Piermaster North Pier 01631 562892 Vicky Mackenzie;
Kerrera 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
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!!
Harbours nearby : Craobh Haven; Dunstaffnage; Tobermory
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!!)
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)
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. Kerrera Marina is under new ownership and they have working hard to bring things up 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. 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 morning communion with nature (paper towels/toilet paper). Everything else was fine. You should be aware that the carriage of inflammable material is not permitted (so if you need petrol you'll have to take your yacht over to the Sailing Club pontoon for an hour or so) They have their own diesel fuelling facility.
They are charging (2022) £25 per night under 14m and £35 per night over 14m complimentary shore power.
Their website is at Kerrera Marina
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.
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.
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
Restaurants & Places to Eat in Oban 2022