Daisy’s Cruise to the 2014 Commonwealth Games

The original plan had been to sail Daisy from her mooring in the Menai Striates via the Isle of Man and Ireland to Scotland for the 2014 Commonwealth Games Flotilla and a summer cruise around the Clyde and Inner Hebrides. But those thieves of time; work, uncertain weather and family commitments forced us to invoke Plan B, load Daisy onto her trailer and with a brief stop on the drive for some maintenance & polishing, Gordon & Stewart towed her to Largs Yacht Haven and rigged her. Elin and I took the train to Largs a few days later to find Daisy launched, basking in 30oC sunshine and ready for fun.    

After stowing gear, a thorough check of the rig and smoothies in a shaded café to rehydrate we motored out in to the Largs channel and motored around Great Cumbrae to check over our usually mutinous engine. The clean Scottish waters seemed to suit the “Beast” which started without protest on only the 4th pull and ran smoothly thereafter. Seals and Porpoises played in the currents and Elin found the hatch a great place to sit with the binoculars and spy ships and wildlife aplenty.

This little trip gave Elin the chance to get a feel for the scale of the inner Clyde, not quite the vast oceans Mum had got her fearing. Dinner was Elin’s concoction of flask cooked couscous with a Chorizo and tomato sauce. 

Flask Cooking
Flask cooking works well with couscous, rice and noodles. We use a 500ml (1pt) stainless steel food flask (£10 from Mountain Warehouse). 1/3 fill with couscous or 2/3 fill with Rice or Noodles, add a dollup of vegetable stock to taste and fill with boiling water. Seal and leave to stand while you cook your sauce.  Bonne Appetite

A later variant I discovered was to use low calorie vegetables like spring onions, pak choi, celery, mushrooms and miso to make soups similar to the ones I had enjoyed while working in Thailand. Adding a chilli spiced things up a bit for variety. The vegetables can all be chopped and put in the flask cold in the morning before taking to work. Simply adding boiling water and leaving five minutes for a crunchy tasty nutritious slimming broth.

Day 2 dawned clear and fine with the prospect of another day of Mediterranean conditions. An ideal day to go round Bute.  The shipping forecast from Belfast Coastguard confirmed what we were seeing. So after a bacon butty breakfast we slipped lines and motored out into the Largs channel. The wind picked up then died then filled in again as we crossed Millport Bay leaving the mighty Chinese coal carrier unloading at Hunterston staith. As we left Millport Bay we were able to cut the engine and sail out into the Firth of Clyde. A pair of puffins with their bills dull at the end of the breeding season scooted across our bows. We held a steady 4.5 to 5 knots as we rounded Garroch Head and made our way up the west coast of Bute, keeping pace with a Sadler 32 until we cut into St Ninnian’s Bay to anchor for lunch.

Up the West Kyle we passed the Waverly outbound for Loch Fyne then tacked our way up the narrows to the beautiful Canna Harbour, introducing Elin to the Maids of Bute as we passed. Lions Mane jellyfish wafted beneath us fascinating Elin by their sheer size. Her school project on jellyfish had not prepared her for the reality, expecting something more like the luminous smaller creatures.

Head winds up the East Kyle and an advancing hour encouraged motor sailing. Lifebelt overboard brought the derision of “I told you so” from Elin and an excuse for man overboard practice. The slight bend in the Kyle and the opening of Loch Striven brought the wind further abeam and a break from the engine as we gently races a Westerly Fulmar round Ardmalaish Point and in toward Port Bannatyne Marina (or Port Banana as Elin called it).

Elin was soon swimming in the clean waters of Port Bannatyne marina getting to know Catriona the girl from the Motor Cruiser we berthed alongside.

Kyles of Bute

Cleansing showers and dinner of flask cooked noodles with chorizo in creamy mushroom sauce. Elin’s recipe was cooked by Dad while the girls exchanged loom band knots and patterns, followed by whiskeys on the flying bridge under the bimini watching the sunset over Bute.   

