Saturday, 30 April 2011

Loch Leven and Ballachulish Bridge

When I was on Loch Leven with my inflatable, several times I looked at the Ballachulish bridge trying to pluck up the courage to go under it. The loch narrows at this point and a strong current flows under the bridge when the tide ebbs and flows. It is like a flowing river and even on a calm day, the water surface appears to bubble and boil, especially at inflatable boat level. I had never plucked up the courage to go through the bridge before.

The tide had turned and was now coming in. However it was still too early to go back to the campsite ramp so I went for another look at the bridge. This was about as close as I dared to go in the inflatable.

My confidence was boosted by the boat and having survived the waves earlier in the day. I also knew that because the tide was coming in and I was trying to get out, if the current proved too strong, the boat would just get swept back into loch Leven with no harm done. I moved slowly forward. The water started to flow towards me like a river.

The boat took the current easily, all I had to do was keep her in a straight line when the larger boils tried to know it off line. Looking back, the water was slightly agitated. I knew if there was a wind against it, it would be a far different story and the water would be very rough.

I got a good view of the launch ramp on the north side as I motored passed at around half throttle.

Then I was underneath the bridge. I felt a feeling of accomplishment as I took this photo, another lesson learned.

Then the old ferry ramp on the south side of the loch came into view. It also looked a reasonable place to launch assuming the tide was not in full flow and the wind was calm.

I was rewarded with a lovely view of the hotel at the bridge, with the mountain of Beinn a Bhithir in the background.

And a view of the bridge from the west. This time illuminated with the evening sun.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Loch Leven and the mussels of the clansmen

It was too early to land at the campsite as the tide was now out, besides I was enjoying myself with the boat so headed off to the island of Eilean Munde. This is the burial ground of the MacDonalds and several other clans from the Glencoe and Ballachulish area. I visited it twice before in my inflatable so knew where to land.

I chose a deep water mooring off the rocks on the north of the island instead of the more accessable “beach” area to the east. The reason is the boat could be too heavy for me to re launch if it got stranded on a beach with a falling tide. Either that or its bottom could get damaged pushing it on sharp rocks. I intend devising a two anchor landing system soon so I can land and keep the boat off shore, pulling it in when I want to board again.

I then went for a walk round the island, keeping a close eye on the boat.

I visited the ruined church again and tried to imagine the services that went on here over a century ago. Were they fire and brimstone sermons ?

Then I visited the graves. Its still in use to this day. Most stones are made from the slate quarried at the nearby Ballachulish quarry.

Heading back to the boat, I stopped and collected a few mussels from the rocks. They were nice big ones and I wondered if they were fattened on the juices of the buried clansmen ?

I popped them in a pot and heated them till they opened, then ate them. You cant get fresher seafood than that. Loch Leven mussels have a unique meaty taste too. Yum :-D

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Loch Leven and Going with the Flow

The reason I love Loch Leven so much is because of the surrounding scenery. It changes from the open coastal views at Ballachulish, past the grandeur of the Glencoe glens to the magnificent mountains of the Mamore at Kinlochleven. The loch is wide to the west, narrow in the middle then eases out again to the east.

One of the mighty Mamores at the Kinlochleven head end, Am Bodach stands proud at 1032m high.

Although I dropped some hooks with strips of supermarket mackerel on as bait, I never got a single bite. I must confess, I don’t blame the fish, I wouldn’t have eaten the mackerel either. I love fresh caught mackerel but in my mind, the bait was well past its “sell by” date long before I had bought it.

Heading back down the loch was a breeze with wind and tide on my tail. The waves were hardly noticed as the boat surfed the small swell. I trolled a lure behind me and kept the engine on tick over just to keep a straight course. Life felt great as I went with the flow. The fact I never caught a fish didn’t bother me. I was learning about boating in a beautiful environment

I pulled over and landed to stretch my legs a little as I had now been on board for five hours. I found a little rocky bay out of the wind and took some photos of the boat in its surroundings. Here it is with a backdrop of Mamores.

