Home and Tiftie
Tucked up in the comfort of my lovely double-bed, rain lashing against the window, wind howling through the trees, I can tell you I’m glad to be home!
Part of me is, that’s true, but part of me misses the compactness of Tiftie and waking up to a new horizon every day, wondering what the wind will be doing for us, or how the sea state will change our course!!
Reflecting on the last eight weeks, it has been the most amazing journey, my comfort zones have been pushed way past their normal boundaries, but I’m here, back on dry land, safe & sound! Ken & Tiftie kept me safe. We dealt with all kinds of situations & I, for one, have learnt so much. Not only about sailing, or being afloat. But about Ken, life & me!
I missed my family & friends, I missed the comfort of home, but would I do it all again, you bet your life I would! We still have so many places to visit, to re-visit! New journeys to make together, to share & enjoy!
This journey, has given me time to reflect, on my life, look deep into my heart & soul. I feel stronger, because the sea makes you feel so vulnerable, at any given moment the weather can change for the worse, you can’t stop & get off, you have to carry on & work out the best & safest way to get to the next port! When it is really blowing & you don’t quite feel in control, & who is, when huge waves are tossing you about like a cork in a bath tub. You look to one another to keep calm & know we are quite safe, Tiftie is a very sturdy & strong yacht, one never plans on putting oneself in danger, but sometimes, the elements take over!
The wildlife we have seen, the most amazing views, of mountains, topped with snow, reflecting in beautiful Scottish Lochs. The magical light-houses, all different, in design, shape & size, but the guardians of the night & day, warning you of the dangers. Amazing cliff tops & headlands, incredible sunsets & sunrises, beautiful colours turning the night sky into fire! The lovely people we have met, quite a few we will meet again, I’m sure. The gentle lapping of the water, against the hull as you go to sleep, or rouse from your slumbers at dawn. The huge winds, howling through the rigging, at times, pushing Tiftie one way or another, tugging at her lines or mooring, as if to break her free! But it is all part of my journey, our journey & I think the sea & sailing are now deeply seated in my blood!
Returning home & spending last night with our wonderful friends, sharing our experiences, telling them funny tales is lovely. Catching up with home life, back to reality is good too. Visiting family, whom I have missed the most, will be wonderful!
We had hoped to end our journey by visiting the Scilly Isles, but wind & weather was against us. So we decided to end on a good note, arriving home on July 6th, which turned out to be 10 years to the day, when I first met Ken at the sailing club!! How funny to think that 10 years on we would be ending this incredible journey, with new adventures still to come!
Hope to catch up with you all soon, I have missed you, my golf & my tennis, now normal life will resume, but it will never quite be the same!
Much love to you all
24th June onwards – Arbroath to Lowestoft
Leaving Arbroath are the 4 rowers, they are heading north as we are heading south, Eyemouth is our intended destination today, some 50nm! It’s dull, not much wind, but we can motor-sail. Raining & chilly, it’s going to be a long day!
1.20pm sailing across The Firth of Forth, passing the Isle of May ! A tiny island with a light house on top! Lots of shipping activity in & out of Edinburgh! All flagged up on the AIS! We are still seeing lots of puffins, real characters, they wait until you are almost upon them & either fly off in a flurry legs out askew behind them, running across the water or disappear into the depths below. 21 miles covered, almost halfway.
Eyemouth is an extremely busy fishing harbour & the entrance to the bay is between large groups of rocks. The harbour master has told us to be very, careful when entering the narrow harbour as numerous fishing boats would be leaving for their night times fishing. One large boat just popped out & then we were there at the entrance, but had to go astern as another boat was on its way out! Only room for one boat to navigate the long narrow entrance at once ! The waves were pushing us towards the mouth all the time as quite a large swell! Once in, all is calm, only a few visitors berths. Which are full so we raft next to a Dutch yacht, previously seen in Arbroath.
Eyemouth, sadly, is quite run down. Perhaps when in latter years, the fishing port with smaller individual boats, it may have been thriving! Early to bed as we hope to leave 6ish to get a good start.
On our way again, to Blyth about 62nm away, but 1st we call in to Lindasfarne, the old castle & Abbey ruins greet you as you approach the small bay! Lots of friendly seals pop up to greet us! Motoring on we pass Bamburgh Castle, it looks magnificent on the headland, there is a nice golf course too, which I spied through the glasses. Next year, we are going to go back up to Scotland & Yorkshire in the Campervan & taking our clubs !!
Over on the other side of the bay are The Farne Islands, a small light house & a slim but tall looking house. As we motor over, the bird activity becomes frantic. Puffins, Terns, Auks, Shags & Guillemots, to name but a few, are flying back & forth, some individually or in groups! As we approach Farne Island itself, the cacophony of bird-calls is incredible, but the smell is a desired aroma!! It stinks! Ken turns off the engine & we just glide with the wind and tide. Wow, I’m overwhelmed by so many birds & took so many photos, amazing! I have puffins with beaks full of fish on the water & on the wing. I had to be very quick! Time to go & sadly we leave the islands behind!
From blue sky to grey sky & sheeting rain. Ken is happy to helm, so I tuck up to watch the tennis!! What I hear you cry? Yes, the TV works brilliantly thanks to the aerial on top of the mast & as you move down the coast you retune to that area!! Tennis from Eastbourne, so now I’m cruising not crewing!! Can’t wait for next Monday, the start of Wimbledon !! But, I’m back up on deck to help when needed!
Blyth is just a huge large boat port with a very small marina for yachts!
Friday 26th! Andrews charity golf day! Missing it makes us sad, especially as it’s really raining here & freezing! Ken has been keenly studying the charts & tide tables – I know what’s coming up, a long, long sail!!! We are looking at 200 odd miles!! Leaving Blyth at 9am we begin!! Hugging the coast so at least we have something to look at! No wind & I’m on the helm!! We had thought we might stop at Whitby, but to get into the inner harbour, you need to be there at some time other than low tide, which we were. So, 35 hours here we come!!!
It was a long, long journey, mostly motor-sailing but about 10 hours sailing without the engine, which is Bliss! Suddenly, it is peaceful. I stayed on the helm, it was raining but not much, I like having a go!
Sailing around the Top
Having been ‘Storm Bound’ at Lochinver Marina in Loch Inver for two days, the weather became fairer & we left on Friday 19th May, around 6.30am wind blowing about 14-17kts. We were heading for Kinlochbervie but not really sure if we wanted to stay there. The sea was still quite rough left over from the last few days of wind, hence you are not very comfortable on board.
We reached the Old Man of Stoerr around midday, bathed in sunshine but sea really rough! Arrived at Kinlochbervie around 4pm, it didn’t actually look very welcoming. Both feeling somewhat down as we had so many hold-ups due to bad weather, so made the decision to carry on & sail through the night! This would be our 1st experience of a night sail under the Scottish sky. The forecast was for light winds with slight swell, but even though it was really up to me to make the final decision about sailing through the night, I could not shake the tension rising in me!!
So this was it, we were heading for Cape Wrath, reported as some of the most treacherous waters in the UK!! I kept myself occupied by looking out for Puffins, there were so many seabirds, all busy flying here & there but yes, I managed to capture two Puffins on my camera, they are such delightful little birds & so industrious!
We were really lucky with the weather round Cape Wrath, it is an enormous headland & looms up to the lighthouse on top, the sea around it was very angry, but nowhere near as bad as it could have been. The light house beams out it light & as we look back, we can see it for miles & miles, looking ahead we are searching for the lighthouse on the next headland! On into the night we went, it was still light at 11.30, even though the sun set at 10ish, the loom of the sun followed us on the horizon. We actually only had 2hrs of dark, so far so good! Around 4am the sun is rising behind the Orkney Islands, they look amazing, I never knew they were so big! Next time we will visit them!!!
During this night passage I have kept us fed, little & often, helps us keep awake & warm. We both have cat naps, but I really don’t want to be alone at night, on the helm, going round the top of Scotland !!! We pass John O’Groats around 9ish, under sail, it’s cold & raining, 12kts of wind! Past Duncansby Head & lighthouse, huge sea caves at the bottom of this headland, 3 more huge stacks & masses of bird activity, it was a frenzy!! We will come back here in the campervan another time, so much to see & do!
8.30 I find I have missed a call from Andrew & Jane, they rang to congratulate us on rounding the top! Lovely to know friends are following us. I call them back; Andrew can’t believe I’m in charge of the boat whilst Ken sleeps!
Our next heading is Wick, I call ahead & I’m greeted by a very jolly harbour master who is delighted to receive us & informs me that it’s the RNLI day at the harbour too! Arriving around 12, now quite tired after a long passage but the activity in the marina is wonderful, so colourful, all the boats are dressed with flags, so we do the same! All of sudden, there is a huge noise. In comes the lifeboat, horns sounding & flares from every side of her, followed by the hoses being used, much to the crowds delight!
There is a party tonight given by the RNLI, if we can stay awake!!! No chance, Ken went to have a zizz & I soon followed, only to wake up at 4am, oh dear we missed it!
So, off we go again, leaving around 6am heading for Fraserburgh another 60 odd miles, but with a sloppy sea & no wind it’s going to be a long day! However the highlights were sailing past the oil rigs, they are huge. On we press until you look around & see the whole circumference of the earth & we are the only yacht in sight! Quite isolating!! I’m on watch duty, whilst ken takes a nap, all of a sudden there is a frenzy of activity, lots of bids are crying out & gathering on the water, I think I know what is causing this! Whales!! I grab the binoculars & keep watch, sure enough I watch as the whales broach the water. They are some way off but, through the glasses, I can make out 3 or 4 whales. They drive the fish to the surface, whales & birds have a good dinner! I watch until they are out of sight, so thrilled to have seen them!
Fraserburgh is mainly a very busy fishing port but has a few berths for passing yachts, it is a very difficult harbour to get into, we follow a huge fishing boat who had to negotiate the tight twists & turns of the different entrances, we follow & are directed to our spot! Only here for one night, it’s fine, no refinements here!
Monday 22nd June off to Arbroath. It is a long journey today in difficult conditions, leaving the harbour you are hit immediately by a very rough sea & winds of 16-18kts. It’s a northern so following us all the way, so cold too! We try calling the harbour master at Arbroath all day but no answer! This is quite worrying as they only have 6 visiting berths & it’s a locked marina so entrance is either side of high tide! I begin to worry. I try not to, but if we can’t get in there the next stop is another 80nm!!! Sometimes, I wish I was at home now!
Our sailing is fast & furious with wind gusts of 26-29kts, a large sea. Imagine being on a see-saw that also swings round!! Well, that was my day, nearly 13 hrs of this, oh I love sailing !!! I try to calm my nerves by looking at the coast lines, so very different to the West Coast! Here large green, fast fields, some given over to agriculture & soft rolling hills on the distance, but nowhere to stop or anchor!
Eventually, we near Arbroath & the HM answers his VHF radio. Phew, we are ok! It’s a lovely welcome after our long trip & we decide to stay a couple of nights, to recoup, washing & cleaning, shopping & resting! Ha ha! Arbroath is famous for the ‘Smokies’ so we buy some for our trip!
Oh, just one thing to mention. You may think us mad sailing round the UK, we met 4 amazing guys who are rowing round the UK, anti clockwise!!! They were doing it for harity www.ukcharityrow2015.com Worth looking at!! Makes us seem very tame!
Love to you all Gina xx
Tuesday 16th June!! Lochinver Marina!
Well, here I am, sitting in the cockpit under the tent whilst it’s pouring down again!!! It is now 42 days since we left Plymouth, on Sunday 11th May. Today is Tuesday 16th June, according to my calendar, but it feels and looks like October!! We have covered some 1046 nm and have not yet reached Cape Wrath!
We are moored at Lochinver, in a very small marina, the penultimate stop before Cape Wrath and the only place it seems to have any wi-fi! (Well, I have not quite tried out the theory yet, as you have to go to the leisure centre for your showers and wi-fi!!) We have been without good wi-fi since leaving Ballycastle!
We have had some amazing trips, moored in the most beautiful places along the way, great days sailing, met some lovely people and hidden away when big winds are forecast. We have experienced some huge winds too, gusts of 36 knots across the deck, whilst moored! The mooring lines have graunched and groaned, but we have stayed quite safe, despite my worries!
When I last sent you a letter from Tiftie, we were still in Ballycastle, and so, this is my continued journey! I apologise now, as you may need to get comfy, cup of tea, glass of wine, G&T or all three, as it is rather long. I have tried to shorten my story, but then it becomes disjointed and meaningless, but I really don’t mind if you hit the DELETE Key now, just tell me not to send to you, it is fine!!
Tuesday 2nd June
What a night! The force 9 they promised came in & we shook about, even in our protected spot. Had a very restless night &, at first light, I was wide awake!! I got up, had tea & decided to go for a walk before heading to the boatyard to have a ‘proper shower’! It was a beautiful sunlit morning, still clouding over but at least the sun was trying!
I returned to the boat, around 7, at last Ken is awake. Made more coffee & tea, whilst despairing as the rain came again, together with huge gusts of wind!!! Bloody hell, what are we doing here? I could be at home making cushions or curtains. I complain to Ken, he laughs, because prior to our trip, I had made lots of comfy cushions for the boat & had revamped two of our holiday cottages too, for the forthcoming season!! I thought of my dear friend Jane. What would she do? I know – I’ll get ahead!! I have chicken in the fridge that needs cooking! Now Jane is always ‘Getting Ahead’. Therefore, by 8.30, I had made a lovely curry & have two meals for the fridge!! I know Jane would be proud of me!!
It’s still raining, so next I start cleaning! Well, what else can I do??? It’s going to be a long day. But, despite the weather, I think we will make a move later today for a new destination!!!
