Image via WikipediaThe one and only school trip I went on was when I was 14 years of age and approaching my last year at school before having to go out and face this big wide world my teachers kept going on about.
The trip was to take us to Largs by train then onto Campbeltown on one of the many steamers that graced the Firth of Clyde. It was the pleasure steamer "Duchess of Hamilton" that was to take me for my first sail on the waters that were to become so familiar to me during my carreer as a fisherman and as we sailed down the River Clyde into the more open waters of the firth I stood on the deck and lapped up every inch of the beautiful scenery that lined each shore. It was eleven 0'clock in the morning and the still rising sun complimented the various shades of green on the hills of the Cumbrae islands on our port side and the Isle of Bute stood out in sharp focus on the starboard side with their reflections clearly visible on the calm glassy sea. The musky smell of warm engine oil and diesel hit you when you ventured below decks to investigate the canteen (the bar being shut for the school trip much to the annoyance of some teachers) and it grew stronger as you neared the toilets situated next to the engine room creating an even nastier smell. As the weather was calm and warm I went back up on deck to watch our progress as we sailed on down the Kilbrannan Sound that lies between Arran and the Kintyre peninsula with the wash of the propeller churning up the sea behind with every thrust taking us nearer and nearer to our destination. It seemed no time at all until we reached Campbelton Loch and as we entered this famous inlet it's splendourous beauty, stunning on either side of us was magnifyed by the mirror image on the water broken only by the outward ripples of the boats bow wave cutting into the sea as we rounded the buoy at trench point where the town of Campbeltown began to open out to us at the top of this magnificent loch.
The steamer slowed on it's approach and manuvered around gently edging nearer the pier until it's starboard side was close enough for the mooring ropes to be tied, securing us to harbour wall allowing the gangways to cross the gap that separated us from the land. The boat listed when we all made for the starboard side in our haste to get ashore as quick as we could to spend the money we had saved for this very occasion.
We all went our different ways once we managed to set foot on shore with most going round the souvenir shops to find a gift for our parents and send a postcard that would arrive home days after our return leaving little time to really take in the beauty of this small corner of Scotland.
Others however had managed to get alcohol from somewhere and were consuming it with great gusto, enjoying the freedom they had found before we departed, to return home by way of Pladda light on the other side of Arran. The sun had gone behind the gathering clouds when the time came to say goodbye to Campbeltown and with everyone accounted for the crew pulled in the ropes that had held us to the pier and once again we took in the scenery that had by now changed with cloud and the increasing winds but making it no less lovely to absorb.
Once rounded Davaar Island that lay at the mouth of the loch were headed into open sea and out of the shelter that the loch had provided us with. We headed for the east side of Arran where we would have been able to see the Ayrshire coast if it had not been for the squall that had created cloud cover and was beginning to whip up the water around us making the boat roll and sway gently as we nudged our way through the rising seas. Once we rounded Pladda and set course for the mouth of the River Clyde the easterly wind and seas were hitting us on the starboard side making the boat roll more severely and it was then that the pupils who thought they were smart drinking alcohol ashore realised that it hadn't been such a good idea after all.
When they started feeling sick they went to the rail of the boat to be vomit over the side but with the strong wind blowing they decided it would be better if they were going to be sick, the toilets were the place to be so they headed there with me in tow laughing sadisticly.
Of course as I mentioned earlier the toilets were next to the warm oily fumes at the engine room
and as soon as the mixture of these fumes combined with the smelly toilets hit them they never reached the pan and were sick all over the floor which made things even worse when the stale beer mingled with the other fumes resulted in the culprits boaking and spewing the rest of the way to Largs. We all disembarked and headed for the train but as you can imagine on the journey home some of the children were more enthusiastic about their trip than others and as the guilty ones sat with faces whiter than ghosts the teachers who had suspected their drinking but could not prove it sat with smug looks on their faces as if to say "serves you right" which it did and gave them a day they would never forget in a hurry, but for the wrong reasons. I on the otherhand had a smug look on my face as I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my trip with the scenery and the added entertainment on the voyage home.
Little did I know when I sailed down Campbeltown Loch that day that in the very near future it was to become a familier place and a safe haven to run for in the severe storms that I would experience during my wild exciting life as a fisherman.
The top picture is Campbeltown at the head of the loch.
Right hand map is Arran with the seas mentioned surrounding it.
Left picture is a steamer similar to the Duchess of Hamilton.