Tobermory to Ardfern to Islay
We've been quite busy since our last blog entry. So much so that sailing today in a force 6 felt like a rest but more on that later. It seems like ages ago that we had our day off in Tobermory but it was only last Saturday. I loved going up the mast in Tobermory despite getting covered in bruises. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was a great way to see the town. It was also great to have a proper shore shower - the first since Skye.
Not only did we buy a kettle in Tobermory but we also bought some books to keep Stan entertained and a fishing line to keep Tom entertained. On Sunday we sailed circa 45 miles from Tobermory down the sound of Mull, the Firth of Lorn, the Sound of Luing and through the Dorus Mor passage. All these places sound like something out of a Tolkien novel. We had a cracking sail - lots of sunshine and the wind behind us. Tom attempted some unsuccessful fishing with the new line. Patience for fishing is not one of my husband's fortes - he seemed to spend most of the afternoon letting the line out, pulling at it a bit, swearing a bit, bringing it back in again then muttering grumpily at it. We didn't catch anything. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing as neither of us is going to have a clue what to do when we finally do! (Note to self: read the fish book!)
The 4 nights in Ardfern were our first on shore power for as many weeks. We made the most of it by getting lots of jobs done. The marina engineer confirmed Tom's suspicions about the batteries - 2 of them aren't holding their charge which ultimately means new batteries somewhere down the line. Not great.
Stan, Tom and Richard in Adfern
It wasn't all work though. We got to see Richard one of our fellow New York Clipper crew which was great. We also met some other lovely people including Jimmy, Colin and his wife and fellow Bowman owners Harry and his wife. (Stan particularly enjoyed sitting on Jimmy's knee looking at his fabulous beard!)
The 0335 alarm this morning was a rude awakening after so many weeks of civilized start times. We took one look outside decided it was still too dark and went back to bed for another hour. We finally set off just after 0500. The weather forecast had said 3's and 4's with the occasional 5 - pah! More like 5's and 6's with the occasional 7 thrown in for good measure. Thank goodness it was from behind. We flew down the Sound of Jura. We came up onto the wind as we rounded the south coast of Islay to come in to Port Ellen with 2 reefs in and a scrap of headsail and were still doing 7.5 knots. Arriving in Port Ellen wasn't quite so smooth. We had originally intended to anchor but with gusts up to 30 knots across the deck it seemed more prudent to pick up a mooring buoy and wait for the wind to abate. Usually this is one of our best manoeuvres however with the conditions as they were it took us several attempts to get safely attached to the buoy (there are no pick-up buoys on the buoys). Stan obviously also chose this moment to demand lunch so everyone was a little fraught by the time we got settled. A family afternoon nap soon restored us though.
Other news - Stan is finally starting to enjoy 'tummy time' (See pic) he'll be crawling before we know it and then the fun of living aboard with a baby will really begin!
Another early start tomorrow - feels odd that this is our last night in Scotland. We really have had a fantastic time up here but feel that we've barely scratched the surface of discovering all the area has to offer the sailor. Guess we'll just have to come back!
Phil and Stan
Skye to Rhum and on to Tobermory
22/07/2011, Tobermory, Mull
Image above shows the islands of Rhum on the left and Eigg on the right with the distant Cullin mountains on Skye in the distance as we sailed away.
"Get the wind in your hair and you will feel better. Love Mum x" This was the text my Mum sent me as I snivelled most of the way down Loch Harport as we left Skye behind. She was right. It was a gorgeous day with near perfect sailing conditions for our short run to Rhum. We poled out the headsail for the first time today which seemed to work really well. The wind picked up towards the end of the afternoon and we should have changed headsail and reefed a little earlier than we did as we were fairly over powered for a while. Pre-Stan this would not have fazed me much at all but I am a little more conservative these days. We arrived in Rhum in time for Stan's bathtime and had a very peaceful night at anchor.
Stan slept right through until 6am and having crashed out by 9pm the previous night I felt like I could rule the world this morning - amazing what a good night's sleep can do for a girl! We had a very civilized 10am departure from Rhum and another glorious downwind run between Eigg and Muck past Ardnamurchan Point to Tobermory. For a while we could see Skye, Rhum, Eigg, Muck, Canna, Mull and the Mainland - absolutely stunning. The photos just don't do the scenery up here justice.
I asked Tom which had been his favourite passage so far and neither of us could decide as we have been so lucky to have so many to choose from. We decided we'll have to come up with some sort of scoring system!
This afternoon's excitement thankfully happened just as Stan had gone down for his lunchtime nap. I had just taken the helm from Tom. We were pottering along very happily chatting about nothing in particular when there was a very gentle swooshing sound. I looked up to see the number 1 headsail gracefully sliding down the forestay into the sea.