Wrong! We get ready to move, start taking the canopy down, but it is so cold & very wet!!! Ken decides to stay put! Quick as a flash I’m back down below, wrapped in my blanket & reading!! Was I keen to go? Err, I think not!
In the past few days we have met some charming people. They have invited us on board for coffee, shared evenings with them & had them on board Tiftie, for coffee & drinks! It’s lovely how quickly you can form a relationship. Just pottering on the deck, passers-by are always keen to find out where you are going, where have you come from! Conversations range from the awful weather to good anchoring spots, just flows. Some are here without their boats, but kindly suggest that if we are going to this place or that, ask for Jack or Fred, he will give you a good mooring! One very kind man said we could use his mooring, if we went to his particular spot! They all wish us well with our journey. I know some of them will become friends of the future. Address, phone no’s & e-mail addresses exchanged!
There were 3 lovely ‘Day Boats’ in the lock. They had come along the Crinan Canal & were planning to sail to the Isle of Skye!! Well, astonishing is the first word that comes to mind, quickly followed by Bonkers!! These beautiful boats are 28ft long, made of wood & painted
beautiful colours! They weigh 4 ton, & they range from 15yrs old to 85 & 87!! That is the boats I mean! The crew range from early 40s to mid-70s! They are charming & all smiling, It would appear that nothing seems to faze them or squash their zest for this adventure!
I have fondly named them ‘The Boys’. One of the twins, who is 75 and was an eminent surgeon in Glasgow, expresses that life on board is rather like ‘boy scouting’, whilst we are more like ‘caravan clubbing’!! But, all said with a lovely smile and definitely no malice. A great, description of life on board these lovely yachts. No headroom, no loo only a Thunder Box or bucket! A small gas ring burner, no heating and not much room for storage! They sleep on board, but just how comfortable and dry it is, I can only wonder.
We are all planning to leave in the morning with promise of better weather!!
Leaving Crinan Lock, Wednesday 3rd June 2015
We woke very early. It was like a mill pond and great for manoeuvring Tiftie to the other side of the lock, for fresh water and also in readiness to get out the lock gates when they opened at 8.30am! Everyone wanted to move today, as we were all waiting for the better weather to arrive and there would be a queue in no time.
We showered and had breakfast. On this occasion, we were able to shower, at last, in the official Basin facilities which had been out-of-order. It was a splendid building and, to my surprise, the shower block was uni-sex with cubicles large enough for four people!! They had opaque glass between them!! Fortunately, we were the only two there. Once back at the boat, I took the opportunity to take some photos. I have been waiting for days to have a windless, sunny morning, in order to get some perfect reflections. In particular I wanted to capture the Day Boats and the Puffer! Success, I was rather pleased with them!
Around 7.30am, we very quietly moved her over and moored just in front of the 3 days boats and ‘The Boys’ as I have fondly named them. They were just waking up! I chat to them, as I always do to everyone. (Ken thinks I am becoming more eccentric every day, but always says it with a smile!) Their ages range from late 20s to late 70s!! The two older chaps are twins and one who was an eminent surgeon from Glasgow, who is still involved in charity work in Africa. They were all very cheerful and looking forward to their sail today. As mentioned before, they had travelled through the Crinan Canal and were waiting, like us, for a break in the weather. Their final destination was going to be Isle of Skye. I showed them my reflection photos. They liked them and asked, if we were still around when they came out of the lock, would I take some photos of them sailing. They gave me their e-mails, & I said we would do our best to wait for them. We actually could not pass through Dorus Mor before about 11.30 as the tide rips through there and you need to ‘go with the flow’.
We passed through the lock, saying our various goodbyes and out in to the bay, so different to last few days! No white horses or large waves, still quite a swell, but a good wind. We were going to explore up the loch to our right, Loch Craignish, about 4½ miles long. There is an island in the middle and Ardfen Yacht Centre located at the top.
This is one of the lochs we would have moored in had the weather been kinder to us, but who wants to be out in the open, with a force 9 or 10 whipping across the deck at night!! It was bad enough in the lock basin, despite being sheltered. Anyway, it was so worth the sail. These lochs are so pretty, beautiful, mystical, peaceful How does one describe them? They are all so unspoiled, with the occasional cottage or house or a small hamlet or village. Just basically untouched and unspoiled! Our sail would take about 2 hours, should work out perfectly to catch ‘The Boys’ and get through Dorus Mor!
We sail back down the other side of the loch, now with the gentle hills of Ardfern on our starboard beam. As we come back out into the bay, we spy over in the far port side, three very special looking yachts. It was ‘The Boys’. Ken changed direction and I had my camera in hand, at first I had to zoom in quite a way, but these boats were fast. They were soon drawing near and moving so fast that we had to motor sail to keep up with them! I got some lovely shots, close ups and distant ones, with lovely back drops of the near rocks and distant hills. We sailed with them for a while and I just kept clicking. They looked amazing, cutting through the water, and all of The Boys beaming from ear to ear. I think they were pleased to see us. They were heading up to Mull, whilst we intended to explore and sail up Loch Shuna, past Shuna Island. We waved farewell and wished then a good passage!
We were possibly going through a very narrow passage, called, Cuan Sound!!! WELL! At the top of the loch, Ken slowed down and was studying his plotter very intently. The conversation went like this! ‘I think I may give this passage a miss, darling!’ ‘Oh, why?’ I ask. ‘Umm, well, my plotter has come up with lots of warnings, like Do Not Go Through!!!’ Good enough reason not to go through, we concluded!!! (Very, very fast tide runs through there and rocks to be rounded!) So, we sailed back down the loch on the other side of Shuna Island and rounding the headland called Ardluing, and sailed up the Sound of Luing, between Scarba and Luing Islands. The water between the islands are called Sounds. I asked Ken if he knew why they were called this. He didn’t, of course, but had great fun, making up silly reasons why they should be called such!
This proved to be a very interesting passage too! As you draw near to top of the Sound, there are two large rocks, each with a small light house, obviously warning you of the dangers. You sail between these rocks. There are many small island dotted about which give cause for strong currents and tidal effects. We had not, to date, experienced anything like this, not even Jack Sound or Ramsey Sound were not a patch on this for speed over the ground!!
The sea had become very eerie, lots of eddies, small whirlpools, some so strong they actually turn the boat completely off course! We were being carried along at 12.4 kts. This carries on for quite some time, the water looks like it is boiling! Eventually, we pass through and enter the Sound of Inish. I think all the names are wonderful, but trying to pronounce them, whilst in conversation is very funny, especially if talking to a local!! Inish is called after the Island of the same name.
Ahead is the island of Kerrera, where Oban Marina is located. We are not stopping there today, but will pass through the Sound and, then, carry on to Dunstaffnage Marina in Dunstaffnage bay, near Dunbeg. A quieter location, Ken feels, more rural!! Hang on I, may want to party!!
Arriving at the marina, our next task is to find the visitor berths. We call the office and are directed to head for pontoon E, berth no 3. Ok, that seems simple enough, except no numbers on berth and pontoon E is not clearly marked. There is also about 18+ kts of wind and the tide was running through as well. In this situation, we really prefer to berth, bow into wind and prefer a ‘port side to’ berth! We motor round and round and it is not obvious where we are supposed to go. There is space on one side of a pontoon, but Ken will not even consider it, wind and tide pushing us in and only me to jump off to the pontoon with a line!! No, thank you. We have found ‘E’ and a couple of spare spots, lines are in place, fenders are out I’m ready. Ken heads in, not quite for the berth I was expecting, but all was fine. We are just finishing tying up, when the young guy eventually turns up to help!! (late!) I can tell by his face we are in the wrong place, someone else’s berth! ‘We’re not moving’ I hear Ken say under his breath, and thankfully, Arnish (for that is the name written on his sweatshirt) said we can stay put, as only there for one night!
We relax and have a drink and snack. It is so lovely when you have berthed and one can just stop for a moment!!! (I find that marinas are the most stressful part of manoeuvring Tiftie. She is heavy and in strong winds and tides, she seems very heavy!!) Anyway, I produce a nice snack and a glass of something, whiskey macs!! We sit in the cockpit and watch the rest of the world go by! As it happens, a very large yacht is coming in to berth. She is a 46ft Oceana and it’s big, beamy and quite high out the water. There were at least 7 crew members on board. Arnish is waiting for them. Lucky for them!! Well, we watch as she comes in and misses the berth, again and again. Eventually, after 7 attempts, she comes in much too fast. Luckily for them, Arnish is there to stop her crashing in to the pontoon! Lines being thrown here and there, poor chap was flying about all over the place. Lucky for them, it was a double berth and both empty! We do see some funny things going on. We are not perfect by any means, but try to come in, with a plan and keep calm! The berth we are in is very tight for our departure in the morning, but Ken has a plan. It all depends on the weather!
Most of the marinas offer showers, electric, fuel, water and free wi-fi. Some also offer a marina store for all your needs (ha ha!) We walk up to pay, to get the necessary codes for gate, showers and wi-fi, buy milk and bread etc!!! The shop was useless, Pot bloody Noodles!!! Who eats that kind of food, and UHT Milk!! Oh, goodness me! Then, no wi-fi, What??? ‘Oh you have to go the pub for the wi-fi!!’ It is so irritating. £10 later for wine, beer and crisps, we have wi-fi at the local pub.
Later on, I find the sunset is beautiful and wander about the pontoon trying to get the best shot! At least, we don’t have to leave early in the morning as we are not travelling far.
Thursday 4th June, Dunstaffnage onwards.
Leaving our berth around 12.45, it is a very different picture, calm waters, no wind. We are still in a tight berth, not much room for manoeuvring or mistakes, but I follow Ken’s instructions to the letter, for once!
Mooring lines and fenders safely stowed, we motor out into the bay. No wind and foul tide, means we have to motor for now. Heading up Lynn of Lorn, we pass the long thin island of Lismore. Eilean Dubh, a small stubby outcrop resembles a volcanic plug. Description given by the Skipper!! Loch Creran to our starboard side before we are squeezed between Port Appin and Rubh Aird Ghainimh!! We then passed through a very narrow sound, the Sound of Shuna, squeezing between Shuna Island and the mainland. The passage is marked out by very small buoys, green on starboard and red on port. It is also very shallow, this is not a straight run either, it twists and turns between underwater hazards of rocks and sandbanks, we draw 6 ft and the depth meter gives you a reading of what is under the keel! At one point we dropped to 0.9m!!! It was very exciting, especially when you are through it! This opens out into a very pretty stretch of water with lovely moorings on both sides. Once past Shuna, we are out in the very large Loch Linnhe, (it is staggering how vast these waters are and how deep, some over 100mts!)
It has started to rain again, in earnest this time, but no wind and flat water, we huddle under the spray hood to keep dry, whilst watching out for wildlife all the time and are given an amazing aerobatic display by a group of Gannets, who are diving for fish. Ken stops the engine and we just watch transfixed by their beauty and agility. Sometimes two or three fly high up and then, as if at a precise given time, they dive from great height in to the waters, surfacing with their rewards. We stayed for a while, but eventually had to move on. We also saw groups of dolphins in the distance swimming down the loch, I have tried so hard to catch them on camera, but they move so quickly and seem to only surface every so often. We continue along the loch, towards Cuil-cheanna Spit, where if you continue forward, you travel on through the Carran Narrows and end at Fort William. Here, you can join the Caledonian Canal, going through to Inverness. We are told it is a very beautiful passage, but you miss out on so much more! We are heading for Loch Leven where there is a small marina there, just below Glencoe. To get to the marina, you have to enter Ballachulish Bay, really beautiful with a backdrop of mountains all around, lovely waterside cottages and houses. Woods that sweep right down to the water’s edge, in every shade of greens and reds! In the far right hand side of this lovely bay is a road bridge.
Now, we know that the bridge is only 16m tall at the highest tide and, obviously, at lower tides, there is more room in which to pass under! We are not actually sure how tall we are!! Ken quickly looks it up on his I-phone!! (What did we do before I-phones??) He finds out that we have a 16m mast, or thereabouts! He also finds out that there is still 2m of tide before high tide. He thinks 2m clearance at least!! We look at the mast and look at the bridge. Is it really worth the risk? Plus, we have equipment on the top which adds to the overall height! Then, on top of all of this the tide runs in & out of the loch at around 3kts! We were both in a quandary as to what we should do and it was pouring down again!! I stood on deck and looked at the bridge then up at the mast, then back at the bridge!! Ken decided to attempt to go under, but in reverse, which would give him more power and manoeuvrability should he need to bail out!! I was not so sure. It must have looked very odd from the shore – a yacht being reversed under the bridge!! The tide seemed to be getting stronger the nearer we got to the bridge. I watched anxiously and expressed that I was not happy about it!! I’m not sure that he heard, he was concentrating so much. In the end Ken bailed out, and we motored back in to the bay, but not without anxiety as he stopped the boat doing 5kts backwards. We decided instead to anchor in the opposite corner of the bay. The Lochs are so deep, you have to get quite close to shore before you can drop your anchor, we are still in 20mts and Ken has to drop all our chain, all 60mts of it!! (During the winter, to be absolutely sure, Ken had taken all of the anchor chain out onto the pontoon to prove that the end was tied on and that all was secure, which, of course, it was. Good precaution because the whole of the chain went overboard and was hanging from its rope tail – rope so that it is free of the winch.)
Relax and breathe! Safely anchored for the evening, it finally stops raining and we are rewarded with beautiful views of snow topped mountains, & almost pure reflections in the water, of maintain and trees. I am busy taking photos, it is very peaceful here.
