Angus recalled that a friend of the family Anne lived in Tobermory and while we were still warming up in the bar Anne and her neighbour Pat arrived. We were most fortunate as Pat ran a b&b and with the incessant rain we were looking for an alternative to camping. We had a great sleep in really comfortable surroundings and fantastic breakfast. If you are ever in Tobermory looking for a b&b check out Cala Dhomhnaill tel 01688 302320. This morning at 0730 over breakfast we checked out the forecast and it wasnt good. S5/6 increasing 7 to gale 8. Not a day for a small open boat be attempting to round Ardnamurchan!  As both Angus and myself had to be back home on friday we abandoned any hopes of getting round Ardnamurchan. There was no sense of disappointment in this decision as we had succesfully completed legs 3 and 4 in four days - a fantastic achievement! The penultimate leg would have to wait for better weather and so we headed South by bus to Craignure, ferry to Oban and bus to Bowling arriving home by 1600 hours. Much scanning of weather sites will reveal when we can next safely move the Nancy towards the completion of her epic voyage. She has served us well!


We caught the 0800 ferry to Oban as we discovered the skipper had brought a gas stove but no gas cartridges! Doh! After a quick breakfast we bought the cartridges and some chandlery to fix the the missing gudgeon and returned to Kerrera on the 0910 ferry. We packed our gear aboard, extruded ourselves into our dry suits and set off at 1000 in light rain. The Inshore forecast was S to SE 3/4 increasing 5/6 later so we should have enough wind - or should we? We drifted out of Oban Bay and Angus had to row for about 15 minutes before the promised Southerly filled in. It took us 90 minutes to get to Lismore Lighthouse and by 1200 were off Duart. The wind was still light and Angus was busy trying to entice some fish onto his hooks - alas in vain. Once we passed Glas Eileanan  the wind picked up to F4 and we really took off, sailing at about 5/6 knots. However when it increased to F5 we had several near broaches and I hove to at Fishnish to put a deep reef in the main. We set off again and had a great sail to Tobermory goosewinged before a F5/6 surfing at up to 8kn! Fantastic. We passed through the Doirlinn passage to the South of Calve Island and tied up alongside the pontoons at  1530. The last 18 miles  were covered in 3 hours! Bucketing rain and so we adjourned to the pub still in our dry suits 25nm nearer Plockton.


Thanks to Henry and Maggie Crow we had free run of their house last night and a good nights sleep. We arranged for a taxi to take us from Ardrisaig to Crinan as the buses only seem to run on tuesdays, thursdays and at weekends. By 10.00 we were out the sealock and picked up a mooring to allow us to hoist the main and were soon underway heading for the Dorus Mor. The light South westerly allowed us to sail a good course and soon we were reaching at about 5.5kn past Scarba. We by-passed Cuan and eventually found our way into Seil Sound with the flood under us. The last (and first time) I had passed under the Bridge over the Atlantic at Seil Sound I was about 12 years old and it was on a 38 foot long gaff rigged Cornish lugger called "Para Handy". It was a hairy trip North to South on the ebb and we managed to run aground on most available rocks twanging the telephone cables on our way past! Fortunately we cleared the bridge and the 3 phase electrical supply to the island of Seil! This time should be a piece of cake in a boat drawing less than a foot. Alas it was not to be so as the channel North of the bridge was full of shingle shoals and although we had entered the 4th hour of the flood tide we soon ground to halt! With our dry suits we leapt in and started to drag the boat through the shoals but gave up after a hundred feet or so and just had lunch to allow the tide to rise further. After about 30 minutes we had another go and by canting the dinghy over we eventually dragged her about 300 yards into deeper water. It wasnt a lot of fun! Unfotunately, while aground the flood tide which was still sluicing past us forced the rudder over so far that it forced the top gudgeon on the rudder fixings off and it was lost overboard. A jury rig was made with some lashings. However the wind held well and we made good speed to Oban Marina on Kerrera where we arrived at 1530 with about 25nm under the keel. Our dry suits came off and we got the ferry over to Oban where we were joined by Bob for a few pints and a curry. We caught the ferry back at 1930, pitched our tent and had an early night.


