Tuesday, 28 May 2019

The Caledonian Canal

Thursday night was spen clinging to a mooring in Ballvicar encrusted in barnacles. Ewan however was overjoyed when he hooked a mackerel on some rather faded feathers. Tea was cooked so we threw it back!
We went through the Coran narrows and moored up next to a fish farm for breakfast. Unfortunately they seemed to have solved their seal problems and there did not appear to be any escaped salmon outside. We used to catch them with sweet corn on Mull, the kids loved it.
We went through the sea lock at Crinan to moor up and enjoy the arrival of the steam hauled Fort William to Mallaig exprees. There was a brief vision of table lamps and Gin and Tonics and the next instant they were away with a distant wail from the loco all polished and in full British Rail livery.

Saturday morning arrived with Nigel Bickerton and Mark in the car park. They had driven up overnight from North Wales to fix the new tracking device . They had a telephone conference with their engineer mate in Sochi Russia and diagnosed a faulty connection. Amazing!

Ewan ,Lawrence and Josh scrambled onto the early train to North Wales. They have been great crew with plenty of grunt. Josh's finale was sorting out a foresail wrap at the top of the mast while we were underway off Oban. There were cheers from a nearby cruise ship.

On Saturday evening my old Medical School mates John Cullimore and Ceri Roberts rolled off the train at 10.30 pm . After tea and whisky we were all set to lock up Neptunes staircase (Loads of locks  which took three and a half hours in pouring rain).

We pulled up for a fry up at the top of the lochs, and then ploghed on to Gairlochy with the mountains shrouded in grey cloud at 550 feet. We crossed Loch Lochy and arrived at Lagan Lochs with a gale brewing up behind us and a jammed up Genoa curler. We nearly ran aground on some motorboat moorings and turned the head of the boat into wind in a narrow channel to moor up. Apparently we heard from the lock keeper that it was gusting Force 9 off the inner hebrides. Thank goodness we were inland! Kikas heater is now working fine so we cancelled a run ashore to settle for a curry and dry out on the boat.

No Josh Cook, so went up the mast in the morning to sort out the Genoa wrap . Not too bad , but energy levels for climbing definitely flagging. Had to have a good rest on the crosstrees!

What a difference a day makes, Just a brief shower and then the sun shone drying out our oilies. We started by going through Laggan Lock. Laggan is the site of the battle of the shirts where the bloodthirsty MacDonalds finished off most of the Fraser Clan. There are parallels with Afghanistan!

After a day's gentle cruising accross Loch Oich we have arrived at the top of five lochs taking us down to the fabled Loch Ness. No sign of the monster.

Josh clubs the mast underway- it's not horizontal!

A lovely mooring in Ballvicar Bay

Kika in the basin at Corpach- Ben Nevis in the background

The disappearing crew show no repect for mountain scenery

New crew with oilies drying out

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Moving up to Oban

Ailsa Craig but not many gannets

Josh and our two new crew Ewan and his twin brother Lawrence navigated us into Rothesay where we sampled the beer in the black bull and went to spend a penny in itsmagnificent Victorian Loos which you can experience for just 40p.

Kika enters Ardrashaig sea lock

The dreaded Correveckan

Josh tries out the Victorian plumbing in Rothesay

The new crew - very keen to learn

Soon deteriorated

On through the Kyles of Bute through magnicent wooded hillsides to the fishing port of Tarbert where a Viking named Barefoot got his men to haul their longship all the way accross the peninsula just to claim the territory on both sides of the mull of Kintyre. On Tuesday morning we locked into the Crinan Canal which is a surreal two days of inland waterways locking up to the summit lake and then down again to Crinan. With three beefy lads running between locks we made good time. Early in the year the midges have not got going and there were very few other boats

Josh gets the lady lock keepers life history

On Tueday afternoon we had a magnificent sail through the over falls of the Doris morn, dodging the rocks to wend our up to a mooring in Ballvicar Bay. Scottish Lochs are peaceful places and it is hard to beat a sundowner looking over the water to the peaceful hills beyond.We had passed Correveckan Sound earlier in the day. I resisted the lads blandishments to go through it and inspect the whirlpools and overfalls that have shipwrecked many vessels over its long history.Wednesday saw us squeaking through the very narrow Cuan Sound at low water to sail up Kerrera sound and into Oban for the worlds best fish and chips endorsed by Rick Stein no less,where we meet a single handed GP amine based on the Isle of Tiree and some Americans from Chicago one of whom was the administrator for a tribe of Idaho Indians. We woke to the sound of bagpipes on Obans North Bay pier as a piper welcomed a neighbours cruise ship passengers on board. Our only snag at present is the wind vane which initially worked well on a beat but Despite all our efforts has gone on strike. Ballachulish Bay tonight and then on through the tidal Coran Narrows to Fort William and the Caledonian Canal where John Cullimore and Ceri Roberts two old mates from medical school will be coming aboard

