Loch Creran to Largs via Crinan Canal

For the last couple of years I have kept Sun Dog up at Loch Creran and during the summer it is has been fantastic to be able to get out past Ardnamurchan Point and up North. However the drive up there in the winter to carry out work etc was falling into the “getting too hard” category. Therefore I decided to move her back down to the Clyde and base her at Largs for the winter thus making access for maintenance etc a bit easier. Let’s face it, it’s easy enough to move back up there in a couple of days in the spring.

My brother David agreed to help me move her back down, and his sons Kris and Richard helped greatly by volunteering to pick me up at Largs Marina (where I was leaving my car) and drive David and I up to Loch Creran……….very much appreciated guys, especially as I believe your drive back was somewhat challenging!!

Anyhow David and I loaded up Sun Dog and decided to move down to Oban while there was still light and picked up a spare mooring at The Oban Bay Moorings next to the sailing club. The next morning we had a bit of time to kill before setting off to reach Fladda Lighthouse at slack water, so we went ashore for a good old fry up breakfast at McT’s (I assume formerly McTavishes Kitchen?) on the promenade – not healthy food I know, but very tasty non the less.

Back on board we started heading south down towards Fladda with David enjoying himself on the helm.

David at the Helm

We motored down in calm conditions, with excellent visibilty, and had a good view of the Garvellach Islands an interesting group of islands yet to be explored properly by us.


From there it was over to Fladda and down the sound of Luing (Ling) where we had a decision to make.

Fladda Lighthouse

We either headed straight down and through Dorus Mor and then over to Crinan, or we headed over to the north end of Jura to Kinuachdrachd where our mum was raised. This meant cutting across the eastern side of Corryvreckan on spring tides, but as visiting this area was important to both of us and the tide was running in an easterly direction we decided to head over to Kinuachdrachd. There are no roads into Kinuachdrachd and the only way in is by special arrangement with the land owner in his own Landrover or arrive by boat. A few years back Sara and I tried to reach here by motorbike (from where the tarmac road ends) but after a few miles we realised that despite out best attempt we couldn’t make it two up on a road bike. That said it would have been relatively straightforward solo on an “off road bike” – even two up it would have been OK but we couldn’t risk a puncture……….can you imagine the call to the RAC/AA!!………could you just repeat exactly where you are sir?????

Kinuachdrachd - Jura

Plan “A” was to anchor and go ashore, but there is an obstruction listed on the charts where we would have wanted to drop the hook; so we then considered plan “B”, which was for David to go ashore in the dinghy and me staying on Sun Dog. However the effects of the tide was increasing noticeably so we resolved to move to plan “C” ; which was to head inshore as far a possible with David taking video shots and photographs with yours truly on the helm.

It was really neat to have been so close to this place which was so special to our Mum, & nice to do so with another member of the family – it would have been even better if all the immediate family and Dad could all have been there at the same time, but there again I suppose they were, only not physically.

From here we could have headed straight across to Crinan, but David fancied heading through Dorus Mor, so we headed back up with David back on the helm to satisfy his desire to go thro’ the islands, and we kept Reisa an Struith to port and Garbh Reisa to starboard to head for the western entrance through Dorus Mor. The effects of the tide were naturally getting much stronger with eddies and upwellings (for me these are always amazing sights) and at one point one of these “grabbed us” and turned us almost ninety degrees to our course! David was calm as ever and I can say that I never heard any expletives being uttered :-)……..perhaps because my hearing let me down at that point!

Once we had enough northing in our course we turned to starboard and into Dorus Mor where we popped out the other side doing in excess of 9 knots and headed over to pick up a mooring for the night at Crinan. I did however notice a rather sizeable smile of David’s face as the boat was gathering speed………which in turn made me smile.

For those that don’t know the Crinan Canal was originally built to save the fishing fleet, then later Puffers, having to go all the way down south and rounding the Mull of Kintyre to get their hauls to market. Today it is still used by some fishing boats but the majority of traffic is pleasure vessels.

Crinan Canal

Next morning we were straight into the sea lock at 0845 and were informed that we were the only boat going through this morning so we could if we wanted make a fast transit of the canal.

Crinan end of Canal

David in charge

The foam at the stern of Sun Dog followed us in from the Sea Lock and I have no idea how this was caused – unless of course David had been heavy handed with the Fairy Liquid!!

David hadn’t been through any canal locks before and yet he did really well in handling the lines at this lock, and as turns out all the others along the canal – he never so much as dropped a line in the water once.

Reflections at Bellanoch

Whilst it would have been possible for us to get through the canal in one day, we decided that we would park up at the pontoons at Cairnbaan and have a shower etc at the British Waterways facilities, before having a meal ashore at the Cairnbaan Hotel and an early night to catch up on some zzzzz’s.

Cairnbaan Pontoon

Next morning we were up early had breakfast and away at 0830, as it had been agreed with the British Waterways staff that this would be the time we would depart and they would therefore have someone ready to open the Oakfield Bridge further down the canal at 0900. As we approached the road bridge it began to open, and the run through the rest of the locks was straightforward enough, (apart from a little rain), right through to the sea lock at Ardrishaig where we sorted out the paper work with the ever helpful British Waterways Staff.

Sea Lock at Ardrishaig
Ready to exit into Loch Fyne

When we exited into Loch Fyne we were hoping for a good sail but as ever “Murphy’s Law” intervened and we had the wind straight on the nose, but we hoisted the mainsail and motorsailed down the Loch until we turned at Ardlamont Point and into the Kyles of Bute where we did manage to have a good sail for an hour or so with the wind on the quarter, until we reached the top of the Kyle where once again the wind was on the nose.

From there David motored us through the Burnt Isles at Colintraive and on down the other Kyle, across Rothesay Bay, round the north end of Big Cumbrae, and into Largs Marina at around 1800. It had been a reasonably long day for both of us and I was very much relieved and happy that my car was parked at Largs Marina as the thought of having to drive back up to Oban area and back down again (5/6 hrs return trip) was somewhat less than appealing (sic) – again my sincere thanks and appreciation goes out to Richard and Kris for driving us up to the boat so that I could leave my car at Largs. Thanks lads.

Naturally my thanks and appreciation also goes out to my brother David for taking the time out to help me get the boat back down and into the Clyde before the weather window closed. Many thanks David – that’s another one I am due you.