A New Season – Spring 2020

A busy Winter season is drawing to a close. There are buds on some of the trees, the daffodils are blooming but there is still plenty of snow on the hills! Leon who was an exceptional assistant during the whole of 2006 returning to South Africa to spend Christmas with his parents at their home on the edge of the Kruger National Park and to have a holiday in Mozambique. He was soon emailing to say it was far too hot in Southern Africa and he couldn’t wait to get back to Scotland.

Charlie Menzies, our indomitable engineer, decided to buy a 50 foot Chinese junk call Kung Fu-tse which he plans to refit and use for skippered charter work in 2020. I spent an interesting couple of days with Charlie helping him bring the boat down the Caledonian Canal to his base at Gairlochy. The most exciting bit was when we got fogbound in Loch Oich – the visibility was only 50 metres as we felt our way south with no instruments or charts!!

Lochaber Watersports was kept fairly busy for most of November delivering a series of powerboat courses to about 30 staff from Marine Harvest. After that it was Day Skipper and YachtMaster theory courses at both the Centre and Lochaber College.

All the yachts have been “resting” and snugly tucked up at MRC down at Barcaldine. Most of the work has been carried out on FREEDOM with a new headlining and berth cushions as well as a new Nelson cooker to replace the ageing – but beautiful – Taylors cooker for which we could not source essential spares.

Leon returned to Lochaber in early February and four days at Lochgoilhead where he successfully completed his RYA Powerboat Instructor’s qualification and was soon involved in the running courses as well as the real world of antifouling, polishing, varnishing and cleaning. Welcome back Leon and Congratulations on your achievement!!

2019 looks like being even busier than previous years as a glance at our availability page will show. However we still have space on most of our practical courses or if you feel up to it – why charter a yacht and do your own thing? Our spring St Kilda trip is almost full and we already have several bookings for our September cruise to “The Edge of the World”

We have received lots of good feedback on our Blog page – especially Laurence Young fantastic video of dolphins on the way to St Kilda. Why not have a look for yourself and leave a comment!!

Enquiries and bookings are starting to come for both charters and RYA courses – you will find an almost up to date availability schedule here.

Have a great sailing season – I know we will!!!

Year End – November 2018

Winter is now approaching rapidly. The trees are slowly loosing their beautiful autumn red, brown and gold leaves and as I write the sun is brightly shining on the first dusting of snow on the tops of the hills.

Lochaber Watersports was featured on BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme with Mark Steven a couple of weeks ago – it was great fun trying to talk to the Presenter and drive the RIB at 30 knots at the same time!! However we got about 20 minutes of air time so I am sure it was worth it!!

FIGMENT, FREEDOM and FANTOM are now moored at MRC at Barcaldine and will soon be safely tucked up in the big shed for the winter.

As soon as they are ashore and under cover Charlie will be working his technical magic on the boats. FIGMENT is having a storage locker for the spare gas cylinder fitted as well as a DVD unit so that we can show training material on RYA courses – and charterers can watch their favourite movie if they wish!! FANTOM is having a CD and new compass fitted and FREEDOM is having her “drooping” headlining replaced, her uphosterly renewed and a major engine overhaul.

FIGMENT’s last outing of the season was for a yachtmaster exam and I was delighted that Mungo Watson was able to maintain our 100% pass record. Mungo worked for Lochaber Watersports about 5 years and since then has been working on super-yachts – mainly in the Pacific.

Charter, St Kilda cruise and RYA course bookings are now coming for 2007 and the most exciting news is that both FREEDOM and FANTOM have been chartered by seperate teams for the Three Peaks Race in June so there will be a great “Race within a Race”

Have a wonderful Festive Season and we look forward to talking to old and new friends in the New Year.

Season’s End – September 2017

Well, the sailing season is almost over and I am writing this whilst awaiting the arrival of the last practical RYA course of the year – I must say I am rather looking forward to it!! – I didn’t get out on the water nearly enough.

It has been a really busy season with all three of the yachts regularly out on either courses or charters – although with fairly light winds in general. However the best news of the year was the fact that two more of our students passed their YachtMaster practical exam. Well Done to Alan and Alisdair for retaining our 100% pass record – who said anything about pressure!! Thanks are also due to Iain and Paul who did a great job crewing for the candidates.

Unfortunately our second St Kilda cruise of the year didn’t quite make it!! We had a pretty rough trip out to Barra and then a gale while we were waiting in Eriskay. However all nine of us enjoyed our cruise up the Western Isles and then on to Rum and Coll via Skye. The good news for the crews is that they are now members of our Aborted St Kilda Club and get a 25% discount on every subsequent cruise to St Kilda until they make it. I see bankruptcy looming!!

