Note for the Log

The bottom at Caladh is perfect for anchoring, especially towards the north part of the bay – gritty sandy clay, occasional small rocks and weed, otherwise very clear and obstruction free. Some debris in the form of beer and wine bottles, old disposable barbecues etc. I had to satisfy my curiosity as I have tried several times in here with our old CQR and failed to get a decent bite. As you can see, Monty the Mantus is well in! Out of curiosity, I had a glance at how our neighbours Delta was coping. It was set, but not as deeply buried, and where the Mantus had set within the length of the anchor with no drag mark, the Delta had dragged almost half a boat length! These modern anchors are well worth the investment. I also had a look at the rocks to the North entrance, and I will do another post about that soon.

With the weather improving we decided to head back to Rothesay for the evening, chasing the blue sky! Rothesay harbour was also the busiest we’d ever seen it, and thankfully there was just one Ragdoll sized space left!

We cooked a super tasty pasta meal onboard and enjoyed the rest of the evening a la Ragdoll.

Next morning we went for a walk to Port Bannatyne and checked out a house where Nick and Rosanne holidayed as children. It was nice to walk a little further than we had before, and explore a little wider afield.

After paying our berthing fees, and obviously, an icecream from Zavaroni’s we got back onboard and set off back. Rosanne made some tasty pastries along the way.

Chris got the harness out and decided to throw Rosanne overboard. She got some cool new angles of Ragdoll to photograph. Chris wasn’t able to persuade anyone else to put the harness on, so to continue the fun, he then sent Rosanne up the mast! She was pretty terrified, but also really enjoyed the awesome view. The hardest part was coming back down again!

With not much wind, we had an enjoyable motor back to our mooring, paying Cloch Lighthouse a visit along the way. As always there were plenty of porpoises! We were back at the moorings around 4pm, and after saying goodbye to our visitors we packed Ragdoll up for another week. We’re really feeling the end of season pinch now. Keeping Ragdoll on a mooring this season means we need to be a little more careful when it comes to poor weather. Combined with the shorter days, the end of the season is close by.

West Coast Adventures Part 8

Day 13 Portavadie to Rothesay

After two nights in Portavadie we felt human enough after our adventures to begin returning home. We were starting to run low on food… and even with our usual mealtime inventiveness, we were struggling to create a snack from carrots, sweetcorn, chorizo and Parmesan! After a quick look in the shop, and refuelling, we headed off, thinking that the weather was improving.

We got the sails up and had an enjoyable sail back to Ardlamont.  Rosanne only had to sing the first line of her porpoise song, when three jumped out all at once very close by!

By the time we entered the Kyles the weather was worsening, and the rain was driving hard.  We had planned on stopping in Tighnabruaich for the night, but after going round what felt like all of the moorings in the field looking for a visitors one, and finally finding one with an impossibly long pick up buoy bridle, that simply wasn’t going to be safe, we abandoned that plan and continued on. We stopped off in Caladh harbour to try Monty the Mantus out again, and allow ourselves to dry out for an hour or so. Rosanne was pretty much soaked through and shivering, so once they set off again Chris let her stay below and keep warm with her book. It’s the first time ever she hasn’t been out on deck during a passage!

We decide to head to our trusted favourite – Rothesay harbour to spend our last night. We ventured out to Sea Dragon, the local Chinese Restaurant for dinner, but it was such a rainy night we didn’t want to go wandering too far.

Day 14 Rothesay to Gareloch

The weather finally lifted next morning and Rosanne awoke to brilliant blue sky. She grabbed her camera, left Chris sleeping and dashed off to get some pictures. On her way back she stopped off for some croissants to take back for breakfast. By this point Chris was up and about doing some teak cleaning… one of his favourite jobs! We ate breakfast on deck, and then somehow Chris noticed some fishing line hanging down in the water from our prop…. doh!

We really needed to get it off before it caused any serious damage, so it was into his wet suit one last time, to go down and cut the prop free. Once again this raised a bit of curiosity amongst the other harbour visitors!

Before we headed off, we went for an icecream at Zavaronis, and then took a walk to the east of Rothesay, where we’d never been. It was almost tropical weather… which made it extremely hard to leave! As we were walking back we noticed there were a number of boats heading towards the harbour, and Chris’s pace quickened as he became concerned about Ragdoll’s safety.

As we arrived back at Ragdoll we were “spotted” by the guys onboard Lady J. They’d been following our journey via our posts on Sailing and Cruising Scotland. We also had a very pleasant chat with the skipper of Largo Bay. Unfortunately, we had put it off as long as we could, and finally had to leave.

