Friday, 20 May 2016

Dochgarroch to Inverness - the final leg

Saw this seat at Dochgarroch lock, it is a two seater so not as uncomfortable as it might first look

Archimede left early to try to get through the sea lock and away to the north.
We left a little later and enjoyed the last of the canal as the trees awoke from the long winter and softened the bare branches with the lovely green of newly sprouting leaves.

We caught up with Archimede at the lock flight into Inverness as they had to wait for them to open the swing bridge and then wait again as the Lord of the Glen cruiser came up through the flight.
So we locked down with them and another yacht.

In the lock

This last flight was quite deep and Harmony got a few knocks but nothing serious.
We finally came through the flight and arrived in Seaport Marina which is still in the canal and close to the town. We found our berth, negotiated our fees and tied up Harmony for the last time for a few weeks 'til we start the next part of our journey.
That evening we met up again with Andrew and Sheila and went out for supper - in the rain.

The next day they headed off to Edinburgh, Hilary caught the train back to Largs and then drove the van back to Inverness. An epic journey that took her all day. I saw Archimede off as they moved to Inverness Marina so they could leave nice and early the next morning for Wick and then on to the Shetland Islands - I was very envious!

I cleaned the boat, arranged a marine electrician to sort out the navigation lights, prepared Harmony for her stay at Inverness while we headed south.

We left Inverness the following morning and drove back to Suffolk, it took thirteen hours including the stops.

A great trip that took 18 days and we logged over 160 nautical miles through some of the most stunning Scottish scenery. Hilary dealt with all sorts of challenges and although I think she didn't enjoy all of it she says there were some really good bits. Me? - I am just happy being on a boat!

Fort Augustus to Dochgarroch - up Loch Ness

Another quiet night in Fort Augustus, although we did moor as far as possible from the shops and restaurants.
We met up with Bill, Fran and Amber and Jean-Luc and Karen and all went for a coffee in the town. A great opportunity to talk about lots of inconsequential things like .....the referendum!
Suddenly we realised that we should be on our way if we were to make it up Loch Ness before the locks all shut at 5.30 pm.
We left Bill, Fran and Amber to enjoy another day in Fort Augustus and returned to the pontoons. Archimede with Jean-Luc and Karen left before us and we were following soon after.
Leaving Fort Augustus
Now we were on a long run up Loch Ness about 21 nautical miles with a light breeze.
We put up the headsail and tootled along at about 3 knots
Headsail up
We watched Archimede raise her spinnaker and race away into the distance - hmm I must think about getting a spinnaker.
After about a couple of hours we realized we were not going to arrive at Dochgarroch in time so sadly we lowered the sail and turned on the engine.
It was quite long haul up the loch and we kept an eye out for Nessie. Looking astern we had the loch to ourselves
Empty Loch Ness
Looking forward there were only a few hire boats and Archimede
Looking north up the loch
We had lunch - sorry I know it is a bit of cliché to post pictures of food, but it was nice and healthy well, except for the cuppa soup!
Then Hilary got herself wedged in to the corner of the cockpit and carried on Nessie watching

There wasn't much to see, except the odd hire motorboat, one or two yachts on passage oh and Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle
The castle was heaving with tourists so we quickly passed by and raced for the head of the loch.
Once through the lock we had to motor past a long line of boats to eventually moor next to Archimede a good ten minutes walk from the toilets and showers - sigh.
We had tea with Jean Luc and Karen and talked of many things - including the referendum!
They said that they saw Nessie and had a picture to prove it. What do you think?


After the long trek to the facilities that night I was standing on the deck contemplating the end of the day when I heard a splash under the pontoon, then another close to. As I looked down an otter swam right past the boat! I never realised how big they are, unfortunately by the time I had roused Hilary from her bed, all that could be seen of our visitor in the gloaming were a few ripples. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Laggan to Fort Augustus

Another cold night but very quiet.
In the morning before setting off we met Bill and Fran on the yacht Late Arrival, with third member of the crew Amber (woof). Bill is a committed sailor and Fran is learning with enthusiasm!
We left them behind having breakfast and when S&A joined us we headed up the canal through Laggan Bridge and on to Loch Oich.
Approaching Laggan Bridge

Laggan Bridge

The wind was behind us so we put up the headsail, turned off the engine and ran up the Loch. It was very pleasant and a good introduction for S&A to Harmony.
Back into the canal once more then through Kytra lock which was very pretty.

Lock keeper's office, Kytra

Here the lock keeper gave us gold stars for wearing our life jackets!
We had started to see more hire motorboats as we neared Fort Augustus. Bill and Fran caught us up as we waited to go through the lock flight, then decided to stay above the flight.
S&A lhad lunch with us then set off to walk the last eight miles to Invermoriston. We wouldn't see them again 'til we reached Inverness.

We locked down after the lunch break to join Archimede for the night.
Down the flight at Fort Augustus
Excellent fish and chips from the take away, then to bed.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Gairlochy to Laggan

Harmony sporting a sleeping bag

Wow, another beautiful morning but cold. That's Ben Nevis in the background.
S&A came down to see us off then they started their walk for the day.
There was little wind so we motored up Loch Lochy to Laggan and arrived at Laggan to have lunch with the plan of walking back to meet them after lunch but they came trotting in before we had finished lunch!
S&A arriving
So we a sat down and had a cup of tea with them and watched the Lord of the Glen, a cruise boat, come past
Lord of the Glen
Then we saw the boat Archimede for the first time a rather nice 37 ft Fisher - more of this boat later on.
S&A went on to their accommodation which was a few minutes walk away. We stretched our legs, had supper then went to bed.

