By Sheryl and Paul Shard

Aboard Distant Shores II

Paul and I seem to love the extremes of cruising – long ocean passages where our skills and stamina are tested followed by lots of gunkholing where we poke along exploring creeks, rivers, cuts and canals to gain insight into the heartland of our destination.

Boating began for both of us on the Trent-Severn Waterway in Ontario and after setting sail for foreign ports in 1989 we have travelled through numerous canals including the Erie Canal and Intracoastal Waterway of the USA, the Corinth Canal in Greece, the Suez Canal in Egypt, the canals of Venice (a personal favourite), the Kiel Canal in Germany, and on our summer 2010 cruise the Göta Canal across Sweden.

At the time the Göta Canal was constructed in the 1800s, the Scots were the world leaders in canal building and Scottish engineer, Thomas Telford, was brought in as a consultant. One of his greatest achievements in his homeland was the 50 nm long Caledonian Canal that cuts through the Great Glen across Scotland from Fort William on the west coast to Inverness on the east coast. So as lovers of inland waterways and canals, it just made sense to include a couple of canal trips in Scotland while exploring this country on our way north to Norway last summer.

We'd be coming to Scotland from Bangor on the northeast corner of Northern Ireland where just a daysail across the strait lies the Firth of Clyde (a firth is a large bay) and the Mull of Kintyre (mull means headland) made famous by Paul McCartney's song of the same name. The Kintyre Peninsula is a long dangly peninsula that adds miles to go around if you're heading north and the seas at the Mull can kick up nastily in bad weather.

To improve shipping and safety at sea, the Crinan Canal was completed in 1801 to cut through the neck of the Kintyre Peninsula from Ardrishaig on the southeast side of the peninsula to Crinan on the northwest side. Here you can continue north along the Scottish coast in the protection of the cruising paradise of the western islands all the way to the top of Scotland around Cape Wrath and head north to the Orkney and Shetland Isles en route to the North Sea and Norway.

Another option is to turn right at the Isle of Mull and travel through Loch Linnhe to Fort William and enter the Caledonian Canal which cuts through some of the most breathtaking scenery Scotland has to offer.

We wanted to do it all so decided to transit the two canals on our way north (in the spring) when the weather would be more unsettled and the canals less crowded. On our way south from Norway (at the end of the summer) we'd round Cape Wrath and sail down the entire west coast of Scotland enjoying the numerous small islands and anchorages to be found there.

We set sail from Bangor with a fresh breeze from the WNW, which meant a nice wind on the beam. We swept along under clear sunny skies (rare), but it was cold on the water and we were dressed in full foul weather gear – sadly, our summer clothing for most of the voyage.

We headed for the marina at Troon, 65 nm away in the Firth of Clyde and accessible to the airport in Glasgow where Canadian friends Peter and Jill Schaffner were flying in to join us for a week. The wind went up and down, sails came in and out, and the motor went on and off as conditions came and went throughout the day. But the characteristic landmark of the ancient volcanic plug of Ailsa Craig in the Firth rose up into view just when it should have and by dinnertime the boat was berthed and we were  enjoying a fine seafood meal with Scottish sailing friends, Stuart and his fiancee, Moira, who had driven from Edinburgh to see us. The friends you make sailing are special friends and even though we hadn't seen Stuart for nearly 13 years, we'd kept in touch and it was as though no time had gone by. A nice welcome to Scotland!

Peter and Jill arrived the next morning and after a quick grocery outing and a day of catching up on news and the mail they'd brought us from home, we set off the following day across the Firth of Clyde in the company of dolphins and a naval submarine (the Firth is an exercise area) headed for the Isle of Bute, the ancestral home of the Stuart kings. After a lunch stop at Millport we circumnavigated the island through the Kyles of Bute, narrow sounds between the island and mainland. It was a lovely sail on flat seas past purple hills covered in masses of rhododendrons.

