Port Bannatyne to Kames – Section 3 | Day 7

While the crews are packing the boats, I should maybe explain a little bit about some of the practicalities of long-distance trips in a Heavy Four.

As well as having our overnight equipment stowed under a dodger in the bows, we also carry a couple of spare oars under the thwarts. The crew of six split into teams of two and alternate rowing and coxing. Team A are Bow & 2, team B are 3 & stroke and team C are sitting in the stern coxing at the start of the day.

Team C will change with Team B after 20mins, meaning Team A rows for 40mins. The cycle is 40mins on, 20mins off. That way there is time for a snack, cup of tea and some sightseeing every 40mins. The watch starts as you leave the beach and is stopped each day when you land and then restarted the next morning. One of the crew takes charge of the watch and calls the changeover every 20mins. This can be very important towards the end of a long day when all are tired.

This morning as we push off the beach at Port Bannatyne it looks as though the early part of the trip should be in good weather.

Strangely Port Bannatyne sits on the South shore of Kames Bay. We are heading for the village of Kames on the mainland opposite the NW corner of Bute. As we leave the Armaliesh Boatyard to our Port we enter the Kyles of Bute.

Directly North of us is Loch Striven, famous as a deep water mooring for oil tankers during oil related political turmoil of the last 40 years. I can remember my first trip past here in 1984, seeing 3-4 huge oil tankers rafted up and moored. Mothballed until they were needed.

We turn NW to row into the most beautiful and sheltered stretch of water. The view is all the way to Colintraive where we will stop for lunch. The route could not be simpler, the easterly wind predicted also helps push us along nicely. In no time both boats are ashore on the beach just north of the ferry slipway. The ferry runs from Colintraive on the mainland to Rhubodach on Bute.

Colintraive has a lovely quaint hotel, the ferry and little else. However, it marks the start of another beautiful stretch of coast waters with yachts moored, islands and a narrow shipping channel. As we leave after lunch snaking through the moorings and islands we can look North into Loch Riddon & Loch Ruel before turning South West into the West Kyles.

The scenery continues to be stunning and then in the distance we spot the Maids of Bute.

When I first rowed past the maids in 1984 it was explained to me that they were the wives of fishermen who went to sea but never returned. The two maids waited for them so long that they eventually turned to stone.

Now we can see Tighnabruaich with Kames about a mile further on. The pontoon and moorings off Tighnabruaich are busy with yachts out for a post-Easter trip. It is not far to Kames, our next overnight stop, so we bypass the delights of this lovely coastal village.

The crew in Whiteforeland are a little restless as the “Keeper of the watch” says it is time to change, but the cox says it is only a half mile to the beach at Kames. There is a near mutiny until the 6’3” 19st. “cabin boy” calms the situation with some teenage wisdom.

This is to be the one night of luxury on the trip. The crews are booked into the Kames Hotel for dinner, bed & breakfast.
Waiting for us on the shore are members of Kyles CRC including the local Minister, Rev David Mitchel. David learned to row in the Heavy Fours when he was young man living in Greenock.

The help of the local club to lift the boats above the high tide mark was much appreciated.

The staff at the Kames Hotel were on hand with room keys for the bedraggled crews, not batting an eyelid at the piles of gear and smelly folk traipsing through their lovely hotel.

Dinner was great and the relaxed atmosphere of the bar later was also much appreciated.