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Cape Pussycat

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Our second rounding of Cape Wrath was much like the first one, i.e. no drama whatsoever.  Nonetheless, in rounding it, we seemed to move into to a less placid weather pattern than we had enjoyed along the  north coast.  More wind, on the nose, and heavy rain.  Having enjoyed a south-easterly wind, we had thought of pressing on to Stornaway, but the increased wind and us starting to feel tired, we decided to aim for the much closer Kinlochbervie, where we arrived at about 04:30 (light by then).

Being tired, we decided to anchor in a small bay just opposite the harbour entrance so that we could close our eyes so much sooner.  No messing around with fenders and warps, etc.  Just drop the hook, set the anchor watch and zzzzzz.

We moved into the harbour at about 11:00.  (Incidentally, not to be recommended until they have sorted out the toilets and the single out-of-order shower.)

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Tiftie, centre stage, in Kinlochbervie (another Scottish fishing town ‘killed’ by quotas.

Tomorrow, despite the forecast, we have decided to make for Lochinver, about 30 nm away.

Neil Ithic, as well as Archie Logical

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Spent the early part of Tuesday talking to various people about how to get the mainsail repaired.  Then spent some time looking around Stromness, the older part of which is a conservation area  and which cruise ships bring tourists to see.  Lastly, a bus ride out to see some Neolithic stone circles and standing stones.

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The clew fixing back in position with double-sided tape and looking fine BUT without a single stitch.  Note end part of sail wrapped around mast!!!

Today, it was time to mend the sail.  So, let me introduce the hand-stitching awl, a device which I had never seen before, but which the very kind skipper from another yacht loaded me.  I started at about 09:00 and, but about 13:00, I had put in about 150 stitches (50 per web) and made a very satisfactory repair.  The next step was to re-furl the main, which was a mess and which didn’t take too long to sort out.

Next was to address the wind forecast which, by the next day, was predicting a week of westerlies and us stuck of the Orkneys.  A lovely place, but there is only so much to be seen without a car.  The forecast for the next 24 hours was a southerly.  So, sail no sooner repaired and thank-yous made than we left for Cape Wrath and wherever seems best when we get there!!

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The famous Old Man of Hoy

So far, and it’s gone 22:00 and still light , we have been sailing in a beautiful southerly, with more east than was forecast,   This will be our second night passage across the north coat of Scotland.  More tomorrow.

Archie Logical

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G enjoying the Geology of Wick

After Saturday’s long sail, Sunday was spent relaxing and enjoying Wick, which is a rather fascinating town with RL Stephenson and Lowrie having been here.  We had a walk around to the castle which is one of the older (certainly the smallest) in Scotland.

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Yup!!!  That’s the castle!

Today, we have sailed to the Orkneys.  No problem except that you need to cross the Pentland Firth which has a very bad reputation for high currents and dangerous overfalls.  (Check out the MV Cemfjord). No problem anticipated in the forecast 11 knots, but I was a bit tense in the 22 knots which actually occurred.  In the event, no problem whatsoever and a pleasant sail into the famous Scapa Flow  Beautiful scenery.

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Pentland Skerries – they do say that ye should avoid it, but we got within about 2nm!!! Ooer!

The final 10 nm was directly into the wind, which freshened to about 18knots,  and required the motor.  After a while, managed to motor-sail with just the mainsail when, suddenly, with about 5 nm to go to the marina, there was a loud ‘bang’.  What the hell!!!  Turned out that the clew fitting had torn away from the sail.  No real damage, just that the stitching had failed.  Tomorrows problem!!  Finished the evening having removed all of the old ‘cotton’ and refitted the fitting using double-sided tape.  Tomorrow will see lots of manual stitching!!!

Archie Logical??  Lots of it about on the Orkneys, apparently.  We hope to see some of it tomorrow.

