• Mark

Dream come true - winter in Scotland!

Updated: Aug 4

Timeline: 15th of October 2021 - Arrival in Largs. 17th of March - sailing to Portavadie. 1st of May - leaving Largs and starting the 3rd season of Adventure Now!


Largs has been a complete and utter joy for us. What a fantastically protected marina to winter in while an unusually high frequency of winter gales blew through. In one month we had 18 gales. It was brutal but exhilarating and very quiet as very few stayed aboard their boats in a wintery Scottish marina. All the sensible people were tucked up at home with their central heating on, while we were sleeping under four duvets and every day the first few hours were spent waiting for the internal temperature of Altor to rise to a level where things relaxed from their cold tightness and return to normal size. Please don't mistake this for a complaint. For all the time the temperature started with a minus, we simply wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else than aboard Altor. She is our home and we get through the winter together.


In our time here since October we have met some lovely people. First off the blocks was Bill who has a lovely Halberg Rassy called Volo. He welcomed us on the dock when we first arrived and after a few too many large (not wee) drams we were friends. Bill lent us a scaffolding tower and polishing equipment so I could reach the sides of Altor when she was on the hard for two weeks and he even lent us his car so we could fill the bilges with food from the local Morrisons. Cheers Bill!


We met John who is a retired aerial photographer and post-retirement boat builder. He built a gorgeous little ship called Fluke and at the sprightly age of 77, he bought a beautiful Najad 331. Sometimes we have received what we think is the ultimate compliment, that what we do is somehow inspiring. I shy away from that description of us, and prefer to think that we are simply a couple of sailors just like any other except we post on Insta and YouTube. Howevbver, what could possibly be more inspiring that a 77 year old dude buying a 33ft yacht and getting on with the critically important mission of living life to the fullest alongside Smudge, his 12 year old Boarder Terrier shipmate.


Through John we met his friend, Allison, and her daughter Eilidh, and their woofer Mazie. Allison and Eilidh are also keen and accomplished sailors, veterans of an Atlantic crossing both ways. They own a lovely Fisher sailing boat which is very warm and cozy, especially with a glass of red in hand!


Through the medium that is Instagram we were contacted by a guy called Davey and his girlfriend Divja. They are a delightful sailing couple, and after they visited us onboard Altor they invited us to Glasgow, where we had a fantastic time watching the sunset from their balcony whilst being warmed by a chiminea, followed by taking in some of Glasgow’s extensive night life! Davey owns a whisky company (don't you just love happy coincidences) and I'm sure I would have expanded my technical knowledge of whisky immeasurably had I not spent so much of that night staring at the botom of a glass from below! Ouch!!!!! But a very good ouch. Thank you both so much for such an awesome night and for putting us up in your apartment. Oh by the way, Davey and Divya are a little more sensible than us. They were wintering in Scotland before returning to their boat in the Med! I think now they are basking in the Mediterranean sun!


We also connected with another instagram couple, Jessica and Ollie from “Shogun Sailing”. They are currently midway through a massive restoration project of their 50 footer with plans to follow their dreams and sail off into the setting sun. Ollie’s parents also have a boat in Largs Marina and Ollie took us out for a lovely sail around the bay. I can totally understand why people would keep a boat here. There are almost infinite sailing opportunities right outside the marina, literally on the doorstep. It’s a fantastic sailing ground. Cheers, Jessica and Ollie! What a pleasure to spend some time with you both.


