Wednesday, 20 May 2015

For Susan...

This return to CC is inspired by a fellow canal boater who plans to bring her narrowboat up the Clyde…

Well Susan I could gladly run you through the preparations we made, the fixtures, the cost, the hours and the sweat. The considerations seemed legion, and their implementation continued till the day before we left but even then, with all the advice in the world, things happened that we hadn’t prepared for.

I’m so glad we did it in good ship Peccadillo… but I’m even more glad we didn’t sink or die. 

Perhaps my overriding memory of both the Clyde and the Forth is the indifferent application of scale: water to boat. After the rigours of the wind-over-tide on the Forth Jubilee I was breathtaken to see the improved handling of Missee on Loch Fyne, she being 30 tons and 12’ beam compared to Peccadillo’s 16 tons and 9’6”. The 60 ton vessels I currently skipper on Loch Lomond are proportionally indifferent to the rather alarming waves that fetch up in a gale over the 26 miles from the south… but I imagine the calculation works the other way in the case of your 42’x7’ and, I’m guessing, less than 10 tons?

All of this said, I still dream of the day when the west coast of Scotland begins to realise its tourism potential and certainly there are moves to do so. The Marine Tourism Strategy is dubbed “Awakening the Giant” but I feel that better describes the tide of activity on the canal right now! 

Yes, the firth of Clyde. There was a day up Loch Long, surprisingly sheltered from the winds of the morning, with water like glass and a view of Scottish hills that is the envy of the all the world… and I though surely… surely we could get a wee flotilla of canal boats down the Clyde and onto these moorings for a weekend…

That’s the key though; company. The outcome on the Forth would have been very different if Donald hadn’t been there in the rib to flatten the waves so that I could turn Peccadillo out of the wind into the mouth of the Carron. At one point there were to be 5 of us heading west but in the end it was just Peccadillo, and if I was ever in that position again I would get a little budget to hire one of those many lads with their ribs… so many out there who would love such an adventure. Consider that if you do it Susan.

Consider that and plan your tides, you have to use them. Never take any wind over the tide but if you’ve time for a whisky one evening I’ll sing you a story (not really sing!) of a force 5 behind Missee on Loch Linnhe that swept us into Corpach at nigh on 8 knots… oh joy. Not least of all because we were finishing with the sea! 

But with all the planning in the world you can’t predict wash from other vessels, and there is one particularly bad catamaran ferry between Dunoon and Greenock that creates dangerous rolling breakers for a wash… they travel for miles. Our breakdown between Greenock & Sandbank was fuel blockage, with sludge having shaken up in the old steel tanks (who has access to the fuel tanks for cleaning?) so would recommend, for a tidal journey, a gravity fuel feed from a smaller portable; canal boats don’t use a lot of fuel at 4 knots. 

The RNLI were marvellous, and impressed with our chart/tidal/route planning and tow preparations. It was Davie Brown who helped me rig up a large rope all the way round the stern after Jimmy warned of the dangers of towing a steel longboat in rough waters. They can simply tear apart. But rest assured, it’s a known fact with sailors that the RNLI will never ever criticise or correct anyone for calling them out as their greatest concern is that a boater in distress may, through embarrassment, delay making the mayday or pan pan call for even a few minutes, and those minutes may make the difference between life and death.

Fortuitous it was that Peccadillo broke down and turned home… because as she left Rhu for Bowling one of the fins came away from her prop. As I wrestled the old one off (fortunately through the weedhatch, Ian… we didn’t have to crane out) to replace it with the one that the angel Joe had brought, I cast my mind back to the start of Clyde to Caledonia at Edinburgh Quay… to the bump bump bump down the Union that I squarely blame for the large crack that that was evident once we got it off. Man I must have hit at least six large obstructions up there; my wide beam, though technically 18” draft… but she hunkers down in that shallow water, even at 2 knots. With all the preparation in the world we couldn’t have known about this… imagine if it had gone on the Dorus Mor…. 

And that’s quite enough of a story Susan… forgive me for waxing lyrical but it has been wonderful to return to the Odyssey. I’m so glad I did it but I really don’t want to do it again… but if you do, call me for crew! We need more adventures, more boats, but yes, sensible ones.

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