We left Oban on August 27 and headed up to Dunstaffnage, where we participated in the Jeanneau Scotland Rendevous. This was a gathering of Jeanneau boats, and it was quite well attended, considering the location. We had a great time talking to other Jeanneau owners, dealers, and factory reps about our boats. The food at the Wide-Mouthed Frog restaurant was quite good, as well. We also won a step-bumper during the quiz-night!
We left Dunstafnage on July 29, heading SW towards Crinan. We had done the Crinan Canal last year, and were not really happy about doing it again, but it appeared to be the best/fastest/most efficient way to get to Troon, and then over to Bangor. However, we talked to a number of local people at the Jeanneau Rendevous, and they advised us to take the longer path instead of the canal. True, it would be longer, but easier. They also advised that we stop at Gigha, down the Sound of Jura, to dine at the Boatouse, a very well known restaurant there. This made us reconsider, and we decided to re-evaluate once we reached Crinan.
Crinan and the Mull of Kintyre
In Crinan we picked up a guest mooring behind the boat yard and took the dinghy at least 50 feet to one of those segmented pontoons that people use to land and launch jet-skis. It was quite a new experience to walk on, especially with the swell that was running. We walked into town and had a very nice meal at the Oban hotel/Seafood Bar. Then it was time to decide where to go next.
Looking at the canal and the weather, we figured that if we went thru the canal we would take 2 days for the passage, and another day to head down to Troon. If we sailed around the Mull of Kintyre we would take 2 or 3 days, depending on whether we stopped just at the restaurant on Gigha, or made another stop at the tip of the Mull to wait for a favorable tide. The weather also looked like it would be favorable for sailing. Finally, we considered the cost of the passage thru the canal, vs the potential cost of having to motor all the way to Troon. In the end, we made the right decision.
We left Crinan pretty early on July 30, to try to avoid the worst of the tide against us, and headed SW, towards the Mull of Kintyre. We were not quite sure how long we would be able to sail, or what the tides would be like around the Mull, but we figured that we could stop in Gigha if it was too hard. In the end, it was not hard at all.
The winds started out from the NW, and we reached to the SW at a pretty constant 5-6 kts. We were(and still are) hand steering, because the autopilot is in Southampton, so we had to do a bit more work than we are used to. However, the seas were slight, and the sun came out, and it was a good sail until just before we reached Gigha. At this point the wind shifted more to the west, and the seas started to build, so we decided to motor a bit. Unfortunately, we had headed out into the main part of the sound instead of into Gigha sound, so we did not have an easy option to duck into the anchorage at Gigha – it was on the other side of the island. This caused some discussion about the best way to get around the island. We did not want to give up the miles already gained, but it would be a longer sail to head SW and then turn back to the NE. In the interests of making more progress, we continued SW, and just as we cleared the end of the island, the sun came out, the seas died down, and the wind shifted a bit more to the north. So, looking at the chart and the tides and the time, we made an ad-hoc decision to continue all the way to the Mull and try to make it to Sanda Island before dark. This was also a good decision.
We sailed almost all the way to the tip of the Mull, looking for the house of Sir Paul McCarthy all the way, before the wind died completely. Right after we started the motor we started to catch the vaforable tide around the mull, and our speed mounted to nearly 13 kts(!). This was fun, and even though we passed thru a lot of tide rips, the sea state did not build up anything dangerous. It was very similar to the ride into the Golfe de Morbihan . We arrive at Sanda at about 9 PM, to find a gorgeous anchorage occupied by only one other boat, which was on one of the 3(!) mooring provided for visitors. At no charge, we think. It was a lovely night, quiet, and we slept like logs.
Next morning, we had to get up at 6 AM again, to make the tide, and the ride up into the Firth of Clyde started off just like the ride around the Mull of Kintyre had ended. In addition, we had a nice SE wind and we sailed about half way to Troon at 6 kts before the wind died. We then motored about 20 miles into Troon.
Visiting and Shopping and Castles
In Troon, we had three main objectives: (1) to visit Audrey, Bernadette’s 93 year-old mother, (2) shopping at the Costco in Galsgow, and (3) to visit the Culzean Castle, south of Ayr. Audrey was watching the Olympics when we arrived, and we had a very nice visit with her. She appreciated the gifts that we brought her from Bernadette, and we had a good time talking to her.
The next day we picked up the rental car and headed north. This time we did not miss the tricky hidden exit off of the Glasgow ring-road, and we got to Costco in no time whatsoever (obeying all the speed law limits, of course). However, when we reached our main shopping objective, we found that they only had 4 jugs of Kitty litter left! Catastrophe! Crisis! What to do?!? Well, it turned out that they expected a new shipment the next day, so we had to plan to go up to Glasgow twice(argghh!). All in the name of keeping the kitties happy, of course.
All was not lost, though. We did a bunch of shopping for other stuff (we took the 4 jugs that were there, of course), and discovered that Costco in the UK now take AMEX cards! This is a major good thing, because last year we had to make significant cash withdrawals to be able to pay for our Costco purchases. This year, it all went on the Amex card, and it was good that we had the AMEX cards sent to Robin(thanks, Robin!!).
We came back to the boat and did a quick trip to the Wee Hurrie for lunch. This is a combination fish-and-chips shack and high-end restaurant at the end of the port, near the fish docks, which serves some of the best fish and chips we have ever had. We now have Troon and Whitby as standards in the F&C category.
Next day we headed back to Costco early, and lo-and-behold they had restocked the vital kitty litter supplies. More stocking up with litter and other necessities, back to the boat to drop it all off, and then we were off down south towards Ayr. We eventually reached Culzean Castle about 1:30 PM and we had a really nice tour of the castle, the gardens, and the grounds. The Castle dates back to the early 1700s, and is now a Scottish National Trust property. It has great views over the Firth and all the way over to Northern Ireland. Highly recommended.
We dropped off the car on Sat morning and spent the rest of the day stowing our purchases and preparing for Phil and Joan, who will be flying into Dublin on Monday. They will be meeting us in Bangor on Tues or Wed. We plan to leave Troon on Monday AM. Oh, and the autopilot has been fixed. They will be sending it to Bangor and it should be there before Phil and Joan. A good thing for them– we planned to press them into service as helm-persons…
Kitties have been having a good time here in Troon. We are on a pontoon that has been mostly empty, and have allowed them to roam a bit. Dante likes to look into the holes where the pontoon pilings support the pier. He also likes to look at other boats, which we try to discourage.