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.

Portavadie and back…

With a long weekend ahead, we raced off to Ragdoll with no particular destination in mind. There was a rare heatwave going on in the Clyde, so it was a super fast ready, set, go to get onto the water before we melted in the marina! Rosanne actually had her shorts on – unheard of in the UK!!

We made it to Rothesay as the sun was setting, casting a beautiful light over the Clyde. There were porpoises aplenty to entertain us along the way. We anchored off in the bay, and were immediately given a full vessel inspection by the resident swan who thinks he’s the harbour master. We had a lovely evening on deck with our lamps, watching the lights of Rothesay twinkling.

Note for the Log:

Rothesay Bay is deep, and anchoring options are limited to the NE corner of the bay, on what feels like stony ground.  Try as he might, Chris couldn’t get Ragdoll’s 20kg CQR anchor to get an acceptable bite in 7 to 9m, even with every last inch of the 45m rode out.  It just kept skipping on the stones, sending rattles up the chain.  Careful review of the forecast indicated that a light bite would be enough for the night, but full monitoring of the situation was set up with depth alarm and gps anchor alarm.  In the end, the night was perfectly still and nothing came of it, but once again, the CQR revealed it’s weaknesses on difficult anchoring ground… time for a modern anchor!  Likely to be Rocna or Mantus in 20kg.

Next morning we had a leisurely breakfast and were again joined by the swan and some gulls. We prepped Ragdoll and ventured in to the outer marina to see if there was a space for us to stop and visit the town for a few hours. We made our way to the castle and enjoyed exploring its grounds. There were a number of nesting gulls, and for obvious reasons Rosanne was a little wary. To our surprise we noticed that these were no ordinary gulls….they had laid golfballs instead of eggs!! (This is a licensable type of management for gulls. If the eggs are swapped for golf balls, without the gulls noticing, then they will continue to sit on them, well past the point of them laying a second brood during the season, thus managing the population size)

After a wander around a few of the shops, and obviously a stop for an icecream at Zavaroni’s we were ready to cast off again and move onto our next adventure. We’d barely gotten out of Rothesay when we heard Waverley on the Radio. She was hot on our heels, and we realised she would be passing us in the Kyles of Bute, just past the Burnt Isles…picture perfect moment! Unfortunately at the moment she approached the heavens opened and we got soaked. We caught up with her again at Tighnabruaich where the sun reappeared.

We headed on down the West Kyle past Ardlamont, finally picking up some wind worth sailing in.  There were plenty more porpoises, and Rosanne continued to struggle to concentrate on steering every time a fin appeared.

With the Scottish Series taking place at Tarbert, we thought it would be sensible to go to Portavadie instead of risking not getting a berth. Rookie mistake. Unless you’re looking for something fairly soul-less and completely not in keeping with the west coast of Scotland, avoid Portavadie (in our opinion). From the moment we approached it all went wrong. We should have given in to the beckons from Tarbert! We were chased into Portavadie by a motor cruiser who was hot on our tail. Whilst trying to manoeuvre into our berth, he decided he was going to plough through to his own berth, causing Chris to have to abort his own berthing operation and clear out for another attempt. Once we had our ropes on, Chris went to pat a seemingly friendly dog, and was immediately savaged! (well, it bit him, a very tiny bite). With loads of families with loud kids who were only talking to each other, and people stepping off their boats in dinner suits and evening gowns, and overspill of racer types from the Scottish Series, we felt like we were not really in “our scene”…

We went for a walk and discovered that there’s not really a lot to see. We found the ferry terminal and a deer, and gazed longingly across the water to Tarbert. We also lost our electricity card somewhere along the way, adding insult to injury… oh well!

After a very satisfying boat cooked meal, things started to get back on track, and Rosanne had the longest shower of her life…well you’ve got to get your moneys worth!


We didn’t hang around too long the next morning! We set off back towards Ardlamont and got ourselves in among the racing fleet which was all quite exciting and fairly chaotic.

It was another beautiful day to be out, and after a fantastic sail back through the Kyles, we anchored off the Burnt Isles. We had a man overboard drill when Chris accidentally dropped the dingy foot pump into the water.  It started sailing merrily away from the boat on the tide streaming towards Woodhouse Rock…  Chris frantically started the engine, hoping to rely on the awful holding from the CQR anchor to catch up with the pump!  Fortunately this worked, and Ragdoll managed to drag her anchor back far enough to catch up with the pump… Rosanne failed to pick it up again and it was was all fairly stressful for a good few minutes whilst Chris hung off the boat trying to catch it, all the while Rosanne declaring the pump just wasn’t worth it! Eventually the pump was retrieved and the dingy blown up, and a expedition to the Burnt Isles began!

After a circumnavigation of the island, which was great fun, with lots of potential new berthing options considered, and plenty of animals to keep Rosanne happy, we returned to Ragdoll and headed back to Rothesay for our final night.

Rosanne was trying to catch some cool shots of a heron in the harbour whilst the resident harbourmaster swan sneaked up on her and honked so loudly she nearly fell off the pontoon! Chris nearly wet himself with the hilarity. We visited our favorite new Indian restaurant, where the restaurant owners young son provided the entertainment of the evening.

The weather changed the next day which led to a rather choppy and blustery return journey up the Clyde. We did get another view of Waverley which brightened up the grey though. It’s amazing just how fast she goes!