End of Part 1
It seems inevitable in my life that whatsoever I plan, I miscalculate the amount I can fit in to the time allotted. However, fate has also not been helpful in terms of the weather. Excuses aside, perhaps the lesson here is to think of a number and double it to allow for anomalous conditions!
My introduction to Scotland was at Port Patrick, a day’s sail from the Isle of Man and harboring a Scottish ‘John Bayley’ (for those who know him). The gain in sailing north was that south coast prices were left as just a bad memory. The facilities may on occasions have been meager but the visual impact surely compensated. As I progressed further north the enormity of the Western Isles sailing ground began to dawn upon me. Perhaps even overwhelmingly so, as I had to suppress a mild panic in realizing that I just did not know where to start and would only be able to savor a morsel in the lime I had.
Scotland can be transformed within minutes from an idyllic heaven to a dreary and forbidding place for a yachtsman, as the sun is extinguished and rain is driven into your face by a gusting fickle wind. This makes for challenging sailing when combined with tidal currents that, in places, exceed 8.5 knots, creating eddies that bubble then smooth the surface and threaten to spin the boat about. You can be driven by a force 5 wind behind you yet in the space of three minutes find that it has become an equally strong headwind. But for me I am still lured by the exquisite beauty of the mountainous backdrop to the sea, sweetened still further by the friendliness of the wildlife as dolphins, seals and birds come to investigate the lone stranger in their waters.
By contrast the Crinan and Caledonian canals are gentile and easy travelling. They are a delight and jewel of the British Waterways and bring me to the end of part one of this voyage as the duty of work, weddings and ceremonies calls me temporarily back to the bedlam of London.
Keep your eye on the tracker for part 2, heading south down the east coast, hopefully in early September.
So I have instigated plan C. C is for Caledonian Canal. I came to terms some while back that the ambitious Shetland route was not going to be realized. Indeed, even St Kilda has sadly been left to another time.