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Oban & Kerrera Island

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Courtesy Flag

Flag, Red Ensign

Waypoint

56° 25.8N 005° 30.0W

Charts

AC 1790 Oban and Approaches; 2387 Firth of Lorne Northern Part; 2388 Loch Etive and Approaches; 2389 Loch Linnhe Southern Part; 2171 Sound of Mull and Approaches; Imray 65 Crinan to Mallaig & Barra (with Oban chartlet) SC5611.28A West Coast of Scotland Pack: Oban

Rules & Regulations

Listen out on VHF16 for warnings of large ships entering or leaving Oban Bay via the North Channel. Give way to such vessels. Keep to the starboard side as much as possible when entering or leaving by the North Channel.
Speed limit in the Bay 5kts (largely ignored by working boats)

Hazards

Entering from the north leave Maiden Island to Port unless you are VERY familiar with the other side of Maiden Island. Kerrera Sound itself is well charted and the few hazards well marked – the buoyage is flooding North.

Tidal Data Times & Range

Oban is a Standard Port MHWS 4.0m MHWN 2.9m MLWN 1.8m MLWS 0.7m   (links)

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General Description

Contacts
Piermaster North Pier 01631 562892 Vicky Mackenzie;
Oban Marina 01631 565333  VHF 80
Sailing Club Moorings 07810 880315 (No Bookings)

Oban Bay, situated opposite the Sound of Mull on the Argyle coast, is a very well known and popular stopping off point for cruisers. It is easily accessible and has well sheltered anchorages or berths for any wind conditions (though anchoring in a SW gale would prove to be a bit dodgy). There are no rules about anchoring in the Bay itself and it is perfectly permissible to drop anchor anywhere sensible (ie clear of the Ferries and any permanent mooring buoys) and in suitable conditions one can anchor on the seaward side of Kerrera Island.  It has to be said that the Bay is a very busy environment and you’d have to choose your anchorage very carefully to avoid spending an extremely bumpy stay. There are visitors’ buoys off the Sailing Club pontoon in the SE corner of the bay and a Marina in Ardantrive Bay on Kerrera Island opposite the town itself. 


The new "transit pontoons" on the North side of the North Pier are entering their second season. To see a plan of the new facility look in the Navigation Images top right.The town used to support a large fishing fleet but that is much reduced now with no more than half a dozen boats landing fish here (mainly prawns and langoustine for the foreign market). These days the main maritime activity is the ferrying of tourists to and from the Isles, angling boats serving the angling fraternity and, of course, us yachties. One will also come across cruise ships which anchor in the Bay and there are several tops’l schooners and the like cruising the coast which call in here and other popular tourist destinations. Also, do not be surprised to find float planes landing and taking off in the bay.
To see a time lapse video of Oban Bay follow this link

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevelavelle/9323683759/

It must cover about an hour and a half because the Kerrera Island ferry makes a double appearance at the slip on the North Pier and there’s that tops’l schooner!!

 For general notes on cruising in these waters we have compiled an article which you can find on this site at:   http://www.visitmyharbour.com/cruising-west-coast-scotland/

Harbours nearby :  Craobh Haven; Dunstaffnage; Tobermory

Approach

The approach from either the South or the North (and the Sound of Mull) is uncomplicated and well buoyed.

The only warnings are that I would hesitate before coming up Kerrera Sound from the South after dark or in reduced visibility, preferring to come up the seaward side of the island and making an entrance through the sector lit North Channel. Also you’d have to be in a very great hurry to attempt entrance between Maiden Island and the mainland; there is a narrow channel there close to the island but, unless you’ve been in and out of here with your father and his father before him all your life, it would be taking an unnecessary gamble. The problem is that the "North" channel is not at all obvious when coming from the North East; you should aim for the tall obelisk on the end of Karrera Island until it opens.

Be aware that there is busy ferry traffic from the ferry terminal in the SE corner of the bay which can be disconcerting to the sailor inbound on the starboard side of the North Channel. The outbound ferry has to round the WCM off the Carran Ledge and will be bearing down on you until it makes its turn to starboard - it can look very close and you will not have much room on your starboard due to the shallows around Rubh’a Chraidh - be reassured, they do turn, eventually!

If you come in here in the dead of night you will have to be very careful to identify all the lights - especially the Cardinal Marks.  You must also keep in mind, if heading for the Marina in Ardantrive Bay, that they have extensive trots of moorings between Rubh’a Chraidh and the marina pontoons and most of the boats on those moorings do not wear riding lights at night. (Of course - from June to August it hardly gets dark up here at night so you should be able to plan your arrival in daylight; but you never know!!)

