A Jolly on the Clyde

Alex Tweddle


Largs Marina was left behind as Kookaburra a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 34 with 2 ladies and 4 gents aboard looked for adventure on the Clyde. When we got to Rothesay we found the pontoon berth a little on the tight side. Exit was decided on by our mentor’s (Colin Grant) previous knowledge and reluctanceto take up the locals’ challenge of berthing on an inside pontoon on a falling tide. We moved off around the other side of the pier alongside a Newcastle registered yacht (Phencara – Steve Royal and Caroline Quinn). Rothesay was explored (first pub the Black Bull) where other members of the training flotilla arrived.


Kookaburra alongside at Tarbert

Kookaburra alongside at Tarbert

We pampered ourselves in the luxury of the harbour shower-block and loo, an emporium of Victorian splendour. A wee lassie welcomes you in her Victorian costume to enjoy the establishment’s marble interior. The intricate designs and bulk of their fittings and combinations of blue and white are fascinating. Extravaganceis pushed to the limit by a blue marble cistern with a window to check the water level and watch the ballcock action.

This morning heralded the start of what was to follow every day as Kookaburra’s power source was draining away to no-one knows where. It was narrowed down with battery changes and switch and circuit combinations were altered but eventually our power failed. We proceeded up the East Kyle through the Burnt Islands and anchored in Caladh Bay for lunch and broke out the Easter eggs. The weather had begun to deteriorate to SW 4-5 occ 6 as we beat down the West Kyle in heavy rain and showers.

Rounding Ardlamont Point our mentor kept his pecker up by starting man-overboard drills. We scampered up to Tarbert and before the springs were attached theHarbour Master was there with purse unbuttoned awaiting his monies. Relaxation and the warmth of a coal fire were to be found in the Victoria.



Kippers for breakfast

Kippers for breakfast

As one stepped ashore to the utilities block, a lady was waiting “I sell kippers,” she remarked ,but none could be seen. An order was placed and the kippers appeared on the breakfast table. One member not wishing to participate in this feast or offend, returned ashore to take up conversation with the seller and Harbour Master. Enquiring how long the kippers would last, both saw a chink in the reluctant buyer’s armour and expanded on how these were the finest organically grown, non genetically-modified Loch Fyne kippers. Some did manage to sneak aboard and spent the next five days in the heads’ locker.

Upon leaving our mentor remarked that the Germans had been busy during the night mining the South Channel so departure would be made through the North Channel. As we swung off the berth he announced that the Germans had also put porridge in the diesel and switched off the engine. With the wind behind us the jib was partially unfurled as we crept out of the narrow channel.We were starting to become alert to the Germans’ and the mentor’s thought patterns.

We went to Loch Gair for lunch. The passage plan was to make for Loch Ranza for the night but on approaching the narrows southbound in a heavy gust, the gooseneck released its securing nut and washer while the outhaul line parted. Nut and washer luckily never went over the side while a temporary repair to the outhaul lasted the rest of the week. Beating down the loch in worsening weather the crew began chatting in huddles of fish and chips in the comfort of Tarbert. The mentor relented and Kookaburra clung to a mooring buoy in Stonefield Bay to the north of Tarbert.


Clyde Coastguard was still giving the same forecast as we left for Loch Ranza once more. It was not too long before the wind began to gust to force 7. Our mentor got excited and threw the danbuoy over the side. The lady helmwhipped Kookaburra round into a figure-of-eight as though she had spent her teenage years on the Whitley Bay dodgems, and the danbuoy was picked up in a time never to be beaten. Passing Skipness Point and within sight of LochRanza we were exposed to the force of the south-westerly blowing up Kilbrannan Sound. We turned and ran for shelter. Our mentor took the helm and with a handkerchief up forward safely guided us into West Kyle in winds gusting up to 40 knots.


Our mentor

Our mentor

At Inverkip the mentor went ashore to stock up on provisions and enquired what type of bread buns were available. The shop owner replied “We have chewwy ones and rrubarri ones”. The bacon tasted better inside the rrubarri bun. After a spell of pontoon bashing we set off on a pleasant day up Loch Long skirting the submarine base and entering Loch Goil to pick up a mooring off Carrick Castle. The wonder of nature showed its face as a rainbow appeared with its gentle arc spanning the loch. This phenomenon kept switching itself off and on as we proceeded up the loch chasing it.

On our night navigation exercise to Rhu we picked up Cloch Point against the background of shore lights. When a red orb appeared on our port side identification ranged from a big yacht, big ship, car park, hotel, until it flashed white: we had found our first sector light. With little commercial shipping and a clear night, these spectacular marks led us through the channels and around to Rhu Point where we picked up a mooring just after midnight.Clyde Coastguard were informed of our safe arrival and when they replied”Clyde Coastguard out” our startled lady operator replied “Oh, Kookaburra out and over”.


A fair wind took us to Lamlash. A dinghy exercise commenced as the light began to fade. Not long after leaving Kookaburra the dinghy became lower in the water. It was sinking – the bung had come out. Like the little boy sticking his finger in the dyke the after person did the same. The bung was found and replaced. The dinghy was upturned to drain the water as was the left wellie boot of one crew member. The return journey depended on the outboard and it had been decided the shear pin had done its job and snapped. The workshop was a piece of open quayside lit by an orange street lamp. The pliers were two coins from the beer kitty. Two rocks of the correct shape and texture were found – one the vice, the other the hammer. Now all crew members were short of lamp oil as testified by the number of spectacles which swung above the chart table. With much encouragement the new shear pin was bashed into the drive shaft. We launched from the slip which was now extremely slippy with exposed kelp. The last man pushed the dinghy off, stretched out and fell in. To regain the situation with both feet on the sea bed he launched himself upwards like Free Willy making his escape. His upward motion, however,was stopped as his wellies had taken on ballast and he belly flopped across the dinghy bows and clung on.


After more mooring buoy exercises at Brodick we were on our final passage to Largs. The run across was tranquil and the crew anticipated removing some of their clothing as the sun warmed the cockpit and gave us a false sense of security. Approaching Hunterston jetty the wind was on the up and the engine would not start as all life had left the batteries. Thoughts of the Germans were dismissed – this was for real. Largs marina was informed of our plight as we made several sorties round the entrance and prepared for entry under shortened jib alone. The local dredger working in the channel was warned to stay clear. There were words of encouragement from the mentor as he clung to the backstay “We’ll all be doomed”. The lady helm went through the breakwater with winds gusting 27 knots, bow and stern men jumped for the pontoon and checked her as the fenders did their work. “Kookaburra had landed”.


We had travelled 160 miles and all received certificates. We will remember the fun and laughter and we parted a happy and bonded crew. So it’s goodbye from Kookaburra, “out and over”.