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Update from bonny Scotland

Top sea chef Andy Gallaher serves up midday mushroom soup

Since leaving the Isle of Mann we have been in a blog blackout, mainly due to my inability to source enough bandwidth to download photos. We had a lovely cruise up the North Channel using the tidal conveyor belt to arrive in the Scottish port of Portpatrick at low water where the harbourmaster guided us to the deep water by hand signals from the end of the pier. After a curry on board we took a stroll in lovely evening sunshine to a ruin of an old Macdonald castle, and a pint in town where we met a couple of Irishmen who had blown in because the price of land is three times cheaper in Scotland than over the water.

A 47 mile sail took us to Troon Harbour in the Cyde where we looked up old friends Eileen and Gwyn Williams who have retired from Medecine in North Wales to Eileen's original stamping ground. It's amazing how their lives are at the centre of the community . On Friday morning we arrived in Largs with a sailing emergency. The outlet valve in the holding tank was failing to function and the fore cabin was beginning to smell due to pressure in the tank.We arrived in Largs and managed to pump it out but there was still a dirty job awaiting us taking off the pump and seeing what was wrong. Andy and Pete wished us luck and wisely jumped on a train at the end of their week to take them back to Glasgow. Josh Cook and I then spent a character building 3 hours in Kikas smallest room pulling off pipes immersed in faecal matter and swearing! We eventually repaired the pump and the sanitary system is now working properly. It's the bit off sailing no one talks about!

We have now been joined by Ewan Byers and his twin brother and arrived in Rothesay where the Victorian toilets are a major tourist attraction.

The sun sets over the North channel at Portpatrick

An early morning departure from the Isle of Mann .Pete Barrar at the helm

New crew the Byers twins with Josh Cook in the middle
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Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Kika slipped out of the Conwy River at 7 am on 13 May bound for Port St Mary on the Isle of Mann. In  view of the forecast for light Southerly Winds for the next week we had decided to go round Britain in a clockwise direction. We Have two old salts both of whom worked for the blue funnel line. Pete Barrar who ended up as head of the Manchester Business school and Andy Gallaher washed ashore as a chief fire officer. The muscle in the crew is supplied by Josh Cook a tree surgeon from the Conwy Valley who spends a lot of his time hanging off things.
The 60 miles to Port St Mary took us 10 hours with a bit of a fight against a foul tide at the end. We tied up against the harbour wall next to some Manx trawlers and downed spaghetti Bolognaise and red wine in short order to crash out for a 05.30 start the next morning to catch the tide through calf sound. We had a lovely early morning sail up the west coast of the island where a few self poked their heads up and asked us what we were doing disturbing their fishing so early. We just caught the lock gate at Peel and after a shower, shave and shirt change proceeded into Peel for a bargain rate Pensioners breakfast. Josh says it's bloody typical baby boomers get all the perks. Apologies for the lack of photos. Struggling with the technology . It's easier servicing the engine!

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Kika's first outing this year was on the stormy  weekend of 28/29 April to act as committee boat for the student windsurfing nationals at Colwyn Bay. It was a good opportunity to iron out snags.
Starting off at 6am I had a minor panic when the engine juddered to a halt. Fortunately I was on the point of slipping the mooring in the tidal Conwy River but still had one of the warps attached. It was relatively easy to bleed the fuel pump and get rid of an air lock. Ewan Byers then came on board and off we went at the top of the tide.

It was a bit of a bumpy ride round and even more rolly on the anchorage at Colwyn Bay. I gave up trying to make bacon baps as the rib crews all came aboard. Some were iron stomached enough for a beer and others went a bit quiet and jettisoned their breakfast over the side. My son Tom nevertheless managed to get all the racing finished by 2.30 pm with a lot of tired but happy student windsurfers who are a jolly crowd and have made the most of a very stormy weekend in Colwyn Bay.

Pete Quilliam and I sailed back , against tide and wind around the Great Orme to get back to Conwy for 7.30 pm and collapse into the Liverpool Arms for a well earned pint. This week have ironed out the rest of the snag list and bar tidying up a bit we are ready to go on 13 May on an early tide - Hurrah!
Is it pirates? or just the team from Colwyn  Bay Watersports hoping for a bacon butty before the racing