Ocean Princess Scottish Tour 2004


The narrow boat Ocean Princess will attempt the passage from Merseyside to Scotland for what is believed to be the first trip of this kind for a boat of this type, and it follows the boat's successful voyage last year from London to Bristol via the Isles of Scilly. The boat is owned by James Griffin of Wyvern Shipping, a canal boat hire company based on the Grand Union Canal near Leighton Buzzard. 
James and his crew of two sons and John Chapman will be sailing from Eastham Lock on the Manchester Ship Canal on Friday July 9th at 1745 hours. (weather permitting!!) The route will be via the Northern Ireland coast to Bangor then across to the west coast of the Mull of Kintyre and up to Oban and Fort William, before spending 6 days on the Caledonian Canal to Inverness and back. The return trip will be through the Crinan Canal, down the Firth of Clyde, around the Mull of Galloway to Whitehaven and returning to the Mersey in early August.


Today narrowboat Ocean Princess crewed by James Griffin and his sons Tom and Phil plus navigator John Chapman left Eastham Locks, tidal exit of the Manchester Ship Canal at 17:45, bound for the Caledonian Canal in Scotland. The first leg involves the Mersey and the Irish Sea across to Bangor in Northern Ireland, passing the Calf Of Mann. There was a last minute panic as Pat Chapman had to rendezvous with the boat at Ellesmere Port to drop off the second "Billy Do" beacon and flare attachment that must be attached by a line to a life ring if this is used to rescue a man overboard. Weston Marsh Lock was made with a matter on minutes to spare before the BW guys knocked off, at 14:54.

Apparently Ocean Princess was rather lucky with the Anderton Lift.............it broke an hour after they went down....it should be fixed tomorrow!


The word from John Chapman at 18:30 was that it was a bit rough through the Calf of Man, but it calmed down again. They are now across to Ireland, hugging the coast and hope to make Bangor around midnight. After a short rest and wait for the tide they will be off again. A diesel stop is proposed at Larne, before heading out straight across the North Channel and then to Gigha. It is then up to Fort William via Oban.


The latest word from John Chapman at 09:00 this morning goes as follows: Once past the Isle Of Mann and Chicken Rock a more direct route was chosen, direct to Bangor. Bangor was by-passed and at 22:30 last night Ocean Princess moored up to a buoy, with secondary anchor in Ballyholme Bay, just round from Bangor - 33 hours non stop. Because the diesel situation was good the weather fair (has been mainly Force 3 NW), the crew decided to miss out Ireland altogether....after all this is a Scottish trip! 
Departure time was at 06:00 this morning, to make use of the tidal stream through the North Channel. A direct route across to the Mull of Kintyre has been chosen, OP is currently heading out from Carrickfergus, having to wait for a Seacat and cargo vessel, they are doing around 6.5 knots and picking up speed. Estimated arrival round the Mull of Kintyre is 13:00. After this Gigha will probably be by-passed and OP will make straight for Crinan, for and easy diesel stop, they should arrive around midnight.

The latest word from John Chapman at 11:55 this morning goes as follows:
The crew have decided as it is blowing up (N Westerlies) they will be going round the east side of the Mull of Kintyre and be in the lee of the land. They will probably not make Ardrishaig tonight (with this route they will be doing the Crinan Canal) but will probably stop at Campbeltown.


Ocean Princess is now in Scotland........moored in the harbour at Campbeltown. They arrived at 17:00 and are in a non drying out part of the harbour. The gallant crew passed on the landward side of the Isle of Sanda and after this the passage after this was smooth, in the lee of the prevailing wind. With a bit of mobile fone call relaying, the girls (Pat, Joan and Jane) were alerted to the change of plans and did the 90 mile trip from their holiday cottage at Easdale on the Isle of Seil (overlooking the Firth of Lorn) and have met up with the crew in Campbeltown. 
There was much relief apparent in the call from the local pub. John is missing his sea-legs and a 04:00 departure for Ardrishaig is planned, arrival onto the Crinan Canal should be around 14:00 and after a guaranteed red diesel top up from the quayside petrol station OP will depart to do the main section of the Crinan. Departure time from Crinan to Oban the next day has yet to be finalised. The only problem so far has been a dodgy VHF connection, soon corrected.