We were glad that we made good time through the canal yesterday as it is raining quite heavily this morning. Considering that the canal is 9miles long and we passed through it in 5 hours and taking into account the time spent in the locks it suggests that Gordon manage to row the Nancy at about 3.5/4knots - quite amazing! We certainly overtook most walkers. This morning we did a permanent repair to the damaged knee and beefed up a chain plate and one of the rowing pads. The forecast for tomorrow is still good and Angus and I head the Nancy North towards Oban and Mull.


"Ardrishaig tae Crinan's the best trip I've been in, Its the Crinan canal for me!"  So the song goes! Well we made great progress today thanks to Gordon's prowess with the oars and help from Henry with the locks! We left Ardrishaig at 1030 and arrived Crinan at 1600 with a 30 min stop at Cairnbaan for lunch. Weather was great with a light wind from astern but there was a lot of rowing and Gordon came up trumps rowing 9 miles of the canal. Wonderful progress. Some permanent repairs tomorrow and then we head north!.


Starting to get organised for the next leg through the Crinan canal. We expect to start moving her through the canal on Saturday morning around 10am so if anyone wants to help with the locks just turn up at Ardrishaig. The plan is to get to Cairnbaan for the night and then make the final push on the Sunday. Crew for this leg will be my son Gordon with assistance from Henry (the evil one) Crow. Angus Matheson is coming up by bus on the Sunday night and if all is fair on the monday we will set off on Leg 3. The winds next week are favourable Southerly. With fair winds there is a good chance we make Tobermory before the end of the week.


FRIDAY 16 April.
We had an early breakfast and Mike and Nan very kindly drove us back over to Portavadie at 0715. It was  another great day but very cold with frost on the pontoons! The air temperature was only 2 degrees C! We quickly did a temporary repair to the damaged knee, clambered into our dry suits and hoisted sail! Alas there was no wind so we resorted once again  to rowing. Eventually after rowing about 8nm a wee breeze filled in from the South then veered to the West F3/4. The final three miles were done in style and we logged 5.8kn on the gps (we managed about 2.4kn rowing)! We luffed up into the harbour, furled the jib and tacked into the sealock at 1300. It had been a fitting end to a great first leg. As I have a couple of band gigs we left the boat in the canal for a week and headed back to Glasgow exhilerated that we had complete the first leg successfully!


We had a quick breakfast and after paying our berthing fees of £12 (extortionate for a 4.5m dinghy!) and rowed out the harbour at 1030. It was another stunning day but alas there was no wind so we persevered with the rowing until we got to Ardmaleish buoy and a light Easterly filled. We ran up the East Kyle but by the time we got to the Burnt Isles the wind had disappeared again and we started rowing till at the top of Bute a F4 west wind filled in and we started beating. It was hard going and as entered the West Kyle the wind backed to the South West/ It took us 3 hours from Kames to Ardlamont (6.5nm) and as we rounded the buoy expecting a fair wind the wind it headed us once more and we had a long tack past Skate Island and into Loch Fyne. The wind veered further and increased to the top end of a F4 but it was exhilarating  (and wet) sailing with us both out on the gunwhale. Then suddenly one of the stern laminated knees parted and we lost control of the mainsail. We quickly jury rigged a lashing to the stern thwart to take the mainsheet and beat into Portavadie Marina at 2045. By the time we got our dry suits off in the restaurant it was 2110 and the kitchen had just closed! Drat! Then the beer keg went off! However the staff were brilliant and organised a smoked salmon salad which was excellent as we were famished. We were too tired to camp and  I phoned Mike Smith in Tighnabruach who very kindly offered us a bed for the night and picked us up after the meal. Sailed 25nm and rowed 4nm. Sorry the photos blurred - it was taken the next morning and there was ice on the lens!


We were launched at 1330 and set off down river with a fair wind behind us (Easterly F3) and made excellent progress down river. We were off Langbank by 1430 and of the Cloch lighthouse by 1700 having been becalmed for a time and had to resort to rowing. However the fair wind left us by the time we reached Kip and the new wind filled in from the South about a F4 so we started beating. Eventually even this wind gave out and we started rowing again to get round Toward. We had intended to pull the boat ashore at Toward Yacht Club and pitch our tent but by 2130 it was pitch black and we gave up and rowed across to Rothesay where we tied up in the harbour at 2230. We found a cheap boarding house, bought some chips and had a couple of pints before turning in. We had covered 30nm of which 5nm were under oar power! believe me that 9 hours in a dry suit  is no fun and we had to avoid drinking any fluids!


