The boat slowly comes to life as those on board creep around their morning routines, unable to avoid the creaking floor boards. Monica and “Bumble” provide
the first pots of tea and coffee of the day as passengers and crew gather in the saloon.
Nick, our skipper, tells us of a dream he’d had. A Policewoman in make up has stopped him for some undisclosed traffic misdemeanour and takes the
Puffer’s fridge – a case of the punishment not fitting the crime.
It’s a sunny, but cold morning – we adopted the word “invigorating”. The previous day, we had helped bring the Puffer Preservation Trust’s vessel VIC32
through the Crinan Canal at the beginning of a 5 day cruise around the Firth of Clyde. We are moored in the Canal basin in Ardrishaig and there would be a
delay this morning, awaiting the tide and an in-coming yacht. But no one’s in a rush. Monica uses the time to gather seaweed which later appears in bread
baked to perfection in the galley. The Skipper and Doctor Ian lead a mission to replenish urgent supplies – smarties for the crew and beer for the passengers!
Ornithologists John and Barbara spotted eider sheltering from the cold north wind next to the lighthouse; Fiona produced her first watercolour of the week.
Then it was time to move past the swing bridge and into the sea lock. The gangway was loaded and ropes cast off. The audible warning and flashing road
lights seemed an intrusion on the scene as the Scottish Canal’s Bridge Keeper lowered the barriers. Traffic on the coast road was stopped and the bridge
swung open. This morning, there would be a short delay to the Skipness bus, while the driver of a lorry seemed content to pause, capturing the scene on his
Without using power from the ship’s wonderful steam engine, the wind was used to turn the boat. Under the Skipper’s careful direction, ropes were used to
guide the boat into the lock. We descended to sea level and then from lock to Loch – we steamed into Loch Fyne. Engineer Richard stoked the fire with his
mantra “little and often”, leaving a trail of black smoke as we headed northwards past Minard. We turned around off Lachlan Castle and headed for Tarbet for
the night’s mooring. The sun was still shining and there was time to explore. At the skipper’s recommendation, some of us visited Tarbet church, with its roof
in the form of an upturned hull. Others visited the castle with the echoes of Robert the Bruce and a spider.
The following morning would not be so leisurely – there was 4 tons of coal waiting on the quayside to be loaded into the ship’s bunkers. It was not mandatory,
but “joining in” was definitely encouraged; during the week I had a go at loading coal; coiling ropes; steering and firing the Puffer.
With a great crew and fellow passengers; excellent food and wonderful views, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week