The replacement chart plotter has been ordered via a chandlery in Oban and is being delivered direct from the UK Agents to Crinan Boat Services. Today will be a leisurely trip over the Crinan Canal down to Crinan to wait for the chart plotter arrival, which should be Thursday morning. Pat / John will be going out today to get a replacement fixed VHF. The crew hope this is in time for the trip from the Crinan Canal, up to Oban. The chart plotter really is essential for this part of the trip as there are many un-buoyed channels. The route takes then out into the Sound Of Jura and up through the sound of Lunig, passing the islands of Scarba, Lunga, Lunig and through the Sound of Insh, passing Insh Island and The Island of Seil, where Pat, Joan and Jane are staying. From here it is a run up the Firth Of Lorn to Oban.


Just had word from John Chapman. They got to Crinan last night at 17:15. Pat had managed to get a replacement fixed VHF. This morning the weather was clear, Force 2-3 SW so the crew debated and decided to go for it. With the aid of picked up local knowledge, paper charts and a pair of bins, OP has passed the Gulf of Correvrecan whirlpools and is out into the Sound of Lunig. They intend to drop anchor at Easdale and meet up with Pat, Joan and Jane. Onto Oban tonite.


After much confusion about meeting the girls at Easdale and a 3 hour stop, Ocean Princess set of with the flood tide and had an uneventful trip up to Oban. They arrived at 20:05 to berth in the centre of town, as directed by
harbourmaster. This morning the chart plotter arrived at Crinan Boatservices! so John went off to collect it. OP left Oban at 13:40 and when I last spoke they were passing Port Appin doing 5.6 knots. Arrival at Corpach will be around 17:00, to an open and waiting sea lock. There may not be time for BW lockies to lock them up to Banavie tonight. 

I have just spoken to John Chapman (21:30). They did not make the sea lock at Banavie, arriving at 18:15, so are moored up just outside. John has just gone for a wander to see if there are many other boats waiting to go up Neptune's Staircase.

There will be a hiatus in messages as I am leaving for a 2 day trip up to meet with them. Basic Web report and a few daily piccies should appear on the TNC site after I have set up laptop and found an Orange signal!



A good day. After going though the Corpach Double Locks, OP followed the waiting yacht up Neptune's Staircase.....and for the rest of the day!. OP just made Fort Augustus Locks and as I spoke to John Chapman (around 18:00) they were just looking for a mooring.



For the ultimate English narrowboat journey, Neil and Martin Clark started the ultimate car-shuffle and arrived in Inverness at 11:45, after some terrible rain over the Lake District and the other side of Glasgow. The weather in Inverness was not that bad, just showers. After checking into B&B at Lochend and a quick fish and chips in Drumnadrochit and a few mobile conversations Martin and Neil spotted OP by Urquhart and shadowed it with camcorder and digi camera's until meeting up with the crew at Dochgarroch Lock. After a pump-out and diesel fill up at Caley Cruisers in Inverness, OP made Muirtown Staircase and moored up in Muirtown Basin, Inverness at 18:00. Tomorrow Martin takes the Arlidge Polo back to Manchester after dropping crew member Tom at a railway station, a bit more down south!...probably Preston.


We left Muirtown Basin at 10:05............towards the sea! Clachnaharry Works lock had been re-prepared and it was straight in, down the lock and through the open railway bridge. We exited Clachnaharry Sea Lock at 10:40 and went out into the Beauly Firth, towards the Kessock Bridge, carrying the A9 over to Black Isle. The tide was still coming in, so it was a controlled passage through the fairly fierce flood. Just before the bridge Neil was startled by a porpoise or dolphin (apparently both are in the loch) flying up into the air beside the boat. After the bridge the flood calmed down and we carried on down the loch for about half an hour, turning back at 11:50. The turn was quite "interesting", James getting us to hold a few things down. 
The return passage was wind over tide and Neil experienced the first time Ocean Princess's wash boards proved their worth. Once through the bridge we turned up the River Ness and went right up the dredged (and training wall protected) side into Inverness Docks, stopping just before the 1992 replacement rail bridge. We were soon back at Clachnaharry Sea Lock. A German and Norwegian yacht followed us in, there were some funny standing waves at the entrance to the lock, as we still had an hour of flood tide left. It was straight through the railway swing bridge and Works Lock. 
The two yachts stopped in the basin and we had a water fill up and quick shop as we waited for Muirtown Staircase. John Chapman jumped ship and waited behind in Inverness to meet up with Robbie, James son who was coming up by train. After getting into the bottom lock there was another wait for an elderly couple in a small Shetland cruiser. The cruiser was strapped on the side of Ocean Princess and we had a fairly quick passage up the locks. James wanted to make Loch Ness that night, so we had to clear Dochgarroch Lock and the Tomnahurich Swing Bridge afterwards, which we did achieve. 
Once out into Loch Ness we met the full force of the Force 4 S Westerly coming straight up the Loch............the white horse waves certainly made for and interesting evening passage and went to prove the average narrowboat should not be out on Loch Ness in these conditions. We stopped at the Clansman Hotel, in the protected harbour for a pint and a meal with some old friends of James. That evening, or should that now be night, we went onto Fort Augustus (22:05 to 13:00), so as we could get in the first locking through the staircase the next morning. No visitor moorings left, so we moored on the town quay.