Also on the recommended list for this leg of the was the small picturesque fishing port of Tarbert on Loch Fynne on the Kintyre Peninsula just a few miles south of the entrance to the Crinan Canal. We were not disappointed. There is a small castle ruin overlooking the harbour and before setting off for Ardrishaig where we'd enter the Crinan Canal we climbed up to the castle and took in the views of the surrounding hills, bays and the tarbert, or isthmus.

The Crinan Canal is known as Britain's most beautiful shortcut since it cuts off the often treacherous journey around the Mull of Kintyre where you still manually operate lock gates built in 1801. The sea locks at each end and Lock 14 in Crinan are the only ones modernized and operated by lockkeepers; bridgetenders open swing bridges with a hand crank that moves Frankenstein-like gears sliding the bridges out of your way.

After locking through the sea lock, Suzie and her sister, Helen, the two lockkeepers on duty guided us to the first manual lock which they referred to as the “training lock” where we learned how to open the sluices and operate the locks. These two women were a delight. They were fourth generation lockkeepers. Their great grandmother was the first woman lockkeeper on the system.

There are 15 locks and seven bridges on the Crinana Canal. It is only nine miles long so you can do the whole thing in under six hours but we planned for a couple of days since there are cute towns to visit and pleasant footpaths and bike trails leading to interesting historic sites in the rolling countryside that we wanted to enjoy.

We popped out of the Crinan Canal at the town of Crinan on Sunday June 5. We'd had the best weather of the whole summer for our transit, the only time we sported shorts and t-shirts. However, as we entered the Bay of Crinan, the sky clouded over and the characteristic fine drizzle began and stayed with us all the way to Oban, the main town and transportation hub on this part of the Scottish coast.

We continued north through the protected seas between the network of islands on this section of the coast sailing past Duart Castle, the ancestral home of the Macleans, and stopping at the colourful fishing port of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull before continuing up the long narrow Loch Linnhe past Fort William to enter the Caledonian Canal at Corpach. We lucked out with a clear beautiful sunny day so could see the top of Ben Nevis, the tallest summit in the UK at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft.) above sea level. Ben Nevis means “mountain with its head in the clouds” so we saw it on a rare day that offered clear skies and dry weather.

The Caledonian Canal was built in the early 19th century by Scottish engineer Thomas Telford and was conceived as a project to create employment in the depressed area of the Scottish Highlands suffering from the Highland Clearances that left many residents homeless and jobless. Many people emigrated to Canada and the Scottish lowlands at this time.

The canal was a massive undertaking that took nearly 20 years to complete, 12 years longer than planned; it opened in 1822. The canal is 50 nm long (60 statute miles or 100 km) and runs from northeast to southwest across the top of Scotland through the Great Glen, a huge valley created by a geological fault in the earth's crust. Only one third of the entire length of the canal is man-made, the rest being formed by natural freshwater lakes or lochs: Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Ness (of Loch Ness monster fame) and Loch Dochfour. There are 29 locks and 10 swing bridges all operated by the canal staff – a real breeze after the do-it-yourself Crinan Canal.

Like the staff working on the Crinan Canal, the lockkeepers and bridgetenders operating the Caledonian Canal are real gems. They do cartwheels to make you feel comfortable and confident in the locks. The start at Corpach can be a bit unnerving since your challenge for the day is the famous Neptune's Staircase, a flight of nine locks back-to-back, the largest flight of locks in the UK. Turbulence can be strong and taking a boat through with just two people on board can be taxing. At least three people are recommended.

You can do the Caledonian Canal in two days but our attitude is why rush? We took our time enjoying the spectacular mountain scenery, the lockside towns, especially Fort Augustus where we did some day hikes along Loch Oich and Loch Ness and enjoyed good pub food while we waited for a front to pass. Then another flight of locks and we were into Loch Ness – a body of water that had long been on my life list! What a thrill to sail our own boat on this famous loch!

We looked but no monsters were spotted.


