11 March 2009 | Inverness
This is the account of Maggie Mays first journey up the Caledonian Canal with what has to be said two very nervous first timers, but a little background first, stick with it, its worth the wait I hope.
I have worked hard for many years as most people do, but my job took me away from home for many years, almost 8 years. I have children, Sarah 19 (at college in Glasgow) Danielle 17 (waiting to hear from Universitys) and liam 15 (waiting for a miracle).
I made the decision to leave my job and buy a boat while working more locally to enable me to spend more time with my youngest children, I had virtualy missed them growing up due to being away at work most days.
I bought the Maggie May, a small sailing boat with the view to learning to sail and spending more quality time with my son and daughter, Liam and Dannie. (Sarah at university)
Boat bought, and me out of work meant i had time to get things as right as i could for our maiden voyage up the caley canal for our first overnight on the boat at Dochgarroch. The time was spent wisely i thought, the boat was based in Inverness sea harbour.
I spent about 2 weeks cleaning and painting and generally trying to be as busy as possible to avoid the enevitable first journey. The discovery of a huge lump of Hash in the boat did nothing to help sort my nerves at the thought of heading into the sunset on this first journey. The hash looked somewhat old when i broke it up so without thinking threw it overboard (Honest i did). Never saw all the ducks waiting outside the boat hoping for some scraps from the loonie scrubbing and painting like a demon. All I can say is that in short order everything went very quiet and chilled with said ducks. Lots of stairing at each other in quiet contemplation, one or two cases of obvious munchies with at least one duck wanting to fight. lest said the better i think.
Anyway the big day arrived, filled up my fuel tank with about 3 cups of petrol and away me and liam went. first of was the 3 locks up to the first stage in the canal. To say i was pooping myself would have been a huge understatment, but of course I had to act all knowing in front of my son liam. As it went, all was well and we survived the first leg. we did however take a long time to go up these locks, almost and hour. the next stage was a mile or so run to the road bridge on the outskirts of inverness on the road heading west.
We were delayed some again but I was so happy to be on my way at long last. bare in mind im motor sailing a 20 ft boat.
Not used to this boating stuff, I happened to look behind me.... To my horror I was lead boat in a convoy of 5 boats. the boat behind me was at least 50 ft long, a brand new sailing boat with what looked like 20 or more perfect specimens of the sailing fraternity, all the same age (19, blond hair) and dressed in identical sailing atire.
A lump came to my throat at the same time as my testicles receded to god knows where. Still smilling in front of my son it was tally ho into the unknown.
The bridge was looming ahead, and before i could nervously stammer into my VHF radio for someone (God or human) to open the bridge.... It duly shook into life and opened.... The lord had given me and Maggie May wings, driven by the huge 4 horsepowers of my out board, we fairly flew the 100 yard to the bridge. thoughts of all boats behind gone, we were on our way at full warp drive, freedom it seemed was within our grasp.
That was until about 20ft from the open bridge my motor spluttered and died..... yes without even noticing the clench, my testicles ascended (again)to god knows where and my buttocks started singing the tune to "Flower of Scotland".
With my steadfast grin plastered in place less i worry my junior crew member, we coasted to the bridge opening.... I spotted a gangway of to starboard, just in front of the berth for a huge boat owned by jacobite cruises, as luck would have it there was at least 200 people boarding, all with a good view of the crash that was Maggie May.
Maggie May gently gluided to a stop beside the pontoon, with huge relief I asked my son to leap aboard said pontoon with the stern rope. Bless him, without a thought he leaped across the 3 inch gap and promptly slid straight into the canal.
Picture the moment if you will. Upon entering the canal (he had a life jacket on) a very portly lady operating the bridge came thundering down to the boat, this was a journey of about 100ft which she made in respectable time, she was howling "Man Overboard" when she got to the pontoon, she realised that none of the 200 crowd had listned to her comand of "Man Over Board" some what miffed and while my son was struggling to get ashore she howled at the que. "Didnt you hear me, Man Overboard" this meant that there was at least one hundred people dashing to the boat. At the same time I noted a gentle horn whistle behind me, as I looked around there was the 50ft sailing buggering boat with at least 20 perfect specimens of the sailing fraternity looking down at me, one piped up "Do you need a hand" the funny thing was I was more embarrased by my lack of sailing wellington boots than the plight of my son floundering and trying to get out of the water with his now inflated life jacket trying to drag him back and drown him. Suffice to say my will to live was at an all time ebb. Rotund elderly bridge lady was still jumping up and down and berating the poor passengers of the Jacobite lady. I proffered a no thank you to the crew of the boat behind me, grabbed liam (my not so drowning son) by the throat and pulled him out of the water.
At that moment my career as a round the world sailer seemed somewhat remote, in truth I was ready to swallow the anchor before I had even launched the bloody thing. Any way back to the fun.
All had calmed, the perfect specimens of sailing hood had gone on their way. the 200 people of the Jacobite lady, knowing they were not going to witness a catastrophy of Jeremy beadle standards started to put their mobile phones away and wander back to their pleasure cruise.
Scary lady of the bridge wasnt finished with me however, she wanted to call an ambulance for my now standing and somewhat soggy son. when I asked why this was, this is what she said.
"Dont you know about secondary drowning?" I had to admit i didnt - silly me, i thought you could only drown once. Nevertheless it seems that if you fall in and breath in water, you may drown at anytime in the following 24 hours, doesnt matter your fine at the time. it may hit you and you dead.
I refused point blank an Ambulance, my son was in the process of phoning his mum and telling her what had happened, he was asking for her to bring him new dry clothes. I could just see my good lady shaking her head and say " 2 hours into his first trip and he has tried to murder our son already".... with wife on the way with new clothes I was left to deal with portly bridge lady, and it has to be said her rendition of secondary drowning really scared the living daylights out of me. at that point I was ready to give away my boat and enter a holy retreat as a monk in penance for nearly killing my child.
Anyway it all calmed down, liam was alive, bridge lady went back to bridge lady duties, my wife had arrived and furnished liam with new clothes while giving me a "Last chance saloon look".
With a new tank of petrol we set of, Laim smiling like a loon and me wanting to cry and damming life for the fickle lady it was.
We travelled about 4 miles, traversed a small set of locks without misshap.... It was night and we berthed.
All night I begged my son to let us go home. A quick taxi ride would see us safe and sound in our own beds, I wouldnt have to listen for the possible sound of my son expiring through secondary drowning. I could leave that to the wife. My son was having none of it and as it would transpire that bad dreams set aside, we did however have a great night on loch ness.
Thats my first trip on Maggie May, Fool hardy as i am im not giving up.
This is the first in my blog, I hope to enter more soon.