Dawn's Summer Cruise 1996

Back in 1996, my late parents, Gerry and Barbara Turner, towed their Parker 21 from Salcombe to Largs, then spent a few weeks cruising in Scotland before sailing her back to Devon via Ireland and the Scillies. Gerry was SW Area Officer for the PSSA for a number of years.

This is his account of the trip.

Geoff Turner

P21 Dawn
P21 Dawn
Scottish cruise
Scottish cruise
Track home
Track home

The Boat

Dawn is an early Parker 21 now in her ninth season. She was built to my order with a large number of changes from the original specification. When at sea, the chartboard sits on top of the half-bulkhead, port-side forward; it is removed in harbour. Sails are by Jon Alsop, our local sailmaker. The main is standard size, but the genoa is slightly undersized, with a high-cut clew to make it easier to see underneath. The main winches are self-tailing. She is fitted with a 10 watt solar panel as well as a small alternator on the 5hp outboard, which between them just about keep the battery charged. Her crew consists of my wife Barbara and myself; our home port is Salcombe.

Barbara & Gerry
Barbara & Gerry

The Plan

After cruising to South Brittany twice in the last few years, we thought that we would go north this time. Our original plans were to tow the boat to Largs on the Clyde, then spend several weeks cruising around the Inner Hebrides before returning to Devon by road. But when discussing this with some good friends, the suggested that they should take us and the boat to Scotland, returning with the trailer after their holiday and leaving Barbara and me to sail the boat home to Salcombe - so that is what we did.

The Cruise

We left Devon very early on Monday 20 May and drove directly to Largs, arriving in late afternoon. The next day our friends carried on and we spent the forenoon geting the mast up and the boat ready for the water; we were craned in after lunch. (I prefer to keep my road trailer out of salt water.) We spent the next day storing the boat and left at 1045 on the 23rd. We were impressed by the facilities and general helpfulness we found at Largs, a nice place.

While at Largs we had been warned by the owner of Oriana not to go to Tarbert (our original plan) as their regatta was in full swing and about 250 boats would be vying for about 50 berths! Instead he offered us the use of his own mooring in Loch Riddon, at the top of Kyles of Bute. We got there at 1530 having sailed in the W4 and motored past the Burnt Isles when the wind dropped.

The next day the wind was SW 4/5 gusting and we had quite a hard sail to Ardrishaig, getting mixed up with the racing off Tarbert and trying to keep out of everybody's way. We entered the Crinan Canal just before 1600 in company with Randan crewed by six large Scots and went up the canal with her. This was very useful, as in the Crinan the boats' crews have to work the locks (except the sea locks at each end) and with only two on board it would have neen hard work. As it was, there was always somebody to take one's lines and Barbara and I just sat back and enjoyed it.

We spent the night at Cairnbaan, halfway along the Canal; our new found friends had booked their meals at the hotel but we had to wait our turn and as a result they were already on board Randam when we returned. As Barbara walked past they sang "Goodnight Ladies" very tunefully ("Barbershop" signing being one the their hobbies).

We continued down the Canal the next day still being shepherded by Randan and we passed Bellanoch Bay, a permanent mooring 2 miles from Crinan, we saw Dinkham, a Westerly 22 familiar to us in Salcombe. Later that day we saw her again at Crinan and I introduced myself to her owner who turned our to be William Savage, whose father had been a Salcombe Club member before he died last year. We had a pleasant drink together later at Ardfern whence we had sailed on 26 May.

We enjoyed Ardfern, an excellent marina and chandlery, although we had to move from the outer pontoon when as easterly Force 6 set in as even the fairly short fetch across Loch Craignish was enough to make the outer berths quite rough. The local pub food is excellent for both food and drinks and there is a nice little cafe opposite it as well where one can also buy or exchange second-hand paperbacks.

As well as Dinkum we also met the Graingers, stalwarts of the Dinghy Cruising Association. They were cruising in a Wayfarer, living on board under a full-length boom tent.

As soon as that blow was over we sailed for Craobh marina (pronounced "Croove"), going through the Dorus Mor at low water so we carried the tide up to Loch Melfort. Even then we were fascinated by the rips, whirlpools and standing waves around the point. We though Craobh was very "twee" and artificial with a terrible barn of a pub and after a look at the 3 day weather forecast, which was expecting southerly gales, we slipped and ran down Lock Melfort to Kilmelford under genoa, as the anchorage there offers better shelter from southerlies.


When we got there we squeezed ourselves on to the boatyard's pontoon and although we found ourselves weather-bound for four days we had a very pleasant stay despite primitive facilities at the boatyard. The walking was grand and we found an upmarket (and expensive) pub/restaurantt called the "Shower of Herrings" at Melfort House, a holiday complex about 2 miles away with its own, very tiny, harbour. The pub's name is apparantly derived from an actual incident last century when a shoal of herring actually did drop from the skies!

