The voyages of the Fulmar – part four

The Mate

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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 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 four

The cruise begins

As crew for our cruise we were lucky, as we have been for the four previous years, and were able to get both the Doctor and Pilot to come again. The Purser, however, found the lure of the theatre too great and she decided to spend her holidays working with a Repertory Company in Aberdeen.

Again we were lucky in having a ready-made substitute in Chris Paterson, the Pilot’s wife of nearly a year’s standing. We gave her the rank of Tanky – a piece of gunroom slang meaning the midshipman who trots around with the navigator or, in other words the Pilot’s Mate.

Friday July 27

As usual at the beginning of a cruise we got up early – 5.45am – and quickly finished up our packing, loaded the car, shut up the house, and were on our road by ten minutes past seven. It was a fine bright morning with a light southerly breeze and quite promising though the weather forecast the night before had been not too cheerful. It was dead low water at Renfrew Ferry and as there was a big convoy of Army Transports crossing from north to south there was no delay in our getting across and at 8.35am we were at the top of The Rest having had an easy and practically trafficless trip up Loch Lomond. Twenty minutes later we had Inveraray behind us.

We called in at the BRS Depot at Lochgilphead (after taking a wrong turning looking for it) and collected our three boxes of stores and at ten to ten arrived at Crinan having passed several yachts already making their way east. The basin was busy with in it, amongst others, Arcturus, Vivien, Makoya, Boomerang, and Tookay, most of which were homeward bound. The Fulmar was lying at the back of the basin outside a motor boat and Vanda and as we unloaded the car we had a long carry round and everything was dumped on the basin wall before being taken aboard. Luckily it was turning into a lovely day. The only fly in the ointment was the poor Major – he had developed a paralysis of his back legs the day before and could do nothing but sit where put and look pitifully about and only occasionally managed to drag himself a foot or two.

The Mate and Bosun after being treated to tea on board Vivien got down to unpacking and stowing our gear and while they were about it the Doctor arrived with his gear and plentiful supplies of Medical Comforts, a huge cake, packets of chocolate and a big box of chocolates. Dumping his stuff with the rest on deck he and the Skipper then went to the hotel and drank success to the cruise. They learnt that the night before had been a bit of a night and Arcturus was still showing its effects rather markedly.

While the Mate continued the storing the Bosun got petrol and paraffin and the Tar went up to the farm for milk and at half past twelve they, with the Doctor, had lunch. Meanwhile the Skipper had gone to Ardrishaig and got a lot of fresh stores (bread, fruit, vegetables, etc) a new screwdriver, and meths. Being too early for the steamer he, after having had a beer at The Anchor, sat on a seat near the pier and had his lunch of six cookies and a sausage roll and listened to the Test Match on a portable set a man sharing the seat had with him (it was the lively period when Evans was hitting sixes and fours off every ball).

The Pilot and Tanky duly came off the steamer and by half past one all were aboard and the final gear stowing was completed. The car was parked on the steep hill between the farm and the basin and the batteries were disconnected then, while the Bosun, Doctor and Pilot, shifted Fulmar to outside Melora on the east wall, the Skipper and Mate went up to the shop and got some strawberry tarts.

At half past two the Karma came in from sea and we went into her water but had to wait in the lock for a wee motor boat whose owner had not turned up but was due soon. While we waited a man from a big Belfast motor boat that was lying in the basin spoke to the Skipper and complimented him on the sailing directions and thanked him for them. The Skipper did his best not to look smugly gratified. We filled in the waiting time by having a cup of coffee and one was handed up to the Doctor who was waiting to see us sail.

At five past three we were away under engine being waved on our way by the Doctor and promising to be at Tobermory on the following Friday to pick him up. As the wind was light west-south-west we kept the motor going until we could fetch the Dorus Mor then up went the sails and beer was indulged in to mark the start of the cruise.

We went nicely for a little but the wind fell very light. An unknown yacht and Mimosa were coming south and, against the flood tide, were making nothing of it. We passed close by the latter and spoke to John Hamilton then as we headed up for the Ardluing buoy we could see her being pushed slowly back to the northwards stern first. We, too, were being carried too far to the eastward and the engine went on to get us into the Scarba Sound stream and we kept it going till up to Leica Point where the wind came away again, this time from the true west.

The tide rips at Fladda were in very good form and we fairly roared through the narrows and on up to Easdale but thereafter the breeze went flukey and light varying between north-west and south-west but, as the sun was shining brightly, it was very pleasant slipping along slowly in the smooth water. There was no sign of the usual heavy swell one expects to meet either side of Easdale Point. Away up to the north between Duart and Loch Don we could see half a dozen boats, led by Cerigo, making their way south.

At six o’clock we heard a poor forecast promising rain and strong winds to come and listened for a while to the Test Match and heard of the collapse of the Australians in the 1st innings. The glass was slowly but steadily coming back and we feared the forecast was probably on the right lines.

As we came round the north-west point of Seil Island and headed over for Dun Island off Puilladobhrain the wind died and the sea turned to glass so we got the sails down and stowed and the motor was started up.

As we approached Puilladobhrain we saw a varnished yawl coming down from the Oban direction under power and she passed in just ahead of us. As we were to learn later she was the Sol and at her helm (and the only one aboard) was a ‘bearded ancient’ with a shock of white hair and a white beard. As we rounded the Fulmar Beacon we passed Kerlo coming out. In the anchorage were two motor boats and as we went slowly up to the south end of the pool we passed far too close to the bows of one of them owing to the Skipper misjudging the tidal drift. One of the crew came hurriedly out on to her forecastle and frowned at us as we slipped past with only inches to spare.

It was dead calm when we anchored at half past seven but we were sorry to see that the drop in the glass was now being accelerated.

Next episode: On the way to Mull