Saturday, 2 September 2017

Readying for Winter at Dunstaffnage Marina

Hi everyone,
We have spent the last two days preparing Zen Again for her winter stay ashore at Dunstaffnage Marina.  Here are the items ticked off the to-do list:
  • Cleaned below decks
  • Cleaned and aired cockpit lockers
  • Emptied water from the void below the chain locker
  • Derigged, dried and stowed jib, staysail and mainsail
  • Derigged and stowed the boom and rodkicker
  • Cleaned, dried and stowed running rigging
  • Removed and stowed over a dozen blocks from toe rails, boom and mast foot
  • Stowed anchor below
  • Stowed outboard below
  • Stowed side dodgers below
  • Disconnected electrical cables and antenna feeds at base of mast

Zen Again ready for haul-out
Boom stowed
At the marina itself we have arranged for the boat to be lifted out, derigged and the engine winterised this month.  She will stay ashore until April.

We arranged for a gas fitter to visit us this afternoon.  We hope to extend our system to fit a heater (probably a Dickinson P9000).

We also arranged for Owen Sails to inspect our sails and store them over winter.  We hope they will also be able to replace our standing rigging and do various other rigging jobs.

Our depth sounder has been misbehaving over the last two weeks.  The Raymarine ST40 unit is very old.  One of our two old Garmin chartplotters is also misbehaving.  We'll be thinking about replacement and how best to optimise our instrumentation over the next month or two.

At Dunstaffnage we've enjoyed two great meals at The Wide Mouthed Frog hotel restaurant.  We may stay there when we visit.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Western Caledonian Canal and Beyond

Hi everyone,
Zen Again is safely berthed in Dunstaffnage Marina near Oban.  This will be Zen Again's winter home this year.

On Tuesday we motored from Laggan Locks to Banavie on the Caledonian Canal.  This involved travelling down Loch Lochy and then through several miles of canal.  Both were very scenic.  Banavie is at the top of Neptune's Staircase - a flight of eight locks down to sea level.  The weather was showery with occasional sunny spells.  While the rain was very chilly the sun was very warm indeed.  And the colours ashore when the sun came out were amazing.

View to NE from Laggan Locks
Laggan Lock
Loch Lochy 
Loch Lochy
At the southern end of Loch Lochy lies Gairlochy which is a very pretty spot.  We had to wait there for an hour while the lock keeper was on her lunch break.

Waiting for the lock at Gairlochy
While waiting Ocean Spirit of Moray arrived too.  We had been near them in Inverness Marina and it was good to see them again.  They are owned by the public school (ie private!) Gordonstoun but had a set of students from a state school aboard for a sailing adventure.

Company in Gairlochy Lock
The canal between Gairlochy and Banavie
Ben Nevis to port 
Alongside at top of Neptune's Staircase
On Wednesday morning we were up and in the lock at 0800 to begin the 90 minute descent.  Going down in locks is much easier since the water leaves the chamber which is more or less turbulence-free.
Corpach Sea Lock
We returned to sea water at Corpach Sea Lock and headed down Loch Linnhe.  Perhaps we should have sailed but the prospect of two full days to prepare Zen Again for the winter took precedence.
Loch Linnhe
Approaching Corran Narrows
A few "light showers"
We arrived at Dunstaffnage Marina at 1600.  Although our holiday has felt like a delivery at times we really enjoyed the 3 day sail to Inverness and the Caledonian Canal was fantastic.

We spent today preparing Zen Again for the winter.  More on that in tomorrow's post!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Eastern Caledonian Canal

Hi everyone,
Day two in the canal saw us transit Loch Ness and along the canal from Fort Augustus to Kytra Lock. Sadly it was overcast for much of the day but the rain held off until evening.

After passing through Dochgarroch Lock we rafted alongside sv Taipan to show them Zen Again and share a cuppa.  Great to see them again.

From the lock we motored SW into Loch Ness.  There was a 20 knot wind blowing straight down the loch.  Tacking for the 20nm didn't look attractive so the donk did the work.  We went close past Urquhart Castle and admired the scenery which is spectacular even without much sunshine.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Loch Ness
Loch Ness
Fort Augustus is a pretty small town at the SW end of Loch Ness.  We lay alongside a pontoon for 20 minutes while waiting for the swing bridge.  After the swing bridge there is another flight of locks which lift boats almost to the level of Loch Oiche.  This flight is clearly a major tourist attraction with lots of people videoing our every move as we ascended from lock to lock.

Approaching Fort Augustus
In flight at Fort Augustus
Pretty buildings in Fort Augustus
From Fort Augustus we pushed on to Kyra Lock, about halfway to Loch Oich.  We lay alongside the pontoon just short of the lock as the gradually weather deteriorated.  The canal each side of Loch Oich is very pretty, as is the lock area itself.  Overnight it was quite windy and rainy.

Fort Augustus Reach
Zen Again at Kytra Lock
Day three in the canal saw us move further SW, transiting Loch Oich and Laggan Avenue to Laggan Lock.  The weather was distinctly inclement with steady cold rain and strong SW winds.

Rainy Loch Oich
Laggan Swing Bridge
Even in this weather Loch Oich was very pretty indeed.  Indeed the weather may have added to the atmosphere.  On arrival at Laggan Lock we were told the wind was blowing 35 knots out on Loch Lochy.  We decided we'd done enough for the day!

Laggan Avenue
Tomorrow we hope to move onward, through Loch Lochy to the Western Reach.