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Boating Heaven


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As I write this I'm in departures at Inverness airport, awaiting our return flight after an amazing week cruising the Caledonian Canal and Great Glen. My daughter, Natalia and I hired Highland Glen 2 from Caley Cruisers. It's been a first visit for both of us.

I flew from Bristol on Sunday 29th and Natalia joined me on Monday morning. We met up at Caley and received a very warm and professional welcome when we arrived. We'd watched the mandatory half hour safety video before our arrival. There are a few key differences to Broads boating, for example if you break down out on a loch it's unlikely the anchor will be much use given the depth so you need to deploy the "drift anchor" instead (floats on the surface). On the canal sections, unlike English and Welsh canals you can't moor on the towpath due to the depth and stony banks. On our arrival we received an in depth handover which was a welcome change from the ultra brief ones I've tended to receive on the Broads. Highland Glen 2 is a 35 foot dual steer 4-6 berth, having a similar layout to the 32 foot versions on the Broads but with a more luxurious stern double cabin. There are no low bridges to worry about so the stern deck is high and with a large fixed windscreen. The engine has just been replaced and is a Nanni 115 so more than twice the horsepower of the average Broads hireboat. On the handover, we were taken through low speed manoeuvres and I was struck by how the engine's power meant only very limited throttle was needed. Handover complete, we were away down the Canal bound for Loch Ness.

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3 hours ago, Broads01 said:

The engine has just been replaced and is a Nanni 115 so more than twice the horsepower of the average Broads hireboat. On the handover, we were taken through low speed manoeuvres and I was struck by how the engine's power meant only very limited throttle was needed. 

This is the thing, that engine is also around double the displacement of most Broads boat engines and has a lot more torque. It'll swing a huge prop much more easily and so you don't need a lot of revs.

 

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Soon after setting off down the Canal we needed to negotiate a pair of swing bridges a couple of hundred metres apart. Unlike the Broads swing bridges, these are very low to the water so nothing can pass until they're opened. It was a matter of holding station whilst the first one opened, passing through and then holding station further to await the bridge behind us shutting and the bridge ahead opening. Holding station proved very easy given no tidal flow, little wind and powerful bow and stern thrusters I could nudge when we drifted slightly.

The Caledonian has locks as well as lochs and a little later we arrived at the first lock at Dungarroch. Locking is similar to the Thames experience with each one manned and automated, so all pretty straightforward. Leaving the lock we were soon in to Loch Ness. Here I was able to open up the taps fully for the first time and wow, did we go. The bows of the boat lifted slightly and there was a big sense of power. We were actually only doing about 9mph but it felt much faster. Loch Ness is 23 miles long and flanked by fells and trees. It has a wild feel about it given in all it's length there's only one permitted overnight stop being Urquhart Bay, so that's where we were headed. We arrived there after the best part of an hour and made our stern berthing manoeuvre on to the quay (in Scotland it's "berthing" as opposed to "mooring"). Save for the A82 road being close it was a peaceful and beautiful location.

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(in Scotland it's "berthing" as opposed to "mooring")

Which is correct

It's the same on the Broads and the world over, one Moors to a buoy / anchor and Berths to terra firma.  For some reason or other though on the Broads, a lot of boaters seem to get the terminology mixed up :default_icon_e_confused:

Griff

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Tuesday 31st August

Loch Ness was millpond calm as we set off about 9am. Whilst Urquhart Bay is the only permitted overnight mooring on Loch Ness, you can moor at Foyers for a maximum of 2 hours and walk to the "Falls of Foyers" waterfall. This we did and enjoyed the half hour or so walk up through the trees to see the spectacle and it was well worth the effort. We were careful not to outstay to the maximum time and so set off again for a cruise of about an hour and a half to Fort Augustus at the bottom end of Loch Ness. There we needed to negotiate the staircase of 5 locks. In contrast to the quiet of the lock Fort Augustus is a busy little tourist haven. Pubs and cafes sit aside the locks and there were plenty of people around watching what was going on. There were plenty of boats also, so we had a wait of around 2 hours to pass through, not least because the "Lord of the Glens" luxury hotel boat had priority. Once it was finally our turn, it was a fun experience. The lock keepers helped us to secure the boat in the first (deep) lock and from then on we were required to pull the boat manually up the flight. The whole process took an hour. We were planning to overnight immediately above the locks but alas the moorings (berths?) were all taken so instead we continued down to a lovely peaceful spot at Kytra Lock. 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 07/09/2021 at 00:22, BroadAmbition said:

(in Scotland it's "berthing" as opposed to "mooring")

Which is correct

It's the same on the Broads and the world over, one Moors to a buoy / anchor and Berths to terra firma.  For some reason or other though on the Broads, a lot of boaters seem to get the terminology mixed up :default_icon_e_confused:

Griff

So, If I'm in Horning and permit somebody to lay alongside, am I giving berth?

