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What we do 2010 part 2
The first day of the RNLI 150th Celebrations took place at Buckie Harbour on Sunday 13th June. Harbour Day, involved the launching of the restored, pulling lifeboat, William Riley and the oarsmen and women consisted mainly of FWSC members and the current Buckie Lifeboat cox Allan Robertson was at his rightful place, the helm. Mairi's sailing friend Robin, made up the final numbers. The oars were approximately 8 feet long and they appeared to be really heavy at the beginning but it did not take long for the two teams, the blue team and the white team, to get into synch with their "stroke". The "stroke" being the person sitting on the lead oar on port and starboard sides, namely Bob Lawton and Angus Gallacher. The boys kept a good, steady pace and we decided we were all so brilliant at rowing that we would venture out of the harbour. Allan, the cox, had a very basic method of controlling the rudder, by pulling on ropes to port and starboard. In my personal opinion, he was somewhat better at pulling ropes than he was at rowing. He sat directly in front of me rowing earlier that day and when he lost his sroke he fell back and squashed me. Yes, the oars were so heavy and powerful when they bit the water that that if you lost your stroke or got out of time with the others, they had the power to whack you in the ribs and throw you backwards, bodily. There was a fair swell running, when we left Buckie harbour and headed west of the Mucks beacon. There was not much wind to speak of and light rain came and went, however, the boat and the crew seemed to cope with the conditions tremendously well. The William Riley is a very sturdy, wooden, sea boat although I am not quite sure whether I would be brave enough to row out to the Mucks or anywhere else for that matter in the kind of conditions that the current Buckie Lifeboat, William Balnnin ventures out in. Someone suggested that we row to Finechty but the crew threatened to mutiny so that was the end of that bright suggestion. On our return to the harbour, there were photographers waiting from the Buckie Paper and the Northern Scot snapping away at our motley crew rowing along in perfect synch and I believe we have already featured in the Buckie Paper as I write this article. Later, we stood down some of the rowers to make space for passengers and then we made several trips in and around the Lifeboat basin, rowing small children and their parents about, telling them about the craft and it's history and generally having great fun. It soon became apparent that we could not row and sing at the same time, because we all kept laughing, so the singing soon got the side of the head. That, and the fact we were probably torturing our passengers to death with our out of tune Sea Shantie recitals. Voice training from Victoria Park - no disrespect to the Jags intended, I speak entirely for myself. A great day was had by all and we eventually ran out of willing passengers. There was a great sigh of relief at this point as the blisters were starting to appear on my hands from the rubbing of the oars. I expected to have aching muscles the following day but I was absolutely fine. Maybe I should take up rowing instead of sailing, I would probably do myself a lot less damage! My special thanks to all who assisted in any way to make the day a success. Mairi
Benromach Regatta Mairi and I set off for Findhorn on Friday morning 23rd May for the Benromach regatta, as we headed west the wind was as usual on the bow although the sea state wasn't too choppy to motor along hoping for a change in wind direction to get some sail up. We passed Lossie still under engine and after a few squalls the wind almost died away which made it much more comfortable heading along past the skerries and Hopeman.As we neared Burghead the wind came round slightly more to the North west and we set some sail but it was short lived as the wind died completely. When we neared Findhorn it was about two and a half hours after high tide so we kept quite close to the safe water marker buoy (red and white) which is well off Findhorn and lined up the port and starboard marker buoys for the channel into the river. There are two posts in the water just off Findhorn to port as you go in and as we neared them the log showed 5 knots although I am convinced that we were only doing about one knot past them due to the flow of the river and the ebbing tide. We passed the next green buoy to port and two red ones to starboard as we headed up the bay to find a visitors mooring of which there are a few. Soon we were moored up and the dinghy was dragged out of the bag for the first time in a couple of years and inflated on deck and off we went to the Crown and Anchor for a pint and a bar supper which turned out to be really good pub grub. We went on from there to have a couple of drinks in the RFYC, which licensed and is now open to the public for meals, drinks and coffees etc. Having had a bit of banter with the locals in the club about the next days events we decided to make our way back to Fusion 2 for the night and get settled down. We had left the dinghy at the pontoon at the boat yard and the tide had turned which was a great