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:

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.