Clipper’s Christmas Cruise
Greenock’s forecast for Monday 28th December was for fresh to strong south easterlies. Hence it was not certain that MV Clyde Clipper would be venturing into the Firth of Clyde channel for her planned cruise to Tighnabruaich. However, its 93 passengers were not to be disappointed and so the annual festive cruise by the Scottish branches of the PSPS and Coastal Cruising Association proved to be yet another memorable event.
Built in 2010, with a gross registered tonnage of 125, the Clipper is catamaran powered by two Doosan diesel engines with a total 1,080 bhp giving her a maximum speed of 12.7 knots. 27 metres long and with a 11.2 metre beam she has a class C certificate for 250 passengers so had plenty of space both inside and on deck for the cruise. She also proved herself capable of comfortably carrying our group in the 24 mph south easterly wind, albeit with a lively ride at times.
After she left Greenock’s Victoria Harbour at 10:30 on a fine but dull day, the festive season was marked by teas/coffees and Christmas cake. On entering the Firth of Clyde channel, those on deck enjoyed their exposure to the wind although it became advisable to have a hand hold. Commentator Iain Quinn advised when caution was necessary, for example when the Clipper made her turn at Toward Point. Thereafter in more sheltered waters it was safe to serve the soup.
A passage through the Kyles of Bute in December is a rare event and so most were on deck to observe the Clipper’s angled approach to the buoys in contrast to the line Waverley would take.
Tighnabruaich Pier was reached just after 12:45 at a very high tide with the pier being barely a metre above the water. There was speculation about the gangplank angle if Waverley ever had to berth at the pier in such a tide.
Most passengers then went ashore for a brief walk and to photograph the Clipper at the Pier. There was also the opportunity to view and purchase memorabilia displayed by the Pier Association. After departure at 13:30 the remainder of the buffet was served. After the return passage through the Kyles it started to rain. Iain Quinn again had to announce the need for caution as the Clipper became exposed to the wind as she left Rothesay Sound. Her turn at Toward Point was particularly lively though once the wind was behind her it was not too rough.
In the Firth of Clyde channel MV Argyle and MV Bute were to be seen as they plied between Gourock and Rothesay whilst Wemyss Bay Pier is repaired. To keep out of their way the Clipper kept close to the Cowal shore going inside the Gantocks to offer a splendid view of Dunoon at dusk.
She returned to Victoria Harbour at 16:20 after a great day, not least because of the accommodating and welcoming crew. As well as offering a memorable day with the novelty factor of a December cruise through the Kyles, the cruise also raised funds to enable the branch to continue to support PS Waverley. It will be interesting to see the cruise on offer for Christmas 2016.