Speed, Bonnie Boat

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing;
Onward! the sailors cry…

We woke up this morning before 7.00am (early for a Sunday morning!) after an excellent night’s sleep, aided by the fact that the engines and generator on the Glen Tarsan are closed down overnight, to ensure a lovely quiet evening in calm, sheltered waters.  (If you need to charge your phone or laptop, do it during the day as there won’t be any ‘leccy’ overnight).  😊

The first thing we did was look out of our window to see what the weather was like.  The sky was cloudy but at least it was dry, and we hoped that the sun would make an appearance and highlight the fantastic scenery surrounding us.

Not long after we got up, we heard the generators start up again as the Glen Tarsan sprang to life once more.

After getting washed and dressed, we went along to the saloon to get a pre-breakfast cuppa, before taking it outside onto Glen Tarsan’s deck.  It was colder than it looked, with a cheeky little cold wind nipping at us as we walked around.  We wandered up to the top deck, where the wheelhouse was situated, and we walked to the bow of the boat where there were three sun-loungers not doing any business.  Gazing at the sky, we tried to find a patch of blue and some indication of what to expect weather-wise, so we would know what clothes to wear today for our visit ashore later.  Our friends across the ‘Pond’ always marvel at the Brits’ obsession with the weather; well, all I can say is come to Scotland in May, where you can experience all four seasons in one day, and you will see why!  😊

Breakfast was served at 8.30am and consisted of hot porridge or fruit, yoghurt or cereal and toast, followed by a cooked breakfast of venison sausages, local black pudding, fried egg and tomatoes.  It was delicious and substantial and set us up for the day.

Wandering outside on deck again, in the crisp clean air, we were dismayed to feel the odd spots of rain.  We returned to cabin #1 and donned our warm jackets, hats and cagoules.  I couldn’t believe it – puffa jackets, hats and scarves – in May!!  But there’s an old saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, it’s just bad clothing so, suitably attired, we returned to the upper deck and watched Skipper Dave preparing to get underway again, and we could hear the rhythmic clanking and squeaking of the anchor being hauled back up, as the engines of the Glen Tarsan gained momentum.

The rain may have dampened the decking, but it didn’t dampen our spirits.

Off we went, as Trevor and I braved the elements out on deck. The skies darkened to a gunmetal grey and the wind tugged at our clothes and hair, but as the rain dampened the wooden decking it certainly didn’t dampen our spirits; we were here, enjoying the wild beauty of our surroundings on a former fishing trawler as we went at a rate of knots over a very choppy sea loch.  All we needed was a bloke in a yellow oilskin and a Sou’wester to complete the truly nautical experience.  😊

Back in the warmth of the Glen Tarsan’s interior we passed the time pleasantly with our fellow passengers reading, chatting or just looking out of the window as the rain lashed down.  We enjoyed a coffee and home-made cookie around 10 o’clock as Skipper Dave advised that we would be dropping anchor off Crinan around lunchtime, and the yellow liberty boat would take ashore those who wanted to go.

The Glen Tarsan bobbed about on the waves like a cork as this sturdy little vessel carried us determinedly towards Crinan, and we were ever-grateful for our robust sea-legs that have, in the past, seen us experience the notorious Drake Passage as well as spend 24-hours on the North Sea in a Force 12 gale.  We’re never sea-sick and eat all our meals with gusto, but for anyone not used to the sea I would imagine they would find it quite hard to bear, as it certainly was something. I consoled myself that it didn’t matter that I couldn’t get to a gym this week; my leg muscles would be like steel after all the passive exercise they were getting just trying to stay upright.  😊

As it looked as if the wind and rain were not going to let up for a couple of hours, Skipper Dave informed us that we would have lunch first (more food!) and go ashore afterwards.  Everyone was in agreement with this, so we took our (socially-distanced) places at the communal table, as the genius who is our chef Mags placed before us an exquisite seafood platter of freshly-caught langoustines (that were more like mini-lobsters), scallops, smoked halibut and king prawns, accompanied by new-baked crusty bread.  Yum yum!  I adore fresh seafood and my mouth watered in anticipation of this deliciously-messy treat; it surpassed all my (high) expectations.  It was washed down with a chilled glass of Chenin Blanc.

