DUNSTAFFNAGE TO OBAN
By Tony Mayer
14 to 26 August 2001
Onboard: Barrie Smith (Skipper), Reg Worledge (Mate), Sarah Doughty, Richard Geere, Edna Geere, Tony Mayer
After meeting up outside Tesco’s in Oban on a rainy murky Tuesday morning, ample provisions were purchased and taken by car to Dunstaffnage Marina where Marabu was berthed. Dunstaffnage Bay is in a pleasant, picturesque setting, only some four miles north-east of Oban.
After enjoying a meal in the small restaurant in the marina, we witnessed a pretty sunset, which we hoped augured well for the morrow. Typically, it was raining in the morning, and after giving the engine an oil change, we slipped our berth and headed for the Sound of Mull under main and genoa. The wind dropped as we approached Lismore Light and we motorsailed towards the beautiful Loch Aline. As we came abeam of Glas Eilean several seals were basking on the rocks. Upon entering the loch the sun came out and we enjoyed the view looking up the Loch to the castle nestling in the trees at the far end before picking up a buoy on the east side.
The pleasant afternoon sun spurred Richard and Tony to take a dinghy trip up the loch before landing on the shore over 300 metres from Marabu so that Tony could take a swim. Perhaps foolishly, Tony elected to swim back to Marabu accompanied by Richard in the dinghy, but with the absence of a boarding ladder, it proved somewhat difficult to get up Marabu’s side and on to the boat. The solution seemed to be to get into the dinghy, but this was not possible due to the various rope and paddle fittings on the gunwales. In the end a long fender was placed horizontally and he was able to get on and stand on this. Importantly, this highlights the difficulties that would be faced in trying to retrieve a genuine man overboard, possibly someone wearing heavy wet gear and perhaps unable to play any effective part in their retrieval themselves. The day ended with an excellent gastronomic meal, cooked by Reg.
The next morning, with no wind, we motored up to Tobermory for the first of three visits. We saw several dolphins or porpoises as well as plenty of jellyfish, some of which were quite enormous and of a sinister appearance. After lunch, we used the dinghy to ferry everyone ashore to this pleasant and friendly town, and amongst our purchases was some fresh cod and prawns, which Sarah and Edna used to make a fish and prawn pie as our evening meal, a delicious dish repeated later in
The next day we sailed to Drumbuie and found the very narrow entrance. After keeping clear of the various rocks nearby anchored in a depth of some 12 metres of water, putting out an anchor buoy. We used the dinghy for a brief row ashore in this delightful spot.
In the morning we retrieved the anchor more easily than expected, and set off round the headland to Loch Sunart, carefully avoiding the rocks of Risga Island. In beautiful, but windless conditions, we slowly motored up the loch enjoying the magnificent scenery. Halfway up we turned back, and, as we left the loch, we raised sail and sailed towards the Sound of Mull, keeping clear of Sligneach Beag and Sligneach Mor which, when seen at low water are substantial rock formations. Unfortunately, when we were some eight miles from Loch Aline, the wind dropped and the sky turned black and the decision was made to turn around and spend the night in Tobermory, especially as we were running low on fresh water. Once in Tobermory and safely attached to a buoy, we provisioned the vessel with water using the spare water containers, ferrying them ashore in the faithful dinghy. The wind increased and we battened down the vessel, anticipating the worst, and sat down to another culinary delight in the warmth of the cabin.
Next morning, we headed for Oban, but again the wind died, and we made a slow but pleasant passage, tying up alongside a rusty dredger at Oban West Pier.
On the Monday morning we set off for Loch Linnhe and Fort William. We had a strong wind and enjoyed a pleasant sail under genoa and mizzen until we approached the Corran Narrows, which at around high tide are indeed narrow but the channel is well buoyed. We went through under bare poles, maintaining this for the eight miles up to Fort William, making some 3 knots over the ground. Strong winds and shallow waters at Fort William meant Barrie took Marabu to an anchorage at Rubha Dearg (opposite Corpach) to have a cup of tea and decide on the best
course of action in view of the forecast of southerly winds strength increasing to Force 8 or 9 for the next day.
Being concerned about the anchorage, Barrie rang the Sea Lock keeper for the Caledonian Canal at Corpach, who offered us a mooring in the lock immediately before the Canal proper commences. Corpach is on the railway line from Fort William to Mallaig. The next morning (together with the crews of other sheltering boats) we caught the train to this fishing port. The train climbed up through Glenfinnan, where it crosses a magnificent viaduct close to the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument, and on to Mallaig. It poured with torrential rain all day, but we were able to visit the Marine World aquarium where fish of all varieties live and can be observed in their natural habitat in clear, filtered seawater.
At 07:00 hours the next day the wind was still blowing hard, but an hour later the wind had abated, and with the assistance from Richard with a rope on the opposite bank, Marabu’s bow was brought through the wind, thus allowing us to progress into the Sea Lock for our departure. Once through the Corran Narrows we set the main, mizzen and working jib and enjoyed several hours of really good sailing, tacking down Loch Linnhe. We made such good progress that it was decided to make for Tobermory rather than stay overnight in Loch Aline.
The following morning, we tacked down the Sound of Mull and, en route we were stopped by an H.M. Customs launch, but when their Skipper recognised Marabu as a ‘reparation’ boat, he quickly waved us on. We soon lost the wind and motored slowly back to Dunstaffnage Marina for the night, and subsequently on to Oban to hand over to the next crew on the Saturday morning. Ably assisted by Reg, we had had a varied and most enjoyable cruise under Barrie’s skilful leadership and seamanship.