Friday 5th June – Ballachulish onwards
We woke yet again to grey sky and rain, so at 6.50am we lift the anchor and set sail back to Oban, the forecast yet again has informed us that we are in for more heavy weather! Who would believe this is June!!!
Arriving in Oban, not too bad weather-wise, we gracefully berth Tiftie, head to wind, perfect. No sooner had we berthed, the wind started, 22kts across the deck! Ok promise of shop and wi-fi, but, no luck, the blasted shop sold wine and pot noodles!! Who the hell eats pot noodles?? And no bloody wi-fi again! I’m starting to feel totally cut off from everything and everyone!! Oban marina is not on the main land, but on the Island of Kerrera. There is a free water taxi on the hour that takes you to and from the marina to the town of Oban. We decide to go in today as tomorrow the wind may be stronger and the water taxi may not be running!
Oban was obviously a very smart resort in its hay-day! The main street that looks over the water is lined with old hotels that were quite grand, built in beautiful local stone, but sadly, have obviously, seen better days. They have new buildings tagged on to them, which in no way, sympathise with their elegant structure, or use of local stone. The new buildings, or attachments, are rendered, square, box-type buildings, which lack grace and elegance, so deserving of these rather grand structures! Why are planners so stupid, or so blind, to the beauty and grace of such buildings? I would love to have been a planning officer; I think I may have caused a few upsets!! There are no high street stores either, for fresh food or wine, I ask in one shop where we can buy food etc. We are directed to an out-of-town development, Tescos, Lidl and Aldi are all located there!! Quite disappointing, we so wanted to buy local produce, but alas we buy what we need, rather a lot of wine and get a taxi back to the water taxi. I have time before it arrives to run to a nearby shop and buy a book on birds. I have two at home!!!
Back on board, I reorganise the store and fridge with new food and get on with cooking. Whilst cooking, various gusts keep coming through! Oban is very exposed to certain winds, just our luck, wrong wind direction! I notice our mooring lines are graunching and groaning! I mention this to Ken in passing, as it is quite irritating, especially if this is going to carry on all night! He has a wonderful knack of ignoring me when he chooses to do so! But actually, he has heard me, and goes out on deck to inspect our lines. He decides to alter the ‘Spring Line’ which is a line from the centre of the boat and keeps her stable, allows her to move back & forth, but not too far!! He decides to put on extra lines too, I can see him from my position in the galley, but every so often he goes out of sight. It is extremely windy on deck and so I worry about him!! I go up in to the cockpit to check he is ok. Well, imagine my horror as I watch him take a step over the safety line to get on to the pontoon, to then lose his footing and fall!!! He crashed against the boat, he winced and swore, how he didn’t fall in the water, I don’t know, but I was concerned about him and asked if he was ok, as he was groaning in pain, hanging on to the side of the boat! His look told me all!! Shut up! I kept quiet, sometimes you know, when to keep shtum!!! Oh, but poor Ken had a bruised hip and knee. He was very lucky. (I did offer to rub cream in for him! Although, apparently, he wasn’t hurt, he accepted!!)
We spent the evening keeping one eye on the anemometer, wind up to 30kts coming through, so much noise all around us, every boat seemed to be pushed and tossed by waves and wind! I wanted to go up for my shower & went ahead of Ken. Gosh it was very windy on the pontoons, I was afraid of being blown off in to the water, not a pleasant thought! Ken, apparently, then realised I may be in danger so quickly joined me, to make sure I got back ok. Back on board, we settled down to sleep. It was ok as long as I could hear the lines graunching. I knew we were still tied up along-side, but when it all went quiet I did think, are we still ok, Ken told me to stop being silly and get back into bed!! I tried! Ken thinks I am totally bonkers!
Saturday 6th June – Oban Marina on Kerrera Island
Well nothing’s changed, we are quite safe and still moored to the pontoon. But the weather is still foul! Tea in bed, now with the addition of biscuits, and a good book, seem then order of the morning. We are not moving today, so it will be a day of jobs! Washing, cleaning and sorting. Eventually, I get up and I make us a cooked breakfast. A real treat as we seldom have this at home or away. However, my mind is taken back to Dale last Autumn, where we did have lovely cooked breakfasts with Si & Di, whilst away with them in our camper vans. Simon cooks a mean breakfast! Not sure mine quite comes up to his standard! Anyway, after this, there are all the jobs to be done. I duly go off to get the laundry sorted, at least they have good laundry facilities here, if nothing else! It seems to be ‘The’ place, to people meet too, and hence I meet lots of folk who want to chat. One couple are here with their NZ friends and it would seem everyone is just waiting before moving on to Tobermory. A Dutch couple are also sailing round the UK, but anti clockwise. He is going to run in the Isle of Skye half-marathon the following Saturday. Everyone is very jolly considering the weather and conditions. It is all part & parcel with sailing. Some are very experienced and know the areas well, always willing to advise you on good or not so good anchor spots or places to visit, which is all very welcome. Ken’s job was to sort out water and fuel! I eventually return to the boat to find he has done neither! He has a good excuse to be sitting in the warm, reading or doing the crosswords though! No fuel available here and, at the moment, no hose-pipe for water!! There is nothing to do but tuck up and stay dry and warm, I write post cards to Hattie & Isaac, I try to keep my story up to date!
We were going to eat out at the marina fish bar, but it is so awful, we really cannot be bothered to move. As we may be leaving at 4am, we could do with an early night!
Sunday 7th June, Leaving Oban
4am came and went! Ken decided as Tobermory was only a short distance away we could catch a later tide, and if I wanted, we could go back into Oban and pick up anything else we required. That seemed like a great plan, better weather today, lots of boats were planning to leave around lunch time too. We nipped over to Oban on the water taxi and shopped, all in an hour and came back to the boat, meeting another lovely couple who were on our pontoon. We got chatting and they came back for coffee just before we both set off on our day trips.
Leaving Oban around 1.55, we decided to take the long way round, and sail up and around Lismore Island to re-join the Sound of Mull just off Rubha an Ridire on the Morvern Peninsula. Around us on both sides of the loch, we are again surrounded by beautiful mountains. They vary so much in size and shape, some are cone-shaped, some rise steeply to sharp points and some are pyramidal, you could be in the Egypt or the far east. Others just gently rise and are rather voluptuous in shape, soft curves and crevices.
I can make faces out of some of them. I did this when I was young. Unfortunately, I had suffered with a grumbling appendix from the ages of 5 to 12, in those days they did not like to take out your appendix or your tonsils, but would treat them with antibiotics. When I had a really bad bout of illness at 12, my mother insisted that I have an ambulance. They rushed me in to hospital, just in time, before it burst! Anyway, as I lay in bed as a child, recovering from each bout, that came at least twice a year, I would make faces or animals out of the clouds!! Hence, on the boat, I have plenty of opportunity to stare at the shapes and make various pictures in my mind. Ken just looks at me, bonkers! I can tell what he is thinking!
We had been having a good sail up to this point, but the wind was now on the nose and we were against the tide, so it was rather unpleasant. Ken had seen on from the chart, that there was a small loch, just ahead on our right-hand side. From our visitors guide, you could anchor or use the new visitor pontoons. We both agreed, as the weather was not very pleasant, to wander in and see what it was like.
Loch Aline is probably the smallest loch we had visited to date, but it has to be said, the most beautiful so far. It is framed on all sides by trees which rise up on gently sloping banks. There were good anchorage points at the end of the loch, but there was also a small marina for about 30 boats and a brand new visitor building with facilities that were the best so far, and it has wifi!!! Yes!
The harbour master is very welcoming and helpful. But, putting all that to one side for a moment, the tranquillity of this very pretty loch is breath-taking. One really feels as if you are in heaven. The birds singing that appears to echo round the loch. The calm water and the colour in the trees are so relaxing. I watch as two herons are stalking at the water’s edge. It is just charming. We are so glad we stopped here. We ate our supper in the cockpit and just drank in our surroundings. It will be a shame to leave here in the morning.
The Dutch couple obviously had the same idea as they are also in the marina, but will move to Tobermory tomorrow as well.
From the mouth of the loch, there is a small ferry that comes and goes, taking you to other islands. All the islands are connected by ferries. There is also a large jetty for the workings behind it. Ken finds out that they are exporting sand. It is from here that the Loch Aline mine, opened during the war, closed and re-opened in 2012, excavates some of the finest silica quartz sand. Used for Optical productions, it is of high grade and is very sought after, and exported all over the world.
Monday 8th June – Leaving Loch Aline
It is my sister’s birthday to day, she is 60 and I know she will have a wonderful day. Sending her much love, all across the world, to New Zealand! Maybe, one day I might get over there!!
Rather later than planned, my fault, I really wanted to get some e-mails sent so I made us late, but sometimes I just want to stay put, not because we have to due to bad weather, but we can! Anyway we plan a quick trip over to Tobermory to refuel and get water and then on to Loch Sunart, apparently of outstanding beauty.
We arrive in Tobermory and it is a very pretty harbour, lots of boats moored and the small marina. The town is famous for its painted houses along the harbour side and they have also produced a lovely children’s programme here, based on the town, harbour and coloured houses. I know Isaac and Hattie will recognise it from the post card I send them later that day!
We moor along-side the refuelling pontoon. The wind is picking up and so we decide to stay for a while and take a look round the town. The harbour master informs me that we can berth in any of the finger berths available. As long as you use the local shops, you can stay for a while at no cost. We both go for a lovey walk around the town and harbour, lots of small shops selling local items. I buy Ken some delicious fudge, his favourite. One could buy so much beautiful locally-made china or glass, but getting it home on the boat in one piece is another matter. We take the coastal path and find ourselves up on the golf course. It is quite a challenging course with very small greens, but I test the surface and would appear to quite receptive, if one was to hit a high wedge as an approach shot. Not much to play with, but the most incredible views may well compensate for a bad score!!
Once back on the boat, we decide to stay for the night. The forecasts are not looking good again. I ask Ken to show me on a larger map, the ordinance survey map of Scotland, just how far we still have to cover before we get to the Cape Wrath. It is staggering, still about 200nm as the crow flies, without allowing for bad weather. How are we going to be home by the 3rd week of July is beyond me!! I think that the East Coast may well be a blurr as we will be flying by then! And it may involve those dreaded night sails. (I’m not happy and I think I make Ken sad too. This is meant to be fun after all) We talk about the boys who sailed round last year in a Wayfarer called Hafren, they went round the UK in 33 days, but they were great sailors, lots of experience and completely fearless, or so it would seem. They also had amazing weather, I expect they are at home now, thankful they went in 2014!
We will definitely be back up in Scotland again. There is so much to see, and we really don’t have the time to cover it all on this trip.
Unfortunately for us the weather has been very unkind and continues to be so. Everywhere we go, the locals admit they cannot remember a summer like this. It is bad for them too as they rely on tourism.
Tuesday 9th June, Leaving Tobermory
Because of the forecast again, our lives are dominated by them. We leave our berth at 5.10am. It is a beautiful morning and I get some lovely photos as we leave the harbour, boats and water bathed in that early morning glow. You may ask why so early. Well, we have to catch the tide through the Sound of Mull to take us round past the light house at Ardnamurchan Point. We are going to moor in Arisaig tonight, another place mentioned by Sandy, more on that later.
As we round the headland, we can see the island of Coll, long and flat, way off to our port stern and in the haze ahead we can make out the islands of Muck, a tiny place, with Rum looming behind and Eigg, much larger mountains, off to the right of Muck. Such delightful names, and looking dramatic in the low cloud and mist. We decide to head off over towards Muck, just to get a closer look. We did manage to sail a bit today but not much. It is always so lovely to turn the engine off and have silence.
Our approach to Arisaig is a very difficult one. Everyone we have mentioned it too, almost blanches, sucks air in through their teeth and then proceed to enlighten us with their near misses of rocks as they negotiate the twisty passage one has to follow, to enter the small bay beyond. Even delighting in telling you that not all the underwater rocks, hazards have been charted yet!! Ken loves a challenge, (Well, he married you, I can just here some of you saying!) He pores over his chart-plotter and concentrates really hard and I keep a lookout from the safety of the cockpit. If, we did hit anything, it could quite easily throw you badly off balance! Now there’s a sobering thought! We are through and the bay opens up in to a delightful scene. We pick up a spare buoy and as we sit having lunch, I hear the unmistakable sound of a steam engine, but I cannot see it yet. Then, puffs of steam give its hiding place away. This is the train that takes you from Mallaig to Fort William, which we may take when we get to Mallaig.
Ken gets the dinghy ready, which involves him having to pump in more air, whilst it is in the water. It is kept semi-inflated on the stern, on purpose built arms. A very funny sight as he nearly falls in the water. I have not rowed for years so really enjoy it, despite teasing from my skipper, informing me I am going the wrong way!
The small village of Arisaig is a real mixture of properties, some very run down and others rather smart, but it has a very empty feeling, no heart of the village, just a long spread out line. There is hardly anyone around, despite a primary school on the hill. We have a good walk but return to the boat for a meal and relaxing evening.
Wednesday 10th June, Leaving Arisaig
No rush like yesterday to get up, but drop mooring at 9.15am to re-negotiate our way back out of the harbour. There is absolutely no wind today, and it looks as though the sun may even come out! Let’s not count our chickens too soon eh! We plan to go over to the south of Skye to Loch Scavaig, surrounded by mountains, the Cuillins – a lovely place to have lunch! Apparently, it can have ‘Katabatic’ winds, or Katabollic as I keep calling it!! The winds come down from the mountain causing this astonishing wind!
