DRY DOCK DES­PER­A­TION

Dis­ap­pointed to find that his boat needed re­paired, Guy Grieve headed for Oban Ma­rina, and was pleas­antly sur­prised by the hu­mour of those he en­coun­tered

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

Though it pains Guy Grieve to bring his boat in for re­pair, he is pleas­antly sur­prised by what he finds on land

As a fish­er­man I can say – with bit­ter au­thor­ity – that there is lit­tle more de­press­ing than hav­ing to lift one’s boat onto the hard for a re­fit. Aside from the pain of see­ing the piti­ful state of your pride and joy, it is a time dur­ing which money swiftly flies out, and noth­ing comes in.

In such in­stances, one can but dream of match­ing the lux­u­ries of Jac­ques Cousteau. Dur­ing his own des­o­late boat­yard pe­ri­ods, he fa­mously locked him­self in dark­ened ho­tel rooms. In­stead I have found my­self sleep­ing in the cramped, damp for­ward cabin, qui­etly pan­ick­ing about costs and my com­plete lack of man­ual skills, which might have al­le­vi­ated some of the size­able bills I have had to foot.

An­noy­ingly, some of my dear friends work­ing at sea around me are in­sanely com­pe­tent, with a few who are ac­tu­ally qual­i­fied chief en­gi­neers as well as fish­ers. I con­sole my­self that I at least have a knack for div­ing scal­lops, but this morale boost­ing tid-bit means noth­ing when you’re on the hard and out of your depth.

The west coast of Scot­land is dot­ted with boat­yards which all sit like spi­der’s webs wait­ing to catch fat sum­mer vis­i­tors. And when they’ve caught them, they suck them dry. Now the yachties can gen­er­ally af­ford it, but hap­less small-scale fish­ers like me re­ally suf­fer.

Re­cently I was cast­ing about to find an op­er­at­ing base off Mull for our old boat He­landa and de­cided to give Oban Ma­rina a shot. The ma­rina is based on the north eastern tip of the tiny is­land of Ker­rera in an in­cred­i­bly shel­tered bay named Ar­den­trive. It is run by Sam and Robin who have man­aged to cre­ate a friendly, easy-go­ing at­mos­phere, com­bin­ing it with a pos­i­tive and proac­tive boat­yard op­er­a­tion.

Ex­am­ples of their big-heart­ed­ness are myr­iad. Dur­ing a dark night last Novem­ber for ex­am­ple my two divers, who hap­pen to be broth­ers, had the most almighty fight. Drunk, they were cre­at­ing an im­mense nui­sance of them­selves. Any­where else, the po­lice would have been called in, but in­stead Sam bravely in­ter­vened, sep­a­rat­ing the tight ball of fra­ter­nal ag­gres­sion that rolled about the pon­toon. Fur­ther dif­fus­ing the sit­u­a­tion, she placed one of the hooli­gans in a berth on an empty boat be­long­ing to the yard. I was called at 3am, and made my way over re­lieved that no one had been killed.

Of course I’m sure the place has seen a few red-blooded types in its past when it was the base for RAF Oban, sup­ply­ing fly­ing boat pro­tec­tion for con­voys and sub­ma­rine de­tec­tion. In fact much of the old base in­fra­struc­ture can still be seen. I of­ten look out over the place and imag­ine what an in­cred­i­ble sight it must have been to see the Short Sun­der­land Mark I fly­ing boats tak­ing off and com­ing along­side in the bay.

As an aside, a dear friend of mine – David Stin­son – was once in­volved in the sal­vage of a Sun­der­land off the west coast of Ker­rera. Trag­i­cally it had been a fa­tal ac­ci­dent. Dur­ing the div­ing the pi­lot came out to see the spot and not long after David had sur­faced he made his way over and asked what could be seen. After lis­ten­ing pa­tiently he asked, ‘You didn’t by any chance find my pipe down there did you?’ What a tough gen­er­a­tion that was.

Any­way, I di­gress – the point of this piece is to tell any­one who has a boat, work­ing or not, that they should dodge the pro­fes­sional web spin­ners and ‘no cash, no splash’ brigade and in­stead head for Oban Ma­rina for the sim­ple rea­son that here they will en­counter hu­mour, hu­man­ity, good food and a gen­uinely ec­cen­tric man­ag­ing cou­ple whose way of do­ing busi­ness be­longs to an­other gen­tler age rather than this present po-faced grubby time.

“My two divers, who hap­pen to be broth­ers, had the most almighty fight

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