Update, February 2008

Following on from the galley alterations noted in the previous newsletter various personnel involved in galley operations went on a HACCP course on food hygiene (Hazard, Analysis, Critical, Control Point) and passed with flying colours. Nick and Lyal also attended a First Aid Course and again passed. A passing point of interest…when the local health officer inspected the galley she was impressed but unfortunately did not know what category to put the Puffer in so we are officially classified as a marine mobile hamburger stand !!

It was a great thrill to organise a 12 day cruise from Ardrishaig to Glasgow and back and which included participating in the Glasgow River Festival. After being greeted by Richard Davies the Maritime Director we had two days of great fun. Kenny Pirie was seen persuading local entertainers, bagpipers and belly dancers on board to do their own thing ( if the censor allows look out for photo’s of the belly dancers and see if you can spot the Skipper…he’s in the line up! ). With the help of Rachel, Alice and Colin and Isobel Sharp we collected £1000 in sales and donations from the generous Glaswegians. There was also a visit to the Clyde Coastguards at Greenock where it was great to put faces to names and to see the impressive array of equipment that is that their disposal.

During the year we also came across the Navy’s new destroyer D 32 on its working up cruise near Largs and caused a minor security scare by ‘creeping’ up behind them, passing close alongside and whistling and dipping our ensign. She was still in dockyard hands at the time and flying the Blue ensign, she returned our whistle with a siren that nearly blasted us out of the water, recognised our dipped ensign and eventually lowered hers. At this moment we saw approaching at high speed a police launch, we were just about to throw the skipper overboard when they waved in a friendly fashion and stormed off in another direction.

There was an embarrassing incident in Tayvallich Bay when on a windy day and with Richard Albanese in control when we missed the gap between the island in the middle of the bay and the southern peninsular and ended up on the rocks ! After 4 hours and by dint of moving heavy equipment and getting all the passengers to move to the port side we floated off. With Richard’s confidence slightly damaged but an invaluable lesson learnt we continued with the cruise.

There was also an amusing incident after we had moored off the Loch Melfort hotel one night. We had steamed off the next morning to arrive back at Crinan when Nick received a call from the Coastguard saying that the police wanted to contact us. As mobiles do not work at Crinan we had to wait till we were alongside and could use a land line. We then ran the police but for 1 hour 40 minutes got no response…..it appeared that they changed their number ! When they did arrive it transpired that the telephone box at the Loch Melfort hotel had been stolen the night before and that as we were there overnight we were regarded as suspicious characters. However once they had interviewed everyone they said we looked pretty honest and departed.

The end of season cruise’s on the Caledonian Canal were notable for a number of reasons, the supply of mushrooms picked by the skipper and Richard on their rambles in the local area, the sighting of osprey, kingfishers, and Golden Eagles. After waiting for the army to move it’s tank landing craft and for the dredger Shearwater to pass through the locks at Inverness we entered the Beauly Firth, struggled under the Kessock Bridge and off Fort George and Chanonry Point were treated to a fine display by a school of dolphins. There was also a trial of two tons of compressed wood bricks, now called ‘weetabix’ to see how it compared to coal ( not favourably ). We also picked up with the aid of passengers, an enormous pile of wood from the lock keeper at Clachnaharry that had been dredged up ,and then spent the next week convincing Lyall the engineer to use it in the boiler.

Time was spent in the shipyard at Corpach at the end of the season for VIC32’s annual overhaul, and then she was steamed back to Crinan, via an overnight at Oban where high winds caused her to drag her anchor, arrving back on the 12th November.

Thanks go again to the crew and volunteers for all their efforts which are much appreciated, to the passengers who made the trips fun and not least of all you the ‘Friends’ for supporting such a worthwhile cause.

Mike Smith