The expedition was based out of Faslane and the boat used was the Royal Navy Sailing Association boat Scorcher. This boat is available for charter and is an excellent facility.
The daily activities are given below:
15th July 2018 – This was an arrival day with all those involved on the expedition making their way to Faslane. With the new security procedures pre planning had to occur to make sure that we could get access to Faslane on the Sunday. Leading Diver Cotterell collated all of the relevant information and organised access for all of the expedition members. Accommodation was taken in Faslane on the Sunday evening.
16th July 2018 – After handing back accommodation and breakfast all personnel went down to the sailing centre to start the takeover of the yacht. The takeover started at 09.00hrs and concluded at about 12.00hrs. Two members of the team took over the yacht whilst the remainder went to Helensburgh to shop for provisions. After a light lunch we slipped from the pontoon outside of the sailing centre and motored out of Faslane and through the Rhu narrows. After the Rhu narrows we put the sails up and enjoyed a challenging sail towards the Isle of Bute. The plan was to stay in the Marine at Rothesay but the depth of the Marina was not sufficient for the yacht so we carried on past Rothesay and stayed at Port Bannatyne. The facilities at the Marina were excellent and the accommodation on the yacht comfortable. Scorcher is designed to take 8, so with a crew of 5 we had plenty of space.
17th July 2018 – We awoke early and after the morning ablutions cooked breakfast which we took up on deck. We paid our dues in the marina and then set sail and headed North up towards Glen Caladh. We were sailing into wind and were able to make good progress up an increasingly narrow passage. We only had to revert to using the engine when we were passing a ferry. We decided to anchor off Tighnabruaich in order to have some lunch which tended to be sandwiches and crisps washed down with some fruit juice. After a pleasant lunch we then headed South down the Kyles of Bute and once we were South of the western headland we were able to change direction North and go towards Tarbert. We sailed well into the evening but a drop in wind speed meant that we needed to put the engine on and motor into Tarbert. We ate out that evening and enjoyed a pleasant evening in the Tarbert Marina.
18th July 2018 – We awoke early and went through our routine of ablutions and breakfast. We needed to re-provision so two went ashore to obtain the food required for the evening meal. We motored out of Tarbert and started sailing and headed South towards the Isle of Arran. After a morning of light winds the wind died altogether. The weather was excellent and we decided to anchor of Skipness and some decided to go ashore to explore Skipness castle. Before our lunch we decided that it was warm enough for a ‘hands to bathe’ photo opportunity. The ladder was lowered and four out of the 5 leapt into the water for a photo. The photo was taken and we all got out quickly as the water temperature was in stark contrast with the air temperature. In the afternoon the wind was non-existent so the castle crew went ashore to explore. Once they were back on board we then motored towards Loch Ranza which was one of the highlights of the expedition. We were treated with excellent views of the mountains of Arran. We picked up a mooring buoy and spent a very peaceful night off the Isle of Arran.
19th Jul 2018 – On leaving Loch Ranza it was clear that the wind had returned and we enjoyed an exciting sail back towards Faslane Naval Base. There were additional challenges because the visibility was poor and additional care had to be taken. A decision was made to change our destination from Inverkip to Holy Loch. This meant that we were closer to Faslane and would be better placed to prepare the boat for handover on the following day. Although this seemed like a good decision the Holy Loch Marina was a little industrial in appearance and was in stark contrast to the views we enjoyed in Loch Ranza. We had our final evening meal together and retired early ready for an early start the following day.
20th July 2018 – The final day of the expedition resulted in an early start and a breakfast that used up anything that was left over. We had good winds and we were able to enjoy a good final sail, even though the weather was a little overcast. After a very refreshing morning sail we arrived back at Faslane and went through the security checks before putting scorcher back alongside. We now had the rather dubious task of clearing and cleaning the boat. All hands got to work and we concluded our efforts and presented the boat to be taken back. The sailing centre staff were suitably impressed and we were able to depart having had a successful and enjoyable expedition.
The sailing was deliberately kept at a low level due to the inexperience of some of the crew. Warrant Officer Strange instructed all of the crew in Man Overboard drills which they managed to perfect in fairly short order. There were no real challenges and the expedition went ahead with very little issue or incident.
There were no changes to the planned route, however, final destinations were changed. Port Bannatyne was used in preference to Rothesay due to the depth of the Marina. Holy Loch was chose for the final night due to it being closer to HMNB Clyde which enable us to get in earlier and clean the yacht more thoroughly.
The biggest issues encountered were with the organisation of the expedition and primarily due to the issue of who was authorised to sign off the application form. This problem will be rectified in future by having the expedition organised by someone from within a Royal Naval Reserve unit, where the chain of command is completely clear. I must pay tribute to the Physical Training Staff at HMS EXCELLENT, who took on the task of getting my expedition approved. I am very grateful to them for their swift action and assistance. finance, as already mentioned, was also an issue. The actual financial situation was very different from the finance ask for on the application form. As it was the expedition proceeded with a greater than planned personal contribution which was well in excess of a third of the total cost. I would also like to thank HMS DALRIADA who allowed me to put funding through their account. The benefits of this expedition have been clear. The teamwork aspect has been excellent and the sheer enjoyment of being able to do something adventurous with a group of tight knit work colleagues has been clear.
The expedition has had clear benefits in terms of working together and general team cohesion. This was a hugely enjoyable trip and is best described by the words of one of the expedition members. The expedition quote comes from Petty Officer Steve Boyd.
“The last time I sailed I was at HMS Raleigh and in basic training which is nearly 40 years ago. I have had a fantastic time and really enjoyed the adventurous training experience.”
S W ROBERTSON
SO1 MR Diving Policy – Expedition Leader