When hurtling around Silverstone, race cars exit Druids, the final bend, and are then really able to stretch their legs. They are in their element, doing what they are designed to do and wowing all that experience them. The same was true of Ruffian as she exited the confines of the Crinan Canal and out into open water with a following breeze and sunshine. She stretched her legs and she wowed all that saw her. Well Fiona and Iain anyway. Where race cars fall over is their singlemindedness and lack of adaptability. This is not true of Ruffian as she is truly adaptable giving Iain a Birthday to remember and hosting Friends aboard.
Having spent a week in confined waters around Luing and Crinan, making sure that everything was working after Ruffian's shore side stay and then having been cooped up the in the Crinan Canal for a couple of days, the feeling of finally being in the relatively open waters of Loch Fyne was like a cloud lifting. The lifting cloud was both metaphorical and physical, as we were quickly rewarded with a hurtling downwind sail in bright sunshine before turning left making for the Kyles of Bute, or Kylies Back Passage as alluded to in earlier blogs. We think that all those who have ever been in Kylies Back Passage always want to go back for more.
Having happily stopped at the top of Loch Riddon it was time to put the boat to bed and most importantly celebrate Iain's Birthday. Iain had already been given gifts that money couldn't buy. He'd spent the day partaking in his favourite activity, sailing and with his favourite friend, Fiona. He was particularly happy with the second as she'd already posted on Facebook that he was her "most favourite husband". This meant that he was winning yet another competition. The 'Lets be Fiona's best husband competition'. Thank you Fiona for Iain's priceless presents.
The next stop was to be at Chris Helm's home port of Rothesay and take in the developments at his farm. We negotiated the Burnt Isles successfully, by guessing the tide as our pilot book made no reference as to when to go through them west to east, and stopped in Rothesay Bay. At the farm we could see that all the hard work of months past was paying dividends. The strawberries were in full crop, as were salad leaves and courgettes amongst many others. The work and investment in the future never stops and the boys were busy getting soil ready for planting as well and investing in next year with rhubarb and asparagus. On the tour of the farm we managed to harvest the pick of the crop which will supply us on Ruffian for weeks to come and feel that there is something very special about simply pulling food out of the mud knowing that it'll be on the table that night.
We had invited Chris to have dinner on board Ruffian whereby we could feed him some of his own fare. To our surprise at the allotted time, instead of Chris arriving by normal means of transportation, ie car, bike or bus, we heralded the arrival of Chris onboard his fine ship, Yellowbird, having sailed around from the next bay. This enabled us to decimate the red wine supply, as transportation home for Chris would be a quick row between boats and then a sail home in the morning.
As we are now on a bit of a mission to get south we couldn't hang around in Rothesay and take in all the things we wanted to, but being June and hence the height of summer getting to Arran would be a joy. So out into the bay we sailed and quickly put on thermals, mid layers, offshore trousers and jackets. Ear flaps up, spray masks across, hoods down, we bunkered down for the joy of a 3 hour motor sail in the rain. At least we could take in all the amazing Scottish scenery, oh no we couldn't. The visibility drew in and we could see no more than 200 yards. The one benefit of this gloom was that as we drew into Lochrazna on Arran the ruins of the castle slowly emerged from the mist and we had visions of invading this place like Vikings of yesteryear.
Tomorrow the raiding party will set foot on Arran and then we'll be again heading south where we'll find a safe harbour, to await a weather window for favourable winds, to blow us into and across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man or the Menai Straights.
Ripping down Loch Fyne in fine sunshine.
Happy birthday to you. Squashed tomatoes and stew. Bread and butter in the gutter. Happy birthday to you.
Food from mud. Remarkable.
Bute Produce's produce was blossoming.
Hmmm. Veg. That'll keep us going for a while.
Yellowbird made a surprise entrance for dinner in Rothesay Bay.
We've having to get up earlier and earlier to catch dawn.
Goodbye Yellowbird. Enjoy your dawn sail.
Sailing in June gets no better. NOT. Rain, fog, cloud and cold. Isn't it supposed to be warm when you head south?
Someone has stolen the hills on Arran.
Lochranza Castle looking moody in the evening gloom.
Every big business needs to train their employees to ensure that they get the best out of them. We think that we have found the training ground for Princess Seafoods and specifically the sardine packing division. It would appear that before they are let loose packing sardines into tins, they pack yachts expertly into lochs and help move them across land. The sardine packers, aka loch keepers, cannot manage this alone and to help Ruffian across a medium she is not happy in, ie land, from the Sound of Jura to Loch Fyne, we had some tremendous crew in the form of Rosemary and Gordon who came up from Edinburgh to coax her along.
