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Yacht Charters: Article

Monster Hunting Yacht Charter

Loch Ness and the Highlands of Scotland

The Highlands of Scotland might not be the most obvious place to take a yacht, but a combination of sea-canals and the largest body of water in the UK make it a surprisingly accessible destination for all but the largest yacht, with a history which still echoes today and some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.

Loch Ness contains more water than all the rivers and lakes in the UK put together: it’s over 700 feet deep and 23 miles long, and the local peat makes the water extremely murky and ideal for hiding prehistoric monsters.  The size of the Loch can make conditions remarkably sea-like, with waves generally around 3 feet but often

larger.  The top of the Loch is in the North East of Scotland, just south of Inverness, and along its length it heads South West diagonally following a line known as The Great Glen, which bisects Scotland in a series of lochs and stunning valleys, towards Fort William and the sea lochs beyond.  

With so much of The Great Glen already navigable by boat it was an obvious opportunity to the Victorian canal builders, who could just link together the lochs to make a coast-to-coast connection and a short-cut from the North Sea to the Atlantic. The northern coast of Scotland has seen more than its share of shipwrecks over the years, not least the remnants of the Spanish Armada which had limped north to escape the British navy in 1588, and while one ship canal across Scotland had been finished in 1790, it was too far south to be useful for ships coming from Denmark, Norway or the other Scandinavian countries

Anyone who has seen a British canal will be thinking of a narrow channel with towpaths for horse-drawn boats unsuited to anything but the calmest water, but here in Scotland when they build a canal they, don’t muck about; and with government money they could afford to think big.  The explosion of the wool trade had made the Highlands  valuable land, with only the inconvenient presence of local people to disrupt the conversion of the whole area to sheep farming, a situation which was easily resolved through land clearance left a lot of people homeless and provided a usefully-local workforce of over 3000 Highlanders for the construction of this epic sea-canal.  Taking almost 20 years to complete, The Caledonian Canal was opened in 1822, but improvements to allow the passage of ships of up to 500 tonnes weren’t completed until 1947.  The total length is 60 miles, though 38 of those are through the natural lochs of Locky, Oich and Ness.  There are 29 locks, with drops of up to 8 feet at each and 10 bridges – all of which swing or lift to allow the passage of large craft.  Immediately after it was completed the first visitors, including Queen Victoria, came to marvel at the scenery and the engineering, but as a commercial project the canal was undermined by the success of the railroad which was already linking the cities of Scotland together before the first boats transversed the country.  Ships coming from the Scandinavian countries made use of the short cut, and still do, though today most traffic is pleasure craft and tours, with Loch Ness being a prime destination.

All of the locks on the canal are manned, as are the bridges, and the keepers are generally happy to chat about the local area and lend their experience to weather prediction, particularly important when setting out onto one of the lochs where conditions are much more sea-like.  Larger boats have to be careful not to approach the edges of the loch, though where there is any risk a series of buoys clearly marks the navigable channel, and there are dozens of mooring spots on both sides.  Most charters start off from Inverness and sail the length of the canal, including Loch Ness, before returning about a week later, but those feeling more adventurous can take their own boat, or a locally chartered seagoing ship, and use the canal as it was intended: to cross from the North Sea to the Atlantic.  South of the Caledonian is the Clyde and Forth Canal, which crosses lowland Scotland at its narrowest point, a 35 mile stretch which was also intended as a short-cut for those wishing to avoid the northern coast.  This canal fell into disuse and became blocked by developments and bridges, but as part of the millennium celebrations a massive work of reconstruction enabled it to re-open to shipping in 2002.  Not only were roads re-routed and locks rebuilt, but one staircase of locks was replaced by the magnificent Falkirk Wheel, an engineering project to rival anything the Victorians devised.  The completion of the Clyde and Forth means that a seagoing yacht can now literally go around Scotland, or at least a significant part of it, crossing the country twice and looping back to where it started while passing some of the most spectacular scenery.  A more pedestrian approach is to start from either coast and spend some time exploring Loch Ness and the surrounding countryside.

More Stories By Bill Ray

Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

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Most Recent Comments
SYS-CON Brazil News Desk 08/12/06 01:54:38 PM EDT

The Highlands of Scotland might not be the most obvious place to take a yacht, but a combination of sea-canals and the largest body of water in the UK make it a surprisingly accessible destination for all but the largest yacht, with a history which still echoes today and some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.

SYS-CON Italy News Desk 08/12/06 01:37:18 PM EDT

The Highlands of Scotland might not be the most obvious place to take a yacht, but a combination of sea-canals and the largest body of water in the UK make it a surprisingly accessible destination for all but the largest yacht, with a history which still echoes today and some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.

YV&C News Desk 08/12/06 01:10:07 PM EDT

The Highlands of Scotland might not be the most obvious place to take a yacht, but a combination of sea-canals and the largest body of water in the UK make it a surprisingly accessible destination for all but the largest yacht, with a history which still echoes today and some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.