Feb 2024 & Annual General Meeting

The 2024 Annual General Meeting is to be held in the Commodore Suite at Royal Gourock Yacht Club on Wednesday 21st February. Coffee/tea etc will be available from 7pm with the meeting due to start at 7.30.  

After the completion of business Peter & Marian will give a talk on their 2023 cruise to the Baltic on Exody.  This is bound to be a fascinating account and all members are encouraged to attend. 


Jan 2024

The Commodore writes: 

This is probably my last Commodore’s Message before I demit office at the
AGM in February so I should take the opportunity to state that it has been
an honour to be of service to the club in that capacity and to thank those on
the Committee who have guarded my path and identified to me my
deviations from that which is deemed proper.

I am sure that those who attended the Annual Dinner a couple of weeks
ago will have had no regrets. I am no natural compere but despite a few
slip-ups from me the evening passed most acceptably with a meal
surpassing previous standards. 


Our Speaker, Mr Mike McKirdy gave a speech which was both humorous and thought provoking and the warmth of the reception certainly dissipated the chill of the Art Club’s heating which had suffered a failure. An interesting point made by Mike was of the alleged hierarchy of brown, green and blue spaces in terms of mental wellbeing and his observation that those us who sail in coastal waters must surely benefit from the blue to which I’m sure we concur.*   


all photos courtesy of Dr Freda Forbes 

The Raffle in aid of the Hope Foundation of the Royal Society of Physicians
and Surgeons of Glasgow, the charity designated by the speaker (https://
hope.rcpsg.ac.uk/) raised £385 and the club has received thanks from the
Chair of the Foundation.
As I remarked at the dinner, it has not been the most successful of years
for the Club in terms of events but those that did survive the weather were
enjoyed by all participants with the BBQ at Croabh being of particular note.
At least it resulted in a minimal prize-giving. The club has managed to
attract a few new members with the possibility of one or two more so we
can remain optimistic. Keep a look out for changes to the club calendar
and I hope next year to see as many of you as possible out on the water.


2023 Photo Competition

The Serpent Photo Competition 2023 has been won by Seamus Lalor with 'Contemplative Clyde Seascape.' 



Congratulations to Seamus on his dramatic image. Seamus was unable to attend the Annual Dinner to receive the Turner Prize to keep for a year but arrangements will be made.  Thanks to the voting system it was possible to pick Dugald Glen's 'Heatwave Sailing as a runner up with the entries from Peter Jennett and Don Reid 3rd equal.    

All of the images now have the name of the photographer appended.  If you wish to know how many votes your own image received it is within the realms of possibility that Graham Gillies would be more than delighted to assist.


Autumn Muster 16/17 September


There was a light north -easterly when Tulla Mhor, Silverjack and Lollypop gathered off Kip for the race to Rothesay.  Race Officer Don Gillies with Marge on board Black Pepper chose course 2 - (the familiar trek to Hun 1, Buoy B, Toward Bank with the finish at Ardyne.) meaning a downwind start which, using the available in-situ buoys resulted in an extraordinarily long start line and no incidents. As would be expected Tulla Mhor pulled away strongly but Lollypop was able to maintain distance on them as far as Hun 1 after which the wind filled in to a good sailing breeze and Tulla Mhor found her true stride.  Dugald and Val were joined on this occasion by Stewart and Catherine Toy who were just one day away from no longer being boatless.  Silverjack, with Norena crewing for Graham, was by this time some distance behind Lollypop and there was no change in positions before the finish. Given the wind direction it was a somewhat undemanding reachy course but by midday the sun was blazing, the Clyde was sparkling and with a good sailing wind the conditions were to the enjoyment of all involved.  

Parking up in our reserved berths in Rothesay inner harbour was also uneventful, aided by the always helpful shoreside staff.  Most crews eventually went for a stroll about the town which does show some limited but welcome evidence of regeneration and later on all crews gathered on board Lollypop for the Commodore's drinks reception, it being the final opportunity available to the present Commodore for so doing.  The race results seemed so unexpected when I calculated them on the Excel sheet that I had to triple check everything to ensure there were no errors before presenting them to the assembled party.  The elapsed and corrected times are below. There then followed our annual  visit to the Victoria Hotel, where the ambience continues to resemble a benign version of Fawlty Towers, for what was a perfectly acceptable dinner.  After that, a smaller group of salt encrusted would-be party animals were led by Stewart Toy in search of a performance by the legendary Margaret Zavaroni but ended up having a quiet nightcap in the Black Bull.   

