The alarm woke us on Saturday morning after two and a half hours sleep, and Julian had fixed the electrics before I even finished dressing. The battery that we had left in use for the bilge pump was flat, and although I had tried out the other battery I had also moved the switch on the fuse box to “shore” not “battery”. I'd forgotten the lowest switch on the fuse box did something different to the others when trying them in the dark.
We got the engine on using battery 2, then switched to charge battery 1 before we dropped the mooring and left Arfern. I helmed while Julian put the kettle on, then it started to rain so he stayed below and made tea, since I already had full oilskins on. He also made porridge, using the remains of the hot water from the tea making. This turned out to be a bad idea and he made lumpy porridge for the first time ever; we've never been able to work out why people complain about porridge being lumpy, how we know how its done! He asked where the salt was, and I told him, but he did not find it so there was no salt in the porridge. It had stopped raining while the porridge cooked, so we both ate in the cockpit, and the hot food was welcome despite a couple of lumps Julian had not been able to get rid of.
Julian went back to bed for half an hour while I motored down Loch Craignish. It was flat calm in the shelter of the Loch; the clouds lifted and the sun came out to make for a beautiful morning. I turned towards Crinan and could feel a light breeze in my face as Robinetta began to lift in a slight swell. I was beginning to wonder where I should be heading when Julian got up and put the bed away. I wanted his local knowledge as to where the entrance to the lock lay, so he put his oilskin trousers on and came on deck. A yacht came through the Dorus Mor and passed us heading towards Crinan, and another was already waiting outside the lock. A double ended open boat towing an inflatable dinghy came off a mooring by the canal entrance as we reached the lock at 0930. At first I thought that the dinghy's outboard was powering it since it was snubbed in really close, but closer inspection revealed a inboard diesel, and a gaff sail on the mast.
After a short wait the four of us plus 2 towed dinghys headed into the lock. It felt like quite a tight squeeze, and I tied Worm up close along side as soon as we were tied up in the lock. On inspection the double ender turned out to be clinker built. That made two wooden gaffers and two GRP bermudans in the lock. I'm not sure if its significant that both gaffers were towing dingies...
Julian asked for another fender to keep the bow off the stone of the lock, so I gave him the one that was keeping Worm off Robinetta. That meant I needed to move Worm's own fender into position instead; it was lying inside Worm, but on the other side of her. I got the boat hook and lent down over Robinetta's cap rail to reach it, and heard something crack. I don't know if I've cracked a rib, some cartilage, or just bruised it, but I definitely damaged some part of my rib cage. It's pretty painful!
The Crinan Sea Lock is operated electrically, as is the next lock, just above the basin. We went through in convoy, and were released into a surprisingly narrow canal at 1030. It felt more suitable for narrow boats than yachts, and the Crinan Canal Guide mentions that its a good idea for larger yachts to check with them that there are no boats going in the other direction! We passed the first bridge, hardly more than a footbridge on rollers, then the canal widened out at the Bellanoch Marina. The largest of the GRP boats stopped here, and our reduced convoy headed on through the Bellanoch Bridge. The speed limit is 4 knots, so Robinetta had no problems keeping up with the remaining GRP boat, and the double ender kept up too.
It began to rain, so I handed the helm to Julian and went below to put the kettle on. The Dunardry Lock flight appeared before it boiled, so I took the helm again so Julian would be free to climb the ladder with the ropes. In the event there was someone there to throw them to, so he did not need to. I had to dash below and wet the tea, and by the time I got back up he had gone up the ladder to help with the lock gates, leaving me to manage the ropes as we rose. At least I got to drink my tea while it was hot, but I did not enjoy the moving around to manage the ropes with my ribs hurting. I did not have a chance to retie Worm alongside either.
I virtually single handed Robinetta up the flight, with Julian helping out ashore. It turned out that all three boats in the lock were heading for Cairnbaan for the winter. The GRP one was owned by Adam Way, the boatyard's operator, and being very familiar with the canal he operated all the locks quickly with help from Julian and a lady who jogged between the locks. The Dunardry locks are not a flight, but 5 separate locks with basins between, and Julian stayed ashore to close the lock gates behind us as there was another little convoy close behind. That left me alone to reset the ropes every time, but there was no wind, and the basins were large enough to let me go forward and retrieve the bow line so I could throw it without worrying about Robinetta drifting off course. The constant moving round stopped my ribs stiffening up, and I was moving more freely by the time we got to the top of the flight at 1240 than I was at the bottom.
I picked Julian up from the pontoon at the top of the Dunardry Locks and we motored along the top of the canal to the Cairnbaan Locks. There are four of these, separated by basins, and once again Julian wanted me to single hand through them while he stayed ashore to work the locks. I persuaded him that I needed help managing the ropes as the lock emptied, so he stayed aboard until we reached the bottom, then climbed the ladder and helped open the gates, before casting me off and staying to reset the lock for the next convoy.
I found it pretty stressful managing Robinetta and Worm alone between locks, being in pain and not having had enough sleep, and ended up shouting at Julian at lock number 7 when he did something I was not expecting. He does not like it when I loose patience with him in front of an audience! Despite the contretemps the convoy team worked well, and we were moored up at Cairnbaan by 1405, well before our deadline! Once we were securely moored Julian and I headed for the hotel for an overdue lunch.