Our website

Visit our website at www.arran-campsite.com
and our Blog of our
"World tour of Scotland" at www.nigelandkathyinscotland.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Round Arran On Cloud Nine 

Friday 8th June 2018

On almost any day of the year there is sure to be someone circumnavigating Arran.  They may be walking the Coastal Way, negotiating the road’s ups-and-downs by bike, car or bus, or perhaps paddling a kayak.  One bright morning recently we decided to see how long it would take to circumnavigate the island on Cloud Nine, a 6.3 metre RiB, anti-clockwise and sticking to a steady 18 knots.

We leave Lochranza pontoon on a high tide having enjoyed breakfast at the Sandwich Station. Pulling out into the choppy waves and invigorating breeze of the Kilbrannan Sound we turn south-west, passing Catacol’s white cottages tucked like toy houses under the bulky rounded hills of the north-west of the island. If we see any floating plastic, we lean over the side and pick it up.

From a sea level point-of-view you can truly appreciate what a mountainous island Arran is, with its settlements squeezed onto narrow shelves of flat land. You also realise how there is a great deal of impenetrable terrain on the island, with steep rocky wooded cliffs tumbling into the sea, so steep in fact that it makes you wonder however anyone ever imagined a road round the edge might be  possible. You also realise that this is an entirely lovely island and scenic from whichever degree you look at it from.

You would not choose a RiB ride for comfort- it can be jarring and you are exposed to the weather-  but RiBs are strong and stable on the water. It is best, even on a hot day, to wear warm protective gear because hypothermia sneaks up on you unawares. A hat or cap and sunglasses are essential. In colder weather we wear immersion suits.

On the RiB dashboard is a chart plotter with down-view depth sonar. The graphs on the screen enable the driver to see the shape and depth of the seabed. Round the coast the seabed is treacherously uneven with underwater volcanic dykes jutting out from the land a particular hazard. We look out for marker buoys and cardinal markers which are placed to guide shipping. When you go right up to them you find they have intriguing names such as Iron Rock Ledges. We also look out for lobster buoys so that their ropes do not get tangled in our propeller. We let Belfast Coastguard know about our voyages and can communicate with them by radio if necessary.

Reaching the point where the Kilbrannan Sound opens out into the North Channel the sun is rising higher and sunlight flashes off the waves. The new distillery stands high on the island’s south-west corner . Northern Ireland is a misty line on the horizon, the surprising pyramid of Ailsa Craig ahead. Whenever I see this giant rock, it is always rising eerily out of the mist. The gannets are diving.

When you want to make landfall, a RiB needs a sandy sloping beach to pull upon or a pontoon.  Arriving in sheltered Lamlash Bay we pull up beside the harbour wall but need to keep a close eye on the boat due to the falling tide. We couldn’t possibly pass the Old Pier Tearoom without calling in though.

After Lamlash, we are in the Firth of Clyde – one of the most famous maritime routes in the world. It’s flat calm on this side of the island, the sea more like a lagoon, and it’s much easier to see wildlife. Approaching the last lap of the Sannox- Lochranza coast, the mountains of Glen Sannox look like one of Tolkein’s mythical landscapes. And right at that moment we hear the puff and hiss of vigorous blowing through air holes and see five big broad black gleaming backs gliding purposefully north through the water, their fins thin and upright like sea-tattered masts. We turn off the engine and keep our distance. We don’t know what these creatures are but think they could be minke whales. Cloud nine indeed!

 Then it’s back to Lochranza Pontoon where we started. The boat will need a hose down.
 Our circumnavigation was 100km in length and the journey took us three and a half hours.

No comments:

Post a Comment