The voyages of the Fulmar – part three

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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 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 two

Pre-cruise events

The Tobermory Race

The crew for the Tobermory Race, the Bosun and Pilot, Archie Paterson, Harold Brown, joined Fulmar at Tighnabruaich on Friday, July 13 and took her to Port Bannatyne where Norman Chesters joined in the evening.

The start of the race on Saturday morning was terrific with all the boats crowding on the line, not six inches between each, and a strong bean wind. Fulmar got off equal first with half a dozen others and the Bosun, at the tiller, is reported to have had a look of near terror on his face. If he had known that one of the yachts, Sinbad, had lost its rudder during the melee and was virtually out of control he would probably have been more frightened. Two boats, Islay and Saionara, were in trouble with burst and torn mainsails. Fulmar held her position well and was among the first half dozen boats up to Colintraive but thereafter the wind fell light and they got stuck in the south narrows and nearly all the boats passed them – those taking the north channel scoring very decisively.

Down the Kerry Kyle they recovered some of the lost ground but when they rounded Ardlamont they were still well down in the tail. They passed through the Skate and this paid handsomely as they got a tremendous lift up the east shore and passed boat after boat – those out in the middle of the loch got stuck and never got going again. Seewolf was lying 3rd or 4th at the Skate but she crossed the line a very bad last of the whole fleet. A spell of very calm weather followed while Fulmar was away over at Kilfinnan but, a light air coming away, they managed to cross over to the west shore and there got quite a nice little breeze which brought them along splendidly till they reached the buoys south of the breakwater then it died – absolutely. And it took them half an hour to do the distance.

Next day, in a strong easterly, they had a slow and strenuous trip through the canal to Crinan then, borrowing Davie Weston’s dinghy to save launching their own, they went straight out and anchored off the canal entrance.

There was a straggling start at 5.30am on Monday owing to there being no gun and no one quite knew when to go but followed Arcturus when she gave a lead. Fulmar was moderately well placed about the middle of the ruck. A quite steady easterly gave them a quick passage to Fladda but, off Sheep, it fell light and all were becalmed. This, of course, suited Fulmar (as top handicap boat) fine as no one was moving and, as long as this was the case, she was piling up a fine credit balance of handicap minutes. She tried to keep as well up to the eastward as possible but did not quite succeed in passing east of Sheep island as Arcturus did (and scored well thereby).

A puffer coming south with her smoke trailing away to the west gave them a hint which few, if any, of the others took and they held more and more to the east and, as a consequence, got the first of a fresh easterly breeze and swept past boat after boat, most of which had held down to Mull. By the time they got to Duart and were able to bring the breeze dead astern they were well up in the first half and well ahead of their time allowance. Thereafter it was just a question of ‘Would the wind hold?’ Provided it did so they felt they had an excellent chance as, with the hold-up at Sheep, they had accumulated more than half an hour of handicap from the leading boats and had lots in hand for those but a little ahead of them.

The wind did hold and Fulmar won the Tobermory Cup and the 1st prize for the second section of the race which with Saturday’s second prize made a very good showing for the weekend.

The Mate, Tar and Skipper, were following the race as best they could from the shore. When they came down Loch Fyne side it was a dead calm and they were very surprised when they got to Tarbert to see the boats, half hidden in the rain, coming round Ardlamont – they had no inkling of the breezy start. In Loch Fyne they watched the very slow progress, then the rain cleared off and they were glad to see the big lift Fulmar got up the east shore after going through Skate. For the last two or three hours things went desperately slowly till late-ish in the evening a little breeze brought in the leading boards but it died and left Fulmar no further from the finishing line than the buoys south of the breakwater – she was well up and ahead of several in the big class and most of the small class. She had only about 200 yards to do when she stopped and, after hurriedly working out the elapsed time handicaps, the Skipper found she had 25 minutes in which to do them but she failed by a little over two minutes to do it. The Skipper thought she had won as he thought Vanda had been the leader up till then and it was a disappointment when, checking up, he discovered Sally of Kames was ahead of Vanda and had saved her time by two minutes on Fulmar.