So, off we set, gradually the wind fills in and it is even in the right direction!! We have a great sail, 10 – 14 kts. As we approach Soay, an island before the loch, the wind starts to increase. Oh no, here we go again, 14kts becomes 18, down comes the sail, engine back on. 18 increases to 22, 22 increases to 24. We get gusts of 26 kts, it is only a small loch, but white horses everywhere, and such a drop in the temperature too, it is freezing. There are also lots of underwater rocks, so we do have to be careful how close we go in. We turn around and head out, gradually the wind eases and we are back to sailing again, as we look back to the loch, we get beautiful views of the mountains that tower above, some with snow on top too. Lots and lots of photos taken. We are now heading back across the water into the Sound of Sleet past the Sleet Peninsular towards Mallaig, a small town with a small marina.
With huge contrasts today, we finish our sail in shorts and t-shirts and of course no wind! Motor in to Mallaig which is a very busy fishing port and ferry terminal for the Isle of Skye. Having called ahead, the harbour master is waiting on the jetty to take our lines, this is first time it has happened. He is very helpful, but has the sad news, no loos or facilities and their wi-fi is down!!! What is going on up here! Apart from that, it is lovely and we decide to eat in town as Ken found a small fish restaurant by the quay side.
Showered and feeling refreshed, we walk to the little Bistro. Whilst sitting having our meal, watching boats coming and going, Ken noticed a small yacht similar to ‘The Boys’! It can’t be I say, as there is only one, but we will look when we go back down to the boat. Not long after that, just as we were finishing our meal, the door of the bistro opens and in came two very tired sailors who do look rather worn out. It was Martyn and John who were on Shona. They, of course, wanted a meal, but it was 9.15 and the bistro stopped serving at 9! The staff would not budge, offered a pudding, but that was no good. Ken bought them a beer each and they sat down to join us. It was lovely to see them again. I had plenty of food on board, so we asked them to come back with us to have something to eat. They gladly accepted as long it as not too much trouble. Of course it wasn’t. Back on board, I rustled up bacon and eggs, bread cheese, wine, coffee and chocolate! I was then able to show them their photos. They were delighted and I promised I would send them as soon as I had internet and electric hook-up!!
They told us about their journey and about the other two boats. Unfortunately, Bernera had developed a leak and was letting in water quite badly, they said. Well, she was in her 80’s! They had a great journey, but had also battled against strong winds. They reached the Isle of Skye and even gone round to Raasay, but were now making their way back to Crinan, through the canal, and home.
Martyn, had been a surgeon in Glasgow and although retired, is now the Charity Director of ‘Resurge Africa’. Well worth looking up, they are training in West Africa, establishing reconstructive surgery and burns service. I looked it up and the work they are doing is truly astonishing and so worthwhile and needed. I feel very privileged to have met this amazing man who has such presence about him. Both John and Martyn were great company.
They left Tiftie at around 11.30 as, understandably, they were tired and had a long days sail, with an early start tomorrow.
Thursday 11th June, Leaving Mallaig.
7.30 alarm, quick cup of tea and we were up, just enough time to run to the local store for fresh food, then we had to go. Unfortunately, I missed ‘The Boys’, but Ken had been able to catch them with a wave as they sailed off.
Today, we were heading up the Skye coastline to pass under the very large road bridge, which connects the mainland to Skye and has caused many problems with the locals.
The coast line of Skye is lovely, soft rolling hills on this side, with the dramatic backdrop of mountains. We came to Skye for New Year in 2007, to stay in a lovely hotel. We remember lovely walks in the mountains but the days were really short, in such contrast to now, when it hardly gets dark at all. We were both looking out, to see who could spot it first. I felt sure it was further on, but Ken felt sure it was where we were looking now. Guess who was right? Of course it was me! Situated in the small, Loch na Dal, if you ever want a beautiful hotel in a glorious setting with fabulous food, then we would recommend this place, called The Duisdale House Hotel! The owners have two hotels and private yachts, for day trips, too.
We are approaching Kyle Rhea, a small narrow stretch of water which runs very fast, small eddies and funny currents appear here. We are delighted to see lots of seals, swimming here, playing and catching fish. I manage to get some photos. You then enter the larger loch of Loch Alsh. This is again really beautiful and beautiful properties line the side of the loch here and there. It is really quite large and has the back-drop of mountains all around. The bridge spans from Kyleakin, on the Isle of Skye, to the mainland. Apparently, it was built using PFI which allowed for a toll to be charged. This caused much controversy on the island with many islanders refusing the pay, some to the point of going to prison. The non-payers included a woman whose house had been compulsorily purchased to build the bridge in the first place!!! Eventually, the bridge was purchased by the authority from the PFI consortium and the tolls abandoned.
Passing under the bridge and into the Inner sound. This is another vast piece of water and we are able to sail again. A boat comes up on our AIS, it is ‘Perle’. Ken recognised the name. Perle was ahead of us on our long night sail across the Bristol Channel to Dale. She had carried on into the Irish Sea, despite forecasts of a gale, and had not stopped in Dale. We never saw her again, until now. What a small world, she sailed past and Ken and her owner passed knowing comments and waves!
We could have moored in Plockton, but Ken was keen to venture further up the Loch, where we were to find another anchorage spot in Slumbay Harbour. However, before passing through the Strome Narrows, we notice lots of seals sun bathing on the rocks. They are so lovely, such gentle faces. Lots of photos taken, then on to the loch. It was again, very beautiful here. There were several boats on moorings, but, in the end, we dropped our anchor. A local chap from another yacht came over in his dinghy, to welcome us, and introduce himself. We invited him aboard for a drink. He told us he lived, ‘just over there’, and pointed to a sweet cottage at the water’s edge. He was very helpful telling us good places to stop and assured us we had very good anchor holding ground here for the night.
Friday 12th June – Leaving Slumbay Harbour.
Up early, well it is so light, I have never known Ken be up and about like this. Hope this carries on at home, just think of all the jobs we can get done and all the golf we can play with more time to spare! Anchor lifted and we motor down the loch, to be joined quite quickly by a lone dolphin, light grey on top and speckled underneath. He played in our wake, darting under the boat and emerging on each side, for some time, then as quick as he appeared, he was gone. I always think of dolphins as the angels of the sea, feel very reassured when they swim with us. Oh I just love nature and being part of it and so close to it.
It was a beautiful morning, we planned to pop in to Plockton to get fresh water and ask about fuel. No fuel, only water, but as we were going to Portree, we knew we could get some there. On we went, leaving the mainland behind and over to Scalpay and Rassay and the Isle of Skye. We pass Crowlin Islands. There so many islands, it is impossible to name them all, but most seem to have some form of life on them, a small croft or group of crofts, nestled in a cove by the water’s edge, they work the land, and keep sheep but supplement their income by fishing too. What a life, not for everyone!
(I was thinking – we should put some of our unemployed benefit-seeking youngsters out here, teach them to survive and look after themselves. I also think we should make them work in the lighthouses and learn to be responsible for somebody else!! How radical is that?!
I was very disappointed when I realised that the lighthouses are not manned any more. How I longed for a friendly wave from the lighthouse keeper, as we sail past. I have a love of light houses and Life boats. Just adore both and have lots of photos. Now you know why Ken thinks I am bonkers!)
Anyway, back to our sail. A northerly wind on the nose meant no sailing again, but, at only 3kts, it was ok. We passed through Caol Mor between Raasay and Scalpay and explored the Loch Ainor. We had intended to explore Loch Cairidh, then on towards Portree. We had plenty of time and the weather was ok. How wrong we were. Suddenly, it was blowing up again and we arrived in Portree against 18kts of wind, hitting us head on. Once in the harbour, we had hoped it would be calmer, which it was, but only a bit. The visitor moorings are on long runs but appear quite close to each other, as indeed this proved to be when we, later, watched two moored yachts collide with each other. We chose to pick up a mooring a little way away from the others.
The wind was most odd in the harbour, as all the yachts were pirouetting, in any direction but never in unison. Our chosen buoy is ahead, a young Shag is on it, seems such a shame to disturb him, he looks up at me and then he does a perfect dive into the water. They always dive from the water or rocks, not from great heights. He pops up again in front of us and flies to the next vacant buoy.
We make Tiftie secure and watch as she begins the same movements as the other yachts. We need to catch the harbour master, so Ken organises the dinghy and, after a light snack, we row ashore. Oh blast, the HM has just left, but we are told he will be back in the morning, so try him then. Ok, that’s fine. I must just explain that, in some places, fuel is only available in cans, so we had emptied our three 10 lt cans into our tank and bought them with us, plus our empty calor gas bottle which needed replacing. The nearest place was 2 miles away, not a good start to our visit to Portree.
The village was quite quaint. The harbour-side houses were painted in a similar way to Tobermory, but somehow lacked the same appeal. We wandered up through the town, which turned out to be quite large and quite busy, with some good shops. Back to the boat then as there was nothing here, despite that they advertise, this and that!
I row us back and it is actually quite a long way, but I am loving the exercise. I manage to splash Ken, not on purpose at all. He gets his revenge as we collide with a large buoy. Very funny, he gets splashed again for that.
Saturday 13th June – Portree.
The weather has not changed! Still grey and miserable, rather like my mood unfortunately! We need to get ashore to catch the HM, so after breakfast we go. Oh no, he is not in at weekends, but will be back Monday morning, that’s no good to us. We decide as we have come ashore to walk a bit of the coastal path. This will enable us to have a good look at the weather in the Sound too. It is a lovely walk but gets rather windy the higher we climb. It was a good walk and nice to stretch our legs. Back to the village and I do our shopping. We are hoping we can escape tomorrow morning as we are feeling rather imprisoned here!
Back on board, I’m not feeling great so take myself off to bed, I am just fed up of all this wind, in the wrong bloody direction. Can’t we go back the way we came, I ask, but I know the answer will be no. Ken is feeling it too. He wants to get on and we came with the plan to sail right round, so that is what we are aiming to do. Unfortunately, my mood is not bettered as we now have to run the engine for hot water, since our hot water heater gave up the ghost. The is so noisy too. I am just glum, it is hard being stuck on board when it is rough weather. The boat is rocking and rolling, I’m sure you can imagine the picture. (Poor Ken!) Tomorrow is another day!
Sunday 14th June – Escape from Portree.
Both up with the lark, we leave Portree at 5.15am, yippee! We are going to find a very special place for breakfast Ken assures me! We arrive in Acareseid Mhor on Rona Island, a small island at the top of Raasay.
A small, secret haven. They actually describe it as harbour and there are two visitor moorings there, and anchor spots too. It is one of those very tricky harbours to enter, lots of hidden rocks under the water, but with his trusty ‘chart plotter’ he negotiates his way through, it is high water when we arrive. Well!!! Just close your eyes and imagine a small water haven, edged by rocks, trees and gentle hills, calm water and the sun on your face. That’s where we are. It is heavenly, you could hear a pin drop. We arrive at 7.30am there are two other yachts on the visitor moorings but they are asleep, so as quietly as we can, we drop our anchor and switch off our engine. It is just so tranquil and magical. The warden who runs the island has a cottage in the bay in front of us. There is also a bunk house, facilities, and local produce can be bought from him and there are 3 holiday cottages too.
I get our breakfast when we hear a snort and wonder what it is. We scan the water, there it goes again! At first, I think it may be otters. We spy seals, not more than 150yds away, playing in the kelp and with each other. More and more of them appear. Then, on the other side of the boat, I hear a commotion in the trees. Could this be my sea eagle, I have been longing to see? A large bird is in the tree tops and there is a lot of noise. I get the glasses and look, oh my, it’s herons and a lot of them, I knew they nested in trees, but I have never seen them. They seemed to settle down, ok back, to the seals. The tide was slowly going out, revealing more rocks. We watched as more emerged and how close we had been to them! The seals continued to play and the pulled themselves out of the water to soak up the early morning sun. Two or three were now on the other side of the boat, closer the shore and came quite close to the boat. They are very playful and also very tender with each other.
Gradually, more wildlife appears, the very noisy, and very active Oystercatchers, never stop calling, whether on land or in flight. A pair of Greylag Geese swim past with 4 chicks. The herons then appear on the water’s edge, sometimes 3 or 4 are together, all patiently looking and waiting. Some still in the nests, parents going back to feed the young. Apparently, there are sea otters and sea eagles here, plus deer on the island. Wonderful walks and views of the surrounding mountains from these walks. I wish we could stay here forever. We will come back in the boat and, to Scotland, in the camper van! We spend three hours, but, sadly, we need to move on. We lift our anchor and very slowly and carefully negotiate our way out of the north entrance this time!
10kts of wind, which we hope we will be able to use at some time today if it ever changes direction, until then we motor!! It is a very beautiful day though and new just soak in the scenery and beauty around us. The mountains just go on and on, quite individual and majestic.
We motor past Na Gamnachain, a rather large rock a long way from the land, and its lighthouse. It looks rather like a whales back, there is a special cardinal buoy which warns you to keep north of it to avoid these very dangerous hazards. Heading past Loch Torridon, we can at last get the sails up. Engine off and peace! Gradually getting warmer, so much so we both change in to lighter clothes. I think only the 3rd time in 6 weeks we have been able to do so. Our usual dress would be long trousers and warm socks, shirts, jumper, fleece, neck warmer, hats, gloves and boots, plus full off shore kit and life jackets!!
Anyway, relaxing and leisurely sailing towards Loch Gairloch. Imagine our surprise and joy to see two Puffins, swimming in the water. They are beautiful, but far too quick for me to get any shots. Oh, what a lovely day we have had so far!
