RYA Training aboard Aquarelle

Don Gunton

Our crew comprised one Coastal Skipper, three Day Skippers and one Competent Crew. Manoeuvers on Sunday morning in Rothesay Bay revealed that Aquarelle was fine going forward under engine but what as about as manoeuverable as a soap dish going astern. Under sail in light airs, however, the 20 year old Pele Peterson, Maxi 95, sailed very well as each crew member took a turn at the helm as we went up the East Kyle in a wind which persisted in heading us.

At Tarbert on Monday Colin Grant demonstrated lifting a man, Tony Whittingham, and this was followed by manoeuvering practice cum pontoon bashing in Tarbert harbour and man-overboard drill outside. Tuesday provided both excitement and disappointment. The excitement came off Skipness in a frisky force 6 when daylight appeared where the mainsail should have been and the disappointment when David, our Coastal Skipper, taking us to Campbeltown, was obliged to take us back to Tarbert. The Tarbert sailmaker hadn’t a good word to say – he launched into an apparently well-practiced monologue and I had began to wonder whether I should change all the sails on the boat. Since the main had been with the boat since birth there may have been some justification for his outburst, however, Flamingo Charters saved what was left of the day by shipping a spare from Largs. This was from a boat of different manufacture and it was a tolerable fit except for the reefing cringles. Lawrence fettled this and the slab reefing became somewhat more complex but under the circumstances, acceptable Lawrentian reefing. After our delay in Tarbert Simon sailed us up to the Crinan Canal basin in falling darkness. With the tide approaching low water and a fishing boat in mid channel we maneouvered our soapdish astern into the sea loch with only inches beneath the keel….

After refreshment at the Kames Hotel David (CS) was the skipper for a night sail to Rothesay – a splendid effort. One only had to ask and David could state the desired course, light characteristics and distances between significant marks and like a proper skipper he did not hog the wheel.There were a few interesting kerfuffles, however. Before reaching the Burnt Islands several buoys emerged unexpectedly out of the pitch darkness. Had the compass light been working we would have steered a better course – away from the fish farm. The green light on the starboard hand buoy at the narrows was not working and, until this was realised, a distant light of similar characteristic and colour gave a curious perspective to the channel. As Loch Striven opened to port all eyes scanned the distant shore lights to identify Rothesay. One particular red light featured largely in the cockpit conversation. First it was a buoy, then a boat or a car and finally uncertainty gave way to ribald conjecture -both before and after it was ascertained to be red curtains of an upper floor room. Whilst preoccupied with this light the depth decreased rather more than appreciated and despite the bright shore lights we could not identify Rothesay. Our skipper soon picked up the score and with a little contour feeling had us safely round the headland into Rothesay Bay.