Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Up and down Loch Fyne and seasons end in the Firth of Clyde.

The crew of the good ship 'Norman James' returned to Largs with the car to enable the boat to be cleared at the end of the season, but in the meantime the season itself was being uncharacteristically benign so it was decided to carry on with our cruise within these wonderful sheltered waters. After filling up with fuel we left Largs on 9th September with no wind and a few spots of ( unforecast ) rain to anchor in wreck bay in the Burnt Isles at the north end of the Kyles of Bute

The anchorage at Wreck Bay, Burnt Isles

View north from the anchorage

After a very quiet night on the hook we set out the following day down the west Kyle, rounded Ardlamont Point, at the south end of the Kyle, then headed north to berth in Portavadie Marina on the eastern shore of Loch Fyne, almost opposite East Loch Tarbert. Portavadie is quite an interesting place, being carved out of a rocky inlet to create an enclosed harbour originally destined for the building of oil rigs.

'NJ' on the visitors pontoon at Portavadie Marina.

The harbour wall at Portavadie showing the drill holes where the rock has been blasted out.

View of Portavadie marina from the south side.

After one night at Portavadie we took a light wind to sail north up Loch Fyne using our big red and yellow genneker, ghosting dead down wind and making just over 3Kts over the ground. By 16-00 the wind dropped out so the sail was doused and the engine carried us to Otter Ferry where we picked up one of the moorings provided by the Otter Ferry Inn for another pleasant and quite night.

Ghosting up Loch Fyne under the big genneker.

Marker for the end of the shingle spit at Otter Ferry.

Quiet and peaceful night on the moorings at Otter Ferry.

The plan for the next day ( 12th September ) was to anchor off Inverary near the north end of Loch Fyne. At 11-00 we were approaching 'Fraoch Eilean' at the narrows between upper and lower Loch Fyne, and just before 12-00 we anchored for lunch in Newton Bay on the east side of the Loch. After lunch we motored up to Inverary, and anchored just outside the river channel NW of the pier. Having got the dinghy organised, we couldn't find anywhere to get ashore, and with the wind picking up we decided to turn back about four miles to Strachur Bay where we anchored clear of the numerous moorings in time for supper.

Approaching the narrows between upper and lower Loch Fyne at 'Fraoch Eilean'

At anchor off Inverary.

The next morning had all the makings of a worrying day, with thick fog at times, but with a combination of good lookout and the radar ( this was the first time it had been used 'in anger' ) we were fairly happy to proceed back down the Loch. As we approached the narrows we picked up two radar contacts; small, but definate and repeating, our course was adjusted to suit and a keen lookout kept, then all of a sudden out of the mist two fishermen on paddle boards appeared, it was good to know that the system could detect something as small and non-reflective as a this! We picked up another mooring at Otter Ferry for a very pleasant lunch in the pub. After lunch the mist started to disperse and we set off again to spend the night on the pontoons of East Lock Tarbert.

Paddle boarding fishermen in the fog.

'NJ' on a mooring at Otter Ferry.

The shingle spit at Otter ferry with the pub in the background.

Gig racing at Otter Ferry.

Walkers on the spit near high tide.

The following afternoon, after a good walk through the woods, we left Tabert, and hopped the couple of miles across to Portavadie to spend the night, then the following morning set off for Loch Ranza on Arran. After picking up a mooring we took the dinghy ashore and had a great walk around the Loch, meeting dozens of wild red deer on the way! It was quite an extraordinary site to see a large stag with a fine set of antlers keeping watch over his hareem on a golf course of all places.

Loch Ranza moorings with the ferry terminal in the background.

The head of Loch Ranza, and the........

Lord of the glen !

Loch Ranza castle with the moorings beyond.

We were now coming towards the end of the cruise, but still had a few more places we wanted to see. After leaving Loch Ranza just after 10am we motored into a head wind around the north of Arran, and the southern tip of Bute. Two and a half hours later we picked up a mooring off Millport on the south end of Great Cumbrae. We took the dinghy ashore, had a pleasant walk along the sea front, and picked up a few provisions.

