LOCH NESS and the MONSTER CANAL

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We left Fort Augustus and the river Oich at 0830hrs on Sunday 15 June and cruised up the loch to Urqhuart Castle. As there was very little wind we were under motor. Garth was trolling the fishing line out the stern with a lure on and hoping to catch a trout. Just as we arrived he spooled up the line to find a nice sized brown trout on the end of it but before we could land it. The little bugger flicked himself off the hook and Garth experienced disappointment!  We dropped anchor under the southern wall of the castle and no sooner had Meg settled before a man in uniform was waving us off around the corner to a sheltered bay in the lee of the castle. From there it was a question of shuttling the crew ashore in the ‘rubber duckie’. There was a landing there for cruise boats and we also made use of it as wet feet do not make a good start to the day.

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My daughter Casey, who spent 6 years in school in Scotland, has her best friend Vicki Tough living in Edinburgh. Vicki once came out to work with Casey in our ski/snowboard business in Christchurch, New Zealand. They had a great time together and traveled around New Zealand at the end of the season.  We last saw Vicki in NZ in 2010 as Maid of Honour in Casey and Andrew’s wedding.  Well, Vicki wanted to see the yacht and meet the crew and we were delighted to have her aboard and so we were expecting her to arrive at the castle around 1400hrs.

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She called to say that she had arrived in Drumnadrochit, a village about 1 Nm across the bay from Urqhuart Castle. Well no dramas we simply steamed across to meet her. There was only 2 metres of water in the little harbour and so we ‘felt our way in’ not wanting to ground Meg in a Loch without tide. Also because  Loch Ness is fresh water Meg floated lower in the water which increased her draught.

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Vicki was very excited to meet the crew and see, ‘yon wee biddy yacht’. So after a round of hugs and introductions it was off to the pub for the Magnificent Six.

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After a couple of rounds and a lot of banter we returned to the yacht for a BBQ dinner on board. I gave Vicki the Captain’s cabin with ensuite for privacy and joined the filthy bilge rats with my sleeping bag in the salon.

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We steamed back across the bay and anchored just off Urqhuart Castle on a perfect evening on Loch Ness. The BBQ is charcoal and clips on to the stern rail (pushpit) and it works best when well away from other yachts for smoke and fire hazard.

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Milan had been busy in the galley preparing food for the night. Well, we ate like kings with pork and apple sausages, home made beef patties, hot smoked Scottish salmon, roast potatoes, salad and fresh burger buns. There was plenty of elixir for all the crew as we watched the sun slowly disappear on Loch Ness.

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Darkness fell over the Loch and sometime around midnight Vicki shouted,”look over there”, and we all turned to see a large shape emerge from the water and then slowly disappear into the murky depths.

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We talked about the head looking like a dragon with a long neck and the raised scales on the back like a reptile. Graham had grabbed his phone and taken a photo. The rest of the crew were in shock! Was it “Nessie” the famous Loch Ness monster? Look at the photo and you decide.

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The next morning we set off under sail for the locking system at Inverness hoping to get through in time to take Vicki for a sail under the Moray Firth Bridge. In the Loch itself we were able to convert around 6 knots of apparent wind speed into 4 knots of boat speed which was OK for a short distance and for our guests to enjoy the magic of sailing.

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Vicki and Milan both took turns at the helm and commented on just how responsive Meg is turning. I explained that a yacht pivots around the keel and that when you turn to port going forward that you have a double effect of rudder and ‘prop walk’.

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When we got to the locks Vicki, who is a rope access/climbing expert, wanted to go up the mast to take photos etc,. I produced the climbing harness and Garth did the winching and in no time Vicki was at the top of the mast – 16 metres off the deck. Paul had driven Vicki’s Toyota Hilux 4x 4 through to Inverness and had already advised the lock keepers that we were on our way east.

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