Canals of Scotland

Sail Scotland
sailscotland.co.uk

Visit Scotland
www.visitscotland.com

British Waterways Scotland
www.britishwaterways.co.uk/scotland

Historic Scotland
www.historic-scotland.gov.uk

Great Glen Way
www.greatglenway

Award-winning filmmakers and sailing authors, Paul and Sheryl Shard, have been cruising internationally since 1989. They are the hosts of the sailing adventure TV series, “Distant Shores”, that airs weekdays across Canada at 6PM ET/3PM PT on Travel and Escape Channel and includes episodes on their Irish cruise. Visit their website at www.distantshores.ca.

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 - Duart Castle, the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean on the Isle of Mull, stands on a crag at the end of a peninsula overlooking the entrance to the Sound of Mull, Loch Linnhe and the Firth of Lorne.
Photo 2 - Aerial view of entrance to Crinan Canal at Crinan
Photo 3 - Canadian friends, Peter and Jill Schaffner, join Paul and Sheryl for the trip through the Crinan Canal. Here they are pictured with Paul having dinner in the cockpit of Distant Shores II on the warmest day of the summer.
Photo 4 - As the Shards approach Scotland from Northern Ireland through the Firth of Clyde, the island of Ailsa Craig rises up on the horizon. It's two miles (3 km) in circumference and rises to 1,110 feet (340 m) and is the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano that might have been active about 500 million years ago. It is now uninhabited but blue hone granite, used to make curling stones, was once quarried here. It is now a bird sanctuary.
Photo 5 - The famous Loch Ness. Who knew you could sail your own boat through it? There are great views of it from the hiking paths that run along in through The Great Glen. The Great Glen is an area for “Boots, Bikes and Boats”.
Photo 6 - Sheryl at the bow of Distant Shores II as the Shards arrive at the harbour at the picturesque fishing village of Tobermory, Isle of Mull.
Related Articles

Thornbury on Georgian BayJennifer Harker

To borrow a line from Monty Python, “and now, for something completely different”.

Normally, our boating adventures are spent weaving our way amongst the picturesque backdrop of the 30,000 Islands of eastern Georgian Bay aboard our Sea Ray Sundancer 268. This time we’ve traded power for sail as friends welcome us aboard their 38-foot Irwin for the Canada Day long weekend.

We’ve set our sights on a decidedly different destination for this journey, charting a course for Thornbury. This small town, located in the southern reaches of Nottawasaga Bay, is an oft-overlooked area of Georgian Bay - but it shouldn’t be. Although we’ve explored this shoreline on countless road trips, this will be our first visit from the waterside.

Read more about the Thornbury on Georgian Bay...

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
My husband and I were visiting the Bra d'Or Lake from Newfoundland in our 39 foot Sea Ray ...
After an autumn in Canada, we arrived back in northern Florida at Adamant 1 on January 3rd and with ...
This issue, to kick off 2019, we have an unofficial Photo of the week and this, the unofficial ...
Readers give us a bit of feedback on the 60th anniversary of the Shark 24
We are home for Christmas this year. Soon we will be heading back to Adamant 1 for another winter ...
This past October we drove to Telegraph Cove with friends and spent a day of wonder cruising the ...
We have kept our subscription to Canadian Yacht Onboard as we have traveled the South Pacific over ...
Stuart Walker a legend in competitive sailing passed away on November 12, 2018 in Annapolis. Stuart ...
“In Grenada, we had about 80 cruiser kids visit our boat...by dinghy of course! Sometimes you ...
Austin Edwards told students and parents at the Saanich School’s “Parents as Informed Partners” ...