Millport pier and the moorings.

Millport bay with the town in the distance.

Crocodile Rock!

The last marina in the Clyde that we hadn't yet visited was Rhu, near Helensburgh, so in the morning ( 17th September ) we set of to rectify the omission, via a lunch stop at anchor just south of Cloch point lighthouse. NJ was moored in Rhu marina by 15-50. After filling up with fuel the next morning we headed back into the Clyde, and had a pleasant sail using the C1 furling genneker in 14Kts of wind - perfect! After passing close to Dunoon we turned south, and continued to carry the genneker most of the way to Rothesay where we spent our last night of the season. After a very nice walk through the woods above Rothesay in the morning, we moved over to Largs where we were allocated a berth further in than previously which suited us nicely, and were secured just before 15-00. We spent a day or so tidying the boat, and removing some of our junk to the car to be taken home for the winter. 'NJ' will be visited every so often during the off season to check that all is well, do a few jobs, and get to know the area a bit better.

We have had a fantastic time in Scotland this summer, and the weather, although not ideal for sailing, has been superb. The settled conditions have allowed us to visit many places that we might have thought twice about in normal weather. 'NJ' will stay in the water over the winter           ( where it is a bit warmer !! ), and then be hauled out in March for 4-6 weeks to dry out and have some work carried out on the rig, prior to next season when we hope to go 'round the top' and back to Hartlepool to complete the circumnavigation.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Holy Loch

After an uneventful but pleasant passage of only 14NM from Lochgoilhead we were moored on the inside of the outer breakwater in Holy Loch Marina. The marina is privately run but has big ideas for development, and it will be interesting to see what progress is made in the next few years.

'NJ' moored against the outer breakwater, looking towards the head of the loch.

Next to the marina was a jetty used for the shipment of logs, not quite on the scale of that at Troon, but still a fair operation. The Holy Loch Sailing Club is just in shot on the left.

Logging activity with the marina behind.

We had a pleasant walk along the shore to the outskirts of Dunoon where we had an impromptu picnic whilst watching the Dunoon / Gourock ferrys coming and going.

The view from Holy Loch Pier back towards the village and war memorial.

The Dunoon / Gourock ferry terminal at Dunoon.

Holy Loch village and the marina from the war memorial.

We left Holy Loch after lunch and had a good vigorous sail to Rothesay on Bute. After three nights in Rothesay we set out for Largs Marina, having a good downwind sail. We booked into the marina, and after a day sorting the boat we caught the train to go home for a few weeks.

Saturday, 13 September 2014


About 15 years ago we had had a family holiday in a cottage in Lochgoilhead, so a trip by sea was definately in order. After leaving James Watt Dock a course was set to take us in to Loch Long       ( Loch Goil is a spur off Loch Long ). Turning north in to Loch Long itself we saw a Naval vessel patrolling in the loch, the AIS system identified the vessel as HMS Grimsby. 

HMS Grimsby patrolling in Loch Long

As we approached Finart Bay we kept to the west side of the loch as instructed as we passed the navy facility at Coulport, and shortly afterwards turned to port into Loch Goil.

Loch Long

The entrance to Loch Goil

 On arriving at the head of the loch, we picked up a Loch Goil Jetty Trust mooring just off the cottage we had holidayed in so many years ago.

Lochgoilhead, with the dinghy jetty to the right.

Our holiday cottage from years ago.

 There was lots of waterborn activiity with sailing dinghys, and groups of kids in Canadian canoes. We had a peaceful night on the mooring before re-tracing our track down Loch Long and on to the marina at Holy Loch.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

James Watt Dock

We left Kip Marina at 13-20 on 12th August, and after passing Cloch Point lighthouse, we entered the buoyed channel into the Clyde at 14-30, and moored in James Watt Dock Marina at 15-00.

Cloch Point Lighthouse.

Part of the buoyed channel, and the entrance to James Watt Dock.

