Captain Birdseye and his bird!
28 July – 02 August
Hello Crazysails friends
Apologies for the delay in updating our blog but life has been rather busy since our last post and, of course, we have also had the inevitable continuous internet challenges. Since last writing, we have moved on and are now starting our southbound journey home but before we talk about that, we first need to tell you about our last few days in the west of Scotland, so here goes:
Tobermory, return visit
Previous readers will remember we visited Tobermory before going to Loch Sunart and Salen (last blog) but we decided to return there for a few days as it is a good place to be (shops, restaurants, bars) if the weather is not so good – which it wasn’t. We also needed to return to take advantage of Simon’s Christmas treat from Sophie and Neil which was a tour and tasting at the local whisky distillery. And so it was that we ended our stay in Tobermory with a very enjoyable and informative tour and learnt a lot about that fiery brown liquid which Simon enjoys so much. As a memento of our visit we (Simon) just had to buy a couple of bottles; one of Tobermory Whisky itself and one of Ledaig (pronounced Leedich, as per the Gaelic) which is the smoky stronger whisky with a more peaty taste. I am not a whisky drinker but have to say it was a very good tour – many thanks to Neil, our very friendly, knowledgeable tour guide.
We also enjoyed our first meal of Cullen Skink at the Mish Dish Restaurant (part of the well-known and recommended Mish Nish hotel and bar) and have become total fans. Cullen Skink is a creamy smoked haddock and potato soup – bit like a chowder – very filling and totally delicious. The Mish Nish had been recommended in our trusty little green book (Charles Warlow) and by other sailors we have met on our trip too. The food at the restaurant certainly didn’t disappoint and was a highlight of our Tobermory stay – 5 stars on my Trip Advisor review!
This little green book by Charles Warlow has been a very useful reference for us during our trip.
On our last day there I was going to go on a tripper boat our to Fingal’s Cave on Staffa Island and to see the puffins (I love puffins) on Lunga Island – Simon wanted to stay and get the boat sorted ready for our next trip. Unfortunately, the weather was so bad that even the tripper boat didn’t go out, so I resorted to doing a mass wash – bedding, towels, clothes… everything; Simon sorted the boat, even cleaning the bilge (underneath the cabin floor, a notorious spot on all boats where grime collects and smells can begin- info for non-sailors). I did help with bilge cleaning, I moved the floor boards, passed the paper towels and other such other supportive duties! After bilge cleaning, Simon went shopping and bought a pie dish from the hardware shop (random, I know, but we did use it to cook a lovely cottage pie later) and he also, less practically but very sweetly, bought me a toy puffin to make up for me not seeing them on Lunga, so it all worked out for the best in the end!
Tobermory has been a lovely place to stay, the facilities are good and the Welsh Harbour Master was very welcoming and helpful… and of course, it is such a photogenic, bright, colourful place, how could you not love it?
Return visit to Oban Marina
30 July – 01 August
After leaving Tobermory, we hoped to go to Loch Aline where, similar to Salen in Loch Sunart (last blog post), there is a small pontoon area which sounded a lovely spot to stay for a night or two. We needed to head back East before beginning our trip north up to the Caledonian Canal and this would have been a good stop off point. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favour and we decided to head for a more secure marina, which meant returning to Oban Marina on Kerrara Island. As Robin from Oban had emailed us with a preview version on the video he was making about our travels and Oban Marina (thank you Diana, who I believe led on this) had made a generous donation to our JustGiving page it was a great opportunity to return to say thank you to everyone and sign off on the video too. We returned to exactly the same berth and spent another lovely couple of nights there.
At this point I’d like to share the link to the final video which is now on You Tube and to thank Robin King of Fairy Boatscrubbers for his time and support in the making of it:
YouTube Fairy Boatscrubbers Interview UK circumnavigation for the National Autistic Society into the search bar and it should come up.
Loch Linhe to Corpach and the Caledonian Canal Sealock
It felt quite momentous to leave Oban and finally head north up the beautiful Loch Linhe, passing some more amazing scenery and Fort William along the way. I cannot lie, I was particularly excited because the next evening Sophie (daughter) and Neil (son-in-law) were due to arrive to spend the next 6 days with us, as we travelled through the Caledonian Canal. We are blessed with a lovely family and it seems so long since we saw any of them so seeing Sophie and Neil was really something we were looking forward to, especially as they have a wee one due at the end of October and as a fusspot Mother I really wanted to make sure she was okay, say hi to grandchild (in bump) and just spend some relaxing fun time with them.
Before their arrival however, we had to get up to the end of Loch Linhe, through the sea loch and get berthed and then we had a trip on the West Highland railway booked which would take us through the mountains over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, Arisaig and Morar and down to Mallaig from which we would be able to see over to Skye, Eigg and Rhum. As we had hoped to be able to sail to Skye but this was one of the places the bad weather had forced us to rethink, we were particularly keen to at least see the island, if not by boat. Needless to say, the weather was pretty atrocious for about 90% of the time, so many of my photos are through a train window through the raindrops or taken with a rainy, cloudy haze from under an umbrella BUT the journey is worth it and if you ever get the opportunity to do this route, DO IT, the scenery is SPECTACTULAR and we have seen some amazing scenery in our two months at sea but this was really awesome. You can also get a steam train called the Jacobite Express from Fort William to Mallaig. This was the train used in the Harry Potter films and, as a result of its heritage, its character and the route it follows, it gets booked up a year in advance but the West Highland Railway goes the same route, is about a quarter of the price and you can actually see the steam train at different points on your journey too. It is however, still worth booking, as the train starts in Glasgow and carries a lot of visitors who are transiting onto the islands. I have attached my photos of the viaduct (plus others) in the rain and Sophie’s taken a week later in the sunshine so you can see what it should look like!
It wouldn’t be a Crazysails blog without mentioning our fundraising and awareness raising efforts for the National Autistic Society. In our first blog in Oban we started a Scottish competition where we asked what tartan Simon was wearing, what the national animal of Scotland is and how many miles we will have travelled by the time we reached the Caledonian Canal. We did publish answers and the winners on Facebook but in case you didn’t see this the answers are: Black Watch Tartan, the unicorn and we had travelled 905 miles since setting off. The winners are Sue Fox and Ray Davy – good friends from Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club; a highly desirable prize is now winging it’s way to them! Talking of highly desirable prizes here is Carol ‘playing’ her Irish tin whistle while partner, Chris, uses his hand crafted Irish wood plectrum to strum his ukulele – highly desirable prizes for the winners of our Irish competition!
We have met some lovely people during our travels but one of the oddest ways is when complete strangers step onto your boat (uninvited) because they want a photo on a boat and seem to think this is okay to do this. Aha, what they don’t expect is that we welcome them aboard, tell them about our fundraising efforts and get them to pose for their pictures with our National Autistic Society flag. The two in the photo below are from China and were lovely and very grateful – thanks to them!
Finally, thank you for your continuing support. Do keep following and sharing our posts and Facebook messages and don’t forget to save your pennies or visit our JustGiving page and be part of our wonderful crazy adventure to raise awareness about autism and support the National Autistic Society – THANK YOU.
Next Blog: Going north east across Scotland, midges and madness on the Caledonian Canal.
For now; Kairos out