Caledonian Canal - Banavie (Neptune's Staircase)
Saturday 17th July
So - up at the crack of dawn to drop off the visitors buoy at 6am to head up Loch Linnhe under sail to Corpach Sea Lock - the start of the west to east transit of the Caledonian Canal. Arrived at 8am when the lock was manned and were instructed to go ahead into the lock and the two keepers threw us fore and aft lines to hold on to as we floated up, and helped us through the next flight of 2 locks. So far so good. A short motor took us to a waiting pontoon ahead of two swing bridges (one road and one rail) and the start of a flight of eight locks known as Neptune's Staircase. While waiting we watched a wonderful Great Western steam engine chug past.
So - we were about to go up the staircase. There were seven yachts in a club flotilla descending through these locks so we waited while they made their way down and exited through the swing bridges. We then slipped swiftly through the bridges as they can only be kept open for 15 minutes each time they are operated. We then entered the first of the eight back to back locks, where the lock staff took our lines. After that first lock we were on our own and had to walk the boat through each lock as it opened. Extremely hard work I have to say - more for Chris on the stern line than for me on the bow line, as there was a 20kt + wind blowing from astern which got worse as we ascended. The boat was very difficult to control like this and we did slightly bash the pulpit at lock#4. We got a little help from a couple who had a boat moored at the top for the last couple of locks. Not sure quite how long it took us but I think it was nearly 2 hours.
We then tied up on a pontoon for a well earned cup of tea, and avacodo on toast for lunch. Chris was exhausted and had to have a lie down, while I went for a walk to buy some bread and milk - and, on a whim, a couple of steaks for dinner. We will stay here tonight and move on along the canal tomorrow to Gairlochy locks (two swing bridges and two locks to negotiate) and then on to Laggan if there is time. Gairlochy is operating a limited service so we can only go through at 1300 or 1500.