The Vital Spark.

hlb

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Having so far seemed to concentrate my time, on disaster stories,
And being as I’m sat here with little else to do.

I thought I’d have a go at writing one about a trip where nearly nothing went wrong.
I’m not very good with the descriptive stuff, so you will just have to do your own adlibbing about the scenery, pools of light on silken water and any other crap you can think of, just to spin it out.

For those with only small, or no boat at all. Or for the raggies who wonder what a boat with engines is all about. This trip might do some thing for you.

It was probably about 6 years ago.

The trip again in our Princess 33 at the time, again set off from Pwlheli North Wales.

The weather was calm for once as we headed SW for the 25 miles or so, down the Lleyn peninsular. Even the races round Bardsey were behaving themselves. The course was to lead us north, up to Holly Head for the night, but everything being very uneventful. We just carried on up the Irish sea to The Isle Of Man.

Now I would not call Douglas a pretty place, But some body had the fore thought to put it in a handy refuelling spot.
I know the island is supposed to be a nice place. But the wander round Douglas just confirmed the lack of visitors. B&B £8 on the sea front, pick your own hotel!

The next day the sea looked a bit more lively but we headed out, East for some reason, to go round the island before heading NW up the Mull Of Gallway. I know I’ve said it before. But look on an Admiralty Chart of this area and it says. Dangerous For Small Vessels. And my pilot book says. That means. Mine Sweepers and Destroyers!
I hadn’t thought the weather was bad enough to worry about the over falls or wind over tide, but the look was horrific. White water, everywhere in front!
Well we sort of bounced and sploshed through it. At least it all seemed to be coming from the same direction. Still it seemed a bloody long hour till coming out the other side of it.
But once turned north again, everything went much better.
Soon Portpatrick was in sight, and thank god for GPS. The entrance is just a gap in the cliffs about fifty feet wide. The current was doing about five knots across the entrance and the trick is To line up an orange blob on the harbour wall with one on a house up the hill. The you crab in at about fourty five deg's.

Its this sort of place that I feel very privileged to have a boat.
A lovely little harbour in the centre of the village, about eight quid a night and we’ve got pride of place, with all the cars being booted out of town.
Mind you its also a bit like being a goldfish with all the tourists gorping down at you when the tides out. It was here that we met the two Brooms on there round Britain trip.

So onward and upward, the next stop was Campbeltown on the West coast of the Mull Of Kintyre. Southerners would think they were going to fall off the planet from here on. A bit like going in a time warp, fifty years back.

Then it was into proper West Coast of Scotland sailing. Best place in Europe so they say. Isle of Arran on the right and Mull Of Kintyre on the left, with dolphins and us in the middle. Just a gentle cruise now. No need for serious navigating. Up the fly bridge with a chart. Except it’s a bit like a scenic spaghetti junction, with all the Islands and locks. Spent the night in Tarbert.
Then its up Lock Fyne for Ardishaig (must spell it right.) For the Crinan Canal.
Now all cruises have to be about something and that’s what this one was all about. Take the boat up a Canal! Don’t sound like much but then this was the Crinan.
It was built to save boats going West round the outside of the Mull of Kintyre, that’s before the time of Paul Macartney!

The canal is 9 miles long and consists of 15 locks and 7 bridges, all a DIY job except the sea locks a either end. So its out the sea, up a mountain and back down the other side and into the sea again. By which time your completely knackered.

Arriving at Crinan I was pleasantly surprised to see the steam Coasters The Vital Spark and its mate, but cant remember name of tother.
There was a series on the telly about them , Para Hanley or sumat. Sure theres a bloke on Shuterbum called himself after it!

The sunset over the islands round Crinan was unbelievable.

You might get another verse another day. But see nothing much went wrong and were still going north!





Haydn
 

Geoffs

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What, Haydn, nothing else to do on a Boxing Day evening with all the wonderful things on Tele. No you're right, this is far more entertaining, looking forward to next verse.
 

hlb

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Next part of the trip was Islands and more Islands. Well there’s that many that as soon as you’ve seen them, sent the report down stairs, plotted it , there’r twenty more.
And was that the first or last or0r some where in the middle. Anyway we are bending round islands and bending back again.. Heading for Craoobh Haven. Pilot book all sounds very complicated but got there without problem. Nice club house/ pub middle of know where. Still going North but also South, East and West , round the Isles. But get to Oban.
Parking out of town but talk to 50ft dive boat in town and sit next to him.
Next off to Isle of Mull and to Tobermory. Parking limited but Hey the pubs are ok so just mussel in. Meet girl from Australia and others. I mean this is not Heathrow!
Anyway times got on and its time for going back. Youngest short person is going to meet us in Oban and spend some time on the boat.


