At the start of August I was given the fantastic opportunity to take a group of young people from Govanhill sailing on the West coast of Scotland. They were to take part in a Royal Yachting Association (R.Y.A) Competent Crew course, the excursion was funded by W.S.R.E.C (West of Scotland Regional Equality Council) , Roma youth Project and conducted by Rival Sailing.
Here is a link to a short video our team of young sailors made; please check it out they worked extremely hard to produce this!
The original Plan had been a possible sail to Northern Ireland, but it was quickly decided that would be a potentially very dangerous voyage given the fiercely changeable weather we have experienced this summer brought on by the El Nino effect. Our group set off from Glasgow to the Isle of Bute and the port town of Rothesay (which is a place of great intrigue and historical preservation, but I’ll get to that later) to meet the skipper of our Yacht ‘The East end Endeavour’. Sam from Rival sailing met us at the marina just next to where the ferry ports, it was Sunday and although we set off at lunch time the day was getting on. The rest of the day would be dedicated to getting kitted out and familiar with water proofs, safety equipment and the general layout and features of the Yacht. The group I was with were also tasked with making a film about their experience so now was a good time to get some establishing shots.
Getting to Bute on the Cal-Mac, our group on board the ferry and getting kitted out and ready to film.
Monday was an early start given the excitement of sleeping on the boat on the night previous (It must have been 2am before everyone really went to sleep and various ghost stories were doing the rounds as the wind and rain lashed down in the night) 9am was all hands on deck and ready to sail. Our first sail out of Rothesay was a short one down to the Holy Loch.
Its name is believed to date from the 6th century, when Saint Munn landed there after leaving Ireland. Kilmun Parish Church and Argyll Mausoleum is said to stand where Saint Munn’s church was once located. By the 15th century, the significance of Kilmun as a local centre of Christianity was so great that the adjacent loch became known as the Holy Loch, and the powerful Clan Campbell adopted it as their spiritual home.
The wind wasn’t too bad on our first voyage, waters relatively calm and the sun even made an appearance as we passed by the Dunoon shipping lane! That didn’t stop three of our young sailors from becoming casualties to some severe sea sickness. Having not found their sea legs it was minestrone cuppa soup off the starboard bow. Vomiting on boats is contagious. One of the boys, who had previously been fine was turning green after holding on to one of the girls at the starboard side and was on the verge of bellowing himself. It was managing to turn my normally strong constitution also.
Under way via the mainsail, leaving Rothesay behind and a grand house on entering the Holy Loch.
After not much longer we arrived at the Holy Loch Marina, which allowed for a stunning view of a sunset behind the rolling hills and some course work involving the dinghy. Part of the course was using the small boat with oars and a motor so the kids had to be able to get it in the water and use it to get ashore, this would be essential as two of our nights had to be spent at a mooring and at anchor.
First time on the Helm and gathering shots for the film.
Getting some time on the small boat with oars and an out board motor as observed by the local Swans. This is part of the course and essential in emergencies and getting ashore whilst under anchor or at a mooring.
The moon that night hung particularly low, was huge on the horizon and a stunning yellow.
The wind picked up that night to a gale, my cabin at the bow of the boat had a small porthole at either side and a skylight hatch which was obscured by the small inflatable strapped to the bow. I had been awoken by the rattling and banging caused by the gale and was engaged in some course reading. At about 2am I was made aware of someone on the deck of the yacht. My inability to see out of the skylight because of the small dinghy strapped to it reminded me on the William Shatner episode of The Twilight light zone on the plane. I bricked it, switched off my cabin light and waited with bated breath in my narrowed field of view from the tiny porthole window. I finally see legs (which seemed to belong to our skipper) which was a relief; my biggest fear is waiting, just waiting for a face to appear right in the window! What can I say, Alien had me terrified for about a decade and I always go to the worst possible case first and work backwards! The next morning a few of the crew had said they heard the same mysterious footsteps when Sam appears from the stern cabin to say ‘Yes! The boat was swinging in the gale so I had to tighten it up and add an extra Bow and Stern line for support’. Our day was to consist of manuvers in the Holy Loch marina as the conditions were still unforgiving. The crew had to practice how to berth safely on a pontoon, tie up, including the extra berth and stern lines for heavy conditions and navigate in and out the marina safely under engine. As the weather started to let up we moved on to getting the main sail up as quickly as possible. After everyone was quite literally ‘shown the ropes’ we set off to Rhu marina. The weather had sucked out a huge section of the day but we did manage to put it to good use with lots of practical practice.
