Friday 10th June, 2005
Saturday 11th June, 2005
Sunday 12th June, 2005
Monday 13th June, 2005
Tuesday 14th June, 2005
Wednesday 15th June, 2005
Thursday 16th June, 2005

Friday 10th June, 2005

Drop Cap fter arising early and breakfasting at 07:00 we hightailed it out of Mull, over the two ferries and up the A82 to Inverness. We arrived reasonably early, approx 12:45 at the canal base of Caley Cruisers. We did not, however, pause on the way as I had wanted to for lunch and shopping. The briefing they gave us was far from brief and Geoff was starting to go off during it so we told them we had to eat and shop before the boat handling lesson. In the end, what with shopping, eating and roadworks near the canal which snarled up the traffic unbelievably, we were not back in time to go out today.

Caledonian Boat photograph

Mull of Kintyre II at Inverness

Drop Cap o we are presently camped on "Mull of Kintyre II", ready (I hope) to go out tomorrow morning. Mac and Geoff have had a lesson on boat handling and I have been told how to throw ropes. The more I hear about how easy it is the more apprehensive I get! The "Mull of Kintyre II", like all the other cruisers, is nothing like a narrowboat. It is so light that the wind blows it around and you have to be very careful. All the locks and swing bridges are worked by BW personnel but we have to throw them ropes.

Drop Cap he is an attractive boat, but a bit tired and shopworn. Some of the fixtures are a bit scruffy. The bathroom (!) is tiny, leading me to decide to shower in the BW facilities on shore. I hope we will be able to manage. The bedrooms are very cramped (of course, it is smaller than a narrowboat, but a little wider, I think. I hope we will be able to get comfortable. Our beds are V shaped, very strange. Geoff has a single cubbyhole and we have the pointy end, hence the V shaped beds.

Caledonian Boat photograph

Going Aboard


Drop Cap ctually, after all, the most difficult thing was getting into the beds, they are very high off the deck, necessitating some contortion on my part, but surprisingly comfortable. The bathroom is too small to use comfortably (for showers) and we have been told not to use more than two sheets of the tissue thin toilet paper (which is IMPOSSIBLE ) or the toilet will block up, so any major use has to be on land. We would probably be more comfortable in a larger boat and Geoff thinks the three of us could handle a larger one. I am not so sure. However, with three expensive boating components in this trip, this was a more economical choice.

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Saturday 11th June, 2005

Drop Cap ere we are at our night's mooring at Fort Augustus after the first day's run from Inverness. Mac and Geoff are handling the boat very well; a man rubbing down his sailing boat at the next mooring commented that we have done this before and was surprised that it was our first day.

Drop Cap e headed out at just after 09:00 with some trepidation (and Mike from the boatyard, a real old salt with a soft Highland accent) which was largely unnecessary. Mike left us at the swing bridge a mile or so from the Marina. It was quite interesting to see the barriers come down to stop the traffic to the sound of alarms, then the massive bridge swing outwards so we could motor through.

Dochgarroch Lock photograph

In Dochgarroch Lock

Drop Cap n hour or so later came the lock at Dochgarroch. There were two boats, one a large sailing yacht from Sweden, already in the lock so the lock keeper waited for us. Geoff and I had to throw ropes to the lock keeper once we were in the lock. My first throw went wildly into the water but the lock keeper just said mildly, "No, no, I'm up here, no' in the water" and my second throw made it up to him. It was really quite relaxing to have the locking done for us. We just had to pull the ropes back afterwards.

Loch Ness Shoreline photograph

Shoreline of Loch Ness, from the Boat

Drop Cap fter that, it was easy. Loch Dochfour led into lovely and legendary Loch Ness, which was millpond calm and our mighty vessel ate up the miles (or knots? I don't know).

Castle Urquhart photograph

Castle Urquhart, on Loch Ness

Drop Cap e didn't stop at Urquhart Castle, but idled past it, getting a much better view from the Loch than the land. There was hardly any traffic, apart from a couple of cruise boats. We slowed down and just puttered gently, the way I like to boat, had lunch on the water as we went, and finally negotiated the difficult entrance to Fort Augustus with aplomb. We moored opposite the Benedictine Abbey, very close to the BW facilities for showers, toilets and laundry.

Fort Augustus mooring photograph

Moored at Fort Augustus, Scotland

Lord of the Glens photograph

"Lord of the Glens" in Fort Augustus Locks

Drop Cap ort Augustus has lots of facilities and five locks, one of which contained the biggest boat I have ever seen in a lock. It was "Lord of the Glens" a tourist boat which does weeklong trips from Inverness to Mull and back. We actually saw her in Tobermory harbour on Thursday. It was purpose built for the locks on the Caledonian Canal. We watched her through and she is now moored, like a breakwater, three boat lengths away from us. We can hear her music, Simon and Garfunkel, very up to date, and smell her barbecue.

