Following the exploits of 3 Men in a Boat, we can now enjoy the ocean tales of the Minshull Mariners who have also taken to the high seas for adventure and good old male bondage (sorry 'bonding').
Day 1: Salty and Shipmate have now been despatched onto "proper" cruises and so McSkipper takes his life in his hands by welcoming two new shipmates aboard 'Island Runner' – seamen Dan Steacher and Cars Staway.
Leaving Largs late afternoon into a stiff southerly breeze, they work their way to Lamlash on Arran as Venus shines to the west. Cars takes up the food challenge – has McSkipper stocked enough grub? Will Dan teach us some new moves? Will they get round the Mull of Kintyre tomorrow or get lost in the mists rolling down to the sea? Do they even know the words to the song? Time will tell!
Day 2: Best forgotten!! The mariners left Lamlash at 0600 but with trouble coming in threes, they diverted to Campbeltown to effect repairs and steady their nerves. The passage there was best described as a cross between very slow driving across a rough ploughed field and being stuck in a washing machine. Seaman Dan volunteered to be hoisted up the mast to realign the errant ropes, as he was used to heights, but Cars Staway demurred and hoisted a boat hook instead on the basis that it was lighter and wouldn't answer back. Problem solved.
McSkipper, having purged the engine's fuel filters and checked that the propellor was clear of whatever had been tangled round it, had missed the tide for the Mull of Kintyre so set off up the west side of Arran instead. Dan Steacher's solo of "Campbeltown Loch I wish you were whisky I would drink you dry" was not to be repeated – at least in public!
Moored for the night, Cars set about the evening dining challenge with relish .... and so to bed!
Day 3: sunshine and showers. Dan Steacher having drained Campbelltown loch and Cars Staway still suffering from last night's gastro-challenge meant a leisurely start to Tuesday's adventure. Leaving Port Crannaich, the team sailed in full sun (sorry, very testing conditions) to Lochranza at the north end of Arran where they picked up a buoy for coffee. For non sailors, this is not a euphemism for some unspeakable practice ....
McSkipper's factor 30 sun block had clearly upset the weather gods as oilskins were then required while the wind and gentle rain powered the sailors up Loch Fyne to Tarbert, Cars narrowly avoiding calamity with the Calmac ferry while enjoying a "facial spritz". This will probably help his sunburn, Sarah!
The booking for Starfish restaurant was delayed while someone who had left his towel at home dried off under the shower block hand drier and Dan Steacher perfected his pontoon polka.
Day 4: Tough but someone has to do it. An unhurried departure from Tarbert allowed the gentle winds to waft the mariners up Loch Fyne. Freshly brewed coffee and (more of) Mrs Skipper's ginger biscuits piqued their jaded palates before anchoring for lunch in a deserted bay. The cruising life was not all bad!
Now with the wind behind them, progress was swift back down Loch Fyne. An innocent passing boat was engaged in a race (of course they were too sporting to tell them) and treated to a can of whoop-ass as they surged past although admittedly not exactly in the direction they wanted to go – Dan will get the idea of steering eventually! And so to the night's mooring at Portavadie where the "ropegate" mooring incident will be eventually forgotten. To compensate, McSkipper offered to take them to dinner at the superb restaurant: seamen Cars Staway and Dan Steacher easily took the bait, innocently falling for the "oh, I've left my wallet on the boat trick." And so ended another hard day.
Day 5: Arran Distillery. Despite the "ropegate" arrival, Dan Steacher managed to take the boat out of Portavadie without incident and set off into a gentle breeze. Seaman Cars Staway thought he smelt a funny smell in the galley and the mariners were treated to a demonstration of how sensitive his nose is. Apparently it goes red for danger, in which case the crew were in dire straits, his whole face glowing. Turns out this was despite copious applications of Portavadie marina's Arran Aromatics "After the rain" hand cream to said proboscis. Certainly explains the interest he was receiving from the waiter last night!
And so to Lochranza and the Arran Distillery where McSkipper contrived some tastings and the walk back was very mellow, the crew awaiting McSkipper's lentil stew with some trepidation .....
Day 6: Scottish Fruit. The crew passed a peaceful night despite McSkipper's lentil casserole, though Cars Staway admitted to some difficulty in zipping his sleeping bag up. Suspicion immediately fell on him for the dwindling Scottish Fruit supplies, with McSkipper and Dan drawing straws for the last penguin biscuit. Leaving Lochranza and the Cock of Arran a "close biscuit toss" to starboard, seaman Cars Staway spotted a remote cottage for sale. Together with the blue motor boat he had already eyed-up in Portavadie I think Mrs Carss may need a pay rise!
McSkipper innocently led them to the measured mile markers on the east side of Arran where seaman Dan drove the boat up and down recalibrating the speed log. BLT rewards were devoured ......
A gentle sail saw the team anchor close by Brodick Castle where the by now efficient crew were rewarded with 4G signal as the reddening western sun matched their sunburnt faces.
Day 7: Circumnavigation complete. A peaceful evening anchored in Brodick Bay was disturbed by wash from the ferry which had the crew hanging on tight as the boat rolled violently in the swell, but judging by the later noises of deep breathing and snoring from the main and front cabins, the crew had a restful night. The weather continued to delight with sun and fair winds as Cars Stoff (newly named in view of the "quality" of his warm clothing) went for the cruise speed record while Dan Steacher perfected his Foxtrot postures and feather steps on the poop deck. Having sailed and occasionally motored over 130 nautical miles, survived storm and culinary challenges, the crew crossed their outward path off the island of Great Cumbrae and, now a practiced and disciplined team, berthed at Largs, without ropegate incidents, in time for an "eat up what's left" lunch and departure for Cheshire.
The McSkipper would like to thank the crew who have joined him on both trips: He hopes to repeat this experience and looks forward to sailing with those who wanted to join, but for a number of reasons were prevented from doing so.