We also met a number of RNSA members around this time: the Weirs in Estral, Michael Snell in Golden Harvest and Steven and Shirley Sampson in Fargo. The latter was especially pleasing as Cdr Sampson while writing in the RNSA Journal (Autumn 95) had complained of the rarity of meeting other members of the RNSA in these waters.

We moved to Craobh Marina on 2 June and again got stuck with more gales. We slightly revised our opinion of Craobh - the marina itself is fine - and amused ourselves by walking the 4 miles or so to the beautiful National Trust garden at Arduaine. We had an excellent bar lunch in the Loch Melfort Hotel next door (which incidentally has its own moorings and also showers available to yachtsmen), and caught a bus back. Eventually we left Craobh during the later afternoon on 5 June, sailing to Balvicar under genoa in a wind gusting 7; it was only an hour's sail.

The blow was over by the morning and we slipped and motored through Cuan Sound between Luing and Seil, complete with 5 knots of tidal stream under us and standing waves on the next exit into the Sound of Luing. The wind was light and erratic but enough to stop the engine by 0830 and we had a lovely day's sail making use of the north-going eddy up the east coast of Mull when the main stream started ebbing south. We passed Duart Castle at 1145 and got to Tobermory at the end of the Sound of Mull at 1730 picking up a spare buoy as it is too deep for us to anchor comfortably except very close in.

Duart Castle
Duart Castle

We spent a pleasant time shopping, walking and exploring the next day, lunching at the Western Isles Hotel run by Michael Fink, who used to work at the Marine Hotel, Salcombe.

We had orginally intended to sail west-about Mull to Iona but the blustery WSW the next day made that course inadvisable, so instead we sailed back down the Sound of Mull, stopping at Salen for lunch and arriving at Craignure at tea-time. We ate ashore that evening after walking to Torosay Castle and back. The next day our logs read "rained all day, pitched and tossed all night. Too rough for our small inflatable, so stayed on board".

The next day was one of the highlights of our cruise. We caught an early bus to Iona, driving the length of Mull through superb scenery. After visiting the Abbey and looking around the island we returned to Craignure in time for lunch. The wind was S5 and we were due to meet our son at Dunstaffnage within 48 hours, so we left and reached the 10 miles to that marina before the wind got up any more. So ended the first half of our cruise.

After a week's hill walking with our son David from Aberdeen we restocked our provisions in Oban on 18 June (not forgetting second-hand paperbacks from a charity shop!) and departed early next morning running south under main and boomed-out genoa in a light northerly - we do not carry a spinnaker. We found it fascinating to sail through the Sound of Luing with a six knot tidal current helping us along; to look at, one would have thought it was about two feet deep, such were the swirls and standing wavers. Later, as we went past the eastern end of the Gulf of Corryvrecken at the end of the ebb, we were intrigued by numerous small whirlpools in the water, most only a few inches in diameter. It was almost completely calm by then, or we would have not seen them. By midday were motoring and at 1630 we went into Craighouse on Jura and picked up a HIE buoy. (Highland and Islands Tourist Board). We logged 25 miles that day while covering 43 miles on the chart, the difference being due to the strong tidal currents.

The next day we moved to Port Ellen on Islay in a pleasant sailing breeze which blew up to 4/5 on the nose when we were about 2 miles out. I should have reefed but being lazy rolled up most of the genoa instead and split wind on the main in the gusts. Although so unbalanced Dawn sailed quite happily and we picked up an HIE buoy in the bay at midday. However, when we contemplated the state of the sea and the size of our small inflatable, we slipped and entered harbour, rafting up on a yacht called Wild Goose (Tony and Lesley Harvey). Wild Goose, under a different skipper, Miles Clark, had sailed through the USSR from Murmansk to the Black Sea some years ago, a voyage described in the American National Geographic Magazine.

The next day the forecast was Force 6 in the North Channel, so we had a lazy day walking out to the Lagavulin Distillery which we toured in company with Eric Tabarly and his crew (Pen Duick was lying in the bay).

We did get under way the day after and had an uncomfortable dead run in a Force 4 down to the Mull of Kintyre, staying out of the traffic Separation Zone before turning to starboard and crossing to Carlough in Northern Ireland. (It is all very well obeying the rules but what annoyed me is that we did not see another vessel all day!).

