Got up early to sail the 8 miles to Ardrisaig and the Crinan Canal. Made great progress to start with on a reach in around 12 knots of wind, but after half an hour or so the wind dropped and started going round in circles, so ended up motor-sailing. Still, got to the sea lock at around 9am (BST) and squeezed in with another 2 boats. The timing was good in the sense that one of them (a 13.5 metre Feeling with a crew of 4 ) offered to help us, but as it was low tide the current in the sea lock was vicious and it was really difficult to stop Harvard scraping against the sides. Still, we appreciated the help once in the Canal as we would have struggled on the “up-hill” locks with just 2 of us. However it did mean that we had to rush and didn’t have time to go shopping and stock up on provisions.
We had met the crew of the Feeling (called Chorus) the day before in Portavadie where they were sheltering having tried to go round the Mull of Kintyre but given up when they ripped their genoa in heavy seas. This underlined, once again, that we had made the right decision to take the canal!
Even with their help we realised that we were not going to get all the way through the canal in a single day, and so, after 10 locks, moored up for the evening leaving them to race ahead. The wind had come up again by this time, but the sun was out and we had a beautiful quiet evening.
Harvard at Portaviadie
The worst of the gale past over in the early hours of the morning, but it was still cold with some nasty gusts throughout the day. The Crinan Canal website was very vague about opening hours. We tried ringing all the telephone numbers given to check if it would be open on a Sunday but got no answer, so had to assume that it was closed. and went for a walk instead. (We later found that it was open, but it was too late by then). Nice as the Portavadie facilities are, they are all about spending money – so it didn’t really work for us, especially as there is virtually no mobile signal and what little wi-fi there is, is incredibly slow.
The Scottish weather was back to its usual tricks today – thank goodness we had an easy start yesterday! The forecast was for strong winds and a southerly gale by evening, so all thoughts of going round the Mull were abandoned and we headed north towards the Crinan Canal. With just the genoa unfurled and no main we raced up the coast of Arran and into Loch Fyne, just making it into Portavadie marina before things got too wild.
We chose Portavadie as it was a place we had never visited before. Entering the marina, there seemed to be very little manœvering room, and so we just took the first available space on the visitors’ pontoon. It was only after we were safely moored up that we realised that there were better spaces further into the marina – but by then we couldn’t be bothered to move. It also gave us a chance to try out our special boat show purchase of snubbers which we hadn’t used before. We were amazed at how well they worked. As soon as they were fitted, the boat settled down very comfortably, and we could enjoy the rest of the afternoon exploring. It didn’t take long, but all the facilities are fantastic. The best showers of any marina we have ever visited, a shop, various restaurants and cafes and a spa with a heated outdoor infinity pool looking down Loch Fyne towards Arran. It was all beautiful but very expensive, so we just had a cup of coffee and went back to eat on board!
Swimming pool at Portavadie
Ardrossan, Clyde Marina
We sat and shivered in a freezing force 6 northerly wind yesterday. We felt like wimps, but couldn’t face going out for our shake down cruise in those conditions. Today was perfect, so it was worth waiting. The wind was still northerly and cold, but only 5-8 knots so we motored out of Clyde Marina with plenty of opportunity to check the engine and new gear lever. Once happy that all was well we put the sails up and slowly drifted towards Lamlash getting our sea legs back and trying to remember how to sail! All Richard’s hard work paid off. The sails went up smoothly, the chart plotter worked and everything seemed to be stowed safely. We covered the 10 miles to Lamlash on Arran very gently and tied up to a mooring buoy. We are both feeling old and stiff, but hopefully a few days of sailing will blow the cobwebs away.
Most of the local boats at Lamlash are still out of the water, and we were the only visiting boat (although another did arrive later), so maybe even the Scottish find April a bit cold for sailing. Still, we were determined to be ready by May – to make the most of the summer- so hope it warms up soon.
We felt no great need to sightsee, having been to Lamlash last year, but wanted to make the most of the calm day to check the dingy over and put the Hydrovane rudder on. Richard got the short straw of having to plunge his arms into the icy waters to do that and fiddle with the clevis pin with numb fingers, but it went on easily enough. However, we had a problem with the outboard. It started first time, but doesn’t seem to be pumping cooling water – so will need some work done on it before we can rely on it. We rowed ashore to pay for the mooring, had a quick walk to the Co-Op, and returned to boat to warm up. The outboard is the only thing that has gone wrong so far, so we’re not doing badly.