Campbeltown to Lamlash: sailing at its best

The sail from Campbeltown to Lamlash was one of those, all too infrequent, rare and privileged days on the water. After what had been an uninspiring, cold and wet set of motor dominated passages from Oban to Campbeltown it was balm for my soul, and a rest for my ears. It’s days like this that fill my heart with the joy of wildness the was so long denied to me by disability.

I woke late, grumbling to myself about the cold and fatigue, but a quick look at the GRIB files for the weather models showed the possibly for a fantastic sail. I stirred myself into action overcoming those first aching moments of abused muscles to get the boat off the dock. An hour later Trilleen was under full sail reaching past the NATO B buoy which marks the turn for the active NATO fuel dump under the hill at Campbeltown, and out beyond Davaar Island to the Clyde.

Inclined beds of rock rise up out of a blue, calm sea towards a grass covered island top
Davaar Island, Campbeltown

As we cleared the headland into Kilbranan Sound I feared the wind would vanish, playing the same evil tricks I had experienced so often on the passage south from Oban. Instead to my joy it stabilised and strengthened slightly leaving Trilleen bouncing towards Arran, her log touching 7.5kts with the Hydrovane self steering system conning her effortlessly. I meanwhile relaxed in the hatchway with a mug of tea watching a succession of merchant ships pass ahead and astern without any of them giving cause for concern.

A black and white seabird on oil smooth water

Showers broke out periodically on over the hills on Arran and Argyll. Rain sprinkling from clouds forced up into cooling air over the rising land providing plentiful rainbows to enjoy, even as the sun warmed my back and Trilleen sailed on. Approaching Pladda Island the offshore wind, flat water and certainly of satellite derived position permitted an approach close under the basalt column with an ease denied to earlier generations of mariners.

Pladda Lighthouse stands a white and ochre pillar on a basalt column island
Pladda Lighthouse

Later with the sun began to set Ailsa Craig was silhouetted in auburn haze. In the whole of the western Firth I seemed to be the only yacht at sea in what were exceptionally good conditions. Days like this make the obsession in the UK with only sailing in our summer seem foolish, and inoculate me against he unpleasantness and cold which winter sailing also brings.

The conical shape of Ailsa Craig rises out of a smooth sea with an auburn skiy
Ailsa Craig

The wind was turning through the day, and assisted by effect of Arran, conspired to lift Trilleen onto a course which brought her arrow straight into the arms of the entrance to Lamlash, through the South Channel between Holy Island and Kingscross peninsula. The anchorage here is beloved, and in summer packed, but as I brought Trilleen to a single anchor in the grudging space left outside the mooring field, I was the only yacht afloat that night.

A crescent moon, open chord aligned to the right sits in a sea of stars
Lamlash harbour anchorage with Trilleen.

Supper over, Trilleen rolled gently in oil smooth water under a vast and compassing sea of stars, visible with startling clarity in the cold dry air which the North Siberian High is beginning to donate to the wild, wet, windy islands. The night passed without event, Trilleen’s anchor tracker leaving a path of wrinkled chaos akin to a disaster of barbed wire, and in the morning sunrise graced Trilleen with warmth and life again.

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