Tag: <span>boat</span>

Scotland 2014 – Part 2

Before starting the section on the cruise of the Caledonian Canal, I wanted to add in a little overview of the canal and our boat.  The boat we took was the Isle of Skye, a 34 ft cruiser with one bedroom.  I’ve seen smaller apartments, so the size worked out just fine, even if Doug’s feet hung off the end of the bed (he’s also really tall, so his feet hang off the end of most beds).  Our cruise was along the length of the Caledonian Canal, built by Thomas Telford, completed in 1822.  By the time it was completed, the railroad had largely taken over and boats had gotten too large for the canal, so it was pretty much useless as its intended purpose for commerce.  Today, it’s used only for pleasure craft, full of hire boats, cruises, kayakers and canoers as well as hikers who walk the towpath.  It was a 60 mile journey for us from the Caley marina to Fort William.  We didn’t do the locks on the ends to go into the Atlantic Ocean or North Sea since both ends involve a long flight of locks and aren’t included in the boat hire agreement.

Day 4, May 30:
Got up and had breakfast at the hotel (included in the cost and always a great breakfast).  Gathered our things and got a cab to the marina which was pretty close by, but quite the hike with bags and across some busy roads.  Checked in at the marina with Caley Cruisers earlier than expected, so they got us started right away on the overview video which goes over the route including some of the tricky spots to navigate as well as basic safety procedures.  They’re really proud of the video and it does a great job of explaining things for the novice boater (me).  Husband is a captain on a rather large boat currently off the coast of India, so navigation is nothing new to him, but that particular vessel was, so he paid attention to the handling instructions (turning to port, using the thruster, etc), and I paid close attention to the instructions for the lines and locking procedures.  After the video was over, a staff member took us over to the Co-Op to get groceries for the week.  The fridge on the boat is about the size of a college dorm fridge, so it wasn’t quite enough for the whole week’s groceries, but enough to get us to Fort William.  We kept it pretty simple – sandwiches, pasta and sauce, a seasoned/ready-to-cook chicken package, and bacon and eggs for breakfast.  We did plan on cooking on board most of the trip with an occasional meal out.  Once we got back and got everything settled on board, they brought Bob over to run our handling and on-board safety briefing way earlier than expected which was SO nice.  It was really great to be able to set out earlier rather than wait for everyone else to show up and leave as a group.  Bob was a captain on a tanker ship, so he was immediately comfortable with Doug and instructed me to untie and Doug to grab the helm and take us out.  As we motored down the short bit of canal before the first bridge, Bob gave us instructions on speed, RPMs, the depth of the canal, passing other vessels, etc.  We waited a few minutes  for the bridge to open and motored on through, then Bob had Doug execute a turn in the narrow canal which went perfectly.  I then got instructions on how to tie up using their preferred method and tied the boat up alongside the dock at the other side of the bridge.  Bob called the office to be picked up, we signed some paperwork saying we were properly briefed about lifejackets, safety procedures, handling, etc, and we were left to go on our way to the first lock!  I have to admit, even if Doug was not already a licensed captain, I’d still feel really comfortable about taking the boat out with just two of us on board.  Doug got out our Captain and First Mate hats (he’s a nerd, in case you didn’t know yet) to make the trip official.  With Bob back on land, we untied and headed up to our first lock, Dochgarroch lock  and after a short wait because the lock tender was at lunch, we went through without a problem.  Sailed through Loch Dochfour and then into Loch Ness.  The day was beautiful and sunny, and Loch Ness was like glass – completely still and tranquil.  It’s apparently not a common occurrence, so we took advantage of the day to stop at Foyers and hike up to the falls.  Caley Cruisers only allows stops at Foyers  during good weather, so we were given the thumbs up when we dropped off Bob.  The hike was pretty long and steep, but it was GORGEOUS even though Scottish Hydro had reduced the falls that day to a mere trickle.  The view  out into Loch Ness was stunning too.  Hiked back down and cruised the rest of Loch Ness.  We had Fort Augustus in our sights and arrived at about 6pm.  Tied up, took a nice walk around town, had dinner on the boat, a little whisky, and then settled into bed.