Getting to terms with all aspects of berthing and moving away. Including tightening and letting loose the ropes via the cleats on the marina in difficult weather, starting the engine and moving out of the marina under power then getting ready the sails.
This short sail left time to dedicate to the film. Our young director Valeria the very young age of 15 years of age is probably one of the most switched on young people I’ve ever met. All the kids were involved in the film but she really took charge and made it ‘her problem’ to make sure all the shots were captured and reviewed. Probably next most heavily involved in the film was David who was 17, ensuring all the sound on the off board boom was captured properly and keeping people entertained between takes.
Tuesday would take us to Rhu marina in a picturesque location on the side of the Gareloch on the north side of the Firth of Clyde. This day was dedicated mostly to doing practical bits and bobs like checking the engine oil and water tanks, filling them up etc. Also we got down and familiar with a few very handy knots, which when sailing are essential.
The bowline is the king of sailing knots. It has been in use by sailors continuously for at least 500 years. Simply put, the bowline is way of turning the end of your line into a loop. Why is this useful? You can tie it around a post or other fixed object to make the line fast, or on smaller boats it is used fasten the halyard to the sail. It can also be used to tie two lines together. It has a number of practical uses as well, such as hanging a hammock. Under pressure the bowline tightens, so it won’t give way. However, note that it’s impossible to untie while bearing a load!
HOW TO TIE IT:
Step 1: Form a loop near the end of the line. (How much of the line you leave will depend on how big you want the final knot to be.)
Step 2: Run the end of the line back through that loop.
Step 3: Next, run the line around the standing end and back through the small loop.
Step 4: Now grasp the end and pull the knot tight.
Step 5: You should have a large loop now! Congratulations, you’ve tied a bowline.
2. Clove Hitch
A clove hitch is an extremely useful and quick knot. It has the advantage of being very quick to tie and untie, but it doesn’t hold nearly as well as the bowline. On sailboats, one of its most common uses is hanging the fenders over the side as you come in to dock.
HOW TO TIE IT:
Step 1: Wrap the end of the line around the post (or whatever you’re attaching it to).
Step 2: Cross the line over itself and wrap it around the post again.
Step 3: Loosen the last wrap slightly and slip the end under, then pull it taut. This is a way of “locking” the knot.
Step 4: Give it a few tugs to make sure it’s secure, and you’re done!
3. Cleat Hitch
This type of knot is designed especially for one purpose, and I bet you can guess what that is. If you said, “Making the line fast to a cleat,” you were correct. As you might imagine, this is used all the time on a sailboat, whether you’re docking, towing a dinghy, or rigging a preventer. Knowing how to do it will make you a much handier sailing companion!
HOW TO TIE IT:
Step 1: Make a wrap around the base of the cleat. Begin your wrap on the edge furthest away from where the line originates.
Step 2: Make a figure 8 on the cleat. If the line is going to be under a lot of pressure and the cleat is big enough, repeat this two or three times.
Step 3: Add a hitch to the final turn to lock it. Do this by making a loop with the tail end underneath, hook it around the cleat, and pull taut. The tail end should be pointing away from the line’s origin.
All of that took a fair bit of time then we got stuck into some more boat maintenance, the galley was cleared out and food stores emptied and refilled to make an itinerary of what we had and would need. Essential skills not just on a boat but for everyday life. These teens were getting the whole ‘be domestically organised’ routine to not waste food or over stock and also plan meals and delegate tasks to each other. What was left of Tuesday was left over for some course reading and film making. It was an early bed as Wednesday was going to be a beast! There was a minimum of 100 nautical miles for the course and 4 hours night sailing. The morning took us to Port Glasgow past the submarine lanes and the wreck of MV Captayannis.