help for going back upstream, unfortunately when we got near the boat and I tried to row against the tide the paddles kept jumping out of the rowlocks and we were getting washed upstream bumping into a Moody 336 which was moored near us. Decision was made to head for shore row back towards the boatyard and try again. On the fifth attempt we were finally at our destination (around 60feet from shore) tied up the dinghy and got settled in for a nightcap. On Saturday morning Bob Lawton and Robin Nicholson arrived to crew with us for the cruiser races, it was a overcast day with light airs so not very exciting for racing but off we went out into the firth along with the other two cruisers which were Findhorn based and numerous sailing dinghys. There were some Lossie boats supposed to be participating but they never turned up. Race one started and off we went having had a decent start to follow Blue Moon a dehler 34 around the triangular course with a bavaria 36 named Boomerang behind us we were going well and only just got overtaken by Boomerang on our way to the finish line. After race one we had a quick lunch break and a coffee when we noticed the other two cruisers coming towards us looking very business like so we headed for the start line only to discover that the race had started. Being used to getting a shout on the radio we were not looking for a flag so had a fair bit of catching up to do. The second race ended with Fusion 2 third over the line although we had been catching up throughout the race, if only we had known about the plans for the start. Another enjoyable night and supper in the RFYC clubhouse was had by Mairi myself and Bob before we decided to head back to Fusion 2 as it was getting dark and we would have to make two trips with the dinghy to get Mairi out to the boat then back for Bob and his camping gear. The rain was bouncing when we left the clubhouse, Bob went to his car for his sleeping bag etc, I attempted to row Mairi from the clubhouse pontoon to the boat, when Bob returned to the shore we had only made it about 50 feet against the tide and were practically going nowhere so we beached the dinghy, carried it along the beach to where we could get the incoming tide to assist us in reaching Fusion2 , the second trip was made successfully with Bob although his kit was soaked by the time we got there. Sunday was a really nice day for racing and when Robin arrived we headed out again for what looked like challenging conditions only to find out after watching the committee boat trying to anchor for an hour that the cruiser race was to be cancelled and the sailing dinghies would race inside Findhorn bay, so having had enough of late night rowing trips we decided to ask the boatyard if we could use the pontoon which the Lossie boats had pre booked and not turned up to use, the pontoon costs £10 per night which is the same as the visitors mooring buoys which are all payable at the yard. We spent the rest of Sunday afternoon having a couple of drinks at the clubhouse in the sun watching the dinghy racing in the bay and decided to stay the night and go home on Monday afternoon at high tide. Monday was a nice enough morning but as forecast easterly wind around 20knots (just what you need for heading for Finechty) so after much debate about staying another night we decided to head for hame as the wind was due to change around to SSE which would suit us a bit better. The wind did change, just off of Buckpool as I remember so not much help there. We berthed in Finechty at aboutten o'clock on Monday night having had a great weekend and Mairi poured us both a good dram, which for the first time in my life she said I deserved?? Due to the conditions which we came back in. (must do the challenging stuff more often). The locals in Findhorn made us all really welcome at their club and were great company; you can get food at the clubhouse and use the showers etc there. A lot of people are put off going into Findhorn due to the bar which is well out into the firth from the entrance of the bay but if you follow the marker buoys at a decent state of tide most Finechty boats would have absolutely no problems. Thanks again to Bob and Robin for crewing. Neil Innes Fusion II
Sailing West Coast 2010 with Harmony We could not pretend that it has been a good season so far with strong winds, rain, poor forecasts and cool temperatures. Wet weather gear has been worn most weekends to keep warm. Harmony has been sailed almost every weekend since launching in April but we have been unable to travel far from our base at Loch Aline due to actual or forecast strong winds. Fred Murray has joined us a few times as has Robert Morrice. Alistair McHardy sailed into Loch Aline in Fung Su and joined us for a sail in company, to Loch Drumbuie in Loch Sunart, one weekend. This was the weekend we broke the boom end during a relatively gentle gybe, which was expertly repaired by Euan Paterson in Buckie. John and I had one excellent weekend during the Scottish 3 Peaks Race when the weather was sunny on the Saturday with light steady winds and we got mixed in with a large gaggle of boats that were trying to claw their way out of a massive windless hole near Duart Castle on the Island of Mull. We had found