The start from Crinan was at 5.30am and the Skipper, Tar and Mate got up at 4.30 (they were staying in the Royal in Ardrishaig) and went across to see them go. The start was a bit of a fiasco as the officials slept in but all the boats (except Truant who ran on the Black Rock) got off more or less together. As it happens it was perhaps a good thing as, with all the boats starting together on a short line and with the strong easterly breeze that was then blowing there might, too easily, have been some nasty accidents.

The Tar, Skipper and Mate went back to their beds then after breakfast went to Oban with little expectation of seeing anything more of the boats. Again they were surprised when, on going to the summit of the Pulpit Hill in Oban, they saw the leading boats just coming up to Duart – they did not know anything of the hold-up at Sheep.

Anxiously they watched a number of boats come into view round a hill on Kerrera and were more than pleased when, well up amongst the leaders and passing boat after boat as they watched, they saw the red gaff sails of Fulmar reaching up the Firth of Lorn then running up the Sound of Mull. They watched until most of the boats were well out of recognition distance up the Sound then went home confident that if conditions remained as they were Fulmar had more than a good chance of winning that leg of the race and, with luck, the whole thing.

Extract from The Glasgow Herald of Tuesday, July 17: –

Clyde Cruising Club

In the early hours of yesterday morning the yachts of the Clyde Cruising Club set off from Crinan on the 2nd leg of their face from Port Bannatyne to Tobermory. The first part of the race ended at Ardrishaig, after which the yachts went through the Crinan Canal.

The winners at Ardrishaig were (correct elapsed times) :-

Class 1. 1st Sally of Kames (Ian Muirhead) 5h 26m 45s.

2nd Fulmar ( R G Mowat) 5h 28m 55s

3rd Vanda ( J N MacDonald) 5h 42m 39s

Extract from the Glasgow Herald of Monday, July 23:-

Clyde Cruising Club

The 28 yachts which raced from Port Bannatyne to Tobermory under the burgee of the Clyde Cruising Club got a rare dusting and with as much wind as they wished the bigger boats came into their own. The 14 ton cutter Fulmar, which distinguished herself many years ago as one of the few finishers in a stormy Fastnet race, won the Tobermory Cup for the large class, and the 7 ton sloop Trefoil captured the Torridon Cup for the small class.

Driven hard from Port Bannatyne by a fresh easterly, the yachts found a calm patch off Ardrishaig, but they were blown through the canal to Crinan, where the second leg of the race was sailed in a good easterly breeze, resulting in fast passages. The 12-metre yacht Cerigo arrived first at Tobermory from Crinan in 45 secs short of 7 hours.

Results (Corrected Times) :-

Class 1

1 Fulmar (R G Mowat) – 10h 28m 42s

2 Sally of Kames (Ian Muihead) – 10h 44m 33s

3 Arcturus (Ian Young) – 11h 26m 31s

Vanda (J K MacDonald) 11h 28m 51s. Helen (Jim Peters) 11h 49m 49s. Torridon (Messrs Scott and Ure) 11h 56m 24s. Gunna (Thomas Reid) 11h 56m 35s. Mokoia (W P Watson) 11h 58m 10s. Vagrant (Dr Kennedy Young) 12h 11m 16s. Nan of Clynder ( P M Wilson) 12h 21m 16s. Boomerang (Henry MacLean) 12h 41m 14s. Cerigo (Dr Andrew Tindal) 12h 47m 5s. St Roma (J T Donald) 13h 3m 49s. Seewolf (Messrs Lawrence) 14h 39m 31s.

Crinan to Tobermory

Class 1

1 Fulmar – 4h 49m 47s

2 Arcturus – 5h 9m 44s

3 Sally of Kames – 5h 17m 48s

Vagrant 5h 30m 58s. Gunna 5h 37m 15s. Mokoia 5h 37m 54s. Siolta (Mr and Mrs John McKean) 5h 39m 48s. Vanda 5h 46m 12s. Helen 5h 48m 4s. Boomerang 5h 48m 13s. Seewolf 5h 57m 30s. Nan of Clynder 5h 57m 41s. Cerigo 6h 17m 9s. St Roma 6h 28m 52s.

Next week: The cruise begins