She is currently acting as a bird sanctuary, but for those of you who are interested here are her facts;
- Area: Sand bank between Greenock and Helensburgh
- Location: River Clyde Scotland UK
- Position: 55°58′34″N 4°44′31″WCoordinates: 55°58′34″N 4°44′31″W
- Depth: 9.00
- Year Sank: 1974
- How Sank: Hit anchor chain of another ship.
- Condition: Substantially intact
Wreck of MV Captayannis, with her Cormorant residents.
On the evening of 27 January 1974, a severe storm caused the vessel to drag her anchor while she was waiting at the Tail of the Bank to deliver sugar to the James Watt Dock in Greenock. Her captain ordered the engines to be started with the intention of running for the more sheltered waters of the Gareloch but before she could be brought to power she drifted onto the taught anchor chains of the BP tanker British Light. The tanker suffered no damage but her anchor chains holed the sugar boat below the waterline, allowing water to pour in.
Captayannis’s captain, realising that water was flowing in so fast that she was in imminent danger of sinking, opted to beach her in the shallow waters over the sandbank and steered to the desired spot where she stuck fast. The pilot boats, the tug Labrador and Clyde Marine Motoring’s Rover came to assist. The vessel heeled over so far that it was possible for the crew to jump onto the deck of the diminutive passenger vessel. 25 of the crew were taken ashore aboard the Rover, but the Captain and four crewmen waited on the Labrador, standing off the stricken vessel. The ship finally succumbed the next morning, rolling onto her side. She has lain there ever since. Most, if not all of her more valuable metals and fittings have been removed by looters, leaving just her steel hull and superstructure, though some of her wooden decking remains in remarkably good condition after more than 40 years in the sea. Her hull remains sound, though her thinner deck plates are starting to rust through with holes opening up in places. Through time Captayannis has become ‘home’ to marine life and birds. She has never been removed as confusion surrounds the identity of her owners and insurers – no-one accepts responsibility for her removal. Plans to have her blown up were shelved as there were fears about damage to nearby bird sanctuary, Ardmore Point. The wreck is a familiar site near the Tail of the Bank and can be seen on satellite images. It is not to be confused with that of the French warship Maillé Brézé which sank nearby in 1940 but was later removed and cut up in Port Glasgow in 1956.
She is known to many locals simply as the “sugar boat”.
Details taken from Wikipedia.
I managed to get some nice photos of Cormorants who were resting on what used to be the side of the wreck and railings. Port Glasgow is very busy so it was very carefully under engine this was done. Our stop served only as a 20 minute shower stop off then it was back to Rhu for a rest before our night sail. In the small sheltered marina the weather seemed not too bad as dusk fell, as we left port however the mist came down and with it a good serving of rain. The crew was split into two groups. First up were the girls. Now some background. Most of the kids I got the impression didn’t truly know what they signed up for before the trip started. The girls in particular looked like they would freak when the actually got on the boat and got stuck in. Because as glamorous as yachting seems; it is essentially being trapped on a caravan in the water! ALLLLLLLL that aside they were fully (you will excuse the pun) onboard for this night sail, even 2 hours in. When the rain was lashing and the wind and swells where up (force 8 at one point) they insisted on staying on deck longer before waking up the boys. When we did sign off it was 3 hours in, I don’t know how Sam does it. Anyway the guys took over and I got out of my soaked but well sported Team Zissou hat from the life aquatic and bedded down in my tiny cave at the Bow.
We woke to a glorious day on Thursday. All week the weather had played havoc and changed constantly. The plan for the day was to sail up and round the Kyles of Bute and past the isle of Arran to set anchor at Great Cumbrae. The weather stayed up as we sailed To the Burnt Islands at the north of Bute. Bute is divided in two by the Highland Boundary Fault. North of the fault the island is hilly and largely uncultivated with extensive areas of forestry. The highest hill is Kames Hill at 267 metres. To the south of the fault the terrain is smoother and highly cultivated although in the far south is to be found the island’s most rugged terrain around Glen Callum. Loch Fad is Bute’s largest body of freshwater and runs along the fault line. The Burnt Islands is the collective title for three small islands that lie in the Kyles of Bute off the west coast of the Scottish mainland.