Tom: "Oh S**t"
Fortunately no lines had got stuck under the hull or worse round the prop. We quickly popped the engine on and hauled the sail back onboard. It reminded me of our Clipper days hauling sails, usually spinnakers out of the sea. Luckily there was no damage however both of us bemoaned the blue smear of antifoul that is now on the sail. "Pointless waste of money getting the sail laundered if it's just going to go for a swim and get itself covered in antifoul... mutter...mutter" The reason for the untimely drop of the headsail was the shackle which seems to have just given way. We won't know if it broke or simply unscrewed itself until I go up the mast to fetch the halyard down tomorrow.
We arrived into a busy Tobermory Harbour shortly after 4pm and spent a very pleasant sunny afternoon watching the comings and goings of the other boats. The plan is to go ashore for the day tomorrow then head further down the sound of Mull on Sunday. Ah...This is the life.
Image above shows Glen Brittle on Skye as we sailed by. The Cullin mountains behind.
We love Skye. Tom has loved it ever since his first visit years before we met. I have loved it ever since Mum and Tim moved up. We love it in the sunshine but also in the wind and the rain. (Which is a good job really as such weather is generally in plentiful supply up here) I will confess there have been times that Mum living so far away hasn't been easy but every time we visit we fall in love with the place a little bit more. Every time we have to leave it gets that little bit harder to go. It's not just that we have had a great time visiting Mum and Tim; it's the way of life, the beautiful landscapes and scenery, the sense of community. Before I had Stan I couldn't have imagined living somewhere that I perceived to be so quiet and remote until we were much older but the time we have spent up here this summer has made me view Skye through fresh eyes.
We popped over to Mum's neighbours Pat and Jeremy who had kindly lent us the travel cot for Stan. They had designed and built their house themselves and it really is a gorgeous house with a stunning view. Jeremy said that his only regret was that he hadn't done it sooner. Both Tom and my ears pricked up at this comment.
Before we bought Bellamanda we toyed with the idea of buying a plot of land behind mum's house but something wasn't quite right. Perhaps it's all about timing?
As we sailed away Tom said "It just feels odd leaving. It would feel alright if we were just away on holiday sailing for a couple of weeks but this just feels odd. This just feels like leaving."
For me I guess I need to figure out if I just hate leaving Skye because it means leaving my Mum or if it is something more. Ironically the only way I will be able to find that out is leave.
Stornoway on Lewis
We've spent a very happy few days here in Stornoway. With so much going on this weekend the town is bustling and there seems to be pipers piping, bands marching or dancers dancing on every street corner.
Russian tall ship Mir
We went on the Tall Ship Mir - were quite entertained by all the sailors on their laptops whilst we tourists wandered round their home. They really are magnificent vessels.
Stan had his first ride on a bus when we took a trip north to a beautiful beach at Tolsta. This corner of Lewis is much more habited that we had imagined. Like most islands we have visited the locals are also super friendly and helpful. The bus driver drove us all the way down to the beach. The walk back up the hill to the bus stop gave us a good cardio work out.
Tom and Stan on Tolsta Beach
Phil and Stan on Tolsta Beach
We managed to get tickets for the final night of the Heb Celt Festival which was lots of fun. Initially we had been a bit worried about taking Stan along but it really was a family affair with folks of all ages enjoying the music in 2 different tents. We fashioned some ear defenders for him out of cotton pads and socks that seemed to work well for a while. The headline act was KT Tunstall which we managed to watch half of before Stan decided that he really had had enough. The great thing was that as we were moored so close to the festival we could carry on listening to the music from home.
Skye to Stornoway
Being at Mum's showed us just how quickly we could get very comfortable living ashore so we decided to make a move before we started to take root! We had fantastic farewell fish and chip supper at the Old Inn in Carbost before getting back onboard on the evening of Monday 11th July. We set off in glorious morning sunshine the following day and motored out of Loch Harport.
We radioed Kenny McKinnon (one of Mum's neighbours) on Harvest Anne as we went. He had kindly lent us the required charts for the Outer Hebrides. (Lesson learned here - don't bother ordering anything from Imray if you need it in a hurry!) The winds were so light that we motored for the first few hours. This gave us the chance to have a great look at Macleod's Maidens as we passed. After so many years of visiting Skye it was fantastic to see the island from a different angle. (Tim would argue that I have seen most of Skye from underneath my eyelids as I have tended to sleep in the back of the car whilst being driven around from place to place over the years - today however I was very much awake!)
Macleod's Maidens from the East
Macleod's Maidens from the South
As we passed Niest point the wind picked up and we had a great sail across the Minch to Loch Maddy on North Uist. We picked up one of the visitors mooring buoys just off the pier. We had our usual discussion which goes something like this...
Tom - "Shall we anchor or pick up a buoy?"
Phil - " Buoy!"
