6 July 2021. Ardrossan to Lamlash
After the weekend, I welcomed aboard my new crewmate, Ash who was to stay with me until Fort William and, after a quick provisioning trip to the large ASDA supermarket which is conveniently right beside the marina, we set off for Lamlash on the Island of Arran.
The weather was absolutely glorious but the wind was very light so it was a gentle sail about and I let Ash have a play around with Moon Shadow so she could get the feel of her.
We gradually worked our way down to Arran and into Lamlash. The anchorage marked on the chart was at the western end of the moorings so that’s where we went.
Dropped anchor 19:30. 18 miles, 6 hours
We were subsequently told by the guy in the small chandlery there that we should have gone to the east of the moorings. Sure enough, there were some other boats anchored there but we felt fine where we were and didn’t bother moving.
Just off Lamlash is Holy Isle which is a Buddhist community that normally has visitor tours and various workshops. Of course, because of Covid-19 none of these was in operation but we were allowed to go ashore to walk around the island so we took advantage of that and had a very pleasant day hiking up to the top of the hill.
We stayed for three nights before moving on. We discussed whether to go around the Mull of Kintyre but I was rather keen to check out the Crinan Canal, so that’s what we agreed to do.
9 July 2021. Lamlash to Ardrishaig
We set off at around 09:00 expecting it to be a fairly slow affair. The wind was forecast light and we needed to get to Ardrishaig before they closed the sea lock.
As it was we arrived just before 17:00 so just as well we’d left when we did! The sail was pleasant but uneventful and we locked into the basin and tied up for the night.
Berthed 17:30. 33 miles, 8 hours.
10/11 July 2021. Ardrishaig to Crinan
We were ready to go at 09:00 as requested but various factors conspired to us not getting lifted into the canal until around 10:30.
The next two days we spent chugging through the canal and a very pleasant experience it was. We stopped for lunch on the first day at Lochgilphead which stands, you won’t be surprised to hear, at the head of Loch Gilp! We then chugged on to Cairnbaan where we stopped overnight. Here we were treated to the sight of some fledgling swifts (I think) sitting on the end of the little pontoon and being fed by their parents.
I can’t tell you how many attempts I had to get that shot!
The following day we chugged off again and through a few more locks to the highest point on the canal. On the descent, there is a flight of about four or five locks and we thought we’d have to operate them ourselves as there didn’t appear to be anyone around. We tied up on the pontoon by the first lock on the flight and walked down to formulate a plan.
However just as we got into the first lock a lad appeared and we were able to make better progress. As I was being lowered in one lock, Ash jogged ahead to prepare the next. That worked pretty well and we were soon down. After that, there were only a few more locks to negotiate before the basin at Crinan.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience and I’m glad I decided to go that way, despite the £144 transit fee. The staff along the way were all really friendly and helpful. Thoroughly recommended if you are looking for an easy way to get across Kintyre.
2 days, 9 miles, 15 locks
12 July 2021. Crinan to Jura
To get the tide going in the right direction in the Sound of Jura it was another lazy start and we locked out just before 11:00 and, after a stop at the fuel dock, we were on our way.
It was another day of motor sailing (this was becoming a bit of a theme!). Although at times we did have a decent breeze, most of the day was under ten knots. We did see some strange cloud formations on the way south.
We had decided to head into Lowlandmans bay, which is about half way down the east coast of Jura because, well, it just looked great in the pilot book and we had heard reports that the “normal” anchorage at Craighouse had become fouled and didn’t have great holding.
As fate would have it, despite the very light winds all day, as we started to make our approach into the bay the wind suddenly increased to over twenty knots. Once again there was no warning of this and we had full sail up! luckily we already had the motor running so we just dropped the mail and furled the genoa and motored into the bay. There was already a catamaran anchored so we went up abreast of them but about 100 metres away – the anchorage is HUGE! and dropped the anchor on the three-metre contour. This was the only time that I have ever seen my anchor not bite first time. The chain went tight then did a kind of flick. went slack momentarily then tight again. We didn’t need to reverse on it – the wind was now gusting around twenty-five knots, The chain went bar tight and I let out forty metres which was around a seven to one scope. She held firm at that.
A little later a 40-ish foot steel boat came into the bay single-handed and he had much more trouble. His CQR anchor failed to set three times. The first time he dragged about 200 metres. He had been anchoring much further out of the bay than we were but on his final attempt, he came right in with us and was successful at last. We felt rather bad not going over to help but there really was no way for us to do so – the wind was too strong to attempt it in the dinghy.
Anchor down 17:50. 18 miles, 6.5 hours
The wild scenery in the bay was simply breathtaking with spectacular views of the Paps of Jura…
There is a small stone jetty on the east side of the bay which is owned by the holiday cottage there. We met the owners who were very pleasant and quite happy for the jetty to be used by visiting yachts.
The bay is also home to a colony of seals, one of which got curious and swam over to check us out…
14 July 2021. Jura to Islay
We weighed anchor around 10:00 and motored out of the bay then, once out into the sound got the sails up. The wind was quite southerly so we had to tack our way south towards Islay. We were heading for Port Ellen in the south-east of the island. It is a place I’d been wanting to go to for a long time because it is home to my favourite Scotch whiskey, Laphroaig.
The sail was very pleasant and we had a nice steady wind the whole day, with no nasty surprises! As we got nearer we passed around the outside of the island of Texa. There is a passage on the inside but the chart showed quite shallow water so we erred on the side of caution. Once around we saw another yacht taking the inside route and I spoke to the skipper later who assured me that there is plenty of water there. Well, maybe but I’m glad I took the outside route. We weren’t racing and neither were we in a hurry.
Berthed at 17:00. 24 miles, 7 hours
The following day I found out that because of Covid the distillery wasn’t doing tours but that the visitor centre and shop were open although we had to book a time slot. The next available slot was on the following Saturday. I hadn’t really intended to stay that long but I wasn’t going to leave without seeing the distillery!
The weather continued to be very un-Scottish so it was a very pleasant stay and being somewhere for a little longer allowed us to get to know other cruisers as well as the staff at the pub!
One evening we had a meal in the SeaSalt Bistro which was excellent and I can thoroughly recommend it. The food was delicious, the wine very good and the service top-notch. The bill wasn’t too eye-watering either which is always nice!
We had a couple of walks out locally and came across this seat along the way…
Eight years too late. Dammit!
Of course, I had to buy a bottle whilst I was there (be rude not to!) and I chose the “select” variety. I paid £32. I saw it in a supermarket recently for £25 grrr. Still, I’m sure it tasted better because I bought it at the source – it seemed to disappear quite quickly so it must have!