After a nice and rested day in Whitehills we drove on to Inverness, where the east end of the Caledonian Canals is located. The distance is about 50 nautical miles, so you need 10 hours of travel time with the 5 knots usually used for calculations. The canal locks are operated from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer and at 8 a.m. there was also high tide in Inverness. Shortly before Inverness there are several bottlenecks in which there is a strong tidal current. So it was clear that we had to be in Inverness by 8 a.m. at the latest.
The weather forecast spoke of a headwind of up to six wind strengths, but it should be less hour by hour - up to a total calm. Our plan was to leave Whitehills around 6 p.m. Then the forecast time of arrival is somewhere around 4 a.m. So there were four hours of air in the calculation.
We said goodbye to Harbourmaster Bernie, started the engine and knew that the sails would stay down that night and that Uncle Benz would have to take care of the propulsion.
The radio was turned on at high volume and played along with Blues Brothers film music. We sang along with most of the songs and looked forward to the sunset drive. But the weather is not always our friend, the weather forecast is precise but by no means accurate to the hour. Sissi began to dance wildly in the waves. More and more often the bow bored into one of the wave crests on the way.
The diesel hummed in the basement, music boomed from the cockpit speakers. Years ago we invented the game “Alpen-DJ”. We used it again and again to sail on the boring motorways through the Alps towards Croatia. The game is very simple. We have a large music collection with a higher five-digit number of tracks. You enter a term, for example “Black” or “Sailing” or whatever. Usually there is a hit list with several music titles that are then added to the playlist. A couple of them. The most fun is when one gives the term and the other then adds a few pieces to the list. We always find unexpected gems in our collection.
Immediately we met a crusader. We saw the prominent exhaust plume long before we saw the ship with our eyes. In times when you pay attention to emissions in cars, central heating systems and BBQ grills, such a sucker seems like an anachronism that has fallen out of time.
I made an AIS query to find out which ship it was.
So the ship was that Crown Princess. A ship that is only 13 years old and apparently does not even have a simple exhaust gas cleaning system. We shook our heads because we couldn't understand.
However, we not only shook our heads, because we were also shaken a lot by Sissi ourselves. The wind did not stick to the weather forecast and got stronger. But he should wane. A hard wave built up which made the trip a little uncomfortable. Since the log still showed 4 knots, we didn't care, after all, we had four hours of air in our calculations and would still go through the bottlenecks with four knots before the tide tipped (and thus before the onset of the countercurrent) Inverness come.
A few hours later we had oncoming traffic again. This time it was a tanker. It didn't soot, at least not as visibly as it was with the crusader. It's kind of a strange world.
Meanwhile, the wind strength rose to 7 Bft in the gusts, the waves got higher and Sissi kept boring her bow into the waves. As a consequence, we reduced the speed that made the journey slower, but a lot more comfortable. Only that way we wouldn't make the tide. I grabbed the Reeds Nautical Almanac to find an alternate port. But they are not so densely distributed here. We cannot even enter most of them. They are too small, too shallow or can only be approached during floods. So we stuck to our plan and continued sticking under the machine against the wind.
At midnight I went to bed. Anyone who is toying with the idea of affording a parabolic flight by plane for expensive money in order to experience weightlessness can also bring the money to us. We then approach such waves with Sissi. The bunk rose and fell in rhythm with the waves, I kept losing contact with the mattress because it simply sagged from under me. I was allowed to experience “weightlessness” and then slammed back onto the bed. Peaceful sleep was out of the question.
After a few hours I got up again to relieve Jens. We barely made any progress, in some cases we only made 2 nautical miles an hour towards our destination. Jens lay down. Before that, we thought about what to do if we miss the tide. Since there are no proper alternative ports in this corner, it was clear that we would have to drive against the current with the engine. More shaking.
Northernmost point of our trip
By the way: sometime during the night we reached the northernmost point of our entire journey. From here it will first go south until we are in the Caribbean at Christmas.
But then the wind subsided within a short time and I was able to accelerate. Normally we drive 5 knots under the engine with 1400 revolutions per minute, this time I have set 2400 revolutions. We were 7.5 knots fast. That cost a lot of diesel, but we got to the tight spot on time. Before that we saw some tankers lying in the roadstead that were waiting to be finally loaded with oil
At one of the narrow passages there is a lighthouse, opposite an old fortress. Due to the position of the sun, I couldn't take a picture of the fortress as I would have liked, so I stopped at the lighthouse.
We saw many dolphins at this point last year. Not a single dolphin was seen this year. It's not far from the lighthouse. It was time to talk to the lock keeper and clear a place in the lock.
We were told a waiting time of 50 minutes. The problem is the railway's swing bridge. It can only be opened when no train is approaching the bridge.
A train employee is sitting in the little white house on the right. He takes care of the swing bridge. We had to wait two trains before the bridge opened. We were able to continue to the Seaport Marina.
Sissi got a new tank of fuel and I threw myself on the couch. Two hours of restless sleep within 24 hours is not enough. Jens was just as tired, but survived the shaking and rolling well. This time he wasn't seasick and that's a good thing. In principle everything worked as planned. It just took a little longer.
Now it's 2 a.m. the next day and I can't sleep. After seven cups of coffee, a few cokes and a two-hour power nap at noon, I just got over the top. It doesn't matter - tomorrow the canal trip is the order of the day, so Sissi and the little crew will definitely not throw it through. Nobody will get box cough either.