It felt like our adventure was about to begin, with a full tank of fuel, the engine throbbing with anticipation and with lines at the ready, Fyne Explorer was waiting to be cast off. Finally, after weeks of lockdown regulations our bright yellow ship would be on her way to her new home, dreaming of an exciting future ahead. A future with Fyne Sea Tours bestowing Argyll’s beauty to all who will be boarding her.
From Coal at Whitehaven to Smugglers at Girvan
Leaving Whitehaven Marina in perfect weather conditions, the passage to Portavadie Marina situated on Loch Fyne had begun.
Historical Whitehaven had been Fyne Explorer’s home throughout Lockdown Three, with its Georgian architecture and right angled streets which many historians believe New York’s road network was based. The development of the harbour started at the beginning of the Irish coal trade. In 1634 Sir Christopher Lowther built a stone jetty now known as the Old Quay. It is one of the oldest remaining coal wharves in Britain.
Navigating up the coast, on his starboard side, Captain Martin could observe sweeping Luce Bay which is 20 miles wide, used as a location for a bombing range for RAF training purposes from the 1930s to the 1990s, then the prominence of the Mull of Galloway which is Scotland’s most southerly point and passed the pretty village of Portpatrick with its subtropical plant life that flourishes due to the Gulf Stream flowing in from the north. Continuing to motor passed Corsewall Lighthouse near Stranraer, placed here in 1816 for the directing of vessels between the Firth and the Irish Channel and aiming for Ailsa Craig before entering into the harbour of Girvan, on the east coast of the Firth of Clyde.
An 80 mile passage of stunning views taking seven hours.
With its near-vertical sides and rounded peak, Ailsa Craig, which means ‘Fairy Rock’ in Gaelic and resembling a giant currant bun looming out of the water, occupies a spot 10 miles to the west of Girvan. It was once a haven for smugglers who stashed tobacco, spirits and silk in the deep caves on its western shores. This contraband would then have been brought ashore in small boats that could navigate through the shallow water of Girvan’s harbour mouth. Originally a fishing port on the east coast of the Firth of Clyde in Ayrshire, Girvan, with its splendid beach and cliffs, became a resort destination by the end of the 1850s due to the introduction of the railway network.
Whilst Fyne Explorer proceeded on her passage I, as ‘back up team’ accompanied by Crystal, the Reluctant Sea Dog, experienced similar stunning scenery as we drove from Whitehaven to Girvan. The B road after passing through Dumfries, a proposed route suggested by my sat nav, with its passing places and cattle grids provided a relaxing and enjoyable drive through undulating countryside, despite the slow tractors and stray sheep to navigate.
Half Way There
With the first leg of the passage under our belt, safely secured along side the jetty at Girvan Harbour, both of us sat in the cockpit with a well earned alcoholic beverage, watching the sun fall with the mouth watering aroma of fish and chips in the air, we were experiencing feelings of not only relief but also anticipated satisfaction. This Evolution 40, semi displacement boat weighing eight tonnes with a 620 hp engine, hopefully was to have been a good purchase. With her bigger cockpit, seating outside and inside and a heated wheelhouse our guests on board would feel comfortable and safe.
Awesome Argyll, Here We Come
On Day Two, after a walk on the beach to give Crystal the opportunity to stretch her legs we re-commenced our journeys by boat and car northwards up to Portavadie.
Fyne Explorer headed in a northwest direction, in continuing favourable weather conditions into the Sound of Pladda to then hug the east coast of the Isle of Arran. On a day to day basis, the rugged outline of Arran majestically dominates the scenery in this area. Today was no different. Captain Martin was utilising time whilst in these waters to determine shore accessibility at Lamlash, a village on Arran, in a sheltered bay facing Holy Island, in preparation for a commercial booking a few days hence.
The start of my journey unfortunately was less spectacular as I drove inland meeting up with the M8 passed Glasgow Airport. Not impressed by any eye catching views, Crystal put her head down and slept. Luckily I received my share of awe inspiring scenery driving up the west shores of Loch Lomond, round the head of Loch Long, over the Rest and Be Thankful mountain pass, absorbing the views of Loch Fyne heading back down south towards Portavadie.
After years of taking on the role of ‘back up team’ whilst moving boats from one safe haven to another I have perfected the art of arriving at the designated port just in time to catch boat and crew on a jetty, hammer head or finger. Fyne Explorer after her three hour passage, safely entered Portavadie to be greeted by myself and Crystal, who at this point was more interested in the abandoned mussel shells left on the jetty by the herring gulls.
Now our adventure really begins!
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