Back To Scotland And The Caledonian Canal

The boat had spent its summer in Norway and needed to return to Troon on the west coast of Scotland. I flew back to Stavanger to rejoin boat, this time with another crew member who had originally helped in bringing the boat over. The weather forecast was good so we didn’t hang around and set sail after a couple of days.

The wind averaged 15-20 knots and was on the beam all the way so was ideal for sailing. We saw a few oil rigs, wind farms and a few boats but it wasn’t as busy as I thought it might be. Two days and two nights later we were there.

Once we reached Inverness in the early hours of the morning it was time to enter the Caledonian canal. This would take us from north east to south west Scotland, a total of 60 miles including 29 locks, 4 aquaducts and 10 bridges. We called ahead and the lock was open waiting for us.

In the first lock of the Caledonian canal looking back –

Caledonian canal scotland

Looking out from the lock –

Caledonian canal scotland

Waiting in the lock whilst the skipper does the formalities – you have to pay a fee to use the canal.

Caledonian canal scotland

Caledonian canal scotland

Only a third of the canal is man made, the rest being formed by four different lochs, the most famous being Loch Ness of course.

Entering Loch Ness early morning –

Entering Loch Ness

Our stop for the first night at Fort Augustus at one end of Loch Ness – Fort Augustus scotland

Approaching another lock –

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Approaching one of the many swing bridges along route –

Caledonian canal scotland

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The start of Neptunes staircase, a total of 8 locks which take at least 1 and a half to 2  hours to get down.

Neptunes staircase Caledonian canal

End of the Caledonian canal looking out to sea near Fort William –
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Out to sea and through the strong currents between many of the islands on the west coast –

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Approaching the sea lock at the start of the Crinan canal that goes between Crinan and Ardrishaig in Argyll and Bute –

Crinan canal scotland

Entering the lock with another boat –

Crinan canal scotland

Looking back out to sea from within the lock –

Crinan canal scotland

Exiting the first sea lock looking back –

Crinan canal scotland

Approaching the first lock –

Crinan canal scotland

Following another boat as one of the swing bridges opens, these are still turned by hand –

 Crinan canal scotland

Squeezing into the narrow locks two-by-two –

Crinan canal scotland

Our stop for the night part way through the canal –

Crinan canal scotland

The last lock,  big drop down and then out to sea !! Turn right and the bashing waves were waiting for us right on the nose –

Crinan canal scotland

Our pen ultimate stop was at Portavadie, a marina with some interesting history behind it. It was completely blasted out from the rock in the 1970’s, the government gave the go ahead as it chose the site to build new oil rigs.  They also built quite a few houses nearby to house the workers who were going to work at the yard. Unfortunately the new oil rigs never happened and the site along with its many new houses lay empty for many years. That was until the Bulloch family bought the site and in 2010 the new marina was opened along with 5 star luxury apartments, saunas, restaurants and conference suites.

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The last day saw us make the short hop from Portavadie to Troon in some great weather.

The boat was safely returned to the marina at Troon for the winter –

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Cruising Norway Part 2

We moved the boat to the town that was hosting Sildajazz International Jazz festival – Haugesund. In previous years there had been so many boats moored together that you could walk from one side of the quayside to the other without getting your feet wet.

The jazz festival was in full swing but you seemed to have to buy a ticket to even get into the pubs if they had a band on. The quayside was full of restaurants and bars and they certainly filled up in the evening.

Cruising norway Haugesund

Cruising norway Haugesund

Haugesund norway

After returning to Leirvik to re-stock we travelled to the outer island of Espevaer. Espevaer island is part of Bomlo which is part of Hordaland county. Bomlo  consists of more than 900 islands most of which are small and unihabited.

Cruising norway espevaer

There was a completely automated pedestrian chain ferry on the island which everybody thought was great ! You put your 20 Krone coin in a slot and pushed a button. The ferry would come and get you and take you across to the other side. Simple – no man power needed !

Espevaer island norway

Refurbished grand house next to the water –

Espevaer island norway

Almost seemed like you were wandering around Scotland what with all the heather growing everywhere –

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Small beach on the island –

Espevaer island norway

This was ‘allegedly’ the place of Espevaers UFO landing. Back in 1975 a local fisherman saw a light and a local dog which was not known for its barking – barked. A clear indication that something was not right and a UFO had landed. It was so heavy it left its imprint and you can see the oval ring shape still on the grass.

Espevaer island norway

Many inlets and lochs surround Espevaer –

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Looking down on the small harbour on Espevaer island.

Espevaer island norway

Sunset at Espevaer –
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Time to leave Espevaer but everybody had enjoyed going there. It seemed that quite a lot of homes were holiday homes and many were being refurbished to a high standard. An up and coming holiday island if it wasn’t one already.

We set off to the neighbouring island of Utsira. Not made famous for the 20, 000 herring fisherman who use to congregate there during the fishing season, but because its one (or two) of the north sea shipping forecast regions – North Utsira and South Utsira.

View from the lighthouse –

Utsira island norway

Utsira island norway

Not nearly as developed as Espevaer,  Utsira felt a little more remote and felt as though it had more local people living there rather than being a holiday island like Espevaer.

Our next stop was Skudeneshaven, a place recommended by a local couple who were sailing around. The place to moor was well protected as it was well away from any harbouf entrance and there were tall buildings at everyside.

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Boat moored in Skudeneshaven –

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Skudeneshaven norway sailing norway

Inside one of the entrances to Skudeneshaven harbour was this fantastic looking set of houses next to the waters edge. Certainly would have had their privacy as only accessible by boat.

Skudeneshaven norway sailing norway

The final stop of the 3 week trip was going to be Stavanger. The plan to go back towards Bergen changed so the boat was going to be moored up in Stavanger for a month. Stavanger was a popular destination for the cruise ships so you would quite often have up to 3 moored in the harbour area. A lot of people who work in the oil industry also live in Stavanger so it proved to be a very expensive place to stay.

The marina near to where we moored up –

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Harbour front in Stavanger full of restaurants and bars –

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My 3 week sail around parts of Norway had come to an end. It was an interesting trip having never come here before. Its obviously a very expensive place to come for any kind of extended holiday, everything is at least double if not treble the cost !! The fjords are stunning and due to Norways relative low population nowhere seems that busy and populated. The transport infrastructure is impressive what with long tunnels, big bridges, many ferries, all keeping people on the move between various islands.

Unfortunately they had not experienced a good summer so the weather wasn’t always great but you can’t have it all !!

Definitely a place to come back to and explore the more northern and remote regions.

Takk Norge !!

Travelling the world by sea……..(and a bit of land)