Honest, it wasn’t my fault

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Sunrise on the canal at about 04:00 when we would have started for Wick, but see below

Saturday’s long passage could not have been ‘planned’ worse if I’d tried

Facts in order of unavoidability:

  • We were only 3 miles from the end of the canal, but that three miles involved a road swing bridge, a flight of four locks, another road swing bridge, another lock,  a rail swing bridge and, finally, the sea lock.  Those 3 miles took 2 hours
  • Nothing happens on the canal until 08:00 and, generally, you move in groups.  Also, the rail bridge is in the control of the railway, not the canal, and only opens at certain times.  So, the first bridge didn’t open until 08:10 and we didn’t exit the canal until 10:00.
  • It is currently (no pun intended) spring tides and we began our passage out of the long estuary at the very moment that the incoming tide was at its fastest.  Under the big road bridge at Inverness, we down to 0.8 knots over the ground.  Mega ouch.
  • Realistically, there is nowhere at a reasonable distance from Inverness for a fixed keel yacht to shelter on the Moray Firth before Wick which was a total distance of 73 nm from our previous night’s stop

Result? a 14 hour passage, which got us to Wick at 22:30!  The very good news about such a late arrival was that sunset was not until about 22:00 and the harbourmaster came down to welcome us and give us the key to the showers etc.  What a star!!

Anything irritating about the passage?  Well, there was quite a large easterly swell and Tiftie rolls a lot in waves.  When we could, we used the sails, which, if on the beam, tends to steady the boat down, but I have rarely experienced such an unstable wind (which did not accord with the met office forecast).  At one point, we were making use of 8 knots of wind from the east, when within about minute and a good deal of sail handling, we were making use of 8 knots from the west!!!  Yes, really.

Next stop, the Orkneys with, hopefully, some better passage planning!!

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Sunset at about 22:00 and about 3nm ‘short’ of Wick

£231 and well worth it!

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We both thoroughly enjoyed the Caledonian Canal.  The licence allows you to stay for seven nights in transit, but we stayed for only four.  Lochs Lochy and Ness were pretty spectacular and the four canals were very enjoyable.  You meet most people in the Locks which can be a very sociable affair.  All locks are ‘manned’, or womanned, so there was no gate heaving, all of which were hydraulic powered.

Fortuitously, we passed through the canal at least three weeks earlier than we might have because it can get very busy with lots of hire boats which are based at the Inverness end.  The bottleneck is at Fort Augustus where there is a flight of five locks and a swing bridge which take at least an hour to pass through.  Thus, just six boats, or thereabouts, can get through every two hours.  When we went down at 08:00, the following up was later than 0915, which means the second down could not have been until about 10:30.

 

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Typical overnight location on the Canal.  Tranquil.  This one at the end of Loch Lochy.  But still away from the hordes that we would encounter at the east end of the Canalnter a caption

 

Much much better than forecast, and expected.

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Pleased to say that we were among the first group in the morning (08:00) who locked down the staircase at Fort Augustus.  Actually, there were only three of us, but the  first was BIG.

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In the lock with ISA (a tug).  A good deal of turbulence when she turned those propellers!!!

Then a rainless, windless, peaceful motor the length of Loch Ness stopping en route to photographs Urquhart Castle.  No sign of the monster (although that is not what G said)

Ended the day at Tomnahurich swing bridge, 25 nm from our start, where we were greeted by the bridgeman saying that the people on the boat that we passed and waved to about 1 mile back had turned around and were making their way back because they knew us!!

Ian and Ros Sutherland from Bristol, from my post-grad days, hove into view – much to our surprise.  We spent a very special evening with them ‘chewing the cud’ over a shared meal onboard. (Not to mention the G&Ts and Pinot!!)

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An unexpected evening with Ian & Ros.  So pleased they gave chase!!

Tomorrow, we expect to leave early and, after a few locks, return to salt water whence we will make our way north in some of those nasty wavey things and with land on one side only.  Eek!!

12 degrees and a warm chin

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Today was cold.  Yes, it was no more than 12 degrees with a slight wind from ahead, making it feels colder.  But no matter, we only travelled 9 nm from Laggan to Fort Augustus, but at a speed of about 3 knots.  Fort Augustus is a real tourist attraction because of the flight of five locks.  People everywhere.

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The flight of locks at Fort Augustus on a wet evening.  Tourists long gone.  NB:22:00, but still light

The warm chin?  Well, I have forgotten to bring back my razor and, so, haven’t shaved since Monday.  Interesting! I have never grown a beard before and G seems to be in no hurry for me to buy a razor.

Although the day has been generally dry, it has started to rain this evening and rain is forecast for the next week.  But best not to be too downhearted given the many touring cyclists hereabouts, not to mention the walkers on the Great Glen Walk and others on the 60 mile Canal canoe challenge

Tomorrow, we hope to drop down to Loch Ness on the 08:00 ‘staircase’ departure, but it may be that a dutch workboat has jumped the queue  We’ll see.

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The queue-jumper.  She looks pretty new.