In general the yachts had a good season. FIGMENT is still experiencing a few new boat niggles – mainly in the electronics department – but she was never around for long enough to give Charlie a chance to fix them. FANTOM had a few engine problems but hopefully these are now all behind us. FREEDOM just kept going and going!! Bookings for 2007 are rolling in already with something like 8 charter weeks booked already. FREEDOM has already been booked for the Barmouth/Fort William Three Peaks Race – it will be her third attempt so Good Luck to Nigel and his crew. Our Tohatsu RIB was well used too with plenty of successful candidates for the RYA National Powerboat Certificate.

As ever Lochaber Watersports depends entirely on the people who help me run it. Thanks to Dave, Brian and Jeremy who skippered the yachts and ran various courses. Leon, Fraser and Jonno made a brilliant job of running the Centre and looking after the RIB and small boat hires. Without a doubt it was the best staff team that we have ever had. Thanks, Guys!! I am also delighted that Leon is coming back to us in 2007 and will be doing a Powerboat Instructor Course at Port Edgar before he returns to South Africa to spend Christmas with his Mum.

We are organising quite a few Theory courses over the winter period. There will be Day Skipper and YachtMaster courses at Lochaber College in Fort William over three weekends as well as several five day intensive courses at our Centre at Ballachulish. If the dates don’t suit your diary – don’t worry – just give me a ring and we will sort something out. We also plan to run a number of Diesel Engine courses on selected dates throughout the winter.

On a personal note, I have no plans this year to cross the Atlantic or even sail in the Canaries. I now have three granddaughters – all girls – and another on the way – so I hope to spent a little time being a proper “Grandpa”!!!

Finally thanks to all our friends – old and new – who were able to visit Lochaber and spend time on one of our boats. It’s a fantastic place!! Come back soon!!

Back from St Kilda – May 2015

Well it’s all go now and a lot has happened in the last few weeks. Leon and I spent a few days at Northney Marina whilst FIGMENT III was finally fitted out. It was a hectic time with lots of deadlines to meet and exciting parcels constantly arriving at Windward Yachting offices. Raymarine are experiencing supply delays after relocating their factory so the instruments had to be sourced from various sources – including Italy!! The MCA surveyor arrived to complete the coding survey which was satisfactorly completed in record time.

On the final day, Leon innocently asked why the steering worked the wrong way round! Wow!! Some hasty rerouting of the steering cables followed! Catalina in US thought that because the Brits drove on the wrong side of the road maybe the steering should be backwards too …….. Well spotted, Leon!

Right on schedule a huge low loader arrived and the boat was craned on. The driver was fantastic but it took almost 4 hours until he was satisfied that the boat was perfectly positioned. Then it was off on the long drive North. I had originally hoped to sail FIGMENT back to Ballachulish but unfortunately time restraints ruled that option out.

On 1st May FIGMENT arrived at Barcaldine and MRC soon had her unloaded. The mast was still wrapped in miles of carpet and polythene wrapping but sensors and lights were soon attached and the mast stepped. The following morning FIGMENT finally took to Scottish waters and three hours later she was on her home berth at Ballachulish.

Our first scheduled cruise was our St Kilda expedition – a mere 3 days away! Charlie Menzies took up residence working his way through the list – indeed he was still on board when the first St Kilda cruise members arrived and they were soon pressganged into assisting – Thanks, Peter!

Then – after a great Isles of Glencoe Hotel breakfast – it was off to St Kilda. It was another excellent cruise marred only by light winds which – as usual were always on the nose! After overnight stops in Tobermory and Castlebay we enjoyed a few hours on Eriskay – where we finally got the Wheel pilot to work! – then it was through the Sound of Barra towards the Atlantic Ocean. In the Sound we were treated to a fantastic display by some friendly dolphins. On through the night we were deilghted to see the jagged cliffs of St Kilda appear with the dawn and we dropped anchor in Village Bay around 0700.

We met the National Trust of Scotland Ranger for a briefing and were told that we were the first yachts to visit in 2015 – and it seems fair to assume that FIGMENT is the “youngest” yacht ever to sail to St Kilda. We spent a day relaxing and exploring the island and then in the afternoon we attempted our first circumnavigation of the archipeleago. Alas, it was not to be and we returned back after encountering dense fog.

The next morning we departed intending to visit the Monach Islands but contrary winds prevented this so we transited the Sound of Harris and spent the night at Lochmaddy. A brilliant sail down the west coast of Skye followed but the blustery winds made anchoring in spectacular Loch Scavaig unwise so we felt our way into the idyllic landlocked harbour at Soay.

A brief stop at Rum enroute to Coll were the crew enjoyed showers and a meal in the Hotel then it was past the Treshnish Islands, Staffa, Iona and along the south coast of Mull and into Dunstaffnage after a long day at sea. The final leg took us back to Ballachulish where we arrived at 1400.

Great trip, great weather, great crew and 420 miles in our log books. Well done guys!!!

So we now have summer to look forward to with lots of nice people coming to charter our yachts or come with us on RYA courses – as ever we look forward to meeting you all.