and stayed in a patch of light breeze further offshore and soon had these boats, once seeing this, all around us each dicing for position - as were we of course. We were in a group of about a dozen boats of all shape and sizes not giving and inch to windward as we tacked down the Lynne of Morven towards the Sound of Luing. We broke off the fun after an hour, having stayed at the head of the pack and took a short cut between Bach Island and the south end of the island of Kerrerra. The tide was right for us to enter Loch Feochan for the first time ever. What a tricky entrance this was - extremely shallow with only 1.7 metres under our keel at the entrance an hour before high water. The entrance channel is torturous twisting from side to side, very very narrow but well buoyed. Once within the entrance the loch opens up into deep water and is very pretty with wooded sides and lots of room for anchoring and is perfectly sheltered from all directions just like Loch Aline. We only stayed and hour to ensure we could exit the entrance before the tide locked us in. We then sailed the short distance to the anchorage at Puilladobhrain where we stayed the night with about a dozen other boats. As is the tradition with us we rowed ashore and tramped over the hill overlooking the anchorage for a few pints in the Tigh na Truish Inn before retuning to Harmony for our dinner. The next morning dawned foggy and damp as we set off the 15 miles back to Loch Aline. Visibility was very poor at about 300 metres as we steered for the invisible gap between Bach Island and Kerrerra - thank heavens for good charts and two electronic plotters, one of which we have mounted at the helm. As we crossed the Lynne of Morven the fog thinned and we began to see The Island of Mull. By the time we entered the Sound of Mull visibility was good. Another weekend our wives joined us but the weather was against us and we were unable to sail at all. By Sunday morning it looked doubtful if we would get off the boat at the mooring the wind was so strong. Luckily we have a strong 14 foot aluminium dinghy for just this purpose but we needed to use the outboard engine on it to ensure we got ashore where we wanted to. Last weekend John, Fred and I were joined by Robert Morrice in Lolita and Bob Calder in his UFO34 Obsession at Loch Aline with their wives and after a jolly Friday evening together on the mooring we set out on a lovely beat to Tobermory on the Saturday morning. Robert even managed to play his pipes as we tacked up the sound of Mull. Tobermory was very busy with charter yachts however Bob managed to get the last but one pontoon finger. Harmony and Lolita anchored, preferring to spend our money in the Macdonald Arms rather than on a £20 a night pontoon. During the night it rained heavily and as there had been a NW 7 to 8 forecast for the weekend, as soon as the wind began to blow we arose and hauled up anchor before breakfast and set off down the Sound of Mull the 12 miles back to Loch Aline with half a furled genoa and 20 knots of wind behind us at a steady 6 to 8 knots. This was quite comfortable apart from the wet but then the wind steadily increased until we had a steady 30 to 35 knots and the genoa was steadily decreased in size to the size of a storm jib. The wind continued to rise to 40 knots with gusts to 45 although the seas were not more than 4 or 5 feet in these sheltered waters. Harmony remained in good control often at 9 knots and more although the sail and mast got a good shaking in these conditions. It was great to turn into Loch Aline, which was perfectly sheltered. It was noted however that the Loch Aline - Fishnish(Isle of Mull) ferry could not operate as conditions on the Mull shore were too rough to land passengers and cars. We had a good breakfast dried ourselves off at the mooring before setting off home again. Phil Brown Harmony
Moray Firth Harbours Sail in July! I planned this leave to visit three Moray Harbours, Hopeman, Findhorn & Balintore. I set off for Hopeman on a rising tide sun out a good easterly F 3-4 doing 5 knots goose winged, arriving 3hrs later at Hopeman unfortunately I broke my spinnaker pole and then snapped the topping lift tidying my sails away. Oh yes and my old autohelm packed up! In to the harbour I found the only spot against the west wall, visitors are supposed to use the outer harbour but local fishing boats are now using it. The Harbour Master was soon across to see me but went away very unhappy when he realised I was a Findochty boat, he wished me a pleasant stay and asked if I could take the bottom OK. Later that night I found out what he meant when I had a 25deg list to starboard, good job I was sleeping on my own. Fish & chips for tea. I left the following morning as soon as I was floating again a nice fresh easterly F 3-4. I soon made it to the Findhorn fairway buoy RW and dropped the sails. A ketch was on his way out, I let him come past before I made my way in, leaving the first red buoy on my port side. I struggled to see the next buoy, a green one, but stuck to the dark water, easily seen in bright sunshine. I passed the green buoy down my starboard side turned to starboard and lined up the three poles leaving them all well clear down my port side, then on into