More small boat practice under anchor in the Kyles of Bute and an old beacon.
Individually the Islands are known by their Gaelic names. From the largest to the smallest they are Eilean Mòr (Large Island),Eilean Fraoich (Heather Island) and Eilean Buidhe (Yellow Island). Oddly only the smallest of these tiny islets, Eilean Buidhe, shows any sign of ever having been permanently inhabited having the remains of a vitrified fort on it. Eilean Mòr, huge in comparison supports only a little stunted woodland at its northern end.
All water going traffic that travels through the Kyles has to negotiate either the narrow sound that separates Eilean Buidhe from Eilean Mòr and Eilean Fraoich or pass south of the islands, via the Wood Farm buoy. The narrows, which are the principal route for commercial traffic, are marked by four light buoys, two on each side.
Another yacht navigating the tight pass into the narrows of the Kyles of Bute.
It is here; it is said the Vikings burned their dead after their defeat at the battle of Largs and again for those interested here is the history;
The Battle of Largs (2 October 1263) was an indecisive engagement between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland near Largs, Scotland. The conflict formed part of the Norwegian expedition against Scotland in 1263, in which Hakon Hakonarson, King of Norway attempted to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western seaboard of Scotland. Since the beginning of the 12th century this region had lain within the Norwegian realm, ruled by magnates who recognised the overlordship of the Kings. However, in the mid-13th century, two Scottish kings, Alexander II and his son Alexander III, attempted to incorporate the region into their own realm. Following failed attempts to purchase the islands from the Norwegian king, the Scots launched military operations. Hakon responded to the Scottish aggression by leading a massive fleet from Norway, which reached the Hebrides in the summer of 1263. By the end of September, Hakon’s fleet occupied the Firth of Clyde, and when negotiations between the kingdoms broke down, he brought the bulk of his fleet to anchor off The Cumbraes.
On the night of 30 September, during a bout of particularly stormy weather, several Norwegian vessels were driven aground on the Ayrshire coast, near the present-day town of Largs. On 2 October, while the Norwegians were salvaging their vessels, the main Scottish army arrived on the scene. Composed of infantry and cavalry, the Scottish force was commanded by Alexander of Dundonald, Steward of Scotland. The Norwegians were gathered in two groups: the larger main force on the beach and a small contingent atop a nearby mound. The advance of the Scots threatened to divide the Norwegian forces, so the contingent upon the mound ran to rejoin their comrades on the beach below. Seeing them running from the mound, the Norwegians on the beach believed they were retreating, and fled back towards the ships. Fierce fighting took place on the beach, and the Scots took up a position on the mound formerly held by the Norwegians. Late in the day, after several hours of skirmishing, the Norwegians were able to recapture the mound. The Scots withdrew from the scene and the Norwegians were able to reboard their ships. They returned the next morning to collect their dead.
The weather was deteriorating, and Hakon’s demoralised forces turned for home. Hakon’s campaign had failed to maintain Norwegian overlordship of the seaboard, and his native magnates, left to fend for themselves, were soon forced to submit to the Scots. Three years after the battle, with the conclusion of the Treaty of Perth, Magnus Hakonarson, King of Norway ceded Scotland’s western seaboard to Alexander III, and thus the centuries-old territorial dispute between the consolidating kingdoms was at last settled.
A scene from the Battle of Largs from a Scottish troops perspective.
Although the Battle of Largs was apparently not considered a significant event by contemporaries, later partisan historians transformed it into an event of international importance. Today, most scholars no longer subscribe to such a view, and instead accord it just an important place in the failed Norwegian campaign.
The battle is commemorated in Largs in the form of an early 20th-century monument and the festivities which have been held there annually since the 1980s.
We dropped anchor for the first time at the very north of the Kyles at the Burnt Islands. Some more small boat practice in and we were off, down the North side to pass the Isle of Arran.
Isle of Arran / Coordinates
55.5735° N, 5.2533° W
The Isle of Arran as we seen it under sail.
