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.