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Sailing round the coast of Britain-Part 2

Holy Loch to Campbeltown, round Mull of Kintyre, then a night adventure to Islay. Jim McCrossan continues the tale of his epic voyage round Britain’s coastline on his yacht Rebel.

The Yacht RebelI

Having cleared the Holy Loch we set off down the Clyde Estuary. The mist was lifting but it was still fairly cloudy and we had over 50 miles to go to Campbeltown at the south end of the Kintyre peninsula. Mike and I had arranged to meet our old friend Felicity and take her for dinner.

By lunchtime the sun came out and we were making good progress under main and genoa in a decent wind. We passed the Isle of Bute and we were closing the beautiful and rugged Isle of Arran with its dramatic peaks and Holy Isle with its Buddhist monastery clinging to its extremely steep sides. Beyond Arran we could see the great rounded bulk of Ailsa Craig and then the open sea where I would be heading after Campbeltown. I wouldn't see any of this again for at least three months.

We rounded the bottom of Arran and headed west to the dramatic entrance to Campbeltown Loch, guarded by Davaar Island and its tall lighthouse flashing in the half light of an early spring evening. We motored up the loch to the harbour, tied up to a pontoon and had a celebratory drink to mark day one and a successful passage. We then met Felicity and had a delicious Indian meal. We decided to spend two days in Campbeltown. Despite packing the boat the day before leaving, the stowage arrangements left a lot to be desired and were somewhat haphazard. It needed an hour to work out a good stowage plan and then an hour or two to put it into practice. By coincidence Celtic and Rangers were playing the next day in the last Old Firm game of the season and we were keen to see it!

We went to the pub and watched the game, which ended in a draw. Despite the intense rivalry between the both sets of fans watched the match together in a spirit of good-humored banter.


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Learning to Sail

The Hamble School of Yachting run approved sailing training courses including taster weekends covering the first steps to learning to sail and becoming a knowledgeable and useful crew member.

Visit Scotland have a varied list of places to learn to sail in Scotland

We particularly like and recommend The Galloway Activity Centre based at Loch Ken in Dumfries and Galloway. They have a full menu of sailing courses as well as plenty of other activities including windsurfing, power boating, kayaking, canoeing, archery, mountain biking, orienteering, climbing and abseiling and some of the most breath-taking scenery in Scotland.


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Mike met met another old friend when he was out for a walk and we pressed her into service when she and her daughter came on board for a drink. We were delighted when Jackie turned up with her bag the next day. She would sail with us round the Mull of Kintyre to the Isle of Gigha, then catch a ferry back to the mainland.

There are strong tides at the Mull of Kintyre, which, in the wrong conditions, can be a formidable headland to round. We motored out of Campbelltown but as we approached the Island of Sanda got the sails up and rounded the Mull in glorious sunshine. What a panorama! To the west the Glens of Antrim and Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland, to the northwest Islay and the high Paps of Jura. Also the still barely visible, low lying Gigha and towering above us to the east the great bulk of the Mull of Kintyre with its high lighthouse.

As the wind was blowing from the north, directly from Gigha, I decided to motor in order to shape a course more directly to the island. The entrance to Gigha requires the lining up of a couple of marks and sailing a specific course into the bay to avoid some reefs. These marks are not lit so the entrance must be made in daylight, and, as we could not leave Campbeltown before lunchtime because of the tides we were in danger of running out of daylight. This situation was compounded by the fact that the engine began to overheat.

We put the sails back up and made the best course we could while I looked at the engine. The drive belts were a little slack and affecting the cooling, I tightened them and that solved the problem. But I was now convinced that we could not make Gigha in the daylight. The alternative was Port Ellen on Islay, quite a bit further away but it was lit, and possible to enter in the dark.

So we changed course. By 9pm, we were still three hours out and it was dark. But nearing Islay we picked out the flashing light of a cardinal buoy marking Otter Rock, four miles from the entrance which was marked by a lighthouse and a green flashing starboard hand buoy. We could see the lighthouse but not the buoy, and we needed it to identify the entrance. Eventually we saw it turned sharply to starboard and came slowly down the inside of a line of skerries enclosing the bay - the inner part of the bay at this point is very shallow. We passed the ferry terminal and went behind the pier to where a set of pontoons had recently been installed and a channel dredged to provide access. Unfortunately it was low tide and we repeatedly touched bottom as we crept the last 50 yards in the dark and tied up just before one in the morning. We had sailed nearly 60 miles so a nightcap or two were in order to celebrate our night adventure! We had made it.

To be continued.

To find out what happened to Jackie and how she got home from Islay read part three of Jim McCrossan’s tale ‘ Round Britain with Rebel’. On Laterlife Travel.

Round Britain with Rebel Part One




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