A Camping-cruise from Crinan to Lismore + (nearly!) back - west coast of Scotland 2004 - Keith Morris

Day 1

Rigging + packing – Crinan Harbour

On a bright and sunny day in June 2004, six members of the OCSG met on the foreshore at Crinan. It was late afternoon and we were setting out for a sailing and camping cruise.

Nearly ready to go

Having all travelled from well south of the border, there was not a lot of time to get very far on that first evening, so we headed north and after a few miles made camp on Island Macaskin. The landing was not very good, with the tide being out and deep mud lining the shore. It was a difficult carry of the gear and boats up to camp at the top of the beach, but the campsite was OK on level ground and short grass.

Camp – Island Macaskin

Track of short first day


Day 2

Leaving camp 1, early morning

The next day we decided to head north, but first we had to negotiate the “Dorus Mor.” This is a tidal ‘gate’ that should be taken near slack water, when rough water is much less likely to be encountered. We had to be up early to allow time to get there before the tide turned at around 8-30am.

Heading for the Dorus Mor

Towards Dorus Mor

We got the timing just right and the tidal race was like a mill pond so we went through without any problems.

As the tide turned and flooded northwards, gentle winds gave us an easy run past past the island of Scarba and up the Sound of Luing.

Dave S running and relaxing in the perfect gentle conditions. The boat is a Solway Dory decked plywood sailing canoe with a 44sq ft Bermudan main and a 14sq ft mizzen

Chris with a 44sq ft fully battened main, with jib and lugsail mizzen. He used a set of homemade outriggers with plywood floats

Keith running in light conditions up the Sound of Luing under main and mizzen. The boat is a Mad River Explorer 16rx and has the option of a jib as well

The weather improved throughout the morning as we made our way up the Sound of Luing. The tide was flowing quite fast between the west coast of Luing and the outlying islands. There were occasional overfalls as the tide surged over underlying shallows, which added to the interest in otherwise benign conditions.

Dave P near Fladda

Tidal turbulence – Sound of Luing

Dave P in his Solway Dory trimaran – very stable and capable, easily driven by sail or paddle. Steve used a very similar set-up

We stopped for lunch at Easdale, pulling the boats up in the harbour on the island.

Easdale harbour

Later we made use of the good conditions and sailed across to Mull.

As we crossed to Mull the wind started to die off and paddling was needed to make better progress to the bay where we would camp for the night.

We found a really good campsite at Port Donain, overlooking a wide white sandy beach. Wild camping in such a place doesn’t get any better. We had sailed 22 miles in only light breezes.


Day 3

The next morning was bright and fairly still.

We decided to continue northwards and kept close to the shore on Mull as the last of the ebb was flowing against us. With only light winds we had to paddle to make any headway.

Approaching Duart Point

We reached the eastern end of the Sound of Mull as the tide turned, then made our way over to Eilean Musdile at the southern end of Lismore Island.

Towards Lismore from Duart Castle

We stopped by the lighthouse for an early lunch.

Awkward landing for lunch

Then we moved a short distance to a nicer beach landing and had a siesta in the hot sun while waiting for a bit of breeze.

Post-lunch snooze waiting for the wind

Eventually a steady Force 2 came up from the south and we set off on a beam reach, crossing the 4 miles to Oban in less than an hour. Dave P spent an extra 5 minutes rigging up a mizzen staysail and got left far behind. But with his 96sq ft of sail he overtook us all before the other side.

Dave P – 3-sail reaching

Keith with full sail – about 75sqft

We went into Oban, found a beach near the harbour to land the boats and walked into town for coffee.

Once suitably refreshed we set off down the Sound of Kerrera, looking for a campsite, and found a nice shingle beach, with good camping behind, on the east shore of Kerrera. We managed to make a small campfire on the beach in the evening in an attempt to ward off the midges, and sampled Bernard’s whisky.


Day 4

The next day the wind was still from the south and had increased to Force 3 – 4.

We beat down the Sound of Kerrera in relatively sheltered conditions.

Once in the wider expanse of the Firth of Lorne the waves were more significant so we headed for the shelter of the Clachan Sound, with the “Bridge over the Atlantic” providing a suitable target for passing beneath – a long-held ambition for Bernard.

Pausing briefly as we entered the Clachan Sound, to regroup and discuss tactics

The tide was still flowing northwards against us in the sound so in the narrow channel we had to paddle really hard to make it through to the Bridge over the Atlantic.

Bernard was determined to sail through the bridge

After the effort of making it up the channel and through the bridge, we had a lunch stop and found another café (this cruising lark can be really tough!)

Setting off again, initially we were sheltered in the channel between Seil and the mainland.

But a little later, with the wind getting stronger and going round to the west, we had a really fast beam reach down Seil Sound. As we left the shelter of the nearest islands the wind was up to F5 and waves began to build. The trimarans were making 10 knots, whilst the monohulls were struggling to keep up, only doing 7 knots.

A suitable landing and campsite proved difficult to find and the prospect of sailing in worsening conditions down to and through the Dorus Mor was rather daunting, so we found a good landing beach and slipway at Arduaine.

A quick phone call to a local friend provided us with transport back to the cars and so the expedition came to an end a day early. By the time the cars returned the wind had died, the sea was calm and the midges came out, but the impetus of the trip had faded. Still, there is always another year and as we headed home, plans were beginning to form.