Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Oban Marinas....





Let's get the not so great bits out of the way. If you are thinking of leaving your boat in Oban and traveling inland Scotland, stop it. Stop it right now. The biggest downside to Oban is that it's kind of off the beaten track if you want to see something other than the Western Isles. Trains seem to go every place in Scotland finally stopping at the location you desire after changing trains every 2 hours and heading North, then South, then North again just to go East. Also, the local marinas are all kind of a trek from the city center and you had better have access to a car and be very up on the ferry schedule.

Oban is a tourist destination but strangely, despite us being there on a bank holiday and the streets being flooded with tourists, the town rolls up the streets at 9 pm sharp. We finally managed to find a pub on a back street but in Oban itself, seems like the holiday makers were content to hang out in their hotel bars.



The whole town has a bit of a "Torquay" feel to it, just instead of being on the English Riviera it's the Scottish Riviera. I felt like I was in some weird time warp. This was probably not helped by the fact that we stayed in a guest house which will forever be in my memory as providing one of the Top 10 most uncomfortable beds I have ever slept in. Despite feeling like a throw back to an old sitcom, I really liked Oban. A lot. It's just charming, despite the tourists and bit of weirdness.



Okay, those are the negatives. All of this being said, you should sail to Oban. You should plan on staying in the area for quite some time. The islands in the area are absolutely breathtaking. Seriously.

We checked out Dunstaffnage marina Tel- 01631 566555 . The downside is that the marina is 3 miles from Oban itself. The good news is their docks are in great shape, they have a 40 ton lift and a small chandlery onsite. The woman running the chandlery assures me if they don;t have it , they can get it ordered for you. They also have plenty of service contacts if you need service- be it electrical, diesel, rigging or what ever else you need Plus, you are within close proximity to some of the most beautiful sailing in Scotland. Seriously.

The other big option in the area is Oban Marina  Tel - 01631 565333 VHF Ch 80. The big plus here is that their complimentary ferry service drops you off right in Oban. The down side, you need a ferry to get to Oban. We didn't get a chance to really inspect the marina (we had Mark's mom with us, she is not as interested in marinas as we are!) but it looks like a promising option although you are more likely to get a mooring as opposed to a berth,


I don't think this would work as a permanent base for us as it's a bit difficult to access by land but you had better believe we will spend a good bit of time sailing in the area. It's just that pretty.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Greenock Marina

James Watt Dock Marina Greenock, Scotland- 55N 56' 392, -4W 44' 9.012 Tel +44 (0) 1475 729838

The west coast is the best coast. In Scotland for sailing anyway. As much as I love the little fishing villages along the east coast, the huge tidal swings and lack of deep water berthing options is pretty limiting. It's a long, long way from Peterhead to South Queensferry.



So what is a sailor who wants to check out inland Scotland to do? Well, you could do a lot worse than the James Watt Dock in Greenock. Actually, if I were sailing to Scotland and I wanted to leave my boat for a bit of inland exploration this would be my hands down, top pick.



Let's get the negatives out of the way. The marina is not in a lovely, coastal resort type setting. Greenock is a working man's town. You won't find many ice cream parlors, fish and chip shops or shops peddling tartan underwear and bumper stickers near by. It is not a tourist destination. In fact, a good friend who is from the area cautioned us  "oh, be careful Greenock can be a rough town". We did not find it to be quite as dire as that sentence would imply, but it does have a rather industrial feel and the negatives associated with it are in effect. Pay attention to your surroundings and don't borrow trouble. That being said...

The James Watt is a new marina and the docks themselves are in tip top shape. Access to the docks and boats is controlled and they have taken pains to have adequate security. They have diesel, petrol and Calor gas available. Waste disposal is available. Plenty of water even at low tide to keep your keel floating. Showers, toilets, power and water but no laundry facilities or wifi at this time.

Comfortably sized fairways
The big draw for this, aside from the security (which was just about the best we saw in Scotland) is it's location just over a mile from the train station. You could leave your boat here with confidence, then take a train or bus to just about anywhere you want to go in Scotland. The rail and bus system in Scotland is absolutely fantastic and there really is no need to hire a car which is good because driving in Scotland is well, nerve wracking to say the least and I am someone who loves to drive.



There is a McDonald's in spitting distance to the marina. No, no one wants to eat their food but they do have good wifi. There is also a new, clean and tidy Premiere Inn (best hotel value in the UK) right at the docks if you have landlubbers coming to visit. There are a couple of groceries a little over a mile away and the city center is just a bit farther which has a post office, cafes and shops in the mall for anything you might need. Not a lot of chandleries but we are talking about where to leave your boat safely for inland exploration and this has far more pluses than minuses.

If you want to do a bit more sailing in the area, the Inverclyde offers plenty of places to go all while being accessible to civilization. All in all, not a bad deal and the staff we met were courteous, helpful and friendly.

Spunky littleyellow boat going out for an evening sail
                                              





Kitty was taken by this cute little red boat. So much so that she said that would be her boat when she was very big, like 9 years old.

Drum- the maxi yacht formerly owned by Simon Le Bon, now owned by Arnold Clark, the car King of the UK

I admit it. Drum inspired a bit of winch envy in me.

See? Working man's docks.

