Linda sent me a screenshot, we had tickets for a wee boatride and lunch straight after too. The first one was in Greenock, the second one was in Inverbeg. That’s 23k away by helicopter but if you’re driving then it’s 54k away. It’s okay though, we made it. The Inn on Loch Lomond, the food’s magic, get a voucher though.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The boatride was with Clyde Charters and we were doing a tour of the MV Captayannis, the Clyde “Sugar Boat” which is a wreck on its side on the sandbank between Greenock and Helensburgh which sunk in storms in 1974 and has been a local talking point even since.
The sinking is a worthy story in itself, the Captayannis dragged it’s anchor in the storm and was holed below the waterline on the anchor chain of a nearby BP oil tanker before she could be powered up and taken to safer waters. The captain beached the ship on the sandbank hoping it would be safe but the storm pushed the Captayannis onto its side and there it remains.
The other notable part of the story is the cargo which was raw sugar from Africa, Greenock having a major sugar refinery until Tate and Lyle pulled the plug in the 90s.
I remember all of this, I remember gazing over the water to see the freshly foundered ship and visiting it in the boat we lived on a year or so later when the Captayannis was still bright with paint on its hull and with rigging and superstructure intact, but minus some of it’s shinier and easier removed metalwork by then. A mile of open water is no barrier when there’s scrap money to be had.
I worked in Greenock often in the 80s and 90s and remember Tate and Lyle, the shipyards, the life the the place had and of course, The North Face factory shop up the hill.
It’s all gone and James Watt Dock is now a marina and the industry it fed is history.
However, there’s regeneration to see and Clyde Charters’ bright yellow ex navy landing craft called “Tonka” shows enterprise so it was with all these fragments of memories and taking in all the new sights that we set sail into the gloomy grey drizzle and choppy waters of the Tail of the Bank on the Clyde.
The first thing we saw was a seal bobbing in its head just outside the docks and then you see you just how wide the river is here, the land behind gets very far away very quickly and the far bank does not get any closer.
We were bumped around but never enough to lose our footing or feel uncomfortable, we just grinned and pointed as grey shapes loomed in the distance or cormorant infested navigation aided glided past as we motored on.
The Captayannis itself is very atmospheric, probably as much to do with the weather as it’s quietly rusting but beautifully sculpted shape lying half out of the dark water.
We skirted round a couple of times, getting close enough to feel the textures of the corroded hill with our own hands. Skipper Ronnie’s handling was a masterclass of subtlety and confidence as he moved us in and about the wreck and it’s submerged masts without a single jerk to throw us off balance.
There are a lot of birds, which you can smell before you see. Mostly cormorants with a scattering of others which I have no clue about, but none of them were phased by us, our bright yellow hull or our clattering engine.
The sail back felt faster and it seemed to brighten a little too. One of the grey shapes to the west had hardened into a navy vessel and a tug and the low hills could be seen, suddenly there was colour to see again that wasn’t us.
Once back on the dock we found ourselves on the fun side on the locked gates and went exploring. The railway tracks to the quaysides are intact and there are countless other fixtures of the past quietly fading in amongst the yachts and Calmac ferries. Gates and signs, carvings in the stones and huge rusting bolts fastening down nothing but the past.
It was fantastic. Lots to see, lots to think about.
Right, lunch is 54km away, hit it misses.