After Corinna and Philip made it to Oban where the new crew, Cathy, Dan, Ellen and Linda, came on board, the quite creative epoxy job on the diesel return line finally put an end to our engine problems. From Tobermory on we had quite nice weather and enjoyed the amazing landscapes of Western-Scotland. Highlights of this roughly 550nm long leg, include Loch Moidart (with the old castle ruin at the end of a tricky to navigate body of water), Loch Scavaig (impressive views at the southern shore of the Isle of Skye) and the Crinan Canal (where the locks are operated manually by the crew), as well as many beautiful towns, distilleries, breweries, Irish pubs etc.
All this combined with numerous overnight sails and weather changes when we needed them made this a very memorable trip.
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We had carefully moved our way around the southern corner of Norway avoiding the storms that kept moving across the North Sea. When we finally navigated the oil platform jungle, we were actually looking for wind.
After inch size hail we were happy to reach Inverness, get some of the engine problems fixed and navigate the Caledonian Canal.
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We left the Caledonian Canal today and motored to Oban (still have not had a lot of good sailing days) and were looking forward to reconnecting with our friends/crew Ellen, Cathy, Linda and Dan.
Dan was waiting for us at the dock and had already taken care of everything (as always). Our goal was to fix the remaining diesel leak before the girls arrived. While finding the problem was not taking us long (the return line was corroded and had a small hole), it took us even less to make matters worse (we broke the T-fitting off when trying to get the leaking pipe removed!!!).
The girls arrived and had a nice reunion while Dan and Philip were taking the fuel system apart. It turns out that neither Hansen Marine, nor the dealer in Florida or even Westerbeke themselves have the spare parts. So, we are in trouble again.
There is a mechanic on the island that might be able to help tomorrow, potentially the distributor in England has the parts, we will find out tomorrow. To avoid getting stuck, though, we came up with our own plan (we epoxied the pieces together hoping that we can build our own T-fitting) and are waiting for tomorrow to see if we have any luck.
In the meantime, Hansen Marine is trying to find used parts in one of their old engines. If that works out, they will ship them to Europe asap. So, there is still hope.
Linda has plenty of mittens and hats (she is ready for the Iditarod) and Ellen brought her latest boat shoes. Her heels are a mile high and fabulous. Cathy came clearly overpacked yet perfectly matched. Her colors encompass the spectrum; teal, turquoise and true blue (but that is just the packable puff;-))
We left Banavie at 9:00 and entered the first lock of Neptun’s Staircase (the engineering marvel of 8 consecutive locks). All was good – until the engine stopped running in the second lock!
By the third lock we determined that the terminal of the cable from the battery to the starter had broken and were scrambling to find a repair option. With Corinna pulling the boat along from ashore and Philip having to adjust the docking lines to the water level frequently, getting anything done in between was a challenge.
The captain of the large trawler ahead of us gave us a spare cable, but the terminals were too small. The power to port had a terminal but it was too small as well. By the fifth lock a new solution was needed as drilling holes into either of these pieces did not work out.
As with all the other things we carry with us, we know that we have them somewhere on the boat but usually not where.
Entering the sixth lock, the captain finally found a relatively large terminal (somewhere deep under Corinna’s bunk). Trimming the wires and lots of tape ensured we had a working cable.
Instead of being manually pulled into the next lock, we were able to do it under engine into lock number seven!
What a relief as pulling past the two bridges after the locks would have been impossible, never mind the remainder of the canal to Corpach.
We are now tied up in Corpach, got groceries and laundry done for the next leg and got work/internet sorted out.
With Ben Nevis in the back, it is easy to enjoy a nice glass of wine…and forget about the other items that still need to be addressed.
Ernst, Don and the kids helped us through a couple of the locks before leaving by bus (and then train) to Edinburgh.
We already miss them quite a bit (although it is nice to have the boat all to ourselves…;-) ).
We are expecting Dan on Monday evening and the girls, Linda, Ellen and Cathy, on Tuesday. Anyways,
We moved on and motored with our usual group of four (an Irish boat, Hercia, a Scottish boat, A J Wunderlust, (under US flag) and a charter boat (with Frenchies)) through the locks and bridges. Hercia took care of giving advance notices to the lock keepers and we therefore moved relatively swiftly towards the SW.
At lock Laggan we started going downhill again. Loch Lochy was quite impressive with larger mountains on either side.
Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, became visible at the end, marking the first time we saw snow from the water.
We tied up just before Neptun’s Staircase and finished the day with a typical Scottish meal in the pub, Lochy.
As arranged with the lock keepers the night before, we were lined up for a 9:30 start through the swinging bridge and then four locks.
Together with a handful of other boats we were guided through the process by the very helpful lock keepers.
Apart from some drizzle in the morning, we enjoyed a nice and sunny day, motoring past fields, houses, marinas more locks and bridges.
At about 13:00 we reached famous Loch Ness, the approximately 20nm long body of water where Nessi lives. Motoring past Urqhart castle was a beautiful experience.
A few hours later, we reached Fort Augustus and although it was only 16:00, there was no option to proceed up the next five locks anymore. We tied to the pontoon and took a walk through the beautiful small town.
While we fell into a pretty deep low yesterday with Diesel everywhere, we caught a brake today and recovered just as fast.
The harbor master was extremely supportive and had a mechanic on the boat within two hours! While he took the system apart and organized new washers (the old ones were in pretty bad shape and the reason for our problem) another friendly helper organized canisters and recycled the diesel/water mixture.
By 16:00 we were ready to roll again. Groceries were stored away, conference calls finished and the diesel refilled.
We motored against a strong current (4kn) and due to a backup at the first lock of the Caledonian Canal we caught up with the other boats that had left the marina hours earlier.
One of the boats in the lock and now at the dock with us is the young Norwegian team that left Kristiansand ahead of us trying to make the crossing before the gale. They had not made it and just arrived shortly before us. Small world…
After a nice recovery and very good weather we are back in business and lined up for the first bridge opening tomorrow morning.
PS: Another highlight were the dolphins in the harbor last night. Their loud breathing could easily be heard throughout the harbor.