The Dock was formerly a sugar dock, and the wharfe building were owned by Tate & Lyle who started their sugar empire here. The dock itself is bisected by a tongue with the main part of the marina in the area between the tongue and the wharfe buildings

'NJ' on an alongside portion of pontoon adjacent to the tongue. 

Looking back towards the entrance from the end of the tongue.

Some of the more impressive inhabitants of the dock were three tugs which were operated by Clydeport, one of these, the 'Svitzer Milford', we had previously seen in 2012 in Milford Haven. 

The 'Svitzer Milford' tug maneuvering in the dock.

Having been suffering from harbour rot in Kip, we only stayed one night in James Watt Dock before setting off for Loch Goilhead via Loch Long.


After paying for our mooring in Loch Ranza, we headed out around the north coast of Arran sailing hard on the wind on starboard tack, then to the southernmost point of Bute ( Garroch Head ). Now heading north between Kilchattan Bay on Bute and The Cumbrae Islands we made good time untill the wind died out at about 13-20, the engine was started and we motored at about 6Kts towards Inverkip and KIP Marina. With about 4NM to go we were treated to the sight of a small group of Porpoises, and at just after 15-00 'NJ' was moored in Kip Marina.

Kip Marina from the entrance, with 'NJ' in the centre

The forecast for the next few days was not very good, with strong winds and rain promised, we ended up staying four nights, and had a few good walks, did general cleaning and maintenance, and provisioned the boat.

Looking south down the Firth of Clyde with Arran in the distance.

Looking northwest with Dunoon in the distance.

Finally on 12th August we left the marina for the short hop up to James Watt Dock on the Clyde.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Loch Ranza

The passage up to Loch Ranza was a pleasant 4.5 hours mix of sailing under genneker and motorsailing.

Genneker sailing.

 As we approached our destination it looked as if we would get a good dousing from a very black cloud, but this held off until 15 minutes after we had picked up a mooring, and were down below enjoying a coffee!

View from the mooring towards the head of the Loch.

Loch Ranza village and the ferry pier.

One of the Loch Ranza & Catacol Sailing Association moorings.

In the morning we dropped off the mooring and motored over to the jetty to pay our dues before setting out for Kip Marina.

Mull of Kintyre and Campbeltown : August 4th, 5th, & 6th

The passage from Port Ellen to Campbeltown was more of an undertaking than most of our recent days, with a distance of about 45NM and the rounding of another major tidal gate in the Mull of Kintyre. The wind was variable through the day with good stints of sailing indispersed with periods of motor sailing. The views from the boat were spectacular with the ever present Kintyre peninsular looming ahead, Islay receding behind, and to the south, Raithlin Island, the northern coast of northern Ireland, and the Galloway coat to the south east. Although we did see a little broken water in places our passage was uneventful, with a significant acceleration as we navigated around the Mull headed into Sanday Sound between Kintyre and Sanday Island. Maximum observed speed over the ground was 8.6Kts.

Rounding the Mull of Kintyre

Sanday Island.

Looking west towards the Mull from Sanday Sound.

As we turned North towards Campbeltown the wind dropped, but with the assistance of the engine we maintained a speed of 7Kts or so. As we approached Cambeltown, Island Davaar came into view, this has a covering shingle spit which connects the island to the land preventing what would be a tempting shortcut!

Island Davaar, the shingle spit is to the left of the island.

A short while later we were tied up safely to the long leisure boat pontoon next to the harbour.

The pontoon at Campbeltown, 'NJ' on the outer end.

We were pleasantly surprised by Cambeltown, with it's sturdy pontoon, a good supermarket near by, and many impressive buildings including the Royal Hotel where the pontoon dues were collected. We will be interested to see what transpires over the winter as a major expansion of the yacht facilities is planned, with the existing pontoon being removed in November.

The Royal Hotel, one of many impressive buildings.

We made up for our premature depature from Port Ellen with a three night stay in Cambeltown which we thoroughly enjoyed.