Pretty excited tonight as the Nancy gets launched tomorrow and Neil and I set off around noon from Rothesay dock. Decided not to leave from Bowling as they would charge me for having the boat in the canal. The weather for the next few days is pretty benign - Force 2 to 3 from the East and North East. Next week however is horrific  with strengthening wind throughout the week and Northerly gales by friday! Not my cupof tea. Got the dry suits today so just have to get our food and safety gear aboard in the morning. Our target tomorrow is to get up the Kyles of Bute but as high water isnt until 1345 we have to make quite a late start so we will need at least some wind to get us even close. There is of course plan B and plan C but I'll keep these to myself for the moment.


For several years I have been attracted by the idea of sailing the Nancy back to Plockton from the Clyde. I know that this is not a task to be taken lightly as it involves sailing some of the wildest and most exposed waters in Europe, through the Dorus Mor with its swirling tides, past the awesome Corriebhreachan with its standing waves and whirlpool, and the rounding of the most westerly headland in mainland Britain, Ardnamurchan. The last leg through the strong tides of Kyle Rhea and Kyleakin in contrast seem almost benign. To achieve this gaol I have to give the boat and rig a good overhaul and upgrade her buoyancy and safety aids and she is now ready.


Having followed Eddie Izzard and his incredible achievement of doing 45 consecutive marathons 49 days I was inspired and decided that if I was going to make this voyage the least I could do was to raise some money for a needy cause such as Sport Aid.


The Nancy is a Plockton boat built in 1934 by John McKenzie and Son, boat builders in Portree, Skye. She cost £1/foot to build (£3/m) and is built of larch with oak frames. It was Angus Gillies (Buckie) who ordered the boat for racing.
Buckie lived at Harbour Street Plockton adjoining the Hotel and to this day the pier outside his house is still referred to as Buckie’s pier. It’s believed that the boat was called Nancy after his girlfriend at the time but this was not the girl that he subsequently married. The name wasn’t changed, however, as it was considered unlucky to change the name of a boat. She was built to race in the newly formed Plockton Small Boat Sailing Club (PSBSC) and was raced successfully by him for many years.

By the mid 1980’s she was owned by Calum "Seal trip" Mackenzie but she was by then rather elderly and in need of a lot of work. Calum was often to be seen before a race applying flashband to the worst seams to keep her afloat. Calum recalls “In one race after the start she was leaking so badly that we all had to sit on one side to try to keep the leaking seam out the water."  
Alistair Bruce, who was sailing for the first time in a local boat and was the lightest of the three crew members, gingerly crawled up to the gunwale with a gas blowtorch to dry the wood enough to stick on some more flashband! "I think we went on to win the race too!” 
Needless to say it was the last time “Brucey” offered to crew on the Nancy. At one point she even had an electric bilge pump to attempt to restrain the ingress of the North Atlantic and keep her afloat. She was fibreglass sheathed shortly after this and recently has had new thwarts and knees fitted and is now in fairly good condition for her 76 years. She has also been fitted with a small removable foredeck and breakwater to keep the worst of the spray out of her in open water.

The Nancy


Starting from Rothesay Dock in Clydebank where some of the greatest ships in the world were built -The Queens and the QE2 - we head West down the River Clyde towards the Erskine Bridge. Here the River starts to open out to a wide estuary and soon we pass Dumbarton, the Ancient capital of Scotland. The buoyed and dredged part of the river is behind us we pass Greenock and enter the Firth of Clyde. We turn South at the Cloch light and head for Toward Point where we pass Rothesay and have the option of going through the Kyles of Bute or continuing down the Firth to Garroch head at the South end of the Isle of Bute. Once we have navigated around Bute we head West again around Ardlamont past Skate Island and head North for the first time past Tarbert to Ardrishaig where the Crinan Canal starts. Our arrival  will mark the end of this stage - total distance 55nm.