Corpach to Gairlochy

We woke to another beautiful morning after a cold night.

Lying in Corpach Basin

We wanted a leisurely start but the lock keepers wanted us to pass through the swing bridge after it was opened for some boats moving down so they requested us to move up as soon as possible. Apparently the bridge was causing some problems.
We made a complete hash of entering the first lock. So much so that I had to come out do a 360 degree turn and then go back in again. Hilary and I could not throw our lines up to the top of the lock the first time but did better the second time.
The steam train is scheduled to go through about 10 o'clock. As our debacle in the first lock meant we arrived at the bridge a bit too close to 10 o'clock for comfort they asked us to wait
Waiting for the train
We watched the train gingerly crossing the bridge and then waited for the bridge to open let the yachts coming the other way pass us then we were off up the flight of locks called Neptune's Staircase.
Looking back down Neptune's Staircase
We were two thirds of the way up when who should appear but Andrew and Sheila, who had come up on the overnight sleeper to Fort William and were planning to walk the Great Glen Way at the same time as we sailed it.
Sheila and Andrew
It was lovely to see them and they helped us through the last few locks and we then stopped and all had lunch together as it was well after midday and Hilary and I were exhausted after coming up through the locks.
We then set off in Harmony and Sheila and Andrew (S&A) headed off on the track beside the canal.
S&A on the track
We met all sorts coming through the canal including this life boat
Even the RNLI like the canal

But mostly it was empty
Not a soul around
The locks are very deep and we asked the lock keepers to drop down lines to us as our throwing of lines was not consistently good!
Deep in the lock
Our stop that night was at Gairlochy and after passing the locks we moored at the bottom of Loch Lochy with a Canada goose and a pair of thuggish swans.

S&A went off to their hotel about an hours walk away and once we were safely moored we headed off to join them for supper. It was a lovely walk there and back and a jolly good supper, thank you Sheila.
It was a cold night which resulted in a heavy frost.

This is for all the Harry Potter fans

Shortly after we arrived in the Corpach basin we heard what is now an unfamiliar sound and guess what came along, I hope you enjoy it!

Billed as the Hogwart's Express it runs from Fort William to Mallaig and crosses the viaduct seen in the films.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Dunstaffnage Marina to the start of the Caledonian Canal. Thursday 12th May

Early start left at 0600hrs. Wind NE F3/4 Motor only.
Wanted to catch the tidal stream up the Lynn of Lorne and then Loch Linnhe. We also had to arrive at the sea lock at Corpach at least two hours before low water and after the lock keeper's lunch break.
The beach at Dunstaffnage Castle at 6am
However once we rounded the point we got a large swell and wind against tide made it very bumpy.
I got the tides right but the wind was the overriding factor.
Very rough all the way up Lynn of Lorne and Loch Linnhe. Poor old Harmony was plunging up and down some very nasty short, choppy waves it was pretty grim and I did consider turning back at one point. However just before reaching the Corran Narrows the swell eased (probably no longer wind against tide) and the trip became much more pleasant
Approaching Corran Narrows

Leaving Corran Narrows
No small yachts about for most of the trip but the odd working boat passed us. Exchanged pleasantries with a Centaur heading down the loch under motor. (They shouted 'SNAP' first!)

Now we could enjoy the trip and make some tea.
Tea at last!

It was a lovely run up to and past Fort William and then arrived at the Corpach sea lock at 1310hrs (I had aimed for 1300hrs in  my passage planning)

Passing Fort William

First sight of Ben Nevis

The lock keeper ushered us into the lock and safely through into the basin even though he hadn't had his lunch yet.
We moored behind another Centaur which we subsequently found out was called Comma and was headed for Ullapool

In Corpach Basin

We had motored all the way and probably only used 10 litres max of fuel.
The engine ran very well for about 8hrs and averaged 4 knts
Refuelled with 24.21 litres which also replenished the 10 litre spare can.

Me and Ben Nevis

Good night Harmony

Dunstaffnage day two

Sunshiny day!
The morning started the same as the previous day and then wind soon picked up.
Looking at the weather and wind it seemed best to leave it another day before the run up Loch Linnhe to Fort William and Corpach.

We walked out to Dunstaffnage Castle sat by the beach and Hilary went for a paddle

Then walked around the castle.
Back to the boat and early to bed before an early start
The Chapel

Is that the front door?

No, the front door is round the other side.

Dunstaffnage day one

We had arrived too late to get a key etc so the next morning settled our berth for two nights.
Woke to a stunning sunny morning and no wind.
Wind picked up to steady F5 gusting F7 at about 0900hrs
Discovered freshwater pump had dumped contents of water tank into bilges. 
Fixed pump.
Started auxiliary engine which seemed fine, once I had worked out the choke.
Headed off to Oban, a three and a half mile walk on another bright but breezy day.
As this is a blog about sailing I will skip this day except to say that we had an excellent lunch at a cafe called the Little Potting Shed. See this review http://thetartancarrot.co.uk/oban-the-little-potting-shed
The wind died away again in the evening to give us a lovely quiet night.

Screen shot of the day's weather forecast