the narrows. It was a flood tide so no problem going through, next a red buoy to port and two greens to starboard. I had pre-booked the visitors mooring, which I found opposite the dingy park picking up the marker buoy on first approach. It was gala week in Findhorn, lots of dinghy racing which was great to watch. Out came my inflatable and a very old Johnston 2hp outboard. Once ashore I went to the boatyard and paid £10 mooring fee then off to the RFYC for a couple of pints. Back onboard for tea and a great evening watching a pair of Ospreys catching fish close to the boat. The following morning was miserable, strong easterly wind. I went for a walk out to the bar; being springs I was able to walk out to the outer green buoy. Whilst there I drew a map for future reference, which I have scanned here for anyone to use, it's not to scale, remember the bar moves so the map will change. Simon and Katrina were very helpful at the Boatyard letting me use a PC to check the weather and charging my mobile. That was me; stuck all day and another night. Alarm set for early HW at 0400 one look outside and back to bed, by the afternoon tide the wind had dropped and turned to the west out I went 3 hours before HW. The sandbank on west side of moorings was covered, locals told me this gave 2 meters at the bar outer buoy. A good swell was breaking but no problem getting out, good sail east to Burghead when the wind dropped and I motor sailed the rest of the way back to Findochty. Never made it to Balintore it will have to stay on my list of harbours to visit. Ed Durkin
Mouse Goes About Severe weather warning, he observes, from his office (in Aberdeen), as I drive to my last meeting of the day (in Fraserburgh). Nevertheless when I arrive home (in Macduff) he has a pizza in the oven and our plans to sail Mouse are upstanding. For our sanity I open a bottle of Kumala Eternal, whilst he muscles in to Top Gear. LWS 18.49, 10 August 2010. By this time we are in Findochty, and by virtue of the tidal circumstances, in the Admirals. Mouse is ready to go. Sails up, lines slipped. Looking resplendent in the evening sun. Off the berth at 19.00. Almost. Mouse is loose in twelve inches of water. A cup of coffee, and she is floating free. But alas, the last of the homemade shear pins gives up the challenge of its upgrade from a mere screw and needs replacing. (My consignment of kosher shear pins arrived yesterday). He places the engine in the cockpit with the prop facing me in the galley, as I collect the pliers and the new pins, which I have carefully housed in a Heinz Baby food jar. In two minutes the pin is replaced and the engine remounted. We are off, thirty-five minutes after LWS, in about eighteen inches of water. Halfway across the harbour my soul mate is still bent over the stern rail and Mouse is drifting gracefully towards Vivari, on the east wall. I slip a midship line on as he announces that the string he used to up haul the rudder has fouled the prop. Engine up and kitchen knife at the ready! This fixed, we wave our goodbyes to Findochty and head for Portknockie. The original plan was Portgordon, but never mind. Low water is never a good time for visiting Portgordon. There is little to no wind. The water is calm on the incoming tide. We make a remarkable 4.9 knots. At 20.25 I switch on the navigation lights, for fun rather than necessity. It is not dark at all, but there are a few vessels in proximity. Portknockie is in sight. On the foredeck I am able not only to drop the jib but to unhank it, stow it and make ready for our approach. Just after nine we drift in and I slip a line onto the ladder. With legs crossed I attach the long stern warp, and then flee in the direction of the onshore heads, which I find locked up for the night. I run back to Mouse in order to liberate my fluid levels courtesy of the overestimated but underused facility aboard. In the night there is a stiff breeze, which sends Mouse into a frenzy at high water. There has not been this much action since being moored behind the Dunoon ferry. This time however, there is a wall involved. I stand and watch helplessly before walking Mouse to the next bollard, where she can comfortably take the ground. I am the back end of the donkey in this manoeuvre, and it is at this point that I realise she has lost her tail! The entire rudder assembly is gone. Tiller, stock and blade! Mentally I am tallying up my misfortunes with rudders. One lost in the Forth, another in Loch Oich and one in Peterhead. Am I bothered? Due to these last disasters, not in the least! I turned my hand to fashioning several spare ones, which lie redundant in my cellar. All part of my stress management at sea idea. However, it would be less trouble to trawl the beaches and find it. My directional analysis says it should fetch up on the inner beach, and to my total amazement, half hidden by seaweed, there it is! I am exhausted by my own efforts. Its recapture is a delicate operation on slippy seaweed. Perhaps I should paint it white, to be seen easier! Back in Portknockie the next day I wait patiently for the tide to recede in order to board Mouse from the landward side to attach one seriously large fender. Following this, winds come from the north, with unfriendly