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Wednesday 1st September

The locks open at 0830 and we didn't want to hang about on the limited lock mooring so we were all ready for the off. Before we could go anywhere, the "Lord of the Glens" came through once again on its way to the west coast. Once they were out of the way the cheery lock keeper was waving us in to the lock and on we went. Locking with us were a couple who'd motored across from Northern Ireland and were on week 7 of their time away from home. Their little Cairn Terrier was hilarious as he never seemed to tire of trotting continuously around the side decks. Lock complete we continued for around half an hour through pretty canal to the next lock at Cullochy. We were then on to Loch Oich, the smallest loch of the three main ones in the navigation and arguably the prettiest. Where better to stop but the pontoon at Invergarry Castle. The weather was glorious and we made the most of the idillyc spot. If you think the Broads is sparse for facilities, bear in mind the only shop close to the waterway in the 30 miles or so between Fort Augustus and Fort William is the petrol station 15 minutes walk from where we stopped. It has a tiny shop, it's a good job we didn't need much! After a relaxing 3 hours or so we continued across the remainder of Loch Oich, through a swing bridge that carries the main A82 road and on to the short stretch of canal known as Laggan Avenue. It's named as such due to the beautiful tall trees that were planted when the canal was built in the 19th century. Another cheery, helpful lock keeper assisted us at Laggan Lock, straight after which we made our overnight stop at Le Boat (formerly West Highland Sailing). It's as pretty a location for a boatyard as you'll ever see, being on the edge of Loch Lochy. We enjoyed a meal out for the first time at the only pub at the location, a floating one called The Eagle. 

 

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Just an FYI watched the third part of the canoe challenge videos on Simon A Bloke in the Woods last night. He mentioned Fort Augustus so they were definitely in the same area … I think. Worth taking a look if you’re interested. 

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It is many years since we were last on the Caledonian Canal, Loch Ness is a special place and I doubt it has changed in centuries other than the introduction of locks at each end.

just worked it out, it is over forty years when we spent a week on there, Chris & Heather's daughter was only a baby at the time. It was amazing that 4 adults and a baby could call the 25 foot boat home for the week.

Regards

Alan

 

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Thursday 2nd September

The day started misty as we continued our journey south-west across Loch Lochy. The mountains and fells aside Loch Lochy are noticeably higher than those of the other lochs - we were getting nearer to Ben Nevis after all. Unfortunately the mountain tops were shrouded in mist but it was beautiful nonetheless. It's also very wild - there's no moorings on the loch at all. By the time we reached Gairlochy at the bottom of the loch around 11-30am ( we'd set off at 9-15) the sun was warming up. We had a relaxing stop on the pontoons near Gairlochy lock and wandered along to take in the scene. We didn't seem close to civilization and yet there was a red phone box still containing a BT phone - they still exist it seems and it captured the feel of the area perfectly, being something unchanged from an earlier era. In the afternoon we descended the lock and it was then a one and a half hour gentle canal cruise to our overnight at the limit of navigation for hire boats - the top of Neptune's Staircase at Banavie near Fort William. Ben Nevis was in clear view only a few miles away. It's a shame we weren't able to navigate through Neptune's Staircase. It's 8 locks in height and is the longest continuous staircase in the UK (no lock pounds in between like the flights I've seen on English canals). We enjoyed eating out again (normal pub in a building this time!) at a pub called The Lochy (what else).

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Enjoying your write up and photo's to date, thanks for sharing

I've been through, up / down Neptunes staircase a few times, both onboard HMS Attacker and HMS Explorer

Also done a 'Hands to Bathe' in Loch Ness at Easter - It was a tad nippy.  'Got our own back' on a day tripper boat on Loch Ness, then promptly embarrassed oursens shortly afterwards with a family on a beach.  Then got a proper fright as two very low RAF fighter jets buzzed us ten mins after that - But that's another story not wanting to hijack your excellent thread

Griff

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Friday 3rd September

Having travelled 60 miles from base to the limit of navigation, it was time to start our return journey. The return to Gairlochy was super quiet. There was a swing bridge just before Gairlochy lock and with it closed in front of us and no sign of opening we pulled up on the waiting pontoon. The lock keeper came to advise us the bridge would be opening in half an hour and then began mowing the grass! Wow, it feels relaxed in Scotland. The bridge opened as promised and we were back in Gairlochy lock to go "uphill" this time. The lock is so deep it's the only one where the lock keeper doesn't ask you to throw your rope up to him but rather he throws a rope down to you instead. The deepness also made keeping the movement of the boat under control as the lock filled something of a challenge. We were soon out on to Loch Lochy once again and went all the way through and straight in to Laggan Lock at the other end before stopping just above. After a break it was back through Laggan Avenue to Loch Oich. We wanted to overnight on the loch but had some fun and games choosing our spot. We stopped once again at Invergarry Castle first of all. Unfortunately though the boat next door to us had a very loud generator running right outside our window. I politely asked the owner how long he might need it for and as he was non-commital we decided to leave. We tried next at another pontoon on the opposite side of the loch but the wind had increased and it felt too exposed. We ended up at a pretty spot at a pontoon we'd earlier disregarded as it was close to the main road but actually turned out absolutely fine. 