We will pick up a mooring down in Loch Shieldaig at the bottom of the loch, then, in the morning we will go into Flowerdale Bay where there is a small harbour to refuel and re water. It is a lovely afternoon and we look for a visitor buoy, they are large blue conical shapes, with enormous mooring lines attached. I pick one up but it is far too big for our boat. We notice one of the buoys has no mooring line attached, so we decide go for that one, and put our own line through the ring. I catch the buoy, and Ken gets our line through, not easy as it is a long way down from the bows, plus he has to lie down on the deck and lean over. There is no wind or waves, but I still keep hold of his waistband!
With the cockpit tent in-situ, we can sit, relax with books and a drink. I find I am always keeping an eye on the shoreline or water. I am not disappointed as I watch this large dark brown animal making his way along the rocks on the shore, it resembles a small cat, I grab the field glasses and to my delight think it may be a Pine Martin! I will check it out later, but I am thrilled!
Monday 15th June, Leaving Gairloch
Dropped our mooring and retrieved our line, we motor to the small harbour of Gairloch, to refuel, get water and a new gas cylinder. Len is the harbour master and could not be more helpful if he tried. He takes Ken to the local garage in his own car to get the new gas cylinder. How very different to others we have met! Meanwhile, I fill up with fresh water and then wash the boat down, she is very salty. (Good job Ken is not here, he always laughs when I complain Tiftie is covered in salt water!! We’re on the sea Gina, he roars through his laughter! What do you expect?)
Anyway, she looks fresh and salt-free for the time being. Ken returns and we wait for the main jetty to become vacant so that we can get fuel. Len, the HM, is a charming man and Ken is really taken with him. He comes down to the pontoon to talk to us. It transpires that he and his wife go to Africa, to do charity work in the winter, at a remote school. I mention Martyn to him and we discuss Martyn’s charity. Len is very interested and said he will look him up.
We leave and say our goodbyes, heading now for Ullapool, where we hope to catch up with Malcolm, who is also sailing round the UK but has different crew for different stages. He lives in Badgworth, and left in April. We met him this spring at David’s house, a mutual friend, when we had a lovely evening, discussing our planned trips, among other things.
The wind is still coming from the north, but it is a beautiful day. We look behind us and to our right and left, the dramatic mountains of Skye and the Western Isles are still visible. The light is not brilliant for photographs, a blue haze hangs over them, but we take some anyway, just for the memory. The headland to our right is very different, much flatter and smoother, no mountains behind. The admiralty chart informs us that there are natural arches along this coast line. We look out for them, but they are not very forthcoming. It is a very interesting stretch though with many large caves. Sea crashing in around the mouths, there is something about white water, waves crashing against rocks, I love to try to capture that perfect moment, quite trying when the boat is moving too!
Ullapool is about 37nm, so should be there around 5ish. We both feel such a wrench in leaving the Scottish Isles. One could spend a year here and still not discover all the wonderful Lochs and bays to explore. We see lots of fishing boats which all come up on the AIS. We see larger groups of sea birds on the water and in flight, must be good feeding ground. I am sure we will be back here, but I hope with better weather and finer sailing! We still have the Orkneys and Shetlands to cover too.
We disturb a group of Gannets, which take to the air, flying in formation, but keep low, their wing tips almost touch the water on the down stroke. They are very striking, with their pure white body, buff yellow head, and black tips to their wings. There are always little groups of Razorbill’s, which suddenly disappear into the water, for quite long periods, whist they fish to only reappear some distance from the boat. It is lovely to be able to identify them all now and too many to mention them all. Len told me that we may well be fortunate to see the Sea Eagles, as we travel north. So, I keep viewing the cliff tops and rock faces, just in case!
Past the headland, Rubha Reidh and the light house, which looks very Moroccan in style, white walls with yellow borders, our heading is now Greenstone Point and after that we turn towards Cailleach Head. We pass Loch Ewe and the wide bay of Gruinard and Gruinard Island, and Little Loch Broom, all very picturesque. The topography changes again, we are back to the mountains, as far as the eye can see, mountains rolling into the distance. Even more snow on the north facing tops, so hard to capture this all on my camera. We are now approaching the mouth of Loch Broom. To our port side, are various islands, Priest Island is the largest followed by a group of smaller islands. Behind them are a group known as the Summer Islands, we will be negotiating them when we leave Ullapool to travel north.
Our passage into Loch Broom and towards Ullapool is very beautiful, wide mouth loch that narrows, flanked by huge mountains. One in particular, on our port side stands out, as it is almost a perfect pyramid in shape. I take my position on the deck just ahead of the mast so I can take photos. I had been watching the wave’s crash on the shore line, spray flying high, some of it was quite spectacular. There was particular rock I was particularly concentrating on, I had my lens all focused, just waiting for the perfect wave to crash, click, success, but also to my surprise, just as I clicked, a dolphin surfaced not far from the boat, he photo bombed my photo!! I quickly checked and yes there he was in the frame!! His arched back and fin, so exciting!
I can hear an engine coming from behind us. It is a large fishing boat coming home, quite a large vessel, and deep red in colour, with white details. Seagulls circling the boat, crying out, follow him in, some hitching a ride. I photo him in the early evening light. As we move further down the loch, the mountains at the end come into view, again with snow, so odd for June! The hills to our port side are now flanked with properties, they appear very Swiss-like in appearance. Ullapool is another busy working port, large fishing boats and ferry use the main area, but there is a visitor jetty for loading etc, and there are visitor moorings in the small bay. Malcolm knows we are just about to arrive because, having only just got a signal, Ken has just blogged and Malcolm has been ‘nudged’, or whatever. He has let us know there are visitor buoys near him. He is just returning to his boat with his new crew member, who lives in Shipham, small world. They had been to the pub. We just idle and chat for a while, discussing the weather and plans. The forecast again is not brilliant and we feel we would rather be in a marina in bad weather, rather than on a mooring! At least you can get off and go for a walk! But we will review the situation once we get the most up-to-date forecast. All settled for the night, Ken thinks we should make a move early in the morning! A favourable southerly wind is forecast, to blow us all the way to Loch Inver.
Tuesday 16th June, Leaving Ullapool
Up early, dropped mooring around 7am, almost immediately we are sailing, fantastic, a good sail today as planned! Not long and the blasted wind dies, the forecast is wrong again, we are hardly moving, but persevere! No good. We decide to motor sail because, in over 2 hours, we have travelled only 4.9 nm!!! We have reached the approach to the Summer Isles. They are quite large and there are small crofts on them, so someone does still live there and makes a living from the land. They obviously are a wonderful sanctuary for sea birds, still keeping my eyes peeled for the Sea Eagle!! Ken has to concentrate again around these islands. His plotter comes to the fore again. The water is very deep, but there are lots of underwater hazards! Local knowledge is very valuable around these waters. We clear the islands and manage to get some more sailing, the sea state is large rolling waves, coming across at our beam, this makes the boat roll and rock, not terribly comfortable and the sails don’t really settle, the wind comes in and goes out of them. Ken goose-wings her, which means foresail on port side and main sail on starboard side, he pulls in the main, to allow the wind to spill off the main and fill the genoa!! All very clever, at least it shows I am paying attention and not just here for the ride! Of course, my other duties are coffee making, sandwich provider, cooking, cleaning, and so the list goes on! (Ken says he pays attention to that too!) What does the skipper do? You may well ask! Actually, only joking, he plans and charts, decides when or not to go out and keeps us safe!
I still have time to look around and take photos though! I have so many photos, they will need a lot of sorting and deleting when I get home, but I hope some will be good enough to use. I am also hoping to get back to my water-colours and take a course in the winter, using my photos as subjects. We will see. I know there may be other projects on the horizon, as I plan to make new covers for the boat fenders. Ours have now seen better days! I think I may also be required for curtains, by two of our children if not three!
We have a good sail into Loch Inver. Having called ahead, we know there is space for us on the pontoon. Again this is a busy fishing port. The marina is quite a long way from the town and the HM office. Just as we tie up, it starts to rain and continues to do so, but we have the tent up pretty quick. The wind starts picking up. Lucky for us, we have arrived in time, the weather is closing in on us and we are going to be in for a rough couple of days, but we don’t quite know how rough it is going to get yet!!
We walk to the HM office, past the industrial buildings of the fishing port. It is huge and obviously a busy place. The office is situated at the far end of this building. As you enter, you are greeted with a rather unpleasant ‘Eau de Poisson’ as the offices are multi-functional. The HM office is very jolly, and Linda greets us. She knows Tiftie well as Sandy came here many times. There is not a lot to do here – an Iconic mountain, Suilven, to climb, but it’s a 3hr hike to get there and then about a 2hr climb. Not exactly attractive given our current weather conditions. We ask about the precious wi-fi! None on the pontoons, but if we go to the leisure centre, which is where we can go for showers and coffee too, we can pay for wi-fi there. We walk back to the boat. It is still pouring down and that wind is getting stronger! I make busy with some cooking for our evening meal and then settle down to catch up on this story! This is where you joined me on Tuesday afternoon.
Thursday, 18th June – Lochinver
However, it is now Thursday and we have seen winds up to 36 kts!! The gusts just keep coming. The boat is actually being blown on to her port side, so we are healing over! We have put out extra lines to hold her steady and also to try and prevent the poor fenders being squeezed to nothing.
A funny story from early this morning! Ken had to get up in the middle of our first night as the halyards were making so much noise against the mast. I was worried about Ken going up on deck as it was so windy and he said he could do it through the hatch. Well, he was leaning out of the small hatch at the base of the mast playing with ropes and seemed, to me, to be struggling. So, unbeknown to him, I had quickly got dressed and went out on deck to help him!!! I know it was very stupid of me, no life jacket, no safety line, but I always feel I need to be the protector!! I moved over the deck and appeared over the top of the open hatch! I made Ken jump out of skin. He was very cross with me and ordered me back inside at once! I was only trying to be helpful. I laughed so much I had tears rolling down my face. It was very funny, and in relating this now, I am again in fits of laughter! Ken is not amused, but he loves me!!
We walked in to the small village. It all looks rather worn down, but there is a good butcher and, so, I will get some local venison today and restock with fresh food and, of course, wine! We hope we can make a move tomorrow, if this settles down to enable us to move on. We have talked about visiting the Orkneys, but with the unpredictable weather, I think that this may need to wait for another adventure.
The next time I write we should be somewhere along the East Coast, homeward bound, and with any luck some fair winds and good sailing!
For now, I sign off from windy Lochinver
Much love to you all, Gina xxxxx
Onwards from Ballycastle
It’s Friday morning, 29th May, having looked at the forecast yesterday, we look good to go. We need to leave by 9am to catch the right part of the tides for our journey today! Perfect conditions to leave our berth, no wind to speak of & no tide to deal with! Calmly done just the two of us, we head out of the marina. The swell in the bay is quite large, left over from the storms around us yesterday! Thereby recovering our mooring lines & fenders is not an easy job!! By 9.30 we are under sail, engine off. A good steady wind 16kts & good boat
speed of 6.1kts! The forecast gave N to NW force 5-6 occ 7! All sounded perfect! Well, they ought to have been where we are!! Huge gusts keep coming, wind speed 22-25kts, waves now much bigger! My stomach gets tight!! We need to shorten the sails to reduce the power!! It’s quite staggering how even with a small amount of sail & we are still doing 6-7kts!! She heels over quite a lot, I check all secure below, think of going to the loo, …. not likely. Think again sweetie!! I’m in charge of the co-ordinates today, keeping the ships log
& charting our progress & marking on the chart, not that easy when you are being slung about!! Entering the shipping lanes, Which are about 2nm wide, a clear passage across at the moment & AIS shows nothing is about either! We record wind speeds of up to 28-29kts & waves about 4mts high!!
Between the deluges of rain, we can see land all around us! Ireland behind, Peninsula of Kintyre to starboard 1/4 bow, Islay off to our port 1/4 bow & somewhere in the middle is
the tiny Island of Gigha, which lies off the west coast of Kintyre. Should be beautiful and quite restful for our evening mooring! Haha! We spot a small island ahead, this is Cara Island, which we eventually pass the headland at 13.00hrs. We are now in the shelter of Cara & the wind dies down to 7kts!!! Err ? We think, 7kts, come on!! Ken puts out more sail. Well we should have know because 3 mins later we were blasted by 25kts again!!! Here we go again, shortening sails!! Finally we pass the headland for Gigha Island, in the Gigha
Sound, at around 13.50. We had made excellent time, but that’s due to almost wind surfing here, rather than sailing!!! We are heading for Ardminish Bay, they have around 23 visitor moorings, sadly we are the only yacht here with anyone on board! Probably, because we are the only yacht mad enough to be out here!!! Total time 5hr30m, 33.7nm & avg speed of 6.1kts!!!
Now sitting relaxing after lunch & a glass of well earned wine, in a very beautiful spot, blue sky, sun shining & the wind howling through the rigging at 18kts!!!
We could get the dinghy off the stern & go ashore, Ken offers!!! There is a shop, pub, facilities & a garden to visit with many unusual plants, according to the visitor guide!!! Well I think I’m staying put! Ken assures me the wind will drop, I think he’s hopeful, but fibbing!!!
He has already looked at the forecast for Saturday, that’s ok for us, we should be at Crinan by the Saturday afternoon but Sunday & Monday look bad!! Could blow up to 30kts!!! It’s Ken’s birthday on Sunday, we hope to get a berth in Crinan Basin, then for the 1st time in 3 weeks I can get dressed up, put on my heels & go out!!! Whoop whoop!!
Oh my, when will this wind ever stop?? I hope June is going to bring better weather, I’m feeling worn out, or it could just be the wine!!
Lovely evening spent on the mooring, wind gradually abating, watching the to-ing & fro-ing of the ferry from Kintyre to this small island. Ken looks up Gigha, it would appear that the locals got together & bought the island!! They paid 4 million, but have founded a trust & slowly turning the development & sustainability around!
