TOTTY'S AND BROONTROOSER'S BOAT TOUR OF THE H......S.
BULLETIN 1 - Preparation and Outward Bound!.
Any quest of the magnitude planned by your correspondents must inevitably start with meticulous planning and preparation. In view of the wild and exposed nature of the terrain and the violence of winds and seas; the first item, after the purchase of suitable apparel and lucky blue underwear, is the anchor. Never again do we wish to expose ourselves to the indignity of having to drag 30 metres of heavy chain and a 60-pound anchor off the bottom of the river Humber. As we also would not initially have the additional muscle and grunt offered by Princess Sha Sha, the anchor motor and chain would have to be in the finest fettle.
(Of course, all of this assumes that there are no holes in the hull and the engines work. Oops, excuse me while I go and check).
What follows is another episode in our long-running series, “The Art of Impeccable Cruising”.
Impeccable preparation of the anchor and chain
Totty had requested that it would help if the anchor chain was marked in some way so that she could count how much was lying on the sea bottom. The answer to her problem was simple to an old hand like Broontroosers - just run the anchor and chain out of the boat when it was hauled out of the water, coil it in meter lengths and paint each ten meters in a distinctive colour code: white, red, blue, red and blue, red white and blue, blue white and red, double white, pink and so on - nothing to it.
So, 70 meters of chain was paid out and laid neatly on two wooden pallets to keep it off the dusty ground in the boatyard. Then to work; start to paint the chain from the bow of the boat down to the pallets and carry on until finished. Early on, a snag developed - the chain is very heavy, dirty and inclined to have a mind of its own with regard to getting tangled. Soon, Don is covered in multi-coloured paints, rust and dust and is rapidly losing his patience with this f*****g racket, which is hurting his back. The chain senses that it is getting the upper hand and starts to jam its links into strange shapes. Growing rage is finally turned to cold fury at the realization that the painting had started from the wrong end - the anchor end, which should have been first, is of course buried under some 50 metres of tangled chain! The only solution is to drag all the chain straight across the dusty yard and start again. This delightfully simple plan is thwarted by finding that the chain has knotted itself into an irreducible and dense ganglion which even the tender attentions of the doughty Gorilla Bar would not untangle. The only solution was to unhitch the anchor and drag 50 metres of chain through the knot twice. This winning strategy was somewhat diluted by the realization that all the colour coding was the wrong way round, but even more alarming, each subtle colour had been reduced to a uniform grey by the boatyard dust.
On arriving to inspect the good work, Totty was somewhat puzzled by the colour coding of splodges of pinky-grey-blue-red - dusty paint applied at irregular intervals, but had the good sense to keep her reservations to herself. Still, the anchor motor works.
The other major work of preparation was, of course, the routine dismantling of the sewage tank expeller pump, which had routinely packed up - a procedure previously described and so gaggingly revolting that Totty decided to go shopping to Oban and hope that the boat had been decontaminated by the time she returned. This was successfully accomplished but a faint aura attached to Don for some days, causing acquaintances to look uneasy in his presence.
There then followed five days of back-aching painting, plus crawling into inaccessible crannies in the engine room inserting soundproofing material. After this marathon, Broontroosers was ready for a month at a health farm. It is easy to see why nations afflicted by perfectionism, like our German cousins, seldom take their boats to sea - there's far too much to do on land.
Last, but not least, two small screws were inserted into the dinghy oars to stop the blades flying off at crucial moments. The need to do this was discovered on a previous occasion, too embarrassing to mention. (Some other time - Totty).
Now for the off!
Just to give a flavour of the excitements ahead, let us consider together the hazards and wild magnificence to be encountered on this heroic venture.