Drop Cap here are showers and toilets a few steps away, so I will try for one tonight. (Shower, I mean.)

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Sunday 12th June, 2005

Ft Augustus Locks postcard

Postcard of Fort Augustus Five Locks

Drop Cap ell, today has been, if not a disaster, at least a very stressful and not so enjoyable day. After yesterday I was feeling good and quite confident, but that left me as soon as we got to the first of the five locks in Fort Augustus' staircase. I threw the rope into the water several times before I managed it. There were lots of boats in the lock including three large yachts and we had to be roped together in pairs and walked through.

Lock photograph

Ducks and Yachts share the Lock

Drop Cap ince Geoff was at the bow, he effectively hauled two boats up five locks. It took quite a long time, and, although I gave him two high carb biscuits towards the end, by the time we were through Fort Augustus, and Kytra Lock and had reached the next lock, Cullochy, he went into a bad hypo, actually hanging on to the bowline. The full collapse, necessitating a can of non diet Tango, three biscuits, jelly beans and a peanut butter sandwich before he was able to be moved (out of the lock). The lock keepers were very helpful and understanding, one of them took the rope from me and moored us.

Drop Cap think my reputation has gone before us. One lock keeper let down a line and told me to tie mine on to the end, whereupon he hauled them both up, and one got a boathook and caught the line with that.

Drop Cap nyway, what with these traumas and the weather, which turned quite bad and alternated heavy rain showers and bright sunshine all day, it was not much fun. Every time one of us said "Oh, it's clearing up", you could be sure it would start to rain again.

Well of Seven Heads photograph

The Well of the Seven Heads

Drop Cap e moored at a pontoon in front of the "Well of the Seven Heads", a gruesomely named monument to an event in the 16th century in which seven murderers (in some clan conflict) were summarily dealt with and their severed heads were washed in this well before being delivered to the Clan chief.

Drop Cap here was a small shop here so we replenished our supply of coffee and jelly beans before heading across the loch to the Great Glen water park where we filled up with water before proceeding through another swing bridge into Laggan Avenue, where we found several boats we had travelled with this morning, and the last mooring. Helped by two others from boats front and rear we were shoe horned into the space and tied up for the night.

Floating Restaurant photograph

"The Eagle Inn" at Laggan

Drop Cap e were moored right opposite the "Eagle Inn", a floating pub/ restaurant. Some of the other crews spent the evening there but I had the stuff to cook a meal and did.

Drop Cap ot a particularly enjoyable day, but the scenery is worth it, when you can see it.

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Monday 13th June, 2005

Drop Cap better day today. The weather was not much better, unfortunately; it rained heavily a good deal of the day.
We passed through Laggan Locks, very easy; we are now going downhill and the lock was low enough to pass the rope up without having to throw it. Same at Gairlochy Locks but when I said that I was glad not to have to throw it up (it was very high on the downhill side) the keeper said, "Don't worry. I'll throw it down to you - everyone has problems here."

Coffee Break photograph

Coffee Break

Gairlochy Locks photograph

Moored at Gairlochy Locks

Drop Cap t Gairlochy we found a teashop canalside, so stopped for lunch. It had stopped raining for a while and was very pleasant.

Banavie photograph

Canal Reach, near Banavie

Drop Cap fter that it was a six mile canal reach into Banavie Top Lock, the start of Neptune's Staircase of eight locks down to the sea lock at Corpach.
This, the Top Lock, is our turning point. Hired cruisers are not permitted beyond here.
So we will pick up water and head off early tomorrow morning to try and get a good possie at Laggan tomorrow night. There are a lot of Caley Cruisers here tonight and we don't want to be competing for space with too many of them.

Drop Cap his is our main problem with the Caledonian Canal. Since there are only small canalised areas in between the wide lochs, you have to moor at the pontoons provided, and there are not really enough of them. There is no facility to just moor on the side, like you can on the Welsh canals. Anyway, we want showers, it is too far here from the amenities block and the midges eat you alive if you go outside in the evening. It is quite cool here in the shadow of Ben Nevis, still with patches of snow.

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Tuesday 14th June, 2005

Loch Lochy Lighthouse photograph

Lighthouse at the entrance of Loch Lochy

Drop Cap way at 08:00 this morning, heading back. We plan to cross Loch Lochy, through the Laggan Locks, go up the canal, through the Swing Bridge and stop at the shop at the Well of the Seven Heads, then head back to Laggan for the night.
We really let her out going over Loch Lochy, easily outdistancing the Dunottar Castle, another Caley boat which has been keeping us company for a few days.

Cruise ship photograph

Lord of the Glens at Laggan Lock

Drop Cap t the Laggan Locks we even caught up with the Ailsa Craig Castle, with Mike and Steve, another boat we have been keeping company with and pulled into the pontoon behind them to wait for the "Lord of the Glens" to get through the lock.
This is an unbelievable sight, she is so huge it's like a block of flats coming up.
By the time she cleared the lock, Dunottar Castle had arrived and was tied up next to us to go through. The two Castles stopped at Laggan for showers while we pushed on.
We did a load of shopping at Well of the Seven Heads and returned to find them both gone. I hope they don't know something we don't.