We started off at 08:05 and made the first locking up the Fort Augustus Staircase. We kept in convoy with the 4 other boats for most of the day an have made good progress. 15:00 now and have just cleared Moy Double Swing Bridge......................
We arrived at the top of Neptune's Staircase at around 15:30, but were rather miffed that with two boats already in the staircase of 8 locks, they would not do another passage that day. Fortunately we found the last decent visitor mooring. That evening we were all meeting up with Margie and Michael, James's mum and step dad on the small cruise ship "Lord Of The Glen", for a meal and tour of the ship. It had just docked at Corpach, on the Caley, just beyond the sea lock. Because of the rain we all made the trip sharing a taxi. Very good meal and a very interesting tour of the bridge and engine room. Wonderful evening vista of Fort William and Ben Nevis, with constantly changing mist and cloud base.



After John Chapman hassled the lockies we we first in Neptune's Staircase and shared the trip down with a posh brand new 43ft yacht with rather a lot of crew, a competent crew of three Dutch in a 28ftish yacht (Westerly?) and a sombre German crewed 35ftish yacht. The German yacht did not go out of Corpach, but the others did. We left at 11:00 an hour and a half after High Water. Rather misty with fine rain to start with. Nearly managed 10 knots going through the Corran Narrows and just fitted in with the passages of the Corran Ferry. 
Low water was around the top of the Isle of Lismore (14:20). After being buzzed by a Cal Mac Ferry we stopped / slowed down for around half an hour to watch the Dolphins, small Whales (probably Minkie?) as well as huge swarms of jelly fish -so much so that you could hear them going past the bow!....................................................

Once the flood started there were the usual short choppy sea, the weather also closing in and becoming quite bleak. Oban was a washout........no room anywhere for us to berth, so we annoyed Town Pier Harbourmaster by quickly dropping Phil off. John had managed to find a pontoon for us to berth on, just beyond the Clachan Bridge, so we first went to the popular anchorage of Puilladobhrain, just beside the Clachan Sound. After a miserable anchoring process in the fine rain we waited to nearly high tide, then went through the Clachan Sound and under the famous canal sized Clachan Bridge (AKA "The Bridge Over The Atlantic"). 
After finding Mick Hunter's pontoon we were relieved there was just enough room for us to get on the end and were soon tied up. We trudged through the rain to the somewhat unfriendly, but rather special pub at Clachan Bridge, the "Tigh-An-Truish". We missed food by 15 mins, but excellent local beer and Oban single malt. 

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The crew meet up with the support crew at Campbeltown. Joan, Pat, John, Jane, Phil and Tom.

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Ocean Princess passing Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness.

Ocean Princess passing Urquhart Bay. Urquhart Castle is on the distant promontory.

Ocean Princess underway on Loch Ness.

Ocean Princess passing Dores on Loch Ness.

Looking down Loch Ness. Ocean Princess is approaching the narrow buoyed channel at Lochend.

Ocean Princess at Lochend.

Ocean Princess at Lochend.

The Jacobite Queen trip boat leaving Dochgarroch Lock.

Ocean Princess passes Jacobite Queen above Dochgarroch Lock.

Ocean Princess leaves Dochgarroch Lock.

Ocean Princess in the Muirtown Staircase Top Lock.

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Ocean Princess passing through Muirtown Swing Bridge into Muirtown Basin.

Beauly Firth. Clachnaharry Sea Lock of the Caledonian Canal reaches out into the bay.

Clachnaharry Works Lock. Caley Canal.

Clachnaharry Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

Clachnaharry Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

Looking down Beauly Firth at the Kessock Bridge from Clachnaharry Sea Lock.

Ocean Princess in Muirtown Basin. Inverness, Caley Canal.

Ocean Princess in Muirtown Basin. Inverness, Caley Canal.

Heading down to Clachnaharry Works Lock for our trip out in to Beauly Firth and Moray Firth. Inverness Caley Canal.

Clachnaharry Sea Lock.