OK, so Season 3 is almost upon us although it would be in fact be correct to say that it has already started! On the 19th March we set sail for our first voyage / sea trials to Portavadie, a gorgeous little spot on Loch Fyne where there is a beautiful marina, spa and apartments that can be rented. We were there not because of the need to do a sea trial, although that was a bonus, we were there for a surprise birthday party for Mike Henderson, who wrote the pilot books for all of our northern adventures. We have mentioned him before when we first met up in Fuglafjørður, when he and his lovely partner Helen were also visiting the beautiful Faroe Islands. In this game we meet many people but, pardon the cliche, most of the time meeting people is akin to ships passing in the night. However, sometimes it's different and you know a friendship has been born so it was fantastic to have a short but fiesty sail in up to 37 knots from Largs to Portavadie. The main achievement was that Helen managed to rally 27 people, including some from Denmark and the Faroe Islands, to meet at Portavadie for the party totally unbeknown to Mike! Even more impressive is that the event had to combine with Helen and Mike bringing Helen's beautiful Nicholson 32, 'Becca Boo,' up from the south coast and, as we know, being a sailor and having a deadline is always a challenge. Suffice to say Helen pulled the whole thing off and what's more, all 27 of us were treated to a fantastic dinner in the restaurant including several drams of Scotland's finest. Now I hate to continuously sing from the same hymn sheet but I would have been totally made up by one single dram of Scotland's finest but several following such a lovely dinner and social gathering was the slurring cream on the cake. Happy birthday Mike and thank you very much Helen. It was so good to see you both.


After Portavadie we had a lovely sail back down Loch Fyne, turning north up to the Kyles of Bute where we anchored in a gorgeous little anchorage in Balnkailly Bay. The next day we moved to Rothesay Bay where we anchored again for a night. I managed to get a telling off from the port authority guys who claimed that I had infringed the ferry when we motored into the port in the dinghy. I apologised and took the telling off on the chin having been defeated by the power that these guys attained by the wearing their hi-vis vest! Despite my humble apology to the powers that be I am still a little bemused how a 3 meter dinghy can infringe the movement of a vessel that is thrusting its last 20 feet onto a dock 100 meters or so away. Oh well, I live and learn and what I have learnt is that maybe, just maybe if I get a hi-vis vest, Asha might take more notice of me!


The next day we made the long and windless sea voyage, some 7 miles back to our winter berth in Largs. What a fantastic first trip of the season.


So what has been happening onboard Altor over the winter months?


The installation of another solar panel alongside the one that was hanging off the back.


New gas line for the oven which involved disassembly of the aft heads in order to access the gas locker and the old pipe, removal of the oven and various cutting of access panels to get to all the huge cable ties that were holding the original 30 year old gas pipe in place. Job done!


Installation of more insulation in the saloon and the v-berth.


Replacement of the batteries and installation of a new home made positive busbar so its all a lot more tidy and we should now have more power for those offshore trips and days at anchor being gloriously antisocial!


New reffing lines for the main sail.


Replacement of some rotted wood around the door leading to the aft cabin. This was caused by a leak many years ago and was a job on the list from when I bought Altor in 2018!


Installation of a new bilge pump system so the water that drains into the stern lockers does not find its way into the main bilge. This is called “Operation Dry Bilge” because we have always had water sloshing around down there and no one likes to be wet underneath…


We have also had all sorts of smaller boat jobs that simply go with the territory and serve as the perfect reason (not excuse) as to why I don't have time to get a job!


So there we are! In this seemingly never ending mad place that we all live in, we are trying to make sense of our own little world and get ready once again to Adventure Now! Our winter berthing deal in Largs finishes at the end of April so the butterflies are starting to wake up in my stomach as we make our preparations to leave our wonderful winter home town of Largs and, once again, push further north!


See you out there…

Largs Yacht Haven

Largs sea front

The Pencil at Largs Sea Front.


The Pencil is a replica of an old spear to commemorate the aborted Viking invasion f Scotland.

Largs Yacht Haven

The Pencil, Largs sea front

The Pencil, Largs sea front

Largs Yacht Haven

Largs sea front

Altor in her winter berth

The Pencil, Largs sea front

View of Great Cumbrae from the seawall around Largs Yacht Haven

View of Great Cumbrae from the seawall around Largs Yacht Haven

Frost on the pontoon in Largs Yacht Haven. Not many boats on the water yet...

Largs Yacht Haven

Largs Yacht Haven - view to the east.

Burnt Islands

Burnt Islands


Night out in Glasgow with Davey and Divya

Night out in Glasgow with Davey and Divya

Night out in Glasgow with Davey and Divya


Fluke - the ship built by our boat neighbour, John.


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