Overnight it was wet and so was the dreich Sunday morning when everyone eventually departed on their separate ways, generally satisfied with the latest Serpent outing.   

Lollypop     elapsed 3hr 5m 29s   corrected  131.45 minutes

Silverjack   elapsed 3hr 15m 26s  corrected 140.85 minutes

Tulla Mhor  elapsed  2hr  39m 00s corrected 141.78 minutes



Scandinavian Cruise - Peter Jennett & Marian Borde

Peter and Marian have kindly agreed to give a brief overview of their fascinating summer trip to Denmark, Sweden and the Baltic.  Their full presentation will be the main feature of next year's Annual General meeting so that's one not to be missed.  

Nearly two thousand memorable miles after leaving Ardrossan on 5th May, Exody was lifted and winterised in southern Sweden near Karlshamn in the last week of July and we flew home on 31st July. Our trip was focused around the eighth anniversary World ARC Reunion timed for the Swedish midsummer celebrations at Karlskrona. We met with six other crews for a convivial weekend of socialising, and touring the historic naval city. We were joined by only one other crew arriving by boat from Germany- the rest flew from Iceland, USA and Portugal, with one couple coming from UK by campervan.

The cruise fell into four main legs

Clyde to Peterhead about two weeks via both canals, a brief detour to Corryvreckan anchorage, a beautifully quiet and flat Loch Ness transit and welcomed by the harbourmaster at Whitehills.

                                        transiting a tranquil Loch Ness

                                                 Exody and Ben Nevis

 North Sea Crossing: Peterhead to Limfjord – 400 miles taking two and half days. After a very pleasant two days weaving through wind and oil installations, we took a bit of a close-hauled, triple- reefed dusting in a near onshore gale eventually diverting 30 miles for safe landfall at Hanstholm commercial fishing harbour.


                                                 Leaving Peterhead

                                           North Sea oil installations


Limfjord to Karlskrona – three weeks in all firstly transiting this shallow (less than 10 metres) inland waterway that bisects Jutland, emerging after Aalborg into the Baltic. 


                                                    Baltic Windfarm

We took in several islands (Anholt, Tuno) and harbours (Ebeltoft, Skaelscor) as we threaded our way south through Denmark’s complex geography, dipping down to Glowe on the German island of Rugen (for economic alcohol supplies). 

Onward northeast to Bornholm, then to charming and well preserved fortified island of Christianso before the final 55 mile crossing to Karlskrona. This last leg saw Exody close reaching at 7 knots into dense mist and crossing a busy shipping lane with unseen vessels passing less than a mile away at nearly 20 knots! We dowsed the genny to slow the boat till clear and then saw the floorboards awash! Culprit found to be our electric bilge pump back-siphoning- first time since fitted 35,000 miles ago: antisiphon valve and non-return valve promptly fitted. 

                                           Christianso fortified harbour

                                                    Utklippan Harbour

                                           Dressed overall in Karlskrona

Island and Archipelago Cruise- Following the reunion event we had crew join us for three weeks heading north about 150 miles in short hops to enter the archipelago complex well south of Stockholm. Translating the Swedish cruising guide and with membership of the local cruising association, we found many delightful spots here to anchor or pick up a buoy. There were a variety of interesting towns and harbours to dock before heading south again via the islands of Gotland and Oland to the city of Kalmar and then southwest (and upwind!) to our pre-arranged yard for slipping.

It was a trip of generally great weather, a whole new vocabulary of docking experiences, flat landscapes, huge maritime wind farms, charming cities towns and villages, superbly clean facilities -all so very well organised and civilised! A great combination of intricate remote archipelagoes to navigate and anchor, busy town centre marinas and small harbours on delightful, mostly carless islands.

