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 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 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 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 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!!


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!

Sails are up!

Finally, time for some adventures!

03/04/2016 – Tide: Neaps, Low 2m, high 4.5m, Wind: Very light Easterlies.

We had a few final preparations to carry out before setting sail for the first time.  We fitted a new main halyard, put up the main sail and genoa and furled them both. Two new life buoys were fitted, carried out an oil change on the engine and bought some flares – just incase!  We also got the spare fuel and the kedge anchor onboard.  Rosanne learnt the hard way not to drop things in the water… one very soggy towel and one shackle pin into the Port Edgar abyss….a stern talking to from Chris means it will never happen again… Ever!

With one final radio check, the red ensign went up and off we went! After carefully negotiating the entrance to Port Edgar we crossed under the bridges for the first time. We headed off down river under engine and motored off towards Dalgety Bay where we picked up a mooring. We were on the look out for friends racing there, but they were nowhere to be seen, so we had a chat with the DB rescue cover and then after a quick cuppa we headed off again before the tide got too low. Chris invented his fancy dancy MK1 spannerfathometer depth gauge (a spanner and carefully calibrated string) just to make sure Ragdoll’s depth sounder was reading correctly, which amazingly, it was!  It reads true depth by the way… no keel offset here.

Thankfully then some wind appeared and we got the sails up. We went gybing off downwind in the direction of the bridges at about 3kts. With Rosanne on the helm (eeeeeeek!) Chris was free to check everything was in order.  Amazingly, the boat didn’t sink and the rig stayed up! (two facts that continually seem to amaze Chris – probably not a good sign for a professional Naval Architect!)

After a few downwind gybes we checked out the anchor at Carlingnose Pier, anchoring in about 4.5m at low tide. With 25m of chain out the anchor bit hard and fast first time in good thick mud! Time for another tea!

Eventually we decided to move on and pootled our way back downwind under the bridges. Chris took over at the helm on re-entry to Port Edgar to make sure we didn’t have any disasters!

After all the fresh air and excitement we chilled onboard for the rest of the evening and celebrated our success with a Chinese meal!  Rosanne even managed to persuade Chris to play a board game… !

Mission accomplished! 🙂