5th September 2015
Rockin' The Vreckan
Corryvreckan Panorama. With famous 'ghost' island!

Yachtmistress Anna Whitewater offered a weekend on her boat the Zanzara in exchange for a flattering submission to Port Edgar Yacht Club's yearly cruising log competition.
And a cooked dinner.

I chose a delicious belly pork, chorizo and chickpea stew as the foody bribe. A good use of some lovely leftover hog roast stock too.
Ken Mud selflessly volunteered to author an entirely fictional log of our weekend - carefully censoring any mention of drink, drugs or nautical stupidity.

Anna was so impressed she agreed to take us through the notoriously deadly Corryvreckan.
Ancient mariners speak softly of the Corryvreckan and the sea monsters which lurk there - the whirlpools with their deadly currents eager to suck a boat to its water grave, the terrible storms which whip up in an instant and dash vessels to pieces on the cruel rocks, and the sunken wrecks waiting to snare unwary vessels seeking safe anchorage.
Fortunately none of those things are true.
Well, except for the last one, as we found out to our cost when we tried to raise our anchor after a very comfortable night in the beautifully sheltered bay just south of Oban with the unpronounceable name of Puilladobhrain (Pool of the Otter). Handy also for the famous Bridge over the Atlantic and nearby 18th century Tigh an Truish pub.
It seemed we'd hooked a heavy chain from an old fishing boat mooring and despite wrecking the anchor windlass succeeded in raising the anchor no more than a foot off the bottom.
After much straining and grunting (on my part), and swinging of the boat and chain (on Anna's part) Ken finally remembered that he had brought aboard a waterproof, submersible camera for just such occasions and he managed to lower it down to get pictures of the cause of our predicament.
Once understood it was just a matter of persuading Anna to dive into the freezing jellyfish-infested waters to hook a line through the mooring chain so we could tie it off and hold the massive links up while we dropped our anchor free of it. Then it would be just a matter of hauling up the anchor and its ludicrously heavy chain past the busted windlass and sailing off. Simples.
All power to the skipper - she took to the task like a seal, and we finally set off for the vreckan only 4 hours later than any possible calculations of the tides allowed for us to make it there in time.

The problem is, the tide flowing through the corryvreckan is so strong (8½ knots at springs, perhaps 4 knots at neaps) that there is no way to pass through against it, and our anchorage was Pig's Bay (Bagh nam Muc) just out the other side. Undaunted we pressed on - even hoisting the dusty spinnaker (to Anna's horror) to capture every last ounce of wind, and surprised ourselves by arriving at the very slackest of the tide.
So much for our calculations!
As we motored through the gulf the tide beneath us swung madly between 2 knots with us to 2 knots against us, it was a little nerve-racking but we made it through.

So safe and sound for another night at anchor, a row ashore, and a knotty clamber to a fine view of the whirlpools, which are real. After a Karl Special breakfast, a gentle sail saw us back to Oban the next day and apologies to Anna's dad for wrecking the windlass and snapping the dinghy oar.
Well, at least Ken didn't set the outboard on fire this time!

Belly Pork, Chorizo and Chickpea Casserole
main meat nautical stew
An extremely rich stew, that freezes well too.
Perfect for provisioning a boat trip!

Serves 4

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3.
Heat the oil in a casserole dish with a lid and fry the fennel seeds until sizzling.
Add the belly pork and spend a good 10 mins browning the pork on all sides in batches, scooping it out to set aside as it's done.
Next fry the chorizo and sizzle for a minute. Scoop out and add to the pork.

Add the carrots, then chilli flakes, then onion, then herbs and cook for about 5 mins until the vegetables are soft and just starting to colour.
Sprinkle over the sugar, add the garlic and paprika and cook a little.
Stir in the tomato purée then splash in the sherry and the vinegar and bubble for a moment.
Tip in the tomatoes and a can of pork stock (say, from a hog roast carcass) or water. Stir the meat and juices into the sauce, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Cover the dish with a lid and place in the oven for 2 hours, checking occasionally and if the sauce becomes too thick add a splash more stock. Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the chickpeas and return to the oven for 15 mins. Remove again and leave to cool slightly so it's not scorching hot then stir through the parsley. Taste for seasoning and serve with crusty bread or boiled or mashed potatoes.
If you're going to use dried beans, soak them overnight then cook them for an hour until al dente before adding to the casserole for cooking in the oven.

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