The Crossing 2009 (review of trip)
Kip Marina to Corpach
11th – 15th June 2009.
This trip was on the one hand blessed with pleasant summer weather but on the other handblighted by a lack of the forecast southerly and we had to run up a fair number of engine
hours to complete the passage on time.
Day one however saw us reefed down and beating our way from the Garroch Head to the Cock of Arran followed by a brisk reach down the Kilbrannan Sound in a Force 5 to Campbeltown.
On leaving Campbeltown Loch on day two we were privileged to be escorted by a family of dolphins as they frolicked under the bow and alongside as we headed to the Mull of Kintyre.
The ladies sailed the boat off the mooring on Gigha at 0630 hours on day three but the wind was lost before 0800hours . We nosed into the Gulf of Corryvreckan and made a passage through the Cuan Sound – both at slack water – en route to Oban.A lazy start on Sunday morning with breakfast provided by Darren saw us meander up the inside of Lismore and then inspect BallahulishBay before our passage through the Corran Narrows and up to the Caledonian Canal entrance at Corpach.
Our intention was to wait at the pontoon outside the basin as we had arrived late but helpful staff opened the sea lock ushered us through to overnight in the canal.
Monday morning saw an early start to Banavie and Neptune’s Steps . We ascended the series of locks ,with three of the team disembarking half way through as they had a train to catch and moored in the basin to pass over responsibility for the boat to Arthur Curtis and his crew for the “Crossing”.
The Crossing 2009
Crew no.2 took over at the top of Neptune’s Staircase around midday on Monday 15th June, in warm sunny weather. In the evening, we were treated to an informal gathering in the Moorings Hotel, where we had a chance to meet all the other crews taking part.
Tuesday afternoon was an open day for the public to visit the boats, and there were various shoreside attractions also. At 1600hrs all the boats left in line astern heading for Gairlochy, and our guests, Louise and Andrea, who are both visually impaired, took it in turns to helm able2sail, with a little help from the skipper. In the evening, there was a BBQ ashore and an impromptu ceilidh where several of the assembled company did a “party piece” – all good fun.
Wednesday saw us all arriving in Fort Augustus on a windy afternoon, and Thursday was another “open to the public” day, but the weather was not kind with heavy showers. However, the ceilidh dance in the village hall at night was great fun.
Friday, we descended the locks into Loch Ness, and then all met up at Castle Urquhart for a photo call, after which we headed on to the top of the loch under sail, to give Andrea and Louise a chance to do some sailing, which was great fun. Then on to Inverness and down the locks to Muirtown Basin.
On Saturday afternoon, a glorious sunny day, there were many activities, including a seaplane landing in the Basin and taking off again. The ceilidh dance in a marquee on the wharf beside all the boats, saw some energetic dancing by everyone, a late night and some tired souls on Sunday morning.
Andrea and Louise and the crew of able2Sail all thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, which was a great success, and lots of fun for all of us.
After another crew change at midday on Sunday 21st June, we started the return trip, leaving Muirtown Basin at 1430hrs and ascending the locks along with two other boats, one of them Norwegian. We were into Loch Ness by 1700hrs, and although the wind was from the south, our new guests, Bill, who lost his sight about 10 years ago, and Scott, who had been badly injured in a car accident, both wanted to make the most of it, so we
motor-sailed all the way down to Fort Augustus, where we arrived at 2130hrs, and got the last space on the pontoon. Jerry got to work in the galley and produced a fine evening meal.
Monday saw us up early, and we were in the second locking up the flight to the pontoons at the top, where we all had a well earned rest and lunch, before heading off south again, arriving at Laggan Locks at around 1700hrs. After our evening meal, we retired to the floating pub, where Jerry arranged for a cooked breakfast to be served the next morning.
There was hardly a cloud in the sky when we set off on Tuesday morning for Gairlochy, and thence to Banavie, where we descended Neptune’s Staircase and into Corpach Basin just before canal operations stopped for the night.
Wednesday morning saw us out into Loch Linnhe and motoring through the Corran Narrows. We got a little wind for a while so got some sailing, but then it died, so we continued under engine to the Creag Islands, just east of Lismore, where we anchored for lunch. Thereafter, we motored up the Sound of Mull and into Loch Aline, where we anchored for the night. Again, glorious sunshine all day.
We were all up early on Thursday, to make our way to Oban, where we left the boat at the marina on the island of Kerrera, ready for the final crew to take her back to Kip. Bill and Scott had both really enjoyed the whole experience, in spite of the lack of wind, as had the whole crew.
The fourth and last leg of the journey was from Kerrera (Oban) back to home base at Kip. The forecast was for light winds and sunshine. The crew consisted of Tim Forrester (skipper), Richard Smith (mate), Gerry Campbell, Margaret Reilly, Jim West, Pete Laws, and Iain Cochrane.
We met up at Queen’s St Station in Glasgow for the train trip north. No-one had met Iain before but he described himself as the “blind guy with the sailing bag”, which was a good guide.
A day’s sailing down to Crinan allowed us to get to grips with some challenging tidal gates at Luing and Doris Mhor safely negotiated by Richard’s navigation skills. Night 2 was spent in the picturesque Basin at Crinan.
The canal transit proved to be an excellent team exercise. Some great entertainment was provided by the boat ahead losing a lock handle into the lock and having to recover it by the guilty crew member stripping off and diving. Zero to hero in 15 minutes.
A mid canal rendezvous with Jim Mowatt, the well known blind sailor gave us the chance to familiarise ourselves with some very useful sailing kit designed for the visually impaired.
An overnight stop in Ardrishaig was a comfortable and cost effective third night option.
Otter Ferry provided a perfect lunch stop on day 4 followed by an overnight at the impressive new facilities in Portavadie.
A trip through the Kyles in hot sunshine with the cruising chute making an appearance rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable passage back to Kip.