Update, June 2009

At the end of 2008 we again went into Corpach Boatyard for replacement of hull plating on the port bow. On the trip back to Crinan we were joined by the new owner of ‘Old Reekie’ who wanted to gain an impression of puffer life, we wish him well with his project.

During the winter months maintenance on the water tanks, the boiler and the engine room was carried out by Lyall with assistance from Francis. The dinghy was also sent away for a complete refit and came back as new, also delivered was the new ‘Carley Float’ which now sits on the hatch covers.

On the first cruise we discovered a small leak in the starboard double cabin, at first it was thought it might be from the water tanks, but in fact was a suspect weld between old and new plating, thankfully the passengers in the cabin ran a boatyard and were quite at home using their skills to assist Lyall in plugging the leak!

On another point, whilst rowing to collect passengers, in high winds, Roberts managed to break a rowlock, fortunately he managed to paddle to a yacht mooring buoy and fasten himself to that, we then had to up anchor to rescue him.

Another highlight was when Mary the cook decided she wanted to use seaweed as a vegetable, after collecting same and during the preparation of these delicacies she threw overboard some slimy discarded bits. Regrettably she did not note where the wind was coming from and a passing passenger was covered in slippery algae…….fortunately she had a sense of humour and joined in the general laughter.

We continue to visit Jura because it gives everyone great pleasure…plus we meet up with Gwen the bus driver, visit Jura House Gardens, visit the distillery or have a visit from Neil and his Jura Band. Neil plays the small pipes, the local doctor Murray plays a strange stringed instrument, his wife Janet plays either harp or fiddle and Giles when he comes plays the drums. The performance of such haunting Gaelic songs and music is much appreciated by passengers who are very generous in donations towards ‘The Jura Music Festival’.

We have discovered a new spot to anchor off. Toberonochy on the island of Luing which is centred on an old and derelict slate quarry. The surrounding village of small and neat quarry workers’ houses is great fun to explore.

The quarry was at it’s peak after the Napoleon Wars when the Russians told the French to contibute to the restoration of St.Petersburg which Napoleon had burnt. They continued up to the First World War, but as most of the workers were killed they went into decline.

After the summer break there was drama at Crinan Sea Lock, the outer sill had collapsed and we were advised by BW to moor outside the canal and for three weeks used the outer pier. This meant that coal loading was a nightmare as it had to be shovelled into wheelbarrows, pushed across the lock gates at Lock 14, across the grass and down to the pier.

Fortunately the crew and passengers proved up to the task and complaints were limited. Not only coal but the weeks provisions and passengers luggage had to follow the same route

Whilst at Inverness on the Caledonian Canal we had an open weekend to the public and over 350 people visited and donations of some £700 were received…..thanks in part to that stout Aberdonian Kenneth Pirie Esq.

For the year end in 2009 we hope to have sufficient funds to replate the stern, replace the stern deck and strip the engineer’s cabin and return it, after restoration , to its near original condition.

Lastly many thanks to all the many people and organisations who have given time, money and effort to help keep the VIC 32 in steam.

Mike Smith