This involves a leisurely and sheltered passage through the canal to Crinan where the whole of the West Coast of Scotland opens up. We will, row, tow or sail through the Canal but expect quite a few friends to join us to operate the locks  and it promises to be a festive occasion. - total distance 8nm

We begin to enter dangerous and strong tidal waters. The Dorus Mor (the big gateway) beckons us West through its swirling 6 knot tides and North to Seil Island and the Bridge over the Atlantic under which we will be able to pass before heading North inside the island of Kerrerra to Oban. We will head West once again passing the Lismore lighthouse and head past Duart Castle and on up through the Sound of Mull to the colourful town of Tobermory - total distance 55nm

The most dangerous by far. We have to pass the most westerly point on mainland Britain.. It is open to full power of the Atlantic and I have seen 5m swells here with the seas breaking over the lighthouse. The backwash off the headland and the mix of tides at the headland make this son dangerous that we need a safety boat. We will have to coax a yacht or a fishing boat to escort us around this headland in case anything goes wrong. A capsize hers would be life threatening. But once round we head past the small isles of Muck, Rum, Canna and Eigg heading North towards the magical Isle of Skye. We have to work our tides through Kyle Rhea where they can run at up to 8knots springs and once we are extruded from this narrow channel we find ourselves in Kyleakin  65nm

Again we work the tide through Kyleakin and pass under the Skye bridge. We are nearing home now and with Cuillins of Skye on our portside we turn East up Loch Carron past Cat Island and the sheltered bay of Plockton. Total distance 12nm


The ‘Local Boats’ and Their Rigs

The first meetings of the club stipulated that the boats should be open clinker built boats of 15’ water length with a 6” keel and this rule is still in place today.
For many decades a substantial number of the boats were ‘McKenzie’ boats built by ‘John MacKenzie and Son, Boat builders, Portree’.  These boats were the mainstay of the club for many years and even now although new boats have appeared, roughly half the fleet still consists of ‘MacKenzie’ boats.  The last MacKenzie boats were built in the late 60’s.
During the next two decades no new boats were built and indeed there was a period in the early to mid 70’s when the active fleet diminished to but a few boats.  However, that trend started to reverse by the end of that decade and in 1985 the first new boat for almost 20 years was built.
It was the ‘Coruisk’, commissioned by Rod MacLeod and built by Malcolm Hendry of Carbost.
From then until now a further 8 boats have followed. Two were constructed in Thurso, 5 in Skye and one in Plockton via the ‘Am Bata’ project.
The first boats used gunter or gaff rigs with wooded masts and booms and the sails made of cotton.  Now, however, light aluminium Bermudan rigs have replaced these with custom made synthetic sails.

The Plockton Regatta

The Future

The Am Bata project is an exciting project where local school children under the supervision of an experienced boat builder Mark Stokl have started building local boats.  Back in the mid 70’s the local boat fleet was struggling but the trend has been reversed and now the future of the class looks very healthy.


A Falkirk Bairn, I started sailing at the age of ten on a converted lifeboat called the Calypso owned by a friend of my father. As a boy I would help her make her annual passage through the Forth and Clyde canal from Grangemouth to the Clyde before the canal closed in the 1960’s. I was in my mid twenties before I could afford a boat and managed to acquire a 26’ Robert Tucker designed Ayriel and sailed her extensively on the West coast . Over the next 58 years I have had many yachts and in 1980 with the help of friends we bought Seol na mara, a 10m Fastnet 34 fibreglass yacht, on which we sail 2000nm annually. We have sailed to North Brittany, the Channel Islands, around Ireland several times, a couple of passages to Norway, several trips to the Faeroe Islands and a trip to Iceland.

Over the years I have taken various RYA courses and have become an Offshore Yacht Master. I have also taken the RYA Ocean master course in anticipation of making a trans- Atlantic crossing before I get too old. My dinghy sailing experience has almost all been at Plockton on local boats although I have sailed Wayfarers on Strathclyde Loch for a couple of seasons. I am a semi retired Architect and live on a converted steel fishing boat that I picked up as a wreck in Plockton.
I met my ex wife in Plockton in 1973 and our family has many local friends in the area.