Bringing work & visitors to supplement their income! Really brilliant. We are joined by another yacht, he is sailing solo, but picks up a mooring some way off! We sit in the cockpit for our evening meal & enjoy our wine as the sun sinks behind the headland. The sky changes from blue to deep Crimson, I take lots of photos, the reflections on the water are beautiful, if no wind it would be perfect, but with more rain in the air we decide to go down below. It really is very cold & of course on the water you feel it even more. Even when we turn in at 11.30, it is not fully dark. They certainly do get longer nights here, and a most beautiful moon. As we lie in bed almost asleep, all very quiet, you can hear the wind as it comes across the water, even before blows through the rigging!!!
Tomorrow another journey, another story, it’s good to be back on the water again, back to sailing, fighting with the wind & rain! Back to our travels, we can only sit for so long!
So me hearties, until then good night! Xx
Saturday 30th May
Woke to blue sky, brilliant sunshine & no wind, beautiful day. Looking down the loch, a cruise ship has anchored for the night, a magnificent sight in the clear blue morning light. What a wonderful area to cruise in! She is called ‘Island Skye’ & has come from Skye! Looks very inviting, lots of activity, with black ribs taking passengers to either Kintyre or in to our bay, where there is quite a lot to do & see on the island.
Ken does his daily domestic duty, tea making! His only attempt at cooking, but he does it rather well! ha ha! He looks at the forecast & laughs, great day, today, the we are in for 3 days of S..t!!! He informs me, great!! Let’s get to Crinan Basin quick, at least we will be protected there & we can get ashore easily!! Time to get up, me thinks!!
We drop the mooring at 8.10, I’m keeping the log again today, & plotting the chart with our coordinates! It’s a gentle breeze & we are soon motor sailing. We pass Tarbert Bay, home to a very large fish farm! It’s sad really that our need is so great that we now breed these magnificent fish, that are capable of swimming 1000’s of miles naturally, are trapped & force-fed, just to keep up with demand of the large supermarkets!!! We have become a nation of wanting everything at the lowest price possible & wanting everything the following day, as it is now, with Internet ordering !! Being here underlines the feeling in me even more, that I still prefer to do my shopping on a daily basis & buy fresh not frozen & most importantly buy local!! It was so odd, that in Ballycastle, you could buy fresh fish & chips from the harbour, everything fried & covered in batter !! (the fishing boats came in, right in front of us.) But there was nowhere to buy fresh fish !!! Quite extraordinary ! (Ok, Rant over) However, Gigha has so many beautiful coves bays, where in good weather, would be great anchorages for the night. Along with white sandy beaches, craggy rocks & gentle hills, with the back drop of Jura & her mountains behind! I can understand why the locals are determined to make the island work! The final headland of Gigha passed and the out lying rocks called ‘An Dubh Sgeir’. We are rewarded with the full view of Jura Island. The Paps of Jura in their full glory, rise up in gentle undulations, to a height of 477mts, shrouded in the early morning mist! Now in the Sound of Jura, a wide open stretch of water, perfect for sailing. We have 8-10kts of wind with around 2kts of tide in our favour, makes for good progress. A most relaxing sail, so very different from what we have experienced in the last 3 weeks!! One can go below without having to safety strap in to make a drink, for fear of being thrown about!
I study the chart & as we pass each loch or bay so we can identify them. If the weather had been kinder & not do threatening we would be exploring these idyllic waters. It is really hard to describe these remote islands. A hard & isolated life, living out in farms & cottages! Mostly sheep farms & some cattle then as we draw closer to Crinan the hills are densely laid over to forestry, obviously a big part of their income is made from this. I just feel very privileged to be here, it is so beautiful, so peaceful, so unspoiled, I’m very lucky! Crinan comes into view, first Crinan village with a collection of houses from shore line, and among the hillside, a few boats moored in the tiny bay. Just round the corner is the sea lock of Crinan. We wait just a while for the lock to open, we have made good time, & there are plenty of places to choose our mooring from. Crinan lock is very deep, gradually the water fills in & elegantly we rise up. Reminds me of the old fashioned organs, that used to rise up in the cinemas !!! Once through we find a good spot on the left hand side, adjacent to the next lock gate, which takes you to the canal proper.
Due to the imminent weather, the activity in the lock is very hectic, we meanwhile can sit & relax whilst we watch the yachts & boats of various sizes come into the sea lock to carry on through to the Crinan canal or come down the canal & either berth in the basin for the evening or persevere through the sea lock to run for home!! I love to people watch & this is just perfect! Some calmly come through whilst others panic over lines etc!
It’s time to get ready to go out, our facilities on board are brilliant. So we can shower here rather than walk over to the marina lock facilities, which leave nothing to be desired for, not that pleasant or clean!
The Crinan hotel has a Fish Bistro or you can eat in the hotel restaurant. We choose the latter. A fabulous table with great views over the bay & surrounding islands. We watched the weather closing in, as yachts were heading towards us to shelter!
Fresh dressed crab, followed by monkfish, all washed down with a lovely bottle of wine, delicious. Another end to a rather perfect day!!
Sunday 31st May – Ken’s Birthday!!
We woke to grey sky, pouring rain & wind!! This is beginning to sound rather familiar!!! I made tea & coffee today, it was K’s birthday after all! I had organised with the family to buy him some new off-shore kit. His previous kit was some 20 yrs old & had seen better days! The new kit was light & with layers, so really warm he was very pleased!
Anyway back in bed I decided it Was not worth getting up for a while, so I stayed in bed & read my book, but eventually I had to move !!
We really ought to do something! There was no bus on Sunday & even though it was blowing hard, we decided to walk along the canal. Lots of white horses in the bay. Only going to get worse, so we had better start waking & see how far we get! The canal is beautiful sanctuary
for wildlife & us. So peaceful and the views over the bay & estuary are fabulous! There is so much wildlife to be seen, they have built hides along the canal side which look over the estuary. You can walk or cycle the 9 miles to Ardrishaig, where the canal starts & where we moored in the bay previously. We saw various wildfowl. Elegant herons, poised, waiting so patiently until the right moment to strike, at their intended prey! One flies off, their wing span is huge. Along a little further the estuary begins to peters out, there are smaller estuaries, that now form islands of lush grass. On one such island are tow magnificent long horned, long hairy cattle, they are resting & one has their back to the other a little way off! You wonder how they will get back as they seem marooned & the water around then looks quite deep! Later on return walk they have moved off the island the main bank, obviously they move quite freely!!
There are 15 locks in total, 2 sea locks & 13 canal locks. These come together to form two flights of locks, and there are also various bridges which have to be opened along the way. These are works of art, & swing effortlessly as the gate keeper manually winds the winch. We passed many boats going one way or the other & stopped to watch as the boats descended or ascended the flights! It was built about 200 years ago for the small boats such as the Puffers to easily go up or down the canal with their loads, missing out around 80-100 miles if going by sea! This then enabled then to travel from Loch to Loch by using the canals, covering quite a few miles ! The Puffers were coal fired & there is one moored in the basin, she is 70 yrs old, a VIC 32 called Greenock, needs a little tlc, but still looks magical! £158,000 for hull painting & boiler replacement, & a major refurbishment of the stern of £80,000. Although much of this was paid by the lottery grant system, further funds are required to keep this iconic little ship in operation!! Imagine the tug boat from Thomas the Tank Engine story & you have it!
We walked about half way, had a drink at the hotel & headed back as the weather was definitely closing in! It had poured down whilst we had stopped but we came out yo brilliant sunshine. We had so many stops in both directions, through chatting to people it took longer than expected, but everyone was very friendly! We have been invited aboard another yacht tonight for drinks!
One couple we met, had picked up the forecast printout, from the boat yard, gale force 10, winds up to 64mph, coming through tonight!!! What! Then very windy & wet for Monday & then eventually calming down!!! My mother tells me that a heat wave is due to hit the UK on Wednesday, does Scotland know this is meant to happen?? I do hope so!!
We met up with Lorne, Fred & Charles & joined then in the Bistro for a meal, then afterwards we invited them on board for coffee & whiskey!!! A very good evening with lovely company, & Lorne the owner of the yacht was planning to set sail in the morning once the locks opened at 8.30, we were still in two minds!!
Monday 1st June!
We have now been on board for 3 weeks & generally feel very comfortable, she is dry, warm & quite spacious, one soon acclimatises to it all! Even though at first I was rather ‘ sniffy’ about the on-board shower, I have to now admit it’s brilliant!
Well the 1st of ️is the most miserable day, wall to wall rain!!! We get up & out to wave off the 3 hardy sailors, who in the circumstances are very jolly about their situation. We see them through the two locks & watch then disappear across the bay! Ken & I have decided to stay put for one more day, possibly catch the bus, only two a day, to Lochgilphead, to buy fresh bread, milk etc! We may well be anchoring for the next few trips, so do not know where our next fresh supplies will be found!!
We spend the day on board as the weather gets no better, just rain & more rain !!! I even have a snooze in the afternoon! Unheard of for me!!!
Tuesday 2nd June ️️️
What a night! The force 9 they promised came in & we shook about, even in our protected spot. Had a very restless night & at 1st light I was wide awake!! I got up, had tea & decided to go for a walk before heading to the boat yard to have a ‘proper shower ! It was a beautiful sunlit morning, still clouding over but at least the sun was trying!
I returned to the boat, around 7, at last Ken is awake. Made more coffee & tea, whilst despairing as the rain came again, together with huge gusts of wind!!! Bloody hell, what are we doing here? I could be at home making cushions or curtains, I complain to Ken, he laughs, because prior to our trip, I had made lots of comfy cushions for the boat & had revamped two of the holiday cottages too, for the forthcoming season !! I thought of my dear friend Jane M. What would she do? I know I’ll get ahead!! I have chicken in the fridge that needs cooking! Now Jane is always ‘Getting Ahead!’. Therefore by 8.30, I made a lovely curry & have two meals for the fridge!! I know Jane would be proud of me!!
It’s still raining, so next l start cleaning ! Well what else can I do??? It’s going to be a long day, but despite the weather I think we will make a move today for a new destination !!!
Wrong! We get ready to move, start taking the canopy down, but it is so cold & very wet!!! Ken decides to stay put! Quick as a flash I’m back down below, wrapped in my blanket & reading !! Was I keen to go? Err, I think not!
In the past few days we have met some charming people. They have invited us on board for coffee, shared evenings with them & had them on board Tiftie, for coffee & drinks! It’s lovely how quickly you can form a relationship. Just pottering on the deck, passers by are always keen to find out where you are going, where have you come from! Conversations range from the awful weather to good anchoring spots, just flows. Some are here without their boats, but kindly suggest that if we are going to this place or that, ask for Jack or Fred, he will give you a good mooring! One very kind man said we could use his mooring, if we went to his particular spot! They all wish us well with our journey. I know some of them will become friends of the future. Address, phone no’s & e-mail addresses exchanged!
There were 3 lovely ‘Day Boats’ in the lock. They had come down the Crinan Canal & were planning to sail to Isle of Skye!! Well, astonishing is the first word that comes to mind, quickly followed by bonkers!! These beautiful boats are 23ft long, made of wood & painted beautiful colours! They range from 15yrs old to 85 & 87!! That is the boats I mean, the crew range from late 20’s to mid 70’s! They are charming & all smiling, it would appear that nothing seems to phase them or squash their zest for this adventure!
I’m lying in bed, Thursday morning, looking through our hatch at blue sky & sunshine. I cannot believe what I’m hearing on the marine forecast! Gale force 8 warnings to the west of us!! Our area up to force 7!! Next moment black sky, huge gusts, raining again !!! The last few days we spent like this:-
Monday 25th May
Having arrived in great time 9.45am in Ballycastle, we have the whole day ahead of us to sort out Tiftie, clean her & make her shipshape again!
Just behind the sea wall is the very large bay, which stretches out to Fair Head, the far headland which rises some 197mts, in the distance. Sitting in the cockpit, you can hear the thunderous roar of the surf, hitting the beach, as the rollers break. Can’t wait to walk along the beach & get some photos.
The marina is brilliant, £23 per night, includes water, electric hook up, internet, showers & free washing machine!! Right, I’m sorted & off to start my washing, 3 loads !! I leave Ken trying to find a home for a rather large cruising sail, which came with the boat. He assured me, despite its large size, taking up most of the forward berths, it would be perfect for all the light airs we are bound to get! Ha ha, what light airs??
On my return, I find him in the enormous side locker in the cockpit. He can stand up in it & still have room above his head! Better watch out, I may just lock him in! But it is the only locker & houses many, many items plus the exhaust pipes to the heating system & hot water! These are sort of insulated, but still get extremely hot, & one has to be careful what touches it! The sail came from here!! God knows how it didn’t melt! I leave Ken thinking! A regular occurrence! I move to the forward cabin, I’m sure we can fit it the locker, beneath the berths. I tentatively suggest this, not wishing to squash my man’s ideas!! Success! It fits & we are able to store spare mooring lines there too! Tiftie came, lock, stock & barrel, full the gunwhales with ‘Extras’ . The previous owners were sadly stopping sailing after many years & Tiftie had been theirs for some 23 years & she had been extremely well cared for. (Rather like when we bought Spring Cottages, the holiday cottages came complete! )
There are so many places to visit & as we were staying a couple of nights we started planning. I really wanted to visit the Giant’s Causeway, & Ken found that the famous rope bridge was not far away too at Carrick-a-Rede. There was a local bus that would pick us up from just outside the marina!
