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Welcome back Crazysails friends

We thought before we get talking about our latest adventures, we would tell you about our Scottish themed quiz, which we hope lots of you Crazysails followers will enter. If you remember our Irish quiz, which was won by Chris and Carole from Kent, you may have been wondering what we have in store for our Scottish quiz. Well, we have three easy questions for Crazysails followers to complete to go into a draw to win a mystery prize with a Scottish theme.

These are:

  1. What tartan is Simon modelling (so glamorously) in the photos?
  2. What animal is the symbol for Scotland?
  3. How many miles will we have completed by the time we reach the Corpach entrance to the Caledonian Canal. (Predicted log)

Answers to be sent to me (Helen) by Messenger or email: hw.mozaic@outlook.com or texted to either of us, if you have our numbers (sorry we are not putting them on Facebook or in the blog) by 12pm Wednesday 27th July. All we ask is that everyone who enters could share the blog and the information about our challenge to support the National Autistic Society with as many others as possible and if you would like to make a donation to our JustGiving page, that would be amazing too; if you already have, our continued thanks for your support.

We hope you like the images of Simon all dressed up in Scottish dress. I’m rather jealous that his legs look better than mine in a skirt and I think he rather enjoyed it too. Thanks to Mary, Jane and Kirsty at Chalmers of Oban, who kindly dressed him – so he could fulfil a fantasy and we could have a question for our next quiz!

Now back to the travel log:

Crinan to Ardfern:  Friday 15 July

Crazysails readers will remember how much we said we loved Crinan and the stunning panorama of the islands that opened up as we looked out from the canal basin – as Mary Poppins said “practically perfect, in every way”. The following day, a beautiful morning dawned with the early sunshine casting magical reflections in the water. Although we would like to have stayed another day, we decided we needed to press on and so we set off for Ardfern.

We were in the first lock out of the morning at 9am and set out heading north for what was to be our shortest journey of the trip, just over an hour to reach Loch Craignish and Ardfern Marina.

The reason we were heading for Ardfern, which was so close by, was that the marina there had been recommended as somewhere with a good boatyard that could possibly help with the electrical problem we had with our instruments. The problem began with our echo sounder, which tells us the depth of water and is therefore quite important when there is the possibility of hidden rocks. Next the wind instrument stopped working, for no clear reason; this tells us the direction and strength of the wind and helps time sail changes and whether we need to reef down the sail. Finally, the GPS repeater, which shows our position, direction and speed as a one display summary stopped working. All of this information can be gained from other sources, by experience, instinct and close chart work. There was no clear reason why these problems occurred and Simon (chief engineer as well as skipper) had tested his electrical skills to the max, taken the boat to bits and exposed wires we didn’t know we had (to my dismay) and was totally flummoxed, so we welcomed Andrew from Ardfern Marina to help solve the problems. After some 3 days, some wiring changes, a replacement echo sounder and moving the boat to somewhere with less electrical interference (all completed under the cockpit enclosure due to driving rain and gales) we were all fit to go again, so, many many thanks to Andrew for his patience and help and support for our challenge.

We actually ended up staying in Ardern for almost a week as the wind was wild and, not being foolish or desperate to leave, we opted to stay on for an extra few nights until conditions improved. At one point our (now working) wind indicator recorded wind speeds of 41-44 knots – I just managed to catch some of these on film. The gusts were so strong that some of our fenders were squashed but the marina staff were great and lent us some of their big storm fenders. Eventually, it blew itself out and we felt ready to take advantage of a weather break and move on to our next destination.

For sailors considering a stop off in the Ardfern area on Lake Craignish, it is well worth a stop. With a lovely setting, good pontoons, an excellent chandlery, really helpful staff, a fantastic pub serving very good food, just up the road (The Galley of Lorne – we became regulars!)) and a very well stocked village shop, just outside the marina entrance, visitors are well catered for. The two downsides are the difficult internet reception and the lack of anywhere to sit outside and have a drink, near the marina office but everything else was just great and Ardfern will definitely make it into our top marina guide.

Ardfern to Oban

Spotting a gap in the weather we set off northbound for Oban at 6am on Thursday 20th July, timing our departure to get through the tricky tides around the Dorus Mor area at the end of Lock Craignish. It was a beautiful morning as the sun came up over the islands and there were lots of photo opportunities as we passed the top of Jura, then Scaba, Lunga, Luing, Insh and many other smaller islands, too numerous to mention. Coming around into the Sound of Luing we could feel the boat being pulled to the left, even though the tide was slack – we had read that this is the case and we needed to take care not to be pulled too far left into the Gulf of Corryvreckan, which includes a big whirlpool between Jura and Scaba. There were a few other areas with hidden rocks and overfalls but the charts were good and Simon had chatted through our passage plans with Andrew at Ardfern to get some local knowledge.