Carnlough is a nice little harbout but beware of local urchins - "Hey Mister, can we come on board? "No" was the reply, but we watched two or three 7 or 8 year olds descent on another (unoccupied) yacht. We ran out of Gaz here, fortunately after a morning cuppa and although Gaz is available in the town we couldn't find our size bottle, so we ran down to Bangor where, of course, all the shops were closed, being Sunday. I was bewailing our luck in the Marina Office when a toal stranger, Mr Frank Smith of Bangor Sea School, offered me a full bottle from his Contessa and asked me to put it back when I could get hold of a new one. He wouldn't be around and couldn't even spare the time to have a drink.

When we left Bangor we worked our way down the Irish Coast in steps of 35-40 miles, a distance comfortably covered in a tide. Outstanding in our memories are the smoked scallops we had in the Cuan Restaurant in Strangford and waking up in Carlingford Marina, whose breakwaters are largely a collection of wrecked merchant ships, to find a near-gale blowing down the lough when the forecast was Force 3/4. However we found that this was the "Carlingford Kettle" a katabatic wind coming off the hills and disappeared as soon as we got outside.

We got stuck at Howth for five days, with winds of Force 6 up to full gale being forecast, but that was no hardship as we found ourselves in the middle of the Squib World Championships - some of the seamanship on display were superb and also the walking around the peninsula was excellent. There were also trains to Dublin every fifteen minutes. We enjoyed Howth.

While we were there we met the Neals in Tzigane and also Bernard and Margaret Bright, who were working their way around the UK in their Super Seal Nasseem. We also met Liam and Helen Brennan, who sail Lazy Days out of Arklow, who were most helpful and it was a result of their advice that we left Howth at 2230 on 1 July for a night passage to Arklow. As soon as we got out of the lee of the Ben of Howth we encountered a WNW Force 5 which ensured an exhilarating sail across Dublin Bay. We passed Wicklow Head at 0300 and shortly afterwards while looking for the Horseshoe Buoy (which was missing) heard the sound of surf rapidly getting louder and then found ourselves going through a race while logging 7 knots over the ground! The wind dropped with the dawn; we shook out the reef, unrolled the genoa and beat into Arklow. We logged 30.2 miles for the 40 mile hop.


We had a look around when we arrived; the basin was fairly full of trawlers with one or two yachts, but a long walk from the town. The pontoon by the Sailing Club had two yachts alongside, which filled it up, so we eventually settled for a visitor's buoy 300 yards downstream from the Club. We found Arklow Sailing Club very hospitable - we were lent a key to the clubhouse so that we could use the showers when they were closed and had an excellent time when they were open.

We spent three days in Arklow and had some nice walks while the wind blew outside but eventually we deflated and packed away our tender and set off for the Isles Of Scilly on 5 July. My passage plan was to sail SE to Arklow Lanby before turning south outside the inshore dangers around Rosslare and passing between the two Traffic Separation schemes, off the Tuskar Rock and the Smalls. The wind was SW to start with veering NW later and apart from some very heavy showers we had an easy sail to Porth Cressa on St Marys. Our electric log packed up - I think as a result of severe condensation in the terminal box - but came back on later; we lost about 120 miles on the counter. Barbara and I enjoy night sailing, provided that the visibility is reasonable and we find that a 48 hour passage is most enjoyable. We tend not to use the Autohelm as steering by hand helps to keep one awake when on watch at night by oneself.

We anchored in Porth Cressa at 1130 on 7 July and after lunch and a siesta we considered whether to blow up our tender and go ashore. The weather forecast was suggesting that the wind might back to the south, which Mark Fishwick tells us could render our anchorage untenable. We were also getting slightly homesick, so in the end we weighed anchor at 0530 next morning and set off for the Lizard and Falmouth. It was a lovely sailing day with a wind that varied from SW to NW blowing up to 4/5 during the day and then dropping as we rounded the Lizard. We entered Falmouth Yacht Haven having logged 63 miles in 14 hours and were waved alongside Charnid (David Fletcher, our Rear Commodore in Salcombe), and rafted up on her. They were off to the Scillies the next day.

We enjoyed exploring the Carrick Roads and the Fal Estuary and before going home sailed and motor-sailed up to Restronguest Creek for lunch at the Pandora Inn, tying up to their private pier which dries out at low water. We borrowed a buoy for the night before sailing home via Fowey and Newton Ferrers and got home to Salcombe on 12 July.

Apart from our slightly temperamental instruments we had no gear failures and no crises. Of course we had no time-table or deadline to meet and if the weather was unkind for sailing there was always something else to do. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip. We were sorry that the weather was so unsettled, particularly in Scotland, as we were unable to explore some of the anchorages that we had hoped to visit, but the magnificent scenery, sheltered waters (and strong tides) and very good food and drink made the whole trip seven weeks to remember.

Total mileage: Largs to Salcombe over the groundwas 741 nautical miles.

Gerry Turner, Dawn, Parker 21 / 18