Monday, 26 August 2013

The Bridge across the Atlantic Ocean

The pirate ship didnt stand a chance of catching me once I put the boat on the plane and surfed over the sea towards Scotland's Bridge across the Atlantic Ocean.

Its actually called Clachan Bridge and connects the Island of Seil to the mainland. I didnt pass under it as it was already getting quite shallow and it dries to a thin trickle when the tide goes out.

I headed for the secret yacht moorings hidden behind Eilean Nam Beathach instead. There were a few yachts at anchor in the quiet backwaters. I could see why it is considered one of the best mooring sites on the west of Scotland.. especially as the Clachan Bar was only a 5 minute walk which made it even more attractive.

I was very keen to see the next section of coast line because, many years ago.. I was at a scout jamboree at Ardencaple. Those childhood memories have lived with me all my life. I passed my sea scouts oarsman badge there which was my first formal boating experience. I have tried to revisit Ardencaple by land in the past, but found I couldn't as it is a private estate. I wanted to see if I could remember the place as I imagined it.

I passed by Ardfad bay and although I dont remember the seals..I wondered if I could recall the large square rock ? .. it looked quite distinctive in the flattish area.

Further on I passed the slipway which would belong to Ardencaple Estate..but I didn't recognise it. I suppose childhood memories can get distorted a bit as I seemed to recall a little stone harbour there ?

With childhood memories still in my head, I continued round the coast line of the Island of Seil and headed for the Sound of Inch. It separates the Island of Seil from Inch Island.

It was not yet noon and I had travelled further than I could ever dream of travelling in my smaller boats, so I stopped below these impressive cliffs to try a little fishing. The water was very deep ..but within minutes I had several mackerel pulled to the surface.

Once I had caught enough for my dinner.. I then headed for the village of Easdale....

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Gylen Castle and the Pirate Ship

The southern end of Kerrera would be quite an inhospitable place in a wild day. The rocky coastline has few landing places and the sea swells from the south crash onto the rocks even on a calm day. Knarled outcrops of rocks form ominous shapes and there is little sign of human habitation on this side of Kerrera.

The ruins of Gylen Castle looming high on the headland is the only sign left that people once lived and died here. Built in 1582 by clan MacDougall, it was captured and burnt to the ground by the covenanters in 1647. It was never restored or inhabited since.

Soon after passing the castle, I found myself at the southern end of the Sound of Kerrera. I could just make out the building of Oban at its northern end. It hadn't taken long to reach this point and it was such a calm morning that I decided to head further south.

But first I entered Loch Feochan for a nosey around. I didnt venture far into the loch as it quickly turned very shallow. I stopped and drifted in a deeper channel, while I ate a late breakfast and dropped a set of lures over the side. I enjoyed my sandwich but I didn't get a single nibble of the fishy kind... so quicky got fed up and moved on.

Back in the Sound of Kerrera, another fishing boat was moving on too. I wondered if it had better luck than me or was heading for Oban for an early lunch.

Moments later, a regatta of yachts came oozing down the Sound from Oban. I guessed there was a major yacht race underway and although I was delighted there was no wind, I assumed these guys were cursing being stuck in the doldrums.

I turned to head south and thats when I first glimpsed the pirate ship looking for easy plunder ?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Island of Kerrera

I decided to circumnavigate the Island of Kerrera for my the first open sea voyage in The Gurnard. Kerrera is just off the coast from Oban and although there are tidal flows in the area, they are not nearly as strong as some to the south. It was a calm morning and I had the boat on the plane.. but cruising along peacefully.

Soon I was passing Maiden Island at the entrance to Oban Bay. Legend has it that it is so named because a young girl had been accused of a crime. She was tied to a rock at low tide .. her punishment being death by drowning .. when the tide came in. I guess we were not always the mamby pamby country we are now, where even mass murderers seem to be treated well for their crimes ?

Heading down the seaward side of Kerrera, I dodged the many huge clumps of seaweed floating on top of the water. I also noticed that the warm spell of weather had brought a load of jellyfish with it. The Island of Mull didn't seem too far across the Firth of Lorne and I wondered about crossing to visit it but decided to wait a while to see how reliable my new set up was. The engine ran very evenly and seemed happy enough. I also had my auxilliary 3.3 Mariner outboard with me just in case of engine problems but still though it better to keep to the coast, until the main engine had proved itself.

I navigate with my OS maps as Im not investing in any nautical charts at present. I research tidal flows and hidden reefs on the internet before going on a trip anywhere new. I passed the caves shown of the OS map on the west of Kerrera, so knew exactly where I was. I wished I had my fish finder fitted to the boat as it keeps me informed of the depth of water that Im in, but I didnt expect and surprise rocks in this area. I intend installing the fish finder very soon.

It didn't take long at planing speed before Bach Island came into view. This Island is off the south west point of Kerrera so I knew that I had almost travelled the full length of the what seemed minutes rather than hours at displacement speeds of my other boats.

