The ASA cruise to Scotland, actually started a few days before the guests arrived on June 29th. An advance team left Athens, and flew into Glasgow on the 25th and started checking over the area, talking to the agents in Largs and visiting the yacht club where the opening evenings dinner reception would take place. Capt. Chandler had meetings with the flotilla guide, Muir Anderson. He immediately gave JC the update on problems including the conflicts we would have with the Fife Regatta, when we sailed to Rothesay on the first day. Alternative arrangements have since been made.
What yachts where in harbor have been inspected and checked over, the marina has very good facilities and an excellent yacht club with unbelievable views of the area and surrounding bay… we are almost all set to go… just need our sailors and then we can begin this adventure.
Saturday arrived, and the crew gathered at the Holiday Express Inn. Because of increased airport security we had to abandon the “bus” idea and use smaller private MPV’s (Multi Person Vechiles), that could carry 6 – 8 persons. By 10.30am all crew members had been dispatched to Largs and the adventure was under way. The first day was going to be a list of forms collecting gear, fitting out of foul weather gear and the mandatory check out of the yacht and familiarization of the yacht systems. By late afternoon all crews and skippers where on their yachts and had provisioned and finished all formalities.
Dinner had been arranged for the crews at the local yacht club, so by 5pm everyone was at the club bar meeting and chatting with each other. A beautiful mixed buffet of seafood and cold cuts awaited everyone for dinner which was followed by a brief outline of what was to happen the next day.
The Fife Regatta was due to start there race series the same day we would leave on Sunday. Our flotilla guide suggested that we hang back and watch the start then follow at our own pace. So Sunday started with us watching the start of 100 year old yachts, jousting for position on a start line like Americas cup pro’s…. all very exciting as the weather was starting to freshen and signs of fog and rain appeared from over the hills.
Around noon was when we slipped our lines in Largs and set off with the rest of the flotilla into a freshen wind, gusting 25 – 27 knots and drizzle. Skipper Charlie called for the first reef and 50% genoa un-furled. We sailed around the bay in front of the marina while the rest of the flotilla came out. Finally we all had our sails sorted and off the group went head for the Port of Bannatyre, just north of Rothesay. Half a beat to the head land of Cumbrae.
The sail was in drizzle and gusting winds with the first half being a tacking exercise. The flotilla had to round the southern part of Cumbrae before heading north to Port Bannatrye. Today was a good chance for everyone to get to know thier yachts, as it was a blustry day and wet. It took us in our little Jeanneau some 4 hours to complete the trip, being rewarded at the end by spectacular sights of the green hills and vistas of the Scottish highlands… the rain soon stopped and by early evening the sun poked it’s head out. Port Bannatrye was a sleepy town on a Sunday evening, not having much in the way of tourist facilities so the crew spent the evening and ate on board.
Day 2 started with wonderful sunshine beaming though the main hatch, today was going to be a sail around the Isle of Bute and on to Lochranza… what no one knew where the special surprises that lay in store along the way.
Firebird and Swift where the first yachts to clear the marina and ambled out to clear water to hoist thier sails, the remainder of the flotilla slowly slipped there lines and joined in the procession up the channel around the Isle of Bute.
The Fife yachts had been moored in Rothesay just south of us. As we started our tacking course we could see the old yachts starting to gain on us. It was not long before “Swift” and our yacht “FireBird” , where in the thick of the Fife Yachts. It seemed that every time we tacked we had another old yacht on our quarter or looking to exercise it’s starboard right of way. It made for some very interesting sailing. All this excitement and the area we where sailing in was spectacular, the sun even shone on us for most of the day.
After rounding the Isle’s we head south for the bay on Lochranza. The Isle of Arran is the home to Arran single Malt Whisky, and still has a very active and modern distillery in the village at Lochranza. First yacht into the Lochranza was “Swift” and they pretty quickly organized themselves, caught the local bus and where just in time to catch the last tour of the day. The rest of the yachts arrived and moored up to buoys set by the locals in the bay. It defiantly was a case of inflate your rubber ducks fellow sailors, as that is the way to get to shore. Most of the crew had not been in a pub now for nearly 36hours and signs of yearning where becoming evident. Rubber ducks where quickly inflated and crews disappeared off to the pub and a good meal.
As things progressed in the evening, locals chatted with sailors, and it was not long before a little live entertainmant was conjured up. Skipper Richard Byrnes plays in a Celtic band on his USN base in Naples, at the pub he found a guitar and played a few songs solo.It was not long before a local couple joined in with thier talents… a celtic fiddle, a penny whistle and some spoons, along with Richards guitar we had all the pub patrons dancing and tapping with thier feet.
The evening drew to a close and by midnight and everyone headed back to there yachts. It had been a magical day, from the outset, starting with glorious sunshine, sailing with the Fife Yachts around the Isle of Bute, arriving in Lochranza and going to a whisky distillery and then finally getting involved with the locals in a Celtic musical jam. Great way to end the second day here in Scotland. Tomorrow is another day and the prospect of seeing Tarbert is exciting.
