8: Peel to Ardrossan, 28th/29th June
Shipping forecast, 28th June, 12.01: Irish Sea: SW 5-6 veering W or NW 3-4; occasional rain; fog patches.
Ardrossan on the Ayrshire coast was in our itinerary to pursue a bit of old family history, but it is well out of the way and otherwise we would probably have made Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsular our next stop.
We cleared the berth at 11.30 The continuing fresh south west wind allowed good progress for a while but fell light by mid afternoon and then later died completely by the time Mull of Galloway was abeam. Visibility closed in, the first fog (and last) experienced at sea during the whole cruise. The fog persisted for several hours with spells of rain, very appropriate weather for our arrival into Scottish waters. At one point a ship’s fog horn was heard for a while, clearly getting nearer, and I used for the first time the new bridge to bridge channel 13 as designated under GMDSS*.
“Station sounding foghorn west of Coursewall Point this is sailing yacht MICA, position five miles west of Coursewall Point heading north north east, speed five decimal five knots, can you advise your current position, course and speed over”
He came back straight away
“Yes, we have you on radar sir and are passing well clear”. Very gratifying.
The fog lifted and we passed Ailsa Craig, the volcanic plug of rock guarding the Clyde approaches, close to port, around midnight, wreathed in cloud down almost to sea level. More rain followed and then a strong cold wind from the north as we beat up towards Ardrossan in the pre dawn hour. The message from the elements was clear: you’re in Scotland now and the weather’s much worse here!
*Global Maritime Distress and Safety System
So it proved to be for the entire month we were there.
There is a marina at Ardrossan, the Clyde Marina, and very nice it is too though the town, and its neighbour Saltcoats, are workaday sorts of place with an air of having seen better times. My grandfather, who worked at the nearby Nobel Explosives factory a century ago when the ‘Three Towns’ (Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston) were at the height of their prosperity, would probably be saddened to see them now. Bad weather set in with a vengeance and we were there for over a week. The time was not entirely wasted however. There were excursions to Glasgow and elsewhere and during this time we were able, finally, to get an autopilot fitted which proved to be a huge boon during the remainder of the trip.