seas and unco-operative tide times. In fact, pages 18 and 19 of my tide tables are thumbed and scribbled on more so than any other. There are barnacles on Mouse's rudder. A couple of nights of random excitement in Portknockie for Mouse, and very little sleep for me. Nine to Five, Port to Port, 14 August 2010 The next window of opportunity to spend time plastering up Mouse's injuries is the following Saturday morning. The day presents a grey spectacle, although the seas have calmed. Grey and muddy. I am there by nine, hauling the harbourmaster from his pit to dig holes and fashion ground tackle. Having arranged bouys and pulleys and risers it approaches lunchtime. Then to Portknockie to fetch Mouse, and at 13.30 we leave, three hours before HWS. Sails up, pies and a pint. There is a big swell. Out of Findochty they are racing. They will not be expecting Mouse! We saunter through the finish gate as they are on the horizon doing triangles and sausages. I rescue the oversized fender and harness it on the foredeck. Mouse chugs along at 3.9 knots with a following sea and just enough wind to fill the jib. Making 4 knots past Buckie, as Gemini Explorer catches up at Buckie Mucks. Down jib and main before entering the harbour, and then to try out the morning's mooring project. I hide the sea stowed main under the sail cover and jump onto the wall. There is a sparkle of blue in the sky, and for the rest of the day it is bright. We finish bang on five o'clock. Time for a pint in the Admirals. Tina Harris Mouse
Harmony - sailing home On Friday evening, 17 September, Robert Morrice, his friend John Kelly, John Barclay and I drove over to Loch Aline to bring Harmony home to Buckie. We arrived in the rain as the light was fading, piled into our aluminium beach dinghy and rowed out to the mooring. We always remove the mooring buoy and sink the riser of our mooring during the winter to prevent anyone else from using the mooring and also to minimise wear and tear on the riser chain. This process takes a couple of hours including inflating the rubber, carrying the mooring buoy and junk ashore and carrying the aluminium dinghy well above the high water mark and turning it upside down. Finally we deflated the inflatable dinghy, made a hot cuppa and set off for the Caledonian Canal at 11pm. It was a very dark night but with little wind obliging us to motor which we did at a steady 6.5 knots. Making good use of the small plotter at the wheel and the large scale one at the chart table run through a laptop we motored through a pitch dark rainy night down Loch Linnhe through the Corran Narrows to Fort William. It was so dark when we arrived off the entrance to the Caledonian Canal at Corpach we had to use the spotlight to identify the pontoon at the canal entrance. We tied up at 5am and slept to 8am. We entered the canal at 8.30am and progressed to the bottom of Neptunes Staircase where we waited for half an hour as boats came the opposite way. Unfortunately we were sharing the 8 locks with a 100 ft steel leisure barge, which meant we had to be very careful to keep out of his way until he was securely tied up. Once we reached the top of the locks we pressed on as quick as possible to ensure we did not have to share locks with him. By this time the rain had stopped and Robert entertained us with some tunes on the pipes. We passed through Gairlochy Locks, Loch Lochy, Laggan Locks, Loch Oich, Cullochy Lock and Kytra Lock at double quick time arriving at the top of Fort Augustus Locks by 5pm. My wife Ann and John's wife Tricia joined us here having left home early and picked up the car we had left in Loch Aline. We downed a few drams and bottles of wine before and during dinner prepared on the boat. We were early to bed at about 9.30 having lost a good deal of sleep the night before, however Robert and his pal John had a quick run around the pubs at Ft Augustus before hitting their beds - we never even heard then come aboard later that evening. Our wives left us after breakfast as we negotiated the locks and they headed home with the cars. A fresh wind and rain headed us as we motored into Loch Ness. So on with the autopilot, dial up 7 knots, turn on the Eperspacher heater below and tuck under the sprayhood and down in the cabin for the next 3 odd hours. We traversed the remainder of the canal in double quick time arriving at the final reach at Clachnaharry sea lock at about 3pm on Sunday. We decided not to press on to Buckie that evening, as the forecast was good with light northerly winds for the next 3 days. Robert and his pal left at this point and Fred Murray joined us. We locked out of Corpach at 8.30am on Monday about 2 hours before high water and fought the tide under the Kessock Bridge, sometimes only making 4 knots over the ground with 7 knots on the log. The trick is to try and stay in the weaker stream close to the river without going ashore on the mud banks. The forecast was for northerly 3 to 6 knots all the way along the Moray coast. However as we approached Fort George the wind began to freshen from the northeast and as we travelled along the south side of the Riff Bank we had a solid 30 knots on our nose with a rapidly building steep sea. As we approached the south cardinal buoy marking