A weekend afloat

Date published: 09 January 2018

Winding down after a busy charter season, three of us enjoyed a much anticipated cruise on Calico Moon, the latest addition to our fleet. My crew for the trip – Robert and Andrew – are both experienced sailors, but neither had explored some of the Clyde’s less visited anchorages, so we took advantage of some great autumn weather to do just that.

Blue skies and a perfect southerly breeze had us reaching past the north end of Arran, just two hours after leaving our berth at Largs Marina. We thought about picking up a mooring at Lochranza then visiting the distillery, but instead pressed on, beating down into the Kilbrannan Sound.

A few miles short of Carradale the wind eased off, and since we’d made such good progress we’d time to anchor for a late lunch at Grogport, a bay that’s so seldom visited, even the ancient skipper had never landed there. After exploring and taking photos ashore – there’s a small sandy beach fringed by a few cottages – we motored the last few miles down to Carradale.

Picking up a visitors mooring beside the old fishing harbour, we enjoyed a well-earned sundowner in the cockpit. The sole yacht there and accompanied only by a flotilla of eider ducks, we took some more photographs before going ashore for an excellent dinner in the Carradale Hotel. As with much of Arran and Bute there’s very little light pollution here, making the Kintyre coast an excellent area for sky watching – I once saw the northern lights from Carradale harbour, after being awakened in the early hours of the morning by a departing fishing boat that we’d earlier tied alongside….

Anyway… the weather gods continued to smile on us – after a flat calm and starry night, we watched a stunning sunrise over the Arran hills followed by breakfast in the cockpit, giving us just enough time to wash the dishes before a pleasant south-easterly wind filled in.

With time to spare, we planned to fit in one more anchorage on the way home, reaching at a comfortable 7 knots across to Ettrick Bay on the west side of Bute. As usual we were the only yacht there, and once safely anchored we ventured ashore for lunch at the quirky café that sits on one end of this beautiful  - and often deserted – mile long beach.

Back aboard, we beat southwards inside Inchmarnock island, noticing the fins of a basking shark on the way. We couldn’t stop to look more closely however a few miles further on, just off the southern tip of Bute and less than an hour short of Largs, we spotted some more dorsal fins. This time we hoped to get some photographs, so we rolled away the sails and spent a fantastic half hour drifting alongside a group of basking sharks, the largest of them some 7 metres long, as they cruised around - apparently oblivious to us.

Back at the marina in time for dinner, we’d managed two days great sailing, the guys had clocked up 3 new anchorages and we’d all got as close as we might ever want to be, to some impressively large creatures of the deep!

Postscript: we can’t guarantee you’ll always see basking sharks, however we do see seals and porpoises virtually every time we go sailing; and earlier in the season there were sightings of humpback whale and minke whale, in the waters around Bute & Arran.

By Wilson Malone

Sailaway Scotland Yacht Charter Ltd