The next day it was mostly waiting for the tide. The Wee Spark was looking shiny and oh so bright, but also a little odd swinging gently up in the air still cradled in the boatlift.
But it’s not as if it needs a lot of water under its wee flat arse, so as soon as the Leven was high enough to drive the boatlift down the slip into it, they took us down and dropped us in.
Time to head home.
It was cool out on the water, there was a welcome breeze and the Clyde was empty, all ours. At Dumbarton Rock there’s a huge sandbank to turn round before you can head up river and you find yourself right in the shipping lane a stones throw from the south bank before you take a hard left.
Calm waters, blue skies and my first time at the wheel out on the river. Bill sat in the sun, Jimmy made tea and I found that the channel isn’t as wide as you’d think given the size of the ships I see gliding past on a daily basis. On the canal, a little adjustment can be seen pretty fast in your course direction, out here with not so many reference points it took a minute to dial in the little extra subtlety I needed.
Then I had it, one hand on the wheel, tea in the other, a breeze in the window and the chug chug chug of vintage diesel power. It was glorious.
I was enjoying the surroundings as much as the driving, or is that sailing, seeing all the familiar sights from a different angle, it’s been a while since I was on the river.
Being so close the the Lang Dyke and it’s stone built buoys is a bit of a treat. It was originally built in the 18th Century to speed up the tidal flow and scour the mud from the river bed to deepen it. It worked perfectly and opened Glasgow up to shipping, now it’s crumbling stones are more part of the landscape than an engineering curiosity, but it’s still doing it’s original job.
We were buzzed by a drone, but no one ever got in touch so I don’t know if there’s footage out there somewhere. The Bell Monument and Dunglass Castle is well seen from the river and with work finally starting on the old Esso site around it, the day where folks can visit are maybe not too far away.
At this point Jimmy was just giving me instructions on how to get into the harbour. “Er, are you sure…” was my first thought, but he seemed unfazed, so what the hell.
There are two white markers cleverly hidden in the undergrowth by the railway on the far side of the harbour which you line up with to come in from the river so you follow the channel. We’re not deep in the water, but still, I was concentrating hard.
In we went, I didn’t hit anything “Hard right” says Jimmy, which sounds more dramatic than it actually was given the low revs and sedate pace. That right turn lined my up with the deep sea lock which would lift us back up into the basin.
The Wee Spark really is wee, but the lock looked like a tight fit. Gentle on the wheel, back on the throttle, we glided in perfectly. I was heading for the cill at the far lock gate, so a wee bit of reverse gear to centre us was all I needed and… stalled it. Revs too low, all thumbs on the controls. Ah dammit.
I loved it. Even on that short run from Dumbarton it was the best fun sitting on that chair with the wheel.
We were in the lock with a family of swans which would not be lured away from the gushing waters by bread, Mars Bar or shouting. The did however bask in cheers and applause from the wee gathered crowd when the water level got high enough for the cygnets to unglamorously chuck themselves over the gap at the top of the lock and into the basin. Swans are so graceful on water and in the air, but put them on webbed feet and given them a slippery obstacle to tackle and it’s a Friday night drunk trying to get on a bus in Partick in the 1970’s.
We were home and the boat looked great, all fresh and I didn’t scrape any of the new paint getting it there. I was buzzing, mildly sunburnt and thirsty. Let’s go again.