the eastern end of the Riff Bank the wind had build up a steep sea that was dropping our speed to as little as 2 to 3 knots despite our 40 hp engine and 8 tons. We struggled on for a while until we heard the forecast from the coastguard, which was NE 5 to 7 becoming SE 5 to 6! The thought of plugging into that for hours and hours plus the discomfort decided us to turn back to the canal (the first time ever). Whilst sailing back through the inner firth we met the puffer VIC 32 taking passengers on a pleasure trip from the canal to Fort George. We tied up in the canal about 1 pm and decided to take the bus home. By Forres it was obvious that the wind had abated and we arrived back in Buckie to calm and sunshine. So much for Met forecasts! On Wednesday Fred and I sailed back to Buckie under motor all the way again against 4 hours of foul tide. There was no wind at all until Burghead when a 2 or 3 knot breeze sprang up and headed us all the way to Buckie. Total time Inverness to Buckie was 7 hours 20 minutes - not bad considering it was approaching spring tides. By Thursday morning it was blowing pretty hard from the north - so we got back just in time. Harmony may get one or two sails before we crane out and the maintenance regime over winter starts again. Not a great 2010 season for weather - lots of strong winds, here's hoping for a better 2011 season. Phil Brown Harmony
The story begins one blustery Wednesday in July when Neil "made me" sail on Fusion all the way from Finechty to Inverness Marina in a screaming 26 to 30 knots of wind. Didna like it much! But the promise of a visit to the Wild Wild West sounded interesting. It took us 8 hours on the Fusion roller coaster to get to Inverness where we touched the bottom in the firth at low water springs - a hasty bit of full astern corrected that ane, and as we got to the bridge the weather turned into a screaming gale and it started bucketing doon wi rain and the tide started to turn against us - help...... We picked up Bob and Jackie at Muirtown the next day for the Fusion Booze Cruise down Loch Ness, incidentally it was still bucketing rain. We spent a couple of nights getting soaked inside and oot in various stretches of the canal, in the pishing rain. One night Neil decided to go to bed and leave the window open above the chart table, where 3 mobile phones, two cameras, hand held radios and all our electronic navigation equipment is sited............ Good news was that although everything got quite soaked, only one electrical item got fried - Neil's 2 week old Blackberry - oops. Neil and Mairi continued the journey from Fort William down past Dunstaffonage and Shuna etc., in the pishing rain, to Oban, where we spent a couple of days trying to dry out the waterproofs and Neil's phone, to no avail. We ran into a couple fae Banff Sailing Club and had a swallay onboard their boat. The Banff skipper tried to persuade us that the weather was going to become bonnie soon but we were so disgusted by then that Mairi decided that we were going "anywhere but" the Wild Wild West..... We did not have a pleasant journey back to the canal as it was still pishing rain but we did manage to, get up Neptunes Staircase that same day, That was the day that the sun came out for an hour!!!!! Loch Lochy was interesting as we had to motor into 28 knots of wind whilst someone held a fire hose on us!!! Pishing rain again. We crossed Loch Ness the same day as we did Loch Lochy and we couldnt see a damn thing for the torrential rain so we turned the radar on to check for Nessie, whom I believe was underneath our boat for a while. By this time I had ceased all forms of communication and I wanted to cry....... Final day of torture - As Fusion entered the middle lock at Dochgarroch (in blazing sunshine, yes really), the lock was drained and just as we sank to the bottom of the stinky hole the hydraulic hose on the gate exploded and it was pishing oil for a change and we got stuck there. What jolly good fun. By the time the said hose was replaced the lock keepers had to go for lunch, by which time we missed the opening of the swing bridge. After being held up for about 2 or 3 hours in total we crossed halfway through the swing bridge just as a ambulance radioed the bridge to close immediately, we just made it. We entered the works lock and the keeper told us that the rail bridge was opening in 5 minutes, I asked him how long it would take to drain the lock for us and he said 7 minutes............however, there is a God and he was a nice chap, having been informed by Big Brother of our detention at the Dochgarroch Lock black hole so he and Casey Jones actually held up the Cannonball Express and kept the rail bridge open extra time for little Fusion to scream through at full throttle. The sight of the stopped traffic and the train actually made me laugh for the first time in a while! All I can say to Neil is don't ever mention a sailing holiday in Wild Wild West to me again!!!!! and do you think Dubarry will send me money if I tell them my boots were the only thing that didn't get soaked through. I wonder if Dubarry could branch into ladies underwear............................... How about an endurance award for the crew of Fusion II? Mairi (former crew member)