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Day 5, May 31:
We had breakfast on board again and had a bit of a wait in the morning to start our way up the 5 locks.  We finally got going around 10:30am.  After going under the bridge, we went through the first lock on the boat as usual and then got out to tow the boat up on foot.  Our instructions per the lock tender were that I was the carrot in the front, and Doug the mule at the back.  The person at the back does the majority of the pulling, and the person up front steers, keeping the boat parallel to the lock walls.  It was a busy morning, so the lock was packed with sailboats and other hire boats.  I even remembered to put the Little Cyclops camera on the railing so we have a neat time lapse of our journey through the locks!

After we were at the top of Fort Augustus, having answered a ton of questions from curious tourists and heard an earful about the importance of Scottish Independence from a lock tender, we motored off to Kytra lock which was a pretty tall step up.  The lock tender there is named Linda and she handed out gold stars for proper life vest use.  Shortly after Kytra was Cullochy Lock and then the Aberchalder Swing Bridge which we sailed under with plenty of room.  We made a short stop at the Invergarry Castle ruins at 3pm.  The ruins are right by the dock, so it was just a short walk.  Back on the boat and another stop at the Well of the Seven Heads to grab a few supplies at the store there and see the monument.  Heading onwards, we sailed through Loch Oich and then under the Laggan Swing Bridge.  We arrived at Laggan Locks at 4pm for a small step down – the locks had all gone up until this point.  Then a short sail through Ceann Loch and Loch Lochy, and we made it to Gairlochy Locks at 6pm to tie up for the night.  We really wanted to hustle and make it to Fort William that evening, hence the short stops, but the hold up in the morning at Fort Augustus really set us back.  It wasn’t terrible since the view at Gairlochy was beautiful!  The mountains were still covered in snow and the air had a pleasant chill after a long day in the sun.  It was definitely getting colder, the further on we went.  Not parkas-and-mittens cold, but throw-on-a-fleece cool.  Also worth noting is that the facilities (showers/bathrooms) at Gairlochy were IMMACULATE.  I’m almost glad we stopped here for the night instead of blazing through to Fort William because it really was serene, and we got to watch a group of hikers brave the cold water of the canal for a swim.  They didn’t last long, and there were a lot of high pitched squeals at the temperature of the water.  Dinner and a show!

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Day 6: June 1:
We were up early and ready for the lock tender who let us through first thing at 8:30am, and through the bridge there as well shortly after.  We sailed right on by the Moy Swing Bridge (the only original bridge remaining, still needs to be hand-cranked open), and made it to Fort William at 10am.  The early start definitely made up for the prior day’s delays!  The stopping point is at the top of the Banavie locks, near Fort William, not directly in Fort William, so in order to get into town, you need to hop the train (which is what we did for   £4.20 for the two of us) or call a cab.  The train really only runs through that stop a few times a day, so even if it’s cheaper, it’s not incredibly convenient.  It was Sunday, so not a lot was open, but we had time to burn walking around the town.  Had lunch at the Grog and Gruel which was a little overpriced, but wild boar burgers, so I wasn’t complaining.  Great selection of cask ales too!  It started to drizzle, so we headed to Morrisons to grab groceries for the rest of the week, and then hailed a cab back to Banavie ( £9, really not bad).  Found the lock tenders and hooked up power for the night, refilled our water tank.  Had a few Strongbows and took in the scenery – the top of Banavie locks is a really pretty view of the Nevis range, even with the drizzle.  The rain did let up, so we took a LONG walk to try to find the Tor Castle ruins.  We never did find them, but we did find a passageway under the canal – it lets rain water flow under the canal and even has a roadway fit for cars!  Really an incredible feat of engineering when you think about just how large the canal is.

