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 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 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.

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…!!

Ragdoll gets a makeover

We had been chomping at the bit to start doing some interior work on Ragdoll, and finally the chance came with some poor weather and weekends where we couldn’t make it down to see Ragdoll.

We stripped the sole boards out and took the ceiling panels down, returning with a fully laden car to Aberdeen. The next few weeks were spent stripping the old varnish from the sole boards, before some very careful re-varnishing by Chris.

He also tackled the steps, who’s insides double up as our rubbish bin. It has always been impossible to get rid of the smell from 30+ years of bin juice, no matter how much bleach we threw inside it. Chris painted the inside in white paint to freshen it up, and stripped and re-varnishes the outside again too.

Then it was onto the ceiling panels. They were a little featureless before, so we added some grooves. Rosanne had great fun being let loose with the router!! Normally she’s not allowed to touch the power tools. We painted the panels white and bought some new strips of wood to complete the look.

Once installed back on Ragdoll, the combination of the two completed features made such a difference! She’s already looking great, with more work to follow!

Loch Goil

After keeping Ragdoll in James Watt Dock Marina for her first couple of months in the Clyde, we decided to move her and experience life on a mooring for the first time. Whilst marinas are great for all their handy facilities, we were finding that we tend to turn up on a Friday and disappear off until the end of the weekend, not really using the facilities anyway, therefore a mooring would be a far cheaper option for us.

We sailed Ragdoll to her new home on Saturday morning, before a return journey via ferry and bikes to pick up the jeep. We made it back to Ragdoll by mid afternoon, and decided to set out and explore our new surroundings. We headed for Loch Goil, arriving mid evening. The plan was to anchor off Carrick Castle, but unfortunately after several attempts our anchor just wouldn’t take the bite. Thankfully there were plenty of moorings close by and so we took one of those instead.

We spent a beautiful summers evening onboard with a boat cooked lasagne, surrounded by beautiful scenery. We took the dinghy ashore and went for an explore. Carrick is a very small settlement with no real amenities, except for public toilets (take your own loo roll though!), but we enjoyed a lovely walk through the village, and the views are stunning!

We spent what was left of the evening sitting on deck with our lamps.

Next morning we decided to carry on up the loch to Lochgoilhead. There we picked up a mooring, and enjoyed the chaos of the local outdoor centre instructors trying to control some children having a kayak lesson! We dinghyed ashore again and went for an exploratory walk.

All in all, a pretty perfect weekend!