Although it is culturally and physically similar to the Hebrides, it is separated from them by the Kintyre peninsula. Arran is divided into highland and lowland areas by the Highland Boundary Fault and it has been described as a “geologist’s paradise”. Arran has been continuously inhabited since the early Neolithic period, and numerous prehistoric remains have been found. From the 6th century onwards, Goidelic-speaking peoples from Ireland colonised the island and it became a centre of religious activity. During the troubled Viking Age, Arran became the property of the Norwegian crown before becoming formally absorbed by the kingdom of Scotland in the 13th century. The 19th century “clearances” led to significant depopulation and the end of the Gaelic language and way of life.
The economy and population have recovered in recent years, the main industry being tourism. There is diversity of wildlife, including three species of tree endemic to the area.
Our spectacular day in the sun was accompanied by some music; the crew had some Roma music on but kept asking if anyone had Michael Jackson, unusually for me I didn’t. We found one song that was repeated then Sam put on the album ‘Grit’ by the Scottish and dance experimental piper and producer Martyn Bennett. Who was influential in the evolution of modern Celtic fusion, a blending of traditional Celtic and modern music as well as Celtic poetry and Native American song. One of his songs was featured this year in Danny MacAskill’s video ‘The Ridge’. Which is awesome and deserves a watch. Link below
Danny MacAskill’s ‘The Ridge’. (it didn’t get 37 million views because its rubbish!)
Martyn Bennett; Native American, Gaelic fusion. Oran nam mogaisean (Indian moccasin song).
And finally a song written about the vessel; The Eastend Endeavour by Glasgow rock band Figure 5 ‘Rock of Gibraltar’.
I didn’t think this style of music would have gone down well with our young crew but oddly enough they bloody loved it. It really was perfect for sailing in the stunning scenery of the Hebrides in the sun! The final leg of our sail as the sun began to draw down behind Arran and Lock Fyne was a cruise past the largely uninhabited Island of Little Cumbrae. The Gaelic name Cumaradh means “place of the Cymric people”, referring to the Brittonic-speaking inhabitants of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Alternatively, the name Cumbrae may derive from Kil Maura meaning “cell or church of a female saint”.
lies barely a kilometre to the south of its larger neighbour, Great Cumbrae,which was to be our anchorage for the night, a few kilometres distant from the mainland town of Largs. The islands are collectively referred to as The Cumbraes. In stark contrast to its neighbour, green and fertile Great Cumbrae, Little Cumbrae is a rough and rocky island. With its many cliffs and rocky outcrops, Little Cumbrae bears more of a resemblance to a Hebridean island than to some of its neighbours in the Clyde.
James Ewing built the first Little Cumbrae lighthouse on the top of Lighthouse Hill in 1757. This was the second lighthouse in Scotland. An open fire was lit at the top of a circular stone tower. Remains of this old structure can still be seen.
The traditional Cumbrae Lighthouse was built in 1793 by Thomas Smith under commission from the Commissioners of the Northern Lights. The lighthouse lies on a broad raised beach on the western shore of the island looking out into the Firth. It had a foghorn, slipway, jetty, and boathouse. The original oil lamps were replaced by Argand lamps in 1826 and a solar-powered light was installed in 1974. The 1793 tower has been unused since 1997, with the light on 36-foot hexagonal/cylindrical tower adjacent to the old generator house.
Little Cumbrae’s now disused lighthouse and a Cormorant in the waters next to the Isle.
Little Cumbrae was privately purchased in 2003 and there were plans for its development as a memorial park, nature reserve and corporate escape.
The island was sold again in July 2009 for £2 million. The buyers of the island, Scottish millionaire couple of Indian extraction, Sarwan and Sunita Poddar, opened there a yoga and meditation centre with the help of yoga guru Swami Baba Ramdev. There have also been rumours of the new owners planning to rename it “Peace Island”, but those have been denied.
It was also a great place to get some late pictures of more seabirds and the sun setting behind the most southerly point of the Isle of Bute.
The tip of Bute as seen from Little Cumbrae.
