The Storm Petrel Circumnavigation Leg 9

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Submitted by Tim Bizzey on

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With the last lap of this years’ cruise now in sight we arrived at the Crinan Canal entrance at about 13.15 on the 7th August and in company with a couple of other yachts hung around outside the sea lock for a while waiting to be called in. Nothing much happened until it transpired that a junior staff member was running the lock and was not sure how to get us all in and in what order. Eventually all came right and we locked in, paid our dues and made ready for the transit. After chatting to the now complete and ever friendly staff it transpired that due to the lack of rain over this summer and last summer there was a shortage of water to keep the canal full. Scotland? No rain? Surely not!

The shortage of rain necessitated rationing the number of lock openings whilst the head of the canal re-charged. Indeed at the end of the week there were to be limitations on movement which would mean a long detour around the Mull of Kintyre.

The Crinan is another of the ‘must dos’. Having done a rapid transit way back during the RNLI baton relay, this time we had a chance to tie up for a night in lovely surroundings and then tackle the remainder with a more leisurely pace on the following day. A useful hint to skippers is stick to the wheel and let the crew do the work. The locks and sluices are hand operated and very hard work indeed and if other users don’t obey the rules it is even harder. A skipper in need calls up the marines and the US Navy (both newly retired, or so they tell us) to do the work. Special badges go to Duncan, Bill and Admiral Anne who laboured tirelessly all day. It was early evening before we eventually arrived at the southern sea lock and Storm Petrel felt the tang of salt water in her rigging once more. By now there was a cracking breeze filling in from the south, so up with the main, roll out the genny and away to windward in warm evening sun to arrive in Tarbert at 20.15 on the 8th August.

The weather was now looking unpredictable so we decided to have a lay day in Tarbert where the walking wounded visited the sick bay to have their sore feet tenderly attended to by the ships paramedic (aka the Admiral). Now our Admiral has probably the largest stock of potions and healing creams in the whole of the sailing world so with blisters treated and bandages lovingly applied we settled down to explore the fleshpots of Tarbert. That didn’t take too long but a fantastic fish restaurant was located which was true to its reputation. Our HPO for Largs was rumoured to be in harbour but we were sadly unable to make contact. Perhaps next year.

Having taken our R&R we now moved on to pick up a mooring in the Kyles of Bute and to dodge a nasty storm in Port Ballantyne. Wandering down the pontoon in a break in the weather we thought we recognised a Bavaria 34 about four berths down from us. On the stern was the insignia LSC and beside it the boat name Dido. Well that could only be our past Commodore David’s old boat and sure enough there she was. What a small world although there was no sign of the owner to make ourselves known to.

Now Port Ballantyne is a sleepy place so as we were almost in sight of Arran we set off south with an improving weather forecast. It was still quite breezy and the North Channel can be uncomfortable but we had a cracking sail in to the shelter of Holy Island and picked up a mooring at Lamlash. We were lucky to meet up with an old friend of Anne’s who lives on the island and he kindly gave us a conducted tour with visits to Arran Aromatics and the distillery at Loch Ranza. So that ticked off Arran from the list of places to visit.

The remainder of our adventure involved little of worthy mention other than to report the onset of ever deteriorating weather and of course the regular consumption of food and drink. Suffice it to say that on the 15th August we docked at our final destination in nil visibility and pouring rain. Inverkip is a very comfortable marina where we know we will be happy for a couple of years where Storm Petrel will be our winter holiday cottage and our summer cruiser in Scotland. The Clyde is without a doubt a wonderful place to either sail locally in quiet waters or a base from which to explore further afield to the Hebrides or Ireland.

It’s all over now so our trusty stead is safely tucked up in a comfortable berth, cleaned and tidy and waiting for us to return for an autumn sail and some maintenance work.

We have completed 1200 miles on the log, more over the ground, and we have motored for a massive 178 hours. The weather has been generally kind, we have had lovely crews, we have laughed a lot, we have met HPOs and charming and welcoming people along the way. We have truly had a fantastic time. Next year? Who knows? 

A peaceful night on the Crinan Canal