As we approached Oban at lunch time, the wind was again coming up and the sun disappeared behind familiar clouds. We were directed to our berth inside Oban Marina, which is actually located across the bay on Kerrera Island and we were glad to find a berth on the inside, which was well sheltered and just happened to be in a berth next to Sam and Robin who were working in the marina office and gave us a great welcome. In fact, when they heard the story of our voyage and that we are doing it for the National Autistic Society, they asked if they could make a film about our trip for the marina You Tube channel and to distribute it to the local press. Of course, ‘one take Ward’ (Simon) jumped at the chance and so, yesterday morning, we found ourselves being filmed talking about our trip. Robin, a former drama teacher, was great at putting us at ease and asking lots of questions to draw out information about our trip – think he may have a fair amount of editing to do though but many, many thanks to him and Sam for doing this. We haven’t seen the film yet but will, of course, be sharing links to it with Crazysails readers in the near future. Thanks also to Robin for tackling our mast to check out the mast speaker which needed replacing.

 

Oban Marina, Kerrera Island

We’ll be honest, before arriving, we were a little uncertain about the offshore marina as we wanted to stock up and see somethinga of a Scottish port however we are so very pleased that we opted to come to Oban Marina on Kerrera. The marina is under new ownership and we were warmly welcomed by Catherine, one of the owners and Ollie and his Osteopath partner, who are co-running the marina and the restaurant facilities. They have only been in place, since the early spring and fully acknowledge there is work to do but the restaurant is cosy and the food is delicious. There is a lovely outdoor seating area and bar, with a beautiful view of Oban across the bay. There is a regular, free water taxi service to and from Oban, where you can also get chatting to fellow yachties – hello to Siegrid and Philip from Spring Tide, we really enjoyed our chat and your recommendations yesterday – and the pontoons are sturdy and well maintained. The showers are adequate with a good amount of hot water operated by a token and there is a well-equipped laundry. These could be improved and it will be even better when the restaurant opens during the day too but otherwise this is a really lovely place to stay and without any doubt, we would recommend a stay here. Ollie told us that they are trying to create a special marina experience for sailors who want to enjoy friendly service, good food and hospitality in a relaxing, comfortable, yet natural environment – they are certainly on the way to achieving this. Many thanks to them all for making our stay so pleasant.

Spot the Lion’s Mane jellyfish – lots of them around the boats! Lovely food and beautiful island.

 

Oban itself is a rather typical small northern fishing town with tall, imposing Victorian buildings, built in local stone, surrounding the working harbour where small boats compete with fishing trawlers and enormous ferries, which take sightseers out to the islands and on wildlife spotting trips. A range of shops selling local souvenirs, cafes and restaurants are next to high street shops such as Boots and New Look. The whole town is overlooked by a folly which looks like a partially built Victorian colosseum and the ruined castle of Dunollie is about a mile walk past the rather imposing but unattractive cathedral. There is a very central tourist information office and the staff in there were very helpful and friendly explaining about the local area. Oban Distillery is a big attraction in the town and we were amazed at the number of German, French, Dutch and American tourists wandering around. We certainly heard more languages and saw more boats in the marina from different places worldwide than anywhere else on our travels. There is also development in Oban itself, with the completion of several new pontoons, due imminently – we really hope this won’t detract from the opportunity to stay at Kerrera, as the experience will be very different. Indeed for bigger yachts wanting longer term moorings and a real Scottish Island experience Kerrara offers far more than Oban itself. Oban does have a Tesco, however and we did manage to do some basic shopping – this was our first big supermarket for some time so we did feel we had hit civilisation however we were also pleased to get back onto the ferry back to the island.

There is no doubt that Satruday was a varied and interesting day which included our early morning mast climb then film making, Simon’s highland dressing experience followed by an amazing seafood platter served from ‘the green tent’ on the quayside near the ferry terminal. If ‘the green tent’ sounds vague, it’s because it is – there was no name on the tent to tell us what it was called yet it was heaving and the fish was amazingly fresh and fantastically good value, Our sharing platter for two was about £27 and included half a lobster, enormous crab claws, more mussels than you would get in a main course portion, languistines, prawns, shelled prawns, scallops, crab sticks, squid and salmon plus sauces and dips and brown bread and butter. We couldn’t finish it all – though we gave it a good shot and it was totally delicious. If you are visiting Oban and like seafood you MUST visit the green tent; you will not be disappointed!

Next stop: Tobermory, Isle of Mull then stop overs (weather permitting) at anchor in a few of the picturesque locks (thanks to Catherine’s Dad, Jock for his recommendation and the many others we have had too) between there and our meeting point with Sophie and Neil, who are joining us at Corpach, near Fort William, at the end of the month. We’ll also have some interesting new statistics from the national Autistic Society to share with you.

Thanks for following and we look forward to your competition entries.

Kairos out!

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