Scotland 2017 - Day 12

Caledonian Canal Cruising - Inverness to Urquhart Bay on Loch Ness


We arrived at the Caley Cruiser marina just after 1100 with bags and groceries for the week ready to go. Our boat was ready so we loaded our gear and food on board and atarted on the instructions about handling the craft. Then the mandatory safety video, more instructions and then we started the engine and slowly moved out onto the canal. But before we could depart we had to motor up and down, do a 180° turn, park forwards, park sideways and park backwards. We passed all these tests so off we went, along the canal to the first obstacle, the Tomnahurich Swing Bridge. This bridge carries the A82 traffic into Inverness so opening it stops all the traffic. Then the Dochgarroch Lock. Once through the lock we were out onto Loch Ness, looking for monsters. All we found were monster waves and a group of canoests in distress, so after rescuing them we decided to stop for the night at Urquhart Bay, in sight of the ruins of Urquhart Castle.

Inverness to Loch Ness

We headed off on our Calendonian Canal cruise at 1400 in convoy with two other Caley boats. We passed under (well, technically through) the Tomnahuroch Swing Bridge and soon reached the first lock. (This trip had the potential for great confusion between loch (a body of water in Scotland), lock (as in canal system to raise/lower vessels) and lock (as in lock and key). Once through the Dochgarroch Lock) we entered Loch Ness. Loch Ness is the largest volume of fresh water in the UK. It is 36km long and has a maximum depth of 240m. It lies 16m above sea level.

As soon as we entered Loch Ness we were faced with squally rain showers and a rising sea. The wind began to whip up the water surface into short choppy waves. Our cruiser could handle these, but we had to slow down as we ploughed into the waves and sheets of water splashed over us. After about 30 minutes of this we saw the cruiser some distance in front of us turn sharply and motor around in a large circle. As we approached we sould see objects in the water, which resolved into a group of four people floating beside their swamped canoes. Their gear was in a tangle and some of their watertight gear bags had floated away. They were cold and desparate to be rescued. The other cruiser was larger than ours, so I slowly motored in upwind of them and let the wind drift us down onto the swimmers. They were delighted to drag themselves and their gear onboard before lying their canoes to the stern. All this time our boat was lying side-on to the waves and being tossed from side to side. All our gear inside, including cups and glasses were being thrown from side to side. Eventually they were all safely on board so we then motored (slowly) to the moorings at the Clansman Hotel. By this time the local RNLI (Coastguard) had been called and they came speeding out. We dropped the canoests and their damaged gear at the hotel's pier and continued on to Urquhart Bay. The RNLI station is here also, so we walked around to talk to the crew, They were very pleased with the day, and so pleased with our rescue that we were given first, a wee dram of whisky and second a car ride to the local restaurant.

That was enough excitement for our first day on the lochs. We settled into the Fiddlers Restaurant at Drumnadrochit, where we dined on a smoke beef entree, and Scottish salmon mains, finishing up with their version of chocolate torte with Tomnasin whisky. We then phoned up Caroline the Taxi to return to our boat.

First we bought our weeks supplies at the local Tesco store.
Our first view of the canal from the cruiser - the A82 swing bridge.
The bridge opening for us.
Nessie is everywhere...
Dodging the paddleboarders.
Catching up to the Highland Commander
Blackout curtains on this craft?
Tall mast on this one.
The Jacobite - we wil see more of this.
Our first lock- Dochgarroch.
Into the lock chamber..
The gates close...
And up we go.
Soon we are out onto Loch Ness
And the wind gets up a bit...
And a bit more...
Until there was a rough sea running - 1 metre waves.
Our cruiser safely moored at Urquart Bay.
The RNLI Lifeboat station where we debriefed on the rescue we had made, and were rewarded with a "wee" dram...


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Last updated: 03/01/2018