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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Portavadie is posh

The views from the deck of a boat of the coast and islands of the Firth of Clyde are spectacular even in these grey and overcast days of early September. Kiwi scuds along at a average speed of about 5-6 knots until we enter the Kyles of Bute where we loose the wind and eventually fire up the engine, sir, and motor through the narrow buoyed channel at the north of the island and head south for a marina called Portavadie which is just about opposite Tarbert on the Mull of Kintyre. It's about a two hour sail with a south westerly, force 4 to 5 on the beam. Eventually after about two hours we tack to starboard to make our way to Portavadie, the wind is still fairly fresh and the sailing is superb.
Since leaving Largs we had been sailing with two reefs in, which was a wise move as squalls would be coming thick and fast throughout the day. Now as we neared Portavadie the winds had died down. Other yachts heading for Portavadie seem to me to be making better progress than Kiwi, "lets shake out the reefs" I suggested. Jackie didn't think this was wise but the alpha male in me decided that we needed more sail up. I eased the reefing lines and hauled up the mainsail to its full height and Kiwi increased her progress by a couple of knots, now we were holding our own against the other boats. Then the next squall came rattling in and we heeled over violently, Jackie swung her into the wind, but too far, the jib backed, and around we went until we stopped. An accidental hove-to, a good time use the loo, thought Jackie. I take the tiller and decide to get us underway again. Another big gust hits us and I'm spinning round dumping Jackie on the loo rather unceremoniously.
Jackie had been right, we should have left the reefs in.
We, took down the sails and headed for the entrance of Portavadie, and for the first time used the VHF to call the marina and asked for a berth for the night. This was the first time we had used the radio, by ourselves, and it all went very smoothly. Enter the harbour gates, turn to starboard and take a berth on pontoon A. Oh, alright lets go for it then. Motor in slowly, swing around, fenders on both sides, warps ready, me at the helm, drift in and whoops, missed it. Luckily there were a couple of helping hands to help get her safely into dock. Not the perfect approach but with our two angels on the pontoon we were docked and safely in port after our first bareboat voyage. Not exactly an ocean crossing, but a voyage from port to port with just ourselves in charge skipper and crew had made it safely from port to port.
Once everything is tided on Kiwi we go off to explore the facilities of Portavadie Marina. Next to us on the pontoon is a 43ft Bavaria, and standing next to her is someone we know. Believe it or not it's our instructor, Brian, that we did our dayskipper practical course with a couple of years ago. He's with a few other blokes on the Bavaria that they've chartered for the weekend. We hope that he didn't see our bumbled attempt at docking, he doesn't mention it.
Portavadie looks like its been plucked out of Dubai, I've never been but I've seen pictures. The Marina buildings are all glass fronted. The glass tower on the end has big triangular lights inside that run through a colour sequence, making for a surreal feature in this remote landscape. It's posh, you know it's posh cause the gents has moisturising cream on each  sink and next to the hair drier is a set of hair straighteners. Two glasses of wine cost £8.50 so we head back to the pontoon, and the comfort of Kiwi, for soup and a bun, crack open a bottle of white and settle down to a game of backgammon in the cockpit. We've made a point of mooring into the wind so the spray hood shields us from the elements but just as we start the second game the weather turns and down comes the rain, time for bed, tomorrow we sail to Androsson.