Berthing, Mooring & Anchoring

You are spoilt for choice here and it depends on what you need.

If you need shore power then your have two options; the Marina over on Kerrera Island or the new "transit pontoons" next to the North Pier; on the other hand if you need a significant amount of petrol (gasoline) then the marina is no good because they don’t permit the carriage of petrol cans on their ferry across the bay. (For petrol see the facilities below)

The options

1. Anchor somewhere in the bay; if you can take the ground  somewhere to the north or south of the North Pier; north is probably better as there is constant traffic to and from the slip on the south side of the North Pier.

2. The Oban Community Buoys on the South side of the bay are easily identified (large, yellow and marked with a large "V") and will cost you £15 per night but there is a landing pontoon so if you send someone ashore for provisions you can pop alongside the pontoon (for an extra fee) to load them straight into the boat (useful if you have a couple of jerry cans of petrol to load) One can also pick up a buoy for a four hour stop for £5. All fees are paid into an honesty box on the landing pontoon.

3. Oban Marina (on Kerrera Island) has been under new ownership for a couple of years now and they have working hard to bring things back to a good standard. Their ferry will be operating with late returns on Fridays and Saturdays and needs to be booked. The information that follows is what was available in the past. Shore power is by prepaid card but will normally work out at about £3.00. It has the added advantage of having showers and a laundrette (both coin op), Gas and Gaz, a bit of chandlery and all the usual boatyard stuff. We weren’t impressed with gents toilet facility which was primitive, used by the customers of the Café/bar on site and, first thing in the morning, could be out of the necessary supplies for one’s communion with nature (paper towels/toilet paper). Everything else was fine. They run a complimentary ferry across to the North Pier every two hours with the last one from the shore at 2145 (2300 on the weekend). This ferry is quite busy, leaves right on time and is often oversubscribed so “Them’s that’s keenest get fell in foremost” - or you have to wait for a double bubble. You should be aware that the carriage of inflammable material is not permitted They have their own diesel fuelling facility.
They are charging (2019) £3.00 per metre/per night with a minimum charge of £21. & seven nights for six.

We at Visitmyharbour have been watching this marina for years now through good times and bad.  It was a shame that, just after the new owners had signed on the dotted line, Oban council across the bay decided to go ahead with plans that they had been dithering about for years to put some pontoons in on that side of the bay. They also upped the rates, made a fuss about the qualifications of the ferry drivers and generally moved the goal posts on the new owners.  



Their website is at https://www.obanmarina.com/



4.  The new "transit pontoons" are now in place (2018). Originally in their consultations with the other facilities in the bay they said that boats would be restricted to one night on the pontoons but by the time they had started to install them that went out to two nights and is now three nights.They are fitted with water and shore power and the dearth of 16 amp connections has been rectified. We have also heard reports that there can be a queue for the toilets/showers.
 

The layout of the wave barrier may change a little; the kink in the bottom right (South East Corner) is being straightened.

They are charging £3.10 per night  (and that includes the VAT)


Facilities

There is a substantial Tescos in the town and, if you have a lot to carry back to the boat, there is a bus service which runs past the end of the North Pier. There is little difference in the distance between the Tescos and the North pier or the Sailing club landing. There are supplies closer to the shore but not as well stocked. You will find butchers, bakers and chemists in the streets close to the slip on the Pier. For the rest of it, you are in one of the foremost tourist destinations on this coast and will be able to buy anything from full highland dress to lucky white heather!

Petrol, as we have mentioned, is a problem. The nearest filling station is at Tescos so you will have to either pick up a visitors buoy and row ashore to the landing stage for it, or anchor off the North Pier and do likewise. There was another alternative (about which we were informed but didn’t have to try) and that was the Puffin Dive Centre further down Kerrera Sound on the mainland side. unfortunately that is no longer an option as they have stopped doing that.


As far as we know the next place selling petrol if you are southbound is either Port Ellen on Islay or Lochgilphead in the Crinan Canal. Northbound the there is petrol at Lochaline and Tobermory

Eating, Drinking & Entertainment

You will be spoiled for choice in this busy tourist town but you will be treated no differently than any other tourist.

Prices are reported to be comparable with those in London and do not be surprised to find most of the bar staff are central European.  If eating out you would be advised to book during the afternoon.

