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 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 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!

Holy Loch

After a particularly busy week at work we made it to Ragdoll on Saturday evening, after a detour to check on one of Chris’ work vessels… at 79m, a slightly larger boat than Ragdoll!

It was a rather choppy, wet night so we chose to spend the evening on the pontoon rather than having adventures! A tin of spaghetti hoops, and a cider later we were both fairly content and spent the evening catching up on some of our favourite sailing video bloggers.

Next morning we headed out to Holy Loch. There was no wind, but it was a beautifully flat day for a motor. Unfortunately Chris wasn’t feeling too good, but Rosanne took the helm and enjoyed being skipper for once… she didn’t even sink!

The sun eventually made an appearance and the porpoises were out to play making the trip complete!

We stopped off in Holy Loch just long enough to get an icecream….we’ll have to return to explore further!

It wasn’t one of our most adventurous trips, but it was nice to make it out on the water and blow the cobwebs away!