We woke to a perfect morning - still and cloudless. As we moved off, the surface of Loch Riddon was mirror smooth. We breifly anchored in the small Caladh Harbour to see that and decide what to do next.
A change in the weather was forecast for the next day, and after weeks of gentle North winds, tomorrow promises stronger winds from the SW. We also felt that its time to be moving on from the Clyde area. The two key questions were should we use the Crinan Canal? And did we want to visit Islay and Jura?
The Crinan Canal is billed as Scotland's prettiest shortcut - saving 80nm on the round trip to go south around the Mull - and it is always nice do do something a bit different such as the canal passage would certainly be. However, most of the lochs are manually operated and we'd heard that it would be very difficult for just two of us to control the boat and the lochs. Scottish Canals used to offer an 'assisted passage' scheme to help operating the lochs which was by all accounts excellent. But clearly it wasn't very viable and has been stopped this year. I phoned to see how busy it was and if we'd be likely to fall into company with another boat to share the load, and wasn't given much encouragement that would be likely.
The second question was should we visit Islay - not least because its a whisky area in itself. If we wanted to visit Islay, then the distance 'saved' by using the Crinan would be much less.
And finally with the wind coming from the SW, heading to Islay tomorrow after doing the Crinan wouldn't be fun, and nor would heading south around the Mull where stronger head winds would be likely to make sea very rough with the strong currents around the Mull.
We therefore decided that yes we'd like to visit Islay given the option, and although we'd be motoring, the right course was to head around to Port Ellen immediately.
Arriving in Port Ellen at about 7pm we were lucky that there was a spare berth. It was quite small and needed some careful manoeuvring to get into - but conditions were calm and it was going well until one of our lines (ropes) fell into the water and wrapped around our prop. We killed the engine immediately but were still short of the berth and now helpless. Fortunately - and unusually for most marinas - there were plenty of people around including on both boats neighbouring the berth we were approaching. We were able to throw lines to them, and with help get MoJo safely tied up. It was then time for a swim to untie the rope from our prop. We'd bought wetsuits and a small 'pony' bottle of air for such a situation, so were able to do this easily and without much discomfort.
Wednesday 2nd July
On Islay it wouldn't be proper not to have visited at least one distillery. With 3 - Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroig - within almost as many miles from Port Ellen we set off on our bikes and went to the furthest first to work our way back.
Arbeg was a great visit - very informative - and they have a good restaurant where we then had lunch.
Coming back to Lagavulin we opted for the next tour available which happened to be the tasting tour. That gave not only the distillery tour, but ended with a tasting of 5 different expressions including the fresh make spirit from the still - also very interesting. They left us in a kind of comfortable living room to finish our drinks - which was very amenable but we should have been watching the time better.
We arrived at Laphroig at 5pm just as they were closing for the day. That was a shame, but it leaves use plenty to do on another visit to Islay another time.