Stage One - leave Ardfern marina
Apparently quite simple, but in reality fraught with hidden hazards. Untie boat and weave a tortuous path through moored yachts. This apparently easy manoeuvre can rapidly be turned into a massive orgy of destruction by the tendency of yachts to swing at their moorings, pushed this way and that by wild gusts. Disbelievers should consider our last docking manoeuvres when some pathetically small vessel swung into our path, receiving a heavy thump for its impudence. Luckily the owner was not aboard and the only witness, a fisherman pulling creels, is very fond of free beer, so no harm was done.
Leave marina and cruise down Loch Craignish. A piece of piss, unless dense sea mist descends, as it nearly always does.
Now for it.... Exit into the Sound of Jura through the passage known to yachtsmen everywhere as the Dorus Mor. This deadly channel boasts massive tides, up to 8 knots, accompanied by the usual violent tidal turbulence - many a time we have witnessed yachts going backwards, not at all their intended direction.
Into Sound of Jura, known to the Norsemen as “The Sea of Disappointments”, and past the maw of the Gulf of Corryvreckan. This searing stretch of water, home to 25 foot standing waves and the world's second largest whirlpool after the Maelstrom, sucks the tides from the Irish Sea and expels them, sometimes with a roar audible 5 miles away, into the Western Atlantic. Tides of 12 knots have been recorded. Woe betide the mariner foolish enough to venture too close to the gaping mouth of this maritime horror.
Having dodged the Corryvreckan, proceed down the Sea of Disappointments towards Fladda, the narrows between two lighthouses, where tidal eddies will carry a twenty ton boat like Deneys fifty (Twenty maybe - Totty) metres off course before slinging her violently back in the other direction. This is of course routine by now, but worse is to come. Fladda leads directly into the Firth of Doom, (Firth of Lorne - Totty)) which is open to the full Atlantic. If you stand on tip-toes and look to the West, you can just see the torch carried by the Statue of Liberty. This means that the nearest land to the West is America, giving a 'fetch' of 3000 miles, quite enough for ocean waves to reach their full potential. Having attained ocean roller status, they are often annoyed by being funnelled into the Firth and rear up spitefully, causing broken seas of terrifying proportions. Many a yacht (including us) has come through Fladda and been assailed by unexpectedly massive waves. Escape is only possible by turning round (Don's favoured strategy), or ploughing grimly across to the other side of the Firth of Doom until in the shelter of Mull and dodging into Loch Spelve. Alas! Beware! This Loch has a devilishly winding entrance with sharp submerged rocks on all sides, and a dubious anchorage scoured by terrible 'Katabatic' winds.
No - better to proceed to Oban and a blissful haven at the marina on the isle of Kerrera, where a shuttle boat runs to the town and the consolations of the Oban Inn.
(For those with iron constitutions and the courage of raging bulls (and cows, mustn't discriminate), this step can be omitted and the journey continued to Tobermory.)
Stage Five- onwards to Tobermory and the West
Up early! Leave by 11 am. Proceed across the Firth of Doom, between two more lighthouses, where the tide in and out of the Sound of Mull causes the sea to go mad, dancing manically and whizzing round in dervish whorls. Routine stuff, but mind the fast-moving Caledonian MacBrayne ferries that creep up so quietly until a blast from a foghorn makes you jump out of your skin. These hazards surmounted, take in black, grim, foreboding Duart castle, home of the Clan McLean. This castle featured in the film Entrapment with Sean Connery and the gorgeous ....God, I can't remember her name, but she has some notable features, like a pair of..... (Yes, Yes, get on with it - Charlotte).
Duart castle has a most spectacular position, guarding the Sound of Mull, with towering mountains behind and the soaring cliffs of Morvern on the other side. You can picture hordes of roaring red-bearded claymore-waving clansmen ravening for a taste of English blood, led by the massive kilted 'Bloodaxe' McLean in bloody pillage and rape expeditions.
