We arrived in Maidenhead Bay after crossing from Campbeltown. Approaching the yellow buoy (as instructed) we put the engine into neutral and waited for our escort. Every now and again Shemaron lurched unexpectedly in the water and we were bumped around while trying to balance and search through the binoculars for a small boat that might present itself to accompany us into the harbour. After a few minutes a small motor craft emerged from behind the rocks and made its way over to us. The small craft hailed us and circled round us at which point we began to follow slowly, although we could still not make out the harbour entrance. We had been referring to the Clyde Cruising guide for entry instructions to Maidens Harbour which states that “local knowledge is required for using the shallow entrance channel” due to “numerous sunken rocks and sandbanks.” It seems that Maidens Harbour has always been prone to silting up due to an accumulation of fine muds and sands because of it’s sheltered nature. When Shemaron (Wistaria) was fishing from Maidens in the 1950s fishermen working jointly with the Ayrshire council funded improvements to the harbour, the fishermen raised money by levying 1 penny for every basket of fish landed from each Maidens boat since the end of the War. When the harbour was used frequently by fishing boats they would occasionally drag their anchor chains along the sea bed, in an attempt to keep the shallow channel open. In recent years a project instigated by the local community was successful in organising the dredging of the harbour once again.
We steamed closer and closer to the beach before turning to starboard and entering a narrow entrance between two skerries. As we turned into the channel we were so close to the rocks that I felt I could reach out and stroke the Cormorants that sat preening in the sun. I was thinking I might manage to get a couple of snaps on my camera but my camera was in the wheelhouse and I didn’t think it a sensible move just at that moment. I resisted the temptation and stayed standing on the bow, the channel was extremely narrow and apart from it looking as though I could touch the rocks it also looked as though there were only inches of water beneath our keel, I kept my place at the bow, on watch. We edged, guided by our escort, ever so carefully into Maidens harbour our keel skimming the sandy bottom and our gunnels inches from the rocks.
We berthed without incident but had little time to congratulate ourselves on the smooth manner of our arrival as immediately we began to welcome a steady flow of people on board. We still had not addressed the issue of staying at our berth over night, but as the tide was turning, we needed a plan of action. Maidens harbour drys out at low tide this meant that if we stayed Shemaron would have to rest on the mud. After much thought and deliberation we decided to stay the night. In order to ensure Shemaron wouldn’t lean against the pontoons possibly damaging the pontoons and herself we managed, with the help of one or two visitors, to find two fifty gallon oil drums which the skipper filled with water. These were put on the edge of the deck away from the pontoons. The weight of the water-filled drums would encourage Shemaron to lean to starboard. We tied her as securely as possible and waited, happy we had done the best we could. We were anxious not used to manipulating Shemaron into this state and wondering if She would manage leaning over in the dried out harbour. There comes a point however when whatever is going to happen will happen, the skipper could’t bear to watch any longer and we left Shemaron to cope as best she could. After a couple of wee drams the problem didn’t seem so big and a little while later a quick glance along the harbour confirmed Shemaron was sitting comfortably and bolt up right in the mud. This process was repeated in the early hours of the morning (minus the drams), when the tide went out again and Shemaron leaned and floated without mishap.
We were quite overwhelmed by the amount of people who came onboard and delighted that our visitors varied between children, holiday makers, members of the local Maidens fishing community and their extended families. Names such as Spindrift, Ocean Gem, Pathfinder, Wistaria , 2nd Wistaria, Watchful, Arctic Moon, Saphire and Saffron hung in the warm air of the fo’c’sle as people remembered the old ring net boats