On our arrival into Loch Leven we had all been joking about the height of the bridge between North and South Ballichulish, and if we would get underneath it at high water springs. Well the answer was just, Simon had done the passage plan and was ‘on duty’ as we approached the bridge, we all looked up apprehensively and although we were approaching it very slowly it seemed as though we were going to hit the bridge. Simon went to turn the boat around without increasing the engine revs, the tide was running into the loch, so we gently pirouetted and glided under the bridge, all laughing. I lay on the deck and took this image as we went underneath the bridge, it looks as though we only had inches to spare, in reality there was probably about a meter.
Loch Leven was a good alternative to Fort William, with a Co-op for restocking, a local pub, regular buses, and the swimming pool and sauna at the Isle of Glencoe hotel (which this year was included in our mooring fee of £10). But be aware of the sand bank directly underneath the bridge and then another directly ahead of you, at high water springs our depth was 7m. The depth in other parts of the loch was over a 100m, so you could easily get caught out, going in at low water would mean about 2m below you.
There is a pontoon here, but the pontoon was full of local boats and they didn’t encourage us to raft up; but the buoy was in easy distance of the shore and well maintained.
On our first evening we enjoyed calm waters and watched the sun set. We put up the cockpit cover as we could see on XC weather, that a low was coming our way, and sure enough it arrived in the wee hours of the morning and then continued to rain all day, turning into a gale force 9 storm in the evening, which saw us spinning and keeling on the mooring, with large waves covering the surface of the loch, and this is July!
But all said and done we still had a nice day, we made use of the leisure facilities in the Isle of Glencoe Hotel, we visited the quarry, which in its heyday produced three million hand cut slates a week. We had coffee and delicious cakes in the visitors centre, and stocked up our provisions at the Co-op. We returned back to the boat late in the afternoon and Marian made flap jacks and I made a quiche, both were worth making the effort for. The storm started to build up from about five and peaked about ten, it was seriously wild. I thought there was little hope of climbing Ben Nevis when I went to bed.
But the storm blew itself out about 4am, and we snatched a couple of hours sleep before we headed off for our adventure. The sun was out and there was no wind, all boded well, so we initially caught the 41 bus into Fort William, where some of us had a fried breakfast. From there we caught a 45 bus out to the Nevis visitor’s centre, which is not Ben Nevis! So we then caught another bus to the Ben Nevis Visitors centre, so we finally started our walk from the base of Ben Nevis at 11am.
It’s not for the faint hearted or for those with bad knees, the track is well defined, covered either in boulders or a type of steps made out of boulders, gravel or scree. I started my pedometer at the base of Nevis, knowing it was 1,320 meters I wondered what that would mean. Well 37,864 steps later I can tell you it is hard work, both in the ascent and descent! My back started hurting about three quarters of the way up, and as Sean had gone on, I couldn’t grab pain relief from the rucksack, so I scrambled up the last section to join Sean, Marian and Simon, and my first request was for pain relief. As you climb you lean forward slightly, which puts quite a strain on your lower back, so I can add bad backs to the list of, not advised if….
As you climb higher you walk through a snow covered field, the scenery and views are magnificent, well worth the effort, we were so lucky that the cloud cover lifted as I arrived at the plateau on the top. Dehydration is a serious consideration for this climb, a young man died last year from this whilst walking Ben Nevis.
On the descent, all went well for the first couple of miles, the pain killers kicked in, and I was enjoying the scramble back down and then my legs started turning to jelly! I can understand why more accidents happen on the descent than ascent, I was stumbling on quite a few of the jumps, because my legs quite literally weren’t supporting my body!
I was so tired on my return that although we had pre prepared dinner in Dr D’s eco thermal slow cooker, gammon and Cumberland sauce, I couldn’t eat it and went straight to bed.
Anyway on reflection today, nobody appears to be suffering unduly, my back has settled down and we are all happy.
Marian did the passage plan to Oban, we came out of the Loch with Marian on the helm and with Sean guiding her using soft wear on board, I put out some of the foresail, as the wind was behind us. This increased our SOG by only a knot, so I suggested to Marian that we cut the engine and sure enough we headed off towards Oban at 5 knots. On my watch the wind had dropped enough to pull out the whole fore sail and use the jib pole, which flatted the foresail giving us a better point of sail and to maximise the power from the sail. We saw a golden eagle soaring above Shuna Island.
We glided along like this quite happily for another hour, and then we wanted to cut inside Lismore Island down the Lynn of Lorn and into Oban that way, so the sail was rolled away, and Sean put the engine on. He knows that the Malt cruise is all pitching up here this evening, they are expecting 74 boats, so I think he has this in mind, he’s getting a wiggle on; Oh but then the wind picked up and he goose winged, then then it died and so it went on, sails in, sails out!
On arrival at Oban, there was some confusion as to which berth we should take as the empty positions were reserved, so we called up the berthing master, who told us where to go, which was yet another reserved position. The wind has really picked up now, so my intention was to blow on sideways to the pontoon, than we spied Martin, waving us into position, and standing by with Dominic to collect our lines and secure us on. The berthing master than came down to the pontoon to explain it was her first solo day, and she was now checking which berths were available and which weren’t.
Marin from Grimsby, which is where we first met him, came on board and we spent a pleasant couple of hours catching up, so we are here for two nights, and then off to the Crinan.
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