The vibrant memories I held of our last trip after the exhilarating steam down the Kilbrannan Sound were at odds with my feelings when we arrived on deck, Shemaron was chilled and damp and seemed a little down at heart. We had left her quite suddenly after our trip home from Tarbert a couple of weeks earlier and I think she had missed our company. We did our best to coax a lightening of spirits, we lit the stove and the fo’c’sle began to smile at the dancing flames. We pulled the mattresses out from the bunks and propped them by the fire to warm them a little. Shemaron appeared happy with our unexpected arrival, but despite the fire, she couldn’t quite throw off the dampness that seeped through the oak hull. When I got into my bunk ready to sleep I could not bring an end to the day, the noise from the ferry on the other side of the harbour thrummed constantly and the slightly wet blankets prickled when I moved. Eventually, warmth reached into my bunk, I was sure I felt it, the exact moment when the air became warm and dry, the wheezy planks breathed freely, and we all began to relax. I remember thinking that I am never quite sure if Shemaron travels all the way back from the past when we get together, or if we eventually meet someplace near the middle of past years … I responded to the warmth by drifting off to sleep. The three of us slept comfortably for what remained of the night and woke re-united.
Maidens Harbour Gala day was on Saturday which gave us a day to make preparations. I was relieved we were not venturing far, lack of sleep had left me feeling groggy. We spent the day re-fuelling, polishing, re-stocking the lockers with food and generally getting to grips with life back onboard an old fishing boat. It was sunny in the harbour and with no boats, alongside us we looked forward to an easy departure the following morning. We had no deadlines to keep to and we achieved everything in a gentle manner then strolled along Low Askomill that evening to meet friends for dinner. We sat at a table overlooking Campbeltown Loch, wine and conversation flowed gently while the voice of Dougie Maclean sang from the cd player. The evening was tinged with a sense of goodbye, our next stop after Maidens was Clyde Marina where Shemaron was booked in to be taken out of the water for a check over. We didn’t know what this might highlight and therefore had no certain date for our return. The weather looked settled enough, and we were happy with our decision to go over to Maidens, we have to be entirely flexible on these trips, we can’t decide on a course of action fully until we are sure we have considered all aspects, probabilities and possibilities!
Chris had spoken to the harbour master at Maidens who had arranged for an escort to guide us through the safe channel into the harbour. The channel is narrow and shallow and runs between Maidens bay and a string of rocks that obscures the harbour entrance. The Clyde cruising guide advises that entry should not be attempted without local knowledge so this arrangement was well appreciated.
Shemaron remained free from visiting boats during the night so all was as we had hoped the following morning when we had an uncomplicated departure from the quay. The risk is heightened when we travel without company resulting in a slight edge to our voyages. Sensible precautions can decrease hazard but we travel with the knowledge that should anything go wrong we only have each other to rely on, it can be a sobering thought but I can’t say it doesn’t add to the sense of adventure. As we passed Davaar island the sea was grey and flat, it appeared that we would enjoy a calm crossing. After our sighting of the Minke whale from the ferry on our way to Campbeltown a couple of days earlier, we thought to head towards Pladda Island in case there were more whales in the area. However, in the event, we had to change course quite soon because out to sea Shemaron began rolling from side to side in a way that bordered on the unpleasant. During conditions like this, we are both safer in the wheelhouse and I took up my favourite perch sitting in the wheelhouse doorway. There were times when it looked as though our gunnels would dip into the sea, below deck I could hear our carefully assembled display board crashing around the fish hold. I have been assured on many an occasion that Shemaron will not roll over and I chose then to pitch my confidence there, on that thought. A little fright stayed stubbornly with me though, and I thought it might be prudent to spend more time trying to understand the nature of the sea. Tucked securely in the wheelhouse doorway, watching gulls and gannets hover over the rolling tide, my feelings were alleviated somewhat. Shemaron careened towards the Ayrshire coast.
Our route was taking us side on into the waves, we estimated a further ten minutes travelling in this direction would allow us to turn and have a steadier run towards Maidens.