Haydn
 

syd

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MORE.... MORE.... ( stood up, clapping madly with tearful eyes).

Had new boat delivered to club in October, not being dropped in the water till March. Withdrawal symptoms getting the better of me.
Cheers
Syd
 

hlb

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So back in Oban Short but now very long person arrives and as always, as soon as he gets there. The heavens open and it’s rain from then on.

Back to Crinan and through all the locks. Much easier with extra crew but all soaking wet.
Then round Bute and down to Kip marina. Son got dropped off somewhere on the way but cant quite remember where. It took him 10 hours to get back to his car in Oban by bus.

Decide we like Scotland so much, we’re going to leave the boat up there.
Try Kip then Larges, but no room at the inn.

Finally get to Troon and leave boat there ready for next exploratory trip.

Now we had had the boat for sale for two years in Wales but no offers.
So it seemed sensible to put it back up for sale in Troon . Broker advised 8 grand more than we’d been asking in Wales. So Ok, didn’t want to sell it yet anyway.

Now I did say nothing went wrong. Well make your own minds up!

A week latter I got a phone call, “Some one wants the boat”.
Eerr. I says, but dinghy not included and not this and that.
“Still wants it”. Oh hell ok then.

So boat sold for 8 grand more than I paid for it. But no more Scottish trips.
Did it all go wrong!!



Haydn
 

hlb

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Well actually theres a bit I forgot. Some time among this trip,
we went to visit Arran and hired some bikes there.
Went about five miles and stopped for a coffee.

On the way back I was very impressed with wifes newly found bike riding skills. Cos she'd always hated bike ridding and never done much.
Anyway I kept going faster and faster and wife was keeping up. On the down hills she was passing me.

Then all discovered when we stopped at the hire shop.
She'd done five miles with the handlebars, back to front! Bet you couldn't do that! But explains the speed. She couldn't stop!

Haydn
 

hlb

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Oh! And the other thing I forgot is.
The cowboy festival at Millport on Great Cubrae. Every year about end of July, they turn the whole town into a wild west town. The beach becomes Boot Hill with grave stones, Estate agent becomes. Assay office and the butcher sells mad cow pies. Every one dresses as cow boys and girls.
The harbours packed with anything that will float.
Last time we were there, they were all pissed about 8pm and were throwing each other off the harbour wall.
Trouble was the tide was out so only a foot of water in.
You should have seen them bounce off the bottom.
Only night sailing I've ever done was to get out of the place before any more disasters.

Haydn
 
G

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Oh well! You probably posted this to see if you could tempt me to reply as a former boat owner. I still have not bought anything but I still smell recession and bargains around the corner. On the other hand if everyone has your attitude to an honest consultant trying to earn a bob or two!!!

The Vital Spark was in fact the puffer Saxon which was built in 1903 as Dane by John Hay & Sons of Kirkintilloch (on the Forth and Clyde canal). She was sunk in a collision in 1925 and acquired by Walter Kerr, the coal merchant in Millport. After refurbishment, she served Millport with coal and similar cargoes for about fifty years. I have personally conned her from Bowling to Millport (as a boy). She appeared on television as the Vital Spark for the Para Handy TV series. She now languishes in the Canal basin at Crinan and is in a sad state of neglect, possibly beyond redemption.

The other puffer you saw was probably VIC27 which was converted to a holiday ship with cabins in the hold and still plies the Clyde and Western Isles via the Crinan canal. The VIC's, however, were not proper puffers as they were mostly built in the North East of England as opposed to the Clyde.

As for the West of Scotland, as far as I am concerned its one of the best cruising grounds in the world. Possibly the North West US and Western Canada have the edge and the Dalamatian coast is also brilliant with the added advantage of guaranteed sun. On the other hand, until recently Scotland won over the latter as no one was likely to shoot or shell you, even if you admitted to being English. The only advantage I guess the South of England has ovr the Clyde is the ability to "go foreign" with France and Northern Europe generally being accessible. The last few years, the weather has been just as good up here as down there as far as I can see.

Anyway, back to scanning the ads!

Happy new year!

Nick
 
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