Immediately after returning from Dalgety Bay we had an intensive couple of days preparing our Macwester Malin for an appointment up river to the opening of the Kelpies at the Helix in Falkirk. Over the weekend, a chum from the club helped show us how to build the wooden supports we would need for our masts, and we also removed both booms, the genoa, plus anything else that we dare dismantle.
We set off on Monday the 6th, not long after Ramillies the other yacht from our club making the journey that day. At first it was a little on the rough side out on the water, but we made good progress at 7 knots over the ground motoring into the wind. Ramillies motored off into the distance, and we later discovered that she has a 100 horsepower engine which is three times more power than our Lombardini diesel packs. Nonetheless we passed Longannet, and made it to the mouth of the River Carron in good time.
After passing Grangemouth yacht club and entering the Forth and Clyde canal system, the plan was for both yachts to step their masts on arrival, in order to access the Kelpies Basin that night.
Unfortunately for the skipper of Ramillies, the crane was too small to tackle its mast. Our Macwester Malin’s main mast is smaller, but we didn’t have any luck either as the bolts at the base of our mizzen mast were seized.
Eventually both yachts sailed up the canal, through the bridge (above) toward the M9 motorway that barred the path to the 30-metre high Kelpies. Close but no cigar; we were destined to spend the night with our masts remaining stubbornly up.
It’s perhaps worth pointing out that yachts passing through the bridge above almost always have their masts down, and it was a bit of a worry making sure that we were far enough over to starboard to avoid a collision between the bridge and our spars.
That night, a good chum from the club (skipper of Joint Venture) arrived with his toolbox and a determined look on his face. It took us until a rather soggy 11pm (when I say ‘us’, it was most definitely mainly ‘him’), but we managed to get the bolts freed-off and ready to have another go stepping our Macwester Malin’s masts in the morning. We couldn’t have done it without his help.
By 8am the next morning we had turned our 32ft Macwester Malin around, gingerly passed through the road bridge again (stopping the rush hour traffic), and made the journey back down the canal, ready to have another go at stepping the masts. Despite having no chance of making it through himself, the skipper of Ramillies came to give us a hand lowering our masts. This time the mizzen was reasonably straightforward, but the main was a real pain. As with the night before’s efforts, we couldn’t have lowered the main mast without the help of our chum from Ramillies.
With both masts down and resting on their wooden supports as intended, we made it under the M9 motorway through to the Kelpies …and all of a sudden we were the focus of 500 hundred eyes! 500 eyes sounds twice as scary as 250 pairs of eyes in my book. We took it slowly and managed to avoid any embarrassing mishaps.
The Kelpies lock is the smallest in Scotland, and so we were in and out within ten minutes. It felt more like two. Exiting was a bit on the tight side as there was a small yacht blocking the way, but we managed to squeeze through into the Kelpies Basin, and headed for a large space on the pontoon directly opposite.
It was a relief to make it through at last, as we really thought that it wasn’t going to happen the day before. It was definitely a team effort though, and given that we were now destined to be the only yacht that made it through for the grand opening the following day, we realised that we had to fly the flag on behalf of the club.
The basic idea was that the organisers wanted two yachts with masts up for the opening ceremony, and (given that we were the only yacht that had made it through), the pressure was on us. Thankfully, our chum, the skipper of Ramillies, also helped us get both masts back up that afternoon.
Later that day, two more yachts from our club, Joint Venture, and Calloo made the journey up and joined Ramillies, all sitting in a row with their masts up, just to the east of the M9 motorway.
It was a long day; we slept well.