Caledonian Canal (another part)
Do have to share an earlier picture and story with you about the ‘Eagle Barge’ at Laggan locks. The Eagle Barge is unique. It is the only floating hotel on the Canal. As such it demanded our attention. It was booked out for dinner. But we could squeeze in for a bar snack and beverage. Well, was it an interesting place and a study in service technique. The first trick we saw was when a keg went dry and the young lady behind the bar man-handled the replacement keg into position. Very impressive sight indeed! Though the beer was rather flat and very warm. The second trick was to charge 8 pounds for 3 half pork (dubious) sausages and a scoop of chips and get away with it! Niel, Jackie and Tony obviously enjoyed the ambience of the location and the sprawling lounge chair, despite the sluggish service.
Now back to the journey.
After leaving our mooring at Invergarry we continued up Loch Oich to Fort Augustus, about half way along the canal system. Here, there is a staircase of 5 locks and a swing bridge to navigate down into Loch Ness. We arrived before lunch and decided to stay at the top of the locks and go down in the morning, mooring at the bottom for a late breakfast. This would give Jackie spare time to do some washing ashore. Have to think of these things.
Fort Augustus is a pleasant little town, very focussed on tourism. Shops, pubs and eateries line the canal staircase. Numerous travellers gaze down from the sidelines as the boats move through the locks, lots of Chinese tourists here on bus tours taking in the sights. A busking bagpiper rendering ‘A Scottish Soldier’ and other ditties kept passers by entertained.
It takes about an hour to go down the locks. The operation is a little different to others in that we have to drag our boat from lock to lock, one on the front rope and one on the back rope with no engine power assist. A bit like mules hauling wagons. Not as hard as it might appear as once you get the boat going it glides along relatively easily. We got through without any problems and as planned enjoyed breakfast at the bottom with views down Loch Ness. Jackie eventually got her washing done. Jackie took a bit longer than usual. Bit slow (90 minutes) in discovering that the spin dryer, despite her using detergent, does not wash clothes. On the journey though Jackie excelled in the galley, with a lamb stew, a chicken casserole, spaghetti bolognaise and some excellent Cumberland sausages and vegetables.
After breakfast we headed off into the Scottish mist down Loch Ness, it was 37 km to Inverness with a night stop over along the way at Urquhart Harbour, below the ruins of the old castle. No sightings of Nessie on the loch. Allthego had taken the wheel here for the attempted mooring in the Harbour, in somewhat windy conditions. He was wanting to hone his reversing skills into narrow moorings between other boats. It was a minor disaster. Despite an impressive approach the finish was ruined by over exuberance on the throttle, forward and reverse, combined with bow thruster efforts and cutting of the engine. One of our neighbouring boats was gently nudged and the dock knocked backwards a bit. No pictures. No damage. Bruised ego.
In the morning we completed the short passage to Inverness for a two night stopover.