12 May 2023
Our first stop in the Caledonian Canal was at Seaport Marina Inverness, which gave us the opportunity to spend a few days carrying out cleaning and maintenance tasks on Asante. We had the opportunity to have a date night and revisit a restaurant we first visited back in 2019 with our good friends Joe and Cally. The steak was still good as was the red wine.
As we started to make our way through the canal surrounded by the stunning Scottish mountains, I realised it was over 30 years since I had first transited the canal along with my 3 children on a yacht.
It had been 4 years since Fiona and I had made the journey on our last sail around the UK.But this time it felt different. With just the two of us on board and 10 days to transit we had ample time to visit and explore places and for me to seek out any ice cream parlours. (I found quite a few).
Our first venture past a swing bridge and into a lock had the friendly lock keeper asking if we could go faster so he could shut the swing bridge sooner and allow the traffic to move again. We explained going faster was not an issue but explained a 36-ton yacht going at speed would be a challenge to stop. Word soon passed down the line from lock keeper to lock keeper that Asante would not be hurried. The lock keepers were very friendly and helpful all asking questions on our travels. With word out that we were sailing around the world via Scotland questions were asked at each lock about our adventure – while I asked where the nearest ice cream shop was.
The slow pace of life was lovely. The weather had turned warmer, and we had the opportunity to anchor off Urquhart Castle. With the mountains running straight to the loch shore It was a challenge to find shallow enough water to anchor in. In the end we anchored in 20 meters of water. The rib was put in the water and a visit to the castle was made with some wonderful views from up high.
Then onward through Loch Ness to Fort Augustes locks where we booked to transit 5 locks. I even got the opportunity to operate the lock controls while a boat was going through. Great fun followed with a quick detour to get another ice cream on the way back to Asante.
After a wonderful time though the canal it was time to go back out to sea again. We had initially to make our way down a set of 9 locks – Neptune’s Staircase – and then a further 3 locks before we exited out to sea below Fort William at Corpach where a new marina had opened 3 weeks earlier.
We ended this leg on a high with an amazing day out on the Jacobite Express. A steam train that runs between Fort William and Malaig made famous in the Harry Potter films.