Fyne times

After the trials of gaining access to the Newry canal, it is ironic that the weather rendered it all a waste of time as we had to kick our heels in Dun Laoghaire for two days, waiting for a break in the persistent northerly winds. Unfortunately, the time lost meant we didn’t have the time in hand to indulge ourselves at the top of Carlingford Lough. With only one day of moderated wind before the weather closed in again; it was decided to make the 115-mile passage straight to Belfast and sit out the next blow there.

Intending to moor in the Abercorn Basin in the heart of Belfast, a call to the Belfast Harbour authorities informed us that it was closed due to storm damage, so we turned and made for Bangor marina instead. The wind and rain descended the following day, but it did not prevent a train trip into Belfast for the excellent, re-vamped, Titanic exhibition. We took the hop-on hop-off bus which toured the areas of sectarian violence, pointing out the barriers, murals, and the scenes of various bombings, the ‘troubles’ have perversely, become something of a tourist attraction.

Sadly, the passage to Scotland the following day was made in drizzle and poor visibility. It was again undertaken under engine with only the slightest sail assistance. I am actually coming to terms with all this running of the engine on the basis that it will reduce the diesel in the starboard diesel tank which continues to seep its contents into the bilge.  Campbeltown, near the southern tip of the Mull of Kintyre was considered an ideal destination at the end of the 50-mile passage across the exposed North Channel. I had previously visited Campbeltown nearly 30 years ago and my abiding memory is of a local anti-drugs campaign called ‘reef not’ and they distributed brass lapel badges of a reef knot. It is a charming isolated rural town and the locals are welcoming. It was a surprise to see another Southerly 135 on the adjacent pontoon as only 30 were made and this one was all the way from America! It happened to be the start of the European football championships and Scotland were to play Germany after the ceremony. We went for a pint in the afternoon and the locals were already warming up for it. Thankfully, we watched the game on board as Scotland lost 5-1.

We woke the next morning to torrential rain, but the day soon brightened and with very little wind, we motored to Loch Ranza, at the top of the Isle of Arran, for lunch on board.

Loch Ranza on the Isle of Arran. A picturesque setting for lunch.

Pressing on  to Rothesay, we secured a cosy berth, in the inner harbour. Rothesay is something of a Victorian jewel and used to be the destination for holidaying Glaswegians who went ‘doon the waater to Rossy’ on the steamers for their annual holiday. There must have been a lot of them because the well preserved and quite beautiful (I didn’t think I would ever say that about urinals) public toilet facilities were extensive.

The stunning Victorian toilets.

Dashing out of our very tight berth to make the infrequent bridge opening time, we motored to the Burnt Islands then had a very pleasant and relaxed sail down West Kyle to eventually moor in Portavadie on Loch Fyne.

I know the diesel in the bilge issue is keeping the readership awake, all three of you, so I am happy to report that, with the starboard tank half empty, the problem seems to have gone away. Our passages have been fairly benign, so the jury is still out, pending a bit of bouncing about…


Richard writes:-

Richard and Nick having scrambled to the top of Bray Head.

Nick can really pick ‘em! After a tortuous scramble to the top of Bray Head Cross, above the town of Bray, somewhere South of Dublin, Nick spied a chap prostrating himself at the foot of the cross and asked, “Can we still get to Greystones on the coastal path from here?”, parts of which have been closed due to landslides. “Yes, and I will be your guide”, said the man, meaning of course to a life of religious enlightenment! Being an upright Englishman of good standing and impeccable manners, Nick agreed to be guided!

Nick with the nutter.

Well, the path to enlightenment is not easy. It doesn’t follow the normal routes and leads you through fences, down the most precarious, precipitous cliff faces so, if we didn’t believe in our maker at the beginning, we certainly did by the end!

But Amanda and I were saved, hallelujah! In the end, Nick told him, very politely of course, to bugger off.

Visions of being murdered and thrown off a cliff, slowly subsided, helped by a couple of pints in the Beach House Pub. However, on the train home, our angel re-appeared! Now he had us cornered, and preached to us about ‘eagles wings’, dealing drugs in gangland London and doing time at Her Majesty’s pleasure, before he ‘saw the light’.

The wildlife has perhaps been a little bit scarce so far although we have seen dolphins and a large variety of seabirds but in Campbelltown a fishing boat was dealing with its catch and sluicing the bits out of the scuppers. A huge flock of seagulls had gathered but suddenly a couple of seals appeared and stayed with us for a couple of hours. Wonderful.

On Saturday we arrived at Rothesay, a very pretty Victorian port on the Island of Bute. The approach to the outer harbour looks simple enough but we were aiming for the inner harbour, guarded by a lifting bridge. When the bridge lifted, we aimed for the narrow entrance, unaware that there were slightly submerged concrete ledges that were only visible as you were almost on top of them.

Hejira moored in Rothesay.

Going in was therefore quite difficult but leaving the next day was very, very tricky. Luckily our skipper had an amazing crew that saw him through this potential crisis.

This evening, we are in Portavadie, ready for the Crinan Canal tomorrow. This is a very smart, modern marina, which includes a number of holiday lodges, apartments and, apparently, a treehouse. The men’s showers even have hair straighteners! Needless to say, Nick has made full use of the facilities.

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