With 2 days to the Commonwealth Flotilla the smell of polish and sounds of cleaning rose from several of our neighbours next morning. After taking Catriona and her parents for a quick drift around the bay we made for Largs to pick up some suitable unguents to buff up Daisy ready for the show.  Calm soon gave way to a rising wind as we made our way across Rothsey Bay, by the time we passed Toward Point we had a reef down, coats on and Elin handing out the lifelines as F4 turned to 5+ and the short wind over tide chop sent spray over us. After an hour the wind started to drop as we approached Great Cumbrae By the time we entered the Largs Channel the wind had dropped completely and it was back on with the engine to keep out of the way of the ferries. I spent the afternoon with fine wet and dry then cleaners and polishes taking the bloom and muck off Daisy’s cockpit then buffing up to a shine. Meanwhile Elin went for another swim. She was lent a mask and snorkel then a “seadoo” electric propulsion unit to scud around the berth. I could resist no more and joined her in the warm water to try out this wonderful toy under the pretext of inspecting Daisy’s hull and centerplate.

Gordon joined us after dinner with all his kit including his “Sea Kilt”.

Our destination for Friday was James Watt Dock Greenock, mustering point for the Commonwealth Flotilla. First however Gordon wanted to get his car to Port Bannatyne, so with Elin asleep in the cabin, Gordon and car travelling courtesy of MacBrayne, Daisy and I raced for Port Bannatyne. No contest, Daisy won hands down on looks, MacBrayne on timing. Breakfast was at the Post office café with a view up Loch Striven and the East Kyle, before we headed up the Clyde to Greenock.

James Watt Dock, mustering point for the Commonwealth Games Flotilla

From the freedom of our cruise we were now entering the tightly organised event, with 250 other boats ranging from 72’ Challenger round the world yachts, Swan a Lerwick Fifie and VIC32 the last working Clyde Puffer to Daisy and a Wee Annie a 16’ Oysterman. Miles of bunting fluttered in the gentle breeze as wine corks popped and ring cans were pulled. RIBs buzzed about officiously but unable to direct us to our berth so we dropped into a vacant finger and hoped for the best. The last thing we wanted was to be the fender at the inside of an 8 boat stack no matter how friendly the company.

The evening’s entertainment started in the redundant sugar warehouses with the skipper’s briefing and the arrival of the rest of the MacKellar clan. Kilts donned and sporrans arranged we made for the bar, food and band. A dance troupe performed Scottish dances to modern pipe versions of 1980s rock music. The sun set over the cranes, warehouses and fleet. Then the dancing started….

Flotilla day broke light grey and pleasantly cool after a week of Mediterranean weather. Joined by Alison & Stewart we cooked the bacon butties on the pontoon while stowing awning and kit in the cabin. With Gordon fully regaled in Sea Kilt 08:45 saw us leaving the pontoon and joining the crush as 250 boats made their way out into the Clyde to start mustering in five predetermined groups. Radio traffic flew, all the questions that had already been answered at the skippers briefing were asked and answered again. Then at 10:00 the start was called and the groups made their way down river to turn around Clyde Plot Cutter “Toward” off the Ocean Terminal  then process up river for Glasgow.

Crowds gathered at every vantage point. Fog horns blared. We connected Daisy’s foghorn to the dinghy bellows to create a sound more akin to a dying cow.  Past Greenock Town Hall and Port Glasgow the Flotilla settled into a steady pattern. Past Dumbarton and under Erskin Bridge the crowds grew and the river narrowed. By Braehead shopping centre the crowds were 8-10 deep. Then the shout went up. Oggie Oggie Oggie, our Welsh flag had been spotted. Oi – Oi – Oi, and so the cry went on, and on and on as we made our way up past the old shipyards. 

Our synchronised waving was matched by a synchronised Mo-bott from the Parker 21 astern of us.  To mighty cheers, the men in Blue one piece suits with Saltires waved from the 35 footer ahead and a fleet of Puffers led by VIC32 followed us from Bowling.

As expected organised chaos returned as 250 boats queued up to berth in Princes Dock. That this was achieved in a little over 2 hours without incident is a testament to the organisation RYA Scotland had put into the event.

The next day Gordon and family took Daisy back down the Clyde for their 2 week cruise to Loch Fyne Arran and beyond. But that is another story

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s