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Wednesday 15th June, 2005

Drop Cap had no sooner gone over and had a shower yesterday afternoon, than it started to rain heavily and continued all night. We awoke to lovely sunshine this morning, but by the time we got through the Aberchalder Swing Bridge (which opened, thanks to the tall yacht ahead of us) it started to rain again and continued through Cullochy Lock which we shared with the "Scottish Highlander", a Dutch Barge Cruise Boat, as well as the yacht, and Kytra Lock, where we picked up two more Caleys, right up to Fort Augustus, where we have moored on the pontoon in front of the Top Lock to wait until the next locking.

Herbaceous Nessie photograph

"Nessie" and Family, Fort Augustus

Drop Cap ou really can't get away from the Monster in Loch Ness. When we reached the bottom lock we found a cute garden where they had sculpted "Nessie" and some little monsterlets in plants. I sometimes wonder what they would do if the monster suddenly erupted out of the loch and demanded royalties!

Drop Cap really am quite depressed by the weather. It can't seem to stay fine for a couple of hours without raining again, or else we will get nearly a day of fine and sudden change overnight.

Ft Augustus Swans photograph

Swan Family at Fort Augustus

Drop Cap he canal is so beautiful, too. From start to finish it has been spectacularly lovely. Better, I think, than the Mon and Brec because there is no domesticated foreground to the mountainous scenery. It is more immediately in your face.
As in all the canals we have been on the Caledonian has its resident swans, picturesquely posing and taking handouts. We saw a really lovely couple with a chick riding on mother's back, safely wrapped in her wings.
Later, Geoff began feeding them with stale bread rolls we had left over and they nearly pulled him over (obviously not feeding fast enough!)

The midges, however, I can well do without, I am a mass of itchy sores because I can't stop scratching them!


Drop Cap ombshell!

We checked our email this evening and found a message from Hamish at Capercaillie Cruisers, our next boat. Apparently a customer has managed to SINK the Ruffed Grouse, the boat we had booked. It will be laid up for repairs for several weeks, needing a new engine and probably a refit, because it was flooded to within two inches of the stove top.
He offered us a replacement, the Willow Grouse, older and a bit cheaper than Ruffed Grouse and we rang and accepted. He was prepared to refund what we paid but that would have meant finding a week's accommodation somewhere else. And we really do want to go on the Falkirk Wheel.

Drop Cap o that is interesting. We have been trying to figure out how one can sink a narrowboat!

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Thursday 16th June, 2005

Swan feeding photograph

Geoff Feeding the Swans at Ft. Augustus

Swan feeding photograph

Not Feeding Fast Enough

Drop Cap t was not raining this morning - Hallelujah! So we got out in good time and led a flotilla of Caley boats into Loch Ness. We were soon well spaced out and we didn't hurry as we crossed the Loch. We had intended to call in at Urquhart Castle this time but their pier only held one boat and it was occupied by a big Caley "Highland Glen II", which has aggressively jumped queues, (or maybe didn't even notice them) all week.

Loch Ness Atmospherics photograph

Atmospherics on Loch Ness

Drop Cap o we continued on, arriving in the narrow channel before Dochgarroch Lock, just ahead of the "Jacobite Queen", a large tourist cruise boat. We were taking the channel very easily, not knowing the waters, and she came up behind us and hooted - I imagine it was just to let us know she was there - as if we hadn't noticed!

Drop Cap nyway, she surged past and got into the lock, which took her through and promptly closed for lunch, leaving at least four of us high and dry, so to speak. As there were no pontoon berthing spaces left (to wait at) because most of them had permanent residents, or were reserved for other vessels we tied up to another Caley cruiser and had lunch while we waited for the lock keeper to come back.

Drop Cap hen he did we all got into the lock and we led the flotilla out again. Once again, in the 6 mph canal between the lock and the swing bridge, we met "Jacobite Queen" coming back! We shed a couple of our flotilla, who berthed on the far side of the lock but three of us approached the swing bridge, the only one too low for us to get under.

Drop Cap he lady bridge master came down as we hooked on to a pontoon to wait, and said she would open the bridge when all three arrived. This she tried to do, twice closing the gates, then having to reopen, first for a police car under lights and siren, then for an ambulance! A busy day for emergency services. Finally got through and were on the approach to the Marina when there was a terrific crack and we found a little nick in the glass of a side window. We had been either shot at or a stone from a catapult or something. Kids!

Drop Cap o we got back in good time, got a refund of forty five pounds on the fuel bill and started packing up. Piles of laundry and no facilities. I hope we find a laundrette sometime in the next week.

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