The Firth of Clyde

I think I have already learnt what constitutes a ‘beautiful day’ in Scotland. It’s not necessarily the sunshine. It’s being dry and anything above 15 degrees. Sunshine is, oh but an unexpected bonus. Albeit very early on for me to make this statement but the scenery is so stunning that you look at it more than the sky so you don’t seem to notice the clouds very much. Therefore, as long as it doesn’t rain, it’s a beautiful day. I think this is how it works. When the sun does come out, well, that’s just a frenzy of bagpipe blowing, Iron Brew drinking, haggis catching and celebrations of everything ginger or anything else equally peculiar to Scotland. It’s great.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I have been harbouring a vision of breaking waves, howling wind with Fiesta, Max and I desperately seeking shelter. So far this vision hasn’t proved in any way to be a reflection of reality. I left Loch Ryan on Thursday morning in a very light southwesterly breeze that was not forecast to be more than about 5 knots. I left at the turn of the tide to help me up the Firth of Clyde as much as possible. Slow progress ensured for six hours doing under 4 knots but it was great not to hear the engine. When the tide turned progress was even slower but by this time I was only about an hour from the Isle of Arran where I had decided to anchor for the night in Lamlash harbour. Anchoring was tricky because the seabed shelves very steeply close to the shore. The trick is to anchor in water that’s not so deep that it makes for a total nightmare pulling the anchor up but not find yourself in water that is too shallow when you have drifted back the full length of your anchor chain and in that anchorage I had 160 feet out. I failed twice and found myself in only 4 feet of water with four hours of outgoing tide remaining. No good. I had to pull the anchor up and reset it, and then again. This is an absolute ball ache of a workout on the arms and for some reason one of mine is much stronger than the other. I can keep going for as long as it takes with the good one but the other never quite feels right and it’s never long before the strong one is doing all the heavy work again in order to get the job done…
Anyway, third time lucky I anchored in 35 feet of water and had plenty left underneath me at the end of the scope. Like my previous two nights in Loch Ryan, it was a perfectly still night at anchor, not even the sound of water could be heard, it was that calm.
In the morning there was a very light breeze which once again dissipated after a few hours and once again it was the engine that got us the rest of the way to Largs.

We got into Largs Marina at around midday and after a visit to the diesel dock I was shown to my berth. It was pretty much as far away from the marina office as possible and right at the end of a row where no one was on their boats. What a perfect spot for me. I love to be out of the thick of it and in the quiet. Default setting = unsociable.
Largs Marina is a lovely little spot. The marina was created by building two breakwaters on a sandbank and dredging the middle. It’s now one of Scotland’s premier marinas.
My arrival in Largs was timely as later that evening my friend Adrian arrived having caught a combination of trains from Essex. However, there were problems with the overhead lines which meant the last train line was shut down so having brought his bike with him he was able to give the train line the finger and cycle the rest of the way to Fiesta.
The last time I saw Adrian was three months ago in very different waters when he sailed to Dover with me on the first leg of this trip. This kind of thought process is what makes me keep pinching myself that this trip is actually happening. I have seen a lot of places since Dover and although the last three months have gone really quickly, Dover seems an absolute age ago.
I have known Adrian for almost all my life and having rarely lived more than 5 minutes away we had weekly bike rides / catch ups so after three months there was much reflecting on the happenings of the world over the last three months to be done. Actually, we didn’t cover any of that choosing instead to talk complete and utter bollocks from the word go.
During the next few days there was much eating, drinking, laughing, getting lost (Adrian’s sense of direction being only slightly better than mine) and also about 55 miles of cycling which oddly enough and with only a couple of exceptions was on mostly flat roads. A lovely way to take in the stunning landscapes of Scotland.

Saturday was beautiful but on Sunday the rain came and with the exception of a break for lunch it stayed all day but cleared in time for a beautiful sunset. On Monday we went with our bikes by ferry over to The Isle of Cumbrae. The sun shone all day and we rode round the island on the coast road, over the top and back again. It’s a lovely place to cycle and people flock there for the opportunity to circumnavigate the small island and take in it’s fantastic views of the Firth.
We ventured off road in search of some rough stuff but despite the roads being fantastic for cycling, as soon as we ventured off the path it was thick sticky mud and someone wasn’t very keen on getting his new bike muddy so we decided it was best to stick to the roads!
I haven’t ridden nearly as much as I had hoped I would on this trip so it was great to get some time on the bike. Adrian and I have ridden together weekly for over 20 years so it was great to be able to see a bit of Scotland by bike with him.
Largs boasts a massive ice cream parlour and this was absolutely heaven sent for Adrian who is the biggest ice cream queen I know so every ride had to finish at the parlour in time for a massive cornet.
Good to see you mate and thanks for coming all the way up here. As per normal form, the days flew passed and soon Adrian was on the train home and I was forming a plan to leave Largs.

Fiesta, Max and I departed Largs yesterday morning in some early hot sunshine and headed northwest up the Firth towards the Isle of Bute. Not a breath of wind but totally and utterly beautiful. It felt like a treat to only have a very short hop of ten miles across the Firth to Rothesay Bay where I am now anchored. Rothesay is a lovely Victorian sea side town which served me well for restocking supplies because if possible I will have the next four or five nights at anchor living off the boat supplies as I make my way through East Kyle and onwards towards Loch Fyne.

There is definitely something about Scotland. I feel like this is a brand new trip. The first one being the previous three months and this, a brand new adventure. I think it also has to do with the fact that in my own mind I have always thought about this part as the tougher part from a weather and navigation perspective. Ok, so the weather has been unbelievably calm for the last week but there is no doubt that that will change. Navigation wise, when I set out on this trip I was aware that my navigation would need some work in time for Scotland but I reasoned that having three months constant practice would do the job. Well, here I am in Scotland. Am I ready? I hope so but I don’t really feel any different from when I left Burnham if I’m being honest. Still, it’s happening and its happening now so there’s only one thing for it. I’m just going to have to pull it off….. I can always concentrate better after that.

Anchored off the Isle of Arron


Sunset in Largs Marina


Riding around the Isle of Cumbrae



Sunrise at Largs Marina and there’s no accounting for taste!


On route to Rothesay Bay


The Waverley doing it’s annual Scottish tour


Rothesay Castle and my anchorage. It’s a massive anchorage but this fella obviously gets lonely so anchored in my cockpit!





One thought on “The Firth of Clyde

  1. Well what can I say, it was awesome to catch up with Tomo after so long. Strange you dont see someone, don’t have much contact (were blokes) ant yet it’s like you never left.
    The trip all be it a bit short but in some ways long enough ……..
    It had a bit of everything the strange part and I mean strange I had to drag MT into the local pub how things have changed!
    The cooking was top notch love a meal from a tin and followed by lots of bad food.
    It must have been the bad food which made us talk so much rubbish. 😜
    Stay safe YM


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