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Sailing with Vela

Forecast checked, stores loaded, extra bedding brought on board for Kate and myself plus our Dutch guest Maartje, and after a discussion with Jim & Celia on where we would be heading to on the first night we cast off from the Campbeltown pontoon, raising the sails to the gentle southerly breeze. Autopilot on VelaFar from being crowded with five on board, Vela proves to be a comfortable boat with plenty of space in the cockpit for us to flop around in the sun and watch the scenery drift slowly by. Once the sails are set, the autohelm (which still needs to be christened as it is a valuable member of the crew) is set so we can relax and try to pick out the landmarks.
“Isn’t that Carradale Bay over there?”
“Yes, I can see our house nestling amongst the conifers”, replies Jim who is alarmed at the flowering rhododendrons which seem to be trying to take over his back garden. The view from the sea is not one he has seen before and this gives him and Celia a new perspective on their home.

Some hours later Lochranza came into view and Jim is soon engaging in the familiar (to us) task of trying to pass a rope through the ring on the top of a mooring buoy whilst lying prone on the foredeck. No matter how hard one may try to make this an elegant exercise, failure is inevitable. The bottom in the air posture just about guarantees this. Soon all is shipshape and all five of us pile into the inflatable for the short ride to shore. From this point onwards nothing on earth can prevent us heading for the hotel to slake our thirst. CSC group at LochranzaDave and Hilary, who set off from Campbeltown just before us, have landed from their pretty yacht, Foxcub, and seated round a large table in the bar we all pore over a large map of Arran as if we were planning a great campaign, David, to everyone’s amusement, producing the most authentic ‘major-general’ voice we have ever heard.

After we had eaten there was the compulsory visit to Lochranza Castle for a group Campbeltown Sailing Club photo in the late evening sunshine. The daisies were very pretty, I thought.

FoxcubWe all pile into dinghies again and head for Vela where we find Glenn has arrived on Jessica Lee so that there are eight of us crammed into the cabin for more socialising before turning in for the night.

The morning sky is streaked with cirrus while little puffs of white cumulus float aimlessly around. Foxcub is first away, heading north up the West Kyle to the proposed lunch-stop at Kames. The wind is light again, from behind us, so naturally I pose the question to Jim and Celia,
”Do we have a spinnaker on board?”
They don’t know for sure but, “There is a spare sail in the forward cupboard. I don’t know what it is but it is a nice colour”.
We dig around and pull the bag into the daylight. Yes, it is a spinnaker, so out come the sheets and up the mast it goes. Vela under spinnakerSoon its red, white and blue is billowing out ahead of us. (Surely this is not patriotically correct on a Scotsman’s boat!)

We leave Glenn behind at Kames as the weather changes, cloud taking over and a wind arriving which swirls unpredictably around making sailing an energetic affair. Celia takes the helm, tacking this way and that, leaving the rest of us grunts to do all the hard work of hauling ropes and winding winches. Fortunately, just before the crew rebel, there is a wind shift which gives us a clear run up the narrowest part of the passage and round the corner into the East Kyle. We squeeze past the Burnt Islands but the wind deserts us and the rain comes on with a vengeance. There is nothing for it but to motor on south into Rothesay for our second night away. We are all tired and somewhat damp as we plod about the town until we find a restaurant that can accommodate all of us. Curiously our wet clothing gradually dries out more quickly the more we wet our inner parts – a lesson to be learnt there, I think.

Rothesay is as charming as ever with its impressive harbourside and, of course, the spectacularly tiled Victorian toilets, but the forecast for our last day out was threatening some fresh easterlies and more rain later in the day. This meant an early start, well as early as we could manage, out of the marina, but nobody complained. David and Hillary chose to stay on in Rothesay, knowing better than to venture out, perhaps.Cloud over Goat FellArran sat brooding to the south under a heavy carpet of cloud but despite this no wind came our way. Our only choice was to start the engine and rumble on past the islands of Great and Little Cumbrae then on to Pladda which lies off the southern tip of Arran. All went well but for the engine needing an anastomosis in one of its various pipes (this being performed without anaesthetic) before we could continue. Fortunately we were properly equipped for such an eventuality, as every good boat should be, and the day ended smoothly. As for the predicted wind and rain, this totally failed to come anywhere near Campbeltown until after we had safely berthed and unloaded. Such is the way of forecasts around here.

Our first outing with the Campbeltown Sailing Club took us past a scattering of the most spectacular islands in Scotland, even giving us glances of a distant Ireland on the return. We still have to nudge ourselves to believe that all this is on our doorstep.

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One Response to Sailing with Vela

  1. It was pleasant to read your blog, Malcolm.
    Thank you and Kate for be anxious of Maartje zo good.
    All of you had a nice trip with Jim and Celia. I found an easy way to pick up a mooring on an Englisch website. Maby it is something for them too. I keep it in mind for ourselfs. Here is the link: http://www.circumnavigation-uki.co.uk/
    Enjoy the life in Schotland with Kate and friends.
    With love from al of us.
    Anneke and Theo

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