To some cruiser sailors these days it seems the Clyde has become little more than an A class road north and west, ith a convenient parking place near transport. The rush is to get westward, round the Mull or through the Canal with Adrishaig or Gigha often being the first stop. The wonders of the inner and outer Hebrides of course abound and astound.Weather aside it is a glorious and spectacular area to sail in. Also there is the push from the clyde as ‘AWB’s’ (average white boats) fill many of the old favourite haunts of my Father’s CCC days of the 60s and 70s.
Some places were of legendary status in my family. My father and David Eglington, a fellow naval architect, once took a flush decked classic sailor under 30 ft on an odyssey around Mull. They anchored or tied to the rings at Tinker’s Hole, with an eerie scream of a seal startling them awake , both baning their heads on the underside of the deck as they lay like sardines in ribbed packaging. Also less exotic places were held in enough esteem for a weekend destination and a good hook drop, with nerry a thought to pontoons or visitors moorings.
So these past little sink holes and muddy lagoons are on the bucket list as well as other more interesting and less popular drops which have interest ashore, or are just a place to let the madding crowd rush past.
I am the first to appreciate that Caladh is a victim of its’ own success and recent reports suggest that is has become festooned with moorings, such the phobia of anchors the average yachtie has today. It had a few back in about 2001_3 when we took ‘ Sonja’ a still winters afternoon at dusk round to Kames. .
I live in a land far, far away, so haven’t popped the nose in there for many years. I think as a very young lad i did get an overnighting there on ‘Trojan Maid’ because when I was there as an adult poking the bow in, those kind of strong visual association memories came very strongly back to me.
Anyway of an out of season week day you can probably be there yourself, on yer todd. Otherwise you can try in the mud near the wee pier at Loch Ridden a stones throw from Caladh if the hoi palloi insult your AWB with their prescence. Alternatively you can up to Kames and drown your sorrow of the populusness of Caladh, a once quiet jem stolen from heaven, has become Hades Bavarius.
Caladh ‘harbour’ is firmly on the bucket list though, out of pure nostalgia. You can fill a good place to bursting point, but you can’t put it down.
Swines hole provides a nice drop, probably only for a couple of boats on the hook though, given you are likely to swing like a Dervish on the gusts funneling down either loch. Flat water is pretty much guaranteed though, with little night time or evening water traffic to speak of. My aim here would be eitherr to rescale the mountain immediately south of it, which is the most prominent hill you see from Rhu Narrows, a great Whales’ back I finally conquered with a longish day in artic conditions one winter with my pal Raul. The views are stunning as it sits like a pivot pin for eatsern Argyll with the panorams in all directions of the compass being worth the two hour slog. Alternatively as we did that day, there is a route march up the tarmac ( as usual we ended our walk in the dark being tardy folk, but we had planned for this) to Civilisation through Carrick Castle (any commercial offer theren now? ) and to Lochgoilhead itself.
Unless you have never scaled the Cobbler or in the case that you need to fetch or despatch crew to westward bus or train, further north to Arrochar is not really worth it, with some fluky vertical winds produced in the classic glacial ‘fjord’ which would be equally at home in Hardangar. Pack walking boots and bobble hat and travel there by road or rail. However as a first taste o’ the Heelans, Arrochar is a very scenic spot and I once saw a former Clipper race boat drop its’ hook and the boys wi the gaul tonpump up the dingy, came in for beers at the Village Inn. Not on my bucket list, unless they have opened a micro brewery there since last I shadowed upon the hostilleries there a decade ago.
Tour of Bute’s Hookers
Bute offers several interesting places along its serpentine coastline. On the SE tip there is Glencallum Bay, whose prominent and nasty rock on the N side is used during Yacht Master courses to test the mettal of would be skippers by circumnavigating it. Transits, bearings and soundings come to mind if the GPS is out of bounds. The South of the bay offers though good holding and a nice often secluded spot to see just as I describe, the rest of the world scurry past at a safe distance.
Ettrick bay is generally considered to dry out too far to be of use, but there was a decent cafe there and I wonder if it is worth the poke on a half risen tide? Or are those underwater restrictions marked on the chart military nasties from WWII likely to go caboom or steal your ground gear ? It is one of those many places I once almost got to, and would have come by sea as an older lad with the Sea Scouts. Their expedition in wayfarers round Bute is somewhat legend to us and alarming to Des’ at the saqilign school up the kyles. Character building stuff I didnt build myself on. Its not very sheltered from anywhere, just a nostalgic thought if there is a cafe open or other things of interest to row ashore for. St. Ninian’s bay is its’ neighbour, quite popular amongst seekers of solace I read.
Wreck Bay is quite popular being a place to barbeque ashore for the Scottish Sailing and Cruising club and sailing school a like. I dare say you swing a little in a sonata or lightly laden racey cruiser.
