© Yorkshire Ramblers' Club. Reproduction of this article is not permitted.
However, short extracts from it may be used, for non-commercial purposes, provided their source is fully cited, acknowledged and referenced as:
Botterill, M. (1921) Mountain And Sea. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 4 Number 14: pp224-229. Leeds: YRC.

Mountain And Sea.

Extracts from Log of "Molly."

By Matthew Botterill.

Molly is a 10-ton canoe-stern yawl designed by Robert Cole for rough weather cruising. She is snugly canvassed, and therefore somewhat slow in light breezes. Below deck the accommodation is most pleasing; skipper thinks her a floating Hotel Cecil - only better! For example, she has a magnificent bathroom adjacent (the sea and sky), and 6 feet of headroom below. What more could the heart desire?

The cosy little cabin soon becomes the focus of one's life, and when you consider that this "home" can be magically transported almost to the foot of many of our favourite mountains, you will gain but a slight idea of the curious charm in a combination of sailing and climbing. A caravan is somewhat like it; but then to move a van is almost as distressing as the removal of one's household goods, whereas moving a yacht from place to place is in itself a sport which vies with climbing.

1920. April 18th T0 May 1. Scarborough to the Clyde via Forth and Clyde Canal. - Weather unsettled. We (self and R. Cole, jun.) sail only odd days, so missing the worst, but finally get "caught" when entering the Forth. The dinghy has towed through the North Sea, but is sunk in the Forth and dragged under water 16 miles before being recovered in harbour. Short, steep seas slap over us, and we are wet to the skin. The cabin floor is littered with clothes, charts, books, compasses, glasses, &c., &c., tastefully decorated with Swiss milk and paraffin. If yachting were all like this the "'Ills and the Sea" would be a more appropriate title.

As to the canal, I prefer to draw a veil over our anxieties, particularly in the "risers." However, "Easy is the descent into -," put Glasgow, though Averni would do as well. We are held up in Bowling Harbour three days with bad weather, and hear of a yachting fatality at Gourock. Finally, Tarbert, Loch Fyne, is reached, and there Molly floats securely between cruises.

The log contains few references to the barometer. In Scotland it goes down for rain and wind, and up for wet and wind, and vice versa! That was my 1920 experience. Except where reference is made to a fine day it may be assumed that it was raining.

Whitsuntide (May 21 To 25). - Mate (W. P. Irving) uses .Molly's "bathroom" whilst we are becalmed under all sail in Inchmarnock Water. We drift, rather than sail, past Glen Sannox and Corrie (N.E. Arran) in lovely weather.

The group of mountains on North Arran is singularly, beautiful, and impresses us with awe in the fading evening light. We drift all through the calm night at about one knot per hour, reaching Lamlash in time to hear them pipe all hands to breakfast with the National Anthem on board the warship Carnarvon. The day is too hot to climb; we bathe and lounge on shore. After tea we row the punt to Holy Island, a rocky mountain (1,097 feet, but sheer from the sea).

It is some three miles row to the foot of the cliff (West Face). The crags are found to be smooth, and turn us on to an awkward traverse of wedged blocks and heather. Reaching a steep grass slope, we make a quick ascent to the strains of "William Tell", floating up from the Carnarvon's orchestra. Over the water it sounded far more effective than in the concert-room. Once only we had recourse to the climbing rope-a choice warp from Molly's spares.

We reach the ship dead beat at 11 p.m., and turn in, only to be immediately aroused by a vicious rolling. Skipper rushes on deck clothed in bad language and pyjamas to lay out more anchors. There is no wind whatever, and the bower warp is slack! This inexplicable roll continues all night, making sleep impossible. We clear out early next day, only to be becalmed in heavy water. "Baffling airs kept failing and leaving us at the mercy of a most nerve-racking swell. There was as much sea as in half a gale of wind, yet we never felt more than a light breeze. Blocks banged, mainsail jibbed, staysail and jib slatted, sorely trying the skipper's temper. The mate bravely made some tea, be it here recorded to his credit, for the cosy cabin had become a 'revolving Hades.' We seemed to hang about Corrie for hours, having once to get into the punt and row Molly away from the rocks upon which the swell was setting us. About midnight we got clear of Arran's mountains and came into the true wind. It necessitated taking off the mainsail, and we made seven knots an hour under staysail and mizzen."

June Cruise. - On this occasion the last skipper and mate are reinforced by the steward (J. Thornton) and the engineer (Holmes, of Glasgow). Molly boasts an engine of a very retiring disposition. It pushed us through the canal and then died.

We set forth only to find that large craft are putting in for shelter, and arriving under storm canvas. After four miles close-hauled, we give it up, and run to a small and charming bay on the E. side of Loch Fyne. We make Loch Ranza (Arran) next day, and are again delayed by rough weather. Meanwhile We learn that two yachts had dragged from Ranza - one going right across Kilbrennan Sound.

We make Lamlash in bad weather, and are blown from our anchorage, but finally make snug. Our near neighbour, a cutter, is blown away to Holy Island, and fetched back by a steam pinnace from the Hood warship. Molly's mate and engineer have a close shave in the punt during a severe squall. Ultimately we reach the Mull of Cantyre with a view to making tor Skye, only to find we have but a week's holiday left.

Reluctantly the Skye project is abandoned, and we decide to go to the head of Loch Fyne (85 miles away). We have a pleasing sail up Kilbrennan Sound - the steward discoursing sweet strains on Molly's piano (a dulcitone) - mate quoting poetry - all occasionally chorusing. Mists keep lifting and revealing most charming bits of Cantyre and of Arran's peaks.