Shortly afterwards, the Glen Tarsan dropped anchor again and we returned to our cabin and once again donned our warm clothing, over the top of which we wore capacious cagoules and waterproof over-trousers.  Five of us elected to go ashore, while two passengers preferred to stay cocooned in Glen Tarsan’s cosy interior.

We strapped ourselves into our life-jackets, pulled our hoods firmly over our heads and gingerly descended the iron steps to the tender, tightly holding onto the railings all the while.  It didn’t matter that the seats – indeed, everything – was wet; our over-trousers would take care of that.  Then Steve the engineer started up the outboard motor and we roared off, bouncing and dancing on the choppy waters in exhilaration towards Crinan.  As we were helped ashore, Steve told us the liberty boat would be back for us in half an hour – he didn’t expect us to want to stay out any longer.  😊

Crinan looked a lovely little town with its canal and locks and small pleasure craft moored up.  There was a small pub and restaurant and lots of picturesque little footpaths which would normally have you dying to explore; but not today.  The wind and rain didn’t let up at all, and my cheeks glowed as they were struck with cold flurries of drops.

After walking around and taking photos, we saw the tender approaching and the five of us went back down to the shore and took our places in the boat once more for the return journey to the Glen Tarsan. We dripped our way back up the iron steps and into the saloon and divested ourselves of our life-jackets.  The ever-attentive Mags appeared and whisked away our cagoules and over-trousers to dry them down in the engine room.  How’s that for service with a smile?  😉

Trevor and I returned to cabin #1 to rest awhile, before afternoon tea and muffins were served around 4.00pm.  The Glen Tarsan was underway once more, heading towards a sheltered harbour off Jura, and I ventured outside on deck where the rain had finally abated and breathed in great lungfuls of the fresh, salty air.  I could certainly think of worse places to be!  😊

A couple of hours later, the change in pitch in the Glen Tarsan´s engines told us that Dave the Skipper was getting ready to heave-to and drop anchor once more.  The sky had brightened considerably by now and the other passengers tentatively started to reappear on deck.  The waters off Craighouse, Isle of Jura were as calm as a mill pond, and we enjoyed a bottle of the local beer while passing the time looking at the rugged, wild landscape and marvelling at Mother Nature’s bounty.

After getting a wash and brush-up we adjourned to the saloon once more in time for pre-dinner drinks and canapés (eating again!) consisting of crayfish cocktail with slivers of fresh apple in a light curry sauce.  An unlikely-sounding combination, but totally scrumptious.

Dinner tonight consisted of locally-sourced lamb cutlets in a herb and mint crust, with roast potatoes and fresh asparagus.  It was once again washed down with crisp house wine, and/or ginger-infused cold water.  Dessert was fresh bramble and blueberry crumble with vanilla ice cream and the meal was topped off with the appearance of the incomparable cheese-board once again.  Thus sated, we leaned back in our chairs and partook of a tumbler of Jura – after all, what could be more appropriate?  😊

The mellow evening sun gradually dipped below the mountains, leaving hints of gold in the cloudy sky which reflected beautifully on the stillness of the loch.  What a contrast to the weather earlier, and totally worth waiting for.  A seal popped his head up and swam a short way towards us, as I raised my binoculars to take a closer look, he playfully disappeared beneath the water, only to pop up again the minute my back was turned.  😊

Of course, the Glen Tarsan doesn’t have a featured cabaret or a big band or singers and dancers, but who needed entertainment when it was entertaining enough listening to each other’s tales, stories, experiences and jokes.  The wine and the good whisky flowed and the seven of us, later joined by Steve the engineer, had a whale of a time as the darkness descended and the only sound to be heard outside on deck was the gentle lapping of the water on the side of the Glen Tarsan; the engines and the generators had stopped about 9.00pm.  Gradually the saloon emptied out – Trevor and I were the last two out once again – as everyone returned to their cabins and settled down for our second night on board, after a very interesting (and very different!) day.

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