Up at 6am, showers then boat prep’, a cup of tea but no breakfast. A dark, gloomy morning with a temperature of no more than 12 deg C! After removing the shore power cable, the cockpit tent, and other prep’ jobs …. Tommy the nice lock keeper arrived to tell us to leave our berth at 7.55am and head for the first lock …. the top lock of eight …. the famous Neptune’s Staircase.
Tommy informed us that we would be in the same lock as a largish fishing boat, a huge French catarmaran and a Dufour 38 sailing yacht. Needless to say it started raining the moment we entered the first lock and rained all the way down to the bottom.
It took over two and a half hours to descend the eight locks…. moving from one to the other, tying up from the bow and the stern, keeping the boat still as the water emptied out, letting the lines go slack as the boat went down, retrieve the lines…. then motor slowly and carefully into the next lock to start the whole procedure again.
Poli Poli was in each lock with three other vessels…. a large fishing boat with an all Welsh crew taking the boat to Milford Haven in Wales all the way from Aberdeen…. and because it was flat bottomed it rolled all over the place…. but by half way the skipper had it under control. We were at the front with the fishing boat and behind us were the other two boats… a giant of a cat and a much smaller Dufour 38 sailing yacht.
Poli Poli on the left in the foreground, the Welsh fishing boat on the right of us. The boat with the number 5 on the bow is the Dufour 38. Behind us you can just see the two hulls of the French cat. The locks are enormous.
Anybody who moans about how hard the Sovereign Harbour lock is back home in Eastbourne, needs to experience this…. it is that lock eight times over!!
This is a photo of Tommy the Neptune’s Staircase senior Lock Keeper…. we found him to be a thoroughly nice gentleman…. kind, considerate and very professional. Tommy, along with Gillian were marvellous in the emergency with Chris’s accident about a fortnight previously. In the background is the Moorings Hotel where on different days, we had mid-morning coffee, breakfast, a couple of lunches and one supper. The service and the food was very good.
Margaret, over the course of the eight locks…. managed to control the stern line sitting on the starboard helm seat and working the line through the guard rails. Vasco had all sorts of problems with the bow line…. often not able to pass it correctly to the lock keeper, sometimes dropping it in the water…. and not able to release the line when the boat motored to the next lock.
Margaret in charge of the stern line in the lock at Neptune’s Staircase.
We finally arrived in the bottom lock where we then had to wait for the main road and the railway bridge to be swung open…. it was now gone 10am…. and still raining. We were all wet through.
After a short stretch of canal we all proceeded to the final lock…. a double lock…. before then entering the great big sea lock at Corpach at the top of Loch Linnhe at 11.10am. The weather worsened at this point as we felt the full force of a South Westerly Force 5.
It was clear from our entry into Loch Linnhe with the wind and rain head on, that Vasco was not enjoying matters. Visibilty was not good and the navigation lights were switched on. We proceeded in a well spread out convoy…. the Welsh fishing boat with the largest engine out front, Poli Poli followed after overtaking the Dufour. The French Cat had been held back in the canal below the Staircase as it had to take the double locks before the final sea lock on its own.
All around was grey and various dark shades of gloom. Three hundred and sixty degrees around the horizon of grey gloom…. not a single brighter patch…. nothing but heavy rain in all directions. Brave Margaret went down below…put the kettle on the gas and made three big pots of chopped banana and porridge …. a real treat and a raising of the spirits! Well done M!
Poli Poli approaching the Corran Narrows in Loch Linnhe.
Halfway down Loch Linnhe we had to pass through the infamous Corran Narrows … a tidal gate where there are cross currents, eddies, whirlpools and overfalls. Arrive here at the wrong time and it could be disastrous…. we had to be through by 1pm with the tide behind us.
From an average speed of 7 knots heading south, we navigated the Corran Narrows at 11 plus knots…. and then once through. came the very disturbed sea state of short white crested waves and peculiar swirls either side of the boat. Now into a much wider Loch Linnhe, the wind blew and rain intensified….. ever since our departure from Corpach and the final sea lock, we had faced a wind over tide situation which makes for a choppy sea state.
Looking back after passing the Corran Narrows.
Once abeam of Shuna Island, we turned to port and in calmer waters entered the Lynn of Lorn and past the lighthouse at Port Appin.
A study in concentration…
The long thin island of Lismore gave us a degree of shelter from the south westerly winds. Further south it became a little ‘rough’ ( moderate for the Met Office ) whilst visibility was distinctly iffy.
Is this rough ??? A video Margaret made.
Poli Poli, once into the Firth of Lorne, turned to port and entered the calmer Ardmucknish Bay….. and prepared the boat for mooring in the marina opposite Dunstaffnage Castle…. just north of Oban on the Scottish mainland. Mooring was difficult as a 20-25 knot SW wind blew and a strong tide ran under the pontoons.
In the murk, sea spray T eats his cheese rolls.
At 3pm we finally tied up on the outer side of the long breakwater at Dunstaffnage Marina. And it continued to rain!
Looking at forecasts for NW Scotland for the next three days, these promise little beyond more rain and strong winds. There is already a gale warning for this evening.
Distance for the day: 32.0 n.miles from Banavie and Dunstaffnage.
Total distance from Eastbourne to date: 1,559.2 n.miles.