The 26th of June is a lovely day. We are amazed at the resemblance of Ranza to Wastwater and Gable. There is wonderful visibility, with light breezes and warm sunshine, so that we see Arran at its best. In the evening, with the piano on deck, we witness a magnificent sunset. The imitation Gable turns vivid crimson and the Loch a deep purple to the strains of "Hiawatha." . . . The last gleam of light leaves the profile of the "Sleeping Warrior" to the air of "Solveig" on flute and dulcitone . . . . A day of days.

27th June. - We rise at 5 a.m., intent upon awaking the Sleeping Warrior with climbing boots. It is easier to pretend to see the resemblance to a sleeping warrior than to pronounce the hill's Gaelic name signifying Castle Ridge. We proceed up Glen Easan Biorach - likewise easier to climb than to pronounce - passing tempting pools and pretty cascades. It is laborious and perspiring work over the large tussocks of phenomenally coarse grass. Skipper is convinced that yachting ruins walking! We breast the shoulder of Craig Dubh, and gain a fine view of the Warrior, part of whose features are covered with a blanket (of mist). Each corrie below us is but a large cauldron of whirling mists-miniature storms in the making!

We ascend, following the ridge until we reach the first outcrop of rock, where we have cold lunch. Cold, indeed, for the conditions become arctic. Soon we reach the Warrior's eyebrows, and are promptly ensnared in his winding sheet of cloud, and lose our direction save for the compass. The rocks are in great rounded blocks quite different to any the skipper is familiar with. The compass leads us to a precipice appearing bottomless in the mist, though there is a tempting chimney.

The mate and engineer being short of nails and experience, we descent to easier ground on the right. Twice we try to force our way over the summit ridge, but without success. Traversing the bold buttresses divided by scree gullies gives us interesting problems, and at a third attempt we reach the summit of the ridge and descend on the other side into the roughest corrie the skipper has ever seen outside Skye. Ultimately all return to Molly at 4.30 in a deluge of rain.

Four wet amphibians in a narrow space make changing a difficulty. The mate enlivens us with a vituperative lecture on the evil of tea drinking, subsequently taking his from a pint mug. Later, thanks to our steward, we enjoy a slap-dash dinner, followed by a quiet smoke and talk in the cosy saloon.

28th June et seq. - En route for head of Loch Fyne. Abreast of E. Loch Tarbert we are struck by a sudden squall. Skipper is in charge, and calls up the crew to reef. By the time they ascend the companion ladder we are almost becalmed. (This is intended to illustrate the quickness of Scotch weather, and not as a reflection on my crew. - Skipper.) Later, when passing the Minard Narrows, the wind again pipes up, and we are obliged to take off mainsail. We run up to Cairndon under very easy canvas and are glad to get into a secure anchorage, for in the night it blows half a ga1e. We are not troubled with seas, but the screeching of the wind is appalling. We are at the foot of Glen Kinglass, which leads to Ben Ime, Ben an Lochan, and the Cobbler, and these are high mountains.

On the morrow the Loch is still a mass of whitecaps, and even in our sheltered position shaving is an acrobatic feat. After taking watch and watch in the night, no one seems keen on climbing the Cobbler, and so an opportunity is let slip. We content ourselves exploring the little hamlet, which is removed from the paths of the tripper. The natives prove charming and hospitable, our crew becoming very popular. Finely situated by the shores of the Loch is a simple and dignified memorial to those who gave all for their country. So it is in most of the villages we have visited.

'Botterill's Bay' by M Botterill.  © Yorkshire Ramblers' Club
'Botterill's Bay' by M Botterill

20th July et seq. - Skipper drives light car to the yacht, and is greatly impressed by rounding the head of seven Lochs and crossing "Rest and be Thankful," a mountain road leading into the heart of promising crags. Unable to get a companion amphibian at short notice, skipper spends a fortnight alone. Weather is very unsettled, but there is always interesting occupation on a yacht. Two short cruises (solo), much alteration below deck, and games of chess with the owner of Nirvana, which is moored near by, pass away the time all too quickly.

One day the whole of the cooking fixtures are re-arranged, and a spare Primus on gimbals fixed up for cooking in a rough and tumble. Stays are fitted to keep things from fetching away when keeled over. Then the indescribable charm about life spent afloat, when things must be done for oneself, begins to exercise its fascination.

The family arrives with juvenile friends, and we have short and merry cruises in the Kyles. During a fierce squall from the hills we take refuge in a beautiful bay without a name, and fall in love with it, so that ever afterward when passing that way the skipper will spend the night in it, and his friends thereafter call it "Botterill's Bay." "Our" bay has a charming mountain stream falling in cascades to the shore. Because of the general depth the bay is rarely used as an anchorage, but where there is a stream there one can find a hold, even if precarious.

One day we climb the hills above our bay to a tarn called Bull Loch. All the rocky cliffs prove too short for climbing, much to the skipper's disappointment.

A cruise to the head of Loch Goil will always stand in my memory. The loch is framed in lofty mountains, whose lower slopes are wooded. Occasionally there is a clearing with a rather Swiss-looking villa, all reminding one greatly of a Swiss lake scene.

Another day we anchor in a deserted bay in the wilds, and land on a small island which proves to be a vitrified fort. Walls were built of surface stone, and the interstices filled with fusible material (could it be quartz, which is here abundant?). The whole was fired, and wonderfully permanent walls resulted. Simple warfare of savage days! I suppose an ordinary naval shell of to-day would remove the island. What progress we make in wholesale murder!

All too soon comes the final (October) cruise, marked by 12 consecutive fine days. The mate (this time J. Twyerould) is an experienced cruiser, and the ship is worked easily and, smoothly, the skipper being able to get his full four hours' sleep below, when we are benighted. We leave Molly in Scotland until next year, getting our last glance of her as the car speeds over the moor, and those charming days have now become but a memory to cheer the long winter evenings.