Tuesday 26th May
There were two busses we could catch 10.45 or 12.45. Well, 10.45 came & went’ I was busy with some kind of ‘domestic bliss!’ Our boots were still salty & definitely needed cleaning off in fresh water! Ken nearly falls off his seat, laughing so much at me! “But I always wash your boots off”. “Do you?” he replied, “Yes” I say, “every time you come back from a sailing event I get all your kit out & wash it off with fresh water!!” He was quite shocked & really has no idea what I do behind the scenes! Anyway I continued to wash boots etc! Now of course it’s a great joke to rib me about this. K can be quite amusing when he wants to be.
Anyway, packed lunch made, we went up the bus stop, nearly missing the 12.45 too!
The bus arrived, just a single decker & we were the only passengers. Ken only had a £20 note. The bus driver looked at the note then at us & then back at the note again. Just to see if it had changed!! ” I can’t change that ” he announced in a very soft Irish accent. “Oh” Ken said, “umm what shall I do?”. “Oh go & get change, I’ll wait a while for you!” Came the reply. Would this happen in England? He happily chatted away to me whilst Ken ran to get change, asking me why we here & what we were doing. I briefly explained about our sailing trip. I’m getting quite good at making it short & succinct, when required! Especially if Ken is waiting outside for me, but people are genuinely interested!
Anyway we paid our fare & enjoyed the somewhat fast but scenic coastal route the bus took! Ken has suggested that the bus drivers must have MX5’s at home as they obviously enjoy going through the gears !! They drive like I drive the camper van! I’m always getting into trouble for going through the gears, I just forget I’m driving a large 3 tonne van & not my sports car, that’s all!! He drops us off by to entrance to the Giant’s Causeway, we thank him again & he wishes us ‘all the luck’ with our continued sailing trip.
We arrive at the GC to be confronted by an enormous building, owned by the NT, it’s their new visitor centre & everyone is directed into the building foyer. The main area is roped off & you therefore have to pass through the till area to enter! I queue up & finally get to the till.
A young man asks me “would you like to join the NT today?” “No thanks ” I reply, as we had been past members, but Ken had dropped our membership when he read an article about the MD, receiving some huge bonus!! “Ok” he said. “Have you parked in the carpark?” “No” I answered, “have you come by GC bus?” “No” I answer, “we have come by public bus from Ballycastle .” I show him my tickets! “Ok, that’s fine, two adults? ” “yes please” I reply. I give him my credit card, and buy two tickets to see the GC! I ask him where we go, he points to the large doors at the end & mutters something about the tour begins at 2.10!
Gosh that took a long time! I find Ken & we walk out through the doors to look at the map! There are 4 ways to get to the GC, a blue route, a green route, a red route or the tour bus! Red was the most challenging, so of course we take the bus!! Just joking, we take the hardest route, Red. We had to climb some steps which take you to the top of the building over looking the carpark, which is filling up rapidly! We both look down the path to the carpark, it would appear that people are not going in the visitor centre, but just walking up the path! Hang on a moment, why have we just paid £9 each to see the GC, when it appears that they are not?? “I’m going back in to ask “I say to Ken. So back I go, in through the front doors again, oh God the queue is even bigger now & there is no one available to ask!!! I get back in the queue & wait my turn!!
Finally I get to the checkout desk, a lovely dark haired girl smiles at me. I ask her if I have to pay to see the GC? “Oh no, it’s free” she said, “but have you parked in the car-park?” And so it goes on, all the same questions, I ask for a refund, she gets her supervisor, who asks me the same questions again!!! The queue is even longer now, I can feel eyes burning into my back, I don’t turn round!!! ”
BUT, no problem, he gives my money back, no quibble or anything! Phew what a performance, I rejoin Ken, who has been looking online about paying or not paying!! Trip Advisor has lots of negative comments about it!
Well, eventually, we commence the hard route! Not really hard at all, just a lovely coastal walk which takes you over the top of the GC, great looking down & then past the top of the Amphitheatre. At one time the lower path allowed you to walk in & around the Amphitheatre, but landslides have made it too dangerous, however looking down was quite spectacular. We found a sheltered spot & ate our picnic lunch! Enjoying the views out to sea & up the craggy coastline. Watching gulls flying, soaring up on the winds then diving back down towards the cliff face. Every spare ledge is taken up with seabirds, nesting or just sheltering. We returned back down the path to meet up with the green route, descending a lot of steep steps, the path took us back towards the Amphitheatre, but this time looking up at it! It’s all very dramatic, these wonderful rock stacks of Basalt (igneous rock, ken informs me, clever clogs)! You can see from these high statuesque pillars.
Photos taken, we then walk back to join the lower path, which takes us to the Giants Causeway! There are a lot of people, all clambering for that perfect shot! We did get some lovely photos but I reckon it needs a very early start before the crowds to really enjoy this magical place!
We stroll back up the road, past the visitor centre, to the pub on the corner! Ken had complained that there was no wine with our lunch, so we have a drink whilst waiting for the bus! Eventually, the bus arrives, which takes us direct to Carrick-a-Rede! Here, we find it’s not quite so full as GC but still run by the NT. We paid and began the walk to the bridge. It was now 5.15, the last bus was 6.17 from the main road. We had to make this a quick tour or else we faced a 5 mile walk along the road as the coastal path was non-existent at this point! Which was a great shame as the coast line looked spectacular.
The rope bridge was very interesting, very high & quite wobbly, not so good if you are not keen on heights! Only 8 allowed on bridge at any one time! Thank god for that, our crossing only involved 4! Not walking in step with each other obviously caused more sway !! I was sure Ken was deliberately walking heavy footed!! You are not encouraged to linger on the bridge, so photos or the real appreciation are swept away and you are left with a ‘Brief Encounter’ type feeling! The Island on the other side of the bridge is totally unprotected, so children need a tight hand hold all the time! We took photos & looked back, but really it’s the Bridge you come to see! The history is very interesting too, it stems from fisherman 250 years ago, raising the rope bridge each year to allow them access to the island & their summer nets, in order to catch the migrating salmon that swim past the island, giving rise to its Gaelic name Carrig-a-Refe, which translates as ‘The Rock in the Road’. The bridge now stays up all year & is funded by the NT!
We have to go as the bus is due, if we miss it, then the 5 mile walk along the rather fast narrow road awaits us! We could thumb, but it’s been a long, long time since I have done that! Eventually, it turned up, late, but no problem as he soon made up for time. We were the only passengers again & Ken dug me in the ribs, smiling, “bet he drives an MX5!!!”
Back on Tiftie, we are able to eat under cover in the cockpit, it’s windy but a lovely evening. Si texts me to say that we are to be joined by a lovely tall ships boat sailing towards Ballycastle!! I turn round & there she is, docked in the entrance to the harbour! I go out with my camera, she is huge & a beautiful sight! Simon has been keenly following us on the AIS & just happened to look & see her! Thanks Si!
So here I am at almost the end of Thursday, we have had another relaxing day, doing jobs, writing blogs, me cooking, trying to get ahead!! Shopping, as tomorrow we are going for it, there is a mild break in the weather, so we have decided to head for Gigha, a small island to the left of the Peninsula of Kintyre, roughly 35nm which with an average boat speed of 6kts should take us around 6 hrs!!! Hope you are impressed? I have been learning about navigation today, he will make a sailor of me yet!!!
Finally, we have walked on the beach, it’s beautiful, soft sand & large rollers coming in. There is a fantastic golf course that runs the entire length of the beach, would have been fun to have played there, but perhaps another time!
Reflections 4Letter from Tiftie – Scottish Isles & NI
Really enjoying the trip, once in Scotland. Largs was lovely & we woke to blue sky & calm water! Refuelled & set off, our plan was to gently sail round the Isle of Bute. Then explore one of the Lochs to find an anchor spot for the evening.
Leaving the marina, we were greeted by lots of yachts, sailing & motor, obviously all out to take advantage of this beautiful day. It was a bank holiday weekend after all. Passing the north end of Great Cumbrae, towards Isle of Bute and then entering the East Kyle, there are so many Lochs to explore and, fabulous sailing awaiting us. I am struck by the beauty of the Isles. I keep grabbing my camera, but, unfortunately, the light has become hazy, not perfect for photos. Nonetheless, I change settings & keep clicking !! I am spell-bound by this place, all around me, on either side of the Kyle, lush green hills rise up from the waters edge, to give way to dark green pine forests. Residential properties line the waters edge, most with private moorings in front, very smart! Some are in local stone, warm reds & rusts & quite substantial, whilst others are quaint cottages, painted, either whitewashed or pretty colours. The gardens are full of colours, red & golden acers, rhododendrons, camellias. Large red & green copper beech trees. All thrive on this soil. On the hill sides, tough gorse bushes excel with vibrant yellow flowers making such a contrast with the dark pine trees. All very picturesque!
A fabulous day’s sail, if sometimes very shifty winds, but such beautiful scenery. It takes my breath away & I always feel this is where we may end up living. Great sailing, walking, cycling & golf! It would be hard to leave family in Somerset though, but I think we will be back time after time!
We ended up in Lower Loch Fyne, just off Ardrishaig, at the east end of the Crinan Canal. (It now costs about £175 for a yacht like ours to go through, but we saw plenty going though!) We picked up a buoy for the night & settled in. Rather windy & you tend to swing round a bit, but gradually getting used to it!
After a good night’s sleep, we are now sailing back down the Loch, calling into Tarbert, a lovely harbour & marina. We would have stayed here, but there is a 3 day sailing regatta & it was rather full! Again really pretty cottages & houses along the water’s edge! We ventured in the narrow loch up to the marina to take a peek for future reference. The entrance was very tight between large rocks but quite deep water! Not an entrance to take on at night!!!
Then on our way to Kintyre, through Inchmarnock Water & the Kilbrannan Sound, passing Isle Of Arran on our port side! Arran is a really large Island and now sailing towards it, the mountains are looming out of the sea mist. There is a loch on Arran, again where we could stay but due to the westerly wind, no protection & having to be at anchor for the night, would make a very uncomfortable stay & I definitely would not get much sleep!!! I know my confidence will come eventually with the anchoring but as yet, it’s a way off!
Onward we travel, winds range from 4kts to 25kts!! Plus rain & yet more rain.
It’s exhausting, sails unfurled, sails furled! Sails unfurled again. Oh. we need to shorten sail again!! Ken at the helm giving orders!! “Right darling, let’s get rid of some sail, shorten the Genoa. It’s a furling sail, but even so, it has to be let go first, so it flies, reined in & then winched to the correct position to get the maximum out of it! Same with the main, but slightly easier, the main sheet is released to take pressure off the sail, shorten it, then tighten it again. I’m having to make sure I do the same amount of winching with both arms, otherwise my muscles will be very different! Will I be able to hit the golf ball further??? Umm, interesting thought!
Gradually we make our way to Campbeltown, our destination for the night. We had been informed by a friend, who is one month ahead of us, that it’s not the most welcoming to visitors!! They moored on the visitors’ pontoon, only to find the gates had been locked on their arrival, thus preventing them going ashore!!
We arrived in the harbour & could see the pontoon, but there were also lots of buoys available, so as we were not staying long, we decided to pick up a buoy. Ken was on the helm & I’m ready with boat hook, to pick up on our port bow. Blasted weather sheeting down with rain & blowing 18kts! I’m successful! But yuck!! The mooring line is disgusting & has not been used all winter, I suspect. It’s filthy with slime & stinks! I’m afraid I have an immediate sense-of-humour failure! Shouting to Ken, “I hate bloody yachting, why is it always me that gets the s…. jobs!!” I’m covered in yuck, disgusting, fishy smelling slime!! Ken ventures forward & helps me. We have an anchor wash on board, so he washes me down & the mooring rope too! I’m still not happy & go below, muttering mutiny at the next port!! However a Whiskey Mac later, I can see the funny side, just! The problem is that saltwater never really dries on clothes, boots etc. It requires fresh water to be cleaned properly. Anyone who knows me well will also know I like things ‘Just So!!’ I’m having to learn to accept things ‘Ain’t Just So!’ on board. Ha ha.
We eat & sleep but have another early start to catch the right tide, as in the morning we are going to Ballycastle in Northern Ireland! A 4am ish start, I don’t sleep well & I’m not feeling 100%. My ribs hurt where I bashed them, so I sit reading from 2am, quite snug in the main cabin, wrapped in a blanket & reading my book, cup of tea! At around 3am Ken wakes. I had tried not to disturb him. “Shall we go back to Largs? ” he says ” “then how about going home for a week or so!!”. “What? Why?” I just look at him. “Well, the weather forecast is awful & you’re not really enjoying it,” he says, “I’m not going home. You go if you like, but if you think I’m giving up now, then think again!!” Ken looks at me, we smile, I explain I’m really not blaming him. It’s not his fault the weather is awful or the moorings are dirty, but long days, hard sails, make us tired. Then food has to be sorted! He gives me one of his looks. Have I convinced him??
This is his dream & I’m not going to spoil it! Actually I have really enjoyed it, even the tough bits!! I have a lovely life at home, which I enjoy & love so much. I have an amazing family too, & would not change anything. This is now my journey too, I’m learning so much & who knows what will happen along the way. I know Ken will take care of us, as I will him!
