Hello Friends, how are you all? Good? Bet you were wondering where I was again? Well, we have had a very exciting time at Patch HQ, or rather, away from it. We have been on away holiday during the Easter break and then it was straight back into work this week so I am only now getting a minute at the computer to write this. Mr P and Big J are still having an exciting time as they are away at Cub Camp this weekend. They will be back later today and no doubt worn out, badly in need of a bath and with a mountain of washing for me! It is very strange without them. Both Little J and I have felt quite sad and missed them a lot.
Anyway, back to the subject in hand… holidays. Many of you know that we often spend our holidays afloat (see this post) and this one was no different in that respect. In many other ways it was very different though. Our Green Boat is moored back at base this year which means cruising around the canals in the London area, which we have already done quite a lot of in the past so Mr P suggested we hired a boat elsewhere instead. There are certain pieces of canal in the UK which don’t connect to any other canals, which can only be accessed by travelling around the coast or by having your boat craned onto a lorry and sent up the motorway. Traditional narrowboats are not really made for travelling on the sea (they don’t have much of a keel) but can do it if necessary but its not easy. So this seemed like the perfect excuse to visit one of these more remote pieces of canal and that is what we did.
We hired a cruiser from this company at Inverness on the Caledonian Canal in Scotland. We arrived on Saturday lunchtime, completed our training session and set off before mid afternoon. Our instructor accompanied us as far as the first lock and then we were on Loch Ness! So exciting! (I can see this might get confusing so I’ll explain before we go any further…. “lock” refers to the means to move boats up and down hills on the canal, and “loch” is the gaelic word for a lake. On this journey we have both).
Loch Ness is a much bigger body of water than we are used to normally and we were given strict instructions by our instructors to keep a sharp eye on the weather as it can get quite windy and choppy and unpleasant out there. The boys were quite excited to be doing a bit of monster hunting and kept a sharp eye out for Nessie.
Urquart Bay, our mooring for the first night.
So our route started in Inverness and took us down through Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy and then back again. We could go no further because Loch Linnhe is a sea loch.
Urquart Castle, Loch Ness
We were very lucky with the weather for most of the week. We had a little rain on the Saturday afternoon and woke on the Sunday morning to a dusting of snow, but after that it was mostly dry but VERY cold so we are very wrapped up in the pictures. Our final afternoon we had no breeze at all and sunshine so we managed to shed our outer layers and had a picnic and a spot of fishing on Loch Ness before returning the boat to the marina, it finished off the week very nicely.
Highland Commander, our home for the week
Staircase locks at Fort Augustus
Stair case locks a near Fort William looking towards Loch Linnhe
The boat itself was very different to what we are used to. Many traditional narrowboat owners frown upon cruisers and they are sometimes referred to as “plastic bathtubs”. All boats have their strengths and weaknesses and it was very interesting comparing it to our usual green boat. Grandma Patch especially liked how the kitchen was organised, and thought it superior to the one on the green boat. You can see photos of the inside here. If I had to choose between a narrowboat and a cruiser, the narrowboat would win outright, but this was perfectly suitable for our week.
Stunning scenery, Ben Nevis and the Nevis range in the distance.
A turn at skippering in the warm.
A spot of fishing.
Taking turns to be skipper.
It was an interesting and exciting week. There was lots happening on Loch Ness on our last day with RAF jets screaming past very low and close and the coastguard helicopter doing training rescue exercises over the loch. We never did manage to find Nessie although we did see some suspicious looking ripples on the water that appeared to have no obvious cause! The boys brought home their own cuddly Nessies to remember their holiday. I did take my crochet with me but did not touch it all week partly because I was so tired every evening but also because I had my nose glued to a book! I am now trying to make up for it and catch up with the CAL a bit. More on that soon.