This was to be our final night on the boat and was spent at anchorage off the main town Millport of the Island Great Cumbrae. Our crew had to get to shore on the small boat, something we had practiced a few times now. I thought I would get an hour of absolute peace and truth be told, some Ella Fitzgerald. Cause that’s how I roll now…ok! The small boat could only hold four and all five of the crew plus the additional worker wanted to go ashore, this meant two trips. Someone had to aid Sam with the second trip so it soon sank in that I wasn’t getting my jazz hour. When ashore we did get a nice strong coffee (probably not the best idea at 11pm) The crew went for a walk along the lovely sea front light by multi coloured festival bulbs and at midnight met us for the row back. Everyone was tired, it was Thursday and everyone wanted to go home. So it was decided at 1am that morning we would get up at 7am and just sail. Sail to Rothesay and get home asap for a nice bath and a sleep. I really was enjoying this so was a little disappointed the crew where so eager to leave, but when I woke we were sailing past Largs in the morning sunshine. A coffee under sail and breakfast made by the crew who were on top form sorted me out. It’s a short crossing but got some nice pictures of the large passenger ferry as we passed it and some sailors already underway. I even got two (uneventful) photos of Porpoise as they passed by us.
Early morning some yachts are under way, the passenger ferry to the mainland, Porpoise just off Bute.
Before long the sails where down and engine on as we drew into port at Rothesay. Breakfast and showers where had before I insisted both genders go up for a gander at the Victorian Gentleman’s toilets. Yes you can go see them if your female so don’t be scared to ask.
Only a few steps from the embarkation gangway on Rothesay Pier, Isle of Bute, lies the most impressive surviving late Victorian public convenience in Scotland, if not Britain.
Commissioned by Rothesay Harbour Trust in 1899 during Rothesay’s hey-day as a holiday resort, the gent’s lavatory, a most unusual survivor of the Victorian era, was always intended to impress.
The interior is magnificent with walls entirely clad in decorative ceramic tiles, ornately patterned in rows. The floors are designed with ceramic mosaic, with the crest of the Royal Burgh of Rothesay at the entrance. The complex is run on behalf of Argyll & Bute Council by Bute Victoriana Ltd., a Community Business with charitable status formed under the auspices of Bute Enterprises Ltd. Nowadays they are not only an important public facility but are a major element among the facilities at the harbour attracting yachts people and other leisure sailors to Rothesay. Fourteen urinals stand like sentinels along two walls, another six surround a central stand – each a white enamel alcove topped with the legend “Twyfords Ltd. Cliffe Vale Potteries, Hanley” and crowned with imitation dark green St Anne marble.
Three glass sided cisterns feed water to the the urinals through shining copper pipes. Nine WC cubicles with plain panelled doors complete layout. Apart from the cisterns in the cubicles all the original fitments remain as supplied in 1899 by Twyfords Ltd. Glasgow for £530.
They were prevented from being ripped out in the 1970’s by locals who wanted to preserve this example of Victorian indulgence. The upkeep requires a donation of 50 pence but it’s the best 50 pence you’ll spend on Bute!
All the previous night’s chat of wanting to get home early had faded and now pleas of wanting to stay till Sunday started to emerge. There were definite ups, downs and learning curves over the week but we emerged at the end with some young people who wanted to do more sailing. Not only do they now know the basics of being on a yacht and having some handy knots at their disposal; They now know how to be more organised personally, as part of a group and how plan meals, deck shifts etc. etc. etc. All stuff that’s going to be vital at any time in life but particularly in University, College or even now at school! It’s hopefully also given them the confidence to try new things and discover amazing opportunities by just having the will and courage to try new things and take risks.
Special thanks to the funders W.S.R.E.C., Cash Back for Communities Youth Work Fund, Esmee Fair Bairn Foundation, Embrace, Glasgow Life Vibrancy Fund, Roma Youth Project and Young Start.
Special Thanks also to Rival Sailing for making the experience unique and unforgettable.
If you are interested in sailing they cater for all abilities and can be contacted via the above address!
If you would like your community group, activity or business to have a feature article please get in touch with Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org tel; 07903152283.
For those interested I also have an independent blog if you wish to check it out;
and my photo website;