Cornwall to Scotland days 47 to 50
|21/08/2011||Filled under Canal, Carradale, Crinan, Scotland|
Day 47/48 – Our little adventure around the British Isles is almost over. We feel now that we are rapidly approaching the point at which we can say “That’s it, we’ve done it”. One issue still outstanding, however, is the small matter of deciding where Cirrus Cat will live permanently now that we have brought her to Scotland. Carradale Harbour (for those who don’t know it) is tiny and not suitable for us but there are plenty of other choices, marinas or moorings, to consider. Our brief couple of days back home have given us an opportunity to draw up some plans, even to begin thinking about where next year’s sailing season will take us.
It has been lovely to pop back to Carradale and meet up with our neighbours after so long away. Our outdoor life must have left us looking quite healthy – there have been a number of comments on this – and once again the warmth of the greetings is just great. Most surprising to us, who expect to do everything on the boat ourselves with little or no help from others, has been an offer of assistance from Brian and Audrey to help us with the locks on our transit of the Crinan Canal. This is no mean offer since most of the fifteen locks are operated manually by a vessel’s crew and the whole experience is a physical one, particularly for two people. It gets easier and quicker the more helpers you have, particularly if someone can go ahead and prepare the next lock before the boat leaves the last one.
After only one full day at home, mostly taken up with taming the garden vegetation before it overruns the house, we set off again, driving to Tarbert to take the first of only two buses to return to Dunstaffnage. This misses the most spectacular part of the journey, the views from the west coast of Kintyre, but it gets us back on board by mid afternoon and just before another brief rain shower lands on Cirrus’ decks.
Day 49 – We start our twenty-five mile passage to the start of the Crinan Canal just before the top of high water. Timing here is quite critical because our route takes us through the notorious Sound of Luing where twice a day the water rushes first one way then the other at speeds which our boat finds hard to match. The trick here is to arrive at one end just as the tide begins to sweep our way, southbound, so that we are squirted through the narrow passage like water in a hose pipe. In reality this is a poor analogy because this land was shaped by giants and the Sound is at least a mile across at its narrowest point. Being in the middle of it we get no impression of the rate at which we are being carried along as the only evidence is the whirlpools which form on the surface, driven by upwelling currents as if one of those giants is waving his hands about far below us. The depths in the Sound vary from sixty to less than ten metres and in one spot an underwater hummock rises to within less than three metres of the surface. All these irregularities can produce dangerous conditions and overfalls, especially when combined with the giant winds which frequently blow here. Once again timing and a good boat are essentials here.
At the southern end of the Sound lie the Isles of Scarba and Jura, between which is the Gulf of Corryvreckan, a place we peer into as we pass by, from a comfortable distance. I try to stand in the way so that Kate cannot see through the narrow gap that causes all the fuss.
The wind has dropped and the sun has come out making it very hot, for a change, as we slip into the Crinan Canal and tie up for the night. It is still and quiet, the noisiest sound being made by the swallows which are out here in force for their evening meal of midges and other flying fodder.
Day 50 – Our Crinan lock operating team meet us at Bellanoch keen and eager to get started. At the first lock they are ahead of us, smiling and waving us in, then they rush ahead to get the next one ready. Brian is on sluices, winding them open to let the water rush into the pound, while Audrey puts her back to the heavy lock gate which slowly closes behind us. These two are canal experts and work together as a well oiled machine. We cannot believe the rate we are moving through the canal. Surely this must be a record passage time?
We have to rein them in for a lunch stop at Cairnbaan then it’s off to Ardishaig for the last few locks before we exit the canal there and wave them farewell. Many thanks for all your hard work guys.
Tonight we are swinging to a mooring at Otter Ferry on Loch Fyne. It is cool here now and overcast, threatening rain but as yet it holds off. This is a sheltered, secure place to spend the night, to rest up after all our lock-related activities.