And another photo of it against Beinn na Chaillich on the north shore of the loch.

The wind was now dropping as fast as the tide was and the waves started to flatten. I was heading for the narrows of Caolas na Con again. This time I knew the passage would be smooth. The outgoing tide would pull me through with ease

In the narrows, the water swirled and ran like a river but the boat didn’t flinch, it went straight as an arrow. I was still going with the flow instead of trying to push the river.

I popped out the narrows at the far end and it felt like it was like a different place now.

The water flattened and the sun came out. I felt I had battled with a storm and won. I continued to peacefully not catch fish. I learned that life can be very calming by going with the flow.

more to follow...

Monday, 25 April 2011

Loch Leven and the dragging anchor

I was busy day dreaming of boating in the strong winds of Loch Leven as I drove to Fort William for breakfast. I was almost there when I noticed the still reflections on Loch Linnhe. I couldn’t believe my luck, the wind had dropped. The thought of boating in Loch Leven, in the calm, soon knocked all thoughts of breakfast from my mind. I had a quick coffee in Morrison’s then headed back to Invercoe campsite as fast as I could go.

I saw the still waters of Loch Linnhe all the way to Corran Ferry, then as I rounded the corner to Onich ..... the wind was still force three gusting to force six on Loch Leven.

Loch Linnhe was calm because it was in the shelter of the hills and it runs at ninety degrees to Loch Leven. It was that deceptive off shore wind again. I wasn’t hanging around any longer. I was determined to see how the boat would handle the wind and chop. If it proved too rough in the white horses then I could potter about in the shelter of the campsite bay.

I had no problem launching the boat. I managed to drive the trailer to the top of the ramp, turn and reverse like a veteran. The campsite was awake and watching. I felt hundreds of eyes on my back as I prepared for the big launch. I didn’t drive the car on the ramp but unhitched the trailer and with a long rope wrapped round the tow ball, lowered it safely to the waters edge. I then tied the trailer off and pushed the boat into the water. The spectators cooking their bacon breakfasts would have thought I had done it a hundred times. So far so good .... except I was too embarrassed to take a photograph.

Once the boat was fitted with its outboards and loaded with my gear, I rowed fifty yards off shore then started the engine. It fired up first pull. I headed for the white stuff coming round the corner on the main length of the loch. It was now an oncoming wind in my face. The boat handled it with ease. Its bow nodded into the waves and spray went flying out from the sides but it didn’t come into the boat.

That is the big advantage of a displacement boat, unlike my inflatable where the waves came straight over the top and soaked me. It was exciting and exhilarating heading up the loch into the swell. I settled quickly and enjoyed the experience.

This photo was taken around half way up the loch towards the narrows at Caolas na Con. The wind and waves had dropped a bit from the start of the journey allowing me to get the camera out.

The boat was trimmed far better than my first journey on Loch Fyne. I made a tiller extension from plastic pipe so I could sit in the middle of the boat. Even with my auxiliary 2.5hp engine on the transom, the boat was even keeled and handled the wind and waves with ease. I carry the spare engine in case of engine failure with the main 4hp engine.

I was in the narrows when the outboard ran out of petrol. Why do things like that always happen at the worst times ? However it wasn’t a problem, I got the oars out in a flash and the tide flow carried me safely back into the loch. That’s when I decided to anchor and fish for a bit while I refilled the outboard.

I know that a boat must be anchored from its bow and not from the side, as the waves will make it very unstable. Previously, I had wondered how it was done without putting myself in danger clambering over the cuddy roof. A search on the internet told me about a lazy line.

The lazy line is permanently fixed to the bow ring and is long enough to reach the seating area but short enough not to catch in the propeller if it falls overboard unnoticed. The anchor is dropped over from the seating area and the anchor rope is tied onto the lazy line, keeping enough slack anchor rope in the seating area to recover the anchor plus lazy line ..if that makes sense ?

