The weather on Saturday was variable, if you were in Greenock, however a small band of members from the Club took a wander to Carrick Castle on Loch Goil and managed to stay in the sunny & dry weather zone for almost the entire day. As rain spread from the Argyll Hills East over Inverclyde and North over Dunoon & up towards Loch Goil the crew in Chippy McNish avoided all the showers other than 10 minutes as they rowed out of Loch Goil and back into Loch Long at 16:00.
The day had started badly with blustery weather in Greenock at about 07:30-08:00, some of the younger members of the crew apparently questioned if the trip would be on as they got out of bed at an unearthly time on a Saturday morning. By the time the crew met at the Club the weather was fine. Chippy McNish was launched and packed ready for a day trip to assess the suitability of the skiffs for long distance cruising.
We left the Club at 10:05 and were off Knockderry Hotel by 11:15. We were all so engrossed in the discussions in the boat and the views that we nearly rowed right past the hotel. It was a comment from Heather that brought us to our senses and led to a brief stop to assess the suitability of the hotel for the forthcoming Closing Cruise. It definitely sells beer and looks comfortable. The staff were also very helpful and welcoming, even with us in wet shoes and trackies.
The next objective was Ardentinny, this took us about 30 minutes. It only took this long as we had to give a wide berth to a freighter and its accompanying tug as they came down the loch. we rekindle old relationships with the beach and sailing club shed at the activity centre. All is still there but there are curiously two dragon boats at the top of the beach now. A check was made on the hotel, it is closed at the moment but looks as though someone is doing some work on it and the external appearance is not shabby.
We lunched on the beach before heading off for Carrick Castle, our ultimate goal. As we continued up Loch Long we were being constantly observed by MOD Police launch at Coulport and the watch towers. Stories abounded about who might be watching and listening to every word we were saying. There was even speculation about the true identities of some slow moving sea birds floating nearby.
As we rounded the corner into Loch Goil there were very light rain showers near the opposite shore and these generated some fantastic rainbows, see below. This phenomenon continued for the next 2 hours. This was also where we saw the first of the seal that were to follow us all the way back to Knockderry.
We landed at Carrick Castle about 15:00. As a lot of you may know the hotel has been demolished and is now a site awaiting development. There are no shops left open in the village and the castle itself is signposted as Private Property. It is still a lovely spot, as can be seen in the photos below.
Leaving Carrick Castle at 15:45 we rowed out of Loch Goil past numerous rainbows and finally got caught in a rain shower. This shower lasted about 10-15 minutes and stopped just after the cables cross Loch Long. Following a route intended to keep us well away from Coulport we headed South, once Alex took the helm we cut the corner slightly and ended up about 20 yards off the pier as we pasted the gatehouse. Our spirits were kept high by thoughts of a stop at Knockderry but as the return trip was without the benefit of the tide and wind it was much slower. The stop at Knockderry was not going to be feasible and we pressed on for the Club.
In the second hour heading South, as we crossed the bay towards Cove Sailing Club, idle banter in the boat ceased. Hands and butts were sore. Muscles stiff when crew changes happened. All were looking forward to a shower, hot food and a beer. As we moved from Loch Long to the Clyde the waves were from the South West, forcing us onto the shore. We quartered the waves, making for Gourock rather than the Club. When we got to about mid-channel we turned for the Club and could use the waves to partially surf back.
Arriving at the Club just after 19:00 we had completed the trip down from Carrick Castle in a little over 3 hours and the whole 24mile trip in 9 hours. Approximately 6 hours of that time spent on the water. We were welcomed back by family, Chippy went away quickly and everyone went home happy and tired.
The skiff is light and easy to handle in comparison to a Heavy Four. It moves quickly and has plenty of space for spare oars, all the equipment you might require for a long trip and a dog. However the five man crew means that you typically row for 60 minutes and have 15 minutes coxing. That 15 minutes is spent steering, trying to do anything else, like eating or pouring a cup of tea, can be awkward. Think the skiffs are ideal for 2-3 day trip but would have to think hard about anything longer.