If you are berthed in the marina it’s worth considering eating at the restaurant there - the locals from Oban will take the ferry trip out there rather than eat in the town!! Seafood restaurants abound but again you need to book at the better ones; for a comprehensive list of restaurants see

http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/United_Kingdom/Scotland/Strathclyde/Oban-307559/Restaurants-Oban-TG-C-1.html

or

http://www.scottishanchorages.co.uk/#/oban/4533231046

Links

Your Ratings & Comments

13 comments
North Pier Transit Pontoons
Written by Northern Way | 24th Jul 2018
At least that is what they are called to avoid the council actually stating that they operate a marina.
However to you and me marina it is and a great facility with a max stay of 3 nights but saves a lot of humphing of those Tesco bags.
One major failing is the layout of service bollards and the excess of 32amp sockets for which the normal yacht would not have a matching plug so some have to go without.
So for 2018 if you want to be gaurenteed shore power bring a 32amp adaptor
4 of 4 people found this helpful
Oban Marina - Kerrera
Written by Eclipse II | 8th Jun 2017
Spent some time there in May 2017. Great change to the place, the new owners and managers are really making a go if it. The Waypoint is re-open as is the bar. Additional water tanks and fuel is now available. The new team are mainly ex- Clipper race skipper & crew who know the needs of yachting people and they live on the island. They couldn't have been more helpful and friendly. Facilities are all new 1 pound coin only. They have ambitious plans for improving and modernising and I believe they will succeed.
Definitely back on my port of call list.
1 of 1 people found this helpful
update May 2017
Written by Don Thomson | 31st May 2017
The new council pontoons are now under construction and the whole complex will be operating by the end of July this year. See our navigation gallery for a plan of their layout
UPDATE APRIL 2017
Written by Don Thomson | 12th Apr 2017
I have reviewed these notes and made alterations to cover the new ownership of the marina and the installation of transit pontoons by the pier. I have talked extensively with the new owner who is throwing everything he has into this to make it successful. He has just about cracked the diesel supply and has managed to overcome the difficulties of resupply of that. He's charging £2.50 pmpn plus extra for shore power(cards)
1 of 1 people found this helpful
UP DATE MARCH 2017
Written by Don Thomson | 3rd Mar 2017
I have learnt that the Marina has finally been sold. Have a look at the link in our introduction for their news page.
Good news indeed
Still a handy stop off
Written by Nick Kelly | 16th Jul 2016
Some recent negative reviews have seemed a bit harsh.

Yes the ferry service is curtailed, I understand because of staff shortages, and you do have to book each trip. However the pontoons are good, the location handy, the wifi excellent to the pontoons, the laundry facilities good and there is a nice little bar still open in the evening.

Just stayed here for a four night stay and enjoyed it. It is undoubtedly a bit rough and ready at the moment, and could do with some investment.

Depends on what you are after, I guess.

Nice walks on Kerrera.
1 of 1 people found this helpful
Marina Only as a last resort! Expensive No Fuel water not drinkable.
Written by rodrinn | 11th Jul 2016
On round Britain trip starting from South Coast. This was first marina entered in Scotland. I hope they are not all like this. Marinas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, I entered, were all well run and efficient.
Fuel no longer available.
£19 a night for a mooring, ensure you do not pick 50 ton mooring as they will then charge you £50 per night.
The mooring gets you a mooring and somewhere for rubbish, expect to pay for all else including showers.
The mooring field now means there is very little room to anchor.
Notices in showers say be careful not to swallow any water or use it for washing food or making ice.
The water taxi runs 4 times a day 9, 11, 13 and 17:00. There is not much of anything unless you take the water taxi.
First task for any new owner will be customer service training for staff. It felt like they were doing me a favour, and was an unpleasant experience.
Marina must be haemorrhaging goodwill at the moment.
1 of 1 people found this helpful
Oban facilities
Written by Summer Lightning | 3rd Jul 2016
Oban marina does not have fuel for sale (since 2014) despite the pilot books telling you differently. We were also surprised to find that the only place to eat had shut down. The staff are trying hard to run a place that is clearly not receiving any investment.
1 of 1 people found this helpful
Further update June 2016
Written by dononshytalk | 9th Jun 2016
We have discovered that Oban Marina is up for sale which is why it is running down. Do not expect a big welcome until a new proprietor is found - everything is there but from nine to five only and the water taxi runs every two hours between 0900 and 1700. If you book in advance they can lay on a return trip to the Marina at 2000. All told a bit of a shame - anyone want to buy a marina?????
1 of 1 people found this helpful
Update 2016
Written by dononshytalk | 9th Jun 2016
Arrived at 1650 as they were packing up for the day. They saw me coming and rushed off!! Discovered from another visiting boat that that was it for the night, no restaurant, no electric, no interest, next water taxi 0900 tomorrow and only running every two hours. No wonder the place was next to empty. Left and picked up a visitors buoy on the other side - disgusted.
1 of 1 people found this helpful

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