Rosemary and Gordon have been our overnight first 'house guests' in our time in Scotland and we had to make the most of this additional company. After they arrived we adjourned directly to the pub and when that closed, we retired to Ruffian for cheese and red wine. Rosemary also bought with her the most remarkable of Scottish gifts, you've heard of Scottish shortcake, you've also heard of Whiskey, well the gift that Rosemary came with surpassed all other Scottish based presents ever. Scottish Parliament tartan chocolate. Amazing. Many thanks Rosemary. They also considered the gift of Whiskey, as Gordon is renowned as the No1 Scottish whiskey scientist, but decided that we were such philistines after our appraisal from the Tallisker Distliiery visit (i.e. whiskey just tastes of peat and wood), that we didn't deserve it, and so we stuck to the grape. Needless to say, the start of the Crinan Canal was therefore a bit damp and fuzzy in more ways than one.
However, before any boat movement could occur into the canal an important competition had to take place. The judging of the homemade marmalades. You'll remember we ran out months ago and have been without decent breakfast fair ever since. We currently have 3 participants so therefore it's not fair to announce the current winner, but there is time for you to put your entry in, all we can say is that the current holder has a vast wealth of Marmalade experience and is a connoisseur himself.
Into the First loch we squeezed with a Swan 441 and a Sigma 38, in torrential rain. This was all quite different from our North bound trip in April whereby we had lochs all to ourselves and all we had to do was pass our lines to the smiling loch keepers. Today, the loch keepers had clearly seen sense as they were hiding from the rain in their cabins, leaving the outside work on the lochs to us amateurs.
In the lochs Rosemary and Gordon came into their own. Not only were they great company, but getting through the lochs just two up would have been a nightmare and our additional crew really saved the day. Gordon took on shore side duty; receiving lines and opening and closing all the lochs whilst Rosemary controlled the bow. These extra pairs of hands ensured that Ruffian got through unscathed and most importantly we got through unstressed. Many many thanks Gordon and Rosemary. This would not have been possible without you.
Halfway along the loch we had a cunning plan. As we had the engine on and therefore nearly limitless electricity, we'd permit ourselves the luxury of our central heating. We'd be able to dry out ourselves, dry out the boat and dry out our kit. So down Iain went and clicked the switch. The switch clicked, but that's all that happened, the motor failed to fire up, no heating. That'll teach us for not turning it on often enough. This would be a job for Iain to fix once the day was done and we're pleased to report that we have now fixed it, simply a loose connection (but without guests to impress we are too tight to use it!).
After 13 lochs, 4 bridges, 7 hours and about 30cm of rain we successfully arrived in Ardrishaig, damp but happy and after a quick trip to a supermarket for a massive shop (aren't cars brilliant) Ruffian was restocked to bursting point ready for slipping out into Loch Fyne and starting her journey south proper.
Before the off in Crinan Basin
Ohhhhh. Looking a bit tight in the first loch.
Rosemay keeping the bow between a rock and a hard place. Well a loch wall and a bulletproof swan 441.
Push Gordon push.
Smiling despite the rain.
Our crew did get some time off to take in the views.
We had visions of the canal banks being thick with flowers. The best we got were super sonically sized daisies.
Is that a smile that Fiona is wearing?
The canals were so full they were overflowing.
Looking like pro's at the final loch before the sea loch. Thank you so much Rosemary and Gordon.
Issac Newton once said that what goes up must come down. With Ruffian, when we go north we must also head south and southing we are going. We have also finished one chapter in the adventures of Ruffian, by officially closing off the north western isles and we have opened another chapter by moving from salt to fresh water.
The final days north of the Crinan Canal found Ruffian waking to anchorages a plenty, sunshine and gentle breezes and most importantly schools of mackerel. Once you have found the school, catching mackerel isn't that technical. You put the rod in and pull out fish. The line of plenty is finally plentiful and the Sound of Shuna is clearly a haven for these little critters. We chased the little critters and ended up circumnavigating Shuna having taken a look at an anchorage just south of the sound. After nosing in we thought that we'd look elsewhere and headed off to a tiny hole called Ardinamir Bay.
Ardinamir Bay would be challenging to get into to say the least. The pilotage information of the bay is sketchy at best and the entrance is a mere 15 meters wide. Legend would have it that there used to be a mad old woman who would sit at the entrance and shout at boats as they approached. We looked forward to this thinking we'd give her a special Ruffian sing song in return. There was however no such luck for us.
As we nosed our way in down went the depth and in came the rocks. With only 10cm's of water under our keel and rocks less than a boat length away we got scared, very scared and Fiona managed to turn Ruffian in it's own length to run like scaredy cats to make for somewhere more sensible. Well done Fiona. All ended well with us finding a quiet spot at Kilmelford where we could let the 25knots of forecast breeze blow through and hide from the evening of rain.
Finding ourselves back at Crinan, to make transit through the Canal, we would be saying our goodbye's to the northern coastline. We would enter the lochs and change again from a sea going ship to a canal bound motorboat. The farewell couldn't have been more perfect. As we came into the lower basin, an old puffer, called Vic 32 played us 'Speed Bonnie Boat' on her steam pipes, this marking the end of an amazing chapter.
In Crinan we await for some honoured guests who will be helping us take Ruffian through the Canal where we hope to exit tomorrow into another sea and adventures new.
Sunsets over scenery that we will never forget in North Western Scotland.
Our track around Shuna and it's surrounding anchorages was somewhat bizarre.