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
I have heard a lot of talk lately about trends in yacht clubs where senior membership is getting ...
To get you in the mood for cruising the Boat Show then launching in spring, here’s a boat that ...
Quite simply, the styles of boats have changed. Where in past years a buyer might have been looking ...
At the boat shows, the Ranger Tugs’ classic tugboat lines always grab the crowds, with the wives ...
Sometimes a great idea requires an encore, and French yacht builder Jeanneau got that with the ...
Tactical Custom Boats announces the sale to a North American client of a custom Tactical 77’ – Fast ...
Bruce Elliott is an inventor. And when he sold the technology he developed to build utility poles ...
One often asks of a winning achievement or a fabulous design, could it have possibly been done ...
The latest new model from Cruisers Yachts is the Cantius 42 and this yacht made its debut in the ...
The Sabre 45 Salon Express is new for 2017, making its debut at the Fort Lauderdale International ...

Cruisers Yachts Cantius 46The Cantius 46 is the latest evolution of Cruisers Yachts’ Cantius line – now there are five models from 42 to 60 feet. The new Cantius 46 is a great example of “easy boating” the way Volvo Penta imagined it and how Cruisers Yachts has executed it. The idea is that you just come on board, unlock the glass doors, fire it up, cast off, and enjoy - alone, with a spouse, or with a huge group.

Since the first Cantius model was introduced, Cruisers Yachts has continued to refine the concept for ever-greater convenience, more clever and innovative features, and also greater performance.

Read more about the Cantius 46...

 

 

 

 

Sun Odyssey 410By, Zuzana Prochazka

The revolution continues – with a twist

The Jeanneau 410 is the eighth generation of the Sun Odyssey line, but even with that long history and umpteen years of tweaks and iterations, what the French builder has done in the latest revamp will make you say, “Wait, what?”

 Last year, Jeanneau turned the sailboat deck layout on its ear with the introduction of their Sun Odyssey 490 and 440, and the concept of the ‘walk-around deck’.

Read More about the Odyssey 410...

 

 

 

DIY & How to

  • Prev
Electrical ground is a term used to describe the reference point in an electrical circuit from ...
Last time we looked at making proper electrical connections – the tools, supplies and methods ...
Winter is a great time to look at some of the hidden spaces on your boat – to take stock of what is ...
When a boat is in the water, the bilge will often collect water that enters the boat from weather, ...
Recently I suggested doing an off-season (winter) project with a potential client, and my ...
A recent conversation with a fellow contractor got me thinking: With all of the information out ...
As the cold approaches, shrink-wrapping is a hot topic, and I’ve heard more than a few debates at ...
Nothing stops a vacation faster than a problem with the fresh water system – be it leaks, smells, ...
Pyrotechnic distress flares have been around for decades, while electronic strobe distress flares ...
Most of us don’t give a second thought to our sacrificial anodes – those curious knobs of raw metal ...

Ask AndrewAndrew McDonald

Last time we looked at making proper electrical connections – the tools, supplies and methods needed to make connections between components and wiring.

When planning out electrical work, one of the more common questions that I address is on the set-up, installation and sizing of breakers and fuses.

Fuses and breakers are collectively called ‘overcurrent protection’ – and these come in many different shapes, styles and sizes. Their purpose is the same: to prevent a situation where a larger than intended electrical current is running through the circuit, which puts the circuit at risk of overheating, fire and damage to equipment. 

Read More about Electrical Installations Basics...

 

  

Marine Products

  • Prev
You most likely operate your vessel with batteries that are rechargeable. Rechargeable batteries ...
This past decade has been a real up-and-down ride for the companies who make boating equipment. ...
Making it’s global debut at the Toronto International Boat Show the new Mercury 5hp Propane ...
Most of us have heard of fuel additives, whether it be for gasoline or diesel. But which one to ...
While the basics of boat hull design hasn’t changed that much over the years, the same cannot be ...
Yamaha targets the Canadian big-water market with its high-torque 425 horsepower V8 XTO outboard, ...
Looking for a great Christmas gift for the Offshore sailor on your list? This being a Marblehead to ...
Sail shape is long gone. They have stained, feels thin and you see broken threads everywhere. Your ...
Stripping the antifouling paint from the bottom of a boat is physically demanding and is one of the ...
The 2019 Ultimate Sailing Calendar highlights the drama and excitement of blue-water sailing, as ...