Bute is maybe best done with folding bikes or combined with banging around the other main land drops like Kames and Caladh. It would be a very good practice ground for skipper practicals, meaning you always have time (and daylight out of ‘season’) to try things a few time, test your holding and unhook before having another go. A long weekend with clockwise and anticlockwise completions would appeal to me no end to be honest, picking places or fortuitous bouys for a true beat, practicing witb my crew on spinnaker technique mid channel and navigating the Kyle and Burnt islands’ two passages with swinging lead and transits in tide both agin and with you. Familiarity they say breeds contpempt. so treating these so well kent passages with attention to utter detail and concentration of special exercises will keep a skipper and crew within respect for the fine ditch round the finest of Royal Isles.
Asgog and Ostel (Kilbride) Bays
As a racing sailor you just rush by here hoping for favourable tide and a header to tack on once you are truly into Fyne. The view of Arran over Ostel Bay’s sands is truly amazing. The sandy bay offers kids hours of fun and in warmer summers, some paddling and maybe flounder spearing too. As an anchorage it is dooable in rare situations due to it being shallow quite far out and exposed from SE to WSW. However the next bay, Asgog, offers better shelter apart from S and SSW , and a shorter row ashore. It has an isle with that wee light you see as you haste ye tae Tarbert, and the same isle affords the bay extra shelter from the westerlies. There is a landrover track heads towards Ostel, with I would presume navigable boglands and a burn at worst for a couple of hundred meters to the sands themsevles. Calm weather and an outboard tour may avoid any wear on the yellow wellies. Bucket list for sure, with a good camera and kids in tow.
Upper Loch Fyne
Once passed Ardrishaig it has always struck me that the cruising boats moored north of this point are ‘odds and sods’, from those galley style seventies flights of ketch rigged fancy, to things like jaguar 21s and Drascombe luggers. And why not, me a boat snob yet bouyant craft embarressed by mortgage and kids, I should shut up! These are fine pottering craft for locals and Lochgair offers a nice spot with access to bus and probably still free parking when you do go away for a week. It has always had a popular ‘motorists’ hotel at the busy roadside, beware when with kids or dogs. It is very sheltered from sea there. One of my earliest memories is a late night arrival in a thunder storm and sleeping in an arm chair as a nipper. That was by road, never stuck a bow in the place so it kind of is on the wee pale list if not in with bigger bucket..
North of this we have the rather charming Minard with its islands and the odd rock to look out for. A wee shop and possibly a cafe, a sandwich stop or an alternative overnight in a nasty westerly. Further up that western side we have Furnace wi’ shop /PO, alas no longer a public house which once had very good food the last time I visited the Mckellars there ( Alistair sadly departed this mortal coil not long ago) . Not much to speak of as an anchorage, just a beach line to anchor and a place to row to at the ends of the terraced houses. Oh, plus numerous sea trout at the river mouth you can spin for accidentally on purpose when they are running, on the salt side of the Admiralty chart of course! Best try dropping in the silt there.
Over the other side we have of course Otter Ferry, a charming spot which seems sheltered enough when I have been there and has boasted visitor moorings with maintenance before at least, disclaimer disclaimer. There is a restuarant there and just, well , tranquility. I dont think it gets busy with boats. Trip line recommended on kedge, no dounbt old moorings and ‘stuff’ there or some clay with the density of a black hole I have heard it said. I have lubbed there merely by land to my great shame, it not being that far from Tarberrt after all. On the list it goes, booking a table ahead I hear is advisable.
Since my kids need entertaining then Inverary is pencilled on the chart. I wonder if the hulks of Penguin and some other puffer are still there? The Pier did offer a high water drop off point and there is anchoring all be it on a large tidal range there.
On the other side I have a pal with a cottage near Cairnbahn and St Catherines and you know that coast has got some wee drops all the way down which few bothered with in my day. There is a brewery and beef farm at the head of the loch and Loch Fyne Oyster bar on the western side of course. Inverary makes the list if kids are with me for a day ashore and two nights on the swing.
Eastern Kintyre and Arran
This coast is little known to me, not having sailed the short handed race which I think was the only one with a passage up Kilbrannan sound there. Having scurried down to Machrihanish often enough, I know the west well as a land lubber and would be-surfer. Along the shores of Kilbrannan I would like a peak at Loch Ranza and then Carradale and some other places and refer to the chart and play it by ear. Goat Fell and Holy Isle appeal to me for walking expitidions.
Campbelltown is much under-rated and if the chat-rooms and FB folk are anything to go by, more popular with Ulster sailors than Clyde yotties. Replenish yourselves from Tesco, Malt o’ the Month, chippy or two and so on while using the ease of the pontoon. Or perhaps there are nice wee hooks either side of Davaar island and a tour to the cave at high water with the rubber ducky to get it all to yourself, or save some great unwashed who dindnae ken the tide wud come in.
I love the whole area and have had many, many weekend breaks there and going way back some family caravaning int he early 1970s. Phew long time ago !
From there it is Sanda for me, and a bloody minded anchoring to kedge the tide overnight, just to irritate the new owner who packed up the once popular pub. Forward then to Gigha, which is well and truly out of the Clyde but kind of an obvious border checkpoint before you venture northwards to the Lorne and ‘Vrekkan. Good to suppor the island community there!
Round the Rugged Rocks The Ruddy Rascal Reached…..