Fiona driving. In shorts!!!!!!!!!
Is it always sunny in Scotland? Our experience would say yes.
After our 'close shave' at Ardinamir Fiona does some light reading.
Where did that sun go? Rain, rain, rain on the way to Crinan.
The puffer piped us into the Crinan.
Goodbye north western isles. You've given us some amazing times.
Ruffian transforms from a sea going vessel to a fresh water motorboat.
Some people are lucky by winning a fortune at the gigi's, others by having sunshine when rain is forecast. For the past couple of weeks, whilst Ruffian has been at the boat hospital, we feel like we have the best luck in the world with all the support that we have been given by friends and family in all corners of the country.
With the guys at Crinan having made a proper assessment of Ruffian it became obvious that we would not be able to live aboard with them working around us. They had to replace the old p bracket, lower the engine, fit new engine mounts and then realign the engine, stern tube and p bracket and fit a new top of the range rope cutter. All in all, a whole heap of very very messy work.
With the news of our impending homelessness, to the rescue, came Fiona's father who whisked us off to Northumberland to what was going to be the start of a whistle stop tour of the country. In Northumberland we have to give our thanks to John & Pam for the use of their car and Nico & Glen for their unending hospitality at the farm. Here we were able to catch up with Fiona's family and the news that Will is off to the southern hemisphere to go farming and that Tom has graduated from university. Well done both.
To get south we had elected to take the bus. Margret Thatcher once said 'If a man reaches 30 and is still having to take the bus, he must question how successful in life he is.' After we left Ponteland at 7pm and arrived in Portsmouth at 12 the following day we can very much understand where she was coming from. Spending 17 hours on busses does not make you feel like a success and all the more galling as we could have got to exotic locations like Sydney or Singapore in less time.
On the south coast we caught up with the Lewis's and here thanks have to go to Sue and Chris for the use of their house and their remarkable bottomless larder. Our time here was to be very limited and a splendid slap up dinner with family was organised. Henry is growing up and off to school in September and Scarlett is now properly talking. Again well done both.
The next chapter saw us off to Salcombe to take in Anne and Toby's wedding. As you would expect the happy couple looked radiant, the wedding bought smiles for miles and we fell at the feet of our friends. Thanks to Sarah & Brian, Kev & Lisa, and Emma for the loan of the floor. A special thanks to Martin for his 'performance' on Friday night and a story we'll be dining out on for years to come.
Back on the south coast and as we were about to start a 20 hour coach marathon we had an update from the boat yard. There was to be a change of plan and we'd be homeless for another week. Sue & Chris were happy with the change of plan, Fiona & Iain less so. The resumption of the adventure would have to wait, but this delay would have some benefits.
One of the benefits was some boat based fettling time with Ali, Jason, Amelia & Jessica on Westwind. Westwind was primed for it's defence of the RTI title which we won last year and Amelia & Jessica were duly worn out having had Iain & Fiona to play with for the whole weekend. Many thanks again have to Ali and Jason and best of luck to Jason for his potential BIG news this week and defence next.
After leaving Ali & Jason in London we embarked on our mammoth bus journey extravaganza, London to Glasgow, Glasgow to Loch Gilphead and finally Loch Gilphead to Crinan. All going well we'd complete this in a mere 16 hours. Not only did this all go to plan, but as we arrived in Scotland, the yard, in Crinan, launched a fixed land locked Ruffian. Upon our arrival we were greeted with our home gently bobbing on crystal clear water with a backdrop of mountains all freshly cleaned and fixed. Life was good and the adventure would continue imminently. We felt blessed having such supportive friends and family over the past weeks and being able to continue realising our dream.
Having had the painful experience of paying for the excellent work of the guys at Crinan boatyard the dream did continue with blue skies and fair seas. Slowly our memories were rekindled of all the systems and habits we have in place for happy cruising and we made our way to yet another new peaceful anchorage. The difference of this anchorage to all the others however is that there are fish and finally after 1500 miles and 3 ½ months we have caught our own dinner. Mackerel ahoy.
The west coast experience is coming to a finale over the next week, but what a way to start that final week. Tonight we'll be eating fish we have caught thinking of all our friends and family we are so lucky to have, surrounded by a landscape we have grown to love.
Hmmm. That'll be something really quite bent which needs fixing.
I'm sure that there was a p bracket there. It had to be removed to get things moving.
Going to Northumberland enabled us to go walking on Simonside with Nico, Glen, Will and Tom.
Salcombe gave many dressing up opportunities.
Toby and Anne on their happy day. Many many congratulations.
Personal touches were to be seen everywhere.
We took in the Twyford village duck race. Our ducks didn't figure in the rankings but Baxter did turn one into a prize by giving it a quick chew.
Works at Crinan continued in our absence.
The glassing in all finished and the new p bracked in place from inside.
Situation normal and the dream continues. Blue skies, fair winds and safe seas. Here the roaring Gulf of Corryvreckan.
We caught some fish!!!!!!!!
The tour of the country enabled the marmalade stocks to be replenished. Thank you to Rosemary & Gordon and Pamela.