Photos are 

1 - Our mooring above Laggan Lock.

2 - Me on Loch Lochy (no auto-inflating life jackets here 🙁.

3 - Invergarry Castle

4 - From the bank at Laggan Avenue.

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15 hours ago, SwanR said:

Absolutely stunning. Did the lack of places to moor concern you at any point ? It sounds as if opportunities are further apart than we’re used to on the Broads. 

No, it didn't concern us Jean. I'd agree moorings are fewer than on the Broads but the key thing was that, thanks to the brilliant navigation chart provided by Caley Cruisers, we always knew exactly where the moorings were. Availability was only an issue once and that was at Fort Augustus top side where we were unlucky because the hotel boat took up so much space late in the day.

 

14 hours ago, DAVIDH said:

The one looking down through the trees is outstanding.

That's Natalia's photo taken during a walk she did on which I wish I'd accompanied her.

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Saturday 4th September

What a beautiful morning as we set off across Loch Oich around 0915. Loch Oich is the poodle's noodles as far as the scenery is concerned. One thing we noticed about boating up here is we tended to be the first to set off in the mornings whereas on the Broads it seems there's often boat traffic before 8am as people charge off to get in early at their next mooring place. Here, we saw no boats on the move at all until we reached the top of the Fort Augustus locks around 11am. The lock keepers always phone ahead to the next lock to advise boats were coming hence having descended Cullochy we were straight in to Kytra. The lock keepers' consistent cheery and helpful approach added enjoyment to our holiday. We only wanted to cruise as far as the bottom of Fort Augustus locks so it wouldn't have mattered had we had a wait there once again. However, as it was the lock keeper commented on our perfect timing (which wasn't deliberate on our part) because we arrived just as boats were exiting from the top. We had a straightforward passage through, hauling the boat from lock to lock once again, although Natalia said the audience of tourists, sometimes up close, could be off-putting. We moored for the night at the bottom of the locks just after midday.  We had a relaxing afternoon's walk, taking in views of Loch Ness and basically sitting around having cups of tea and ice cream. We enjoyed an evening meal at one of the pubs by the locks. I'm not usually one for short cruising days but on this occasion I really enjoyed the afternoon's relaxation.

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Sunday 5th September

Today was our last full day as we set off from Fort Augustus across Loch Ness. We knew the next available stop was over 2 hours away so I just opened up the taps as usual and we enjoyed the ride. In an attempt to save a few pennies on fuel, I always throttled back slightly from full whack. Our intended first stop was Urquhart Castle and our guidebook suggested short term mooring would be available. It wasn't, however, as despite a long double-sided pontoons there were big red "NO BERTHING" signs which was disappointing. We consoled ourselves with the nearby Urquhart Bay harbour where we'd stopped on our first night. From there we made a 25 minute walk along the main road to the Loch Ness visitor centre at Drumnadrochit (I love that name, I can't say it without putting on a Scottish accent!). The centre has an exhibition telling the history of "sightings" of the monster (and plenty of hoaxes) and the scientific expeditions that have taken place as well. It's worth a visit. Due to the swing bridges just below the boatyard and the need to vacate the boat by 0830 the following morning, we decided to head for the boatyard to spend our final night. We were a short distance away at 3-20pm when it's started raining for the very first time on our holiday - and we were in Scotland! Our last lock was Dungarroch where the lock keeper warned us the Torvean Swing Bridge was broken and we'd need to moor at the waiting area there and await instructions. That's what we did along with other boats in the same situation. Not long after, a Scottish Canals member of staff walked along to advise the bridge wouldn't be opening that night due to a major mechanical issue and Caley Cruisers were already aware. He was uncertain whether or not it would open first thing in the morning. So, the waiting area at the bridge became an unexpected last night stop. We were impressed with Caley Cruisers once again because instead of the phone call from them about the situation I expected, a lady came to see us and the other Caley customers. She explained that if the bridge didn't open in the morning, somebody would come and collect us and take us to the boatyard with our luggage. This gave us peace of mind for the evening and we made the half hour walk in to Inverness for our final meal out.

 

 

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