Here is a photo of the lazy line holding the anchor rope to the bow ring with the spare fed back to the seating area. I still put myself in danger as I had to clamber over the cuddy roof to get the photo but it was a one off :-o

I found the anchor didn’t hold well in the strong wind and current. When I pulled it back on board it was full of huge pieces of kelp. Still... I got the outboard refuelled and was off through the narrows again.

Soon I was leaving the narrows and the Pap of Glencoe far behind.

I was headed for the sheltered pier at Kinlochleven for some fishing. The wind didn’t seem quite as bad now ?

Almost there so time for another photograph before maneuvering into position to drop anchor again. There is plenty room to carry all my gear in the dry confines of the cuddy.

Although the sea was calmer in the harbour, the strong wind still blew the boat and it kept dragging its anchor. I will have to improve my anchor equipment for the next journey. It was now time to enjoy a spot of fishing.

To be continued ...

Loch Leven and the off shore wind

The weather forecast was correct. I awoke around midnight to the sound of the tent getting in a flap because of the rising wind. I used it as an excuse to get up and check it was well pegged down but in reality it was an excuse to get up and relieve myself. The wind was now a force three with force six gusts coming off the hills.

At six in the morning I got up. The cold was seeping through my sleeping bag and the excitement of the new day made it impossible to stay in bed any longer. A quick breakfast of some cereal and drink of water saw me heading for the boat ramp to survey the scene.

The tide was out but was coming in and lapped the bottom of the ramp. The water in the shelter of the hill was calm but beyond the headland, in the main body of the loch, it was white horse after white horse as the waves broke in the strong wind.

I debated what to do. The calm water at the ramp was because of the off shore wind. I always remember my dad saying that off shore winds were very deceptive and I could hear him saying it in my head over and over again. I knew that if I went out in those conditions in the inflatable, it would be rather unpleasant and wet. I decided to wait a little to see how things developed during the day.

I headed round the loch by car to see if I could find other suitable launch points for future use. This would also let me see how rough the water was in the open. The wind was from the south east and was blowing the full length of the loch. The waves were breaking in white horses and white trails of flume formed in the wind lanes along its surface. Dark patches darted quickly across as the force six gusts hit the water.

However Kinlochleven village looked lovely in the early spring light. The loch was a little calmer at this end as it was in the shelter of the hills here too. I wondered about braving the storm on the main loch and finding shelter in the harbour for a little fishing.

Away from the water, I began to relax a little and noticed the light dancing on the fresh green growth of the new leaves. They were contrasted with colours of the remains of bare winter branches and buds of the slower growing trees.

Driving back around the north shore of the loch I noticed another little boat bravely making its way along the loch. In fact it was rather a large little boat but its bow kept nodding into the waves, sending spray flying far to the sides. off shore wind can be deceptive. It looked fine from this angle until I saw the other boat.

The only suitable launch site that I saw was at Ballachullish bridge where the old ferry used to land. It has public access but a strong tidal flow makes it very difficult to use for small boats. I noticed the quiet backwaters on either side of the ramp and wondered if they were as deceptive as an off shore wind ?

I got back in the car and headed to Fort William for a real breakfast.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Loch Leven and Invercoe Campsite

The Easter weekend came faster than I wanted. I had so much to do yet so little time to do it in. I’m still working and its at one hundred miles an hour trying to settle into new work routines while the customer still wants the goods yesterday.

I was glad the weekend had arrived , I was just a little unprepared for it. It was a last minute decision where to go with the boat with the weather forecast looking a little mixed on Friday and Saturday.

Loch Leven was one of my favourite places in my inflatable so I decided to go there. This time I stayed at Invercoe campsite, for no other reason than it has a boat ramp for the resident campers. It was good value too because for a tent with one person discount it was £14 per night and had boat ramp, showers and toilets and everything else I could wish for. My only complaint was because it was the Easter weekend and the weather reasonable, it was very busy. I like my solitude.

