Taynuilt Hotel Head Chef John McNulty and Sous Chef Ross Harris are both very passionate about sailing the West Coast of Scotland but, as they spend most of their time grafting away in the Hotel kitchen, getting the chance and the right weather it is a very rare day out.
However, on the final day of the sailing season luck as on their side and they managed to sneak off to Tayvallich where they were met by John’s father, John Snr. He was preparing ‘Provider’ for a trip to Crinan where it would go up the Crinan Canal for winter storage. Provider is a 1904 ex-Morecambe Bay Prawner which has been lovingly restored by John Snr for the past 35 years and now sails on the gorgeous West Coast of Scotland.
We had to leave Taynuilt early in the morning which meant driving past St Conan’s Kirk and Kilchurn Castle which sat in the early morning mist on Loch Awe, stopping in Inveraray for a quick coffee, then on to Lochgilphead and over to Tayvallich. We boarded Provider which sat on the slip in Tayvallich Bay and motored out into Loch Sween.
As the wind was whistling from the Sound of Jura up Loch Sween and directly on to the nose of the ship, we decided to motor up the loch and enjoy the local wildlife which thrive in this part of Scotland. We spotted many grey seals, a few porpoise and were very lucky that the resident ospreys were hunting the fish in the loch. Sadly, on this journey, we did not catch sight of any minke whales or basking sharks which were apparently spotted in the area just a day before our journey.
After passing Danna Point and joining the Sound of Jura we were in the open sea looking over to the Isle of Jura itself where the sun shone down on to the Paps of Jura and the Jura Distillery. The wind picked up to a steady 25 knots so we decided to raise all the sails, cut the engine and sail past Kiel’s Rock and Carsaig Bay. We were passed by the Jura Passenger Ferry on a private charter to the famous Corryvreckan whirlpool which lies in between the isles of Scarba and Jura. At this point the sun broke and we were just over halfway to our destination.
After 2 hours of perfect sailing we reached Loch Crinan where we began taking down the sails and prepared to enter the Crinan sea lock which is situated next to the famous Crinan Hotel.
We were greeted not only by the staff of Scottish Canals but some curious on lookers taking many photographs of the 50ft long, 16 tonne ship. We rose out of the sea water and into the fresh water of the Crinan Canal for the final leg of our journey.
The Crinan Canal runs along the Knapdale Forest which over the past 6 years has been home to the Scottish Beaver Trials where they have reintroduced the native species and is proving to be a great success.
When we reached Cairnbaan we berthed just outside the Cairnbaan Hotel where Provider was scheduled to be lifted out of the water and put into winter storage. We were then picked up from Cairnbaan, taken back to Tayvallich so we could get our transport back to the Taynuilt Hotel. We enjoyed a well deserved dram (or two) of Oban 14 year old single malt and a Springbank Calavdos Wood. Hopefully we will not have to wait until the final day of the season for another sail on Provider.