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Day 7: June 2:
We got up at 7am and had breakfast while it POURED rain.  We grabbed a cab for the Ben Nevis Distillery and made the 10:30am tour.  It was a great little tour, and yet again, we were told how important it is that Scotland gain its independence since the British tax on whisky is something in the neighborhood of 80 pence per pound sold.  It was sort of interesting how vocal the guide was about the topic given how controversial the subject seems to be.  The whisky taste at the end was delightful and we decided to bring home a bottle.  By the end of the tour it had mostly stopped raining, so we took the foot path to the Inverlochy Castle ruins.  The path continued on to the heart of Fort William and since the weather was nice, we went ahead and walked into town.  Had lunch at Crofters which was really affordable and good.  Even met a woman from California who sat at the table next to us.  Finished lunch and a chat with the Californian and went over to the train station to see about seats for the Jacobite Steam Train.  We had checked online the day before and it seemed to be sold out, but the site said to show up since they may have tickets available to purchase that day, cash only.  Sure enough, there were TONS of seats available and the train was hardly full at all.  The train ride was two hours to Mallaig with a short stop at Glenfinnan.  There wasn’t a whole lot to do at Mallaig once we arrived there, and it happened to be raining again.  We did stop for a pint at the Marine Bar and Doug had fish and chips at Jaffy’s which he proclaimed to be the best he’s ever, EVER had.  We hopped back on the train after the almost two hour stop at Mallaig and arrived back at Fort William at 8pm (remember, it’s still broad daylight at 8pm).  The whole trip was beautiful, seeing the hills roll by, the Glenfinnan Viaduct, sheep, lakes, brief glimpses of the coastline.  Stunning.  And, a great way to spend a sort of gloomy, drizzly day.  We grabbed a few more necessities at Morrisons and then hopped a cab back to Banavie for our last night in Fort William.

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Part 1  | Part 2 | Part 3

Sepia Saturday 234: Reflections on Paddling in the Lake or Sea

2014.06W.39This week’s Sepia Saturday is, “Reflections on Paddling in the Lake or Sea.”  Part of me thought about using some of the houseboat and barge photos from my husband’s Dutch family, but that’s on canals and doesn’t quite fit the theme.  I suppose I can save those for another week (they’re awesome photos, and I hope rivers/canals comes up as a theme!).

The photos I’ve got this week are somewhat more recent, but came out really lovely and share a neat snippet of my great grandmother’s life that I hadn’t known about before.  She had a childhood friend, Mildred Witherow (b. 25 Dec 1906 in Pennsylvania, d. 12 Apr 1972 in Pontiac, Michigan), who moved out to Michigan from Pennsylvania at some point.  I think my parents mentioned her visiting someone in the midwest, but they didn’t know who specifically.  While scanning the trunk full of photos, I came across a set that were nicely labelled (it’s a rare thing to find a labelled photo in the trunk), with witty commentary and dates on the photos.  I think it’s really sweet they kept in touch, visited eachother, and still had silly adventures.  Mildred, affectionately called “Mid,” never married and my great grandma Olga (Powis) Kitko was married for a short while, but she spent most of her adult life as a single gal, raising her son amongst family.

"The lonely motor boat"
“The lonely motor boat”

I have absolutely no idea which lake this was, but I do know it was taken prior to September 1960 and somewhere around Pontiac, Michigan.  There are SO MANY lakes around that area, it’s impossible for me to narrow down at all.  The caption is exactly what great grandma wrote on the back of the photo in pencil (YAY PENCIL!).

"Mid & I, waiting for the driver, ha"
“Mid & I, waiting for the driver, ha”

Two lovely ladies on a pier!  I am just in love with this photo and have a funny feeling that the “driver” may have taken the photo.  But really, how great is this?  Two childhood friends, in their late 50s, early 60s, in lovely summer dresses out for a day on the lake.  The driver mentioned here is Mid’s brother, Alvin (b. 1 Jun 1914, d. 26 Mar 1989).  The vacation seems to have been for a small family gathering too – the other photos in this set show a group of people sitting around a table for dinner.

"Mid, Alvin & I on the lake"
“Mid, Alvin & I on the lake”

Hmm, for a motor boat, that sure does look like a paddle, fitting us nicely into the theme for this week’s Sepia Saturday.  Yeah, I know, he was probably using it to get into the dock safely since the water was maybe too shallow for the propeller.  These photos aren’t necessarily sepia toned or super old, but the whole point of Sepia Saturday is that there are no rules and to share photos  along with  the story behind them, and I’ve always had a fondness for this set of images, so there they are!

BONUS IMAGE, because while it’s not a photo, it relates to the story here a little, showing the friendship these two had over the years.  It’s a simple postcard, but these gals kept in touch for so long, and it’s so cute to see a postcard from Mid to Olga about  daily life in Michigan.  Post date is 26 Apr 1947, well before the images above, but helps to establish that these two were close friends their whole lives.