We depart the following day well after lunch as we need to catch the southbound current between the islands of Luing and Lunga where the tidal race is considerable. As we pass between the two lighthouses marking the north end of the channel we see our speed increase hitting 10 knots at a given moment. Whiskey Romeo 4 handles beautifully and steers precisely through the strong current. The wind then changes direction in our favour and we hoist the sails and finally switch off the engine. How glorious to be sailing on a reach at 7 to 8 knots with only the sound of the wind in our ears. We round the southern points of Luing and Shuna and enter Melfort Loch where we pick a berth in Craobh Harbour (pronounced Croove).
Craobh harbour is a new development with holiday homes but has been very tastefully designed mixing in nicely with the countryside. That evening we treat ourselves to a delicious supper in the award winning restaurant beside the marina. We have decided to stay another day in Craobh and the following morning get the bikes out again for some sightseeing and exercise. A member of the marina staff suggested a bike ride to Ardfern (our next port of call) and off we went. The route in fact was very steep at times and both of us regularly had to dismount our bikes to get to the top of the hills before speeding down the other side. In Ardfern we got the taste of our following port and celebrated with tea and cakes at the local cafeteria. We decide to take a more direct route back to the boat on our bikes and take a sharp turn left up the hill… that results in both of us dismounting again and pushing the bikes uphill. A short while further the narrow road runs out of tarmac and is just stones and gravel. Finally we get back down to the other side and feel that we deserve a well earned a lunch in the marina restaurant after our very energetic morning.
The next morning we decide to extend our route to Ardfern where we plan to spend the night by first sailing to moorings in the north of Loch Melfort for lunch.
We have time for this because, again, we want to avoid arriving at Dorus Mor with the tide against us. The whole day we have a pleasant breeze and enjoy sailing to Ardfern which is a very pretty little village with quite a sizeable marina.
We want to avoid sailing around the Mull of Kintyre and more specifically we want to explore the northern part of the Firth of Clyde. So the next morning we motor to the Crinan Basin inside the sea locks at the west end of the Crinan canal which will take us through to Loch Fyne. However the weather forecast is bad with gales forecast and winds gusting up to 50 knots. This means that we spend an extra day in the basin at Crinan. The surroundings are pleasant with a friendly cafe, good pub and decent restaurant - all of which we very much enjoy.
As agreed with our pilot “Ben” we are ready at 08:30 the next day to depart on the timing transit through the Crinan Canal. The Crinan canal consists of about 5 swing bridges and 15 locks, all of which with the exception of the sea locks have to be manually opened and closed - that is where Ben and his associates come in - a very worthwhile investment so we can stay onboard and handle the landlines and adjust the fenders during the transit whilst Ben and his companions do the hard work.
At four in the afternoon we reach the end of the canal and decide to proceed though the sea lock and sail a further 10 miles south to Tarbert - a very friendly small fishing village with a large well equipped marina.