In the distance, lot's of beautiful sailing to be had in the Inverclyde


                              

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

St. Monans Harbour

St. Monans Harbour- 56º 12'N, 02º 44'W
Tel- 01333 739000

Ah the  East coast of Scotland. So many lovely little villages, so very little water at low tide. Again, you might want to skip this one by boat because the harbour master only works part time. Whether or not he is working is dependent upon the tides. There are 2 dedicated visitors berths in the harbour. A grand total of 2. but you still might want to skip it because:


And why not just anchor out? Because this is what you would be anchoring in-


Maybe you would trust your ground tackle in this, with huge tidal swings. I don't think I would.

Still, I love this tiny little village.

I love that someone has taken an ugly, old slipway and created a Wellie boot garden.


I love "the Fishermens Church" with it's boats hanging from the rafters, a reminder of how powerful the sea is and how tiny are our boats upon it....



I love the graves or sailors and fishermen from years gone by looking eternally out to sea.



I love the walk along the shore. You must hop a stone fence and walk along a narrow path- (and take a break if needed)

past cows and castles ( or remnants of a windmill but when you are walking with a 4 year old they are all castles)








I love that on a clear day you can see the outline of Bass rock, shining white in the sunlight. You look out upon the sea and see it shimmering, glistening like alabaster, looking as if it might be inhabited by some magical being...


Then your mother in law says "That's Bass rock. It's a bird sanctuary. The huge amount of bird droppings make it appear white". Shimmering, glistening bird poop. It's the poop that makes it pretty. So much for waxing romantic.





Sunday, September 21, 2014

Anstruther Harbour


A large part of our time in Scotland was spent in checking out harbors and marinas. The plan, as much as we can formulate a plan- has always been to move the boat and ourselves to Scotland post cruise. After so many years abroad, Mark is getting ready to go home. Now where would we like to keep Ceol Mor? Time to look at options.

 Anstruther- 56° 13' 15", -2° 41' 46" VHF Ch. 11 Telephone- 01333 310836
(given the difficulties this harbor presents I would call WELL in advance before setting out)

Anstruther is a tidy little fishing village in the East Neuk of Fife. The harbour itself is not well suited to most cruising boats as it dries out. If you have a bilge keeler or a cat you can beach you might be in luck.

Here you will find no diesel. No wifi. No laundry. No berths for fin keeled boats. When asking about long term berthing, the harbor master chuckled and suggested we get on the waiting list and maybe Kitty could get the slip when she is about 30. They do have toilets and showers. If you are in need of a beer or fish and chips you are in luck because they have both in abundance. Chandlery supplies? Not so much,



It is a shame that Anstruther is not suitable for our boat as I really like this little town. The locals are friendlier than most (small fishing towns in Scotland are not exactly known for being visitor friendly) and used to visitors as its something of a tourist stop, I happen to really like fishermen and there are still a few about here and there.

Even if you can't berth here, Anstruther and the Neuk itself are still worth a visit. You will just probably have better luck by car than boat.






Kitty was convinced they had put in a "stage" for her to perform on the quay. Who am I to disagree?









Monday, September 15, 2014

At Home in Edinburgh

We arrived in Edinburgh to see Mark's family. It's not just the the fact that family is in Edinburgh that makes me feel so happy and at home here, its the city itself. There are many cities and towns and little villages I have been to that I have really enjoyed and some I have even fallen in love but Edinburgh is the one place that I instantly felt right at home. I just love this place. It has an energy unlike any other. It has every cultural amenity a big city should have, plus tons of tourists and historical sites and shops and even some of the spiciest Indian food anywhere (big plus in my book) and I could happily live here forever. Alas, our first stop this trip before we headed out West to scout out some marinas was only 3 days.

Our first night after taking the chunnel back from Paris to London, then hopping on a train to Edinburgh was spent talking around a table full of ridiculously spicy Indian take away with Mark's sister Gillian, her husband Robert and our nephew Laurie.

The next morning we awoke to brilliant blue skies and after lots of hand made espresso's courtesy of Robert, we went for a hike for the afternoon.

Out the door...

Through the neighborhood to Holyrood Park...
Laurie gamely carried Kitty about on his shoulders. He chased her, pushed her on the swing and encouraged her to try some more ziplining....









She declined to do any ziplining but was game for everything else.



Up the path to a little loch in the shadow of Arthur's Seat to feed the swans...


















Around Arthur's Seat all the way down to the Innocent Railway.




A long rambling amble down the path, with Kitty plucking more berries off the prickly vines and gorging on them. It was at this time that I became acquainted with stinging nettle. Oh what wonders you discover when you travel...








Into Duddingston and through  Dr. Neil's garden...


And then we retired to what is purported to be the oldest pub in Scotland, The Sheep Heid Inn. The pub might be old but the food and beer were fresh.

After a late tea, we walked back home through Duddingston Village with Kitty stopping to admire the village's communal chickens.




Once home, we sat up to the wee hours with more fancy pants espressos and a whisky or two chatting until we were all ready for sleep.

It was without a doubt one of the best days ever. Loved wasting time, getting to see a more natural, and beautiful part of Edinburgh right within the city. What I loved even more was wasting time with family
Yes. I could stay here.