Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Round GB 2021, Day 54. Through the Crinan Canal.

I was off at 08:30 sharp as soon as the staff came on duty. They phone ahead to the first bridge, not far distance, so that they can have it open as you arrive. The whole operation is well organised, each bridge is operated by staff and they call ahead so that the person at the next bridge will be ready and have the bridge open so you pass straight through, probably to the annoyance of drivers and others wanting to cross. "Floating" staff on bicycles assisted by the freelance "Pilots" also coordinate movements to optimise traffic flow and water used by the locks.

Being early and lucky I did not have to wait for other boats coming in my direction until lock one and only had minimal waits for boats coming the other way.

Achilles 9 metres "Sancerre" in the Crinan Canal
Immediately above Lock 14 the canal is narrow and there is a blind
bend so it is a good job that the staff at lock 14 and the bridge talk to
each other, what was done in the 19th century with Clyde Puffers
going in both directions I have no idea.
Achilles 9 metres "Sancerre" in the Crinan Canal
The River Add estuary that runs alongside the canal for the first
few miles.
A9m Achilles Sancerre in the Crinan Canal
Looking back at the Bellanoch Bridge the 2nd and last one 
before the first flight of locks
A9m Achilles Sancerre in the Crinan Canal
With no waiting at the bridges it takes about 40 minutes to get to the first lock where I was to meet up with the very efficient Charlie Ambrose, the freelance "Pilot" who was to help me through by taking my lines, when locking up passed on the end of a long boat hook,  and operating the lock. The pilots do not actually come on board but go ahead on their push bikes. This would be a good way of doing it for a crewed boat, optimally one crew member going ahead, a second to handle the bow line, the skipper can usually handle the stern line.

NOTE: Since my transit it has been made mandatory for boats with less than three crew to employ a "Pilot" who may work more than one boat through.

Single handed in the boat, you do have to be organised with two long lines, one to the bow and back to a cockpit winch and one aft, also to a winch, you certainly have to pay attention and you literally have your hands full so there are no pictures! It must be hard work, and potentially dangerous on a big motor boat without winches although without a keel the pressures would be less than on a comparably sized sailing boat. 

Going up, the water is very turbulent and you have to juggle the lines to keep the boat in place. Going down is a much more placid affair unless a rope jambs and the boat is left hanging as the water disappears, best to have a very good knife available just in case. Scottish Canals publish a good guide on how to do it here https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Crinan-Skippers-Guide-Web-Version-Aug-17.pdf (downloads as a PDF).
Achilles 9 metres "Sancerre" in the Crinan Canal
Waiting a few minutes in lock 13 for a boat coming the other way
that must have come part of the way the day before or earlier,
not a big deal as you can the then go straight into the lock
making up time.
A9m Achilles Sancerre in the Crinan Canal
A9m Achilles Sancerre in the Crinan Canal
Past Oakfield (Miller's) Bridge, almost there.
A9m Achilles Sancerre in the Crinan Canal
A few minutes later and Loch Fyne comes into view.
Charlie left me at lock 4, just above Ardrishaig as canal staff with the help of contractors finalising the upgrading of these lochs, would take my lines and operate the locks and bridges from there on. I had expected a 30 minute wait after this lock as another boat was coming up so I moored the boat and did 15 minutes of shopping getting back to the boat to find the boat was after all not coming, so off I went again through Lock 2 where I had to wait for two boats to catch me up so we could go out of the sea locks together. That delayed me for about 40 minutes so I was out of the sea lock at about 3 o'clock.
Leaving Ardrishaig into Loch Gilp and then Loch Fyne.

Slide show of all my pictures going through the Crinan Canal, page through by clicking the arrows or click in the centre of the pic to view from Flickr in a new window or full screen:

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