Nearer to the war on our European doorstep, we also became acutely aware of the geographic significance of this constrained area of the Baltic as the backdrop to the many belligerent events of the last few centuries: museums everywhere and whole fortified towns and islands.

The general setup for cruising and visiting boats is impressive and we reckon is down to the sheer number of vessels owned by the Danes, Swedes, Germans - mostly under 12 metres due as we learnt to the shallow depths and the compact nature of many of the harbours. Larger boats need to choose their ports and anchorages with great care!

So here we are now boatless in the sunshine in Scotland but also realising that not a jot of boat maintenance will need to be tackled until next spring when we head back for the return trip.



The Summer Cruise in Company

 As recounted by Caroline, Tom, Marje, Don and Graham.

It was still dark at 4am on Monday 10th July as Silverjack and Black Pepper slipped out of Campbeltown taking the morning tide to Gigha and a rendezvous with Aquaholic . Breakfast saw a memorable and windless sunrise over Goat Fell. One of those sailing early mornings you’ll never forget.

Indeed a fast and straightforward rounding under engine saw Black Pepper on a mooring and ashore in Ardminish before lunch while Silverjack, with 4 on board, played with the tide and a cruising chute in the light westerly. It was all a welcome break from the storms of the previous week which had prevented the planned cruise-in-company to Ballycastle and Rathlin.

 Aquaholic arrived in the afternoon after an exhilarating sail from Craobh with Tom, Caroline and Norena on board They hosted the evening meal and completed the fleet of 3 yachts and 9 souls.

We all spent a warm and sunny day exploring Achamore Gardens on Tuesday followed by supper in the Boathouse.


                                                    A brief stop at Achamore Gardens TH

Wednesday saw a short and interesting sail to Craighouse. The wind - initially a gentle 10 knot westerly - gusted to 25 knots off Jura as hurried “oilskins over shorts and t-shirts” saw yachts reefing in the rain and hail squalls in plummeting temperatures.

Aquaholic beating to Craighouse GG

It was to be a foretaste of the unstable weather of the next few weeks which meant taking advantage of any weather window whilst looking over our shoulders (and up and down our screens) for the next low pressure system spinning in from the west.

                           The Crews at Craighouse before eating ashore GG

The Fleet set off early on the Thursday to catch the tide north. Black Pepper and Aquaholic sailed for Craobh to allow time to shop in Oban for the barbeque while Silverjack bagged one more anchorage at the lagoon in Loch Craignish. They were rewarded with a very settled evening having walked to Ardfern, where they met our Commodore, Charles with Anne and their family off Lollypop which had been on an Ardfern mooring. 


                                                            Morag Dorward enjoying the peace at the lagoon

In the morning, both Silverjack and Lollypop had a good sail in light conditions catching the tide north as the Dorus Mhor opened for the short passage to Craobh.


The Craobh Muster……………

Unfortunately, the fleet woke up to the now familiar unsettled weather on Saturday morning and the planned race still with only two potential entries was cancelled. The barbeque went ahead in the Boatshed as planned with 19 people from 6 boats in attendance. We were pleased to have the company of new members David & Essie Brice from Belfast who were over with friends cruising their Hanse 341 'Cariad'.  The food was bountiful with many an adventure shared over that and a few glasses of wine. Music and dancing returned courtesy of Stewart who, with Catherine, joined Don and Marje on Black Pepper for the evening.

Boatshed barn dance GG


The weather also impacted on the cruise-in-company to Loch Spelve planned for Sunday. With strong winds forecast overnight and with no desire to repeat the anchor drag race of last year, it was decided to cancel the cruise.  In the afternoon Marcus and Charles departed on Lollypop for the Crinan Canal and enjoyed a fast heavily reefed sail to Crinan where they were met by Anne who had driven down and was able to help them through the first few locks. For the determined cruising souls remaining however Inverlussa Mussel Farm came to the rescue on the Mussel Fest and delivered mussels for collection at Oban. These were gratefully received and the Mussel Fest went ahead in the Boatshed on Sunday evening.  

Fingers crossed the weather gods are kinder to us next year and the full planned programme is able to go ahead.

