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Bowling 22nd August
22nd August, 2005
After the atrocious ride from Rothesay to Inverkip and the rain continuing through much of the night, today dawned bright and breezy. Actually it did seem a little too breezy for two old gits in an old boat but we were expected, so we were going. You see, yesterday afternoon, on arrival at Inverkip, we had telephoned waterways and made our booking for transit of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
We went to the Inverkip hotel last night but hadn't stayed that late so getting up wasn't even an effort. I'm sure that it won't last though.
I tramped off to shower but when I got there I was told by other abluters that the showers were cold. Now my heart won't let me do cold showers, so realising that the two shower cubicles in this block could not be sufficient for the 'premier marina facility in Scotland' their words, not mine, I went off to find another shower block. And these showers weren't cold. They weren't wet either. All showers were off because there had been a water main break in the village, and nothing could be done. Bugger!
So I returned to the boat newly cranky and oldly smelly.
After a quick breakfast, we headed off. We were to sail up the Clyde. The tides were just right and we planned to arrive at the entrance to the canal right at the top of the tide. I was so excited. I've not sailed the Clyde before.
Having cleared the buoyed channel out of the marina, we beat north under Yankee and reefed main and for a while we thought we might make the corner on a single board, but as we neared the lighthouse at Cloch Point we realised that we were tacking or aground.
A short tack out and we were clear to come back on port and run up the shore to Gourock. Drum, Simon le Bon's old boat was just coming out of the river. She is a big girl and surely moves in this sort of breeze.
By noon we were approaching Kempock Point and the entrance to the River Clyde proper. The paddle wheeler Waverly came roaring, huffing and splashing round the point and disappeared to the South bearing its load of day trippers. They would be seeing all the places that we had spent a week visiting, Campbeltown, Tarbert, Rothesay, in just one afternoon.
As we turned east and bore further away, we eased sail and hoisted the staysail. Then it was time to shake out the reef and we squared of for the run up the Clyde.
The Clyde is a big river, shifting massive amounts of fresh water, but before it was dredged one could almost walk across it. Get far outside the channel marks, a combination of buoys and solid beacons and you're on the bottom. Fortunately we could stay well within the channel as there was no traffic once we'd passed Whiteforeland Point and were traversing the Greenock shore.
The wind was very square and we gybed a number of times before we got to Port Glasgow. Then the small amount of North in the wind was just enough to keep us safe for the rest of the run up to Bowling.
We passed the castle of Newark, a grand house indeed. Now admit that you thought it was in Nottinghamshire. Well there is another one in Port Glasgow. We then passed Dumbarton castle which is actually in Dumbarton and should more correctly described as a very large rock with a house built beside it.
Now we were within sight of the old, wooden docks which surround the little harbour into which the Forth and Clyde spills. Of course, as the river narrowed, reducing the space available to round up and drop sails, so the wind increased requiring more space to round up and drop sails. Sod's law!
We had been studying the chart and instructions for entering the canal. The instructions are comprehensive and available on the internet. So we had already downloaded the PDF (interestingly identified as pdf.pdf) and pored over it in both sober and inebriated states and found it quite daunting.
There are admonitions concerning the 'multitude of sunken hulks' either side of the channel, dire warnings of hellfire and damnation if one strays from the channel marked by the leads and predictions of eternal stay on Clyde's own pergutorial mudbanks if one arrives beyond thirty seconds either side of high tide which 'cannot be accurately predicted owing to the quantity of fresh water coming down the river after heavy rain as far away as Latvia', my words, not theirs.
So we followed the leads from the river with some trepidation, watching carefully for the new leads marking the right-angled turn into the lock, expecting a bolt of lightning to strike us down should we move more than a centimetre or two from the divine path. And suddenly we were there. Eager hands were passing down lines to secure us fore and aft and we waited expectantly for the gates to close and the lock to raise us above the murky waters of the Clyde.
Billy, the lock keeper came up and told us that there was another boat expected and we should wait. We weren't sure where this other boat was coming from as the last part of the journey up the river is almost dead straight, you can see downriver for about five miles and we'd not seen another boat since Greenock.
We waited, and waited. We waited some more. Then at about ten minutes to four a blue motor fishing boat came into sight. She wasn't moving too fast either. The tide had already turned and she was punching a fair current.
Soon after 4.00o'clock she nuzzled in beside us and at last the gates closed and we started to rise to the level of the basin. It was a warm, sunny afternoon as we tied up alongside a big steel steam-powered cruiser and opened the beer. Tomorrow the mast comes out.
I wandered around the basin, in the evening drizzle, to look out across the harbour where we had come in to the lock. They were right about the hulks and the channel. Miss those leads and you're there for quite a while, I should think.