I woke to the sound of a howling wind, the boat was swinging and tugging at her mooring lines. It sounded like a thousand ants where marching on the deck, thankfully it was just hard rain that was pounding the deck….. Good Morning and welcome to Lochranza mooring field. Our little fleet of ASA yachts are all tied nicely in a line in the visitors area. The weather outside suck’s! So this is Scotland in summer….hmmm… remind me next time to read the brochure more closely…. Skippers meeting at 0930.
Well the weather is not about to improve, the pluses are… with this wind its a down wind sleigh ride to Tarbert, the village is only 18 miles away and we have a nice marina with facilities to use after what will be a wet ride there.
General consensus was to use just the foresail to get there as wind speeds had already hit 28knts in the bay and would undoubtedly hit 30 +.
Our intrepid sailors set off one at a time all dressed in full foul weather gear and safety harness visible. It really was not until we had cleared the lee of the island did we start to feel the full force of the winds and see the size of the waves…. these seemed more than normal and often would contribute to an occasional round out.
The trip to Tarbert was quick thankfully, the wind made for high overall boat speeds, which soon brought us to the entrance. The harbour is tucked way inland behind rocks and several significant navigation obstacles. We found the entrance and followed a fishing vessel into the harbour to be sure.
The village is predominantly a commerical fishing harbour, with most of the catch going to Glasgow…. some of the local restaurants also buy from the fisherman. Returning back to the pub it was evident that the local talent was going to have another sing along in pubs along the harbour.
The sailors retired back to their yacht as it was time to take stock and prepare for the sail down to Campbelltown over 35 miles to run…
Rain and more rain, drizzle the worse kind of rain as it just hangs in the air for you to sail into and get wet, it gets behind the glasses you wear, trickles down your neck….finds it’s way up your selves and just makes things wet, cold and miserable… Oh why do we do this to ourselves? In search of what?….what is worse is that you have half the visibility and can not see much, not even the wonderful landscape that you know is there, expect its blocked by the drizzle of the rain…. thats how we left Tarbert…..
However, if you wait 5 minutes the weather may change for the better…. and guess what it did, the further away we sailed from Tarbert the clearer and better it got. And yes there it was a funny looking yellow thing bright and warmth coming from it…. ‘here comes the sun’…(thank you George for that song) now I can really sing it with meaning.
Things where looking up, the drizzle had faded away, we had a delightful westerly breeze, the boat was making way to Campbelltown, the kettle was on the boil and a hot mug of tea was on the way up to the helmsman… was this what I have been searching for? Maybe.
It was going to be a long day, nothing complicated just pure sailing in what was shaping up to be great conditions. Flat to moderate seas, a steady 15 – 19 knots on the beam and yes the sun, peeking in and out from behind white cotton balls of clouds.
The landscape of Isle of Arran is spectacular, green fields, steep hills rising into small mountains, it looks as if someone has painted the landscape with shades of green and brown and golden yellow. The effect is to make it look like a continual painting as you sail by.
We where half way down to Campbelltown and the day was turning into one of those that you want to keep going forever. What a start we had, now it was all so far gone and forgotten, ahead was a new port, new friends and new adventures. Campbelltown here we come.
After a days sailing yesterday that ended with spectacular scenery, as we sailed into Campbelltown, and to be meet by a seal who guided the yachts into thier berths at the floating dock. The Skippers decided on a day to explore the town, and experience a little island life. Crews went in different directions, quite a few headed for the various trails to be explored in the area, including the walk over to the light house island once the tide had gone down.
Others went trekking around the town, exploring the shops and the local distillery at Spring single malt. Torridon’s skipper went in search of bagpipes and found a local fish and chip shop, who’s young son came down and played a medley of tunes for the assorted group. Later the local bagpipe school sent 2 other pipers to play in public outside the local town monument. It was a moving experience to hear the bagpipes played so well.
The rest day was well timed as the weather for the last day was going to be perfect. A southerly and sun was promised..
It was an early start, 0830 we slipped lines at the dock and cleared the sea bouy an hour later. We had 42 miles to sail, with a predicted southerly to arrive. At the moment we where sailing nicely along with a west south west, skirting the southern part of the Isle of Arran before we headed north and set our sights on Largs and home port.
The day developed into the best days run with warm sun heating up the cockpit. Crews where even seen to take off foul weather jackets and pants….now that was a first for the week. The flotilla arrived back in Largs by 4pm that afternoon, and it was a matter of gathering the yachts together on the pontoons and handing them back to the agent. That evening we all gathered at the local pub and had our last evening dinner together. Good byes where said and cries of lets do it again next year.
SO SHALL WE DO IT AGAIN NEXT YEAR… LET US KNOW HERE.