Tom-"Really? Shouldn't we be anchoring? I don't feel like we anchor enough? Shouldn't we anchor for the practice?"
Phil - "Nah let's pick up a buoy - less bother altogether"
4 hours later on a mooring buoy after the wind has picked up and there is barely any room to swing a cat let alone for a 40ft yacht to swing round an anchor.
Tom - "Glad we picked up the buoy"
Phil - "uhuh" (Smiles quietly)
Loch Maddy - Bellamanda is on the left
The following day we waited until midday and the tides to be running north in our favour before heading up the east coast of the Outer Hebrides. This really was some beautiful sailing and scenery not that I felt like I got to see much of it as Stan wasn't in the mood for sitting on deck today. We had 2 options for the day - either to end up on Scalpay or Stornoway depending on how we were feeling. In the end however we decided to anchor over night in Loch Grimshader, 3 miles south of Stornoway harbour entrance. The pictures just don't do this place justice. The Loch is 1.4 miles long but just half a cable wide at its narrowest point. We both breathed in as we motored along toward the anchorage which was completely deserted apart from the odd duck! It was so quiet and peaceful - until Stan decided that sleeping was totally overrated as a means of spending the night and proceeded to spend the evening shouting his head off. By 11pm he had broken both of us and for the first time since he was born we all finally passed out in our bed. Pre-Stan we had always said this would be one of our ground rules - No babies sleeping in our bed at night. Ah best laid plans etc.etc.
The following morning we were all pretty jaded, however with just a short hop up to Stonoway and the idea of being in a marina on shore power for the first time in weeks kept me going. Right up until we radioed Stornoway Harbour Master requesting a berth only to be told there was no room at the inn due to the imminent arrival of 22 tall ships and 8 other visiting boats that were booked in. I am not proud of this but I promptly burst in to tears. (Not on the radio fortunately) I had called ahead on Monday to check that we would be able to get alongside and had been told that it was a first come first served basis and that whilst they would be busy they were sure we'd get in and that they absolutely didn't take advanced bookings. Cue Mummy melt down. These moments happen fairly rarely fortunately but right at that moment I had had enough.
I am currently reading Two in a Boat by Gwyneth Lewis - when she first moved aboard she cried every day for 3 months. I can genuinely say that 95% of the time I love living aboard but at that moment I wanted to live in a house. I wanted to be back in Cowes taking Stan for a walk along the sea front having a natter to Lara and Skye. I wanted to be able to get off the boat without it being a total mission. With the beauty of hindsight all I really needed was some sleep!
We were advised to go to anchor in Glumaig harbour. This is the quarantine anchorage and the anchorage we had decided not to go to the previous evening because according to the almanac the bottom is foul with scrap. With the windlass still playing silly buggers we didn't really relish the prospect of getting the anchor fouled too but we didn't have much choice. Tom is great when I get like this. He just quietly gets practical and gets on with it, gives me a hug and tells me not to worry. We anchored up and got settled. We even managed to get the TV working which is a hideous thing to admit but sometimes a mindless half hour in front of the box (or laptop in our case) works wonders. Shortly after 3 we were radioed by the harbour authority and told that there was a berth available alongside Elenca, a local ex Challenge boat. Woo hoo! No shore power (because there is no shore power available in Stornoway at all) but at least we were along side.
Alongside in Stornoway
So here we are in Stornoway for what appears to be the busiest weekend of the year. The Tall Ships are visiting, The Heb Celt Music festival and the highland games are on and the sun is shining.
Stornoway from the Castle side
The Image above shows Fiscavaig Bay. The photo was taken from Phil's mom's sitting room window. The white dot is Bellamanda at anchor in the bay.
Bellow is the view from the boat of The Croft House - Mollie (Phil's mom) and Tim's home.
The Croft House
At circa 1200 on Sunday 3rd July we arrived in Fiscavaig Bay - our first big milestone. We had made it to my mum's bay on the Isle of Skye. We had turned the AIS off earlier hoping that by going into 'stealth' mode we would be able to surprise them with our arrival. This was a daft notion as with such a small close knit community the jungle drums were soon beating and Mum and Tim were informed of our arrival in the bay as they travelled back from a Neil Diamond concert in Glasgow. We waited onboard for them to return before going ashore in the dinghy for a very happy reunion.
Despite the calm conditions we weren't comfortable leaving Bellamanda alone on her anchor over night so after supper Tom went back to sleep onboard whilst Stan and I enjoyed the luxury of a night ashore. The following day Tom and Tim (mum's husband) took the boat down Loch Harport to a mooring buoy very kindly lent to us by Peter McKinnon. This little trip was not without its adventures - Tim enjoyed a refreshing dip in the bay as he tried to clamber into the dingy! Bell is now safely moored for a few days whilst we enjoy some time ashore and try and figure out what to do and where to go next.
