Monday, May 18, Day 104 - Ft. William to Inveraray
If it is Scotland, it must be raining; but not heavily today. The mountains around the town are covered in mist and cloud and we do get a glimpse of Ben Nevis with a new, heavy dusting of snow from the last few days of weather.
After breakfast at 9AM we load the car and make it all of 200 yards before our first stop to watch the operation of Neptune’s Staircase, a set of eight locks here on the Caladonian Canal. This ladder raises the boats 70 feet above sea level in a space of 500 yards. The canal was started in 1803 and opened in 1822, then improved in 1844-7, providing a long hoped for route from western to eastern Scotland. It is 60 miles long with 38 miles along the lochs and the remaining 22 miles consisting of the canal proper with 29 locks to raise and lower the boats. Besides these 8 locks the rest of the locks are located at Fort Augustus and west of Inverness.
This morning the locks are busy with several, large fishing boats well up the staircase and the second lock holding a very nice, large (60 feet or so in length) pleasure craft with its home port in Kirkwall, Orkneys. Behind it is a relatively small sail boat with an older couple competently handling its lines. That is in contrast to the older woman (wife of the owner?) handling the bow line on the large, private boat. As the lock begins to fill, she is not paying attention and the massive current thrusts the bow of the boat across the lock for an almost certain collision with the lock wall. She does not have the line secured and it is burning her hands as it tears around the cleat. The situation is saved by the lock-master, who had probably seen it all before, when he closes the valves filling the lock and the current subsides. The woman and a deck hand get the boat tied off in its proper position and the valves are reopened. No harm no foul but the owner of the boat was royally pissed at the woman and the deck hand who, probably, should have been attending the bow line himself.