Cruising Scotland Advice
The joys of the Malts Cruise include exploring remote lochs and islands, testing your navigation skills in rocky narrows, and sitting to your anchor in a beautiful bay. This requires a degree of self-reliance, some preparation and forethought, and a suitably-equipped boat.
Most of the time boats will be at anchor, so it is essential that you have at least two anchors of sufficient weight (heavier is better) and a working windlass. Thick kelp weed is prevalent in many anchorages, and you anchor must be able to break through the weed to the seabed below. CQR anchors are not good for this - Delta, Spade and Fisherman’s are better. Having a choice of anchors will extend your choice of anchorages.
Chain is better than rope as it will stop the boat ‘roving’ in the inevitable katabatic gusts, but if you have a rope rode, an anchor chum or angel can help. A dinghy with an outboard motor will be necessary for getting ashore.
Chartering is a popular option for the Malts Cruise, and there are a number of charter companies offering a wide range of vessels in bareboat and skippered charter in Oban, Crinan, Inverkip and the Clyde marinas. If you are unused to the area, a skippered charter may be the answer.
If you are chartering a Clyde-based boat, don’t forget to factor-in up to two days for the trip from the Clyde to Oban, and another two days return. See www.sailscotland.co.uk for suggestions.
This sixty mile cut right through the Highlands of Scotland is a journey in itself, and worth allowing three days for. A popular alternative for arriving in Oban in time for the start of the cruise for yachts heading from continental northern Europe, and easier than a voyage around the top of Scotland! Discounts available for Malts Cruise participants.
The Crinan Canal is known as ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut’ and the 9 mile canal takes around 6 hours to transit. Details of costs and size limits from www.scottishcanals.co.uk
Up-to-date charts for the whole area are a must, and we recommend you have pilot books and cruising guides too. There is a list in Malts Cruise FAQs.
Fuel and Water
Water and fuel can’t always be obtained from an alongside berth, so jerry cans are a good idea. In some locations, the fuel berth is for fishing boats, and while yachts are welcome, service may not be speedy.
Meeting the locals
The remote communities of the western isles welcome visiting cruisers, so take the opportunity to meet the locals and support local businesses. The region is famous for seafood and venison as well as whisky, so see what the local shop, fishing boat or pub has to offer, whether eating aboard or ashore.
If you are musical, or enjoy singing, you can get involved in music sessions and impromptu ceilidhs in the local pub or village hall.
The islands provide diverse habitats for a range of wildlife, including basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises, sea eagles, ospreys and sea otters. The range of sea birds is particularly impressive. Binoculars are vital for navigation and spotting wildlife, plus a guide to birds and sealife.