We were not only welcomed by Mum & Tim but 2 scarecrows sitting on the front lawn. Stan and Ollie are not only the names of 2 of their grandsons but also of their entry into the Minginish peninsular Tatty Bogal festival. With over 60 scarecrows around the neighbourhood in all shapes and sizes taking Stan for a walk has been very entertaining.
Stan and Ollie outside The Croft House
We made the most of a trip to Portree and took Stan to the health visitor for a check up. He is now 14lbs3 bang on what he should be which was great news. Not being able hang out with my network of other mummies - Lara, Amy & Lizzie - I sometimes suffer from an attack of the first time mum paranoia and need a bit of reassurance that we are doing it right so it was really helpful to have a chat to the health visitor.
We've been here for nearly a week now being completely spoilt with Mum's fantastic cooking, babysitting services, unlimited hot water for showers and baths and sleeping in a bed that doesn't move - if we don't leave soon we never will....
Mollie, Tom and Stan at Glen Brittle
Salen Bay, Mull to the Isle of Rhum
Image above shows the lighthouse at Ardenamurchan Point. Apparently having sailed passed it we get the right to do something with some heather!
As we left the Salen Bay anchorage at 1100 on Saturday 2nd July bound for Rhum we had an audience. This was not the time to do anything embarrassing like going aground which we thankfully managed to avoid. We did however manage to bring up half the seabed on our anchor - nice to know it was holding very firm at least! With light variable wind conditions we had another sail/motor-sail. We sailed out of the sound of Mull past Tobermory (or Ballamory to anyone with kids), past Ardenamurchan Point and into the open sea. We past the small isles of Muck and Eigg and headed towards Rhum. The real high point of this leg was our first glimpse Skye. For me a huge part of this adventure was to sail our son to see his Granny. Mum was there on the Isle of Wight when he was born but hasn't seen him since and I can't wait to sail into Fiscavaig Bay tomorrow to see her.
Stan showing Tom how to helm properly
Oban to Salen Bay, Isle of Mull
The image above shows another yacht sailing as we passed the lighthouse at Rubha Fairt passing from the Firth of Lorn into Loch Linnhe towards the Sound of Mull. The sea was bubbling as two tidal flows met.
Each day of sailing from this point becomes more and more stunning as the scenery becomes ever more breath taking. The 20 mile sail from Oban to our first anchorage in Salen bay off Mull was a very chilled out affair. We left Oban just after lunch and arrived on our anchorage just in time for supper. The wind had been a bit light and flukey so we had done a mixture of sailing and motor sailing. An additional advantage of this is that there was hot water for Stan's bath when we arrived. This was our first night at anchor since leaving the Solent so we were a little nervous to start with especially as we had the anchorage completely to ourselves. Tom set the anchor alarm and we turned in. Stan has been waking up in the middle of the night the last couple of nights (Not sure if it is because it never really gets dark up here or he's having another growth spurt) so this gave me a good opportunity to check that we hadn't pulled our anchor.
Phil at the helm
Tom at the helm
30/06/2011, Oban, Scotland
Oban was a great place to stop. I barely remembered the town from the childhood trips we did with my Mum on the way to Tiree so it was great to set foot on Scottish mainland for the first time and explore the town. It also enabled us to catch up with an old Clipper buddy Ken Pritchard who popped in for a cuppa before he set off on the Round Mull Race on the Friday morning. We watched the start (image above) from the comfort of the Waypoint Bar & Grill on Kerrera before setting off ourselves on the final push to Skye.
As the alleged sailing centre of Scotland, Oban Marina was very much more relaxed that what we were expecting. It didn't seem to matter where we chose to berth or what time we left on the day of departure. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming and we can definitely recommend the cakes that are made on the island and sold in the marina office!
Gigha Island to Oban, Scotland
29/06/2011, Oban, Scotland
Now this is what we have dreamt of all those months. We left Gigha at the fairly civilized hour of 0700. (Civilized for us at least) Whilst Stan snoozed on we motored the first hour up the sound of Jura. The wind gradually filled in from the west and the sun shone giving us a stunning beam reach. Grinning at each other like idiots we took turns to helm and entertain Stan. The theory is that we also take turns to nap when he does - we are yet to master this one fully. I am however getting quite adept at feeding Stan at the chart table whilst keeping an eye on our course on the plotter! We shot up through the sound of Luing doing 12 knots with the wind behind us as we goosewinged the final couple of hours into Oban bay. A stunning days sailing.
This is Stan trying his bouncer for the first time. It is hanging from the boom.
Sorry for the irregularity of the postings. Decent internet access has been difficult to come by on the way up. We are about to get remote again and spend two nights at anchor on the way to Skye so we might disappear again for a while.