Monday, 31 August 2009

Shimshal comes home to her new mooring at Traighuaine near Craobh Haven

Three summers in Scandinavia

The trip down from Appin to Craobh on Saturday the 30th August was a bouncy one accomplished by motor and by pointing dead into the wind and the seas. Whilst we crashed south the stupendous 85 foot Ketch, Velacarina, motored up behind us and pitched its exquisitely polished brass pulpit into the steep seas.

After 3 summers of delightful sailing in Scandinavia we dodged out of the squally seas into the calm of Cuan Sound and then threaded the islands of Loch Shuna to reach Shimshal's new mooring in the shallow bay just east of Craobh Haven.

The mooring itself seems to have been engineered to cope with extreme situations which is always reassuring but it meant that it was quite a struggle to pick up the heavy chain head line and make it fast in the stiff breeze.

After 5,000 miles Shimshal is now back in home waters having enjoyed a spectacular Scandinavian Odyssey.

Neptune's Staircase to the Pier House at Appin

On our last morning in the Canal we descended Neptune’s Staircase (which took about 2 hours), passed through the road and rail swing bridges and entered the final reach that led to the basin at Corpach. Here we paused to buy provisions and fuel before exiting through the final sea lock. After 48 hours Shimshal was back in the salt water and the sails came out. Songlines, the Moody 42 that had accompanied us through the canal, sped off south under motor on her delivery mission. She was bound for Lymmington and brokerage.

We sailed as far as the Corran Narrows before the wind headed us and the motor came on. By now we were getting gusts to 35 knots and it was during one of these that our towed Zodiac flipped and buried its bow. As the tender submarined the painter, fortunately, broke before anything else.

The Zodiac was quickly retrieved and by 2 pm we picked up one of the moorings off the Pier House at Appin and booked a table for dinner. Don Griffiths, who had been staying at Traighuaine with Donna, had driven up to meet us and came aboard briefly. Donna and Bri joined us for dinner at the Pier House.

Above a large dredger heading east at Fort Augustus

Loch Ness

Sunshine and Showers at the Pier House in Appin, Argyll

Fort Augustus

It took about an hour to negotiate the flight of locks at Fort Augustus and all the time cameras clicked and videos rolled as we provided the entertainment for umpteen tourists ranged along the lock sides. Fortunately we didn’t crash or commit too many sailing sins so the resulting footage should all be fairly benign and free from embarrassment. Thank goodness for the light winds!

Loch Oich, a lovely wooded Loch strewn with islets, formed the 30 metre summit of our traverse and then we descended to Loch Lochy. Here we were 10 metres INSIDE the channel when we touched the muddy bottom of Loch Lochy which was a bit disconcerting. Fortunately we didn’t stick and continued along our way bemused rather than bashful about this latest encounter between keel and contour.

By 4 pm we were within a few miles of Fort William and the massive North Face of Ben Nevis loomed above us out of the afternoon murk. Neptune’s Staircase was, however, barring our way and so we docked on a pontoon for the night and put up the cockpit tent to keep the evening’s deluge at bay. The crew of Songlines disappeared but that of Bold Explorer came over to finish off our Polish Vodka. Geoff Evans of Devon Sailing was heading south after an extended cruise of the West Coast of Britain and Orkney with a crew of trainee Yachtmasters. Geoff is planning on spending a few summers doing skippered charter work in the North West Passage aboard his very solid steel Bruce Roberts 45. We enjoyed their company and still managed to be up and off by 8am when the Lock Keeper opened the first gate to begin our lengthy descent to the sea.

We left Bold Explorer at the foot of Neptune’s Staircase but I am sure our paths will cross again. Unfortunately we heard, a few days later, that they ran into some difficulties with an engine fire in the Sound of Luing and were towed into Craobh Haven by the Oban lifeboat.

Chris on the fore deck


Loch Oich and the Caledonian Canal

Neil's mooring line is only just long enough for the deeper descents

Tiny wooded Island on Loch Oich

Chris Smith

Shimshal, Bold Explorer and Songlines at the summit of the Caledonian Canal

Caledonian Canal

We locked into the sealock of the Caledonian Canal at 12.45 on Friday. Murray and Sheena were there to see us safely in despite the drizzle. The first Lock Keeper (Dave) was very helpful and we paid up for an 8 day permit (£220) which is the shortest permit available. We waited there for the road bridge to open and then set off, unaccompanied, through the half dozen locks that lead to Loch Ness. Dave had phoned ahead to warn his fellow keepers that we were on our way and we made good progress. All went well and we docked at Fort Augustus at 7pm.

The whole trip was quite damp and the hills around Loch Ness were swathed in cloud. We dried out with a meal in the Lock Inn.

Morray Firth and Loch Ness

Approaching Inverness and the Morray Firth

Limfjord to Lemvig, Denmark.

Limfjord, Denmark.