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Ocean Princess heads out of Clachnaharry Sea Lock into Beauly Firth.

Looking back at Clachnaharry Sea Lock.

Beauly Firth, coming up to the Kessock Bridge against the flood tide.

The flood stream under Kessock Bridge.

Out in Moray Firth.

Coming back to Inverness from Moray Firth.

Venturing up the River Ness to Inverness port.

The Port of Inverness.

The posts mark off a training wall protecting the end of the final dredged wharf in Inverness.

Small oil tanker in Inverness.

Looking back at the Port of Inverness.

Back down the River Ness.

Some nasty tide effect waves at the entrance to Clachnaharry Sea Lock.

Clachnaharry Sea Lock Office and Locky.

John Chapman in Scottish mood!

A Norwegian and German yacht join us in Clachnaharry Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

The Far North line railway swingbridge and Clachnaharry Works Lock.

Muirtown Staircase Bottom Lock.

Muirtown Staircase Top Lock. We have been joined by a small Shetland Cruiser for the trip up the locks.

Looking down Muirtown Locks at Inverness and the Kessock Bridge. Caley Canal.

Leaving Tomnahurich swingbridge in the outskirts of Inverness. Caley Canal.

Coming up to Dochgarroch Lock.

Leaving Dochgarroch Lock.

Loch Dochfour, at the end of Loch Ness.

Somewhat choppy on Loch Ness.

The little port at The Clansman Hotel.

Ocean Princess at rest at The Clansman Hotel port. Loch Ness.

Going up Loch Ness in the half light.

Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle on the right.

Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle.

Ocean Princess. The inner helm at night.

Looking down Lock Ness from Fort Augustus Wharf.

Fort Augustus, moorings, lock flight in the distance. Caley Canal.

Fort Augustus swingbridge and the start of the staircase locks.

Fort Augustus Flight. Ocean Princess in the thick of it.

Fort Augustus Flight. Caley Canal.

Fort Augustus Flight. Looking back down to Loch Ness. Caley Canal.

Fort Augustus Flight. Caley Canal.

Fort Augustus Flight. Caley Canal.

Fort Augustus Top Lock. Caley Canal.

Fort Augustus Reach. Caley Canal.

Kytra Lock. Caley Canal.

Kytra Lock. Caley Canal.

Kytra Lock. Caley Canal.

Kytra Locky. Caley Canal.

Kytra Lock. Caley Canal.

Cullochy Lock. Caley Canal.

Cullochy Lock. Caley Canal.

Cullochy Lock. Caley Canal.

Cullochy Lock. Caley Canal.

Aberchalder swingbridge. Caley Canal.

Loch Oich. This first section is shallow but well buoyed. Caley Canal.

Loch Oich.

Laggan Swingbridge.

Laggan Avenue. Caley Canal.

Laggan Locks. Caley Canal.

Laggan Locks. Caley Canal.

Looking back at Laggan Locks. Caley Canal.

Loch Lochy.

The end of Loch Lochy. Caley Canal.

Gairlochy Top Lock.

Gairlochy Swingbridge and Bottom Lock.

Robbie has added the anarchist @ to dad's chair!

Moy Double Swingbridge. Caley Canal.

Arrival at the top of Neptune's Staircase. Banavie, Caley Canal.

Corpach Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

Banavie Locks from MV Lord Of The Glen. Caley Canal.

Ben Nevis from MV Lord of The Glen, moored in Corpach Basin.

James and his mum on the bridge of MV Lord Of The Glen.

Twilight view over Fort William.

Neptune's Staircase Top Lock and facilities block. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase Top Lock. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase. View over to Ben Nevis. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase. Site of old Double Swingbridge. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase. Caley Canal.

Neptune's Staircase Bottom Lock. Caley Canal.

Leaving Neptune's Staircase, passing through Banavie Swingbridge and rail bridge. Caley Canal.

Looking back at Neptune's Staircase. Caley Canal.

Corpach Double Lock. Caley Canal.

Corpach Double Lock. Looking down at MV Lord Of The Glen moored in Corpach Basin. Caley Canal.

Corpach Double Lock. Caley Canal.

Corpach Double Lock. Caley Canal.

MV Lord Of The Glen.

Corpach Double Lock. Caley Canal.

Corpach Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

Corpach Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

Corpach Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

Looking up Loch Eil to the paper mill wharf.

Corpach Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

Leaving Corpach Sea Lock. Caley Canal.

Ben Nevis.

Looking back at Corpach Sea Lock. Loch Linnhe.

The Tour Continues...