Y’see, I thought, this year, for our holiday, would it not be a good idea to hire a cabin cruiser from West Highland sailing and explore the Caledonian Canal? Well, it was AN idea . . ‘
So. These are the logs of the Osprey 2, a tidy little vessel of some something tonnes and a goodly engine. Her crew consist of myself as First Officer With Special Responsibility for Nautical Terms and Ropes, our skipper (husband) and the teenage midshipman (son).
Day One We take command. I learn how to tie knots in ropes and the skipper learns how to go backwards and forwards.
In the boat, that is. He’s been able to go forwards and backwards for ages by himself.
We take off along Loch Lochy (I suspect someone is taking the mikey with that name). The weather is inclement, to say the least.
At one point I, the 1st Officer, stomp out on deck to shout at the rain and the gale force wind. This is not, I note, a holiday. It is a re-enactment of North Atlantic convoy escort duties.
Winds die down by Gairlochy, and the miserable git whose idea this was (that would be me) cheers up. Especially when I get to throw rope and behave like a proper sailor. We cheer up even more when we get to Banavie and find the Lochy Inn. Seriously good fish and chips. The officers start to enjoy themselves. Gin helps.
Day Two Much consternation among the crew when we realise that the engine is not strong enough to run the laptop. The teenage midshipman realises he must read a book for entertainment. This could get tricky. However, his dark mood lightens when the skipper announces that the water supply is running low and showering is no longer an option.
The rest of the crew complain that the foc’sle is becoming fetid and over ride the captains command. Mutineers force the lock on the toilet bag to release emergency stock of body wash. Midshipman is force marched to the shower block on quayside.
Day Three Relief among the crew when we make it to civilisation. Well, Fort William. The first officer gets to shop. The captain has a bit of a wander and we find a supermarket and near weep with relief. Supplies of wine were running low.
Fears arise when scurvy is suspected in the midshipman, but then it becomes clear he hasn’t brushed his teeth. As a precaution, the skipper orders a raising of Vitamin C intake. Eager to comply, the 1st office doubles the lime slices in her gin and tonic.
God bless this ship and everyone who has to avoid her.
Yardarm rule always favours popping the gin
Snobbishness will get you nowhere with sailing people, I imagine. On our first night we couldn’t berth, but were immediately helped by the crew of the good ship Pelican, who gave us aid and advice.
This is important, they said. Apparently, this yardarm you have to wait for the sun to be over before you start drinking? Well, it turns out that 1. If you cannot see the sun, then you can assume that said yardarm has been passed. You can pop the gin. At any time.
2. The sun will always be over the yardarm somewhere, so it is safe to assume you can pop the gin.
And 3. Cabin cruisers don’t have yardarms, so just take your best guess, and pop the gin.
Old sea dogs put rest of us to shame
Fort William is a good wee rough, tough working town, which just happens to be in the middle of jaw dropping scenery. It’s as if Airdrie woke up one day to find a stretch of staggering scenery on its doorstep.
The people are just like the folks anywhere, I guess, smoking fags and yelling at the kids, but the good folk of the highlands have sussed that there is no end of people who like to run/hike/climb/ up and down mountains in luridly coloured garments. As a result, Fort William town centre is a weird combination of pallid Scottish people with a fondness for steak bakes and these helmeted, goggled, gloved and booted superfit beings who stride about splattered in mud and exuding smugness.
And every now and then, a leathery old sea dog who faces the elements for work, not fun, wobbles through the sporty throng, spattered in fish guts and exuding beer fumes and fag smoke.
My kinda guy.
Boaty folk are all about waves
Boaty people are almost offensively cheerful. They have a tremendously weather-beaten look about them and insist on waving. In fact, my chief responsibility as Number One is to wave at every passing yacht and cabin cruiser, as well as stand on the bow and yell “more to the left!!” to the skipper, and then smile nervily at the huge expensive boat we just missed.