The voyages of the Fulmar – part one

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The serialisation of a log book from the yacht ‘Fulmar’, recording her 1956 voyages and the adventures of her crew.
The dog-eared log book was sent to the Argyllshire Advertiser accompanied by an unsigned note saying the log book had been bought recently among a lot of assorted items at an Edinburgh fleamarket.
The ‘Fulmar’, a 41-foot gaff cutter built in 1901, was owned by Commander Ralph G Mowat, RN (Rtd). Information on Commander Mowat was unearthed after an appeal by this newspaper, but we would love to hear from any surviving relatives.
The yacht won her class in the 1956 ‘Tobermory Race’ from Bute to Tobermory, via the Crinan Canal before setting off on a cruise from Crinan up the west coast, around Mull and back home.
Crew of the Fulmar (summer cruise) and their nicknames: RG Mowat, ‘Skipper’; Mary R Mowat, ‘Mate’; G Paterson, ‘Pilot’; S Stanger, ‘Doctor’; JM Mowat, ‘Bosun’; Chris Paterson, ‘Tanky’; Robin G Mowat, ‘Tar’; Shena R Mowat, ‘Purser’ and dachshund Ruddiger von Stoer, ‘Major of Marines’

Part one

Pre-cruise events

Glasgow to Tarbert, via Tighnabruaich

There was nothing done to the Fulmar over the winter except that Jim Peters (Helen) sold us an eight-metre reaching jib which he had to spare and this was sent to Leitch at Tarbert for the necessary alterations.

On the evening of May 18 the Skipper, Pilot and the Pilot’s brother and sister-in-law, Archie and Margaret Paterson, went down to Tighnabruaich (the Bosun was once again ‘examinationing’ and couldn’t come and the Mate and Tar stayed at home to keep him company, and the Purser was now schoolteaching in Aberdeen).

The dog-eared but fascinating 1956 log book

The Renfrew ferry was very busy and they had to wait in the queue for three trips and when at last they got over they had to stop at a garage for air (only 15lb of pressure in one of the back tyres).

After that it was plain sailing except once when, south of Strathlachlan, they met another car which would not back 20 yards to a passing place and they just touched his bumper when scraping past him but there was no damage done to either. A wee van and a motorbike were behind them at the time and they let them pass and they disappeared down the twisty road at an incredible (and quite reckless) speed.

They reached Tighnabruaich at about 9 o’clock and saw Fulmar in the water, but when they stopped to speak to Johnny Malcolm and Donald Turner they were told she was not in the water more than – an hour and still not fully rigged. They were quite right but George Smith said they were busy getting Psyche ready for launching (they were still laying on the anti-fouling) but they would be out first thing in the morning to bend on the sails and finish off the rigging.

‘Skipper and Pilot’

They got their stores (ordered by letter from Neil Angus) in the yard and with these and their luggage went aboard in two trips. Things were soon put sufficiently enough in order to allow them to get to bed and after watching Psyche go down the slip they were soon in their bunks. It was a beautifully clear evening but distinctly cold.

Next morning they were up at seven (Archie is an incorrigible early riser) and about eight the yard men came out and finished up their jobs. Jimmy Smith fixed up the slipping clutch and suggested we do away with the present gear lever fancy arrangement which was not strong enough for its work. This the Skipper agreed to though it meant a less handy working but it did away with the pin and shield that broke up the dog-house seat, they being replaced by a removable hatch cover. It certainly made sitting in the dog-house more comfortable.

The Skipper went ashore to the village for meat and some curtain hooks while Archie watered ship and the other two continued cleaning and clearing up aboard.

At quarter to twelve they were away under full sail and in brilliant sunshine but with a cold north-westerly they ran to Ardlamont then beat up to Tarbert, being passed just outside Tarbert as an aeroplane flew close overhead, by Blink. They noticed a huge oil tanker doing trials just off Arran.

‘We got on the Renfrew ferry at last’

They were anchored off the herring pier before 4 o’clock and they had supper-cum-lunch then went ashore. The Pilot to visit a friend, the others to get milk in the village then to walk to the end of the road on Loch Fyne. On their way they spoke to an enthusiastic English pair, working in their garden, who wanted to know off which yacht they had come.

During the evening Arcturus and Tunnag came in and one or two motor boats. Zaidie was in when they arrived and Leonora was anchored across Loch Fyne in Buck Bay.

All aboard, Margaret and Archie went off to the islet in the harbour to get some roots for their new garden then soon afterwards all turned in, for though it was a glorious looking evening it was perishingly cold and the stove, lit as soon as they anchored, had been very welcome.

On Sunday they were again up early and found a dull overcast day. The Pilot, ashore for water, heard a poor weather forecast (a foretaste of what we were to get all summer) from a fishing board. On the strength of this they hurried breakfast and by 9 o’clock were away with a south-westerly breeze.

The Skipper gave the first beacon a rap with the boom-end as they ran out of the harbour. The beat down to Ardlamont (the Pilot thinks we are always beating in Fulmar and wonders if she was built ‘facing into the wind’) and thee ran the engine for five minutes to get out of a nasty lop. The sun came out for about five minutes but by the time they had reached the Carry Buoy (where Margaret produced ‘jeely pieces’) the rain had started and it got heavier and heavier.

The Fulmar

The wind strengthened with the rain and they moved up very fast into Tighnabruaich Bay then up to Loch Riddon to anchor off the pier at Ormidale. As they passed Tighnabruaich they saw Torridon was on Fulmar’s mooring and they watched her crew panicking to get off before Fulmar arrived. They wondered what the Torridons said when they saw Fulmar pass on through and realised that they could have stayed where they were. As they passed Glen Caladh the new Jansi of Kames passed under a not very healthy-sounding engine.

They had lunch and the stove was lit then Margaret and Archie went ashore to visit friends and when they came back they brought with them a big sack of coal (easily sufficient to last the season however inclement it should prove to be). The late afternoon and evening were spent below talking and listening to the rain hammering on the deck.

Monday morning it was dry but blowing hard. They got the anchor early and motored to the moorings. The sails were hoisted to dry them and St Roma came close by to make their number and at one time a big school of thrasher whales went through the Kyles heading east and at a great speed.

About noon they went ashore for a visit to the hotel and for a run round the Ardlamont road (more roots, primroses, for Margaret). Back aboard they had lunch and soon after packed up and came home.

Look out for more episodes in your Argyllshire Advertiser – online and print.