SYC Craobh Muster Cruise in Company Finale

Following the mussel muster in the Craobh boatshed Monday dawned with lighter winds and slightly less rain. Black Pepper, Cariad and Aquaholic set sail for Lochaline. Although a little bouncy around Easdale a good wind held until Firth of Lorne where boats ground to a halt as if brakes had been applied.

Engines were started and the three boats motored on to Lochaline tying up in the Marina for the night. Silverjack left later that day after a change of crew and managed to pick up more wind before gracing Loch Spelve with their company for the evening.


                                                         BP set for Lochaline under threatening skies. CH

All four boats made their way to Tobermory on Tuesday in very light winds from the aft, Silverjack hoisting her colourful cruising chute to gently sail up the sound. The crews from all boats assembled at the Tobermory Hotel for a great meal and a few libations. 


                                              Settled conditions on arrival at Tobermory GG

On Wednesday morning the fleet split with Cariad heading into a moderate head wind to Muck to continue her cruise further north. Silverjack caught the tide south making their way steadily to Loch Tarbert, Jura for the evening before a planned trip to Port Ellen the next day. Aquaholic and Black Pepper remained in Tobermory heading up to the Street Food Festival beside the Smokery.

Thursday’s weather outlook warned of strong winds due later and Silverjack, having made their way to Port Ellen decided that the planned whisky tour should be abandoned in favour of making their way back to the Clyde the next day via Campbeltown. Black Pepper and Aquaholic headed for Kerrera in preparation for Black Pepper starting their journey back to the Clyde via Gigha the following day. Winds built throughout the day which started light with Aquaholic hoisting the asymmetric and turned into a breezy run down the Sound of Mull with a liberal downpour at the entrance to Oban Bay.

                                  Aquaholic under asymmetric spinnaker TH

Cariad travelled on to Rhum on Thursday hoping to pick up one of the 10 new moorings available, only to find 20 other boats had the same idea, so anchored instead. On Friday they enjoyed a sail to Mallaig to drop off crew and began a sail to Raasay with hopes to walk Callum’s Road.  However, the weather once again had plans revising and after making their way to the Kyle of Lochalsh where they were joined by a pod of dolphins for half an hour, plans were changed and Cariad made their way back to Belfast via Tobermory, Ardfern and Gigha.

Silverjack having foregone their whisky tour and leaving Port Ellen on Friday morning managed to avoid the heavy weather and reach Lochranza with a mixture of sailing and motoring. They then visited Tarbert, dining at the Starfish before concluding their cruise with a sail to St Ninians Bay where they were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.

                                 Settled night at St Ninian’s Bay Bute GG

Aquaholic left Kerrera just before lunch and headed back to Craobh tying up in their berth before the forecast gales arrived.

Friday also saw Black Pepper leave Kerrera quietly before the sun rose, arriving at Gigha early afternoon after spending half an hour with a large Minke whale! Their stay turned into 3 days on a mooring waiting for fresh easterlies to blow through before rounding the Mull. 



Choppy conditions at Ardminish DG  (!)

On Monday, Black Pepper motor sailed to Campbeltown in gentle winds. After a sunny and relaxing day there, the weather gods had one more surprise – on Wednesday, Black Pepper sailed back to Ormidale in an increasingly fresh south-easterly  and on approaching the mooring, it kicked up to 25kn onshore, preventing them from picking up their mooring until it settled a couple of hours later. They packed the car for home in torrential rain with a mixture of relief and joy at surviving the 2023 summer cruise.


Spring Muster and Tarbert Race

It seems a long time now since the opening muster at Tarbert at which numbers were somewhat down with just four boats and 15 persons. It was a good party though with a sociable reception in the marquee followed by the meal in the Starfish which was well up to the expected standard. The race however didn’t amount to much with only Silverjack and Lollypop turning  up to a completely windless Rothesay Bay. Onwards we motored until around the Carry Buoy, race officer Don Gillies on Black Pepper suggested that we attempt a start, which we did. Such was the intensity of the concentration on board Lollypop that the helmsman (me) made an idiotic and near catastrophic error about which the less said the better although Marcus deserves great credit for saving a very difficult situation. That led to the abandonment of the race but thankfully it all turned out ok in the end.  There are a couple of pictures showing members on board Black Pepper but I hesitate to show them here.