I dont know of any legends of fair maidens tied to Bach Island. Its just a flat uninteresting lump of rock in the sea. However I though I could hear someone bleating in the distance ? Then I spied some ferral goats on Kerrera. The remote islands of Scotland appear to be full of wild goats ?

I had wondered if there would be a bit of a chop on the sea between Back Island and Kerrera as the tide must cause a bit of a flow here and if the wind is blowing against tide.. it could turn a bit rough. However, all was as still as a mill pond when I rounded the point.

To be continued ...

Friday, 16 August 2013

Launching at Ganavan Bay, Oban

After my Loch Etive outing, I knew the Mariner 25HP 2 stroke engine seemed reliable, so I was keen to try the boat in the sea.

I had been meaning to try launching a boat from Ganavan Bay (just to the north of Oban) for a while, so What better place to choose for the first true sea voyage. The slipway is huge as it was built during the war years to allow launching sea planes. No problems even for me to reverse down.

Its a public slipway so free to launch from and there is plenty parking space in the huge car park at the top of the slipway. It is a council owned carpark and has a ticket machine, but £2 for the day is well worth it, consideriong there is also a toilet and burger van in the car park.

I arrive at 7am and the tide although still low but rising, was not far from the bottom of the slip.

I unhitched the trailer and pushed it the last few feet to the waters edge. I then pushed the sack trolley with the engine down to the edge too. I have found the best way for me to transport everything is to keep the engine on the sack trolley with the engine mounting brackets facing outwards, and transport it in the car.

Its easy for me to slide the engine and trolley it into the car, as I have a drop down tailgate. Its also easy to attach to the boat as I simply reverse the floating boat into the engine mounting brackets, screw them up, then just slide the trolley out. At no point do I lift the full 52kg weight of the engine by following this method

Sliding the engine into the transports beautifully in a horizontal position and is held firmly on the trolley. Dont try this with a four stroke engine as the oil will run into the head.

The engine skeg is held on a wooden foot with a slot. Its a big foot for extra stability on the shore.

The engine head is held in a wooden cradle on the trolley and secured with a length of rope.

Although transporting and attaching the engine is a doddle by this means, I still have to submerge the trailer in the sea to float the inflatable boat off. I wish I could think of a better way ..but at 100kg for the empty boat weight..its still to heavy for me to lift on and off the trailer on my own.

Because it has a soft bottom, I cant winch it onto the trailer in the same way I winched the hard shell boat.

That is my trailer sticking out the water beyond the boat. I have to clean and regrease the wheel bearings every month and also carry a spare set in the car. The trailer is hosed down with fresh water after every trip.

It took longer to write about launching it that it took in real life. Once the boat was in the water with engine attached, I pumped the tubes up to working pressure. A few strokes with the hand pump was suffice.

Then I was off on my first sea voyage in the new boat......

Thursday, 15 August 2013

End of the Gurnard's First Voyage

If you wonder where I have been, I have not been lost or drowned at sea in my new second hand inflatable, I have been too busy customising it to my needs and having several adventures that I could only dream about in my little inflatables. I will post those in due course.. but first.. it time to finish my tale of its first voyage in Loch Etive.

There were boats of all shapes and sizes on Loch Etive that wonderful summer's day. Im pleased for this couple that the wind and waves never got up. The term .... "Dont overload your boat" .. comes to mind. However they must have had a very memorably trip in their inflatable canoe in the heat wave.

I stopped for a late lunch on the sandy shores to the west of Ben Starav. I had to really struggle to keep myself from falling asleep after lunch. I was worried that at any moment I would awaken and find the day was all just a dream.

I decided to head to the west end of Loch Etive past the Bonawe narrows to see if there were any waves around. I was curious to see how she would handle a little chop. There were no waves there either...just a deep blue mirror.

I played in the tidal flows to the east of Connel Bridge and the Falls of Laura. It was now low tide so I didnt want to try going over the falls in case I struck the ground or a rock. Its a very fast flow I will try it one day when the tide is in, so Im certain there is water depth.

Then I headed back to the Old Quarry at the narrows. I wanted to waste an hour or so to let the tide turn and start going up the beach a little at Kelly's pier. I dropped my fishing line and pulled out a fat little cod from the murky depths. Im glad my first fish was a Gurnard "The Old Cod" ..doesnt have quite the same ring to it as .. "The Gurnard"..the new name of my inflatable. I let the cod go again as Im no cod lover.

Then I headed for Kelly's pier and the recovery of my boat. I floated it onto its trailer but then found the full weight too heavy to pull out the water. I tied a long rope to the trailer.. put the 4x4 car on the beach and hauled it out that way.. it was then as easy as changing gear :-D

Satisfied that the engine seemed reliable and that the boat was steady enough.. I now couldn't wait to take her out to sea... that adventure.. coming soon :-D