Carlingford – Oban. Tides and the Crinan canal
We are in Oban, or rather on the island Kerrera, where Oban Marina is located. Every hour a small ferry sails from the marina to Oban. June has just taken the ferry to Oban, and when she returns she will be accompanied by Liselotte, Luna and Frida, who are sailing with us through the Caledonian Canal.
We arrived in Oban as planned, at least when it comes to the planned date. The route was different than planned, but this didn’t make the trip any less good, even though we don’t know what we missed out on. So far, we are quite excited about what we have seen and experienced, and the weather has been fantastic, except we have had too little wind to sail in. Currently, we have already used more sunscreen than we used the entire trip last summer from Lisbon to Carlingford.
Big tidal waves
The departure from Carlingford was a bit affected by the delivered RIB dinghy, which unfortunately had a damage in its aluminium hull. We arrived friday night and the plan was to depart saturday at noon, which was aligned with the high water. However, most of saturday morning was spent on the phone with the company delivering the dinghy. The were very helpful, but time was passing by. Finally it was decided that we should leave the dinghy at the marina, and then they would try delivering a new one monday at what ever location we were at.
We were delayed by 2 hours, which doesn’t seem as much, however 2 hours after high water the tidal stream going out of Carlingford Lough is quite fast. We were going with the stream, but as there was a small breeze going against the tide, the last part of the lough out to the Irish Sea had 2 meter big steep waves. We had a bumpy ride with Carpe Diem bumping from one wave to the next not always getting the bow over the waves. We were almost not moving in the water, but as the current moved out of the lough we were still sailing 4 to 5 knots over ground, and after 10 minutes we were out on flat water again.
The forecast predicted heavy wind the next day going right against us. As we were sailing with the current, we were a bit uncertain on how the waves would be, so we decided going straight to Bangor near Belfast, which meant sailing through the night. The wind had died completely, so we would have to motor.
Luckily, the timing with the tidal currents meant we arrived at Bangor already at 3am, and were assigned a berth over the VHF, with a message that we could go to sleep and handle check-in the next morning. We now had a day to relax, see Bangor, and plan the next stage of the trip. And of cause see Denmark play Croatia in the World Cup.
Engine issues, again… again…
Each of the 2 years we so far have spend sailing Carpe Diem home to Copenhagen has had it’s own theme within marine engine understanding. First year the theme was the-fuels-way-to-the-enginge, where we had to stop at Lagos due to issues with the injection pump, last year the theme was cooling-water-way-to-the-engine, where we were without engine on the Biscay without wind, and this year the theme was, apparently, lubrication-and-motor-oil.
A check of the engine in Bangor revealed that the oil-level had dropped quite a bit. We called a marine engineer who did a quick service and diagnosis of the engine. He couldn’t find a serious leak, so either the engine was ‘drinking’ the oil or it had a small leakage towards the gearbox. Good news was, that as long as I only had to top with small amounts of oil after 6 hours motoring it was not a problem. The bad news was, that fixing this would require the engine out of the boat – something we are planning to do anyway when we get home. The annoying part for now was that now I couldn’t really trust the engine and this would stay in the back of my head the rest of the trip.
Due to tidal streams, wind conditions (no wind), and an engine that should not run too many hours, we changed plan. Pilot books recommend to stay on the irish side of the channel and wait to cross over to Scotland furthest north. However, as weather would be calm there were no issue crossing from Bangor, which would mean less motoring as well. We would not have to time the tidal situation at Rathlin Islands, an Island we would then not see even though we had big expectations for this.
So we crossed over to Scotland right away and headed for Campbeltown in the Firth of Clyde. We arrived while England were playing a World Cup match against Colombia, and we could follow the match from the cheering from all the English boats. Whenever we heard cheers, we could stream the goal, as this is a few minutes delayed. England won after penalty shootout.
The Crinan Canal
Choosing to sail into the Firth of Clyde also meant going through the Crinan Canal. In the morning in Campbeltown June read on a Scottish cruising page on Facebook, that there were issues with the water supply due to the very dry weather period in Scotland. If they closed to canal, we would have to sail 100 nautical miles around the peninsula which would be a problem for our tight schedule of reaching Denmark within our 3 weeks of vacation. I called Scottish Canals, who ensured me that they would not be closing the canal.
Relieved we sailed the beautiful trip between scottish islands up to the canal, and were locked into the first basin at Ardrishaig. At this trip we tested our hammock as we were motoring due to no wind.
Next morning we were ready for the Crinan canal. This was an unforgettable experience for many reasons. It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful sailing in the canal and the locks, and it was very hard work. In Crinan, the canals are manually operated, typically by the sailors going through. Normally you group up so multiple boats go through and share the work of operating the locks. We saw a russian boat who had hired 2 men to work the locks, and we believe this is done by a few others as well. However this would take all the fun out of it. Whether it was concerns of the canal closing, or others decided to sail in open water due to the very good weather, we don’t know, but it turned out we were the only boat going through the canal from Ardrishaig to Crinan (east to west). This meant we would be the only boat to work the locks.
Especially June worked hard on land in the locks, while Laura and I were handling the boat. Typically a lock had to be opened for us to sail into it, closed, and then water let in or out through a hatch under water. Then the lock could be opened so we could sail out, and finally the lock should be closed again. On the pictures below some of this is shown. There are 15 locks in the canal, where the last 2 are mechanic and operated by staff. When at the highest part of the canal we had lunch enjoying the beautiful surroundings. According to a skiing app on my iPhone we were 24 meters above sea level.
8 hours after sailing into the first lock we sailed out of the final lock in Crinan, few minutes before the canal was closed for the day. From here we had an hour sailing to Ardfern. Getting a new dinghy delivered was not possible, the deal was cancelled, and we found a new RIB in Ardfern, which was quite close to Crinan and only a small detour from our route to Oban. This time we did get our new dinghy. This is important,as it seems like we will have to stay at mooring buoys or anchor through the Caledonian Canal. Now we are ready, even though we don’t have an outboard engine.
Coming out from the Crinan canal we could see that the nature had not become any less beautiful, so yesterday we had even more fantastic sailing from Ardfern to Oban, where Laura were in the dinghy while a group of dolphins passed by, unfortunately they never came real close to us. We still haven’t had weather for sailing by sail, we hope that will change soon.