One of the claims made by Easdale is that generally, whatever the weather, you can get out in your RIB and find relative shelter. With the forecast as given (Force 6 gusting Force 8) an early decision was made to change the destinations. Colonsay seems to be a jinx. Year 1 we headed to Colonsay and got a bit of a battering on the return leg as the wind did not drop as per forecast. This year we didn’t even have the ‘dropping wind’ forecast. Indeed the wind was scheduled to increase to Force 9 Saturday night.
Option B was to head deep into Loch Etive. Some who had signed up to come obviously had second thoughts due to the forecast however we believe 39 RIBs participated in Saturday’s activities.
Friday, the day most people arrived in Easdale could only be described as stunning. Blue skies, calm seas, it was difficult to imagine what was about to happen. Easdale harbour was crowded as Seafari had elected to keep their RIBs in the harbour and advised the larger boats attending that they should do similar. It was an impressive sight. The Oyster Bar and The Puffer were full of good banter and despite the late night everyone was ready for the 0930 departure with a steady stream of RIBs heading out along the narrow channel. A quick brief on the VHF and we were off.
North through the Sound of Kerrera and taking the narrow channel between the islands past Dunstaffnage the first and perhaps only challenge was under the bridge at The Falls of Lora. It had been mentioned for boats to keep in close to the right but perhaps some were not aware how close was close. There were a few deep breaths to ‘narrow’ the width of the fleet and we were all through.
Local Seafari knowledge ended at the bridge. We had never been asked to work up the loch but Donald, the former operator of Loch Etive Cruises agreed to meet and help us at Kelly’s Pier Taynuilt. It was heading towards low water and we had had cautioned against trying to berth by some. Good old Donald was great. Park here, do this send some to the next jetty etc and 37 boats were tied alongside. The intention had been to visit the Ironworks but many did not take the culture option. It was coffee and cream cakes everyone was after. Some were prepared to actively pursue this goal and easily accepted the 10 minute walk. Others just returned to their boats for flasks and whatever else had been packed. The reward for those who made the effort was the Community Hall where the group sent the local into panic as they demolished cakes and coffee. It was great value. I had a piece of very light sponge baked by the vicar, more air than substance perhaps but excellent none the less.
Then the trip to the head of the Loch. What spectacular views of a glaciated valley, steep mountains sprinkled in snow. Some tied up to the timber loading jetty and took a short walk. Others felt their stomachs rumbling and headed for the Pierhouse Hotel Port Appin. A shot trip up a wee loch I hear some say. From the Falls of Lora to the head of the Loch is . For one boat it was a bit of nostalgia. His mother had been born in the small croft house on the south side of Scarba at the entrance to the Gulf of Corryvreckan. As a young girl the family had moved to the upper reaches of Loch Etive. His mother describes the latter location as significantly more isolated than the former.
The Pierhouse Hotel is owned by someone with a RIB – Nick – no excuses next year, was a welcome call for cream tea although some actually made it for a late seafood lunch. A quick circumnavigation of Lismore before facing the wind and swell back to the shelter of Kererra Sound, Oban and finally Easdale.
Yes it was cold but it didn’t rain and we were for most parts out of the wind. Everyone returned safely to Easdale some with different tales to tell.
39 boats in the group but only 37 at Keey’s Pier. Two stuck with Plan A and headed to Colonsay. They landed safely, lunch in the hotel. Again excellent but their stay was curtailed by a visit from the Coastguard who strongly recommended they depart soonest as the forecast was building. Departing Scallasaig they claim their top speed was 9 knots but it was hull and props out of the water time. A bit of a fight back.
Saturday evening both pubs fed and watered those who were staying locally. Then the wind did pick up. Those in houses heard the wind against the window panes whilst for those under canvas it was considerably noisier. Departure for day 2 was supposed to be 1000 but some boats were already coming out of the water. The few enthusiasts did accept the day was to get better so a small team of 6 RIBs gathered at 1100 and headed towards Crinan for coffee. Out in the exposed parts it was a bit choppy but the wind was again as per forecast, dying from noon and the overhead conditions improving. By the time the group had eaten their fill of bacon rolls, cakes and scones it was dry and quite pleasant. Off to the Corryvreckan and returning to Easdale via the west side of Scarba. Actually a good trip. By the time the group returned most RIBs had departed for home except those who were due to stay for longer.
If you have any photos from this year’s event please share them us on Facebook or send them to info@easdaleRIBrendezvous.org.uk
So how far do people travel to join ERR? Essex, Somerset, Berkshire, Cheshire, Yorkshire. Dumfries and Dundee are considered ‘local’. Some who came are already talking of returning with their family for their summer holidays. Many are already talking of 2016.
Easdale relies heavily on tourism. The sea is our greatest asset. The community welcomes all who want to come and enjoy the area so please help us, tell family and friends about your time here. Encourage others to visit, every tourist is a welcome tourist.
The community here, particularly that on the island, is fragile. We face the threat of the sea causing further damage to the sea defences of the harbour. As I was explaining to some, the community owns the land to the low water mark so there is no financial assistance to repair these defences from Crown Estates. If the sea defences are badly breached we will lose the harbour. Lose the harbour and there will be no ferry service. The island will become depopulated. The harbour is a listed building, the community can be forced to make repairs yet there are no public funds to support these repairs. The community has to demonstrate the harbour to be a viable commercial operation. If this can be achieved we may get support. The community has been given some old mussel pontoon which we are refurbishing ourselves in an attempt to attract small boats to stop over. We are grateful to one ERR supporter who has generously sent us a box full of shackles. ‘Geoff and Jambo’ were asked to rattle donation boxes infront of everyone this weekend. Eilean Eisdeal are grateful to all those who contributed. If you missed the box and would be prepared to support these small harbour improvements do contact the Seafari Ticket Office. The girls (Carolyn, Jen or Sue will be happy to take credit card donations on behalf of Eilean Eisdeal.
Safe boating for 2015. Come back and visit us whether it is for a day or a week.
Dates for ERR 2016 – 30 April/1 May.
Destination – the elusive islands of Colonsay and Oronsay