We crossed over from Northern Ireland to Scotland on July 14th and met up with James and Jennifer Hamilton aboard their 52’ Nordhavn Dirona. They have spent the past five years cruising the world from their home port in Seattle, Washington to Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean north to Labrador and crossed over to Ireland directly from Newport, RI at the same time we puddle jumped from Florida via Bermuda and the Azores. We have followed their travels on their excellent website MVDirona.com
, corresponded a few times and stolen some of their great ideas. It was finally good to meet them and spend a bit time together! We decided to head up to Glasgow, which had not been on our original float plan, and ended up docking behind Dirona in Greenock, just a 20 minute train ride outside of Glasgow. Fun to see both Nordhavns together flying their 50,000 mile pendants! (but they have been to many more adventurous places!!)
We spent three days at the James Watt Dock Marina in Greenock, and two of those days exploring Glasgow’s Museums, Cathedral, Botanical Garden and all the best spots recommended in Rick Steves Tour Guide. It was fun to run into him, and his assistant, both with copies of the tour guide in hand, at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery/Museum!
Of course when we arrived in Scotland the first movie had to be Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart”. We are, but by coincidence, trekking along the countryside where William Wallace
and Robert the Bruce
fought King Edward I
in the late 1200s. The night before departing Northern Ireland we anchored of Rathlin Island
where Robert the Bruce sought refuge in 1306. Our first stop after leaving Glasgow was the port of Tarbert, where we docked just under the Tarbert Castle
, that Robert the Bruce refortified in 1320s. Tarbert is a quant little village with one of the best natural harbors in Scotland.
From Tarbert we headed to one of the expected highlights of our cruise. The Crinan Canal
. Opened 25 years after our Declaration of Independence, a year after Thomas Jefferson was elected president, we found that they have not widened it since! Except for the Sea Locks, the other 11 locks all needed to be operated by the crew of the boat, manually!
We arrive a the first lock and are pleased to learn that the Max 20’ width listed in the brochure refers to the boat’s beam, not the width of the lock! We have 4’ more than expected!
Raised up 8.5 feet, we will climb a total of 60’ at the highest portion of the canal. With the lock doors open we are Just waiting for the bridge to open where we will make a hair pin turn in tight quarters to get into the second lock. Thank goodness we were able to get the Stern Thruster repaired in Crosshaven!
With Odyssey secured, Jim receives instruction from the friendly Scottish Canal Staff on how to open the Sluice Gate which lets the water in to fill the lock, and Nancy controls the all important stern line which will control the boat inside the Lock.
and of course once the lock is full the two massive lock doors have to be opened!
Through the first two locks we are now about 17’ above sea level, looking over the house rooftops to the bay along side as Daisy keeps watch for oncoming boats! We did have a very close call with one sailboat coming around one of the many 90 degree bends! The Wildflowers and quaint houses along the canal are lovely.
Just before Lock 5 we stop for the night, and a well deserved pint at the appropriately named pub. Dogs are allowed, and Daisy made lots of new friends!
The following morning the sun shines and we see blue skis for the first time in awhile. We are off early to Crinan at the end of the canal. We will do 11 locks and 4 bridges today and find that the canal gets even more narrow, with a number of shallow spots where we bump the stabilizer fins when too close to the side. Max speed is 4 knots, which we almost never do, and so most of the steering is done with the engines and thrusters.
Many folks helped us along the way. Folks who lived along the canal, and families with small kids just passing by. This fine old gent, that Nancy calls “RUN”, is 79 years old. He met us a 5 or 6 of the locks along the way. He tells me that on his 80th birthday this December he will have his first drink of alcohol, just to see if he likes it!
At Lock 14 the Crinan Canal staff have a berth waiting for us just before the last two locks to the sea. With about three feet to spare both fore and aft, the bow thruster has had enough and stops working too cool off. But we slide into the berth with no problem and lots of help! Nancy and I enjoy a wonderful dinner at the Crinan Hotel, meet some nice folks who give us great information on places to take the boat on the way to the Caledonian Canal.
This morning we woke to another beautiful day as the mist was burning off.
We were second through Lock 14 to allow Vic 32
to pull into the lock in order to load coal..! If you look closely a the photo above you will see the fellow dumping the wheelbarrow of coal down the chute. Vic 32 is one of the last two “Clyde Puffers” that still survive, once the backbone of the fleet of small merchant ships that plied this coast.
Finally we are in Lock 15 ready to be lowered back to sea level. The smile on Jim’s face is that Lock 15, and all the locks on the Caledonian Canal are automated!
And we set off again through Scottish Highlands, where the Tidal Currents run as high as 8.5 Knots! Just through this cut, the Gulf of Corryvreckan
, produces the third largest whirlpool in the world! We went at almost slack tide as "(the Admiralty's West Coast of Scotland Pilot
guide to inshore waters calls it "very violent and dangerous" and says "no vessel should then attempt this passage without local knowledge”)” But it was beautiful!
Fair Winds & Following Seas!
Don & Nancy