We had a beautiful sail back up the Clyde, taking it slowly, but thoroughly enjoying it. It was so warm we were in t shirts and shorts, and Chris likened it to some of his days spent sailing in Greece! We had some more close encounters with porpoises which made Rosanne’s day!

We finally made it back to Gareloch around 7pm. We planned on trying to sail right to our mooring, but we met some rather strong tide, and whilst trying to tack, we ended up going backwards… so we had to give up and turn the engine on. There was a beautiful sunset as we berthed.

Then it was time to pack Ragdoll up and say goodbye until next time, as we made our long drive home again.

What an awesome two weeks!!!

West Coast Adventures Part 7

Day 12 Portavadie

We felt we were maybe a little hasty in our judgement of Portavadie the last time we visited, and decided we would give it another go. This time, mid week, and during a quieter part of the season. We were certainly impressed with the friendliness of the staff – in the office, spa, restaurant and bar, they were all great, and couldn’t be more helpful or pleasant.  A welcome change after the Inverhairy incident.  After 10 days onboard Ragdoll, and all the bruises and tired muscles gained from working the canal locks, we felt we deserved a treat, and a spa day was just the tonic! The forecast was for rain anyway…

We checked into the spa around 10am… and checked out around 8pm…. both with fingers and toes shaped like prunes! It was lovely to have such a relaxing day, floating around in the hot tubs, pool and outdoor infinity pool (even if it was blowing a gale and raining heavily!!!) We also enjoyed a delicious pizza and salad, rounded off with an ice cream sundae in the restaurant, and enjoyed super luxurious showers before we left!

It was back to Ragdoll for a snack for dinner, and then back to the bar for a drink before bed!

West Coast Adventures Part 6

Day 10 Ardrishaig to Inveraray…or is it INVERHAIRY!?!?

The morning was thankfully brighter and drier than the day before. We checked out of the canal first thing, and entered the sea lock with fellow sailors onboard Trofast. Then we were off up Loch Fyne to Inveraray! We were both excited to visit. Rosanne hadn’t visited since early childhood, and still had magical memories of the castle, and Chris had only ever passed through.

There were a few squalls, but apart from that it was a beautiful motorsail, with plenty of wildlife (porpoises, seals and lots of birds). The scenery was beautiful and well worth the distance. We approached Inveraray wondering if the 28kts of wind and swell funnelling up Loch Fyne was going to make anchoring overnight too unpleasant. With limited options, as it would be a long sail back to somewhere more sheltered, we decided to abandon the anchoring out option and head to the pier to dry out instead… with only a few minutes of tide left! Fortunately, we managed to probe our way into the pier, in front of the Vital Spark, where we found perfect conditions to dry out. It’s been a while since we did this, but thankfully we became so well practised during our time on the Firth of Forth it was no problem at all! It’s great to have a boat with the flexibility to do this! 

Once Ragdoll was grounded, we were off to explore! It wasn’t until after we had secured her, and it was too late to leave, that we realised the pier is completely fenced off from access to the town. There were no signs to suggest the pier was out of action coming from seaward, and nothing on the charts or pilot book either. The tide was still dropping, but had some way to go. Our only option was to roll up our trousers and paddle across the bay! A very welcoming and friendly man told us through the fence that someone has placed a ladder to access the road from the beach and we could use that. We must not have been the only ones to use this tactic! It was a comical way to arrive in a new destination, and we’re sure the locals and tourists alike had great comments between them watching our arrival! Inveraray is a beautiful town with plenty to explore for young and old alike.  We visited the Jail, Bell Tower, had a wander to the Castle and then rounded the evening off with fish and chips on the pier. 

At this point, after such a fun day, we were really glad that we had made the trip, despite the lack of access to the pier. The distance puts some people off, but the scenery is definitely worth it! Chris had a long night making sure that we landed safely again in the early hours on the next low tide. We were looking forward to exploring the shops, and visiting the castle properly the next morning, as we wouldn’t have to leave til early afternoon on the next high tide.

Day 11 Inverhairy to Portavadie

We woke the next morning, eager to spend some more time exploring Inveraray. When we looked outside we found 4 men standing on the pier beside Vital Spark, glaring at us. After the welcoming nature of everyone else we had met in Inverary, this was a bit of a surprise.  At no point did they approach us or try to make any sort of conversation. They appeared to be doing some work on the Vital Spark, but we knew nothing more about them. From their continued glaring, we felt we had obviously stepped on someone’s toes, and decided it was probably best to leave as soon as possible once we had enough water below the keel. We prepped Ragdoll to leave, and as we did so, heard the men scoff something about “debating how exactly we were going to get off the wall!?” as if we didn’t have a clue.  Rosanne desperately hoped the conditions would work in our favour and Chris could work his usual trick of making something tricky look super easy.