Now how about a real challenge for a crew big enough for two watches in clement weather with enough wind to hit the top of those polar tabels for VMG, but not too much, and a rolling sea rather than a chop. A nice even SW’erly which has blown up from the N. Channel some days and built that typical swell you get South of Dalmarnock.
Leaving Largs for example then we leave Cumbrus Minorii to port and wave to the gongoozlers at Millport before rounding afore mentioned Dalmarnock of a late summer eve with the long beat on a single tack Towards the Ayrshire coast, with perhaps Lady Isle off Troon as the next mark of the course to STB, and a test of nightime navigation around it, before onwards to that once so adored of race marks, Ailsa Craig.
The source of nearly all the world’s curling stanes, Ailsa Criag is a sentinnal and a most odd geological feauture. A lone bap shaped mountain in the firth’s widening expanse. In the hey days of the RORC Tonne raters I was told, the Ailsa Craig race(s) were the big deal, with a whole weekend devoted to negotiating her to port and bouncing around with wind against waves and tide very often <br>
. Infact I have heard from a good source who raced tonners and then sigma 33s that this damnable race which is really offshore for all intents and purposes, is what put paid to a good deal of passage racing and whole weekend racing. In the 70s and 80s though, rounding the big old pap was a test of manhood and grim determination. Demands for more regatta oriented weekends with the chance to practice starts and thereby get a few more shots at the cherry became more and more the norm as the CCC and other club’s questionnaires’ revealed the truth about sailors – get round the cans and into the bar asap. I feel kind of priveledged to have sailed the last Scottish Series overnight to Tarbert in a nasty bit of overnight weather and pitch blackness down the Ayr coast and up the Fyne. Tamed, sanitised, pussified., how accurate were the interpretations of these questionnaires ? were the questions leading in any slight force of hand way? Or was it a slim majority? Or did they just ask the right people or pester them to deliver their finished papers or internet forms while those irksome offshore crowd were laissez faired oot of the results?
There is no doubt that Clyde racers did want to have more weekends based on four to six races with decent courses rather than round the bay’s navigation bouys or a calendar dominated with distance races ‘offshore’.. But things change again. The average water length is up and many racers are 35 – 45 feet in the kind of echelon who would want to attempt round-the-rocks witth overnights. Aslso it could be run as a timed cruise over four weeks of entry for example.
So Ailsa Craig to Starboard then before probably the greatest challenge – the tidal gate of Sanda rounding with it to Port. It is not far to Sanda in fact and you can see that Ailsa Craig is pretty near to the Mull of Kintyre area and only a jaunt over. I imagine that you could use six to ten hours to round Ailsa from Dalmarnock and be doing so therefore in the early morning. Given no choice as to timing you would then have to do what they do in the Fastnet and stem the tide by going along the shore and any back eddies or even kedging. The HSE crowd witll have us including Sheep Island to STB, but I reckon you can sneek the tide if it is neaps and roll over the bank there which pretty much dries on low springs I see from the chart. Talking of sneeks, it would be nice to have Pladda (Arran’s dangling fruit, not Lismore’s in this case) to STB and go through the sound as I think maybe even the Waverley has done on high water, but that is just too ballsy , it is nasty and undefensible.
Holy Isle then is the next mark of the course with hopefully an afternoon or evenings spinnaker work (ban on spinnakers from 11pm to 4 am btw) with a bear away back from Sanda and a long run or broad reach up.We then retrace our steps given we enter our second night of sailing and head round Dalmarnock to STB this time and inbetween the Cumbraes. Here also you have the chance to call a shortened course on yourself and just sail up past Hunterston given the wind has died down and progress was pedestrian
There you have it, a May to July test of mettle and the true spirit of sailing being an end in itself, not a camper van like means to get to an end point with a pub that smells of vinegar and bleach and serves flat beer and soggy chips. I imagine a few clyde sailors I know would perish from a combination of malnutrition, mental exhaustion and pub-cold-turkey, while a good few others would relish the chance to stock up with UHT milk and exstra weavel ships biscuits, forget anchors and motoring worries and just sail their goddam boats non stop, all weekend from Friday pm to Sunday evening.
Fantasy Crusing Down Memory Tide Line….
So many images spring to mind from old memories now as I jott this little bucket list of clyde cruising. In fact I feel like I am suitably refreshed, yet a little exhausted from merely writing this, and the mental exertion of tavelling in my mind, back to my once homeland and the folklore of my family and their yellow wellied, javelin jacketed cruising crew back in the happy 1970s.
I think my father who passed away in 1980 all too early, would be proud of my racing experiences and achievements. Perhaps he voyaged with me, or gave the odd helping hand on the tller
Racing is all consuming and often you get little time to soak in the scenery, lest there be a long one tack beat up a sound or Loch Fyne. With goals of being in the boozer first and so on a bit behind me, I feel it is time to explore nooks and crannies. Time to make friends with kelp, dead mans’ fingers and stinky black clay, with the odd battle ship mooring for more embracing company. A bucket list for the chain and hook it is then.
I hope to do this all one sunny, force three day, but for now I content myself with the water under the keel I have enjoyed in the Kyles and the lochs, and the peaceful evenings on Trojan Maid whiled hooked onto Gods own country’s seabed.