Minshull mariners 2019: Voyage to the North
On Friday evening the motley crew of Dan Steacher, Carstaway and Po'Chin arrived and settled in, learning essential sailing skills such as how to make (the skipper) a pot of tea and how to work the marine toilet. Signed off as seamen, ordinary, first class, they sailed the next morning to gaze longingly at Lochranza Distillery on Arran (another day, lads) before "taking the wind" down between Arran and Kintyre towards Campbeltown, and round to anchor for the night at the bottom of the Kintyre peninsula. Sleep was fitful as the boat rolled, ropes clanged and the water tank sloshed ... but these were nothing compared to the rasping snores from seaman xxx, now demoted to second class.
Day two, Skipper relented and woke the crew with a mug of tea at 0430, instead of the planned 0330, to catch the tide past the Mull of Kintyre. Result: very impressive standing waves just off Kintyre Lighthouse weakened their resolve, but at least nothing broke. Porridge stayed down as the sun rose to the east, and we motored all the way to anchor by the Lagavulin distillery on the island of Islay before creeping through the rocks round to the main harbour at Port Ellen. Sharp eyed crewman Carstaway spotted the skipper driving backwards as the depth instrument suddenly showed only 10cm of water below the keel – thought I'd got away with it! Showers all round, Po'Chin's G & T, Mrs Skipper's chicken stew, and for some reason all were asleep by 9 o'clock.
Day three, we toughed it out with more sun while sailing to Gigha, where we stopped in a secluded bay for lunch, watching the tourists watching us watching them. Dan was shy so hid under his hat while coiling rope within an inch of its life. For some reason the crew refused to haul up the anchor and chain by hand when we left so revenge was plotted ..... four was more than plenty for the dinghy as we later went ashore for a walk and a fact-finding visit to the bar of the Gigha Hotel – Carstaway pleased to have a mobile signal as he seemed to be running some second hand car business. We hope Sarah likes the result.
Day Four and a gentle southerly wind. Skipper decided that it was time for the spinnaker (aka big coloured flappy thing) and helped by Dan Steacher spent a merry 20 minutes playing cats cradle on the foredeck with a lot of string and and enormous black nylon spinnaker containing bag (called "le grande sausage" – it sounds better in a faux-French accent) before it was revealed in all its glory – spinnaker, not sausage. The wind retreated and the beast was returned to its locker. The crew anchored for lunch again (a theme developing here, it was a cruise after all) by the exit from the Crinan Canal. Thought: should we charge the tourists for all the pictures they take of us? Carstaway and Midshipman Po'Chin, with further mobile connection, decided to investigate buying a castle, their nominal budget increasing rapidly (sorry ladies), but the instigator got in a grump when his credit card was refused. The night was spent at Ardfern, a marina with Royal connections, where Carstaway parked the boat with some dash and elan, ignoring Skipper's advice to "aim for something cheap". More G & T, fried Haggis on round toasts drizzled with whisky, and a main course of epic proportions set the crew up for a serious snooze.
Day Five and Dan S... following Carstaway's example narrowly missed HRH's gleaming boat, so a hurried exit was made towards Corryvreckan which was observed from afar. Further wafting saw us anchored for lunch by a seal infested rock in Loch Spelve, having disturbed twitchers on our way in while getting a close-up view of "their" Peregrine Falcon. Twitchy gestures were returned with friendly waves of Po'Chin's spanner and appropriate banter. A full afternoon's sail brought us past Duart Castle, purchase declined by the crew as it was covered in scaffolding and infested by (further) tourists, to the Sound of Mull where we practised not being run down by ferries, fishing boats and tourist boats, before anchoring in Loch Aline. Curry night was ushered in with more of Po'Chin's G & T (his shopping bag being rather lighter by this time) and ushered out with chilled white wine – what else would one drink with tinned chicken masala?
Day Six, and so to Oban. Skipper decided that a race was in order with two other boats and a can of whoop-ass was duly administered before celebrating with showers and shore-cooked food. And the rest of the Midshipman's G & T supplies.
PS: if you want to experience the excitement of sailing in Scotland a three day "break" is being offered on Island Runner as one of the auction of promises at the Race Night on June 22nd. Further details available from the organisers. All you have to do is outbid the others