With the wind on the beam, Chris had a cunning plan up his sleeve to get us off the pier, and once the tide had risen, we peeled off cool, calm and smooth (much to Rosanne’s delight) using a cheeky stern spring bounce, flicking the bow through the wind. By this point we were quite relieved to get away from the hostility.

As we were leaving, one of the men came closer, still not a word from him, and took a photograph of us and Ragdoll. A little strange we felt. Surely if there was a problem with us being there the obvious thing would be to come and have a conversation with us. Getting the impression he was attempting to intimidate us, we were glad to finally be out of there.  The men continued to glare at us until we were out of sight.

Inveraray was lovely and we were glad to have visited, but we probably won’t be back. You could say we are Inverwary!  It’s a shame that a minority of people can have such an effect on tainting your impression of a place. Especially a town that relies so heavily on tourism.

The weather wasn’t as nice as yesterday so it was a long slog with a lot of squalls up to Portavadie.  The porpoises did make an appearance though which always makes it worth the trip. Mid way through the day we heard some chat on the VHF between the coastguard and another boat about a missing diver in the water off Jura.  He hadn’t been seen for two hours, and a search was being raised. Next thing we heard the Mayday relay.  We heard ongoing conversations between the coastguard, boats involved in the search, helicopter search and rescue and the lifeboat. Miraculously the diver was found on land by the helicopter shortly after. What a relief!

After popping to the office in Portavadie to check in and saying hello to some chums, we had the longest ever showers and a well earned drink in the bar!

And that was when we discovered the controversy about our overnight stay in Inverhairy.  The man who had taken our photograph had posted it on facebook, making snarly comments, calling us all manner of names such as ignorant, despicable etc, taking advantage of free berthing and not asking permission or offering to pay. It turned out that he was the owner of the pier, and had somehow expected us to know that.

Now, nowhere on that pier (or on the chart or pilot book or sailing directions) did it say anything about the pier being private property, or that berthing was discouraged or not possible. We therefore made the understandable assumption that the pier was available for public use, like most piers.  We expected that there might be a harbour master or honesty box so we just went for it.

In addition, we were not looking for a “free berth.” We are always more than happy to pay fees for the facilities that we use, and would happily have done so had there been some signage on fees and how to pay them. We have seen and used plenty of honesty boxes in other locations, as everyone who has met us on our travels will attest. Neither was there any information on the owner of the pier or who you were required to contact to ask permission to use it. Presumably we should have gone round the whole of the town asking everyone if they owned the pier…

It appears to us that the owner expected us to know who he was and beg his permission to stay there. However, for us, waking up to find 4 men glaring at us, did not exactly encourage us to approach them. Surely it would have been more appropriate for the owner to come and politely introduce himself and have a friendly chat, rather than glare at us and trying to name and shame us on Facebook.  Funnily enough, most people on the conversation saw through his ranting, and when they asked him if there were any signs or honesty boxes or contact details, his ranting became silence.  Further to that, he could also have sent us a private message to discuss the matter had he so wished.  He did not, and instead chose to do as he did.  Nice guy.

We did some research following this, and discovered that the pier was closed by the council many years ago because it had not been maintained by the current owner, and presented a safety risk to users.  What a shame for a coastal community so dependent on its tourist industry.  Think of all the opportunities for the locals and tourists alike that are being missed out on because of this situation.  Upon further digging, this is not the only incident of this guy being inhospitable to visiting boats, and our conversations with the locals indicated that they aren’t exactly delighted with him either.

We thought this article summed the situation up quite well: http://forargyll.com/?p=71964

So Inveraray, we are sorry that we were only able to go to the jail and the fish and chip shop.  Had we been able to get off the pier that morning, we would have visited the fuel station as we had come a long way and needed some diesel. We would have had breakfast at one of your fine little cafes. We needed a top up of fresh food for the fridge. We wanted to go into the bell tower, and the Duke of Argyll residence, and we would have bought some gifts for friends.  Since there is so much to do, we might even have stayed another day.  We are not the only yacht in the Clyde interested in visiting more out of the way areas.  Imagine the extra income and prosperity from a well developed pier, boat facilities and visitors moorings.

Instead, Portavadie took the bulk of that potential income.  We stayed there two nights.

Sad day for Inverary.

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.