Yes, he was happier now. We got ready & dropped the mooring at 4.15am. Fishing boats were leaving too and we followed one out. The visibility was down to 1 to 1&1/2 miles. Tide ok but wind not much help. Ballycastle was about 34nm journey, total, but first you have to cross the shipping lanes, which is not easy in mist,but with the AIS, alerting you to any traffic ahead or below you, it is more comforting. Ken informs me that off our Port Bow, 4 miles to our left is a 300ft ship, travelling at 13kts & it will pass ahead of us by 1/4 of a mile!! We peer into the mist, we are now motor sailing. Ken slows the engine. Still no vessel in sight. We both keep watch. There she is & she is huge! Passed in front of us no problem & they could see us too & would have seen we had slowed our pace! Noiselessly, she travels on by & slowly disappears into the mist off our starboard beam. Ok, that’s one shipping lane clear to cross. Then to the middle, no-man’s-land I suppose, and ready to cross the next lane. According to AIS, all is clear, so on we go making good time. I keep looking out for any sign of land. Ken goes down below to leave me on watch! I’m thrilled to see the lighthouse blinking out of the mist, but it’s way off our starboard bow. Surely we are missing it by miles, as we appear to be heading away from it! I question this as K returns to the cockpit. He explains that the wind is blowing from the north-west, so we were on a starboard tack but the tide is so strong that it is pushing us towards our right! The lighthouse is on the end of the island called Rathlin Island, a fantastic bird & wildlife sanctuary. There are puffins & seals there, plus many other birds too. Gradually, as we get closer, the mist is lifting & we can see the mainland ahead. On a clear day, one can see right from Mull of Kintyre to Ballycastle. But not today, unfortunately. However, we had made good time & it had been a good motor sail! I called ahead to the harbour master, who gave me two choices to berth.
The approach is quite tight, & the entrance is just short of the beach. Big rollers keep coming in, but I have my jobs to do! Fenders out, starboard side & mooring lines all at the ready! “Keep low” Ken calls as it is a big swell and quite easy to lose one’s balance & I don’t fancy falling in!! It’s almost like surfing, the wave lifts Tictie up & sweeps her forward. We duck in behind the sea wall & then calm waters in the marina! Phew!! We see our pontoon ‘B’ second one in on the right hand side. It’s very small & quite tight for manoeuvring. We find our berth & quite calmly we berth her. A few problems on the way, but we are here! Tied up & some adjusting of mooring lines & fenders, we are sorted! 34nm in 5&1/2 hrs!!
Just as we were relaxing, there is a commotion from the pontoon behind us. A yacht of similar size to ours is reversing out of its berth, the yacht next to her on her starboard side is stern in, bow out. Luckily, the owner of the moored boat is on deck! Well, what occurred is unbelievable. The helm seems to be rushing out so much that the boat scrapes herself all down her starboard side on the adjacent boat, whilst the owner of boat is trying to fend him off!! Then the yacht is in forward gear, again so fast that the stern swings round & now clips the boat on the port side with her stern! We watch, jaws on the floor, as he steams full ahead into the seawall in front of him!! The bow & anchor crash into the wall. The anchor is buckled under the force of the hit. He slams it into reverse & then motors out of the marina, never looking back or apologising to the other yacht, but leaving everyone in stunned silence!!!
Wow, you would not want him as your berth mate!!
Reflections 3After Isle of ManBecause of the tide, & Douglas being a locked marina, we can only get in or out 1-2 hrs either side of high tide, & they only raise the bridge at 1/4 past the hr or 1/4 to the hour, you have to book your time, hence we were booked to leave the marina at 00.45 ( midnight) ! The alarm was set for 00.15, felt like we had only just gone to sleep, but fortunately it was a flat calm night, as I said before, the marina is very tight for space, so not much room for manoeuvre! Ken had to reverse out and then turn her, avoiding lots of other boats in the process!!Well of course he did it, & slowly we motored towards the bridge, then eventually they lifted it, precisely on time, we motored through towards the visitor pontoon to spend the rest of the night there. Another yacht was already there, but there was plenty of room for two. All secure, we returned to our bed, but by now the wind started filling in, blowing directly across our port beam. Squeak went the fenders, as they were being constantly squeezed against the pontoon, then slap, slap went the water under the hull, it was so noisy, neither of us could sleep, so at first light, 4.30 we got up & left with all the fishing boats.It was a beautiful morning, a little hazy, but sails up & we were under way. We had a long way to go, dependant on tide & wind, all a little crazy round the island as the tides meet each other & you end up in a foul tide, no wind or either wind in the wrong direction. At one point, the tide under us was so strong we were going backwards, even with the engine it was a struggle !!Today’s sail took forever, dying winds, wrong tides, but eventually after 14 hrs, we have dropped anchor at Lady Bay, in Loch Ryan, Scotland, really beautiful, only problem is that the Stranraer ferry runs up & down all day & all night, the wash is quite something, so I’m on anchor watch, it’s now 23.26!Ken is sleeping & I’m making sure she doesn’t drag her anchor, I don’t really feel comfortable about this, but can’t sleep, tides on the turn & coming in, but the wind is against the tide. As we are in a bay, the wind is coming from all angles & she just seems to be spinning at the moment!Ken wakes & convinces me that all will ok, the anchor alarm is on, eventually sleep wins & I get into bed!
You may ask why I was anxious, well, not previously mentioned, but whilst we were at anchor in Fishguard, the wind got up that night, we had broken sleep, because we both felt the boat felt odd!!
At one point we both looked out of the portholes, but as it was pitch black, wrongly presumed we were fine, & it was just the swell & the wind!! Ken then decided to set the anchor alarm, it was 3.30am. I woke up around 5.30 & looked out the hatch in our cabin, OMG!!! We had dragged, spectacularly, across the open harbour, missed two other boats & various objects, quite large objects!! I carefully woke Ken, not panicking, but “Ken, Ken darling, we need to get up & dressed, we have dragged!!!” Ken woke bleary eyed, both quickly dressed & up on deck! Engine on so at least we had some control. Somehow we were 1/2 way across the harbour, the sea wall was to our starboard side & just off the bows was a very large yellow buoy!! Oh it looked like the anchor may be caught on the tackle holding this buoy, it would take a diver to free it if this was the case!! Ken muttered several choice words, but directed me which way to steer whilst he eased the anchor chain up! After a coupe of attempts, it came free, wow we were so lucky! Anchor up we motored back to our original spot & re anchored, all fine & good hold!!
I text Simon, he is at home, recovering from his recent knee opp. It’s been such a great help having him there, I have named him Our Guardian Angel of Somerset! He tells me we are not found on marine watch but he can see other craft around us. He will be our eyes for the moment!
Other differences are the luxury we have appointed to us on Tiftie. Heating, it’s a wonderful extra, plus two rads in the two heads, fantastic when the morning & evening chill sets in! Full cooker with 3 hobs, large fridge cabinet, all makes life on board so much more comfortable. Mum had none of this, or not as much, yet still we had such fun & great sailing! Even if it was soooo cold, & I would get dressed in my sleeping bag!!When I left you last, we were on our way to Holyhead to meet up with friends in Trearddur Bay. It was a great sail. We had to be up at 03.30am to drop our mooring in Abersoch by 04.00am to catch the right tide through Bardsey Sound. It was the most beautiful morning, sun just rising, casting long sparkling strands of gold, over the water. We saw the last phase of the moon at the same time as the sun was rising, tinged with gold! The Lleyn Peninsula was ahead off the starboard bow & Bardsey Sound ahead, slightly to Port. Both being bathed in the morning glow. The tide races through the sound, so you have to get it in the right direction, hence our early start. With 6 & 1/2 kts under the boat, boat speed of 6.3 kts, we motor sailed through around 05.45am with over 12 kts over the ground. Then, 30 nm to Holyhead, good wind of 9 kts, boat speed 6.9 kts with tide – 6am!Around 09.00, the wind filled in, now a good 15-16kts, lovely sailing. As we approached Trearddur Bay, the sea state was beginning to get bigger, wind now gusting 20-25kts, white horses breaking around us, getting exciting, ( this was tame, considering what we had been through before ! ) Holyhead was in sight.Whenever we have been here, it blows!! Anyway, moored safely in the marina around 12, midday, just in time too, as wind increased considerably in the afternoon! Howling in the rigging, but we didn’t care, we were not going anywhere for a couple of days!!After tidying boat, cleaning etc, David & Christine picked us up, as always lovely to see them. Great evening with lovely food & wine, as we watched from there window, the sea getting angry!16th May, our 6th wedding anniversary. Where did the last 6 years go? We spent the day on the boat, jobs needed doing, & one was to try and mend the steaming light, up the mast!
What do all husbands do for their wives on their anniversary? Yes, you guessed, send them up the mast. I was harnessed & hoisted up to try & fix it, but sadly failed! Not that I couldn’t do the task in hand, but the screws were completely shot, need drilling out, a winters job, even Ken could not get them out. But what did he do when I’m up there, take photos!!! I felt like Bridget Jones! Does my bum look big in this ???? This caused much amusement in the marina, as various men shouted out, “best place for her, leave her up there”!!!I have also found 101 jobs for Duct Tape or Duck Tape, as I like to call it! On the previous more vicious sails, we found we had various ingress of water (everyone else but G has a leak Ed), determined to get the bottom of this, we took down various ceilings, success !! The ‘baby stay’ on the coach roof, holding up part of the mast, seems to be letting water in, through a very small hole underneath. Sealed above with proper sealant & duck taped below!!! Bring it on !I had a card already for Ken, did he remember? Hah, not on your nelly, so I decided to buy him some new sailing boots, the chandlery had some great items. He tried them on, a perfect fit. I tried some on too, so we bought both pairs!! Ken came out puzzled, he had just bought a pair of boots, either they cost him £350 for 1 pair, or he got two for the price of one!!! I just smiled & kept quiet! He loves me really!! Actually though, we both did need boots.Back to Trearddur Bay for Champagne & lovely food, thanks David & Christine, another lovely evening. Early start required on Sunday morning as we wanted to get ahead of the weather which would be coming soon. Our heading was for Peel on the west coast of the Isle of Man, but we had to change to Douglas on the east coast, as Peel was having dredging work carried out in the marina, so it was closed. Both of these harbours are cilled, due to the tide. Leaving Holyhead at 7.40am, we set sail.
We purchased a 3-day rover ticket, which enabled us to use buses, steam trains, electric train & the lovely, if rather smelly, horse drawn trams! The Isle of Man is really beautiful & with the TT held there every year, is very popular. This was happening on 1st June.
BUT, there really is so much more than just the TT. The steam trains are magical, all original stock, beautifully maintained, lots of steam & lots of whistles!! We took it from start to finish, from Douglas to Port Erin. Travelling along very leafy cuttings, and the blue bells were spectacular along with the wild garlic, through coastal hilltops, spectacular views & wonderful country side. Onwards to Port Erin, which is in the south & very picturesque, large sweeping bay, a few visitor moorings, but it would have to be good weather to moor here.There is the chimney of the old mines on the cliff top. Quaint cottages & grand houses & hotels as you look back over the village towards the station across the bay. Back on the return train & home to Tiftie, calling in at the yacht club on our way, as this is the only place you can get wifi! Our phones won’t work here either, you have to have a Manx telephone card, otherwise it’s very expensive. So, our phones are on flight mode!The following day, Tuesday, we got up early to catch the horse-drawn tram, which takes you along the very long promenade to the original Electric Railway. The horse tram is open sided, extremely cold & very smelly, not sure if it was the horse or the driver, he definitely looked like he could take a good bath, the horse on the other hand, called John, looked quite smart!There were two carriages for the electric train, one open & one closed, unfortunately we had the open one. Slowly it climbs out of Douglas and takes a most scenic route along the coast line to Laxey, famous for the Laxey Wheel, an amazing piece of engineering, sadly not turning on our visit, but still a fantastic sight. At Laxey we changed trains to take the mountain tram, just a single carriage, this time enclosed, to the very top of the Snaefel. It was freezing at the top & sadly low cloud, which parted every so often to give us lovely glimpses of the island. Back down to Laxey to connect with the next tram to take us to Ramsey, on the north west coast. We had a quick look, but so bloody cold, decided to call it a day & return to Tiftie, via tram, electric & horse.Back on Tiftie, Ken had wisely erected the cockpit tent the night before, this gives us an extra room & gets very warm indeed. Books & drinks gathered we settle down to warm up, not much reading, but snoozing soon overtakes us! Eventually, I rouse my self into dinner mode, nice meal & good wine, it’s bed time!Wednesday, our last day on the island, the sun is shining & blue skies. We decide to take the bus to Peel, so glad we did, it has not changed much since it was built in the 1800’s. Lovely cottages all different colours, grand hotels adorn the sweeping bay, the wind still strong, waves crashing over the top, making for great photos. The marina, where we should have been, was very nice, far prettier than Douglas. There is a castle at the entrance, an Island which has been linked by a causeway & the water break with a small lighthouse on the end, we walked around it, the sea crashing against the base.
I bought fresh scallops, just in from the sea, perfect for our super. She very kindly packed them in ice, & gave us extra scallops! We then caught the next bus that took us to Ramsey, so much nicer today, had a good walk round in the sunshine. Now, what I really needed was a good butcher, I required black pudding to go with the scallops, wandering round the side streets, we found one, a family run butchers, I purchased, fresh black pudding, two fillet steaks & two hand made beef burgers, all from a local farm! He kindly vacuum-packed them so they would keep fresh in our fridge.
Ken rarely comes in the shops with me, preferring to wander about outside, but everywhere we go, people are interested in our journey. He can’t understand why I take so long, well you know me. Me? Talk? Never!!! Ken thinks I’m becoming very eccentric in my old age! I just love chatting, can’t help it!! But we have met some lovely people too. One couple in Douglas are here for the TT. They come over every year in their boat, but this year, they have sold their house, & belongings, & plan to sail for the next 10 years!!! I definitely could not do that, you have to admire them but I would miss home far too much!We have had 3 very relaxing days on the Isle of Man. It has been a mini-break in our holiday. I have read like never before, slept well, & feel soooo relaxed. We have decided to revisit the island and come by motor bike, so Ken can ride the TT circuit.Love to you all Gina xxx