Well Crazysails readers, I must apologise for the delay in posting recently but there has been a distinct lack of wifi access which has hindered me being able to update the blog and upload our photos. Now, we are back! I will now start bringing you up to date with our travels by first taking you back to early August and the start of our trip across the Caledonian Canal.
From our previous blog, you will recall we were very excited to be welcoming Sophie (daughter) and Neil (son-in-law) on board and beginning our trip north east across the country through the Great Glen via the Caledonian Canal.
Having returned from our damp but impressive trip to Mallaig on the West Highland Railway, we got back to the boat just in time to make sure we were ready for Sophie and Neil’s arrival and all prepared for the next part of our sailing adventure, starting the next morning. We had already gone through the sea lock at Corpach and were moored up just before the first set of locks, so a quick check and we were ready – midge nets, Avon Skin so Soft midge repellent (seems odd but recommended in all the reports we had read), food and drink, the plan of the locks and where we could moor up during our trip through the canal and the forward cabin made up as a guest cabin; all we needed was our guests!
Sophie used to be known as the speaking clock in her school days, as she was always on time or early and, sure enough, she and Neil arrived in the car park beside the boat at Corpach, right on their eta. They had travelled up from Liverpool that morning, so not bad timing. A quick transfer of bags from car to boat and we were ready for the Skippers briefing, drinks and dinner (homemade Cullen Skink) and an early night before setting off up the first set of locks at 8am the next morning. It was so lovely to see them – we haven’t seen any of our family since saying goodbye when we first set off back in early June but, from here on, we are expecting a number of East Coast catchups with friends and family and this was the first and a very special catch up as we got to see not only Sophie and Neil but also the baby Davy bump.
The next morning dawned bright and dry and we were up and ready to go into the first lock at 8am. The first set of locks going eastbound on the canal is called Neptune’s Staircase and consists of eight locks; it is the longest staircase lock in Britain and enables boats to rise up by around twenty metres. There were three members of Scottish Canals staff operating the lock but they were very occupied with helping a single handed yachtsman and a French couple through the locks so we had two of us on the boat to handle to ropes during the operation of the lock and two of us on the canal bank to guide the ropes and help the boat along the tow path going from one lock to another. Pretty quickly, we had a good system going and we got through the locks in under two hours. Once through this impressive set of locks we motored past Banavie and continued up into Loch Lockey (so many versions of Lock/ch!). As we had gone up through Neptune’s Staircase and then into Loch Lockey the scenery was so beautiful. Finally, the mist covering Ben Nevis and the other mountains on the other side of the valley had lifted and we had some wonderful views spread out before us as we said goodbye to the west of Scotland.
We spent our first night in the canal moored up on a pontoon at Laggan Lock, where we were delighted to welcome, on board. Pauline (Collison) from Mengeham Rythe Sailing Club and her father, Frank. Pauline, who hails from Inverness originally, was up visiting her father and having followed our blog and Facebook knew we were in the Caledonian Canal around the same time. It was great to see them and many thanks for the gift of ‘Nessie’ who has become our boat mascot and the only site of the Lochness monster we were likely to see!
After a peaceful night at Laggan Loch, we woke to see the mist rising up over the mountains and we set off again for our next stop which was through several more locks and swing bridges, ending up on an isolated pontoon, just beside the ruin of Invergarry Castle on Loch Oich. Neil took the role of skipper (under the watchful eye of Simon) and he did really well guiding us into the pontoon. We enjoyed a hike through woodland to the Glengarry Castle Hotel, where we enjoyed a delicious cream tea before a walk up to the ‘village’ via some spectactular river rapids, where we had to play pooh sticks, then following the road (perilously, as there was no footpath) back down the hill and round by the castle ruins where Neil had Sophie posing for ‘Diana’ photos. We enjoyed a lovely meal at the Invergarry hotel that evening before a tranquil evening on the pontoon – getting back just before the rain came down! Now, having been warned about all the midges and terrible bites we were guaranteed to get on the canal, we have come armed (as previously mentioned) with lots of protection. Needless to say, other than a few midges in the canal, which hadn’t bothered us, neither myself, Sophie or Neil had felt the need to don any of the protective headgear we had been encouraged to bring. You just know what’s coming next now, don’t you! Yes, Simon swore blind he was plagued by the little critters and insisted on wearing his headgear on the way back from dinner. Strangely, by the end of the trip he was the only person to have been bitten, so maybe he was right they were after him or maybe his protection actually attracted them!
From Invergarry, we enjoyed a sail down Loch Oich to Fort Augustus, the most built up (in the loosest sense of the word) area in the Caledonian Canal. This was a really pretty little place and we enjoyed a wander round before an early evening dinner in the Lock Inn (another ‘Lock’). Up to this point all the locks we had gone through were taking us up higher but from, this point on, we started to make our descent. This set of locks seemed steep and the view down the valley was spectacular – even through the mist and drizzle. Once down, we went through a swing bridge and were then out into the most well-known of the lochs in the canal and the monster hunting could begin, yes, we were now in Loch Ness.
As well as being the most well-known, Loch Ness was also the largest of the lochs in the canal and the Great Glen; it also had the least facilities and the fewest options of where to stay, which was rather surprising. This lack of places to stay meant we took shelter in Drumnadroch Harbour, just across the bay from Urquhart Castle and made our own entertainments (ukele ‘playing’ and Exploding Kittens game). This is a small purpose build harbour is still under development and has absolutely no facilities (other than a couple of picnic benches) and a parking meter to get a ticket to pay for your stay. The other challenge was that being just about the only sheltered place on Loch Ness, all the hire boats (we had been warned to avoid) all headed straight for here having picked up their boats. The results – pretty much carnage! Simon, of course (not) was completely calm and happy to be in the midst of such boating chaos but he did make use of his of teaching and sailing experience by giving these total novices some guidance about how to tie up their boats securely. He also persuaded Neil and I that we were capable of getting him up the mast (and keeping him there and getting him safely back down) so he could replace the broken mast speaker – mission accomplished but we do think this is where the midges enjoyed feasting on Simon’s arms!
Our final destination on the Caledonian Canal was Seaport Marina in Inverness. We had travelled 60 miles through some of the most beautiful Scottish scenery and now know all about the Great Glen, when we hear it mentioned on the weather forecast. We have tackled 29 locks and 10 swing bridges, sailed through three lochs and experienced all the elements – sun, cloud, cold, mist, rain and wind. We confirmed that the boat really does sink lower in fresh water than it sits in the salty sea water and that floating tree trunks could be mistaken for a monster. We have had a lot of laughs, delicious food, met friends (including the duck who came to visit in Inverness) and really enjoyed our time with Sophie and Neil. Inverness was not really what we had imagined but we managed to find a busy pub on the river which served good food and we enjoyed our last evening before we headed out through the sea loch and begin our homeward journey down the east side of Scotland and Sophie and Neil retraced their steps and headed over to Skye for the Highland Games.
Next stop for Kairos will be Lossiemouth, when we will be heading east and really will be starting the homeward strait so, until our next blog post, thanks for all your support and all the donations to support our National Autistic Society fundraising efforts and keep following……but for now, Kairos out!
Do visit our JustGiving page – look for Kairos 11 Round Britain Sailing Challenge.
Kairos 11 – Proud to support the National Autistic Society.