Negotiating the Caledonian Canal could not be easier with all of the Locks attended by helpful staff and with regular pre-emptive exchanges on Ch 74, often made ready for your arrival. Overnight moorings on pontoons are available and included within the transit fee. Although the weather was variable, the scenery was STUNNING.
One of the locals in Whitehills had been very knowledgeable about the canal and we annotated the ‘Skippers Guide’ with insights and advice. Using this, our experience was notably enhanced. We were able to find a superb family restaurant at our overnight stop in Dochgarroch which did not have a licence but with this fore-warning, we were able to take our own wine with no corkage charge!
We found the very well positioned ‘Lock Inn’ at the Fort Augustus flight of locks at the southern end of Loch Ness and moored at picturesque Gairlochy after sailing down Loch Lochy.
I was reminded overnight to remember to always moor into the breeze as, with a little fetch, the ripples under the counter drove my wife to seek peace elsewhere in the yacht!
After descending the spectacular ‘Neptune’s Staircase’ of 8 locks, we were once again grateful for the annotations on our chart, booking the very unattractive Lochy Bar in Cao for an excellent and inexpensive meal.
It was just as well that we had booked as the restaurant was full of ladies ‘of a certain age’ taking advantage of the ‘early bird’ deal of a meal for £4.45!
Exiting the sea loch at Corpach, we carried the tide but, with little wind, motored down Loch Linnie to moor in Oban Marina, opposite the town on the island of Kererra. The internet reviews of the ‘Waypoints’ restaurant (a wooden shed) in the Marina were sufficient to keep us on the island and we were not disappointed enjoying another excellent meal.
With Paula and our friends flying out of Glasgow tonight, Friday and the new crew flying in tomorrow morning, it seemed easier, quicker and even cheaper to hire a car and stay over in an hotel rather than leave them to the vagaries of the rail service. This also gave us the whole day to gently take the scenic route through the Highlands, stopping for refreshments with wonderful vistas outside in the warm sunshine.
We had planned this coming week to ‘trial’ the crew for next year’s big adventure, flying the Parasailor, commissioning the unused water maker and making overnight passages to the outer islands but fate has struck a cruel blow. Bob has found that the offer of a post retirement consultancy involving 3 weeks in Kuala Lumpur and Nepal was too lucrative to ignore and Barry, having been delayed in France returned to a mountain of work and customers baying for his attention so, it is just down to me and Stephen for the week.
It is time to review the weather, crew change options and to plan ahead accordingly. It would be an awful shame to curtail the west coast island experience but I have the memories of having been here before. Whatever the decisions, prudence must reign supreme.