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.

May Mini Cruise!

It was about time for an adventure a little further afield so we both managed to take a long weekend before Chris gets into his busy summer of work.

Day 1 – Thursday, Port Edgar to DBSC

After setting off a little later than planned and then an unfortunate road diversion along the way, we finally managed to get the boat together and ready to cast off by around 20:30h on the Thursday. We set off to see if we could take a mooring for the night at Dalgety Bay… wondering if we were brave or stupid. This was after all our first night to be spent away from Port Edgar. In hindsight, this was a stupid idea.  The forecast was saying that although windy, the direction at the Dalgety Bay Sailing Club mooring field would make it well sheltered.  This proved to be far from reality when we finally made it.

We picked up the mooring and turned in, and as the night went on, the wind kept building and the direction got worse and worse… Rosanne was (luckily for her) blissfully largely unaware of the potential danger and managed to fall asleep, while poor Chris had the all night fear… fear of the rocks near behind on the lee shore in the pitch black with 25kts of wind in the wrong direction, coupled with fear of the poorly maintained mooring pick up chain which was wearing very thin and rusty…  all compounded by being cold, wet and seasick…

Poor Chris counted 30 danger sheep all through the night so he could flick his eyes open every half minute and check the GPS track…

Day 1 – Thursday – Port Edgar to DBSC… abortive start…

Day 2 – Friday, DBSC to Port Edgar, then Port Edgar to Granton

With the coming morning light we decided to call the game a bogey and retreat back to Port Edgar to lick our wounds, have a proper sleep and wait out the blow.  We got off the mooring ok and took it easy back to Port Edgar under well reefed main and genoa.   After a good sleep and a shower for Chris, a walk for Rosanne around Dalmeny Estate, and some coffee and a large slab of carrot cake thanks to Once upon a Time, we felt almost human again.

Looking out at the Forth the wind had certainly lost a lot of its vengeance, and we contemplated a dash for Granton.

With an improving forecast, we went for it, and we were glad we did.  In terms of pure sailing, this was the best day of the lot.  Tacking up wind in about 16kts and against tide was good fun, although it didn’t make for a particularly fast passage and was a tad chilly!

We arrived in Granton around 9pm and immediately liked it for the safety of it’s well sheltered moorings. The only difficulty was finding out the code to get onto dry land!  After a few phone calls we eventually made it through the gate! We met some very friendly sailors including Robin and Kenny who were keen to share both local knowledge and horror stories!


Day 3 – Saturday, Granton to Elie

After a shower we set off once more, this time in the direction of Elie.  In a stroke of awesomeness the wind direction was perfect for having the cruising chute up all day at a gentlemanly pace of 4.5kts averaged all the way!  It was very sunny all day and we picked up a bit of a tan! We knew we would arrive in Elie before there was enough water in the harbour but phoned ahead to David the Harbour Master to check we would make it in later on. He assured us that there was space on the wall for us and that the tide would be sufficient around 8pm.

We arrived mid afternoon and anchored off in the bay with the aim of having a nap or reading for a few hours. Unfortunately the swell increased and Rosanne was soon feeling sick. We abandoned ship in the dinghy to go for a little trip ashore. We checked out the harbour and planned out our route of entry. On our way we checked the depth with the spanner fathometer and decided we could venture a bit closer to shore on Ragdoll. We returned to the mighty sail boat and moved her closer in under the lee of the headland and got out of the worst of the wind and chop that was the last of the sea breeze.  After a bit of time chilling out, we prepared Ragdoll for entry to the harbour. As the tide came in we lassoo’d the ladder at the entrance to the harbour wall and waited a little longer. Suddenly the harbour master zoomed into sight above us on his bike… we were afraid he wasn’t going to stop before he reached the edge! After a little longer waiting, we did some tidal calculations and realised that the visitors berth was going to be impossible after all. Instead we managed to plough a trench with our keel and scrape ourselves along to a spot between the fishing boats… just enough water thankfully.  After a rearrangement of weight and a few extra ropes to normal we were all set to go and find the pub – The Ship Inn where we spent the evening chatting to a couple who were campervanning on the beach.  We returned to the harbour to await touchdown, which happened at about 01:00h in the morning.  With the weight of a few extra fuel tanks and spare water marshalled in the starboard cockpit locker, Ragdoll took on a good list to Starboard, landing and leaning on the wall perfectly.  Chris even remembered to give the dinghy lots of length in its rope!

Day 3 – Saturday, Granton to Elie


Day 3 – Waiting at Elie for the tide, and the route to the pub!


Day4 – Sunday, Elie to Granton

We woke up early and feasted on a breakfast of lorne sausage pittas…our first cooked breakfast on Ragdoll. With the boat prepared for lift off and returning to Granton, we were sad to leave Elie after such a short visit, but are sure to return.

Day 4 – Elie to Granton

We arrived back in Granton after a quick detour of Newhaven harbour, though saw no good way to use it at the state of the tide.  It was good to give Ragdoll a wash and even better to do it in our bare feet! We ventured out for a walk back over to Newhaven and enjoyed dinner at Loch Fyne. Rosanne got a surprise when her crab burger turned out to be a whole battered crab and of course we had to try the platter of deserts! By the time we got back to the boat we were ready for an early night which also turned into a long lie in the next morning!


Day 5 – Monday, Granton to Port Edgar via Inchcolm

Setting off back to Port Edgar, we realised that it would be the perfect day to explore Inchcolm. There was no wind to speak of so it ended up a flat calm motoring kind of day.  We explored the Abbey and the whole island and managed to avoid getting attacked by seagulls up until we ventured to the south where Rosanne got hit on the head by two gulls in quick succession and promptly burst into tears at the shock.  (Aww! Chris did bravely try to fight them off by waving one of his crocs in the air…!)

Day 5 – Granton to Port Edgar via Inchcolm

Unfortunately then it was time to wrap our long weekend adventure up. We motored back to Port Edgar accompanied by a pair of porpoises!

And that was the end of that!  It was really cool to be out on Ragdoll away from Port Edgar for a change of scene!

Here’s the video for those who don’t believe there was any sun in Scotland this weekend!