Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ancient Mariners

Turning tail
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Every now and again it becomes necessary to do something which doesn't involve church, gas men or loose floorboards. Something which removes you from the end of the phone and the ping of the computer. Yesterday was such a day. I'd planned it two weeks ago when I saw the ad: PS Waverley would be sailing on this one Tuesday from Tighnabruaich - about 45 minutes' drive from home - to Lochranza. At the time the sun was shining, and Lochranza beckoned. Is it not, after all, on my most favourite of islands? We would do this thing.

Yesterday the sun was deeply invisible, as was most of the view, swathed in layers of mist and sweeping rain. But I was firm in my resolve - and the forecast promised a drier spell in the afternoon. So, having bade farewell to the joiner (needed in the aftermath of The Gas), we sped off along the sick-making single-track road to Tighnabruaich, making the pier with time to spare. Waverley was slightly late, but not unreasonably so, and the usual trail of eccentrics and English visitors (42 all told, I overheard) trooped out the slimy pier and onto the deck.

There are in fact several joys to be found on Waverley for people like us. Our friend Alastair was on board - I'd have been surprised if he hadn't, as I've rarely gone aboard without meeting him. We enjoyed decent sandwiches and Earl Grey tea with the sea scooshing just below the window and sometimes through the cracks at the sides of it (it was an emergency exit. Heaven help us). Later we had a whisky in the bar and became quite jolly. But there was one big disappointment: we turned tail halfway across to Arran and headed back for the shelter of the Kyles of Bute. It was pretty bouncy, in an exhilarating sort of way, but apparently Lochranza pier would have been just too dodgy. People might have slipped and hurt themselves, or vanished overboard, or merely puked and panicked. We were not amused.

The picture shows the moment when we turned. The wind was quite strong, as you can see from the ensign, and a visit to the loo - situated just in front of (or behind? which way was I facing?) the paddle-box - an interesting experience as the water thudded and crashed just underneath one's bottom. The passage outside the loo, just where you go down to look at the engines, was intermittently deluged with sea coming in at an unusual place. There was a great sense of battling with the elements, but none of the apprehension associated, somehow, with being on a car ferry in such weather. It wasn't even as sick-making as a Channel ferry - because, presumably, I was on deck in the wind.

By the time we got home we were strangely tired and more than somewhat damp. But it sure made a change from the Gas.


  1. How many strangers did you stop?

  2. One of three - Chis. He was with two others...

  3. The road to Tighnabruaich is indeed stomach-churning but still provides evidence of a God if the scenery is anything to go by. I have taken it probably 100 times and it is still beautiful and original to me.

    And to come by, and return to, the mainland via the little Western Ferries...a heavenly day if ever there was one!

  4. Chris, your adventures are not those one associates with retired school teachers, and all the more delicious to read because of that. When you said “paddle box,” I wondered why the paddles were in a box and not with the lifeboats. The alternative seemed too bizarre to contemplate, but there it is, not only a true paddlewheeler, but a sea-going sidewheeler, no less! According to the brief history I read, Dunoon pier and the Gantocks have not been kind to the Waverley.

  5. Better to have sailed and come home again a bit disappointed than to have never sailed at all?

  6. Nice to see you are still journeying and exploring. Have set up a blog linked to my website (Who has been a busy wee boy, then?) and was idly surfing and found you here, so thought I'd make contact. Odd that we live in the same place but use the ether to communicate. See me at and you can access the blog from there.

    See you soon,

    John K