I set off straight after work on Thursday night and arrived early evening. It wasn’t dark until 9pm so that gave plenty time to set up the tent and get settled in.

The tide was not quite full in and looked inviting and calm for boating. I checked out the boat ramp and found that it was the centre of attraction for most campers, even though they didn’t have boats ?

Sadly, I knew it would be dark within the hour so there was not enough time to get the boat into the water to try it out, but it did look very inviting. The wind was almost non existent. It was hard to believe the forecast for the next day was for force three winds with gusts up to force six ?

As the sun set, the air chilled a bit. Its still early in the year for camping. However it had the advantage that it kept the midges away, once the temperatures rise, they will arrive in their droves. I hoped it would keep the other campers in their beds in the morning so I didn’t have an audience while launching the boat.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Getting the boat ready for the Easter weekend

I spent the weekend working on some of the modifications that would help make launch and recovery a lot easier for me and also the boat. I make up a bracket to fix the electric winch to the front of the trailer. It slots onto the pin that was welded onto the trailer to hold a “mast stand” if it had been used for a sailing dingy. The 12v car battery that powers the winch sits nicely on the front deck of the boat. Its very easy to remove by lifting it straight up as it is not a permanent fixture for the trailer

The other modification was fitting rollers to the trailer instead of the original rubber pad rests. There was a lot of friction winching the boat on or pushing it off the trailer, caused by the pads on the underside of the hull. It is now very easy to roll the boat on and off the trailer.

The boat’s weight is held along the length of the trailer on three separate rollers, while the sides are supported by two rollers with rubber bobbins on their ends. I chose this type of roller as its impossible for the hull to get damaged on the metal edge of the main rollers if the boat slips off while being winched onto the trailer

Loch Fyne and the recovery.

Before leaving Inverary, I took a closer look at the castle. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as close as I would have like because the tide was still out and I didn’t want to hit bottom. I could see the castle lawns were yellow with daffodils although you don’t see them in this photo.

I started to head back over to the St Catherines side of the loch and passed a couple of cormorants resting on a huge mooring bouy.

I then opened the throttle to see how the boat handled and how fast it went. Being a displacement boat, it doesn’t plane but it was certainly faster than my inflatable with its 2.5hp engine. However its bow had a tendency to rise and the transom to sink, so I will think about a tiller extension so I can sit in the middle of the boat to distribute the weight a bit better. It was certainly fast enough to over take a couple of kayakers.

I passed St Catherines pier on the way back to the launch point and noticed a lad fishing. I was quiet envious and wished I had brought my rod but today was just a practise outing to see if I could get it up and down the beach on my own.

Finally I landed and it was time to think about the recovery. The hand winch made short work of getting the boat back on its trailer, however when I tried to pull it back up the slope of the beach, it was too heavy for me to move it. I tied a long rope onto the trailer and attached an electric winch to the towbar on the car. It came up a treat.

However I was a little concerned that if the rope snapped , the wire hauser on the winch would retract under tension and possibly go through the rear window on the car.

I will made a modification to the winch set up for the next trip, so I can fix it to the trailer and winch from the boat end. That way id the rope snaps, it wont do the same damage to the car as the wire hauser would. Also, I can guide the trailer better by winching it from that end. Its all a learning experience but using the boat on my own is certainly possible. I have proved that :-D

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Loch Fyne and Inverary

In my mind, Inverary is one of the most scenic villages in Scotland, especially when the bleached white buildings are reflected on the mirror surface of Loch Fyne. It was back in the 80’s when I first took a photograph of the village reflected that inspired me to paint it for the first time abd I have painted it several times since.

Comparing my first painting of the village to the last one done in 2008 (around 25 years later) I see my style has changed a bit. Perhaps its due to my eyesight not being so good now.

My first impression of Inverary

My last impression of Inverary

For years, I had always wondered what the village would look like from the seaward side on a day when it was reflected on the water. Now I know ... and I suspect it will inspire another painting of my favourite village scene

Future inspirations of Inverary