Strange, though, the current clan chief, Sir Lachlan McLean is a courteous, mild-mannered, quietly reserved sort of chap, who resigned as Human Resources director of United Biscuits to become the world-wide focal point for millions of McLeans the world over. Pity - we need more red-bearded roaring HR directors, the whole racket is attracting bloody milksops, what with their Compromise Agreements and all - fire 'em and then seriously bruise 'em with pound coins, I say!
Stage Six - Sound of Mull to Tobermory
Very picturesque - mountains on one side, cliffs on the other - but watch for the gap in the mountains half-way down, allowing Atlantic blasts to roar across the Sound. An amusing side-effect of this is the famous 'Maidens' Tresses'; waterfalls that pour off the top of the Morvern cliffs, plunging 800 feet to the water - only on breezy days they get half-way down and are blown back up, sometimes disappearing in clouds of spray over the top again. Fun to watch from a safe distance.
Then, at last - Tobermory with its technicolour waterfront buildings, nestling in a sheltered bay offering sanctuary and Mishnish Ales to the mariner exhausted by the rigours of the West.
(Strangely enough, most of above is quite accurate, but some bits only very occasionally. However, I can vouch for the fact that Lachy McLean is courteous, mild-mannered and quietly reserved all the time - Charlotte).
Next episode - Day Two - the real West - the dark side of Mull: Ulva, Gometra, Staffa and Iona - whales, sharks, dolphins, porpoises, giant squid (No, not giant squid - Totty); graceful gannets, sea eagles, comic puffins, razorbills, skua, etc etc.
The Deneys Reitz Glossary of Nautical Terms
The collection of items for this unique contribution to nautical matters is under way. Any readers who have any unusual or eccentric nautical terms is warmly invited to contribute. Friend David Hale, an ex-merchant seaman himself, sailing in his youth on a 6500-tonne tramp steamer, contributed the expression “White 'uns over the bow” to signify a degree of turbulence in the sea. We have added two corollaries, so that it now goes, “White 'Uns over the bow, Brown 'Uns in the wheelhouse, Pale Yellow 'Uns down the lavvy”. All contributions will be acknowledged and included.
It has become noticeable that our old friend Alan Harford has for some time being going about his business whilst audibly humming a little ditty. Having been alerted, it has become apparent that Totty also hums in the wheelhouse, whilst Broontroosers whistles discordantly. Then, we became aware that the old boat growls at the sight of waves, somewhat like Gnasher from Denis the Menace. We have always been aware of its predilection for head-butting the nearest wave, but the growling seems to be something new : “Grrrr, “Bring 'em on” is the refrain.
Charlotte frequently hums to the tune and refrain of “Men of Harlech”, like so:
“Climb up Snowdon with your woad on
Never mind if you get rained or snowed on
Never need a button sewed-on
Go it ancient 'B's”
Don, on the other hand, tends to whistle to the refrain of Lillibulero, like so:
“Hitler has only got one ball (Oh Jesus, look at the size of that bloody wave)
Goering has two, but very small (Oh Christ, this is a certain white 'un over the bow), Himmler is very similar, (Shit, was that a length of rope in the sea?), And poor old Goebbels has no balls at all (Whose bloody idea was it to come out into this shitty sea?)”
And so on....
And so the Deneys Reitz ensemble bowls along over the billows, humming, whistling and growling with great contentment.......
(Hmmmm.. Maybe time for another assessment for sectioning under the Mental Health Act - perhaps include the boat too.... Dr Harold Shipmate, Ship's Medical Officer.)
Professor (just call me “The Prof”) Markus Alexandrov has as usual been tracking our progress on 'Deneys Reitz', using a variety of advanced analytical techniques. This time, using infallible cutting-edge quantative analysis technology developed by the CIA and Pentagon, he reports as follows:
“Hope you are enjoying your cruise through the unspoilt waterways around Chernobyl”.
Go, Prof., Go! Please let us know where we are going next.
We have heard from Roger (Jock) Cunliffe of his Scottish ancestry and are passing Lord Jock's good wishes to all we encounter.